Basil Chicken Stir-Fry


SONY DSCThis easy stir-fry is a favorite in our house. It has really simple ingredients but the flavors all together are a hit. This is actually one of like three meals my husband learned to make on his own, so that is rock solid proof that it’s easy. And as usual, I like to make some short cuts that make this meal even quicker without compromising taste.
SONY DSCThe first thing I do is toss a few cut up chicken breasts in some corn starch, salt and pepper. This is what gives the meat that classic asian coating. It’s not as thick as breading but it gives it more texture and encourages browning. I don’t ever skip this step but you could if you didn’t have corn starch, it wouldn’t alter the taste that much.
SONY DSCNext I cut up an onion and red pepper. The recipe calls to partially cook the chicken first until its lightly brown. You then remove the chicken and cook the onion, pepper and garlic separate for a few minutes. This seems like a pain but I think it helps to make sure all of the ingredients are cooked properly and nothing is over done or under done. You obviously don’t want to eat raw chicken but you also want to make sure the onions and peppers still have a little bit of crunch to them.
SONY DSCAll in all, this meal usually takes about 20-30 minutes to make. On most nights I use minced garlic from a jar and dry basil instead of fresh. Those are things I will always have in stock and it two less ingredients I have to prepare and chop. If I’m making this meal for company I usually use all fresh ingredients but on a regular night, I just don’t have time for that, and it still tastes great! Below is the full recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks from Martha Stewart.

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 4) cut cross-wise into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper

6 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 small onion, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges

2 bell peppers (red, green or a mix) ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1/4-inch- wide strips

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar (unseasoned)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 1/2 cups fresh Thai Basil, larger leaves torn in half*

Cooked rice for serving (optional)

* I have never made this recipe with Thai basil, I can’t ever find it. Regular basil will do just fine.

Instructions

1. Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Toss chicken with cornstarch until completely coated; season generously with salt and pepper.

2. In large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Cook half the chicken, turning once, until browned on both sides but not completely cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with another 2 teaspoons oil and remaining chicken, transfer to plate.

3. Wipe skillet clean with a paper towel. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, along with the onion and bell peppers; cook over medium-high heat, tossing often until vegetables begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Add water, vinegar, soy sauce and chicken; cook, tossing, until chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in basil leaves. Serve over rice if desired.

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Spice Up Your Life

SONY DSCOne thing I love about spring is spring cleaning. I’m one of those weird people that actually likes to clean. Especially when it involves some kind of organizational upgrade. It’s very therapeutic for me to organize things and slightly addicting. Once I pop I just can’t stop (that was for all you Pringle’s lovers out there). I decided that my spice storage needed an upgrade and that spiraled into organizing and cleaning the entire kitchen! I learned a day later that I might have overexerting my pregnant self a little bit, but I am definitely enjoying a very clean kitchen. I’m sure it will stay that way for at least a week…maybe.

SONY DSCThis is how my spice area started out. Along with not being very pleasing to the eye (we have glass cabinets so no hiding behind a closed door) it also wasn’t very efficient. Of course 90% of the spices have red caps  and so searching through these over stuffed bins is never a quick process. A few months ago a friend posted a picture of her lovely organized spices using cute labels and so from then on it was filed onto my very long mental to-do list.

SONY DSCAfter I realized that 50% of my spices were outdated, like really really outdated, I made a list of new spices I needed and then of course, I headed to Ikea. I’m a bit of an Ikea junky. Almost everything in our house is Ikea, from our bed to our rugs. Honestly it’s my frugal nature that keeps me going back. I know its not the best quality but its so cheap, I can’t keep from filling my cart up and then of course spending more money than I ever planned too. So in the end my Ikea trips don’t end up being very frugal. This trip was no different, but I did end up with at least one thing I actually went there for, the spice jars.

SONY DSCThe hardest part of this little project was finding the right labels. There are like a billion you can find online but not all of them had the option of adding spice names they didn’t have, or they had that option but I couldn’t figure out how to change the font. In the end I decided to print out these labels and just wrote in the names of the spices by hand. I think it gives it more of a personal touch though it was kind of a pain in the butt.

I’m so excited that spring is finally arriving, though it’s still can’t totally make up it’s mind here in DC because I’m pretty sure they are calling for snow tonight!! Oh well, I’m trying to focus on the fact that at some point it will be here to stay…for like two months until its summer! But I LOVE spring! Spring means parks, open windows, no coats and organizing spices of course! 🙂 Have you started any of your spring cleaning yet?

Canvas Animal Heads


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It was a project week for me. I don’t get to do stuff like this often and it was very fun channeling my inner painter. I have had these two canvases for months and actually bought them with a totally different plan in mind but I’m really happy with how it turned out.  I’m kind of obsessed with the animal head trend that’s happening in interior design right now. You know the animal heads that are not real animal heads but mounted like ones and all white or gold. Love them. I’ll walk you through my process for making the paintings, but just warning you, this will not be a super detailed “how-to”.
SONY DSCOnce I found the images I wanted to replicate, I sketched a much larger version onto some sticker paper. I’m really not that great of a drawer so this was probably the most tedious part for me. It took a lot of time to get it just right since I was free-handing it. Once I was satisfied, I cut out the image from the sticker paper and put it on the canvas. Unfortunately it really didn’t stick as well as I thought it would, but it was enough to get the job done. After that, I just painted over it carefully.
SONY DSCAfter the paint dried a little, I peeled the sticker paper off to reveal the white canvas underneath. Since the sticker paper wasn’t as effective as I hoped, there were lots of areas that needed to be cleaned up. I then painted the white canvas area with white paint. This let me clean up any edges where paint got under and make it a brighter white. And that’s it.
SONY DSCI made these for the walls in the play room/office. The room is almost entirely windows so I really wanted something for the small space that was available, to bring a little color in the room. I think it was a success! Have you done any fun projects recently?

D is for Dragon

SONY DSCWhen I was pregnant with our first little person, I went through a serious crafting phase. I was so excited to decorate the nursery and did a lot of DIY projects for the room. You can see the whole room on this post, but I thought I would highlight one of my favorite projects a little closer. I got inspired by various pictures on Pinterest to do some kind of alphabet wall and once I got to the craft store, the vision just came to me! I picked up some wood letters, some paint and a few pieces of foam paper. My favorite part about this project was coming up for the word I would use for each letter. Some of them were super easy like A, (duh, A is for apple, A is always for apple) but letters like N and V were harder and required a little more creativity. I decided to do the whole alphabet but I think it would be really cute to do the letters of your kids name.

fourlettersThe hardest part of this project was trying to figure out how I wanted to display them on the wall. The first way I tried was to glue them to a rope and hang them like a banner but that didn’t really work out. I ended up displaying them in a few different frames, you can see one of them below. There were so many different possibilities it was hard to choose so, when my son accidentally damaged one of the frames recently, it is giving me a chance to try a different display. I haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I’ll try to update when I do.

SONY DSCSeriously, this was a super fun and inexpensive craft. The letters I chose were a dollar a piece, though I’m sure they have cheaper ones too. I had a ton of paint already but probably bought 4 or 5 more colors and the foams sheets were about a dollar a piece as well. The whole thing probably cost about 40 bucks. Of course it would be cheaper if you didn’t do the whole alphabet. I really love how it turned out. I don’t think I will be crafty like this for baby number two. Well, maybe I’ll think of something. Any ideas?

You & I: Pillow Making


SONY DSCI really like making pillows. It’s a lot of pay-off for not a lot of work. It takes almost no skill to make a pillow but a good pillow can make a big difference in a room. I’ve been planning to make this “forever” pillow for our bed for a long time now. I had some extra fabric from another project that went great with the colors in our room. This project took a few weeks from start to finish but only because I was just doing a little bit here and there.
SONY DSCFirst, I hand painted the fabric. I wanted it to look like handwriting and not text so I just used a pencil to give an outline of the word. I added the “you & I” part next but this is where I ran into some problems, and by problems I mean my own stupidity. On my first try I accidentally wrote the “&” sign backwards. Basically I wrote a cursive “S” instead. What made it worse was that I didn’t even notice. When my husband came home he was like “umm…I don’t think that’s right”. Uggghh! I did not want to start over. So I brainstormed.
SONY DSCI ended up painting over the cursive “S” and let it dry. A few days later I made a little stamp so that I would definitely not mess it up this time. I printing a “&” sign from the computer and then traced it onto a foam sheet. I cut that out and then super glued it to a piece of cardboard. Viola! A stamp was made. In the end I’m glad I messed up. I think the finished product looked better than what I had originally planned! I sewed it, stuffed it and now it adds a little personalized element to our room.

Pop of Color


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About two years ago I looked around my living room and realized that everything in sight was either brown, tan, cream or black. I’ve always been a big fan of neutral colors but all of a sudden it felt very bland. I’m a big fan of HGTV and no matter what show was on, the phrase I kept hearing was “pop of color”.  I always loved how the designers used their “pop of color” in accent pieces to spice up a room. Honestly, I’m kind of scared of color. To me, color is like that crazy friend who is super fun to hang out with…in moderation.  A neutral tone is that friend you can sit and talk to for hours, you never get tired of them.  I envisioned painting a bright red accent wall in the bedroom and then in about two years that wall would turn into that crazy friend. You really want to ask it to leave but…its your wall- there’s no escaping it (unless of course you paint the walls again, but who has time for that?). Choosing a pop of color in accent pieces is a lot less commitment. It’s also a great idea if you’re renting and you can’t or don’t want to paint the walls.

My husband and I ended up deciding on red for the accent color in the living room. I went to some of my favorite home goods stores and stocked up on a few pieces to add some life to the room. I picked up a new lamp, some pillows, a throw and some odds and ends. It really made a huge difference and if in a few years I decide that red is annoying me, I can change a few accent pieces a lot easier than re-painting the walls. Anyone else out there afraid of color?

i heart alterations

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I got my sewing machine from my amazing husband on our very first “married” Christmas, the same year I started watching Project Runway. My mother-in-law is an amazing seamstress and helped him pick out the perfect machine. For months I had talked about how much I wanted a sewing machine so that I could start making incredible clothes. I wasn’t worried that the last time I had sewn anything was in home ec. class in 7th grade. I remember making a very cute teddy bear dressed as a bumble bee (which sounds pretty odd now that I’m typing it out). I was very proud of that bear and he still lives somewhere in my parents house to this day. Lets first talk about how sweet my husband is for investing in my dreams even though he had never seen me sew anything, he hadn’t even seen that teddy bear/bubble bee. I got some amazing lessons from my mother-in-law that Christmas and was ready to conquer the world of fashion designing. I had a lot of success in the beginning making curtains and pillows but I got a little too ambitious a little too fast. I decided it was time to try my hand at designing. I “sketched” a cute little wrap dress. I’ll save you the boring, pathetic details and skip right to the part where I tried on the most hideous dress I had ever seen. It turned out terrible and thus the death of my fashion dreams died right there on my sewing room floor.

I have not attempted to make any clothes since then but I do still use my sewing machine a lot. One of my favorite things to do is alter clothes. Clothes look a lot better when they fit right and thats not always easy to find. I like the fact that if I find something I really like that needs a little bit of tailoring, I can just do it myself. Last saturday night I spent a few hours altering some of my clothes for winter. I hemmed three pairs of paints, hemmed the sleeves on two jackets, and made a regular scarf into an infinity scarf. You don’t even need a fancy machine to accomplish these simple changes but they make a big different. I’m embarrassed to say that I wore the red jeans in the above picture with all that bunching on the bottom all of last year. I think I ended up rolling them up to make it work. Now they fit a lot better and won’t be constantly reminding myself and others how vertically challenged I am. What do you do when your jeans are too long? Do have a trusted seamstress?