“Grown-Up” Chicken Fingers with Dipping Sauce

Okay, so I may have lied a little.  In my About Me section, I said I took it upon myself to learn how to cook.  I guess it’s kind of true, but then again, it’s kind of not.

Growing up, my dad was [almost] always the one to cook dinner.  My mom got home later than my dad from work, so he just usually did it.  Plus, he’s always liked cooking.  So, when I got engaged and realized that soon, a.) I would be living with Cesar (ah!), and b.) one of us would be responsible for putting a meal on the table for dinner most nights (ahhhhhhhh!), I decided it was time to learn how to cook.  I did offer to make dinner once in a while, which was usually a recipe I’d found online and followed to a T).  But, I also would just hang out in the kitchen while my dad was making dinner and just pick up little things here and there, like how to make the best chili and spaghetti sauce in the world (Grandma’s recipes!).

My dad is the type of cook who rarely uses a recipe, and when he does, he makes so many changes, it’s not even close to the original recipe anyway.  That is why it really surprised me that he pretty much followed this recipe exactly when he made it for us for dinner last week.  I was pretty glad he did though, because it was really good.  One little hint though: the dipping sauce is good, but it tastes almost identical to the Dijon mustard that they had in the fridge.  So, if you want to save a few minutes, just make the chicken according to the recipe, buy a bottle of Dijon mustard, and call it dinner.

“Grown-Up” Chicken Fingers with Dipping Sauce
(recipe adapted from Saveur)
Dipping Sauce
Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. honey
2 tbsp. dill, chopped
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. ground mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl until smooth.
Chicken Fingers
Ingredients:
2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 c. flour
4 eggs, beaten
3 c. plain breadcrumbs
canola oil for frying
Toss chicken with sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and ground mustard and set aside.  In three bowls, put flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs.
Heat canola oil (enough to cover chicken) over medium-high heat.  In several separate batches, dip chicken in flour, eggs, then in breadcrumbs.  Fry chicken until it starts to brown (4-5 minutes).  Place on paper towels to let oil drip off.  Repeat with remaining chicken.

Sophia’s shoe collection

I have to admit.  My 5 month old is way more fashionable than her momma.  It’s hard to resist, though.  I mean, there’s nothing that doesn’t look cute on her.  Nothing that makes her stomach stick out or her butt look big (except for that dang diaper!).  I am embarrassed to admit (or, at least that’s what I tell everyone) that Sophia takes up more closet space than Cesar and I do.

As if baby clothes weren’t cute enough, usually I just happen to walk through the baby shoes section and, crap!, how’d those get in my cart!?  Oops.  I usually try to hide them from Cesar for a few days, then gradually work them into her wardrobe.  I pretend that she’s had them forever, and that he just now noticed them.  Usually, he buys it, all is well, and Sophia has a brand spankin’ new pair of shoes.  Just kidding!  (Kind of.)

So, I present to you, Sophia’s shoe collection (rather, the shoes that fit Sophia right now- we still have quite a few pairs in her drawers that are too big).  I’m not going to lie and say she has more shoes than me, because if you know me at all, you know that can’t be true.  But, she does have probably double the number of shoes that her daddy does!

Seriously, can you blame me?  Aren’t they all adorable?  I love all of them- I couldn’t pick a favorite if I had to!  But, maybe you can…which ones are your favorites?

Recipe: Peanut Butter and Jelly Delights

For our honeymoon, Cesar and I wanted to do something different than your average week long, all-inclusive stay in the Caribbean, so we did a big road trip around the southeast United States.  We left the day after our wedding, and got back 16 days later on a Tuesday.  Here’s where we went:

  • Savannah, GA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Asheville, NC
  • Gatlinburg, TN
  • Nashville, TN
  • Atlanta, GA

Boy, let me tell you…for two people who just got married and had never lived together, a 2 1/2 week road trip was very…interesting.  Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of fun.  But, I thought the “honeymoon phase” was supposed to last a little longer than 4 days.

We made it through Savannah just fine.  But then we got to Charleston and couldn’t find our hotel.  I was driving.  And our GPS kept repeating “signal not found” over and over.  And over.  I about lost it.  I, of course, just knew it was Cesar’s fault, because he probably didn’t type the right address in.  But, he thought (wrongfully, of course) it was my fault because I must have made a wrong turn somewhere.  We argued about whose fault it was.  Well, finally, after turning down a one way street the wrong way and driving within 5 miles of the hotel for about 20 minutes, we found it.  Then we forgave each other.

So, what did this whole story have to do with Peanut Butter and Jelly Delights?  Well, nothing really.  Except for the fact that while on our honeymoon, Cesar and I bought something just like these at a little gourmet food shop.  They were so good, but by the time I got home, I forgot about them.  Then, one day, I randomly found a blog and came across this recipe.  I added a little jelly to the mix, and we were in business.  They tasted just like the ones that we got on our honeymoon.  These little things are good!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Delights
 (recipe adapted from We Are Not Martha)
Ingredients:
1 sleeve Ritz crackers
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. jelly
1 bag of candy melts or chocolate

Spread peanut butter on half of the crackers and jelly on the other half. Put a peanut butter and a jelly cracker together. Melt candy melts according to package directions, then dip each sandwich into chocolate to coat completely. Set on a wax paper lined cookie sheet; refrigerate for about 10 minutes to harden the chocolate.

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

I love buffalo flavored anything. The hotter the better.  Cesar likes buffalo flavor too, but he can’t handle the heat like I can (haha!).  Sometimes he can eat a couple hot wings, but me…I order hot, with a side of hot sauce.

I don’t personally know anyone who doesn’t like homemade macaroni and cheese, so this recipe is a definite winner.  It’s not hard to make, but it does dirty a lot of dishes.  So, only make this if you have some extra time to wash a lot of dishes (or a rule that if you make dinner, your spouse cleans the dishes, like we have).  This recipe makes quite a bit, so be prepared to have lots of leftovers.  It reheats well though, so that wasn’t a problem for us- we had it for lunch for the next week straight, pretty much.  Oh, and, if you are on a diet, this is not the dish for you.  I tried to cut calories where I could, like using fat free half and half, low fat sour cream, and reduced fat cheese, but still, this is not the healthiest dish, so this is only something I would make once in a while.

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
(recipe adapted from Noble Pig)
Ingredients:
5 tbsp. butter
1 lb. elbow macaroni or cellentani
1 lb. chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 tbsp. minced garlic
3/4 c. Frank’s Buffalo Wing sauce
2 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. dry mustard
2 1/2 c. half and half
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
6 oz. shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
2/3 c. sour cream
1 c. panko
1/2 c. bleu cheese crumbles
cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously spray a 9×13 Pyrex pan with cooking spray. Cook pasta in salted water according to the directions on the box. Drain and set aside. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter over medium heat, then add chicken and garlic.  Cook for about 3 minutes, or until chicken starts to brown. Add 1/2 c. wing sauce, stir, and cook until the sauce starts to thicken.In another pan, melt 2 tbsp. of butter over medium heat, then add flour and mustard; stir until smooth. Whisk in half and half and the remaining 1/4 c. of wing sauce. Cook until mixture starts to thicken, then mix in cheddar cheese, Monterrey Jack cheese, and sour cream.  Continue to cook and whisk until smooth. Pour chicken mixture and cheese mixture over the pasta and stir until everything is smooth, then transfer the mixture into the Pyrex dish.

In a small bowl, melt the remaining 2 tbsp. of butter. Stir in panko and bleu cheese crumbles, then sprinkle mixture over macaroni. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until top starts to brown and bubble.

Sophia 365

A few days after I had Sophia, my mom mentioned that it would be cool to take a picture of her every day for her first year of life on the same blanket.  And, well, what do you know?  I actually thought that was a great idea to document her growth day by day.  So, when she was 5 days old, we started this tradition, and I am excited to say…I haven’t missed a day since!

It’s crazy looking at all these pictures.  Every day, it doesn’t seem like she is getting any bigger.  But looking back at the first day we did this, over 4 months ago, she is so tiny compared to now!

This first picture is when Sophia was 5 days old- look at those little chicken legs!  She was just about 6 pounds here.

This second picture was taken just a couple days ago, so she is about 20 weeks old and almost 14 pounds!  I just can’t believe how much she has grown!  She is such a happy baby who definitely has her own little personality already (umm…she has a major attitude problem sometimes).

Once she turns one, I am planning on having all these pictures printed and putting them in an album.  I am so excited to be able to show her down the road how she changed day by day over the first year of her life.  I will definitely be doing this for any future children we have, too!

Travel Recap: Las Vegas, NV

Ok, so remember I said New Orleans was one of my favorite cities?  Well, I think Las Vegas is my other favorite.  I’ve been twice, Cesar has been once.  We both love Vegas and are constantly talking about going back.  It’s such a fun city…there is something there for everyone (for real).

When We Went:

Cesar and I went in August.  I have also been there in July.  Both very hot.

Where We Stayed:
I stayed at The Venetian when I went.  It was great!  I think every room there is a suite.  We had a great view of the Strip.
Photo from Yahoo! Travel
When Cesar and I went, we stayed at Imperial Palace for 3 nights to begin with.  It was very no-frills and definitely nothing special.  But it was clean, and that was all that we really cared about.  If you plan on spending a lot of time there though, without venturing outside the hotel too much, I don’t think I’d stay here because there’s really nothing to do except go to the casino (especially compared to most other hotels on the strip).  We didn’t think we would spend much time in our room and we were right- we went to the room to shower and to sleep for a couple hours, and that was about it.  Because…who goes to Vegas to sit in their hotel room?  Definitely not us!
Photo from Yahoo! Travel 
The next 3 nights, Cesar and I stayed at the Rio.  This hotel is amazing.  We only paid about $60 a night (including Friday and Saturday nights!) and stayed in a room that looked like this:
Photo from Rio Las Vegas
The Rio is an all suite hotel, which is really nice.  There are great places to eat and shop in the hotel, plus they have a huge casino.  The only bad thing I can say about this hotel is that it is not on the Strip, but that was not a problem to us at all because we had a car, and it is a super short drive to the Strip.
I would definitely stay at all three of these hotels again, and would definitely recommend all three of them!
Where We Ate:
  • Carnival World Buffet (Rio)- Expensive, but worth it.  We went for lunch and didn’t eat breakfast or dinner that day.
  • Carnegie Delicatessen (Mirage)- Their sandwiches are humongous!  Cesar and I shared one, and left with a big ol’ box of leftover meat.
  • America (New York New York)
  • Margaritaville (Flamingo Hotel and Casino)- I’ve been to Margaritaville restaurants all over, and this was probably the most fun!  We went there for dinner before a show one night to have a couple margaritas.
  • Mr. Lucky’s (Hard Rock Hotel and Casino)- Hard Rock is not on the Strip, but it is worth the trip to go to Mr. Lucky’s.  They have a “$7.77 Special” that is not on the menu because it’s a [not-so] secret, but ask for it, and you’ll get it.  For $7.77, you get an a salad, 8 oz. steak, 3 jumbo shrimp, and garlic mashed potatoes.  It’s so good!
  • Excalibur Buffet (Excalibur)
  • Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill (Harrah’s)
What We Did: 

  • Gambled
  • Walked the Strip several times, just to see everything
  • Saw 2 Cirque du Soleil shows- Zumanity and Mystere-  really liked both of them
  • Visited Red Rock Canyon- This is only a few minutes outside of Las Vegas, but feels like a world away!  There is a big loop you can drive around, or they have places to park and hike. 

  • Went to Red Rock Casino, Resort, and Spa- we won the most money there of any other casino.  We also played bingo, which was super fun (plus, you get two free drinks when you pay to play). 
  
Playing bingo with a goofy smile
  • Watched the fountain show at Bellagio
 
  • Watched the pirate ship show at Treasure Island
  • Rode the roller coaster at New York New York
  • Rode the rides at the top of the Stratosphere.  Cesar and I both went on the Big Shot (not that scary) and I went on the X-Scream (super duper scary) 
 
Big Shot- Photo from Theme Park Review
X-Scream- Photo from Have Fun In the Southwest
I’ve never been so scared in my life!
  • Visited Fremont Street- definitely visit at night to watch the Fremont Street Experience
 
  • Visited a wedding chapel just to see what it was like
 
  • Visited the Hoover Dam
 
  • Rode a gondola at The Venetian

Hopefully we will be able to go back to Las Vegas sometime soon- either with or without Sophia (I would have no problem bringing a young child there!).  I’d love to know…what have we missed in Vegas- either somewhere to stay, somewhere to eat, or something to do?

 

Sophia likes apples!

We’ve been giving Sophia “real” food for about two weeks now. Week 1 was rice cereal, week 2 was bananas, and week 3, as of yesterday, was apples. She has loved everything we’ve given her so far! Next week will probably be green peas (on the list of “safest” foods to give small babies). I love peas, so I crazily assume Sophia will automatically love them too. That’s the way my mind works. Plus, I can’t wait to take pictures with peas all over her. I know that might be weird, but she really makes a mess, and rice cereal, bananas, and apples just don’t show up all that well in pictures. I’ve been bugging Cesar since two weeks ago to give her something green. When we got a list of safe foods yesterday and green peas were on there, the annoying factor has gotten worse (or so Cesar says).

Sophia’s first reaction to apples was…a smile!

After a little while, though, she started playing around and making funny faces. This is probably one of the funniest pictures I have taken of Sophia…I’ve never even seen her make that face before!

Every day is something new with her. This is such a fun age!

Recipe: Pizza Pasta

I pretty much love pasta.  I will eat it plain, with homemade meat sauce, with a jar of Ragu, with alfredo sauce, in macaroni and cheese, in chicken piccata…you get the picture. But it’s true. I. Love. Pasta. Cesar, on the other hand, could certainly do without it. He’d much rather eat a big ol’ chicken breast or hunk of steak than a plate full of carbs. Since I am the one who usually cooks, though, sometimes he gets stuck with that carby goodness. Sometimes he complains and sometimes he doesn’t. The night I made pizza pasta just so happened to be a night he didn’t, which I definitely didn’t consider a coincidence…more like a testimonial to the deliciousness of this dinner. I liked this a lot too. To make it even better, it only has 4 ingredients and was literally on the table in 30 minutes.

Pizza Pasta
(recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is)

Ingredients
16 oz. box of cellentani
1 c. pasta sauce
4 oz. Italian blend shredded cheese
2 oz. chopped pepperoni or mini pepperoni

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta according to box and mix in pasta sauce. Pour into a 13×9 Pyrex dish, then top with cheese and pepperoni. Bake until cheese starts to brown and get bubbly, about 10 minutes.

Top 10 places I want to visit

I have a very strong desire to travel the world. I like to say I want to see all seven continents, but really…who am I kidding? Who the heck wants to go to Antarctica? Not me, considering I think Florida “winters” are pretty darn cold.

In no specific order, here are the top 10 places I can think of that I’d like to visit.

1. Cinque Terre, Italy
2. Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Photo from Yahoo! Travel
3. Santorini, Greece
Photo from Santorini.com
4. Tahiti
Photo from Tahiti Tourism
5. Oahu, Hawaii
6. Sitka, Alaska
Photo from City-Data
7. Isla Margarita, Venezuela
8. Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
Photo from Real Adventures
9. Venice, Italy
Photo from World Guides
10. Nevis Island
Photo from Nevis Naturally

Really, there are probably hundreds of places I could think of that I haven’t been to and would like to visit. These are just on top of my list. Due to lack of sufficient funds, though, it may be a little while before I will be able to visit most of these places.

That’s okay, I have it all planned out. Work for a few more years, win the lottery, then travel the world. Now, if only I wasn’t so cheap that I’d fork over the money for a lottery ticket. I guess I have to work on that…

Sophia getting her ears pierced

Since Sophia was born, Cesar has been ready to get her ears pierced. In Venezuela, they pierce baby girls’ ears before they even leave the hospital. When I told him that is not normal here, he was a little surprised. Sophia’s pediatrician will pierce ears, but they won’t do it until they are 6 months old. We really didn’t want to wait that long because by the time she’s that old, she’ll have a lot more control of her hands and will be able to mess with them.

So a few weeks ago, off we ventured to the mall to the piercing place that several people have recommended to us to take babies. Unfortunately for us, there was another baby about Sophia’s age getting her ears pierced right before Sophia. That was about enough to scare me away…she screamed. And screamed. And screamed. Finally, after about 10 minutes and shoving a bottle into her mouth, she stopped. I was a little nervous at that point about going through with it. I got even more nervous after signing the paper, picking out the earrings, and getting into the little booth where they do the piercing (Cesar made me go in there and hold her). But, Sophia wasn’t nervous at all. She was just tired.

As soon as I had to hold her down, for the lady to mark her ear, she snapped out of that in a hurry. Sophia does not like to be held down. We’re talking…she was getting out of a swaddle by the time she was a week old. Needless to say, she screamed when I held her down. She was mad. But after they pierced her ears and I let go of her, she stopped. And that was a good thing, because if she kept crying, I probably would have cried too. But as soon as it was over, she acted as if nothing happened.

They looked really good- they weren’t red or anything.  But, I was afraid they were going to bother her when she went to bed that night.

Nope, all was well! She slept her normal 8-9 hours through the night (yes, we do realize we are very, very lucky!).

She hasn’t messed with them at all, and I am definitely glad we got them done when we did. My next daughter (someday!) I will definitely do it around the same age!