Back on the Ranch...

My other self lives somewhere in the Sierra Nevada's, surrounded by wilderness as far as her eyes can see. The most captivating sunsets blaze across the sky every night. She gets up early, when the red dirt is still cool and birds call to each other signaling the break of daylight, to saddle up her horse for a morning ride along dusty trails that lead to the best sunrise vantage point around.

She counts the foxes, ground squirrels, lizards, and rabbits that scatter from the path ahead. She glances down at the toes of her favorite boots, which were once her mother's, and notices the places they're worn. She breathes deeply, inhaling the smell of a southwestern morning and can almost taste the coffee that is surely waiting for her back home on the ranch.

My other self dresses like this:

...and lives here:

 ...and she's certainly one fabulous, rough and tumble, fashionable lil' lady!


Thrifty Thursdays: Loaded BlackBeanBurgers w/ Avocado Ranch & Baked Kale 'Chips'

Loaded BlackBeanBurgers w/ Avocado Ranch
& Baked Kale "Chips"
$20 makes 8 burgers!

1 can black beans
1/2c red onion, chopped
1/2c bell pepper (red/green/both) chopped
1/2c whole kernel corn 
1/2c mushrooms, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1c cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pasilla pepper, seeded & chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
1c pepper jack cheese, shredded
2 eggs, scrambled
1c bread crumbs
1 tbsp Cholula or hotsauce
1tsp chili powder, cumin
salt, pepper 
lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese to top with

1. In a large pot, moosh up blackbeans until they form a thick paste.
2. In a food processor: finely chop onion, bell pepper, zucchini, garlic, pasilla, jalapeno, mushrooms, cilantro. Add to beans.
3. Over med. heat, stir in corn, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, cholula, chili, cumin, salt, pepper. Mix well for 3-5 mins until cooked.
4. Form into patties. Grill 10-12 mins, until cooked through and crispy on both sides. Serve on a toasty bun with avocado ranch, lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese.

Avocado Ranch~
1/4c buttermilk
2 tbsp sour cream
1 lemon
1 avocado
2 cloves garlic, minced
1tsp salt
1tsp cholula
1tsp dill

1. In a food processor: blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy.
2. Serve chilled.
3. yummy!

Kale Chips~
1 bunch kale
salt, pepper, olive oil to toss

1. Heat oven to 350'.
2. Toss kale with olive oil, salt, pepper to lightly coat.
3. Bake for 15-20 mins until crispy and toasted around edges.
4. Spritz with lemon juice, serve immediately.


Monday's Music to My Ears: Mango Tree

When I was little I used to love to pretend. I built an imaginary stable in my backyard, complete with imaginary arenas, tack rooms, and of course an imaginary horse in every color. I set up jumps that I would soar over, mounted upon my imaginary horses, and make circles, galloping around the yard. I had a wooden chest that was filled to the brim with beautiful dress-up clothes... gaudy clip-on earrings, plastic "high heels", feather boas and all. I pretended I was a "fairy-princess-bride", which was my official Halloween costume more than once. Pretending is like lying right to reality's face...and it's amazing.

What happens to pretending as we grow up? Well, it sure as heck doesn't go away! Instead it often rears it's head in a much less fluffy, glittery, sugary way and get's mistaken for words like pride, fear, and shame. Shame on you (and me!) for taking the fun and innocence out of this creative outlet and for making it all stiff and serious and adulty. So instead of "pretending" that we can afford the things we own or to be something we're not... let's all pretend to be fairy-princess-brides that ride imaginary horses; who's to say we're not?!

But for now, let's start small, to get our pretending legs back. I'll go first. I'm going to pretend it's Monday (not Wednesday) and that this blog post was right on time. So I hope you're all enjoying this lovely Monday and that this sweet song brings a smile to your afternoon!  (see, isn't that easy?)

Mango Tree, Angus & Julia Stone


Thrifty Thursdays: Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Soup & Herb-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Asparagus

Today we had our first real thunderstorm of the season and it certainly came in with a bang. It was dark, cold, windy, and wet...all.day.long. Luckily, I was able to park myself on our giant, comfy couch and catch up on some blog-readin', web-surfin', and tv-watchin' (which was short-lived, considering our tv comes to us via a metal hanger and piece of wood) whilst in my pajamas. Un-luckily, it was my day off and I am battling a ferocious viral attack on my vital organs.

Nevertheless, I got myself up and into the kitchen to whip up this cozy, comfort-food feast for my hardworking hubby and I (humor my pity-card a little?). This tasty spread combines the powers of spices, veggies, omega-3s, and good ole' country cooking to create a flavor-filled and vitamin-packed feast that will clear your congestion and warm your soul. Cozy up with this yummy meal tonight! Bring it on, Spring!

Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Soup 
Herb-Crusted Salmon with Roasted Asparagus *
$14 for 2

For the Soup:

1  14oz. can diced tomatoes
2c vegetable broth
1/2c red onion, chopped
1/2c red bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2tbsp olive oil
2tbsp butter
1 tsp ginger paste
1tbsp flour
1/4c heavy cream
salt, pepper to taste
2tbsp basil, oregano, parsley chopped (plus more for garnish)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow baking pan, toss onion, bell pepper, garlic with 2tbsp olive oil. Roast in oven for 10-15 minutes.
2. In a medium sauce pan, bring broth, tomatoes, ginger to a boil. Add celery, roasted mix, chopped herbs, flour, butter. simmer for 10mins. 
3. In a food processor/blender, pulse soup until smooth. Return to pot. Stir in cream, salt, pepper, to taste.
4. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve hot!

For the Salmon:

2 4oz portions fresh, wild caught salmon fillet
1c bread crumbs
1/2 tsp each: garlic powder, dried oregano, sea salt, pepper
2tbsp olive oil
6-8 stalks asparagus

1. Mix herbs and bread crumbs, pour onto a plate or into a medium ziploc bag.
2. Coat fillets with olive oil, then dip in bread crumbs (or shake in bag to coat completely).
3. Place in a shallow baking pan, cook in oven (400degrees) for 12mins, or until flakes easily with fork.
4. Drizzle asparagus with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Cook for 12 mins.

* Also served with golden Buttery Biscuits (recipe posted earlier), yum!

Golden Buttery Biscuits, oh my!

These perfectly golden, flaky, buttery biscuits are the perfect side for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not only are they quick and easy, this no-frills recipe protects baking fools (like myself) from failure. Put down the Pillsbury can- I'm guessing you already have the simple ingredients to make some golden, buttery biscuits of your own, today!

1 3/4c all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick butter, chopped
3/4c milk (1c if using buttermilk)

1. Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt. (I used my Kitchenaid mixer)
2. Slowly add chopped butter, until coarse meal forms.
3. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly until dough forms.
4. Turn dough out onto floured surface, press flat to 1/2'' thick. Using the rim of a glass, punch out round shapes.
5. Bake on a lightly greased sheet for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on top.
6. Serve warm with your favorite topping (butter, honey, jam, gravy...) yum!


Wedding Watch: Succulent Bouquets!

One of my main ambitions for my blog was to keep a digital, progressive scrapbook of my favorite design and decorating ideas. I have long daydreamed of being a wedding & event planner someday and have been stashing photos, ideas, and inspirational photos in desktop folders for years... with 2011's wedding season in full swing, I am excited to begin sharing some of my favorites with you!

For starters, I am absolutely in love with the idea of incorporating succulents into sweet bouquets for every season! Take advantage of these hardy little plants' scrumptious hues and intricate designs that can add texture and dimension to any floral arrangement. As this lovely collection of photos shows, you can certainly have your perfect peonies, romantic roses, delightful dahlias and a unique succulent display in every palette, too!


Monday's Music to My Ears: Heaven When We're Home ~Happy Mother's Day!~

" It's a long and rugged road
and we don't now where it's headed
But we know it's going to get us where we're going
And when we find what we're looking for
we'll drop these bags and search no more
'Cuz it's going to feel like heaven when we're home
It's going to feel like heaven when we're home "
~the Wailin' Jennys

   In light of Mother's Day yesterday I wanted to share a song by an extremely talented group of women, The Wailin' Jennys, whose angelic harmonies and hollow acoustics blend to create a unique, transcendent folk-bluegrass-gospel sound. I have been a fan of their music for a while but this song in particular is my very favorite- if I were to pick just one. I added it to a "mix tape" (cd) playlist I made my mom a few years ago, around the time I moved 1,000 miles away from home. Every time I listen to it, I think of my mom and the home she built for my family. 

   I am so blessed to have such an amazing, strong, generous, selfless, thoughtful, sensitive, courageous, passionate, and creative woman as my mother- she truly touches the lives of those around her in ways she may never fully know... during the time she spent volunteering in my elementary school classrooms (and: chaperoning dances, making banners by hand for every soccer team, driving us back and forth from various extracurriculars, staying up all night to help sew Holloween costumes and finish book reports )...  to the countless hours she has devoted to caring for the elderly and physically-challenged members of the community. She doesn't bat an eye if someone desperately calls her seeking a last-minute favor and she has never once turned down an offer for work- she has always been willing to learn new things and commits herself 110% to everything she does. She has beat odds; overcome obstacles; and kept on going. 

    I can honestly say that I have never met someone with a heart as big as my mom's- and while I attempt every year to pen my appreciation for her in the blank spaces of greeting cards- I can never fully express all I want to say to her. After all, there are some things that simply are not meant to be 'put into words'. I am so proud {humbled/in awe/grateful} to say that I love her because of the mom she is and has been for me; she is not "my best friend" or "like a sister" to me... she is my mom- the mom God knew that I would need. It breaks my heart to see her cry and her laughter is one of my absolute favorite sounds in the world. I love that I have her hands and 'old Indian woman feet'. She nurtured my compassion for animals and she taught me to love all living things. In those moments; those memories; my mom was not only helping me grow up/ into the woman I would become- she was establishing the roots of our family (our home); and I am yet to find another place quite like it. 

   So this song is for my mom, and your mom, and any one who has helped to make "home" everything you know, and love, it to be. That place you can picture when you close your eyes; that feels like heaven~ no matter where we have been. 

The Wailin' Jennys, "Heaven When We're Home"

Thank You Mom.
I love you. 


Thrifty Thursdays: Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Baja Fish Tacos with Perky Peach Salsa & Frozen Peach Margs!

The United States does not take it's nickname as the "melting pot" lightly. It seems like every other day of the year is dedicated to honoring cultures from all over the world- and what better way to celebrate than with a party?! We've taken some of the essentials: food, drinks, music and combined them with hints of heritage to create annual-get-togethers of epic porportions! Think Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Oktoberfest, Kwanzaa... and of course, Cinco de Mayo! While the actual 5th of May is a relatively forgettable day in Mexico's history, thanks to a wild bunch of Southern Californians, it has become a nation-wide excuse for mixing up some mighty margaritas, grubbing on chips & guacamole, and turning up the Mariachi music! 

  This week's Thrifty Thursday has all the ingredients for a delicious "Cinco" celebration of your own! Get the beach chairs and inflatable palm tree out of the garage and into the yard, rim those margarita glasses, and say "ole!" to a fabulous Mexi-Cali fiesta tonight!

Baja Fish Tacos w/ Perky Peach Salsa
$10 makes 4-6 tacos

4-6 small corn tortillas
2 4oz. wild-caught fillets mahi mahi (or Tilapia)
1 med. tomato, cut into wedges
1 pasilla pepper, seeded and quartered
1 red jalapeno pepper, quartered (keep seeds in for more punch!)
1 generous handful cilantro (plus more for garnish)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4c red onion, chopped
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1 lime, cut into 4ths (plus more for garnish)
1c shredded cabbage
1 can sliced peaches (in juice) drained
2 tbsp seasoning (I cheated by using Simply Organic's Fish Taco seasoning, but you can make your own using chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, etc.) 
salt & pepper
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
2 tbsp mayo
2 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Cut fish into bite-size cubes. Place in a medium ziploc bag, add juice from 1/4lime, 2 tbsp seasoning, a dash of oil. Mix well, refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Prepare the salsa! For chunkier, pico-like salsa chop by hand, for smoother salsa, use a food processor.  Chop/add tomato, peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro, and canned peaches to food processor. Pulse until smooth. Stir in chile powder and cayenne powder, juice from 1/2 lime, salt & pepper to taste.
3. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet. Add fish and cook about 10mins.
5. In a smaller pan, cook tortillas until slightly toasted on both sides (use a tad butter or oil, cook 10-15 seconds each side).
6. Toppings: Spritz avocado chunks with juice from 1/4 lime.  Mix mayo with a pinch of chili/cayenne. Spoon salsa into a small dip bowl.
7. Dollop mayo onto each tortilla, place 4-5 pieces of fish in middle. Top with salsa, avocado, cabbage.
8. Serve with lime wedge & some yummy sides (we had Alexia brand Chipotle Sweet Potato fries & black beans!) mmm!* 

* Blend up a batch of these delicious Frozen Peach Margaritas to start the party right!