Yummy Autumn Dinner – Skillet Chicken w/Apples & Cranberries

Happy Halloween everyone!! I promise I’ll put together a post about the honeymoon soon–I’ve got lots of great photos to share with you of my first-ever (yep, you read that right, first time) seeing the ocean and being on a beach.

But first, I wanted to share this delicious meal I made for M and I tonight after the trick or treaters were done. It’s perfect for Fall, and it’s pretty good for you, too! I was lucky to find this recipe on Pinterest and have been wanting to try it (reminds me a lot of something my mom would cook).

Skillet Chicken with Apples & Cranberries

1 lb chicken tenders, trimmed and cut in half on the diagonal (Or I thawed out two big chicken breasts and sliced them up after they thawed)
3/4 tsp dried thyme, divided
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp canola oil, divided
2 crisp red apples, such as Braeburn, Fuji or Gala, thinly sliced (I used 1 large Gala since it was just for M and I)
1 large red onion, quartered & sliced (I did not have red onion, so I omitted it, and it still tasted great)
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, divided
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
1 tbsp all-purpose flour

1. Sprinkle both sides of chicken tenders with 1/4 tsp each thyme, salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the chicken. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned on all sides, 3-4 minutes total. Transfer to a clean plate.

Nothing says Fall like crisp red apples, cranberries, and Trader Joe’s Spiced Apple Cider.

2. Add the remaining 1 tbsp oil to the pan. Add apples, onion, 2 tbsp cider (or juice) and the remaining 1/2 tsp each thyme and salt. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, until the apples and onion are softened, 3-4 minutes. Add cranberries and sprinkle flour over everything in the pan; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

3. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the remaining cider (or juice). Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes more.

At this point I was salivating.

The blogger recommended serving this with wild rice, but I didn’t have any, so I just steamed some broccoli and some leftover cornbread from my company’s chili cook-off we had today. (I won for spicy chili! I’ll post that recipe later.)

Yum!!

The kitchen smelled great when I added the cider to the apples, and the flavor didn’t disappoint. I never thought about the thyme and salt with the apples, but it was a great combination. Here are the stats from the recipe as it was in the blog:

Per serving: 287 calories; 10 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 63 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 24 g protein; 4 g fiber; 496 mg sodium; 415 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (18% daily value).

Give it a try and tell me what you think!

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Let’s Celebrate! (The Wedding Reception)

(In case you missed the wedding wrap-ups, here they are: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Our main goal for our wedding and reception was that we wanted it to reflect us–we didn’t want the usual cookie-cutter events. That’s why I wrote the entire ceremony, we asked my brother-in-law to be the officiant (so he went online to get ordained), the dogs were our ring bearers, and almost everything was DIY. I didn’t want the usual arch for the “altar,” so I came up with the idea of the picket fence. I chose the music for the ceremony.

So for our reception, we wanted everyone to be able to enjoy themselves. We borrowed a couple of   games from my sister and a co-worker and set up a   area that was well-lit. I also borrowed a big coffee maker so we could have a hot chocolate and hot apple cider bar, which was placed next to our fire pit, which we brought for a s’mores bar. Yes, that’s right…we had a s’mores and hot chocolate/hot apple cider bar.

M chose a local BBQ joint to cater the dinner, which was delicious (yes, I actually did have a little bit of food). We had smoked turkey, pulled pork, beef brisket, macaroni & cheese, baked beans, salad, corn bread, and a bunch of veggies, etc. One of the groomsmen is a home beer brewer (he’s won quite a few contests), so their wedding gift to us was a craft beer bar–watermelon beer, cream beer, and a hibiscus wit. Plus we had some of our favorite beer (Yuengling) and non-alcoholic options.

My cake was made by one of my very good friends from college’s mom. Adrienne (who was one of my bridesmaids) and her mom have been very close to me since college. “Momma D” has always treated me like another daughter. She drove all the way from Massachusetts to bake our cake and cupcakes. We did it simple–red velvet cake with cream cheese filling (the fondant was white and I made a burlap with ribbon ribbon to be pinned around the bottom and my mom made a small bouquet to mimic my bouquet for the topper). The cupcakes were vanilla with buttercream icing, spice cake with cream cheese icing, and chocolate with bourbon buttercream icing. Momma D also made little flags to put on the cupcakes that said different things like “Mr. & Mrs.”, “Joy”, “I do”, and “M&M”.

My yummy cake and cupcakes made by Momma D. I decorated the cupcake stands and made the burlap ribbon for the cake to match the stands.

And for those wondering, when we cut the cake, I  let M feed me the cake first….he was a gentleman. Of course, I had to have some fun, and I fed the cake to him like a lady…then proceeded to smash it in his face (and into his eye…oops).

Our DJ was absolutely awesome–he was so helpful with me planning the wedding, reassuring me that everything will come together, etc. He worked with us in so many ways–I definitely recommend Mike Graves, if you’re in the Lexington area. The music was awesome and it was a lot of fun to see my cousins and their children dancing it up all night.

Not only did I get to dance with my husband and my dad, but also my pups. This was LaMesa taking a turn with mom.

All in all it was a great night–I wish I had had the time to talk more with friends. There were some that I hadn’t seen in years, or that I only get to see every so often. I didn’t even really get to drink much of our beer or enjoy our cupcakes, but I’m OK with that. I danced a lot with my new husband, laughed at friends’ antics on the dance floor, and just tried to take everything in. I danced with friends, danced with my dogs (who got to run around the place after dinner was packed up), and of course danced with my daddy.

I said earlier that my first dance with M was “God Gave Me You” by Blake Shelton. It was romantic (or at least as romantic as M and I can get) and it was nice to be able to catch up and chat a little about things and take it all in that we were indeed married now.

I danced with my dad to “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, and it’s a time I won’t forget. I tried my hardest not to cry, and I think my dad was, too. After a while, he started asking me a series of questions about things to take both of our minds’ off the matter, which made me laugh. I had to dodge his cowboy hat if I wanted to put my head on his shoulder because he’s that much shorter than me now.

I absolutely loved seeing my parents dance during the Generation Dance and then enjoy their time together. When I saw this pic from my sister, I had tears in my eyes–I love them so much.

I didn’t want the night to end, but, alas, it did. We had great friends stay behind and help us pack up some stuff and clean up the major stuff before we headed to the hotel for the night. The next day we would finish packing up things and tearing everything down in preparation for the rental company to come back and get the tables, chairs, and tent.

All in all, while it was stressful putting together our own wedding, and the months leading up to the wedding was one full of frustration, tears, and concern, it was a very special day and one I hope to remember my entire lifetime. I just wish we could have afforded a videographer to help us remember, but I can’t wait to get all of the photos from the photographers.

I’m Married!!! Part 3

In case you missed it… Part 1 & Part 2

We arrived at the farm while the guys were finishing up their photos, so I had to hang out in my truck for a while until they were sure M couldn’t see me. Then it was our turn to strike a pose in front of the camera, and I was surprised at how much fun we had, even without doing the cheesy photos (I am not a fan of the whole bridal party jumping up–sorry). I was nervous leading as we headed back to my truck to wait for guests to arrive. My bridesmaids hung out around the truck, making sure I was calm and staying warm.

Then it was time.

I heard my music begin for the mothers to walk down the aisle–my brother-in-law (who was also our officiant) was walking my mom down while M walked his mom down to meet his groomsmen. I had a lot of fun (but also was pretty stressed) choosing all the music for the ceremony. You see, this was truly a “do-it-yourself” wedding because I wrote the entire ceremony (minus M’s vows, but including the prayer his grandfather said) and chose all the music for our non-traditional wedding. For the mothers’ walk I chose the Vitamin String Quartet’s version of “Just The Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. Then I had my bridesmaids walk down to another string version of Train’s “Marry Me“, and our recessional was the Vitamin String Quartet’s version of “Viva La Vida“.

The song I walked down the aisle with my father was Brad Paisley’s “Then.” Matt has always said that was “our song”, but when it came time to choose songs for the ceremony and our first dance, we had to choose between that and “God Gave Me You” by Blake Shelton. M and I have gone through a lot this year, particularly the past few months (hence my absence for a while), and I felt that Blake Shelton’s song hit me hard for the first dance, while “Then” was perfect for a walk down the aisle.

Walking down the aisle with my dad was so surreal–I never even dreamed about my wedding growing up.

My heart was in my throat as I walked towards my dad, who was waiting for me a good ways away–I totally missed Adrienne’s trip (and almost fall) while she was walking. When the first chords of our song started to play, I immediately started tearing up–this was really, truly happening! I told dad to take our time walking down the aisle–I wanted to soak in the moment (not to mention I wanted a good part of this wonderful song to be played). True to my dad’s form, he started trying to make me laugh as I was fighting back the tears (so that’s where I get it from), and I know he was trying to fight back his tears as well. It helped to have our dogs waiting at the back row–they always make me smile. I’d look up at M and see him wiping away tears, which immediately made me have to wipe away mine. He’d take a deep breath, and so would I. The moment was surreal.

The girls were standing at attention watching and waiting for mom to walk down the aisle. Soon it would be their turn.

The rest of the ceremony was everything I expected it to be–Jerry did a great job as our officiant and it meant a lot to have M’s grandfather do the prayer. M had me say my vows first, which was hard because I was shaking from the cold (and maybe the nerves) so much. My vows were serious, for the most part, and his were light-hearted to make us laugh–as should have been expected. And when Jerry asked, “May I have the rings, please?” The “dog wrangler” released Dally and LaMesa, and they ran down the aisle “carrying the rings” (the real rings were in the best man’s pocket). The only negative part of the ceremony was actually a highlight in most people’s eye–Dally put her “stamp of approval” by going behind the officiant and pooping, drawing everyone’s attention as she started kicking up the leaves. Everyone had a good chuckle about it.

Listening to M’s personally-written vows…

Then the big moment of our kiss, which we had joked about what we were going to do the days leading up to the wedding, but let me tell you…it was one awesome kiss and I didn’t feel the least bit concerned about having an audience! 😉 My brother-in-law had us turn around and he pronounced us Mr. and Mrs.! Yay! We walked down the aisle with huge grins and the two pups followed along, streaking behind us.

I admit it, I asked M if the hand he offered me for his ring was the correct hand–I totally blanked on “left” and “right”! LOL

After everyone was excused, we took more photos with family and the bridal party, then we got to walk around the farm on our own for some photos. (I’ll post some sneak peek photos from the photographer on a later post.) I just couldn’t wait until we were ready to join everyone for the big party…err, I mean reception…

(Special thanks to my friends Jodi and Camille for these photos)

I’m Married!!! Part 2

Part 1

Saturday morning (Oct. 6) I woke up 10 minutes before my alarm and instantly looked at my weather app and the radar–clear skies and cool temperatures!! I was so relieved! Sure it was going to be a chilly evening, but I was OK with that!

I packed up my last-minute items (including my dress) and the pups (oh you knew they were going to be in the wedding, come on now!) into my truck (and you knew I’d be driving my truck to my wedding) and drove the 30 minutes up to Georgetown to the hotel my family was staying. I dropped Dally and LaMesa at my parents’ room and picked up my mom, sister, and bridesmaids for breakfast. After a longer-than-planned, but very filling, breakfast, we swung by Starbucks for some warm drinks and headed to the farm to start setting up. The plan was for the girls to get some things started–set the first few chairs up for the ceremony so the guys know how we want them, set up the tables and do the decorations how I wanted them, and finalize any other things we didn’t do the previous night. Then the boys would show up while we were getting our hair and make-up done and finish everything up.

My groom sent me this photo to make sure the ceremony site was set up the way I wanted it (that’s one of his groomsmen in the middle). Perfect!

The setup was a breeze with all my helpful ladies–my bridesmaids did not disappoint when it came to support! Even my friend from college’s mom chipped in before she had her own big project to complete. See, Adrienne’s mom, whom I call “Momma D”, drove all the way from Massachusetts to Kentucky to bake my wedding cake and cupcakes! (How awesome is that!?)

Anyway, we completed our parts on the farm, then headed back to the hotel to start getting ready and, hopefully, relax. I had a friend from volleyball who is a hair stylist come do my and my sister’s hair, while Adrienne had a friend do hers. Mollie and I had a couple of sessions with my hair, trying to find out exactly what type of curl would hold, etc. I found my hair inspiration from Pinterest and a few hair pins with crystals on the end–no veil (unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the back of my hair right now, but definitely will as I get more wedding photos).

Bridesmaid Adrienne doubled as the make-up artist for me!

We were pretty relaxed while getting ready. I think part of it had to do with Merinda picking up a couple of bottles of Moscato wine! 😉

I did my best to just take in the whole day and the laughter with my friends. On top of my bridesmaids being in the room, my friend from work came to take photos of us getting ready, and another friend from college (whom I hadn’t seen in quite some time) drove in from a horse show to get ready with us. I don’t think it really hit me that I was getting married that day until I went into the bathroom after putting on my dress, cowboy boots, necklace that my mom made me, and had my makeup done. I looked in the mirror and literally my first thought was: “Holy sh*t, I’m getting married today.” I seriously said that out loud.

Putting the final piece to the puzzle: My sister (MOH) helped me with my necklace. My mom made the necklace for my wedding day with an antique broach purchased from a friend’s shop and multiple colors/sizes of pearls. I love it!

After Merinda had walked the pups (who were also all dressed up for the occasion), we all piled into our different cars (my sister and I rode in my truck with Adrienne) and headed to the farm for the big night!

 

I’m Married!!! Part 1

Life has calmed down immensely for me, which means I can get back to blogging hopefully more regularly than I have been lately. Part of that craziness that has been my life lately has been planning my wedding. Well, October 6 came and M and I are now husband and wife!!

The week leading up to the wedding was uber stressful for me. The forecast was calling for 60% chance of rain and cold temperatures. Our wedding and reception was outside, but we had a tent for the reception, but I was still concerned about the logistics of parking, myself getting rained on, etc. But as the days continued, the chances for rain got smaller and smaller. When I woke up Saturday morning of my wedding, the first thing I did was check the radar–not a single rain cell in sight! Of course it was still chilly (lower 60s), but people could dress warmly, so I wasn’t too concerned about that.

M did his best to liven the mood when we were stressed a couple days before the wedding.

Friday was the big day of setup. M and I were very lucky to have a great core group of friends and family who showed up to help with the tent and table setup. The boys and my dad hung the lights and we tentatively set up the tables to see how we wanted everything laid out. Then we headed back to the host hotel to scarf down some “country cookin'” of Cracker Barrel at our rehearsal dinner. (The comfort food of chicken and dumplins, mac and cheese, biscuits, etc., was perfect to help soothe my nerves.)

Then it was time to say goodbye to my fiance for the last time–he was staying at the hotel and I was driving back, with the pups, to sleep at our house. I went home to finish up some last minute things: a memorial for M’s best friend who was killed in action in Afganistan, putting the homemade “Peanut Butter Puppers” I baked for our favors (we are dog people and knew most of our guests have dogs), gathering my overnight bag, etc. It was hard to wind down to go to sleep at a decent hour, so I moved to the bedroom with the last of the thank you cards to write in bed in hopes I’d fall asleep.

I just knew I wanted to be able to take in everything about my wedding day–I had so many tell me their wedding day went by so quickly and to enjoy it…

The initial setup of the ceremony site (this was actually on Saturday morning, but just a tease of the setup).