Running from the Law: November 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mommy's Holiday Wishlist

1. Stitch Fix Gift Certificates - Receiving Stitch Fix boxes has definitely been one of the highlights of my year. I love this service that picks out items for you, based on your style preferences. I love being surprised by what my stylist chooses for me and am always thrilled by how well things fit and how much I wear and love the items. Stitch Fix gift certificates are the perfect gift for any SF lover or anyone wanting to try out the service. (hint hint: scroll all the way down for a big surprise!)

2. Cuisinart smoothie maker - The kids and I have really been into smoothies lately and have had so much fun trying out new recipes. My go-to is a banana, almond butter, oatmeal creation with some vanilla greek yogurt. Amazing. However, I hate dragging out my huge blender daily (not to mention cleaning it). A smoothie maker with travel cups would be awesome.

3. Tory Burch tassel key fob - I currently have a gold tassel key fob that I love, but it's slowly being pulled apart by the kids. I am crushing hard on this bright colorful rainbow tassel key fob from Tory Burch. Seriously, she can do no wrong in my book.

4. Swell water bottle - I realize I'm totally late to the game on the Swell bottles, but I'm obsessed with this pretty gold bottle.

5. Kendra Scott earrings - I have a few pairs of KS earrings and they're all just so pretty! I love the ones with bright colors, but I especially adore these white and gold ones. They are the perfect neutral that will go with everything!

6. Powerbeats wireless headphones - These wireless Bluetooth headphones are on the top of my list so I can finally ditch the cord to my cell phone while I run. It would be so nice not to have to untangle earbuds every single time I went for a run or get myself all caught up in the cord while I listened to my audiobooks in the evening while doing household chores. 

7. iPhone 7plus - While I've never been a sucker for having the latest and greatest technology, I'm drooling over the new camera on the iPhone 7 plus and pining over having more memory to take more (and better) photos of the kids while we're out and about.  

8. Canon 35mm f/1.4 L lens - Speaking of photos, this lens is next on my lineup of must haves. I've been desperately wanting a wide angle lens so I can take better photos indoors during those cold dark winter months when we're not outside as much. I love my 50mm f/1.4, but I need something that allows me to get a bit closer to the kids and not be shooting straight up their noses.

9. Melissa Button Frye boots - I need these boots in my life, STAT. I've been wanting them forever and ever amen. Please Santa. 

10. Bay leaf wreath - Slightly weird, but I'm obsessed with these gorgeous bay leaf wreaths. I love the smell of bay leaves and fresh herbs and want to hang one of these babies from every single door and window in my house. 

11. Ray-Bans Rimless Aviators - These sunglasses are my all-time favorites. For some reason, the rimless frames are the only ones that look good on my face and don't look like they're drooping down to my chin. I want them in every color/shade they come in. I already have the original, but these brown/gold ones are next on my list.  

12. Tieks - Again, something that I already own, but can't get enough of. If you're wondering if they're worth the price...yes, they absolutely are. I have the mustard yellow color and now want them in hot pink, leopard, black matte, gold and tan. Give me all the Tieks. 

What's on the top of your wishlist this year?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

7 Deadly Sins Brownie Bars

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TidingsAndTreats #CollectiveBias
One of my favorite things about the holidays has to be making treats to give to our friends, neighbors and family. While some people make cookies or pie, I make the world's best brownie bar. And I am not even close to kidding when I call this the world's's that good! When I bring this bar to parties, people gush and rave. They beg me for the recipe. They melt a little with each bite. The last few years I've been whipping up a batch of these brownie bars for my co-workers, in a small effort to thank them for putting up with me all year and apologizing for having to deal with me. I think these bars may single-handedly be the reason I'm still employed. Until now, I've never shared the recipe so they have to keep me around so I'll keep making the bars. Fingers crossed that none of them read this post. 

These 7 Deadly Sins Brownie Bars contain seven of the most incredible, decadent, wonderful ingredients you could ever throw together and they're guaranteed to make you a believer.  Everything you could possibly want/love/crave is in these bars. They're chewy and crunchy. They're sweet and salty. They're chocolatey and peanut buttery. They're UNBELIEVABLE. And bonus - they're easy to make! Let's start from the bottom and work our way up, shall we? 
Brownie Base Layer
The bottom layer of this masterpiece is all brownie. Feel free to use a box of brownie mix and make as directed. Or if you're feeling ultra-fancy, you can make your brownie layer from scratch (you overachiever, you!). You can make your brownies as soft and chewy or dense and crunchy as you'd like, but just be sure to grease the pan well so the bars come out easily and don't stick to the side of the pan. 
Frosting Fluff Layer
After your brownies have cooled completely, mix one container of vanilla icing (or flavor of your choosing) with one container of marshmallow fluff. The two combined make the most incredibly, rich, whipped concoction that you've ever tasted. Try not to eat spoonfuls of just the icing - you want at least enough for a thick layer to spread evenly over the brownies. 
Salty Crunch Surprise
At this point, you might be questioning my sanity as to why keep going when we've already made an absolutely incredible dessert. Just trust me here...I will not lead you astray. While brownies topped with vanilla marshmallow fluff icing sounds like perfection, we're not even half way through this dessert yet. Don't give up on me now! Next up, add a cup of coarsely chopped lightly salted peanuts to the brownies. I made the mistake of throwing some peanuts in a plastic bag and lettime Mac go at them with the hammer. They were nearly pulverized to smithereens and peanut dust, so I had to throw that bag away and do it myself with a lighter hand. Also, I've made this recipe with and without this peanut layer (as I'm not really a huge fan of nutty desserts), but this one is better with the nuts. Again, trust me. 
Chocolate Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Layer
Our final layer is what puts this recipe above and beyond anything else you've ever tasted: melted chocolate chips, swirled with creamy peanut butter, mixed with Rice Krispies cereal. If this layer doesn't convince you that this recipe deserves a gold medal, I don't know what possibly could. This is my favorite layer. I could eat this layer all by itself for every meal of my life. It's SOOOOO good. I use semi-sweet chocolate chips, creamy peanut butter and Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal. Trust me on the Rice Krispies - use Kellogg's because the generic brands go flat/stale and lose their crunch when mixed with the chocolate. 
Cool & Slice
Once your 7 Deadly Sins Brownie Bars are fully assembled, pop the dish into the fridge for about an hour and let the whole thing cool and harden. The top Rice Krispies layer will solidify, but not be so hard that it's tough to bite through. You want the whole dessert to harden enough so that you can cut the brownies into bars for serving without the whole thing falling apart. Although, if it does fall apart, it still tastes just as good (if not better). Feel free to let soften a little bit once sliced (but good luck not eating it all immediately). 
Cooking with Kids
If your kids are anything like mine, they absolutely love helping in the kitchen. Of course, their definition of helping is far from my definition of helping, but I do like to get them involved and let them feel like they offered some assistance. They're always so proud of the help they give and it gives me a way to work on following directions, being patient and cleaning up after yourself. They get the added benefit of getting to try out all the ingredients (and licking the spoons) and I get a bit of extra help in washing the dishes (which they inexplicably love to do). Although, when they saw me break out the box of Rice Krispies, they immediately wanted a bowl full of cereal with their lunch. 
They're going to blow your mind. Don't say I didn't warn you. Try not to overdose. Good luck. You can thank me later. 
  • 1 box brownie mix
  • Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on brownie mix box
  • 1 container vanilla frosting
  • 1 container marshmallow fluff
  • 1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 bag (12 oz or 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven and make brownies as directed on box in greased 13x9 inch pan. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
  2. Mix icing and marshmallow fluff together in a medium-sized bowl. Frost brownies with icing mixture.
  3. Sprinkle brownies with peanuts; refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, measure Rice Krispies into large bowl; set aside. In saucepan or double-broiler, melt peanut butter and chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Pour over cereal in bowl, stirring until evenly coated.
  5. Spread over iced brownies. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until set before cutting.
  6. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.
#Treats4Toys & Target
Kellogg's Rice Krispies cereal (original and the red/green holiday special box) can be found at your local Target, in the cereal aisle. Right now they're running a special where you can buy 2 get 1 free of Jet puffed marshmallows and Rice & Cocoa Krispies cereal (thru 12/3). Also, if you make a treat using Rice Krispies cereal and share a photo of it on social media using the tag #Treats4Toys, Rice Krispies will donate a toy to a child in need through Toys for Tots! Now thru January 1st. So head over to Target and get the biggest box you can find. You won't regret it.  

For more Kellogg's inspiration and recipes, please check out THIS SITE

Brownie, frosted fluff, or chocolate peanut butter Rice Krispies...
which would be your favorite layer?  

Monday, November 28, 2016

Simple, Savory & SMARTMADE™ Meals

There's Never Enough Time
I don't know what exactly it is about this time of year, but life is crazy right now! Maybe it's because we're trying to cram so many fall and holiday activities into fewer daylight hours that there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. Maybe it's because my husband is traveling so much for work as he preps for a big upcoming trial and I feel like I'm left doing the work of two during the week. Maybe it's because I'm trying really really hard to lose the rest of that baby weight and finally feel good/confident about myself again that it takes more energy than I ever imagined to be active and disciplined. Or maybe it's just that life's crazy because I'm a mom and kids are a lot of work! 
Whatever it is, I've been left with a deficit of time, energy and enthusiasm. By the time I get home from work and dinner rolls around most nights, I'm utterly exhausted and overwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook -- but cooking a balanced, healthy, delicious meal for one person is sometimes just too hard, impractical and unnecessary. It's important for me to eat well, but honestly, it's just too hard to whip something healthy up most nights when you have kids clamoring for your attention and begging to be held, played with and doted on. I know they miss me during the day (because I miss them fiercely!) and as hungry as I am when I get home, I'd much rather spend the time it would take to make myself dinner with them instead of cooking. So, I'm constantly looking for ways to simplify my weeknight meals, whether that's make-ahead single-serve portioned meals, healthy take-out options, slow cooker dinners, or frozen meals.
10 Things I'd Rather Do Than Cook Dinner for Myself
  1. Play games with the kids - we've really been into Kerplunk lately.
  2. Paint pictures.
  3. Have a dance party! The Little Mermaid and the Superman theme song are on constant repeat around here.
  4. Go geocaching in a local park. 
  5. Take a bubble bath together. 
  6. Take a ridiculous amount of photos of the kids in matching jammies. 
  7. Watch Superman.
  8. Go for a wagon ride around the neighborhood. 
  9. Play Hide & Seek.
  10. Do a craft project. 
Easy Healthy Meal Solutions
Over the last few months my go-to weeknight single-serving meal was a piece of frozen salmon, sprinkled with taco seasoning and topped with some peach salsa, served alongside a portion of frozen microwaved broccoli: healthy, yet boring. 9 times out of 10, I overcooked/burned the fish because the kids were begging me to read them a book, play a game or chase them around the basement. And seriously, there are only so many nights in a row you can eat bland steamed broccoli. I'm over this meal. While I love slow cooker meals, they usually take some pre-planning the night before and/or set-up that morning and I'm just too much of a disorganized mess these days to follow through. Again, who has the time? This has left me with one very simple, practical and (surprisingly) delicious option: SMARTMADE ™ by SmartOnes (R).
I've been a big fan of Smart Ones® frozen meals forever, so I knew that the new SMARTMADE™ meal bowls would be just as good. I have a long history and love affair for Smart Ones® - before we had a cafeteria in my office building, Smart Ones® were my go-to choice for lunch nearly everyday. Mainly because I like hot meals (salads are out) and I'm not a huge fan of leftovers multiple days in a row (twice in one week is my max). When they came out with these new SMARTMADE bowls, made from real ingredients with lots of veggies, I jumped on the opportunity to try them. As I expected, they were just as good (if not better) than I anticipated. Simple ingredients, lots of flavor and tons of variety. I was really happy with the serving size and with the nutritional value for each bowl - they're high in protein (good for recovering muscles after a long run) and heavy on the veggies.
It's probably no surprise to hear that my favorite SMARTMADE meals are the ethnic ones. I love the Mexican-Style Chicken Bowl, the Spice Peanut Chicken & Broccoli, the Orange Sesame Chicken Bowl and the Mediterranean-Style Chicken Bowl. The White Wine Chicken & CousCous was really good and I loved the big chunks of zucchini and herbs. And while I've yet to try them all, I'm pretty sure there's not a one that I'm not going to like (how many double negatives can I use in one sentence?). 

I'm thrilled with the new SMARTMADE options and have been super impressed by every one I've had the chance to eat. I mean, don't get me wrong...they may not be apples dipped in ketchup (Mim's favorite meal), but I guess for now, they'll do. 
What's your go-to easy weeknight dinner solution? 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables

Sponsored Post: The post is sponsored by Wente Vineyards but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.
I know that with Thanksgiving coming up the only thing on people's minds right now is probably turkey, but I'm dying to share this AMAZING sea bass recipe with you. After gorging on all the carbs and piling on the gravy this week, you're probably going to want to lighten things up a bit and this recipe is perfect! It's light and healthy and absolutely divine! There are only a few ingredients (really good ones) and it's super easy to make, but it's guaranteed to impress. This is the meal that I make for company when I really want to show off. It's one of our favorite "special occasion" meals and I'll probably make it a few times over the next month as we entertain friends and family around the holidays. It's one of those dishes that feels like a big splurge, but is so simple (and healthy!) that you don't have to feel guilty about. It's unbelievably good and everyone that's had it has begged me for the recipe. I promise you will not be disappointed. 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Super Simple Ingredients
This recipe so simple, but the flavors make it taste like you cooked all day. Each of the ingredients is prepped and then placed together in a foil packet to steam, where the flavors all come together to create one incredible meal. Other than the ingredients pictured here (sea bass, shiitake mushrooms, onion, broccolini, white wine), all you need is a little garlic, some kosher salt, pepper, olive oil and a pat of butter (all things I usually have on hand at home). 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
One Pan Prep-work
Preparation of the ingredients for this meal is also really simple. It's done in a few steps, but can all be done in 1 pan (less clean-up) and only takes a few minutes. I start with sauteeing the broccolini in a little bit of olive oil. I only cook them for a few minutes to get them slightly crispy and bright green. Then throw in a pinch of kosher salt and put them on your foil packet as the base of the recipe.

Next, caramelize the onions with some olive oil and garlic. I like to cook them on medium-high heat - enough for the onions to get soft and browned, but not burn the garlic. When the onions are ready, I add the mushrooms and salt and cook for another minute or two to fuse the flavors and get the mushrooms just barely soft. Put these in a bowl on the side. 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Finally, season the sea bass with a heathy pinch of kosher salt and a sprinkling of black pepper and pan sear the top and bottom of the fish in the same pan, with a splash of olive oil (to keep the fish from sticking). This will give the fish a nice brown crispy top and bottom with extra flavor from the previous ingredients (the benefit of using the same pan). You don't need the cook the fish throughout, just enough to brown it and crisp up the edges. Remove from heat.
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Foil Packet Cooking
Remove the sea bass from the pan and place directly on the broccolini on the foil. Top the fish with the onion/mushroom mixture and add 1 pat of butter directly on top. Pour a few tablespoons of white wine. (I like using this chardonnay because it's light with a nice buttery flavor) into the packet and sprinkle the entire thing with another pinch of kosher salt. Seal the edges of the foil packet around the fish and pop in the oven to finish the cooking/steaming process. Cook for about 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees, just until the fish is cooked throughout and the broccolini is slightly soft. Cooking everything together in a foil packet really brings this dish home. The steam will cook the fish and the wine will permeate through all the food and give it an extra richness. 

If you're hosting a dinner party and want to serve this to a group, you can do all the prep-work ahead of time and get the foil packets ready for cooking. Store them in the refrigerator until you're ready  to throw them in the oven. You'll have an entire meal cooked in 20 minutes with little to no clean-up! 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
There will be a lot of steam escaping when you open the foil packet, so be careful! You could take everything out of the packet and plate (as shown below), but we usually put the foil packets on plates and eat directly out of them, so we don't lose any juices (and don't have to wash more dishes). Enjoy! 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Ingredient Substitutions
This is a really simple recipe with only a few ingredients, but let's start with the main event...the fish. I know that sea bass can be a little bit of a splurge (price-wise), but a little goes a long way and it does not disappoint. Sea bass is a flaky white fish with a rich buttery taste. It's not overly fishy and practically melts in your mouth. However, if sea bass is not available or out of budget, feel free to substitute another white flaky fish of your choice in this recipe (cod, grouper, orange roughy, striped bass, tilapia). 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Next ingredient...shiitake mushrooms. Again, this is a splurge item. Shiitakes can be found in most grocery stores or specialty markets. They have a rich woodsy smoked flavor that really complements the flavors in this dish. However, they're pricy. Feel free to substitute portobello mushrooms for the shiitakes (or use a combination of both) - you'll still get that hearty flavor, without the sticker shock. 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Finally, let's talk about broccolini. If you've never had it, broccolini might surprise you. It feels a bit like a combination of broccoli and asparagus - it's got smaller florets than broccoli, with long thin stems like asparagus. But it has it's own distinct flavor. I like using it in this recipe because it's a bit hardier than regular broccoli that can get mushy while cooking, but more substantial than asparagus. However, either can be used in this recipe in exactly the same way, with just a minor variation in flavor. 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Wente Vineyards Wines - Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Wine Pairings
Since this is usually a special occasion dish for us, we go all out! I put together a little wine and cheese board for an appetizer, with jalapeno havarti, brie, smoked gouda and some really incredible spicy sausage. However, my favorite part is the wine! I'm a huge fan of the Wente Vineyards Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc. It's light and crisp and just a tiny bit fruity. I think it's a perfect complement to the rich cheese and the sea bass. Ryan's more of a red drinker (even with fish) and he prefers the Wente Vineyards Southern Hills Cabernet. And of course, we used the Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay in the recipe, which would also make a great pairing if you wanted a rich, buttery wine. Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of these. And they make the perfect hostess gift! Pair with a block of cheese, a wine opener or some fancy jellies and you've got yourself a gift! 
Wente Vineyards Wines - Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
Wente Vineyards Wines - Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with VegetablesFoil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables
-  1/2 white onion
-  1 tablespoon minced garlic
-  extra virgin olive oil
-  2 pieces sea bass (about 6 oz each)
-  1 bundle broccolini
-  12-15 shiitake mushrooms, caps sliced, stems discarded
-  1/2 cup Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay
-  kosher salt, to taste
-  black pepper, to taste
- 2 pats butter

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 2 large pieces of foil on separate plates. 
  2. Sautee broccolini in skillet with dash of olive oil until broccolini is bright green and florets start to get crisp. Remove from heat and split between foil pieces to create a bed for the fish.
  3. Sautee onions with garlic and olive oil over medium-high heat until onions carmelize and edges turn brown. Add a hefty pinch of kosher salt and sliced mushroom caps and cook for another 1-2 minutes until mushrooms slightly soften. Remove from pan. 
  4. Season sea bass with kosher salt and pepper. Sautee top and bottom in same pan over medium-high heat until edges turn brown and crispy. Remove from heat and place on top of broccolini on foil. 
  5. Top fish with onion/mushroom mixture. Add a few tablespoons of white wine to packet. Top fish with 1 pat of butter and sprinkle entire meal with pinch of kosher salt. 
  6. Fold foil over fish and crimp/fold edges to create a seal foil packet around fish and veggies. Place on cookie sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes until fish is cooked through. 
  7. Open packets (beware of escaping steam) and enjoy! 
Foil Packet Steamed Sea Bass with Vegetables

Anyone else a sea bass fan?

CLICK HERE to find a local store that carries Wente Vineyards wines or order online and have them delivered to your house (so you always have a bottle on hand).