Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Hi ladies!

I'm so sorry that I forgot to post a winner to the 500 Posts Giveaway. I have been sidetracked with a few other things going on right now so it completely slipped my mind! Thank you so much to everyone who entered the giveaway and for everyone who gave me new ideas for future blog posts!

I really do hope that all of you realize how much you mean to me! I wish that every single one of you could win. I am planning on doing a small giveaway once a month so there will be more things to win soon!

The winner of the Vera Bradley wristlet is Jessica from Southern in the City! In addition to the wristlet, I am also throwing in a $10 gift card to Target and since I'm obsessing with all things nails lately, a beautiful nail polish perfect for fall.

Vera Bradley wristlet

$10 Target gift card
Sonia Kashuk nail polish
(Color: blank slate)

Congrats, Jessica! Please email me with your shipping address so I can send your goodies to you.

Again, thank you to everyone who entered! Your comments mean the world to me!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesdays at the Table (6)

For this week's Tuesdays at the Table, I thought I'd share a {labor-intensive} recipe I made quite a few weeks ago. Both Chris & I loved the flavors of these chile rellenos. Since it was my first time attempting something like this, I made quite a few beginner's mistakes that I would not make again the second (and third, and fourth...) time. We will definitely be making these again as they are really flavorful and delicious.


(the ingredients below reflect my own changes;
if you want to see original recipe, click link above)
Prep: 45 minutes / Cook: 45 minutes / Servings: 4

4 large poblano peppers (I used pasilla)
1/2 block monterey jack cheese
1/2 block sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup all purpose flour, for dredging

1 can Mexican style stewed tomatoes
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 T distilled white vinegar
1 t. Mexican oregano (I used regular Italian oregano)
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1/8 t. ground cinnamon (secret ingredient that makes this sauce delicious!)

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
5 egg whites at room temperature
1 egg yolk, beaten

For Frying
1/4 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
1 cup oil

(It's a lot of steps, but worth it at the end)

1. Preheat the oven's broiler and set the rack about 6 inches from the heat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the peppers on the baking sheet.

2. Cook under the preheated broiler until the skin of the peppers has blackened and blistered, about 8 to 10 minutes per side.

3. When the peppers are about 80% blackened, place them in a plastic bag, seal, and allow the peppers to steam as they cool, about 20 minutes. (Note: This tip is helpful because it makes the skin easier to peel off; grab an extra produce bag from the grocery store and use that to put the peppers in.) Once cool, remove the skins and discard. Cut a slit lengthwise into the side of each pepper and remove the seeds and veins. Pat dry with paper towels.

4. Cut each cheese block into 4 smaller blocks. Use one of each to put inside of each pepper. Keep the openings closed with toothpicks. Lightly dredge the peppers in flour and dust off the excess. Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. (Note: The cheese will become too hard in the freezer and will not have enough time to melt while being fried. Place in the refrigerator instead. Even doing this, you may have to heat in the microwave to melt cheese completely. See Step 7.)

5. To make sauce, blend the stewed tomatoes in a blender until pureed and set aside. Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and cook the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, cook for about 30 seconds, and then add the tomatoes, chicken broth, vinegar, and spices. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer the sauce until reduced by half and thickened, about 20 minutes.

6. To make the batter and finish the rellenos, mix 1/3 cup flour with salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until the whites form stiff peaks. Lightly mix the egg yolk and flour/salt mixture into the egg whites to make a fluffy batter. Remove peppers from the freezer and coat them in flour again then dip each pepper into the egg batter.

7. Heat frying oil over medium high heat until the oil shimmers. Gently lay the coated peppers into the hot oil and fry on both sides until the batter is golden brown and the cheese filling is hot, about 5 minutes per side. Place peppers in the warm oven until ready to serve. (Note: Since the peppers had been in the freezer, the cheese was quite hard and didn't get melted through while frying. To melt the cheese, I just microwaved the peppers for about 2 minutes. This didn't compromise the flavor or crispiness of the pepper in any way.)

The finished meal:

My favorite part was the sauce! It was so yummy and I want to try it on other dishes like enchiladas & tacos! I hope my tips & notes will help some of you have an easier time making this delicious dinner. Don't be put off by the number of steps and components because it really is much easier than it looks.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Too Funny

My mom sent me this e-mail and I knew I had to share:

The Safe Guide to Women

Dangerous: What's for dinner?
Safer: Can I help you with dinner?
Safest: Where would you like to go for dinner?
Ultra Safe: Here, have some wine.

Dangerous: Are you wearing that?
Safer: You sure look good in brown!
Safest: Wow, look at you!
Ultra Safe: Here, have some wine.

Dangerous: What are you so worked up about?
Safer: Could we be overreacting?
Safest: Here's my paycheck.
Ultra Safe: Here, have some wine.

Dangerous: Should you be eating that?
Safer: You know, there are a lot of apples left.
Safest: Can I get you a piece of chocolate with that?
Ultra Safe: Here, have some wine.

Dangerous: What did you do all day?
Safer: I hope you didn't over-do it today.
Safest: I've always loved you in that robe!
Ultra Safe: Here, have some wine.

Can't we all relate to this sometimes?! Too funny!

I hope all of you have a relaxing & fun weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday Randoms

Happy Wednesday!

  • Today, Chris is having mouth surgery to correct a receding gum. This is the first of four surgeries that he will be having in the next few months. I feel so bad for him! But I also feel grateful that this is a procedure that insurance will cover 80% of, as it's a very expensive surgery and not something you would want to pay out-of-pocket for.
  • Last week, I entered a giveaway over at Spotted Moth and guess what? I won! Thanks to the ladies at SM, I received this adorable clutch that will be perfect for fall! I can't wait to use it!

  • I finally reached 800 miles on my bike! I have been slacking A LOT lately, mainly because I haven't been finding the same joy in riding that I did a few months ago. I think it's a combination of the hot weather, inconsiderate drivers that nearly run me over every day, and a general lack of caring. However, I'm not giving up! I have still done considerably well for 4 months, and I'm going to continue to give it my all.

  • Happy Birthday to my sister-in-law Amy and my BFF (C's Dad) Jeff!

  • Have you guys tried the "sock bun curls" technique? I'm definitely intrigued and think I'll try it out tomorrow night. I'll let you know how it goes! I will say that I tried this technique a few nights ago, and unfortunately, it did not work for me (this is more my fault though). My hair has no problem holding curl, but I hate taking the time to hot roll it so I'm hoping I can find an easier way to give me waves. I'm open to other tutorials/ideas if you'd like to share!

  • Do any of you watch Dance Moms? C & I stumbled on this last week, and it is CRAZY! It's full of drama and cute little girls dancing while their moms are killing each other with words. I feel bad for the pressure these girls must feel to be the best, it can't be easy for an 8 year old to process. I also think that these women must portray the EXTREME version of a dance mom, as I'm sure most moms out there are only wanting their kids to have fun and express themselves.

Ok, told you this was random! I hope all of you are having a good week. Mine is flying by, but I'm still in a funk. I'm hoping that some time with family and friends soon will help me and give me a short break from the real world!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesdays at the Table (5)

Sorry for this reallllllyyyy long post today, but I'm very excited about meal planning, saving money, and sharing with all of you!

I'm linking up with Cole for Tuesdays at the Table!


Last week I shared that I was working hard to successfully meal plan. I made it through the first week, and let me tell you, life is so much easier! We went shopping for our week 1 perishables and all the shelf-stable ingredients on Tuesday of last week. We went shopping again on Sunday morning for week 2 perishables. It's so nice to have a menu and a plan! I thought I'd share with you today what was/is on our menu as well as a great recipe for pulled pork in the slow cooker, given to us by C's dad.

Tuesday: Shopping & Prep Work

I used this recipe to make shredded chicken in the crock pot. The only difference is that I used about 2.5 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. I was able to portion out the shredded chicken for later use in the honey lime enchiladas and the chicken suiza sammies. This was a huge time saver and I plan on doing it weekly (it also saves money because the chicken is much cheaper than the already prepared b/s chicken breasts)!

This recipe is really easy, but full of flavor. I used a store-bought marinara sauce but seasoned it with fresh garlic, herbs, and a pinch of sugar (secret ingredient!). This made enough for 6 meals between the two of us. I served it with garlic bread for dipping.

These are so good! I was intrigued by the recipe so I knew that I had to give it a try. They are sweet but spicy at the same time. This will definitely be a regular on our menu plan. By preparing the shredded chicken ahead of time, I had this meal prepped and ready to go in the oven in about 10 minutes. I made some yellow rice while the enchiladas were in the oven, and it made for the perfect side. 1 1/2 of these filled me up, and we had enough leftovers for lunches and another dinner for both of us.

Friday: Leftovers

C has been wanting to make this for awhile now so after watching several how-to videos we decided to try it out. I refused to touch the chicken so he handled that while I made a side of oven roasted potatoes. This meal turned out to be delicious! We used a couple of different recipes, like this one for the spice rub.

And now, for a recipe...

Sunday: Pulled Pork (recipe from C's Dad)

Pork loin (we used a small picnic roast cut)
1/2 Bottle of beer (you can also use apple juice)
4 T Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce
3 T Brown sugar

1. Brown the loin in a large frying pan with some olive oil. Brown both sides and the ends, just a few minutes per side. (You can also remove the thin sheath of fat that is on the pork loin prior to browning.)

2. Pour about a half of a bottle of beer into your crock pot. Add the browned pork loin and spread about 4 T of BBQ sauce on top. Sprinkle with 3 T of brown sugar.

3. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

4. When done, remove the roast, but do not add any of the juices from the bottom of the crock pot. Flake with two forks and add additional BBQ sauce if desired.

This is so simple to make, and the flavors are really good! We had this on Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (our favorite!) with chopped onions and dill pickles. It makes a lot as well so we'll be having it for lunch & leftovers this week.

Rounding out the week are the following recipes:

Tuesday: Chili
Wednesday: Leftovers

I hope that you get some inspiration for your own meal plans and try some of these recipes! As always, I never stop looking for new & yummy recipes so if you have posted something delicious recently, please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts

I gotta be honest, I'm having a rough week. It's a combination of things going on in my life right now, and I'm trying very hard to not let those things eat away at me. I've been mean to C all week and for no real reason. I just feel like there is a dark storm cloud hanging over my head and I'm really ready for it to go away!

In an attempt to put myself in better spirits, I thought I'd share some of the good things happening this week! It's easy to get caught up with only focusing on the negative, and I want to avoid that as much as possible, in my everyday life as well as what I put on my blog.

1. Meal Planning. This is something I always intend to do, but I usually end up throwing the towel in because of frustration. This week I finally got my act together and did all of my grocery shopping Tuesday night (and used coupons!). I slow-cooked 2 pounds of chicken breasts yesterday and shredded & packaged the meat for two meals later - honey lime enchiladas and pulled chicken suiza sammies. Last night, we had these delicious stuffed shells and next week, we'll be doing taco chicken bowls as well. (BTW, lots of chicken on the menu because we're watching our cholesterol intake.) It can be overwhelming to shop for two weeks worth of meals, but it is nice knowing that we'll only have to go to the store once next week for the perishable items we couldn't buy on Tuesday. Some of my go-to sources for great recipes: Budget Bytes, The Girl Who Ate Everything, Six Sister's Stuff, and of course, Pinterest (you can follow me here).

2. Coupon Codes. I have had several items in my Old Navy online shopping basket for awhile now. Thanks to a 25% discount code that popped up on the website, I was more than happy to pull the trigger! (PS - there are a couple of codes for 15%, 20% and 25% off that will randomly show up on the top banner of the website. I used "ONSECRET25" so try that first if you decide to do some shopping before August 19).

Old Navy

Old Navy sleeveless top
$18 -

Old Navy chiffon top
$6.97 -

Old Navy ruffle top
$15 -

Old Navy boatneck t shirt
$15 -

Old Navy scoopneck tee
$17 -

Old Navy jersey top
$15 -

Old navy
$30 -

3. My Giveaway. I am still searching high & low for a couple of other items to include with the Vera Bradley wristlet I will be sending to the winner. If I come across anything before the deadline to enter (August 24) I will be sure to post about it so you can know what other goodies you may win! Otherwise, just assume that the winner will receive at least 2 additional items.

4. Television. Lately I've been bringing all of my work problems home with me. A way to escape from the stress and frustration I've been feeling at work is to unwind with a glass of wine and turn on the tv (I am already commuting to work on my bike so I have no desire to hit the gym for stress relief). I wasn't planning on watching Bachelor Pad 2, but it is addicting (in a "I want to rip my eyeballs out if I have to watch one more second of this crap" way). Vienna & Kasey are SUCH IDIOTS! We also like Toddlers & Tiaras, Leverage, Jersey Shore, Whale Wars, and Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. I'm excited that network shows start up again in about a month! Is anyone else going to watch Charlie's Angels (it premieres Sept 22)?

I hope that everyone is having a GREAT week! I already feel better after writing this post so thanks for reading! I'll likely skip out on posting tomorrow so look for a weekend recap on Monday (we have a couple of fun things planned).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

500 Posts Giveaway

I wanted to do something fun to celebrate making it to 500 posts! Unfortunately, it's just little ole me funding the giveaway, so it is something small. But nonetheless, I think it's cute and who doesn't want a chance to win something for free?

I was trying to pass some time while I was waiting for my car to get fixed up (oil change and 2 new tires! finally!) so I walked over to the mall. I saw this cute wristlet by Vera Bradley in one of the stores and I immediately thought it would make a great item for a giveaway!

This is the "Hangin' Out" wristlet in the Loves Me print. It's the perfect size for your phone, lip gloss, and whatever else you want to throw in it. Or you can be like me and use it for your makeup. It would also be perfect to hold nail polish or pens and pencils for class. It's great because the material on the inside and outside wipes clean and won't get all dirty like cloth fabric would.

I will throw in a couple of other surprise items before I send it out as well.

If you want to enter to win, just leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, August 24 letting me know that you are a follower, and if you want, tell me something you would like to read/see on Sweet Tea Diaries in the future (1 entry for each that you do). I will announce a winner shortly after.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesdays at the Table (4)


We recently had some maintenance work done in the apartment, and I wanted to bake a little something for the hard-working people that maintain our complex. C suggested that I do a dessert that doesn't need to be refrigerated, since we aren't sure if they have a refrigerator in their "office" but I have had cheesecake on the brain lately and there was no changing my mind! Besides, most people immediately eat their treats as soon as you walk away anyway, right?

I adapted this recipe in order to use what I had in my refrigerator. Instead of doing the raspberry swirl, I just sliced up strawberries and mixed them with a little bit of sugar to make a quick topping. I also didn't need that many so I only used 8 oz. of cream cheese and I ended up with 9 cheesecakes using a regular size cupcake pan.

Mini Cheesecakes
(Greatly adapted from here)
Makes: 9

1/2 sleeve graham crackers, crushed
2 T melted butter

1 8 oz. package cream cheese
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temp.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and the melted butter. Stir together with a fork until crumbs are moistened. Using a spoon, place crumbs in the bottom of the liner and press down with the back of the spoon to create an even layer.

2. Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed in the bowl on an electric mixer until fluffy. Blend in the sugar until smooth. Mix in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure to mix well after each addition.

3. Spoon the filling over the crust and bake for 15-25 minutes. Let cool for at least 45 minutes before transferring to the refrigerator to chill overnight.

4. To make the strawberry topping, simply slice strawberries and mix with a spoonful of sugar. Spoon topping over cheesecake and enjoy!

I only remembered to take a picture of the final product (these were extras that C & I enjoyed one night after dinner, along with red velvet minis from my favorite bakery, SusieCakes):

Friday, August 12, 2011

Best of the Week (2)

Best of the Week
August 8 - 12, 2011

I know I've been talking a lot about food lately, but I just had to share this one! When C & I were on vacation, his parents had a bag of Pretz-a-bagels at the house. Say whaaaat?! It's a bagel that tastes like a pretzel or is it a pretzel that looks like a bagel? It even comes with a packet of coarse salt that can be sprinkled on top after it's been toasted and buttered. These are currently only available in limited locations, but C's parents shipped us 4 bags of them. Haha, we'll be set for awhile. Look for them the next time you're at the store!

I never thought I'd be the one saying this, but Rise of the Planet of the Apes was actually really, really, really good! Caesar was awesome! This movie might not be for everyone (heck, I didn't even think it would be for me!), but you may be surprised.

baby ceasar

Let's keep this week's Best Of short & sweet! I've been battling "cold/virus/it's that time of the month (sorry for the TMI)" symptoms so it's amazing that I was able to even get this together. We have our office-wide annual picnic today, meaning free lunch, the chance to win gift cards via Bingo, water balloon toss, and other assorted activities, and an early start to the weekend!

Have a great two days off folks! See you on Monday!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

500 Posts

Hi folks!

I've finally hit the 500 post mark on Sweet Tea Diaries! I started blogging in January of 2009 so I guess it's about time, but I still can't believe I've written 500 posts, and I definitely can't believe that anyone would want to read them! But here you are! So old & new followers, thank you from the bottom of my heart for going on this blog journey with me! If it weren't for many of you, I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago. I am constantly inspired and amazed by all of you and I'm thankful for the many blog friendships I've been blessed with.

Cheers to 500 posts and to all of my readers! Be on the lookout for a giveaway soon!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesdays at the Table (3)

I'm so excited that I'm actually keeping up with this weekly post...yay for consistency! Thank you to Cole for hosting Tuesdays at the Table! Also, I'd love to know if you post recipes on your own blog - I'm always looking for inspiration for the dinner table. Please let me know in the comments!


I'm sad to say that C & I have been eating out a lot more than usual lately. Neither of us wants to cook when it's so hot outside! But a couple of days ago, I was inspired by a post over at YumSugar to make Gwyneth Paltrow's Fried Zucchini Spaghetti because a) I love Gwynnie (duh!), and b) I love pasta!

This recipe is super easy to make, and it tastes delicious! You could definitely add chicken or shrimp to bulk it up, but we went vegetarian this time. I'm doubtful that Gwyneth eats this because it can't be very healthy, but I'll just tell myself that she does and that's why she looks so good!

Eat like Gwynnie = Look as good as Gwynnie!

Serves: 4 / Total Time: 45 minutes

1 pound small zucchini, very thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 cup shredded Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
Freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the flour and a pinch of salt. In a large skillet, heat half of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the zucchini and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until browned and crisp (3-4 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the zucchini to a paper towel-lined wire rack and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining oil and zucchini.

2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Return the pasta to the pot and toss with the 1 cup of cheese, the basil, and a generous pinch of pepper. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time, tossing well to coat. Transfer the pasta to a bowl and top with the crispy zucchini. Serve right away with lemon wedges and additional cheese.

This meal turned out delicious! From start to finish, I'd say it took under half an hour to throw together. The longest part was waiting for the pasta water to come to a boil. I also wanted to note that it's really important to reserve some of the pasta water because it does help to loosen up the pasta noodles once they've been mixed with the parmesan and basil, otherwise it gets too sticky and clumpy to work with.

I hope you'll make this soon! It's a very quick and tasty weeknight meal!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Please Make This For Dinner!

If I had one last wish, it would be that I could convince everyone to make this better than takeout orange chicken. I know that I say many of the recipes I make are "Delicious!" and "Yummy!" (and they are), but this orange chicken is incredible. It has to be one of the best, if not THE best, recipe I have ever made. I pinned this photo last week, and decided it needed to be made asap:

Folks, I can't express how good this is! It tastes just like the orange chicken from a NICE Chinese restaurant and wayyyy better than orange chicken from a fast food Chinese joint.

I know the recipe seems slightly complicated, but it's really not. The most time consuming part is getting your chicken pieces breaded. Once that's done, quickly fry them up in a couple of inches of hot oil. The cornstarch/egg/panko breadcrumbs mixture makes the chicken so crunchy while keeping the inside moist and tender. I thought the sauce was going to be hard to make but it literally came together in less than 5 minutes.

So, if there's one thing to take away from all of this it would have to be...MAKE THIS ORANGE CHICKEN as soon as possible. You won't regret it, and you definitely won't buy the frozen orange chicken from Trader Joe's anymore, either (which is technically still good, but not really when compared to this).

PS - Since I am not a psychic, I had no idea that I would love this recipe as much as I did, hence why there are no step by step pictures here. However, I can guarantee that I will make it again soon, and I'll take pictures when I do!


Friday, August 5, 2011

Best of the Week

Welcome the return of Best of the Week (for this week at least...)! I liked writing this weekly recap so hopefully I can keep some consistency with it, but I make no promises!

I'm just happy because this week flew by for me! Without further ado...

Best of the Week
August 1 - 5, 2011

1. Well, we all knew that I couldn't let the season finale of The Bachelorette pass without mentioning it on my blog! I am so happy for Ashley & JP! Many people hate Ashley and rag on her for being a horrible bachelorette (which I did do that as well), but in the end I think she definitely made the right decision! As for Ashley's sister, I think she was way out of line with her behavior towards JP, but I'm glad that she has since apologized and admitted that she was wrong.

the picture from the photo album JP gave Ashley on their last date

Also, JP tweets now and Ashley has made her account public again!

2. I made a delicious dinner this week, courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow. I will share the how-to and pictures next week for Tuesdays at the Table, but here is a sneak peek:

Yum! The best part was how quick & easy it was!

3. Shark Week! It's scary to see these animals in action, but fascinating! My favorite show this week was Shark City.

As a side note, C & I watched Soul Surfer last night and I cried at least 15 times. Like, legitimately had tears rolling down my face. It was so inspiring and really teaches a lesson that even if bad things happen to good people, it doesn't mean you have to react in a negative way. Instead, try to see the good in everything and every situation!

And one not so "Best of the Week" event:

My bike and I had a fight with the road, and unfortunately, the road won. It wasn't that horrible of a fall, but it still hurts! My hand is bruised from where I fell on it and my side is also bruised up. But luckily I was able to get back up and keep on going! (After remaining on the road for a few was embarrassing!)

PS - If you are a biker/runner/walker you should have a RoadID! It's a bracelet that has your name, your emergency contact's number, your insurance number, blood type, known allergies, etc. so in case you are in a bad accident, emergency help will have all of the information they need to help you immediately. Here is mine (info blacked out for obvious reasons):

Have a great weekend!