Monday, February 28, 2011

one pot meal: guadalajara

I looove one pot meals. Besides the obvious (hello, only one pot to wash!), there's something comfy cozy about dishing up a hearty casserole or stew on a cold winter's day. This one pot meal, however, is neither a casserole or stew. In fact, I'm not even sure how I would classify this dish. Besides maybe, delicious!

My family calls it Guadalajara because of its Mexican'ish vibe. It's comprised of nothing more than ground beef, rice, tomato sauce and spices. Simmered in one pot, these humble ingredients transform into a delicious and satisfying meal. It's great by itself, but it's best when served with chopped, fresh produce and Fritos scoops. It's sort of a play on the tostada, but heartier! My family absolutely loves this dish. Evan typically ends up eating at least a couple bowls full. And Mia? I made this just yesterday and she proclaimed, "Ummmm!! Mama's the chef!!" Coming from a finicky four-year-old, I take that as quite the compliment. :)

Ingredients: (makes about four servings)
1.5 lbs lean ground beef
3/4 cup of uncooked white rice
1 14-oz. can of tomato sauce
1 medium onion finely diced
5 cloves of garlic minced
3/4 can of water (using empty tomato sauce can so you can get every last drop of sauce)
2 Tablespoons of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (adjust this based on your preference for spiciness)
1 teaspoon of chili flakes
olive oil
salt and pepper

diced tomatoes
chopped cilantro
chopped iceberg lettuce
shredded Mexican Blend cheese
sour cream
Tostitos Scoops (or you can use a tostada shell, or tortilla chips)

  • Heat olive oil in large saucepan or wide pot. I use my Le Creuset braiser and put enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the braiser.
  • When oil is hot, add onions and cook well. About 3 minutes.
  • Add chili flakes and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes more stirring well.
  • Add ground beef. Season with salt and pepper as desired, and saute until cooked through. You want to have a semi-chunky consistency to the beef so DON'T overly crumble it (as you would if you were making tacos, for example.)
  • Add rice and saute for 2 minutes.
  • Add tomato sauce and stir. Let boil for a couple of minutes.
  • Add chili powder and cayenne pepper. Stir while boiling.
  • Season with more salt and pepper if desired.
  • Add water. Bring to boil and stir. Allow to boil for a couple of minutes.
  • Cover and allow to simmer until rice is cooked through. Add a little more water if rice needs it.
  • Once rice is tender, uncover and cook uncovered for a couple minutes stirring as you go. Consistency should not be dry. It should be thick and hearty like a casserole. Serve immediately.
** Feel free to taste as you go and adjust the spices. If you want it spicier, add more cayenne. The mixture will not be as spicy as you think, as you will be topping it with cheese and sour cream.

To serve:
Scoop Guadalajara into pasta bowl. Add shredded cheese right on top so it melts. Top with lettuce, a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with tomatoes and cilantro. Use the Fritos scoops as edible spoons! Scoop up Guadalajara with the chip and pop it into your mouth!!


Friday, February 25, 2011


(From left: Cydney, Mia, Cydney's older brother Chris and Elijah)

Mia loves to spend time with her cousins. Since the four of them are so close in age, they have a way of relating to each other that just cracks me up. Mia is the youngest of them all, so sometimes she doesn't get what the older kids are trying to explain to her. But she exerts her opinion anyway. Elijah is the oldest, and quite easily the most cunning of the bunch. Cydney and Chris are the brother/sister duo. They love and fight like only brothers/sisters can. If you can eavesdrop and observe these kiddos for a day, I swear you'd have funny stories to last a lifetime. Here's a little snippet of what it's like when the four of them get together.

Mia: Mama, Elijah won't let me play with his toy!!
Elijah very calmly to Mia: Well Mia, I'm the oldest so you have to give me some respect.

Mia: Cydney, nooooooooo do it this waaaay!!!
Cydney: Mia is sooo bossy. (Rolling eyes but smiling. Cydney proceeds to do it Mia's way)

Chris: I wish you were never born! (after fighting over something)
Cydney: Well too bad. I'm already here!

Kids are clamoring to reach the top of the snowbank.
Elijah: C'mon Chris!
Chris: Wait, I'm helping Mia. She's too little. (clumsily hoists Mia by pushing her tushie up the snowbank)
Mia: I'm too liiiiittle.
Elijah: (exhales) Okaaay, here. Grab my hand. Chris, puuuuush!!
(Picture the three of them bundled in big snow jackets. Chris is huffing to push his little cousin up. Elijah is trying with all his might to pull her up. And Mia, oblivious to her cousins' plight, giggling and enjoying the clumsiness of it. She's no help at all.)

Mia: Mama, I love my cousins! They're my best friends.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

style icon: bianca jagger

Gorgeous... This woman is absolutely fierce. Since you lovelies enjoyed my 1970s fashion post so much, I thought I'd photo profile one of the most iconic fashionistas of the 1970s -- Bianca Jagger.

Born to a privileged Nicaraguan family, Bianca was part of the jetset Studio 54 crowd that included the likes of Halston, Andy Warhol, Yves Saint Laurent and of course, Mick Jagger. Our hats off to you Ms. Jagger. Your daring and unapologetic sense of style helped define fashion not only in the 70s, but for decades to come.

She wore hooded silk jumpsuits like nobody's business.

In her trademark white YSL suit and a bowler hat in Heathrow Airport in 1972.

The iconic white suit was so much a part of her fashion repertoire that she dared to wear it on her wedding day in San Tropez. Unconventional indeed.

In a grecian gown with good friend Halston.

Again with Halston. Gold lame never looked so fabulous.

On her 30th birthday celebration at Studio 54. Of course, Bianca would arrive on a white horse. Why not? It was her party after all.

With husband and lead singer of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger.

Gorgeous cheekbones. Bianca's exotic good looks definitely helped set her apart from the rest of the crowd.

In a photo by Richard Avedon, 1972.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

an affordable vera wang wedding gown

An affordable Vera Wang gown. Is there such a thing? Apparently, now there is. The couture designer has launched a new, affordable collection at David's Bridal. The 12-gown collection maintains Vera's signature style and chic aesthetic for a reasonable $600-$1400 price tag. I can practically hear brides rejoicing. The collection is both romantic and modern featuring decadent ruffles, sophisticated silhouettes and impeccable attention to detail -- everything you'd expect from the grand dame of wedding gowns. To see more, click HERE.

Monday, February 21, 2011

pink ruffles, ribbons and cake

This cake found on Sweetapolita inspired me to do...

...this collage.

Pink ruffles, ribbons, peonies and cake.
I can't think of anything else that makes for a better Monday.

Friday, February 18, 2011

spring inspiration: Charlie's Angels

Much to my delight, the 70s is going to be big for Spring. In fact, your favorite stores are probably already well-stocked with such 70s styles as bell bottom jeans, silk blouses and platform wedges. I am completely loving all of it. So for your fashion inspiration today, I'm paying homage to one of my favorite shows -- Charlie's Angels. Hey, don't laugh! :) These ladies are seriously awesome! I don't know anyone else who can fight crime and solve mysteries while looking so fabulous. :)

Oh yeah baby. Wide leg silk jumpsuits! Quite Halston-esque, non?

Our favorite 70s pinup, Farrah Fawcett. Proof that 70s style is enduring! Her outfit here is fantastic even for 2011.

Kate Jackson in a white, wide-leg suit. Cheryl Ladd and her cowl-neck sweater. And Jaclyn Smith in a silk blouse. All still fashionably relevant and completely wearable. Yes, even the white suit.

Silk v-neck romper and a tunic paired with a skinny belt.

Looking to emulate the Angels? Today's designers have made it easy...

The Platform Wedge by Aldo (style: affina)
The Silk Halter Jumpsuit by Wink
The Gold Medallion by House of Harlow
The Denim Bells by Genetic Denim
The Floppy Hat by Luxury Divas
The Peasant Blouse by Forever 21
The Skinny Gold Belt by *vintage (check out eBay)
The White Suit by Robert Rodriguez

Have a wonderful weekend, my lovelies!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

modern vintage

Just purchased this 1920s-inspired silk blouse by Beyond Vintage. When it comes to shopping for clothes, I have a habit of zeroing in on specific design elements. And this blouse was no exception. I am completely enchanted by the intricate beading and blush colored silk. The photo above makes the blouse look a little taupey, but in real life it's actually a cross between blush and beige tones. I can totally see dressing this up with my dark skinny jeans and booties. In the store, I tried it on with medium blue bell bottom jeans and my beige wedge platforms; and it looked just as fabulous casually styled. At $122 (on sale from $325), it was a decent deal! Happy happy, joy joy! :)

Check it out at -- note: the online price is higher than their in-store price, which is sorta annoying.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

i want to see this

I'm a big Sofia Coppola fan. Her films often seem to convey a quiet and deep thoughtfulness -- stories told through a subtle yet profound perspective. But I'm no movie critic. I just know what I like. Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette, and my favorite, The Virgin Suicides. I love it all. Which is why I'm so looking forward to seeing this movie. It's called Somewhere, and it stars the underrated Stephen Dorff and the charming Elle Fanning (yes, Dakota's sister). Check out the trailer above. Looks interesting, right? The film was released in late December, but I didn't get wind of it till I read about it on one of my fave blogs. I'm hoping I can find it playing somewhere local.

P.S. Totally digging the song on the trailer. It's called I'll Try Anything Once by The Strokes.

Monday, February 14, 2011

lovely day

Hello, my darlings. I hope that this Valentine's Day finds you surrounded by love and all those little affections that make you feel like you're walking on air. I leave you today with one of my favorite songs... a mellow and soulful ditty by the legendary Bill Withers.

Hugs and candy Valentine hearts to all!! xoxo

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

more sweets for my sweetie

So I've really been getting into the Valentine spirit. After all, love IS grand. And what better way to express our love than through food. Baked goods, to be exact. In fact, all month long Mia and I have been playing with easy Valentine sweets.

Last night we made these Rice Krispies hearts. These were super simple to make, so it was the perfect mom/daughter "baking" project. We just made the Rice Krispies treats as instructed on the box. While still warm, we spread the rice and marshmallow mixture into a large tray, making sure the mixture was spread thinly and evenly on the bottom of the tray. We wanted a thin layer (a little more than about 1/2" thick) so that the treats wouldn't overrun our cookie cutters. When the treats cooled, we used cookie cutters to make large, medium and small hearts. Using the leftover candy melts from the cake pops, we then dipped each heart and decorated them with drizzles. Easy, cute and delicious!

Monday, February 7, 2011

be still my heart

Oh dear, dear Mr. Darcy. My how you have a way with words...

(Images via The Love Shop)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

mushroom and asparagus risotto with sauteed tiger shrimp

Anybody watch Top Chef All-Stars? It's one of my favorite shows and this week's episode featured an Italian challenge. It inspired me to make one of my favorite dishes -- shiitake mushroom and asparagus risotto with sauteed jumbo shrimp.

Half a pound of jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (I use black tiger shrimp)
1.25 cups of Arborio rice
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup of dry white wine (I use pinot grigio)
1 large shallot (finely chopped)
1 cup thin asparagus (bottoms peeled and sliced into 1/4" pieces, leaving the tops about an inch long)
1 cup shiitake mushrooms (sliced 1/4" thick)
1/2 cup grated parmesan or any other hard, salty italian cheese you prefer
6 tablespoons of sweet cream butter
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

  • Boil chicken broth and water. Add asparagus and allow vegetable to cook until crisp. Then remove the asparagus from the broth. Place in large bowl and immerse in cold water to stop cooking process. Keep the broth in a very low simmer.
  • Heat oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in large saucepan. I like using my 4qt. Le Creuset pot. Once butter is all melted, add shiitake mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are light brown. Season with a pinch of kosher salt. Once cooked, remove from pan and set aside.
  • Add about 2 tablespoons more butter in saucepan. Once melted, add the chopped shallot and cook until soft and transparent. I like my shallots well cooked, so for me, this takes about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add Arborio rice to shallots and cook for a couple of minutes stirring frequently.
  • Add white wine and cook until absorbed. If you're like me, I'd put a little more than the recipe calls for. Can't blame a girl for liking her white wine!
  • Keep rice mixture on a rapid simmer. Add about a half cup of broth. Simmer and stir until absorbed. Keep adding broth 1/2 - 3/4 cup at a time, waiting until the previous addition has been absorbed before adding another. Stir frequently. Continue to do this until the rice reaches a soft, creamy consistency. Warning: this part of the process takes a little patience.
  • Once rice is creamy and soft,season it with kosher salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add a bit more butter if you prefer.
  • Add parmesan and combine well.
  • Carefully add mushrooms and asparagus. Cover and set aside.
  • In a separate saucepan, melt the last 2 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add the shrimp and saute until cooked. Shrimp should be opaque.

Plate risotto with the shrimp arranged on the side. Serve immediately. Yummy, yummy! The heartiness of the mushrooms with the light wine sauce of the risotto is wonderfully tasty. And the shrimp, simply sauteed in butter, makes for a delicious compliment.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

valentine cake pops

I've been wanting to try making cake pops since I saw them on Bakerella's blog. Check her out at She's got some super creative and fun ideas on making these yummy cake lollipops.

Allow me to digress for a moment... I'm usually the stressed out career mom who forgets it's Valentine's Day and ends up rushing to the grocery store the day of to buy valentine giveaways. Because I've neglected to purchase them till the very last second, I usually end up getting the bottom of the barrel valentine cards. You know -- the lame cards with the less popular cartoon character and even less popular pieces of candy... The ones left after everybody else has bought the cool ones. Luckily, Mia was still at an age where she doesn't really care what the valentines look like as long as she too has something to pass out among her friends. One year, however, I did feel equal parts of working-mom-guilt and incredulous disbelief when Mia came home with these super elaborate valentines from her classmates. We're talking personalized lollipop cookies, valentine doilies turned into sculptural ornaments and super cool goody bags, people!

Anyway, this year is going to be different. Now that I'm a freelance part-timer, I decided I am going to do some cool valentine confections. Not only will I be able to indulge my inner-aspiring baker; but I figure, it'll make up for the past couple of years of not-so-cool valentines. Yep folks, I decided to have a little fun with it this year.

Enter Bakerella's cake pops... See the finished product above. Super cute, eh?

The ingredients... You can certainly use your own cake and frosting recipe. But I wanted to make it easy on myself for this trial run. So I chose to do Duncan Hines Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. You can have fun with this and do chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. Or lemon cake with vanilla lemon buttercream. Anything you want.

Update: I've made the cake pops about three times now. I experimented with different flavors and ingredients. I found that the Betty Crocker Cream Cheese Frosting was "cream cheesier" than the Pillsbury. And since I like a "cream cheesier" frosting, I now prefer using Betty Crocker. But you, of course, can use whichever brand you like. :)

Per Bakerella's recipe, bake cake as instructed. Let it cool completely and then crumb it into a bowl. Yes, break the cake apart until it's a mixture of fine crumbs. Then add the frosting until you get a moldable but not overly moist mixture.

Roll mixture into quarter-sized balls. Don't make them too big because they'll be too heavy for your lollipop sticks. Plus they grow bigger after they're coated in chocolate. Place on cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for several hours. Or for quicker results, put it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so until firm.

Melt the Candy Melts as instructed on the packaging. You can also use chocolate bark. I chose to use a vanilla flavored pink chocolate and a dark cocoa chocolate. Dip your lollipop stick into the chocolate mixture and pierce the cake ball. Pierce it until it's more than halfway through to ensure the ball stays firmly on the stick. Then dip the cake ball into the melted chocolate. Tap off excess chocolate carefully so as not to loosen the cake ball. Then sprinkle with sparkling sugar or confetti sprinkles as soon as you can. The chocolate dries fast, so work quickly.

Update: I found that after inserting the sticks into the cake balls, it helps to put them back in the freezer or fridge for a few minutes to let the candy coated sticks set. This helps the cake balls stick more firmly onto the stick; which in turn helps prevent them from going AWOL during the chocolate dipping process.

Place them on a styrofoam block to dry. Refrigerate to harden the shell. Aren't they cute?

Mia was so excited to try them! I can't tell you how much she ooh-ed and aah-ed over the pretty pops. "These are so pretty and yummy, Mama!" she says.

I wrapped the tops in little cellophane bags and tied them with decorative ribbon. Adorable, right? These are just the trial run. Next time I plan on using longer sticks so I can have enough room to slide little paper Valentine hearts on the bottom that read, "Happy Valentine's! From Mia."

Cake pop recipe courtesy of Bakerella.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

could-have-been love story

(via Cup of Jo)

Clever, cute and totally relatable... How many of us have stifled how we really feel?