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A Quick Getaway to Florida

by Alaina on April 15, 2014 · 1 comment

I’m back at home after a wonderful couple of days in Bradenton, Florida! The occasion was that my grandpapa was turning 80, and I hadn’t seen him since 2011 so a trip was long overdue. The last time I saw him he was in the hospital after his heart attack. But seeing him this past weekend was such a pleasure, as he was still cracking jokes and telling his wonderful stories.

After I arrived to Tampa on Saturday I drove the hour down to Bradenton and met my parents, uncle, aunt, and cousin at Grandpapa and Marylin’s house. I tried to keep it a secret that I was coming down but unfortunately the secret was out a couple of days before I arrived. He was very excited to see me, still. Smile

After an afternoon of catching up, we had dinner Primo’s in Sarasota and then drinks and dessert at the Hyatt Regency.

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Sunday was a gorgeous day and we spent an hour or so of the afternoon at Coquina Beach.

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Could not have asked for a more beautiful day to walk along the water: warm, partly cloudy and just a bit breezy.

That afternoon, which was Grandpapa’s birthday, we all had an early dinner at their house. Marylin prepared a delicious dinner of a roast, mashed potatoes, sweet potato with pineapple, green beans, salad and so much more. For dessert, we had carrot cake. And as soon as my uncle posts it, I will add in the video of Grandpapa blowing out the candles. It was an impressive feat for an 80 year old!

Grandpapa and I

Happy 80th to my wonderful, talented, and inspiring Grandpapa! And to many more birthdays to celebrate. Smile

It was a short visit, but one that I am so glad I took. You never know how long someone is going to be around and every precious moment together counts.

4-15-2014 | Today marks one year since the horrific attacks at the Boston Marathon. So many poignant messages and memorials have been written (especially by Sarah at the Blonde Bostonian) that it would be tough to say something that hasn’t already been said. Although I was there that day, I certainly didn’t experience what so many have gone through. The events will never be far from my mind, but it is so inspiring to see how others have persevered and displayed strength far beyond what I ever think I am capable of. We will always remember those who are gone, those whose lives are forever changed, and the heroes that we shall always admire.

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Chicken Nacho Soup

by Alaina on April 11, 2014 · 0 comments

One more recipe before I jet off to Florida! I know that nothing says warm, 80* days like a nice bowl of…hot soup. Smile with tongue out But this soup was so delicious, I feel the need to share it! After the success of the beef tacos and now this, I can’t wait to make more slow cooker recipes from my recent Food Network Magazine.

Chicken Nacho Soup

Chicken Nacho Soup
From Food Network Magazine

1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 14 .5-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
1 zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 white onion, finely diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped, plus slices for topping (remove seeds for less heat)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 sprigs cilantro
1 15 -ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup crushed tortilla chips, plus whole chips for topping
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch pieces*
8 ounces American cheese, diced
1/2 cup milk

1. Combine the tomato paste, tomatoes, potato, zucchini, onion, jalapeno, garlic, oregano, cumin, cilantro and hominy in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the crushed tortilla chips, the chicken broth and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook on low, 7 1/2 hours. Add the chicken and cook 30 more minutes.
2. Combine the cheese and milk in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave, whisking occasionally, until melted and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve the soup topped with tortilla chips, the cheese sauce
and sliced jalapeno.**

*I don’t know if this was intentional or a typo, but the directions only call for dicing the chicken, then dropping it in to the crockpot. I cooked mine up for a bit on the stovetop before adding it to the soup.

**I skipped the cheese and milk combination and instead topped it with whole grain tortilla chips, shredded Mexican cheese and cilantro.

Even with a little bit of changes, David and I thoroughly enjoyed the soup. I especially liked the addition of the tortilla chips, both in the soup and as a topping.

Have you ever tried a recipe and then realized they may have been missing a step or ingredient?

Have a great weekend everyone! I’ll see you on Tuesday! Smile


What I’ve Been Up To & A Recipe Revisit

by Alaina on April 10, 2014 · 5 comments

Happy Thursday everyone! How has your week been?

I’m sure that you have noticed that my posting frequency as increased dramatically. It’s been months since I’ve written even two days in a row. Without going in to any details, I will say that a few weeks ago (the day I got back from my birthday weekend actually) my job laid me off. I was disappointed at first, but the feeling of relief I get when I wake up every morning to realize I don’t have to spend my entire day going to work, working and then coming home, proves that my heart just wasn’t in to that position.

Since then I’ve applied for a few jobs and even gone on one interview (which is still outstanding and I’m crossing my fingers!). I’ve been able to take this time to revamp my resume and LinkedIn profile and I hope to get back in to the hospitality, or perhaps the marketing, game. This is the first time I’ve been unemployed and I’m certainly hoping that it won’t last too long. Thankfully David has a good job that can provide for us both right now, but I’m not one to enjoy sitting still for too long. Winking smile

Since I’ve had so much free time on my hands, I’ve really been able to dive in to more baking and cooking. For the last two weeks David and I have been meal planning and we’ve had some tasty dinners! We always have one night of spaghetti and meat sauce, and we’ve also enjoyed homemade pizzas, breaded chicken tenders, and beef tacos with salsa verde, to name a few. In addition to baking the Cranberry Coconut Cookies and Green Tea Muffins, I revisited an old favorite that I realized I hadn’t blogged about in about 3 years: Brown Sugar Oat Muffins.

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Brown Sugar Oat Muffins
From Taste of Home Cookbook

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 to 17 Minutes
Yield: 12 Muffins

1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400* In a small bowl, combine the oats, flours, baking powder and salt
In another small bowl, beat the eggs, brown sugar, milk, oil and vanilla
Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full
Bake for 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.

My favorite way to enjoy these muffins is heated up in the microwave and then top half with peanut butter and the other half with jam. Yum! Smile with tongue out

How has your week been going? I’ll have another post up tomorrow and then I’ll be off for the weekend…I’m heading down to Florida to meet up with my parents, aunt/uncle/cousin and my grandfather to celebrate his 80th birthday! I planned this trip since January and I’m so glad it’s finally here. Forecast is for sun and 80*!