Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MY Perfect Pairing!



I’M ENGAGED!


Where do I even begin?

First of all, I am completely head over heels in love with my man, Chris.  I have known he was “the one” all along.  He is the most wonderful, kind, loving, tender, happy,  handsome/gorgeous, smart, faithful, funny, perfect man.  I am so incredibly blessed.  God is SO good.  I have been praying for someone half this wonderful for so many years.  Even as I am writing this he is watching football but leaned over and covered my toes with the blanket.  That is just the kind of guy he is.


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He planned one heck of an engagement surprise!  For weeks we had last weekend reserved to go to the lake (my favorite place on earth) for a fall weekend.  Chris was going to do some farming with my dad and I was going to give him a tour of my hometown.  I was so excited for a relaxing weekend with Chris and my parents.  Chris ran the Chicago Marathon the previous weekend, and started a new job, so I knew he was in need of some downtime!  I was excited because I thought this might be the weekend he would ask my dad for my hand.  I had NO idea that I would be getting engaged!

Saturday morning we headed to my hometown, Geneseo, IL.   I gave Chris the $2 tour and then dropped him off to harvest corn with my dad.  As I drove away I was giddy thinking about the conversation that might happen that day.  My mom and I spent the day cooking and getting ready for a wienie roast with our neighbors.  Little did I know I was actually cooking for my surprise engagement party!  **I apologize for the many, many, many exclamation points in this post.

Earlier in the week my mom told me she wanted to get pictures for our family Christmas card, so I should bring a cute outfit and we would take the pictures outside on Saturday afternoon.  When Chris and I were both ready we headed outside.  I thought my parents were right behind us.

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We chatted all the way down to the dock.  I know now that my man’s heart was going crazy and it was anything but “small talk” for him! 


Once we were on the dock he hugged me to keep me warm and asked, Do you remember what we were doing nine months ago today?  I told him of course, we were going on our very first date!  He asked if I was nervous that night and I said, definitely, but I had a pretty good feeling about you.  You see we met on eHarmony and had been emailing for a few weeks before our first date.


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He said, well I was nervous that night.... I am actually a little nervous right now and then he asked if I was nervous.  I said, should I be?  THEN, my friends, he pulled out his phone and turned on Mean to Me by Brett Eldredge (which has all sorts of meaning to us and is now officially, OUR song) and got on one knee.

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I think it is safe to say this was the moment I realized what was going on!

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Chris said some amazingly sweet things (I wish I had a transcript because it is all a blur) while I dissolved into joyous tears.  Then he pulled out the ring and asked those words I have been waiting my entire life to hear, “Lindsay Wentworth Rodgers, will you marry me?”

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How amazing is this picture?  It is so perfect. Of course I was a puddle of joy and happiness.  We both were. 

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Then he told me that there were people hiding in the trees taking pictures of us.

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It turns out my parents’ neighbors, Mark and Denise, were wearing camouflage and truly were hiding in the trees!!


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It is because of them I have these priceless photos and videos. I will be forever grateful to them and to Chris and my mom for arranging this amazing surprise.  Then my parents came down to celebrate with us.  Of course I couldn’t WAIT to show my mom my new ring!

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THEN I hear yelling and see my aunt, uncle, cousin and her husband running towards us!

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We had a celebration on the dock with lots of tears and laughing and joy.

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Once we were back inside we had lots of good food, champagne toasts and blessings.



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My mom even had an incredible engagement gift for us.  It was filled with bridal magazines, photo frames, a bedazzled Feyoncé workout shirt, journal,and books.  Now remember, she pretty much had one full day to pull that off.  She is amazing!



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Now, the ring.  THE RING!  It is so stunning and perfect.  It is so gorgeous. I find myself staring at it constantly.  My two favorite things to stare at are officially Chris and the ring.


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The days since our engagement have been full of so many good wishes, calls, texts, Facebook messages, etc.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone!  

We were able to FaceTime with Chris’ family the next day and even had a precious personalized song written for us by his niece.  One of my favorite moments was when Chris’ niece asked if she could call me Aunt Lindsay.  Melt my heart!  I am so excited to be joining that incredible family.


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Chris and I had the most amazing examples of loving marriages and I can’t wait to marry that man.  Let the wedding planning begin!!



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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Grilled Mediterranean Chicken and Vegetable Salad

Perfect Pairing:  Store-bought pesto

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You might think that because I have this cooking blog, and an intense love for cooking, all of my meals are exciting.  This is definitely not the case.  I eat a lot of boring meals so I can feel better about the exciting ones.  I pretty much eat the same breakfast and lunch five days a week.  I have done this for about three years.  I used to bring leftovers into work, but now I make the same shake each day for lunch.  It is really nice not having to worry about packing lunch, and it keeps the day’s calories in check.  Yes, it does get boring but it is just a habit now. 

Every once in awhile I will go out to lunch with friends for a special occasion.  Sometimes the special occasion is just needing to go out.  That is special enough for me.  We often go to Bravo! Cucina Italiana.  The food is always good, the waiters know us, and it is right across the street from our office.  I pretty much get one of two things every single time I go there.  One is a fish wrap and the other is this Mediterranean Vegetable Salad with chicken.

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Every time I had this salad at the restaurant I would think that I should try to recreate it at home.  Finally I gave it a shot and was thrilled with the results! 

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Greens are topped with roasted red peppers, grilled zucchini and asparagus, orzo, chicken, grape tomatoes, and pine nuts.  The restaurant also uses farro but I skipped that part because they didn’t have it at the store when groceries were purchased for this adventure. 

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The asparagus, zucchini, and chicken are lightly coated in olive oil, seasoned with your favorite Italian seasoning, and grilled.

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The homemade dressing is slightly sweet and has a great punch of flavor from prepared pesto.  The easiest route is to purchase some store-bought pesto.  If you are the gardening type you might just have some pesto stored in your freezer for this purpose. 

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The restaurant version has a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a sprinkle of feta on top as well.  I didn’t think it needed it, but feel free to jazz it up!

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Menu Post #1 – Huli Huli Chicken


In my year three in review post I revealed plans to start a new section on the site to featuring menu plans.  I am pretty excited about this! 

I am the official menu planner in my family for all of our get-togethers.  This is no small feat considering we once served about 400 meals in a week.  Plus, the nearest grocery store is 15 miles away.  LOTS of planning was needed. This was the menu that week.

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Since I have saved menus through the years from all kinds of gatherings I thought I would start to share them with you.  Most of the recipes will be my own, but I may point you in the direction of a different blogger or to one of my favorite publications.  I’ll provide tips on what can be done in advance, time savers, and whatever else pops into my head. 

To start off I am going to do a menu I have made multiple times.  You can see in the menu above it was on Friday during Family Week.  It is great for large groups and much of it can be done ahead of time.

Menu:  Huli Huli Chicken with Grilled Pineapple, Crunchy Asian Noodle Salad, Rosemary Dinner Rolls, and Lemon Trifle


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Huli Huli Chicken and Grilled Pineapple – This dish never gets old and it is loved by adults and children.  You can use boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs.  I like to cut the chicken breasts in half before marinating so the sauce gets over more surface area.  Make the marinade the day before and let the chicken get all tasty in there.  Make sure to reserve some of the marinade for your pineapple.  You can use fresh or make it easy on yourself and use canned rings.  Dinner prep involves grilling the chicken and pineapple. You may want to make extra chicken.  It is great leftover in sandwiches, on pizza, or as a salad topper.


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Crunchy Asian Noodle Salad – This starts off with a Suddenly Salad box mix.  Those things seem to have like two and half servings in them, right?  Well you won’t believe how it gets stretched in this recipe.  The dressing is made from the seasoning packets in the salad and the ramen noodles, some of the reserved mandarin orange juice, and some other good stuff.  My mom made this for a baby shower so she perfected how to do it all in advance.  After cooking your pasta toss it with a little olive oil to keep it from sticking and store in a plastic bag or dish.  Toast the ramen and nuts and store in an airtight container.  Chop up the green onions, cilantro, and snap peas and combine.  Mix up the dressing (all except the mandarin orange juice) in a jelly jar and refrigerate.  Then right before your meal toss the pasta, veggies, and mandarin oranges.  Add the mandarin juice to your dressing, give it a shake and pour over the salad.  Top with your crunchies and you are good to go!


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Rosemary Dinner Rolls – The key here is to remember to get your rolls defrosting early in the day.  I really prefer the longer rising method.  I have had too many flops trying to use the expedited method.  About 30 minutes before meal time melt your butter, chop your rosemary and brush on the rolls.  Then sprinkle on the salt.  Don’t skimp on the salt!  It makes the rolls.  These are so surprisingly delicious.



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Lemon Trifle – This dessert gets better after refrigerating for a bit.  Go ahead and make it the morning of your dinner and it will be perfect.  You don’t even have to think of it until people start bringing their dinner plates to the sink.

One year ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Spicy Mexican Chicken Lime Soup

Two years ago on Perfecting the Pairing: Turkey Enchiladas


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Apple Cider Sangria

Perfect Pairing:  Frozen cranberries

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Two weekends ago I went to the Food Network in Concert Festival at Ravinia.  My parents bought the tickets last May at a charity event, and I had been looking forward to it for months.  During the day there were 50+ chefs and wineries serving, and at night Phillip Phillips and John Mayer played a concert.  Win win.

I’ve been to other food festivals, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect.  This event was by far the best one I’ve ever attended.  Ravinia was an ideal venue because you never felt cramped (except for the 15 minutes of rain when everyone crowded under the tent) and you were always wondering what was around the next corner, like an Airstream speakeasy serving Don Julio Lavendar Palomas and Spicy Margaritas!

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There were a few celebrity sightings including Fabio Viviani and a handful of Food Network celebrities.  Ina Garten was not there, unfortunately.  That would have been a highlight!

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The food was incredible.  I think my favorite bite was a corn and coconut chilled chowder from Graham Elliot and a seared scallop from…. well I can’t remember where that was from.  It was amazing.  The vendors did not skimp on portion sizes or quality ingredients.  Another favorite was a healthy slice of foie gras with candied bacon and hazelnuts.  Ridiculous.

We lucked out with the weather.  It was warm,  but they predicted a 60-80% chance of showers.  We came prepared with a tarp.

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I think we had about 10 raindrops hit us and and then the rest of the day and night was ideal. 

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I am loving Fall in the Midwest this year.  We have had some beautiful summer-like days.  Over the weekend I visited my parents at the lake and enjoyed 80+ degree days.  On a whim I decided to make a fall-ish cocktail, even though it was not quite nippy outside.  This Apple Cider Sangria is a WINNER.

Chilled white wine is mixed with apple cider, brandy, fruit and cinnamon sticks. 

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The cinnamon sticks and brandy add a spicy warmth that sets this drink apart from typical sangria. 

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I threw in some frozen cranberries.  Not only do they act as little ice cubes, they also add great color.  I actually like chomping down on the cranberries, but that might not be for everyone.  You can also squeeze a few into your glass.

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Apple Cider Sangria is going to be a new fall staple!




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