Friday, January 29, 2010

Holy Moly -- 50 Followers! Giveaway Time!

I'm up to 50 followers!!  50!  FIFTY!  Fiddy!  How cool is that?

So, I think it's time for another giveaway!  How do y'all feel about books?!  Real books, not the cooking variety.  Do you love them as much as I do??  Do you love them so much that you buy them without realizing that you ALREADY own them and they're sitting at home on your shelf yet-unread?  Me too!!

As an attempt to clear some space in my bookcase (and because Barnes & Noble won't take them back, those assholes) I'm going to give them to one of YOU!  Their loss, your gain!  Here's what we got:

Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern
Amazon - Shortly after Adam, a nine-year-old boy with autism, and his friend Amelia, a 10-year-old diagnosed with PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder—not otherwise specified), disappear during recess, a traumatized Adam turns up next to Amelia's body in the nearby woods. Cara, Adam's 30-year-old single mom, helps the police unlock the clues in Adam's mind to try to identify Amelia's killer. Cara finds surprising assistance from 13-year-old Morgan, who's determined to solve the crime in order to distract authorities from his own guilty secret—accidentally starting a fire in the wetlands his lawyer/environmentalist mom was trying to protect.  Meticulously researched and emotionally absorbing, this provocative page-turner also addresses an important issue—how to educate and care for children with special needs.

Intuition by Allegra Goodman

Amazon - This intimate portrait of life in a research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, revolves around a scientific mystery: the groundbreaking, too-good-to-be-true discovery of a virus that fights cancer. Cliff, the rakish, headstrong post-doc responsible for the discovery, is on the verge of dismissal when his tumor-ridden mice exhibit stunning rates of remission; meanwhile, Cliff's co-worker and former girlfriend, spurred by personal and professional jealousy, begins to harbor suspicions about his lab work. The somewhat transparent plot is made compelling by the aesthetic delicacy of Goodman's writing—furless lab mice are "like quivering pink agar"—and by the care with which she sketches the social world of the lab. The omniscient narrative nimbly shifts perspective among a small number of complex characters, to produce a Rashomon-like inquiry into truth and motive.

The Lost (A Seach for Six of Six Million) by Daniel Mendelsohn
Amazon - The deeply personal account of a search for one family among his larger family, the one barely spoken of, only to say they were "killed by the Nazis." Mendelsohn, even as a boy, was always the one interested in his family's history, but when he came upon a set of letters from his great uncle Schmiel, pleading for help from his American relatives as the Nazi grip on the lives of Jews in their Polish town became tighter and tighter, he set out to find what had happened to that lost family. The result is both memoir and history, an ambitious and gorgeously meditative detective story that takes him across the globe in search of the lost threads of these few almost forgotten lives.

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan
Amazon - In the small town of Kingsville, Ohio, 18-year-old Kim Larsen—popular and bound for college in the fall—disappears on her way to work one afternoon. Not until the next morning do her parents and sister realize Kim is missing. The detective tells them that since Kim is an adult, she could, if the police find her, ask that the police not disclose her location to her parents. When Kim's car later turns up in nearby Sandusky, her father, desperate to help, joins the official search. Meanwhile, her mother stays home putting all her energy into community fund-raisers, and her sister struggles to maintain a normal life. Through shifting points of view, chiefly those of the shell-shocked parents and the moody Lindsay, O'Nan raises the suspense while conveying the sheer torture of what it's like not to know what has happened to a loved one. When—if ever—do you stop looking?

I haven't read any of them, so I can't attest to their quality.  They could all suck, I don't know.  But they're yours to find out if your name gets drawn from my magic bag! 

How to enter to win:

1. Become a follower and leave me a comment letting me know that you're a follower.
2. If you're already a follower, just leave me a comment letting me know.
3. If you post a link to this contest on your blog/website, you get 2 additional entries. (Leave me a comment or send me and email to your site.)
4. Tweet about the contest (and let me know).  Find me on Twitter at sara_mccarty. 

Good luck everyone!! The contest will close at midnight on Tuesday, February 2nd.

Homemade Gourmet Meal Planning Party

Last night my mother-in-law hosted a Homemade Gourmet meal planning party.  Has anyone heard of this company?  I had not.  Having a Homemade Gourmet party is simiar to the Tupperware/Avon/Pampered Chef parties, where a consultant comes to your house and "hosts" a party for you.  In this case, instead of selling make-up or gadgets, she's selling packets of mixes/seasonings to make easy simple quick meals at home.  Plus, she helped us create a few meals of our own to try out later. 

Before the party, we were given 9 meal choices that we could make.  Since Bonnie is a Weight Watchers coach/sponsor, she had pre-selected for us all meals that were healthy and low in fat/calories.  These included meals like Lemon Basil Chicken, Chipotle BBQ Pork Tenderloin, Southwest Chicken, Burgandy Beef Tips, Orange BBQ Chicken, and Chicken Tacos.  Based on the meals that you choose, you bring the appropriate amount of meat to the party in a large ziplock bag (usually 3 pounds).  Once there, we each had our own "station" with our meal choice ingredients ready and waiting for us.  

We went through each recipe and created our meals by adding the Homemade Gourmet seasoning mixes to the meat, along with other ingredients as the recipe required (diced tomatoes, chicken broth, water, jelly, etc.).  After each meal was made, we slapped on a pre-made instruction label and took it home to freeze.  Most of the meals require nothing more than popping them in the crockpot for a few hours or baking them in the oven.  In about 40 minutes (it would have been less but we were all goofing off a bit) we each made 6 meals.  Not bad!

After the meal-making, we had the chance to actually taste a Homemade Gourmet meal.  Bonnie made a Citrus Chicken recipe with a little margarita mix added to the chicken for a kick.  I shredded the chicken for her and it was incredibly tender and moist.  We stuck it back in the crockpot to be served on little buns.  And of course, what party would be complete without a pie.  This was the cheesecake mix made with fat-free cream cheese, Cool-Whip and an Oreo crust (about 3 points).  It was fantastic!
We could purchase any of the mixes that we had used, plus additional mixes (less Weight Watcher friendly ones) like cornbread, shepherd's pie, cheesecake, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, lemon cookies, gumbo, etc.  Or we could always order later from the cataloge.
I'm going to reserve my full review of the product until I have the chance to make one of these meals myself at home and see if they're any good and really as quick and easy as they say.  But I have a feeling we're going to love them.  :-)  How can you not love food that is healthy and took 5 minutes to make.  Stay tuned...I'll let you know how it all turns out. 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fun Awards and Happiness Stuff

Two awards in one day! I'm feeling pretty damn great right now! Vee at Gorgeously Stupid (isn't that a great blog name?) gave me the Best Blog Award! Vee is a wife, a cook, an avid reader, and a dog-lover. Her blog is really refreshingly honest and always makes me think about her topics. And Jen at Nifer Musings gave me a Happy 101 Award. Jen is a dog-lover, a skier, a traveler, a dancer and has a great blog on just a little bit of everything. In order to accept the awards, you need to list 10 blogs that you're reading and why you like them, and 10 things that make you happy. Thanks Vee and Jen!! Here it goes...

Blogs I'm loving:
1. For the Love - I think she's my long-lost California twin.
2. Shabby Princess - runner, writer and Target-aholic. We're going to go on our book tour together.
3. It's a Charmed Life - Nat's got great style and shares my love of all things J. Crew.
4. Mrs. In Training - This girl's got it going on. She can do anything, I swear. Check out her bathroom remodel post. Unbelievable.
5. {Living Better Together} - Jessica has a hilarious sense of humor and incredible taste. You have to check out her Christmas card!
6. Classy and Fabulous - Sarah is awesome. No wonder her BFF is Heidi Klum. Color me jealous.
7. I Love You Much - Lauren is planning the most kick-ass party technicolor wedding ever and wearing a gorgeous Carolina Herrera dress. (She's also Miss Scissors on Weddingbee).
8. Just a Girl - Such great projects, tips, ideas and crafts. Love it!
9. Pammycakes - Follow Pam as she puts together amazing outfits and ensembles. This girl's got style coming out her ears.
10. Live.Laugh.Love. - Heather's a Chicago newlywed that had the most beautiful wedding in Maui. She's convinced me that Taco Bell isn't that bad for me - I'm eternally grateful.

Things that make me happy:

1. My husband and the furry kids - This one's pretty self explanatory; I love my family. I won't bore you with yet another picture of the kids...well, maybe just one more.

2. Traveling with girlfriends - I truly believe I have some of the most amazing friends ever. And we all love to travel, which makes for some pretty fun trips. In the last few years, I've traveled with friends to places like Madrid, Memphis, North Carolina, Jackson Hole, Chicago, Brussels, Florida, Cabo San Lucas, Germany, the Lake, Austria, Switzerland and Texas. This year I'm already planning a girl's trip to Puerta Vallarta in August. And over Valentine's day weekend, I'm going skiing in Breckenridge with Kirsten. Hopefully they'll be many many more in our future.

(This is exactly what I look like when I travel. Complete with perfect hair, high heels and Birkin bag. Aren't you jealous?)

3. Our fireplace - There's literally nothing better on a cold winter's night than building a fire in our living room fireplace and snuggling in on the couch with a good show/movie.

4. Cake - I love cake almost as much as I love Ryan. Shut up, I said almost. There is nothing as delicious as a big slice of birthday cake (and edge piece, of course) with just the right cake-to-icing ratio. Mmmmm...this makes me so happy.

5. Teeny-bop songs - You know you love them. Don't give me crap for jamming out to Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift because they're awesome and you know it. Every time one of their songs comes on the radio I get a big goofy smile on my face and I put my hands up, they're playing my song!

6. Books - I love love love books. Paperbacks, hardcovers, big ones, small ones, novels, chick lit, biographies, prize-winning fiction, histories, mysteries, etc. I hoard books. I collect books. I'm slowly building myself a library. If I'm not careful, this is what my office is going to look like very soon.

7. New recipes - Last night we tried a new recipe from the Cook Yourself Thin cookbook (which I'll post about later) that was delish! Tonight I'm going to a Homemade Gourmet party (have you heard of this?) where I'll be learning to make 6 new dishes and take them home with me to freeze for quick meals later. And next week Claire and I are taking a cooking class on CRAB (my favorite!) at Kitchen Conservatory. YUM.

8. Weddings - I know my wedding is ova, but I just can't help myself. I'm still a bit wedding-obsessed. I crave weddings these days. I look at my wedding pictures all the time and want to do it again (and again, and again, and again). I still follow about a million wedding planning blogs so I can live vicariously through other brides. Why is wedding planning such a disease? Is anyone else still wedding-obsessed months/years after your own wedding? Maybe next time I'll have a winter wedding (this is from my photographer, Carrie Patterson in Jackson Hole. Isn't it lovely?).

9. My bed - When we moved into our house, we splurged and got a Westin Heavenly Bed. Have you ever stayed at a Westin? The beds are, well...heavenly! I'm not sure if it's possibly the best purchase we've ever made (because it's the most comfortable bed in the world) or the worst purchase (because we cannot get ourselves out of bed in the morning to go to work we're so comfortable). I could literally live in that bed.

10. Gummi bears - What's not to love? Aren't they adorable? I like biting their tiny little heads off first.

Thanks again to Vee and Jen!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chicken Chimichangas

I'm not sure if I've ever had a chimichanga before Sunday night. I had no idea what I was missing! It was a complete accident that we stumbled upon this Godsend of a meal. Sunday afternoon I was flipping through a Cooking Light cookbook trying to figure out what we were going to eat for the week so I could go grocery shopping. I had everything picked out when Ryan requested some kind of Mexican/Southwest chicken meal for dinner that night. The first recipe I came to that qualified was chicken chimichangas. Ryan asked what a chimichanga was. I said I didn't have a clue.  But the ingredients sounded good, so I added them to the list and we'd give it a shot for dinner.

For some reason I thought chimichangas were going to be like enchiladas (with a tomato based sauce and lots of cheese), which I love, but are really hard to do "light".   However, I was pleasantly surprised (once I'd already started making them) that they were much lighter, colorful and really easy to make. After sauteeing and shredding the chicken, it took about 15 minutes to combine all the ingredients, roll up the tortillas and pop them in the oven. By the time they were done (7 minutes later), dinner was ready! I made some fresh guacamole to go on top. Ryan doused his in hot sauce and green salsa. We LOVED them!! Couldn't get enough. The cooking spray made the tops crispy and the chicken filling was very flavorful. And did I mention they are COOKING LIGHT! Guilt free baby.

2 1/2 cups shredded cooked boneless chicken breast
1 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (4.5 ounce) can green chilies drained
1 (16 ounce) can fat free refried beans
6 (8 inch) whole grain flour tortillas
cooking spray
bottled green salsa

1.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
2.  Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl and toss well.
3.  Spread 1/4 cup refried beans down center of each tortilla.  Add 2/3 cup chicken mixture.  Roll.  Place in casserole dish (coated with cooking spray) with seams down.
4.  Spray tops of tortillas with cooking spray.  Optional: top with a little extra cheese.
5.  Bake for 7 minutes. 
6.  Serve with green salsa, hot sauce and/or guacamole.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Pineapple Mojitos

After last week's giveaway*, I've been dying to finally try one of the recipes from Cook Yourself Thin.  Of course, I picked everyone's favorite, the Pineapple Mojitos!

I can't believe how good these were!  I let Ryan have one to taste, but after that I wouldn't even share!  They were just the right blend of fresh, sweet and sour.  Plus, they were really easy.  I'm shaing the recipe're going to thank me for this one!

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 limes cut into wedges
1 cup white rum
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup club soda

1.  Using a wooden spoon, gently crush the mint leaves, brown sugar and lime wedges at the bottom of a pitcher to release juices and dissolve the sugar.  (You can add 1 tablespoon very hot water to dissolve the sugar if necessary.)
 2.  Add pineapple juice, rum and club soda.  Stir until blended.
3.  Add ice to chill.  Serve cold straight up (or over ice).  Garnish with lime or mint, if desired.

*Rebecca, have you received your cookbook yet?  Just checking.  You must make this recipe!

Project 365 - Week 2

Not a super exciting week around our house.  Mainly I took pictures of food (we ate really well this week!) and our wedding albums (so I can blog about them).  Mally and Jigs were definitely the subject of numerous pictures, but I'll save those for another day.  I don't think I'm getting any better with the camera, but I'm finally trying out some new tricks working with the shutter speed and aperture.  It's just so hard to do with a point and shoot - I really need to think about getting a digital SLR. 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Random Stuff

I have writers block today. I think I may have officially run out of things to talk about. How did this happen? Damn it.

Well, I can aways talk about myself. And what a better place to do that than my blog. So here are some random findings from around the internets that have amused me.

I recently received a Facebook friend request from a college friend that I haven't seen or heard from in ages! Don't you just love Facebook for that reason alone? I knew she moved to Chicago after graduation, but she recently moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands! Her and her husband both lost their jobs, so they figured it was the perfect time for them (plus their pup) to move to St. Thomas! How cool is that?! She's bartending and he's a golf pro at a resort down there and they're just living life and having fun. I can't even begin to explain how horribly jealous I am of this. You can read all about Mary's adventures on her blog: Coconut Telegraph

So the next big thing in reading are the new e-readers. Undoubtedly you've heard of the Kindle and the Nook and all the others out there. Similar to an ipod, but for books, not music. I know a few people who have them and they LOVE them! I've considered an e-reader, but I don't think I'll ever get over the desire to have the actual physical paper book. Maybe it's the collector in me, but I love looking at all my books lined up on the shelves. It makes me feel proud to have read them all. I would even go so far as to say that I hoard books. I don't even like lending books to friends because I know I'll never get them back. I'm a freak like that. However, if you are interested in the new e-readers, For the Love posted a great review on the Barnes and Noble Nook. Read it HERE.

Thyme for Wine posted a recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies that made me drool all over my keyboard at work. You can get her recipe HERE.

Fresh Local and Best posted the most amazing pictures of The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market in NYC. WHY don't I live in NYC so I could shop here every single day. Lobster and crab. Shrimp, snapper and sardines. Trout, tuna and turbot. Oysters and urchin. I'm freaking starving now! Check out the post HERE.

Living with Lindsey posted a really cute DIY project to make a fabric heart wreath, just in time for Valentine's Day. How cute is this?! Check out here post HERE.

I'm obsessed with this blog called More Is Better. This girl is hilarious. I nearly peed my pants laughing at some of the things she says (the Google Maps post). I want to hang out together and be her bestie so bad but there's no way in hell I'm cool enough. So I just blog stalk her.

Do you read the Pioneer Woman's blog? She's amazing. She's having a photography contest right now for the perfect sunset picture. So many gorgeous photos. Here is her sunset picture.

Daily Candy website has a gallery article called 10 Cocktails to Raise a Glass To, which include drinks like the Spiced Cranberry Sangria and the Sparkling Pear. Delish! It's Friday, so why not make one tonight?! For all 10 recipes, check out the site HERE.

In other news (about myself):

I finally bought myself a sewing machine. I have no idea how to use it, where I'm going to put it, what I'm going to do/make with it, but it's on it's way to my house as we speak! It's super duper fancy, is computerized and does 110 different kinds of stitches. I'm so fucked. Do you know if they make a Sewing Machines for Dummies book?

I have finished the Blurb books of our wedding that I put together for our parents. They should be arriving any day now, so I'll make sure to do a post on them. I already gave my dad and Kelly theirs (and forgot to take pictures of it) and was really impressed by how well they turned out! I included our engagement pictures, then our rehearsal dinner pictures, followed by pictures of the wedding. I personalized them for each set of parents. You can preview the first few pages HERE.

My little brother is studying abroad this summer in Dublin, Ireland and I desperately want to go. Real bad. Way bad. SO so bad! I've been scouring the internet for deals and any information I can find. Has anyone here been to Ireland? Any suggestions or ideas for places to go, things to do, where to eat, what to see?

That's it. If I actually think of anything relevant or important to say I might be back. But I wouldn't hold my breathe, so have a great weekend!