About Me

I grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where I also attended college and met the love of my life. I lived in NYC for five years with my husband and Westie, Mack Brown before recently moving all the way across the country to Los Angeles. I'm an amateur chef, total foodie, lover of Westies, sports fanatic and self-proclaimed book worm. You'll find a little bit of all these things I love on this blog. And...most importantly, I'm a new mom to the most precious baby boy, Austn Robert, born this past October.





Austin Robert

Austin Robert

Mack Brown

Mack Brown

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chicken Tortellini Soup

We caught our first cold of the season earlier this week.  Well, actually B caught the cold.  So, I did the only really useful thing I know to do when someone gets sick, which is cook!   I made the best dish I know of for warding off runny noses and hacking coughs...chicken noodle soup.  Duh.

I wanted to change it up a little bit, though, so I decided to use cheese stuffed tortellini instead of the boring egg noodles I usually use.  The result was delicious, and I'm happy to report that the patient is now all cured.  Thanks to the soup, of course :)

You don't have to wait until you're sick to make a batch, though.  It would be the perfect belly-warming meal for all you East Coasters who are battening down the hatches in preparation for the Nor'easter heading your way this weekend!  Snow in October?  Crazy.  Make some soup.  You'll thank me later.

Chicken Tortellini Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled, quartered and diced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded
2 32 oz. containers of chicken stock (use low-sodium so that you can season the soup yourself)
1 16oz. bag cheese tortellini 
salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, optional

In a medium saucepan, boil the two chicken breasts in water until they are just cooked through.  When the chicken is ready, allow it to cool for a couple of minutes on a cutting board before shredding.  Set the shredded chicken aside until the soup is ready.

In a large stock pot, add the olive oil, onions and carrots.  Saute at medium-high heat until the vegetables have softened .  Add salt and pepper to taste.  When vegetables have softened, add the chicken stock.  Scrap any brown-bits that the vegetables might have left at the bottom of the pan, and then add a little more salt and pepper.  Taste as you go, so that it doesn't get too salty.

Add the chicken and then bring the soup up to a boil.  Immediately, bing the soup down to a simmer, and cook for another 20-25 minutes.  Right before you are ready to serve, add the tortellini.  Cook according to the directions on the package.  Once the pasta is cooked, turn the heat of immediately so that the tortellini don't get too mushy.

I like to sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on top before serving, but it's great without it as well.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pumpkin Patch!

In my last post, I talked about how excited I am to start exploring all that California has to offer.  Well, I started this weekend...with a trip to a pumpkin patch!

Ever since summer ended, I've talking about finding a pumpkin patch once we got to LA where we could spend a fun fall afternoon.  Not just any pumpkin patch would do, however.  I wanted one where I could pick my own pumpkin and truly experience the tastes and flavors of fall.  There are tons of places to get pumpkins and plenty of fall festivals taking place all over LA, but I wanted the real experience...farm and all.  Not very me, I know, but we all like to step outside of our comfort zone every once in a while.  Right?

We finally found a place about 45 miles outside of the city in Moorpark and decided to go this past Sunday.  We went early in the afternoon and had so much fun!  The farm puts on a fall festival every year during the entire month of October, so there was tons to do from a pick-your-own-produce field and a corn maize to pig racing and pumpkin launching games.  We were probably the only couple there without children, but we still had a blast.

We had lunch.

Purchased some yummy pumpkin bread.

Bought some farm-fresh produce.

And, of course, picked out pumpkins.  We even got Mack a little one :)

All in all, it was the perfect fall day!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Getting to Know You...

Since moving to California a week ago, I've been doing a lot of reading in an attempt to get to know my new "home" state a little better.   What fascinates me the most about California is its diversity of climates, regions, and landforms.  You can be at the beach one day and the desert the next.  Or, if you get tired of the heat and sunshine (clearly, because you're crazy), you can head up north to the mountains and go skiing.  Pretty awesome if you ask me.

The more I read and learn about California, the happier I am that we decided follow our gut and move out west.  My heart will forever belong to the east coast, but I can't wait to get to know California more.

Here are some interesting facts I've learned so far.  I apologize, in advance, if these are old news to you.  Most were new to me and I thought they would be fun to share! (Must be the teacher coming out in me!)

California state bird: quail
California state animal: the grizzly bear

California state tree: the redwood (I can't wait to see these, btw!)
Did you know that Mt. Whitney, located in the Sequoia National Park, is the highest point in the United States outside of Alaska? Cool, huh?

Redwood trees

California state flower: the poppy
California state marine mammal: the gray whale
California state fish: the trout
California state reptile: the desert tortoise

California state mineral: gold (duh)

California state motto: "Eureka, I found it!" <---this refers to the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848 and, like most state mottoes, it cracks me up.

I know these are pretty basics facts, but I love them because I think they really show the diversity of California.  And, I may be a nerd, but they excite me to begin exploring my new state.  Now, where to go first??

Friday, October 21, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Acorn Squash

I cooked for the first time in my new kitchen a couple of days ago and made one of my favorite fall chicken dishes.  It's the perfect weeknight dinner.  Quick and easy.  You can chop the vegetables ahead of time and prepare the chicken, and then cook everything quickly once you get home.

Don't be scared by acorn squash.  It much easier to prepare than it looks.

All you need to do is wash and dry the squash, cut it in half lengthwise, and then scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  Just like you clean out a pumpkin.  There's no need peel the squash.  The skin softens as it cooks and is completely edible.  Once the squash is all clean, you're ready to slice it up and roast it.

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook.

Roasted Chicken with Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut in. 1/2 in. thick slices
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large red onion, cut into 1/2 in. wedges
8 garlic cloves, crushed (My cloves were HUGE, so I only used 4.  You be the judge!)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 bone-in chicken breast halves
1 tbsp dried rosemary (I used herbes de Provence b/c I was out of rosemary, and it was declious!)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large roasting pan, combine the squash, mushrooms, red onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Toss to evenly coat all vegetables and roast for 15 minutes.

While the veggies are cooking, prepare the chicken.  In a small bowl, mix together the rosemary (or herbes de Provence) with salt and pepper.  Lift up the skin of each chicken breast and rub with the salt/pepper/herb mixture.

When the veggies are ready, lay the chicken breasts on top.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle more salt and pepper on top and then cook for another 35 minutes in the oven.  It's that easy!

This picture doesn't make it look very good,but trust me it is :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

La-La Land!

We finally made it!

Well, we actually made it to LA last Friday, but we've been pretty busy since then and I just haven't had a chance to post yet.  But, I do now, so let's get all caught up!

We left the Grand Canyon super early last Friday morning in hopes of getting to LA around lunch time for two reasons: 1) our new mattress was being delivered in the early afternoon, and 2) the cable guy was coming to hook up the cable and internet.  Both things had to be done on Friday so that we had a place to sleep that night (since the rest of our stuff wasn't arriving until the next day) and so that we could watch the Texas-OSU game the next morning.  At noon.  Weird, right?  We're still getting used to the time change when watching live TV evenst like football.  We went to the bar and watched Monday Night Football early this week at FIVE-THIRTY.  So, weird.

Check out the beautiful sunrise we got to experience while driving out of Arizona.


Anyway, back to the move.  The cable guy came, but the mattress never did (Looooong story that's not worth re-telling.  Trust me.)  We ended up rescheduling the mattress for the next day, but were left with the problem of having nothing to sleep on that night.  So, instead of freaking out (well, I guess there was a little freaking out, thank goodness for B), we headed to Bed, Bath and Beyond and purchased a new Aerobed mattress (and some cheap lamps from Target so that we could actually see.)  Here's what our bedroom looked like that first night:

The movers came the next day, along with the mattress (soooooooo worth the wait!) and I spent the next couple of days unpacking, organizing, arranging, rearranging, etc.  Once I got started, I was unstoppable.

 I LOVE our new place.  It's so nice actually having a bedroom again, and now we even have a second bedroom for guests (which has already been put to good use with a guest, believe it or not!)

We just ordered a new TV console for the living room, and the master bedroom is definitely a work-in-progress, but I love how everything turned out.  Check it out for yourself.

View of the kitchen from the main entrance.

View of the kitchen from the living room.

View of the living room from the hallway.  You can't see it very well in this  shot, but the picture above the sofa was a gift from our good friends the Kimball's.  Its a black and white photo of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Such a perfect reminder of home.  Thanks again, Mr. and Mrs. Kimball!!

View of the "dining room" from the living room.

Guest bedroom from the doorway.

More guest bedroom.  Different angle.

Master bedroom.  That's the master bathroom in the corner.

Our new mattress.  Don't worry it won't be sitting on the floor forever.  I told you it was a work-in-progress!
Master bathroom.  The other bathroom looks pretty much the same, so I didn't take a picture.

Our balcony/ storage space for now until we get a real one :)

What'd you think?  We think it's pretty great.  My current home project right now is our bedroom, so I'll keep you posted on the progress!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Road Trip: Day Nine

Our last stop before Los Angeles was in Arizona to see the Grand Canyon.  We had to go about an hour out of our way to get there, but it was DEFINITELY worth it!

Our drive through Arizona was beautiful.  B and I are still in awe of this amazing country that we live in.  We definitely spent a good portion of the journey gawking at the beauty surrounding us, but at least it helped pass the time driving!

Mack also enjoyed the drive through Arizona.

After dropping Mack off at the hotel, we headed into the national park to see the Canyon.  It was truly amazing.  My favorite part of the Canyon was how when you are approaching the rim you are surrounded by forest trees and animals until all of a sudden the scenery changes and you are standing at the edge of one of the greatest natural wonders of the world.  The drastic change is incredible.  (FYI: We were on the south rim of the Canyon.)

We had an early dinner at a restaurant in the park called The Arizona Room. B and I both had delicious honey-balsamic glazed NY strip steaks, but the best part of the dinner was the view.  Our table looked out over the Canyon.  Definitely the best dinnertime view we had the entire trip.

Our stay was short in the park because we had to get to bed early to head out on our last leg of the trip the next day, but I feel so blessed that we had the opportunity to go even for a short time.  We can't wait to go back!

Next stop: LA!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Road Trip: Day Eight

After Lubbock, we headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Neither Brad nor I had ever been to New Mexico before, so we were very excited for this stop on our journey.  After all, New Mexico is "the Land of Enchantment."  Seriously, that's their state motto.

We really enjoyed watching the flat farmland of West Texas change into desert as we entered New Mexico and got closer and closer to Santa Fe.

We also saw this cute sight while driving...

We stayed at a great hotel called The Hotel Santa Fe that was walking distance from the center of town.

After settling into our hotel room, we took Mack with us to grab lunch at a local eatery called Cowgirl.  The highlight of the lunch was the guacamole we shared, which came in a really awesome blue corn tortilla cup.

After lunch, we rested in our rooms before heading out for the evening to walk through downtown Santa Fe on our way to dinner.  Santa Fe is such a beautiful city.

For dinner, we ate at a restaurant called Anasazi and had a delicious meal.  Brad had a buffalo burger and I had wine and chile braised short ribs with pepper jack cheese grits.  Sooooo good.

After that we headed back to our hotel for the night to get ready for our drive to the Grand Canyon the next day, but we definitely hope to make it back to Santa Fe sometime soon!