Balsamic Grilled Chicken

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I love the flavor of this chicken: it is tender, juicy, and the perfect balance of flavors. The balsamic vinegar soaks into the meat and creates a caramelized crust when it touches the grill. There is also just the right amount of heat from the red pepper flakes and some freshness from the lemon and parsley. I like to make a large batch of this chicken on a Sunday so I have plenty of leftovers for other recipes during the week. I actually used this chicken in the wild rice soup which you can find here.  Enjoy!
4  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 tsp dried onion flakes
3 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp ground mustard
1/4 cup fresh chopped Italian Parsley
Zest and juice from one lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp black pepper
In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the chicken.
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Place chicken pieces in a large, flat container (I used a glass baking dish with a cover) and pour the marinade over the chicken.
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Use your hands to rub marinade evenly over all the chicken so it is evenly coated.
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Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.  Preheat grill to 350 degrees, cook chicken for 5-6 min. on each side or until no longer pink.
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Serves 8.
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Gatsby Style

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I love 1920’s fashion. It is classy, detailed, and fun. I hope that in the next few seasons they bring back some of the dress styles with beading, longer hems, and neutrals.

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Beauty favorites: Eyes

Beauty favorites: Eyes
Here are the beauty products I am currently using for my favorite feature: my eyes!
1.  I have dark green eyes which I love to accent with warm, golden tones like peach and bronze.  This Revlon set stays put all day without smudging, and I love how lightweight it is.
2.  For as long as I can remember, I have had dark circles underneath my eyes (which doesn’t change no matter how much sleep I get).  My sister recommended this Clinique “all about eyes rich” eye cream for my problem and what a difference it made!  The circles are much lighter and the skin around my eyes is super moisturized.
3.  It was only this past year I finally switched from an eye pencil to a liquid liner.  While I still use an eye pencil on occasion, I have to say liquid liner looks so much sleeker.  The Revlon color stay pen is easy to control and requires no dipping, so less mess!
4.  I’m always timid about trying new mascara.  Every few months or so, I grab the same mascara I’ve been using for years and don’t even pause to look at the “new” ones.  Recently I had some waiting around to do at Walgreens and naturally I found myself in the cosmetics section.  This lovely purple tube caught my eye and I decided to try it out.  Turns out, sometimes change is good!  The brush discourages clumps and I do like how long they make my lashes look.
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Grilled Naan Bread

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Naan is a flat bread found in India and the Middle East.  It is traditionally served to accompany curry dishes or to wrap around meat kabobs and roasted veggies.  One of my favorite ways to eat naan is with fresh hummus, a truly wonderful snack.  If you’ve always wanted to try making bread at home, I think naan is the perfect kind to start with.  You see, a traditional loaf of bread takes quite a bit of time and effort as well as a certain finesse to form it into an attractive shape.  Naan, however, is faster and much more forgiving as a free form shape is characteristic of this flat bread.
Ingredients:
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 to 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons melted butter
In a small bowl, combine yeast, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy.
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In a large mixing bowl, combine the rest of the sugar, egg, milk, salt, yeast mixture, and enough flour to make a soft dough (start with 4 cups).  I always start mixing with a fork and when it gets sticky and clumpy I used my hands to bring it all together.
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Place dough on a lightly floured surface (don’t worry if it is falling apart at first).  Knead for 6 to 8 minutes or until smooth and slightly elastic.
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Place dough in a bowl drizzled with the olive oil.  Cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise until the dough has doubled in volume (1 to 1.5 hours).
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Punch down dough, and knead for about a minute. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a tennis ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.  During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat (400 to 450 degrees).
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To form the dough, you can use your hands or a rolling pin.  In the pictures, I used my hands to stretch the dough into a  thin rectangular shape, you can make it as thin or thick as you would like (I stretch dough to 1/4 inch thickness).
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Place dough on grill, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned.   Turn over and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the other side.  Remove from the grill and brush with melted butter.  Continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.
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Makes 8-10 generous servings.
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Wedding Planning, the Initial Stages

This past December, my boyfriend proposed to me.  He popped the question after we saw a show at the Guthrie, which is actually where we had our first date five years earlier.  We were able to celebrate our engagement with friends and family and it was so much fun!  Being engaged has definitely been every bit as wonderful as I imagined it would be.

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Since then, I’ve actually gotten quite a bit of planning done for our spring 2014 wedding.  The very first thing we did, before looking into any venues or locations for the wedding, was make a guest list.  This turned out to be a smart idea because most venues have a maximum capacity; if a place won’t hold all of your guests, you can check it off the list (and you don’t end up wasting the time researching and visiting).

For our wedding, we knew we wanted our ceremony and reception to take place at the same venue and we also knew we wanted the location to be in the heart of the Twin Cities.  I used the website Minnesota Bride to research different venues in the twin cities and I found it extremely helpful.  Not only do they have a full directory of ceremony and reception sites in Minnesota, but they also have pictures from real weddings at each of these sites.  Almost all the venues have really helpful websites that list maximum capacity and other features.  Some of them will put prices on their website, but most require you to call for pricing information.

To stay organized, we made a spreadsheet of our favorite venues that included pricing information, unique features, catering options, and dates available. Also, we did set a budget prior to making decisions about which venues to visit.  Our budge was very detailed and included how much we were willing to spend on a venue, photographer, DJ, wedding gown, tuxedo rental, decorations, food, rings, groom’s dinner, and miscellaneous. After some deliberation, we chose 4-5 sites to visit.  At each site, we made sure to bring a notebook to write down information and we made a list of questions to ask at each site. Our final decision was made based on the price and availability of the date we wanted.

Wedding planning (so far) has been a lot less stressful than I thought it would be. I believe it is because my significant other and I have communicated well with each other, stayed organized, and have realistic expectations about our wedding.  To us, having delicious food, a great location, and a high quality photographer are our top priorities.

For the next several months, I am going to make decisions about the wedding details (decorations, his and her apparel, food, dessert, etc).  Below are some pictures that are inspiring me; you can check our our Pinterest Page to see my full wedding inspiration board.

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I am totally into dresses inspired by the 1920’s which is probably due to the upcoming Great Gatsby flick.  The dress pictured above is so glamorous and detailed, I would love to wear something like that.  I also love a classic navy suit for the groom, it looks so sharp and sophisticated.

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For decor, I am definitely wanting a simple and clean feel.  I love this table setting with lush greens, white flours, fancy china, and a rustic table.

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One item I know I will struggle with making a decision is the bouquet.  There are so many directions you could potentially go with a it.  I am completely obsessed with the idea of a brooch bouquet, totally unique and gorgeous.  I also love a classic white bouquet with just a hint of color with pastel pinks and yellows.

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For the bridesmaids I would really like mis-matched dresses.  I am strongly considering a pastel palate of colors including blush, mint, and lilac.

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I definitely want the overall theme of my wedding to be rustic glamour: natural elements mixed with shiny and sparkly elements.  These mercury glass vases pair well with a baby’s breath arrangement as does the twinkly lights and branches.

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As a bride, I want to have some special detail in my overall look.  I am very inspired by this draping pearl back as well as the floral headpiece.

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I think it would be fun to have a signature cocktail served at our wedding, perhaps a margarita?  I am also on the prowl for a vintage silver cake stand like the one shown above.  I think it looks just lovely with a white cake and some greenery.

I’ll definitely be posting more about our wedding plans as the date gets closer and more details are worked out.  I hope this post has inspired some of you!

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Instagram Round-Up

Everything is in full bloom in Memphis including our gorgeous rose bush.  Isn’t that coral color amazing?  I’m now on the hunt for clothing in this pretty hue.  I also bought a bright floral dress from Gap which will be perfect to wear to weddings this summer.

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I’m such a sucker for jewelry, especially statement necklaces.  Here are some gems I’ve recently purchased including this one from J. Crew and a large tribal necklace that I plan to wear with plain tanks to add some interest to the outfit.

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A change in the season also means a surplus of new foods at the farmer’s market and grocery stores.  The other day I picked up a large bag of fresh rhubarb and made a delicious strawberry rhubarb crisp.  I’ve also been taking advantage of the low price of basil which I used in this pasta dish with ricotta cheese, parmesan, lemon, and peas.

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Since we’ve been having such gorgeous weather in Memphis the last few weeks, I’ve been spending lots of time outside.  We cleaned up the yard and planted flowers and tomatoes in the garden. We also went and explored a state park outside of Memphis and ended up hiking for 4 hours around the lake.

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Have a wonderful weekend!

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

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Whenever I’m having a moment where I really miss living in Minnesota, I make this dish.  It brings back so many wonderful memories of my home state.  I remember when my mother would take me to Byerly’s, a Minnesota grocery store, and I would always anticipate a trip to the deli while we were shopping.  While I did try a lot of their deli selections over the years, one dish I always craved was a bowl of their famous chicken and wild rice soup.  It is creamy, hearty, and flavorful, the perfect harmony in any comfort dish.  Thankfully, Byerly’s is not against sharing their delightful recipes, including this soup.  The recipe below is the doubled version of the original because when I make anything from my childhood, I want a lot of leftovers!

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 yellow or white onion, minced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 cup flour
7 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked wild rice
4 cups cooked chicken, cut into one inch chunks
1 cup finely grated carrots (2-3 medium carrots)
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Prepare the wild rice: put 5 cups of cold water, 1 and 1/2 cups of wild rice, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.  Turn off the heat and let the rice sit in the water for an additional 30 minutes.  Drain excess water, set aside.

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In large soup pot, melt butter and add olive oil.  Add onion and celery, with a pinch of salt, saute until tender (about 5 minutes).  Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.

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Gradually add broth using a whisk to prevent lumps from forming.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.  Boil and keep stirring for 1-2 minutes.

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Add rice, carrots, almonds, chicken, and a good seasoning of salt and pepper; simmer about 5 minutes.

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Blend in heavy cream and sherry, heat to serving temperature. Add the parsley just before serving.

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Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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Serves 8-10.

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