Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thoughts on L.L. Bean

The Spring L.L. Bean catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. Now, L.L. Bean is not typically a store/catalog that I pay much attention to. There isn't a particular reason for this, but I kind of thought they were famous for their tote bags and that's about all... you know the ones that you monogram and can haul everything in, and look like this:

Well, I started flipping through the pages just to see what was new in L.L. Beanland, and was pleasantly surprised! The pages were full of color, and the clothes were cute! Perfect (and preppy) stuff for weekend lounging. I wanted to book tickets to Nantucket for my husband and I on the spot-- but that is a different blog post all together.(Hey, Pennsylvania winters are rough, so a girl can dream, right??)

Anyway, I thought these three little numbers were pretty multi-functional, and could pull double duty for both work and weekend gear. What do you think? Are you an L.L. Bean fan?

Full disclosure- I do not work for L.L. Bean, and was not paid to write this post. These are my own personal opinions. Thanks :) 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Delicious Dinners: Chicken with Wild Rice Alfredo

I share this recipe with you with one warning... you would be crazy if you made this on a week night I would strongly suggest that this is not a week night type of dinner (unless you have the ability to start cooking before 4PM). Between the rice cooking time and the chicken baking time, this recipe can become an all afternoon affair! We tried this delicious dinner on a Sunday though, so it worked well that I could get it started early.  I hope you enjoy! We certainly did. 

The meal idea comes from Pillsbury, and I have found some really tasty meals through their website's newsletter. The gorgeous photo also comes from their website. I promise to start taking my own photos of my creations, however I made this dinner before I started my blog, so I wasn't thinking about photos to jazz up blog posts yet.

Here we go:

3/4    cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained ( I just used a brown and white rice mixture that I had laying around instead of buying a whole new bag of wild rice)
1/2    can (14 oz) roasted garlic-seasoned chicken broth ( I made my own by just adding 3 sizable cloves)
1/2    cup water
1/2    teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1    tablespoon butter or margarine
3    boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb)
1 1/2    cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2    jar (7 oz) roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped
1    cup Alfredo pasta sauce (I used a reduced fat Alfredo and it tasted great!)

1.    In 2-quart saucepan, heat wild rice, broth and water to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 35- 45 minutes or until rice kernels are open and almost tender; drain if necessary. Stir in thyme. Spread rice in ungreased 9x9-inch glass baking dish.

2.    Heat oven to 350°F. In 12-inch skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in butter 8 to10 minutes, turning once, until brown. Place on cooked rice. Add mushrooms and bell peppers to skillet. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Stir in Alfredo sauce; pour over chicken.

3.    Bake uncovered 45 to 55 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut.

I hope you enjoy. Let me know if you were able to try it and how it turned out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Valentine's Day Love...a Bit Early

For those that know me, it is no secret that I have a serious obsession with stationary. Picking out our wedding invitations was almost more fun than choosing my wedding dress, and creating our annual Christmas card is something I think about in the beginning of November.

When I was planning our wedding, I learned of the website, TinyPrints and fell in love. This is the kind of love that means my paycheck should just be directly deposited into a Tiny Prints account that credits me with points each month to buy stationary.

However, with the current state of my job- aka-  I might not have one in a few days, I thought it might not be a great idea to get custom Valentine's Day cards printed. Instead, I shall dream. Here are some of my favorites.
I'm not over the moon about the "hugs and kisses" message on the left side, but I love the symmetry of this card.

Love the simplicity. Totally something I would send.

Great message, simple, and cute! And my goodness if our children are ever that cute I would send a card exactly like this.

What holidays do you send cards for? Just birthdays and Christmas? Or are you like me and find any excuse to write to your friends and family?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quick Layoff Update

For those of you that may not know the whole story (and that's many of you since this blog JUST went public- please feel free to read the back story on why I am even writing a post about layoffs- here. But, for those of you that follow me on Twitter, you may know a little bit about the story already.

Well, there has been a small update. Meaning-- the company may be keeping me. As I wrote earlier, I am part of a transition team that is in place for the month of January. My role is to transition my work to the new marketing team so they can learn the ropes of what we do and take over everything on 1/31/2010. Things have been going well with the transition, but, everything is moving much more slowly than we anticipated. At this point it looks like the new team may need to keep me on staff for an extended period. Great, right? The problem is they have no clue how long they need me. I'm trying to keep my sanity and move forward with my job search considering I may not have a job after 1/31, but on the other hand I am told that I may stay on staff indefinitely. I'm just confused because less than a month ago I felt as though my world was crumbling with the news that I was being laid off, and now they are telling me that they may want me to continue to work for the company after all. Sound confusing? Trust me, it is!

I will likely have some answers by the end of the week, and will hopefully at least know if I need to continue full steam ahead with a new job search, or if I can hit the brakes for a while, finish out my role with this company, and then look for another job elsewhere. For now, it's a waiting game.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Delicious Dinners: Pasta

I love to cook, and after all the cookbooks that I got for Christmas, it's time to try some new recipes! I made this dish about a week before Christmas, but since I haven't had time to cook much since Christmas, I thought I would share this new favorite from Ms. Rachael Ray. Enjoy, and let me know what your thought about it after you try it.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats

Coarse salt
1 pound penne rigate
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (twice around the pan)
1 1/2 pounds ground beef sirloin
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander (I omitted this because I forgot to pick it up at the store, and it worked just fine)
2 tablespoons chipotle chili powder (I used regular chili powder)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 jalapeƱo, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk (I used skim and it worked well)
2 1/2 cups shredded smoked cheddar (I used regular cheddar. Couldn't even find smoky cheddar in my store.)
1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves (a few handfuls), chopped
1 14-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained
4 scallions, chopped, for garnish

1. Preheat broiler to high and place the rack eight inches from the heat.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water and cook the pasta until slightly undercooked - a little chewy at the center.

3. While the water is coming up to a boil, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil. Add the beef to the hot skillet, seasoned with the cumin, coriander, chipotle chili powder (or just the regular kind), salt and pepper, and cook until lightly brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapeno and continue to cook for 5 minutes. While the beef is cooking with the onions, make the cheddar sauce.

4. In a medium sauce pot, melt the butter and add the flour to it. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes over moderate heat, then whisk in the milk. When the milk comes to a bubble, stir in the cheese, cilantro, and parsley with a wooden spoon. Season with a little salt and pepper, stir in the tomatoes, and remove the cheese sauce from the heat. [Really, remove it or the bottom of the pot will be covered in brown cooked milk when you are done!]

5. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it back into the large pot, add the contents of the chicken skillet and all of the cheddar sauce, and stir to combine. Transfer to a baking dish and place under the broiler to lightly brown. Garnish bowls of chili con queso mac with chopped scallions.

My husband LOVED this dinner, and he is really a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so this was a great addition to our normal recipe rotation. I will admit that this dinner did make a LOT of dishes. After we finished eating, I looked around the kitchen and thought to myself, WHAT HAPPENED? Luckily, my husband helped with the cleanup... but just a warning for you- you might make a few dishes.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Start of Something BIG!

I've been thinking about starting a blog for some time, and figured that based on the current phase of my life that I'm in, now would be a perfect time. So, ta da... a blog is born! I plan to make this a space for thoughts, life updates, recipes, and just adventures in being a newlywed (yes, I just got married about 3 months ago, and I'm in love with being a newlywed!)

It's a perfect time to start a blog because I have been forced to do a bit of soul-searching lately, and I truly feel as though I'm standing at a starting line.... but it's a starting line that I'm excited about!

Well, I might as well lay it all out on the table. I was laid off earlier this month. Well, kind of. The company I was working for was forced into reorganization, and about 25 people were told they would be losing their jobs. I was part of the company's marketing team, and since my team is the only division being completely eliminated, we have been asked to stay on until the end of January to help with the transition. So, I will be officially laid off on January 31st.

I was shocked, and completely blindsided, but I believe that when one door closes, another opens. I have been able to think and reflect about the situation for a few days, and I truly think this is something that will be great for me. I will certainly be blogging about the job search.

So, thanks for being here. I hope that we can connect, share some ideas, and learn from each other.