Friday, April 22, 2011

Recipe: Summer Chicken Wraps

I was the hostess of our monthly girls' dinner last night, so I googled "pregnancy safe recipes" (for our darling Grace, who is currently 17 weeks along with her little Lenny) and found this gem. It is the perfect summer meal - not too heavy, and full of delicious fresh veggies. Plus, there are a ton of minor modifications that you can do to make this meal your very own. All of us LOVED it and I already can't wait to make it again. The fresh mint is key!!

Makes 4 servings; Total Time: 40 minutes

Per serving: 439 calories; 9 g fat ( 2 g sat , 4 g mono ); 89 mg cholesterol; 49 g carbohydrates; 40 g protein;5 g fiber; 1018 mg sodium; 783 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: 140% dv vitamin a, 31 mg vitamin c (50% dv), 179 mcg folate (45% dv), 4 mg iron (25% dv).


  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce (I recommend low-sodium soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 8 6-inch flour tortillas (use whole wheat for a healthier option!)
  • 4 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 3 cups / 12 oz shredded cooked* chicken (mine was cubed into tiny pieces)
  • 1 large tomato, cut in small bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup grated carrots (2 medium carrots - I used my vegetable peeler)
  • 2/3 cup chopped scallions (1 bunch - AKA Green onions)
  • 1 onion, cut in small bite-size pieces
  • 2/3 cup slivered fresh mint

*I marinated the chicken in a soy sauce / lemon juice marinade and cooked it with some minced garlic & crushed red pepper flakes


  • Whisk lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, garlic and red pepper in small bowl until sugar is dissolved
  • Preheat oven to 325
  • Wrap tortillas in foil and heat in oven for 10-15 minutes; Keep warm
  • Combine all veggies & chicken in a large bowl
  • Add 1/3 cup dressing and toss to coat
  • Serve the remaining dressing as dipping sauce, along with the chicken mixture & tortillas for guests to assemble at the table

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stuck in Cary: Volume 3

Once upon a time, there was a lovely couple who bought a lovely home in a lovely town. They had a lovely wedding, then had a lovely daughter, and the lovely mother only worked a lovely job part-time, which was a lovely schedule. And then, the lovely mother decided she would paint the lovely rooms in the lovely house THE MOST GOD-AWFUL COLORS UNDER THE SUN. And then, the lovely couple decided to sell the lovely home to another lovely couple. That lovely couple, you may know. They are none other than Aubrey & Ben Eckerson. This is the story of conquering the ugly.

Our downstairs bathroom and/or powder room was wall-papered. Or, IS wall-papered, depending on whether you're a glass-half-full kinda gal. It's neutral wall-paper and light colored, which is great for such a tiny room, but it's still wall-paper. I, for one, am not a huge fan of wall-paper in general. It's nothing personal, and there's plenty of folks who can pull it off, but it's not for me. This particular paper was starting to peel up, so I asked my father-in-law (the eternal handy man!) if we could borrow his wall-paper steamer. He brought it over and as we discussed possibilities for our tiny bathroom, the next thing I know my mother-in-law is tearing off huge chunks of the paper. So I guess our demolition began Sunday!

The before:
Not-horrible wall-paper, the vase that the previous owners left behind + flowers I added, and the photo Ben had of NYC that seemed to go with the whole black & white theme

My least favorite light fixture of all time, I think. Also, here you can see the obnoxious blue that the bathroom was painted before the previous owners decided to sell. Good choice on covering that mess up, guys

Beginning the demolition / a look at the complementary wall-paper and border

The little toilet paper holder that can barely hang on!

I actually did some minor improvements on this bathroom a few months ago, which basically consisted of: 
  • Removed the tacky "gold" plastic mirror and replacing with a silver one
  • Replaced the non-matching, tarnished towel rack & toilet paper holder with new silver ones
  • Upgraded the cabinet pulls to match the rest of the fixtures
  • Purchased the replacement light fixture, but we haven't installed it since we know we're doing a whole lot more.

Our plan is as follows: 
  • Remove the wall-paper
  • Buy a new "drop-in" sink
  • Replace the counter with granite
  • Patch the shoddy installation of the towel & toilet paper racks
  • Paint the walls
  • Purchase shades for the new light fixture
  • Upgrade the hideous brass light fixture (this brass WILL be out of my house if it is the death of me!)
  • Re-install the brushed nickel towel & toilet paper racks I purchased a few months ago (but have been barely hanging onto the wall)

*whew* I think that's everything. So here are the beginning steps of our journey, I imagine this will be a long one. Input / encouragement is welcome! Especially for inexpensive sink / granite sources and wall colors (thinking a mossy green, perhaps?).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Recipe: Baked Ziti

A few things you've probably figured out about me: I like to cook (but I'm by no means a gourmet-style chef, more home-style), and I'm Italian. I was raised on pastas, hearty sauces, breads, cheeses, etc. You know, all the stuff that's really great for bathing suit season.

A co-worker recently had a baby so I'm taking her family dinner last night, and this baked ziti has become my go-to. It's easily frozen for later use and there are slight amendments I make so that it's not quite so bad for you. Also, probably my favorite thing about it, you can make double the recipe to feed a crowd (just as all the folks we went skiing with in February!).


  • 1 box (16 oz) ziti pasta (penne works too, and you can use whole wheat in a recipe like this because you can hardly taste it)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (I either use ground turkey or half & half for lower fat content)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 28oz jars spaghetti sauce (can be super basic cheap tomato sauce as you're going to add meat & onion and lots of spices can be thrown in!)
  • 6 oz sliced low-fat provolone cheese
  • 6 oz sliced low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups low fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or use dried basil in a much smaller qty)


  • Boil water & cook pasta al dente (8-10 min)
  • Saute onions until slightly translucent, then brown ground beef over medium heat in LARGE skillet
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Drain fat (a lot less if you use turkey!) and add both jars sauce; simmer for 15 min
  • Lightly grease 2 qt baking dish or 9x13 glass dish
  • Layer: half pasta, half provolone / mozarella, half spaghetti sauce mixture, sour cream; repeat: pasta, cheese, sauce.
  • Top with Parmesan & Basil
  • Bake 30 minutes or until cheese / sauce are bubbly

Makes 8 servings at 120 calories / serving. Yes, 120, you read that correctly. You're welcome.

PS - if you freeze it, it WILL take longer to cook. I'd put it in the fridge if you're planning to eat it within a day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

James Taylor Said It Best

"Oh, Mexico
It sounds so sweet with the sun sinking low
Moon's so bright like to light up the night
Make everything all right"

Ben & I spent last week in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with two of our favorite couples: my sister Ashleigh and her boyfriend Scott, and our friends Lindsley & Tarik. After our Presidents' Day ski trip, we needed a warm vacation; "Spring Break 2011", as we called it (which Ben did not appreciate). We arrived at an all-inclusive resort on Sunday and didn't head back stateside until Thursday afternoon. Despite all our "white whines", there's really nothing to complain about - trust me, we tried. Drinking fruity drinks out of coconuts, getting our exercise in turquoise waters, laying on chaise lounges in the pool, getting massages on the beach ... it was pretty much the perfect relaxation vacation. The only times we had any idea what time it was were the mornings when we had to be at the most delicious breakfast buffet or our various dinner reservations each night. It was exactly the recharge I needed to make it through to our next day off (Memorial Day).

A few of my favorite pics from the trip:
The Whole Crew! We finally arrived at the Cancun Airport\

Walking onto the beach for the first time: White Sand, Blue Water ... Paradise

After taking a "Tequila Boom Boom" Shot

Me & Ben on the beach