Monday, July 20, 2015

7.20.15

Hey ya'll!  It is July 20th, 2015... a quiet Monday morning at my house.  J is off to work and Cash is busy sleeping his Summer away like the teenager he is.  He definitely got his sleeping habits from his Mama, but lately "pregnant Stormi" has been going to bed early and waking up early.  I am 32 wks and some change with baby Stella, and I believe the "nesting" stage is beginning.  Last night, I organized the diapers in her closet by size.  I color coordinated Cash's school supplies for Kindergarten.  I might be losing my mind...I'm usually not too much of an excessive planner.  I like to have things organized, but I've never made an obsession out of it.  I've always managed to "live in the moment" and not stress over details, but lately I've been oddly particular with the extra "nesting" time I've had on my hands.  

One of the things I've been doing is planning some freezer meals to prep before the baby comes.  I'm planning on preparing & freezing meals that can be easily thrown into the crockpot by my kitchen-illiterate husband during that first week of having baby home.  I will share the list & recipes when I have them all sorted out!

Another project I've been working on is jarring some homemade seasonings.  I always find myself using the same essential mixes of seasonings while cooking, so I came up with the bright idea to premix them and jar them myself. *side note: I obviously am not the first person to come up with this idea.  I'm just extremely late and not much of a Pinterest person, and this idea came to me in a dream.  Here's what I 've been working on so far.




"MEXICAN SEASONING"

* I use this on almost any Mexican dish or casserole that I prepare.  Tacos, Enchiladas, Fajitas, Shredded meats in the crock pot, Taco Soup.. This works well with any of that!
*side note: I did NOT take measurements.  Be approximate to your own taste. Taste as you go! 

- Chili Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder 
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Paprika
- Cumin
- Salt & Pepper


"CAJUN SEASONING"
* I use this on EVERYTHING. Everything. My go to for almost all dishes to add a little kick!

- Paprika
- Salt
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Dried Thyme
- Oregano
- Cayenne Pepper


"CINNAMON/SUGAR"
* This one is a give in.  I don't have to list the ingredients because it's simply the very complex mixture of just Cinnamon & Sugar.  My 5 year old LOVES Cinnamon Toast, and I got tired of constantly mixing the two together each time.  You will use more sugar than cinnamon, because the cinnamon is over powering.  Start with the sugar and then slowly spoon in and stir the cinnamon until it's the color & consistency that you want.  I store it in a little half pint jar and it is SO easy for breakfast!  I also sprinkle it on vanilla yogurt and my Cheerios sometimes. Get creative!



If you've followed my blog or you're my Facebook friend, you're probably already familiar with the fact that my sister is an amazing lifestyle photographer! She has taken our pictures for many years, and recently came to my house to snap some "maternity" pictures.  I never took any pictures when I was pregnant with Cash six years ago.  In fact, I thought it was kind of weird and would hide any time someone tried to take a picture of me pregnant (mind you: I was 140 lbs 9 months pregnant and soaking wet. Oh, to be young...)  These days, I'm a lot bigger, but I thought it was necessary to photograph this belly journey, especially since it would be big brother's first "photo shoot" with his little sister.  The shoot was easy & organic, and took no time at all.  We took the pictures in the comfort of our own home, which beat the 100 degree Texas heat outside.  I picked us some neutral outfits, my sister helped me with my hair and makeup, and the boys were obviously easy.  People always privately message me asking how we come up with ideas for pictures, or how I get Cash to pose, or how they look so natural.  If you asked my sister, she would tell you that it is because THEY ARE NATURAL.  We don't stress or worry, we come up with an idea, and we try to get natural moments.  I think it helps a lot that she is family so the comfortability makes it easier on my husband and crazy boy.  Here are some of the shots!










The last pic was taken in Stella's room.  I will do a full "room post" in a future blog.  We are still waiting for her bedding to come in (which is sure to be the most gorgeous thing ever!)  and the room will be almost complete and ready to put a baby in! 



I've been craving everything these days, but one of my most serious cravings is Chinese food.  My normal Chinese take out orders involve chicken, but of course pregnancy wants to change that up and have me crave Beef and Broccoli for the first time in my 25 years of existence.  So the other day, I made my own beef and broccoli. And it was magical.  Pure magic.  I was too lazy to make my own fried rice (I do have a recipe and will post in a future blog! It uses day old rice and I didn't have any on hand!)  so I forced my dear husband to drive through Panda Express and grab me some fried rice on his way home from work.  Why not just order the Beef & Broccoli while you're at it, you ask?  Because nothing tastes better than making it in your own kitchen!!  Here is my recipe:



BEEF & BROCOLLI:

Need:
- 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons sherry
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (easy to find and worth using fresh!)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound flank steak (I LOVE flank steak.  I found this already trimmed and cut, but if you can't find it that way - trim of fat and cut very very thin)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound broccoli florets
- 1/4 cup beef broth
- 1/4 cup fish sauce (I use this in almost all Chinese dishes that I cook nearly NEVER, as well as a secret ingredient in Gumbo!) 
- Salt (to taste)

STEPS:
1. In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, cornstarch, sherry, brown sugar, ginger and garlic. Pour half the liquid over the sliced meat in a bowl and toss with your hands. Reserve the other half of the liquid and set aside
2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over high heat (My father in law is Chinese and bought me the best authentic wok ever but if you don't have one, a cast iron skillet would be great too!) Add the broccoli and stir for a minute. Remove to a plate.
3. Allow the skillet to get very hot again. With tongs, add the meat in a single layer. Spread out the meat as you add it to skillet, but do not stir for a good minute. (You want the meat to get as browned as possible in as short amount a time as possible.) Turn the meat to the other side and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove to a clean plate.
4. Pour the reserved sauce into the skillet along with the beef broth and fish sauce. Cook over high heat until it starts to thicken. Add the beef and broccoli back into the skillet and toss to coat. Season with salt if needed.  Enjoy!



Last up, I have to address another one of my recent cravings - Sweet tea.  Maybe it's because I've had to slack off on the Dr. Pepper lately, but I've been wanting fresh sweet tea over ice with almost every meal.  Yes, it's easy to buy a big jug of Red Diamond from the grocery store, but it is NOT the same.  We had fresh sweet tea with almost every meal when I was growing up, and it's something that I've craved a lot lately.  Everyone has their own "recipe" for their idea of the best sweet tea, especially in the South.  I'm not expert, but this is the one that works perfectly for me! You will NEVER want Red Diamond or any of that store bought nonsense ever again! Enjoy!


SWEET TEA:

Need:
- 7 small tea bags, (I use Luzianne brand!)
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1 cup sugar

Steps:
1. Place the tea bags in a large heatproof bowl or pot and pour in the freshly boiled water. Let steep for 5 minutes. Fill a large pitcher with 4 cups room-temperature water. Strain the hot tea into the pitcher and stir to combine.
2. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine ½ cup cold water with the sugar. Simmer until the sugar completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Pour the sugar syrup into the tea to taste. Dissolving the sugar into the water ensures that you do not get big grains of sugar in your tea!  Stir together, refrigerate and serve over ice.



P.S I'm having the hardest time picking out a "take home" outfit for Stella!  I have so many options and I'm continuously getting more. It's been sooo long since I've been pregnant, so I want to make sure it's something small enough, something comfy and delicate for her new skin. What did you bring your baby home in?  



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

WEDDING RECAP & ALL ABOUT FOOD!

Hey ya'll! Reporting to you live from my bathroom counter. I'm not saying that motherhood isn't the biggest overall blessing that I've ever been given in my life because IT IS, but sometimes - you just have to lock yourself in the bathroom. My 5 year old won't stop showing me his new characters on his Crossy Road app, and he steals all my food. So it's just me and a half eaten tube of cookie dough. In the bathroom. With the door locked. This is what victory feels like.

In a close second to eating cookie dough in a locked bathroom, comes the victory known as perfectly cooked bacon. My little 5 year old manly man is a bacon FANATIC. The kid literally gets a cheeseburger from a drive thru with a SIDE of bacon. I never want to cook bacon because it always makes the biggest mess and keeps my house smelling like bacon for days! I've found the solution to this problem, so that I can feed my poor neglected boy bacon EVERY single morning.... My discovery: OVEN COOKED BACON. Not only is it less mess, less smell, and less clean up, but it is fool proof and is delivering perfectly straight, perfectly cooked slices of bacon every single time, without having to slave over a hot stove and get splattered with the unavoidable grease "confetti." Here's how:
 

 
- Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Place bacon in straight even rows across foil. Do not overlap! 
- Here's the trick - Place baking sheet in a COLD oven. Do not preheat in advance!
- Then, once the bacon is in the oven, set the oven to 400 degrees.
- My oven has been cooking the bacon perfectly in exactly 17 minutes every time. Keep an eye on yours after about 14 minutes, depending on how new your oven is. Remove bacon and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Enjoy! 


If you're anything like me, your life schedule is not complete without a weekly Target trip: No matter how hard I try to stay away, I can't help but be in a trance when it comes to that big red bullseye. Sometimes I challenge myself to find as many uses as I can for the various items in the Dollar spot....because only I know whether a miniature pot filled with flower seeds will come in handy in my life in the near future. Do not judge me. Now that we're right in the mix of Summer, I can't live without bright colors and bold patterns. Here are three adorable Target finds that I picked up in my last few trips (all under $25 as well might I add!!!!)

Oggi Ice & Infusion Pitcher 
 
 
 
This pitcher is so stream lined and convenient for Summer! It comes with both an ice and infusion tube. The infusion tube can hold your favorite fruits (frozen or fresh) to flavor your water.  I've used mine with tea as well and it was FABULOUS. The open slots allow the fruit to combine with the beverage to enhance the flavor. The solid tube holds ice, so your water, tea or lemonade doesn't get watered down.  Can I also mention that it is $19?!? Get real. Buy this thing NOW.

 
 
Mudhut Marika Dinner plates (set of 4)
I have no reason for why these plates are absolutely 100% a necessity, other than the gorgeous Moroccan print (and the 4 for $12.99 price tag!)  This print is so so perfect for Summer, and also comes in sets of bowls an cups.  I feel like you can never have enough themed casual dinnerware.  These plates are melamine & dishwasher safe so they're perfect for events! Love!
 
 
 
Woven Picnic Basket 

Once again, I was hooked by the colors and low price tag.  This picnic basket is so gorgeous and so perfect for Summer! I feel like it looks like something that was hand woven at a market in Venezuela or something. But really... it's from Target. Down the street. For $14.99.

 
 
 
In honor of our ONE YEAR wedding anniversary approaching in a little less than 2 weeks, I wanted to reflect back on our big day and answer some questions regarding the vendors/plans we had. Justin and I have been together for 7 years, and had a 5 year old child to add into the mix - so the idea of a traditional wedding was something we NEVER thought about or wanted. Our love has always been so effortlessly strong and so important to us, and we wanted to show Cash that nothing was truly changing in our relationship, except for the legalities and bond we were making in front of God. We were still his Mama and Daddy, but becoming husband & wife too! We came up with the idea to elope, but in typical Stormi fashion, I was NOT going to just run to the courthouse. I wanted a dream location, a dream dress, dream shoes, hair and makeup. The only people I needed there to witness my love were my husband to be and our beautiful son, despite having a huge loving family on both sides who would've loved to watch us say our vows. Eloping was the very best decision I've ever made in my entire life, and I do not regret it for a minute. It was the easiest, most organic day and one we will always treasure. There was no drunken speeches, catty bridesmaids, feuding families or uncomfortable formalities. It was the three of us in front of God, in a beautiful location, surrounding ourselves with our own love.

We got ready in separate suites at the Melrose Mansion in New Orleans, LA (Justin's hometown!)  The Melrose Mansion is a GORGEOUS restored Victorian Mansion right in the heart of New Orleans. It is beautifully restored to a contemporary feel, while still keeping all of the gorgeous vintage elements of the Victorian era. It was absolutely stunning! We stayed here for 5 days and loved all of the amenities, especially the stunning courtyard pool, which is the only courtyard swimming pool in the French quarter!  My sister was there to help in the bridal suite as well as take all of our "before" pics. J's brother accompanied him and Cash in the "boys room." My dress was a custom tea length taffeta gown, shoes were Badgley Mischka, boys suits & accessories were J.Crew. My makeup was done by Meggan Ory (NOLA) and hair by Amber Suxton Salon (NOLA) Our team of videographers who stayed with us all day was Montoto Productions (Baton Rouge.) Here are some pics from before the ceremony: 
 












After we were all ready, we loaded up and headed to our ceremony site - Oak Alley Plantation! When we were engaged, Justin googled the word "plantation" until he stumbled upon an image of a place that he has had in his head since he was a child. It was a picture of the most gorgeous rows of oak trees, framing a beautiful white plantation home. He said "Find this and this is where I want to get married!" After a lot of searching, we stumbled upon Oak Alley, which was the exact place from the picture. We got married with just the two of us, our son Cash, our minister, and photographer and videographer present in the most gorgeous alley of oak trees. Believe it or not, our wonderful photographer, Sarah Mattix (NOLA) and videographer were our "witnesses" on our marriage license! The day was perfect. Here are our pics from the ceremony. 
 













 

 
 
After the ceremony, we had a yummy celebratory dinner with a few close family members at Muriel's at Jackson square in New Orleans, and then went back to our room to relax and enjoy some "wedding cake" in bed. 7.11 was and will always be the best day of my life!!! 
 



 
Moving on to food, because I'm 7 months pregnant and all of this writing is making me hangry...

Justin has been working out and trying to eat healthy (because in typical male fashion, he chooses to lay off of the Fried chicken the minute I become pregnant. Who woulda thought?!) The other night, I made my own version of easy Chicken lettuce wraps with a Sriacha sour cream sauce and store bought Spanish rice. My lettuce cups were organic and I found them from HEB. Any will do, just make sure they are big and sturdy so they will hold enough of the yummy filling.   My Spanish rice is the easiest of all.. I've tried making it homemade but I just can't get over this cheap store bought brand. It is literally FANTASTIC. I jazz it up by following the directions on bag, and then squeezing the juice of two limes in after its cooked. Side note* Do not buy the Mexican Rice or Taco Rice... This is SPANISH RICE. Get it right or pay the price... Here is this rice in all of its dehydrated glory: 
 

 
For the Chicken, I used bell peppers pulled from my Nana's garden, which I believe are laced with crack which added to the enjoyment. I'm sure any old store bought veggies would be fine too... Here's what I did:
 
CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS
 
 
 
NEED:
 
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium bell pepper, chopped fine 
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar 
- Sriracha, to taste  
1 (8-ounce) can whole water chestnuts, drained and diced 
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced 

STEPS:
  • Trim fat and cut chicken into tiny, bite sized pieces. (imagine the size you would want in a quesadilla!) Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. and cook chicken until browned and cooked through. I seasoned chicken with a  generic "Chicken Rub" seasoning and some Tony's Chacheres Creole Seasoning. 
  • Stir in garlic, green onion, bell pepper, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and Sriracha until onions have become translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in chestnuts and cook another 1-2 minutes. At this point, I added a little more soy sauce and Sriracha because WHY NOT?!
  • To serve, spoon several tablespoons of the chicken mixture into the center of a lettuce leaf, taco-style. Serve with homemade Sriracha sour cream! 

Sriracha Sour Cream: 
 
 
 
(These measurements are very approximate. Please just eyeball and use good judgement!!) 

1 cup reduced sour cream
2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 tsp garlic powder 


Lastly, I couldn't leave you without an oldie but goodie. I've blogged about this easy pound cake recipe before, and it's something I hold near and dear to my heart. Like I want this recipe engraved on my headstone one day, if that is any indication of how good it is. It is strangely simple and is the most moist, delicious, chocolate cake you'll ever have. Mind you, I'm not much of baker so the ease of this recipe is right up my alley. Please try this pound cake! 

EASY CHOCOLATE CHIP POUND CAKE:
 

NEED:
 
- 1 pkg Dark Chocolate Cake mix
- 1 pkg instant Chocolate pudding mix
- 1 16oz. container of Sour Cream
- 3 eggs
- 1/3 cup Vegetable Oil
-2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
 
STEPS:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a bundt pan.  Mix together all ingredients and pour in pan.  Bake for one hour and cool.  That's it!  You can top with powdered sugar but I never get around to it before I dig in... ENJOY!


Ps, I can't stop crafting for my baby girl on the way! I guess this is what you call NESTING? Here is my latest project.. Can't wait to see her in these onesies! 
 
 
 
P.P.S:  I am NOT endorsed by Chobani yogurt like Uncle Jessie from Full House, but I feel that I am very worthy of an endorsement deal.  I've always used Greek yogurt in recipes, but could never jump on the bandwagon of eating it straight as a snack...until now. Right in time for my pregnancy, Chobani throws me a loop and creates the greatest yogurt invention of all time:  Chobani Greek Yogurt "Flip" in Salted Caramel Crunch.  Basically the "FLIP" line is a container of yummy greek yogurt with a little side compartment that you "flip" into the yogurt full of toppings.  The Salted Caramel crunch line has a side of toppers like salted pretzels, chocolate and praline pecans. Basically, I AM NOT WORTHY! Check out this snack and thank me later!