Friday, May 29, 2015

Sweet & Sticky Honey Soy Sauce Chicken Strips

We had plans to have our friends over for dinner a few weeks ago with their new baby, Christopher.  He is almost 5 months old now and such a happy, smiling little sweetheart!

I wanted to serve a meal that wasn't too complicated since it was a weeknight and I wouldn't have much time to prep the night of, but I wanted it to be something special, tasty and not too simple since I imagine the new parents have to lean heavily on simple, quick meals since they both have full time jobs and now a bouncy babe to spend their time on!

I saw this chicken recipe on Todd & Diane's blog and I was intrigued!  Though the recipe looked a little advanced at first with lots of ingredients - albeit ones that are almost definitely in the refrigerator and pantry - I went for it.

With a new recipe, I like to do a trial run on Andy and myself, to see what I would change, if anything.  The recipe looked like it called for too much sauce to me so I only made a quarter the first time around.  My mistake.  This sauce is so good!  Andy and I were both wishing we had more!

{ Sweet & Sticky Honey Soy Sauce }

I've breaded chicken before, for Chicken Parmesan, so that part was familiar and easy enough.  As with Chicken Parmesan, I cut the chicken breast into similarly sized pieces, then use a meat tenderizer to smash them to a similar thickness to ensure even and quick cooking.  Another key tip is making sure to prepare your 'chicken station' before starting the breading process.  Both of these steps are really important so don't cut corners to try to save time, it'll get ya in the long run!  My final tip is to keep the panko on standby - I always end up using more panko (pictured far right) than the recipe calls for.  If I'm going to bother to bread chicken, I prefer maximum chicken coverage ;)

Ready for the oven...

Bake for 25 minutes...

Toss the cooked and crispy chicken in the sauce, sprinkle with a fresh garnish....

Juicy, tender, crispy coated chicken, with tangy, sweet sauce and fresh basil and scallions - oh yeah!

I served the chicken strips with some quinoa "fried rice" the first time around, but served with my Kale Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette (get the recipe here) for our friends.

Sweet & Stick Honey Soy Sauce Chicken Strips

Ingredients for Chicken Strips:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, rinsed, cut into strips and tenderized
1 - 2 c panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
3/4 c flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper

Ingredients for Sauce:

1/2 c ketchup
1/2 c honey
1/4 c soy sauce
1 tbsp sriracha
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar

Ingredients for Serving:

1/3 c sliced green onions (top, green parts only!)
A few fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped


Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Prep your chicken breading area before you go any further.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Line up your raw chicken, flour, eggs and panko in order and use some metal tongs to avoid getting your hands too messy.  Whisk the salt and pepper into your flour bowl.

One at a time, dip your chicken strips into flour, then egg, then panko and lay out evenly on your lined cookie sheet.  Once your chicks are coated and lined up and your oven is preheated, bake for 15 minutes, flip and bake for another 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

While chicken is baking, prepare this delicious sauce!  I like to run the honey bottle under warm water to loosen things up and make it easier to stir.  Combine all elements of the sauce into a medium to large glass measuring cup and stir until combined.

Use a wok or large skillet, turn on low to medium heat, just hot enough to warm the sauce since your chicken should still be hot from the oven.  Add half of the cooked chicken strips and half of the sauce, tossing gently to coat.  Set aside on a serving platter.  Repeat with second half.

Sprinkle your chicken on the platter with scallions and basil and serve warm!  Be kind to your guests and have a print out of this recipe ready to send home with them - they'll definitely want to know your recipe secrets on this one!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Full Brows

It is no secret that I'm not big on wearing a lot of makeup.  I will usually wear powder and mascara but anything beyond that, if requires more effort that I could take or leave on any given day.

However, since I did my own makeup for my wedding last year, I spent some time experimenting on ways I could wear more makeup to look more polished, while still feeling like myself.  I tried a few light, liquid concealers, some eyeliners, lipsticks, cream blush and eyebrow gel.

The only thing that stuck was lipstick - which isn't even a traditional lipstick, it is more of a moisturizing lip colour :)  But it was an educating experience!  (I really took this Elle article to heart)  I realized I like the idea of paying more attention to my eyebrows to help make my eyes stand out, while not piling on the eyeliner or resorting to false lashes on a daily basis.

So began my desire to have better eyebrows.

I wanted my brows to be full while groomed, but the gels and pencils weren't cutting it.  It is an absolute necessity for me that they look natural and not drawn in at all.  So I stopped plucking any brow hairs with the exception of the beginnings of uni-brow or strays creeping toward my eyelid.  For my wedding, I didn't end up doing anything but using a spooley brush to groom...

Months after our wedding, I read about this brow powder on Cupcakes and Cashmere and decided I would give more makeup another shot.  I ordered the Anastasia Brow Powder Duo in Soft Brown and use this Sephora brush to apply it...and I love it!  

I love it so much that I'm willing to endure some close ups to share it with you.

And you know how much I dig a close up (not) let's get this party started!

These are my eyebrows before any brow powder or grooming...

{ Before Anastasia Brow Powder }

And my eyebrows after a little attention...

{ After Anastasia Brow Powder }

Super subtle.  You could definitely say it is not enough of a difference to bother with the brow powder.  But since I've started tinting my eyebrows I've gotten compliments on... my face.  It is an odd thing to say, I know.  However, I think it is a good thing that I don't get compliments specifically on my eyebrows, even though that is the only thing I've done differently.  I don't want to walk around with obviously drawn in eyebrows.

Most importantly, darkening my eyebrows makes me feel a little more put together.  Like a spot of bronzer or blush on my cheeks, filling in my eyebrows is a super fast and easy way to feel more polished.

To further blend in the powder, I use this Anastasia Beverly Hills Brush #12 with a spooley brush for grooming and blending.  (I use the other side, the angle cut brush, when I want to apply eye shadow as an eye liner.)

Since I'm talking about makeup, I have to share my new method of storing my makeup.

I used to store it in a makeup bag and go through the trouble, every day, of dumping all my makeup out on the counter to use it, then either packing it all back in the bag or leaving it all out, looking messy.  That is a lot of wear and tear on those packed powders and brush bristles!

I found this cheerful and feminine tray at Target for $25.  I've had for about a few months now and I'm so happy I decided to make this simple change.  The fabric bottom is a nice, gentle surface to display my makeup on for easy access, and the tray makes a much prettier way to store and easily move my makeup!

Do you have any makeup or beauty tips that you've recently come across or swear by?  I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Caramel Swirl Brownies

Brownies are for those times that we want fresh baked sweets but don't feel like messing around with cookies.  These babies are dense, chewy and chocolate-y with rich chocolate chips and a swirl of luxurious caramel.  Yassss!

I love 'morning after' photoshoots.  A bite of this brownie washed down with fresh, hot coffee...this. is. my. jam. YUM!  Normally I'm a fruit for breakfast kind of gal, but its for the good of the blog that I had this brownie this morning.  I swear <3

Caramel Swirl Brownies


3/4 c cocoa
1 1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c butter
1 2/3 c sugar
1/4 c Ghirardelli chocolate chips
1/4 c caramel sauce (we like this kind)


Prepare your 8" square brownie pan with a cooking spray and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  (I use this pan and love it!)

Sift your dry ingredients together - cocoa, flour, baking powder, salt.  In a small bowl, whisk your eggs, water and vanilla.  In a large bowl, cut butter into 1/2 tbsp chunks and microwave for 30 - 45 seconds.  Use a fork to stir the melty butter and help melt the chunks that didn't melt (instead of microwaving longer).

Stir sugar into the butter bowl.  Once combined, add egg mixture into the sugar and butter mixture.  Finally stir in your dry ingredients until you achieve batter consistency (don't over stir).  Mix in your chocolate chips then turn batter out into baking pan, using the back of a spoon to spread out.

Warm the caramel sauce in the microwave for 20-30 seconds then drizzle over the top of your brownie batter.  Use a spatula (not a spoon, you don't want to scratch the pan) to draw a "tick-tak-toe" pattern through the caramel and the batter.

Bake for between 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick comes out slightly moist.  You don't want to bake until the toothpick is clean, since brownies keep cooking after they've come out of the oven.

Let the brownies cool for at least 15 minutes (if you can stand it) so they get a nice and chewy consistency!

Now go on and make sure you have all the ingredients in your kitchen.  I'm not sure what kind of day you're having so far, but I guarantee these will make everything better ;)



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Stacked Heels and Cage Sandals

A little photo shoe-t to kick off the work week...

Whenever I go abroad, I desperately want to wear heels when we go out, but those charming cobblestone streets will have none of it!

I've been so excited with the stacked heel trend this year and especially my new Vero sandals from M. Gemi.  I recently discovered M. Gemi and I can tell I'll be visiting their website often for my shoe needs (I use the term "needs" loosely).  M. Gemi is a direct-to-consumer company that promises Italian-made, luxury-quality shoes without the retail markup - I'll buy that!  Finally, quality without the $500+ price tag.

My other favorite shoes of the summer are these Joie cage sandals (Now 30% off at Shopbop).  I've already worn them here, herehere and mentioned them here but since I love them so much, I think they need a little extra attention on a shoe post.  These beauties will not be be coming abroad with me anytime soon, but they've fiercely been taking me all over Ann Arbor, and they are comfortable to boot!

What are your thoughts on stacked heels or cage sandals?  Afraid of feeling like you're at a disco or having sausage feet like KK?  Or are do you think you'll step up to the trend?  The topic is certainly foot for thought!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ryleigh meets Chloe & Christi

I adore my nieces and nephews A LOT and love to take opportunities to do something special with them that we'll both remember forever.  A few weeks ago, Andy and I are hanging out after dinner when I get a text from my 10-year-old niece, Ryleigh.

"Hi Aunt Charlie!  Can you take me to see Chloe from Dance Moms in Troy?"

Even though this text was pretty abrupt and random, I knew of the show Dance Moms, so I said 'maybe, what day?' she said 'next Friday'.  Quick peek at the calendar and I was miraculously free so I said sure!  I called her mom to worked out the logistics of when, where and how and just like that suddenly Andy and I were having Ryleigh stay with us for a few nights!

The event in Troy was a Meet & Greet with Chloe and Christi.  Andy and I picked Ryleigh up from West Michigan on Thursday and then high-tailed back to Ann Arbor so Andy and I could both get back to work!  Andy works from home, which is the only way that this could work out so beautifully, Ryleigh stayed with him while I went to work downtown.  For the rest of the afternoon I was getting tags on Instagram (@charlielbl) videos and pictures of Jules, ha!

After work, we decided to head to the park before going out to dinner...

Ryleigh talked me into getting on the merry-go-round after she had her turn.  Did I mention I get insanely motion sick?  I can't go on boats without putting a Transderm patch the day before, planes I can handle because fall asleep the second I get in my seat (it's awesome) and cars, I have to drive.  Even then sometimes my own driving makes me sick!  I made a deal with Andy that he would stop me immediately if I asked.  I think I made it around 5 times before I tapped out ;)

^^ Swings make me sick too, HAHA!

The stomach settled and we went for a casual dinner at Grizzly Peak and then scored some candy for later and ice cream for now at Kilwin's!

The next day was the BIG day!  But first we both had to take care of some business.  I went to work and received this text from hard, play hard :)

I took the afternoon off so Ryleigh and I sunned a bit on the deck before getting ready to head out to meet Chloe and Christi!

Ryleigh wanted to learn how to use my camera so we had some fun around the house...

Andy called us to the front of the house where he found a painted turtle, we affectionately named Turd.

Jules wanted to get in on the action but I think if we let him out he would never come back...  He's a wild beast at heart.

We left early to beat traffic, and get in line for the event since the seats were general admission.  We got front row and center!

We played around a bit...

Then got kicked out and told to stand in the hallway.  The center seats were "VIP".  Great.

Either way, we were first in line in the general admission line!  And the seats ended up not mattering since Chloe and Christi walked around the whole time.

After some serious negotiations, I bought Ryleigh a t-shirt and put $5 in a raffle to win some boots Chloe wore in her recent Just For Kix photo shoot...

Everyone was holding their breath, anxiously staring at the door, quietly waiting for Chloe to enter....

There they are!  All the girls screamed and cheered, it was pretty cute :)

And Chloe was pretty interested in her phone.  Typical 14-year-old!  (Actually, typical everyone these days...)

Ryleigh and I both got picked on to ask a question during the Q&A session so we got to talk to them both directly!  And we both knew answers to the "trivia" session where Christi & Chloe asked the audience questions and we each won a Team Chloe bracelet.  (I think Christi kept picking on me because we bonded over owning the same pair of heels!!)

Chloe seemed like a sweet girl, but a bit shy at times.  When someone would ask a question that Chloe could answer with one word, she didn't pass on the opportunity.  "Do you like your new dance studio?" "Yes." - NEXT!

Christi on the other hand was not shy - she was sassy and hilarious!  Christi definitely kept the conversations going and would elaborate on her answers.  She sort of made you feel like you were chatting with your friend over a glass of wine at home.  Speaking of wine, she shared some Dance Moms gossip, including that the moms would drink wine out of coffee cups on the show to keep things interesting, ha!

And then...

Ryleigh won the raffle!  She won the boots!  I couldn't believe it!  I think I was more excited than she was because I never win this kind of thing.  When they called her name, she went up to get the boots from Chloe and she got to hug Chloe!  A big moment for a 10-year-old, she got to hug a "celebrity" she looks up to!  Hooray!

^^ The boots were signed by Chloe and Christi, and they were my size!  I tried to get her to let me keep one, but she was not having it...

It was a torrential downpour when we were leaving the hotel so we sprinted across the parking lot to my car!  Naturally, my shoe flew off so I made her stop and go back to get it with me.  And I was wearing a white silk shirt...not my finest moment!  Good thing we were just going straight home!

Another epic weekend with my niece in the books!  She is growing up way too fast!