Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Game Day: Pepper-Jack Cheese Dip & Yeast-less Soft Pretzels

It's pretty obvious by this point that I love me some football! Sundays are a big deal in our house. I'm a big fan of the Sunday Dinner but on Game Day I like to take that to a whole new level.

Enter cheese dip.

Nothing beats a recipe that uses ingredients you have in your kitchen. I don't know about you, but I try to avoid the supermarket at any cost. This dip was made without stepping foot into a grocery store. I love it already. But it gets better.

Let's start with what you'll need to pull this gooey, golden yum-fest off....

1 cup of milk
1 1/2 tbsp of flour
2 tbsp of softened butter
1lb of pepper-jack cheese, shredded
3/4 of a block of cheddar cheese, shredded

First thing you'll want to do is make a rue with your butter & flour. This basically means you melt your butter in a pan & whisk your flour into it until it's a smooth, even consistency. Then, add the milk & continue to whisk. The milk should begin to thicken slightly & you'll notice a creamier, less runny appearance. Add in the cheeses & continue to whisk until the cheeses are incorporated & you have a smooth, thick consistancy. I then put mine into a porcelin baking dish & put it into a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes, but you'll want to pull it out when it has some browning on the top. & you're done!

This dip is great with chips. But i was craving pretzels. Soft pretzels, specifically. The only problem was that I did not have any yeast, which I believed to be a requirement to make soft pretzels. Luckily, google had something else to say about that.

So, here is a recipe for an easy & tasty, flourless pretzel that compliments the heck out of our tangy, Pepper-jack Cheese Dip!

2 cups of all-purpose flour
3 tbsp of butter
2 tbsp of sugar
2 tsp of baking powder
1/3 cup of milk (I used a bit more than this. You can eyeball it...)
A pinch of salt
Sea salt (to top pretzels)
1 egg - beaten

Start by throwing your flour & butter into your mixer. Let this combine until mixture is slightly crumby. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. Add the milk SLOWLY until your mixture is wet. The dough should be damp but not sticky or dry. You can add more or less if your dough reaches desired consistency sooner.

You do not have to let dough rest or rise, you can immediately begin to work with it. I rolled the dough into narrow "snake-like" rolls & then trimmed 2-inch sections from the roll. This made small, bite-size squares but you can fashion the dough however you wish. Prepare your baking sheet with no-stick spray & place your prepared pretzels onto the sheet. Egg-wash the tops of the pretzels & sprinkle with sea-salt.

Pretzels will need to cook in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes but this will depend on the size of your pretzels.

Mine came out slightly pale in places but still tasted very much like pretzels are supposed to. they were also the consistency of pretzels inside which was interesting since they looked almost like little biscuits.  Considering the ease of these babies, they were TOTALLY a winner in my book.


Monday, September 15, 2014

ONE Special Birthday!

Hard to believe, but my sweet little nephew turned one this weekend! This past year has flown by. It's been so fun watching Mason grow & learn. He's such a cutie & he's so fun to be around. He's brought so many new experiences to my husband's family. He's my in-law's first grandbaby & it has been so touching watching them spoil & love on their grandson. Also, my sister-in-law & brother-in-law have grown into such sweet, loving parents. It is truly heartwarming to see them all together.

My sister-in-law has been planning Mason's first birthday for awhile now & it really turned out to be such a fun day. The party was at a quaint little pavilion near Ellicott Creek in Tonawanda. It was a cool, fall day but not too crisp. We were pretty comfortable the majority of the time. There were lots of family & friends there so there was plenty of body heat to keep everyone warm! 

My sister-in-law trusted me to take the pictures of the party, which was an incredible honor. I've always dabbled in photography but never really had the equipment to pursue it. My brother-in-law purchased a really, really nice Canon camera last year & suggested I use it to capture the photos from the party. After some brief "how-to" instructions, some hours spent on youtube & Pinterest learning the basics & time spent photographing Teddy, I felt like I was up to the task of photographing the party. Luckily, the photos were not a COMPLETE disaster. Haha. 

The smash cake! Mason has a blast digging into this!

Some of the presents

How adorable is this? My sister-in-law has this made.
Since it was Football Sunday, my father-in-law brought a TV & an antenna so that guests could watch the Bills play. It was an AMAZING game & ended with a Bills win! We're at the top of the AFC East at 2-0 right now. Feels pretty good! Hopefully they keep up the momentum! ....But we've gotten off topic. 

Mason had the best time playing with his Smash Cake. He had everyone at the party laughing with his goofy grin. The best part was when he decided to touch his Daddy's face with his cake-covered hands. Dad was messy, Mason was messy & it was just too adorable for words.

Little fingers mashing up cake
After lunch & cake, presents were opened. Andrew & I had the best time picking out Mason's gift. We got him some shirts from the mall which were adorable & super fun to shop for, but we knew we wanted to get him something he'd find fun as well. We'd joked around that we were going to get him a drum-set, since Uncle Andy is a drummer & it would be entertaining for Mommy & Daddy. ;-) Amazingly enough, we actually found a baby drum with some maracas, drumsticks & a little baby tambourine. Without a moment's hesitation, we snatched it right off the shelf. Mason is on his way to being a rockstar! Haha. We also bought him the book "Five Little Pumpkins" which I remember vividly from story time in kindergarten. It was always my favorite & I was thrilled to find it & share it with my little nephew!

After much excitement, the birthday boy was tired & the party was winding down. I was looking forward to coming home & editing the pictures because I was SO sure that I'd gotten some winners! I'm pretty proud of some of them & I hope I captured even a fraction of the fun, love & joy that surrounded little Mason on his big day.

Uncle Andy & I are so excited to see all the wonderful things your future has in store for you. We hope you smile your way through every season of life & that life is kind & gentle to you so that you never lose that innocence in your eyes. We love you, our handsome little nephew! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Goodbye TBC!

After 4, almost 5 years at the Telephone Banking Center, I'm finally moving on to a better job within my bank.  It's bittersweet though because I've met some really incredible people & had some really great experiences. The prospect of leaving has been quite a rollercoaster of emotions... From excitement & gratitude to sadness & nostalgia - It's been an interesting few weeks.

Goodbyes are always hard. This felt a bit like high school graduation. I'm ready to move on, I know what awaits  is going to be better than what I'm leaving behind... but there's still a finality & a sadness to leaving behind what's familiar.

Yesterday I walked into work to find my desk decorated by my boss & a few of my teammates. There were balloons & even zebra-print streamers! It made me all teary-eyed. Apparently, they'd spent the night before working on decorating after I left at 5. Quite a fun surprise to walk into.


There was plenty of hugging, plenty of reminiscing, well-wishes & congratulations. I found myself thinking back to when I began my journey at the bank & remembering how grateful I was for the kindness of my coworkers. They've been such a blessing to me & I have been enriched by knowing them.

Did I mention there was cake? My boss bought Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake. It was divine! I'm pretty sure it was the best "Goodbye-Cake" in all the world. :-) It's also pretty photogenic. See for yourself --

Monday is Labor Day so I will start my new position in my new center on Tuesday. I'm equal parts excited & nervous. I've been waiting for a few years now to finds a position that'll better suit me, offer me more opportunities & give me the chance to gain experience. This is definitely what I've been waiting for. I'm so grateful that I've been given this chance. I know I'll meet new, amazing people. Plus, this new center is only 20 minutes from my job so it beats the heck out of my current commute (1 hour... On a good day, in good weather...) This is definitely going to be a blessing for me. I can't wait to start! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Mother of All Guilt-Trips

There are a lot of awful, uneducated things that we say to each other under the guise of "giving advice" or "sharing an opinion." They're well-intentioned most of the time, I suppose, but it's still very possible to be hurt by a comment someone didn't "mean that way." 

One such comment I received on Mother's Day this year. A friend whose mother passed away scolded me for not calling my mom to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. She said, & I quote "You don't know what I'd give to wish MY mother a Happy Mother's Day."

This is a terrible thing to say for many reasons.
First off - Thanks for the guilt trip, friend. 

But just some background - I've been abused, neglected & hurt by my mother my entire life. I've tried SO many times over the years to fix our relationship. My pride has been swallowed, my heart worn on my sleeve & for years I've tried to earn my mother's approval & affection. There have been so many heartbroken tears cried over my mom. So many nights spent longing for a mother I've never had. My mom is not a loveable woman & she will never show me the compassion I need from her. She does not have my best interest at heart. She does not want to be a part of my life. This has taken me years to realize & accept & still, I struggle with the the fact that my idealized version of a mother-daughter relationship will never exist. 

Years, I've spent, calling, sending cards, praying to God that she'd decide I was worthy of her time, her love. My mother is only interested in me when she has something to gain from it. This realization has often made me wonder what is wrong with me. What is so bad that my own mother doesn't love me? Her neglect has made me insecure & created an intense, never-ending, self-deprecating inner dialect. Basically, she throws me scraps of affection to keep me in the palm of her hand, I eat it up, she walks away when I've served her purpose & I spend weeks hating myself for letting her in, feeling guilty for hating her & hating myself for being so unlovable. It's an unhealthy cycle that has consumed me for years.

Finally cutting ties with my mother has not been easy. I've felt so much guilt & sadness. I've mourned for a relationship that will never be. It's been difficult, but it has been healthy for me. Ending the cycle & escaping from the constant misery has given me insight I hadn't anticipated. I now see that I am worthy of love & SHE is the one missing out.

To my well-intentioned friend: I'm sorry you lost your loving, dedicated, faithful mother. My mother, unfortunately, is not that way. I wish that you could have had more fun, memorable moments with your parent. I know you long for her love, for her advice, for her gentle encouragement. I long for those things too. But, like your mother, my mom cannot give them to me, although she may be very much alive. I've struggled with guilt my entire life & I will not feel guilty about a decision that has been healthy for me. I hope you understand that while having YOUR mom in your life may have been a blessing, my mother hurts me & makes me unhealthy. Maintaining a relationship with her is not what is best for me. You were lucky to have had, even briefly, a mother worth missing. So, this Mother's Day & every Mother' Day I will recognize the women who have been confidants & loving role-models. I will NOT recognize a woman who has failed in her obligations of motherhood. 

To those of you with parents who have chosen not to be part of your life: Know that you are lovable. You are worthy. You are deserving of compassion. Do not measure yourself by your parent's affection. Know that they are missing out on all that you are & all you will become. You will be able to look at yourself in the mirror & say "I am who I am thanks to nobody but me." Do not let anyone make you feel guilty for cutting ties with someone who hurts you. You have the right to eliminate people who hurt you, hinder you or cause you to be unhealthy. 

Stay strong! xoxo

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Dinner!

Finally. I have a blog-worthy Sunday dinner! Woo!

Today I woke up feeling extra housewife-y. (As in, I wanted to shop, cook, bake, clean & decorate simultaneously while wearing an apron) After getting myself dressed I drove to my local produce market to get myself some supplies for a big, beautiful dinner & dessert!

It was a successful shopping trip at Niagara Produce & strolling through the aisles of fresh, colorful produce inspired me. I get so excited by places like Niagara Produce. There's a lovely local Farmer's Market in Lockport as well but unfortunately, they're only open on Saturdays. I try to catch it as often as I can, but sometimes the inspiration doesn't strike until Sunday....

ANYWAY, after returning home with my purchases, I made a small lunch (so we'd have LOTS of room for our big dinner!) & then visited my grandma at the nursing home for awhile. Then, unexpectedly, my in-laws stopped in for dinner. I decided to pull out all the nice dishes & glasses. Luckily I'd picked up some pretty, fresh flowers at the market! The place looked (& smelled!) amazing & it was nice to entertain, even if it was last minute!

So, what was on the menu, you may ask? Well. Wait no more for your answer.

A carton of grape-tomatoes, some olive oil, cubed mozzarella, fresh, chopped basil, salt & pepper are all you need to make this delicious, colorful, YUMMY Caprese Salad!

I love fresh basil & today was kind of the day to just buy some & use it in pretty much everything. The caprese salad was a nice change-up from our usual lettuce/spinach salads. I like to keep it interesting, you know. This is such a quick, easy salad to throw together. It looks & tastes A WHOLE lot fancier than it actually is to prepare. It was a huge hit for dinner & there wasn't a single tomato left!

Which brings me to dinner - Chicken Asparagus Alfredo!

Cream sauce. Pasta. Grilled chicken. Asparagus. Basil. Mm, mm, MMM! I'm such a carb-lover, you guys. It's sad how much I love pasta. I probably would marry it if that were possible. I just love it. I just love it so much.

But, I digress.... This is a super easy pasta to make & can be thrown together fairly quickly. Just cook the chicken thoroughly with some olive oil, salt & pepper, then toss the asparagus in the same pan. Let it cook until al dente. Add the sauce (or make your own with heavy cream, milk & some parmesan cheese!) & fresh basil. Prepare the pasta in a separate pan & then serve the sauce over the pasta. SO easy. SO delicious. I'm sick of chicken-broccoli alfredo & this is a nice twist on it without deviating too much from all the wonderful things that make alfredo the perfect, flawless, little yum-fest it is. 

While at the market this morning I found some of the most lovely, ruby-red, local strawberries in existence. I knew it was going to be dessert in some way, shape or form. I decided to go with a basic strawberry shortcake. Then I decided to make the strawberry shortcakes in martini glasses. Fancy Level = Pro. 

But, really. How pretty are these little decadent beauties!? I suggest cutting your strawberries up a few hours before serving, putting them in a bowl with some sugar sprinkled over them & letting them soak in their own juices. Sure, it adds some calories but it makes them softer & sweeter which makes the dessert, in my opinion. I just cubed some angel food cake & layered the strawberries, cake cubes & whipped cream in the martini glasses. They were a huge hit! Dessert is always awesome. But put it in a fancy glass & it is just over the top!

Okay. That's all for now. My family & I are in food-comas & ready for some Netflix & an early bedtime! 

Until next time, 

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm Dreaming of a White..... Kitchen.

This is random.

But, I'm on Pinterest right now just kinda scrolling around.
Can I just tell you how obsessed with white kitchens & subway tile I am!?
Like, every part of my rational brain is screaming "THINK OF THE STAINS. THINK OF THE DUST." But some weird, minimalist, modern part of me just won't hear a word of it. I want a white kitchen. With subway tile. & cool-toned, modern hardware. 

Found on
I mean, c'mon. Look at how elegant & clean everything looks. It's so classic & aesthetically pleasing. It's so prettttttttyyyyy. Plus the contrast of the gray subway tile against the white cupboards? Look how stunning those flowers look in such a neutral setting! *sigh*

 & how perfect are those open cupboards? I know if I had a ton of cupboard space (perhaps if I had a pantry so I wasn't using each & every freakin' square inch of my cupboards....) I'd totally do something like this above the sink. It's like built-in display cases & I love it oh-so-incredibly-unbelievably-much.

My husband will fight me tooth & nail on this, I know it. But in the eventual Casa de Breen there WILL be a white kitchen. Because, I mean. There just MUST be. :-)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Hard Lessons

It's been awhile but I've finally got the motivation to write. It isn't that there hasn't been blogable moments the past 4 months. It's been chock-full of blessings, realizations, projects, improvements, disappointments & experiences. Sometimes the words are easy & flow effortlessly making it natural & easy for me to blog about it. Sometimes all I can do is observe & process inside my head, making it harder to share. Either way, I will save you the recap of the past few months & just say that going forward I hope to have plenty to share but if not, I am sure there will continue to be times when the posts are few & far between. Feast or famine, as they say. 

I've signed on today to write about patience.

It seems this has been my lesson, which I have fought against learning, for some time now. The amazing, nearly 2 years of marriage I've enjoyed have been so full of  lessons. I've learned that career success can be twice as rewarding when it is shared with my teammate & partner. I've learned that recipes that have been passed down generations of family always taste the sweetest. I've realized that having a slightly disorganized house doesn't make me a bad wife. Neither does burning the cupcakes. I've learned that cheap champagne & candles at home can be even more romantic than a fancy dinner out. 

But most importantly, I've learned that I do not have to "have it together" at every single moment of my existence -- something I have tried my entire life to do. 

It's okay to not know your next move sometimes. It's okay to admit that you're unsure. It's okay to throw your hands up & say "I don't know." I, the one with the plan, the one with blueprints to even the most mundane of life moments have learned that I am not always in control. The timing will not always be my own, no matter how detailed the plan I have made. Life has a way of showing us who is boss, doesn't it? Reality check: I am NOT in control of much. 

Buying a house, having a baby, going on a dream vacation, buying a new car -- These are all wonderful goals. But I cannot punish myself for the setbacks. I cannot get discouraged at the time it takes to reach these milestones. & most importantly, I cannot chastise myself for not reaching these goals at the same time my peers, my loved ones or my Facebook friends are reaching them. 

God's timing is perfect. His plans may differ from mine & that is okay because I MUST trust that he knows what is best for me. I am grateful for the beautiful years that my husband & I have had together. There is no new house, no new car, no bouncing baby Breen & the farthest we've ventured from home is my in-law's house. But we have spent hours dreaming together while looking at houses online or on Pinterest. My husband's diligence to maintaining my not-so-new car's repairs warms my heart & I smile at the way he shows me his concern & care by making sure my car can take me safely where I need to go. We've bonded over researching infertility clinics & cried many tears together over a family we have dreamed of having for so long. 

All these "inconveniences," set-backs or disappointments have made us stronger. It has shown me sides of my husband I did not know existed. It has allowed me to be vulnerable & depend on this wonderful man's strength to get me through. We have had the opportunity to open our hearts & minds to things we didn't know we could. For this knowledge, I am thankful. For these experiences, I am blessed. 

Sometimes the most valuable lessons are taught waiting for the answers. This is my ultimate test. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bunnies & Birthdays!

Happy Spring!

The weather is getting warmer & it's been a busy, busy month already! I haven't shared any pictures lately so I figured I'd share some along with the highlights since my last update. So, here's some pictures & fun stuff mostly from Easter & Andrew's birthday, which we celebrated on Sunday!

Easter was SUCH a great day! From the company to the weather, it was all great from start to finish! My aunt has brunch on Easter & it's always such a beautiful party. She's an incredible hostess & the food, atmosphere & decorations are always immaculate. In addition to the beauty of it all, there was lots of family time, laughter & memories made! Definitely a great start to the day!

After brunch, we went to my in-law's house for dinner. We had a delicious dinner & my husband, my brother in-law & their cousin went outside to play lacrosse... Which was very, VERY entertaining to watch. It was more like pickle-in-the-middle/tackle football/soccer/baseball-lacrosse.... No eyes were poked out, legs broken or windows smashed so I'd call it a successful game! We then had some dessert which Andrew & I crafted the night before.

The Bunny Butt Cake!
My mother-in-law has ALWAYS made a bunny cake for Easter dinner. It's been tradition since my husband & his siblings were kiddos. Last year she had to work the night before Easter & she didn't have time to prepare the bunny cake. I volunteered to make one, but I knew I'd never be able to make the cake the same way she did. She's clearly the master at that & I knew a different variation of the bunny cake was required. Thank god for Pinterest! I found this recipe for an adorable bunny but cake! & it was SUCH a hit! She asked that I make it again this year & I have a feeling I might be making one next year too! The only deviationsare the "fence" which I made with wafer cookies & some frosting to make it stick. It helped the cookie crumbs stay in the cake carrier. Also, the pads of the feet are pink marshmallows I found in the bulk aisle & I didn't use pink frosting. Adorable, right!?

Speaking of cake! My wonderful husband's birthday is Wednesday. We had a family dinner at our house Sunday & it was so great to have everyone over! I made pizza, breadsticks & my mother-in-law brought salad for dinner. It was quick & easy which was really what I was going for. :-) I made his birthday cake as well. There's just something so special about a homemade birthday cake, isn't there? Store-bought is great too. But, a cake made especially for you is just the sweetest part of a birthday! Maybe this is my inner child who had years & years of Disney, Pokemon, boy band cakes, speaking, but I definitely want those I love to have the gift of a personalized, special cake! ...Even if I'm not exactly a baker.  I'm pretty proud of how it turned out! It's a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. 

So delicious! & I managed to decorate it without making a complete mess of the frosting! Success! Ha. The family time was great. Lots of laughing & silliness always ensues with my in-laws & my dad! SUCH a great night. I think the birthday boy had a pretty good time too.... Even though he looks a bit grumpy here. :-)

Anyway! That's all I've got for now! Until next time!

Monday, April 28, 2014

DIY: Freshen Up Old Wall Art

Hey, there!

Looking for a quick, easy, cheap DIY project? I have a PERFECT project for you.

A few weeks ago, while going through the closet in our spare room, I found 3 painted canvases given to me by a coworker. I wasn't a huge fan of them initially but I'd hoped I'd find a place for them at some point... Yeah. Guess that place was the closet. So, after rediscovering them this weekend, I decided it was time to finally use them.... With some modifications.

 I knew JUST the spot for them too!

I recently moved our kitchen around & in doing so, created a little "coffee area" with the keurig & some hanging mugs. It's cute, but it's on top of a mini-pantry & there was a good amount of blank wall above it.

The picture above was taken before the kitchen was moved around, but it still gives you an idea of the space.

Anyway, here's what the 3 pictures looked like before:

Not really my style. So, after a trip to Michael's & about 10 bucks later, I had all the supplies to change these babies into something I'd want to hang up. Here's what you'll need to pull off something similar:

First thing: canvas artwork. It can be anything. I suggest something with a lot of color that will contrast with whatever color spray paint you use. The dollar store has some cheap & relatively cool options. I've had luck with canvas art at Big Lots recently & you can even check your local Walmart too because I guarantee they've got a selection of canvas art at a decent price. 

Once you've got your artwork, stop into your local Michael's (in the scrapbook/stamp aisle) & get a few of these. I absolutely LOVED the honeycomb design on this Make Me Pretty Stuff template. It's a bendable plastic material & it's super easy to work with. These were the largest templates they had at my local Michael's & they were 4.99 a piece. They had a bunch of other designs & I literally loved every single one of them. The winning designs were picked using eeny miney moe so you know they're good. :-) Don't want to spring for templates like these? Make your own! Poster board or card stock & an exacto knife can absolutely create the same effect with a much, much smaller price tag. Bonus points for creativity too! 

The next thing you'll need is some spray paint. I always have spray paint laying around because on a regular basis I ask my husband to paint things red or black for me. Don't even ask. Just know that my house has a LOT of red & black... 

I'm a pretty big fan of rustoleum spray paint. It's so easy to use, the color lasts & in my experience, the colors are vibrant & pretty. 

Anyway, I suggest taping the corners of your template to the painting. Do it in a way that doesn't interfere with the painting itself. We taped off the sides of the canvas. Then you just spray paint evenly over the canvas/template. I had to do 2 coats so depending on how thick you spray, you may have to repeat this a few times. 

The finished product was pretty snazzy. I really love the fact that our artwork is custom & it matches my kitchen really, really well! Plus, honeycomb! SO OBSESSED. 

 As you can see, I only ended up using 2 in the kitchen, but the 3rd has found a place in my office. The starburst design is pretty fun. I think maybe there's still too much of the background showing. But, my husband thinks it looks great, so I figure it's good enough for now. :-)

I'm so happy with how quick, easy & cheap these were. It's a super fun way to add a personal touch to an otherwise undesirable canvas painting! Not to mention, it was a really fun project for a warm, Saturday afternoon while cleaning the garage!

Check back in a few days for a post about another fun DIY project we've finished recently! <3 p="">

Thursday, April 10, 2014

5 Green Smoothie Recipes You'll Love

I've mentioned before my obsession with "green smoothies" which are basically just fruit mixed in with some greens & other good stuff & turned into a healthy, nutrient-packed drink. I religiously skip breakfast. It's not intentional, I'm just not a breakfast person. I don't really have time in the morning to sit down to a mean. I'm also not a huge fan of most breakfast foods. Green smoothies are perfect on the go & they're a nice alternate for coffee - they pack a punch without the inevitable drop in blood sugar.

Getting started with green smoothies is kind of scary. I know I was so intimidated by the thought of drinking my veggies. Also, I couldn't imagine how fruits + greens could possibly equal something I'd like to consume in liquid form. I totally get it, folks. They're also not too pretty. Unless you really like the color green, the color is pretty unappetizing at first. But I assure you, they're good & good FOR you.

I should mention that investing in a strong, pulsing blender is a definite MUST. I use a Ninja & I absolutely love it. You can get them for a reasonable price at Target, Walmart & Bed Bath & Beyond. Any high-powered, ultra-durable blender should work though.

Here's a few of my favorite, tried & true smoothie recipes.

Banana Oat Smoothie
1 cup of spinach or kale
1/4 cup of rolled oats
1 tablespoon of agave nectar or honey
1/4 cup of greek yogurt
1 large banana
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 cup of Ice

Note: Make sure you're blending this REALLY good. The oats make it kind of gritty & a few extra pulses in your blender will help tremendously! Also, if you have time, soaking the oats in some almond milk for about 1/2 an hour can help eliminate that grittiness.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
1 cup of spinach or kale
1 large banana
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup of greek yogurt
1 cup of ice
1 tablespoon of agave nectar or honey

Blueberry Orange Green Smoothie 
1 cup of spinach or kale
1 orange, quartered & peeled
1 1/2 cup of blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1 tablespoon of agave nectar
1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 cup of ice

Coffee "Ice Cap" Green Smoothie
1 cup of spinach
1 tablespoon of instant coffee (or espresso)
1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1 medium banana
1 cup of ice
Sugar to taste or agave nectar for sweetness

Note: I don't think kale works with this one. I feel like the flavor is too strong. But if it's all you have on hand, it can definitely work.

Lucky "Leprechaun" Green Smoothie
1 cup of spinach or kale
2-3 mint leaves
1 banana
1/2 cup of almond milk
2 tablespoons of agave nectar or honey
1 cup of ice
1/4 cup of vanilla greek yogurt

I hope I've helped you add some new recipes to your "arsenal" of healthy smoothies! Let me know how these work for you! :-)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Hey, Friends!

This recipe is fairly simple & also, fairly healthy! The best part is that it's filling & completely meatless which is ideal since Andrew & I have been trying to incorporate a meatless day into our diets! This is one all veggie dish that does NOT feel like a veggie dish. I'm not a fan of being hungry an hour after you finish eating so I'm on the constant hunt for filling, tasty meals that do not include meat. This recipe definitely fits the bill, but I wouldn't say it's TOO healthy since there is cheese in it. If you want to make it a bit more healthy, just cut out the parmesan cheese. Even with the cheese, myfitnesspal rung this up as 350 calories. Not too bad for a light dinner! Try it out tonight!

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms 
2 Portobello Mushroom caps, cleaned & dried
1 red bell pepper
2 small, white onions
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of feta cheese
3 cups of spinach
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper


Set broiler to high & line a pan with aluminum foil.

Rub the clean, completely dried portobello mushroom caps down with some olive oil. Sprinkle salt & pepper on top & place them on broiler pan. Put them in the oven for about 3-5 minutes for each side.

Thaw spinach (if frozen) or, chop fresh spinach into think slices.

Put 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Soften the onion & the red bell pepper. Add in salt, pepper, spinach & garlic. Stir to combine & cook about 2 minutes.

Remove from heat & add cheeses. Stir until cheese is incorporated into mixture & melting.

Evenly distribute the filling into each mushroom cap. Place the filled mushrooms back into the broiler for about 2-3 minutes until top of filling is golden brown & bubbly.

Note: I served mine over asparagus that I drizzled with olive oil, salt & pepper & thew in the broiler for about 5 minutes. Super delicious & everything is just so pretty & colorful on the plate!

Let me know how you liked this! It's definitely a favorite at our house now! :-)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

12 Original Date Night Ideas

I'm always looking for fun things Andrew & I can do together. The same old, same old dinner + movie dates are fun, but sometimes you just need a change.

 We're goofy by nature & we really enjoy playful, silly dates. Considering we're not independently wealthy & we live in an area with weather that doesn't always cooperate, using our imaginations is key! Here's some ideas we've compiled!

Wine Tasting... In Your Kitchen -- If you do not have the fortune of being located around wineries, you shouldn't deprive yourself the chance to "wine taste." Go to the liquor store & pick up sample bottles of wines & beer. (To make it fun, I normally am drawn to wines with quirky names...) Take 'em home, pour yourself some samples & vote on your favorite one.You can even skip the liquor store & buy samples online. I suggest pairing with chocolate or cheese.

Do You Want to Build a Snowman? -- Playing outside in the winter is NOT just for kids! Take your love outside & make snow angels, build a snowman or have a snowball fight!

Share Chocolate-Covered Strawberries, Champagne in the Bathtub -- Chocolate is an aphrodisiac. But, c'mon. Do you really need one when champagne is involved? Plus, taking a bath together is just romantic as can be. Don't forget the candles & soft music!

Have a "Chopped" Style Meal -- Hit up your local farmer's market/grocery store for a total of  5 ingredients that your spouse must cook with. The crazier, the better. Your spouse, meanwhile, picks a basket of ingredients for you to cook with. (I suggest one spouse makes dinner, the other makes dessert) Once home, try & turn the ingredients chosen for you into a meal for both of you! The spouse who makes the most delicious meal is the winner!

Garden Together -- Head to your local nursery or home improvement store for plants & supplies. Working together towards a common goal is so much fun & getting dirty together can only be fun, right? I suggest following this up with date idea #3!

Volunteer Together -- Not only will you be bonding, you'll be saving the world together! Don't know how to volunteer your time? I suggest checking out volunteer opportunities at your local animal shelter, maybe become a big brother/big sister, consider helping out your local Red Cross or best yet, look for opportunities to help out Habitat for Humanity. I've volunteered with Habitat before & it's fun as well as rewarding.

Play Laser Tag -- Lasertron is a blast! What beats running around in the dark, giggling, dressed in goofy gear chasing each other in a flirty game of laser tag?! Not much!

Have a Grill-Off -- If you're burger crazy, this is the date night for you! Both of you create a pair of burgers. How about a caprese burger? How'd you like a cheddar-stuffed burger? The possibilities are endless. Whoever creates & grills the best burger wins!

Visit Your Local Theme Park/Carnival! -- Any adrenaline junkies out there? If you like to scream while being propelled down a hill at insane speeds & being high up in the air in a cage, then this one is for you. Theme parks are full of exciting things to do, junkfood & sometimes, if you're lucky, a water park! I suggest sharing a plate of fried dough & cuddling up in the ferris wheel to add some romance to the adrenaline rush!

Make a "Themed" Dinner! -- Need some suggestions? Try fiesta night (tacos, margaritas, a pinata would be fun too! Maybe try some Mexican chocolate or even Churros or Flan?!) Italian night (spaghetti & meatballs "Lady & the Tramp" style, a good bottle of wine & possibly biscotti with coffee for dessert?)

Take an Art Class -- Even if it's just 1 class. Learn some basics, get some supplies, take your newly acquired skills home & draw/paint each other. Think Titanic style.

Read a Book Together in Bed -- Hear me out. I'm not talking about Harry Potter. (Although TRUST ME. I LOVE me some Harry!) I'm talking trashy, mushy, paperback, "romantic" novels. You can skip the filler & get right to the raunchy stuff. Sure you'll both do some giggling but, trust me. It'll set a mood.


Happy Saturday!

I've realized that since I mostly post about things that have happened & little about myself, it's time I share a bit more about me. I considered doing this in just paragraph form, but it sounded so awkward & I'm awful at talking about myself in essay form.... So, here's my in detail About Me in Q/A form. :-)

Just a thought -- This quirky Q/A would be fun to use in social environments for friends or spouses! I've always been into Q/A "Getting to Know You" exercises. If you're like me, feel free to use some of these questions the next time you want to get to know someone!

Do you play a musical instrument, if so which one(s)? A bit of piano & I played clarinet for 6 years.... I haven't played it in as many years though.

What is most memorable about your high school years? I learned a lot of lessons. I made some lifelong friends & I met my husband! Not to mention I got to sing, act & go to tons of sporting events... & I didn't pay taxes. So much fun, so little responsibility.

Where do you want to retire? My grandparents retired to Florida & they love it. I've always pictured us retiring to Florida as well. But I love California so much too so I wouldn't be upset with moving to SoCal!

Where would you live if you could live anywhere? The South/South West. I hate winter. But I LOVE Buffalo too much. Plus the vast majority of my family lives in WNY. Andrew & I talk about moving, but I don't know if I could ever actually pull it off. Haha.

Where is the best vacation you've ever had? La Jolla, California! Our unexpected little honeymoon!

Where would you like to visit someday? Europe! Specifically Italy, Ireland & France. So much history, so much beauty!

Who is your best friend? My husband. My sister. My high school best friend.

Who are your favorite musicians? The Beatles, Billy Joel & Elton John, Ingrid Michaelson.

Who were your biggest influences growing up? My grandmothers.

What are you most grateful for? My happy marriage. My health. My family.

What do you most often pray for? Family, my husband, a healthy pregnancy/baby.

How do you want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as someone who was a great wife & hopefully mom & someone who loved deeply & openly.

What material possession do you treasure most? My wedding ring. It is so sentimental to me. It represents our marriage & the vows we took. Plus every time I look down at my engagement ring, I go back to the amazing day when Andrew asked me to be his wife.

What was your favorite subject in school? History & English! Reading has always been a favorite pastime of mine & both subjects required a whole lot of reading.

What is your favorite season and why? Fall. It's beautiful. Plus, apple cider, pumpkins, hay rides, haunted houses, our anniversary, cool (but not freezing cold) temperatures FOOTBALL season! .... Just the best season ever!

What is your favorite home cooked meal? I'd have to say a nice, juicy steak from the charcoal grill with baked potato! Mm. Or, if I'm being healthy, stuffed portobello mushrooms.

What is your favorite sport to watch? Football! Go Bills! Football is always made better by AMAZING appetizers & game day food! 

What is your favorite meal to splurge calories on? Five Guys Burgers! Mmm. Or for a nice night our with my husband, my favorite local restaurant is Mericana in Lockport.

What is your favorite time of day? Evenings with my husband. I love having him home & eating dinner together. Plus, our "couch time" is the most relaxing part of my day!

What is your favorite color? Red & I'm also strangely attracted to gray. This obsession with gray & red really comes through in my decorating!

How many siblings do you have? 4 siblings, 3 sisters & a brother + 3 step brothers. It's always a full house!

Which Pinterest Board Do You Post to Most Often? Lately it's been my "La Casa de Breen" board which is primarily ideas for our future houses. I'm obsessed with house-related stuff these days! I absolutely CANNOT wait for the day when we get to build/buy our dream house! We really enjoy DIY projects & I love decorating so a new house is literally like a creative goldmine to me!

Have you ever been in a musical drama or play? Lots. I loved theatre & plays as a teen. I did a whole bunch of plays & musicals through my school & the community theatre. I miss it so much & hope that someday I'll be able to get back into it!

What Is Something You Hope to Achieve in 10 years? Buy a house. Have a baby or 2. Get a new job.

If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be? This one! 24 is great. I'm young enough to have fun & feel justified in my spontaneous, silly ideas but old enough to be taken seriously. There's so many years ahead of us & the future is an open book! It's just such an exciting age, full of possibility!

I love questionnaires! Not only are the informational, but they're also pretty fun to answer!

Briefly, on an unrelated note, I'm working hard on the functionality of the blog. As much as I loved the look of the blog before, it was cramped, hard to read & a bit lacking in accessibility. Hopefully the upgrades & the hours of work I've put into it will help! I've got a few recipes/DIY projects lined up so hopefully there will be lots happening here within the next few weeks!