Blackened Chicken Pasta

Wow! It’s been a long time since my last post… I’ve been so busy with these past few months, it’s crazy.

I have a recipe for Blackened Chicken Pasta for you today.  Or you could call it by it’s other name: things Lauren makes when she is too lazy to go grocery shopping..

Blackened Chicken Pasta

2 – 8oz chicken breasts (skin removed) pounded thin

1.5 oz blackening seasoning (we use this)

1 pound penne pasta, cooked according to box

1 jar alfredo sauce (we use this)

1 6 oz bag sun dried tomatoes

1 yellow bell pepper chopped

salt/ pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

1. Toss chicken in blackening seasoning.  Grill 10-12 minutes. Chop

2. Combine all ingredients, top with parmesan cheese and serve


Easy and delicious.  We made a double batch so we can take for lunches this week.

imageQuestion: What is your favorite easy pasta dish?




Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

One of our favorite things is Chicken Cordon Bleu.  To be honest with you though, I don’t really love the process of making it – just too much touching of raw chicken.  Enter – Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole.  Over the past few years, I’ve made SEVERAL different versions and finally settled on the following recipe as our favorite.

Certainly doesn’t make for pretty pictures, but it makes up for it in taste.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Recipe slightly adapted from here.

1 Tbsp salted butter (add salt to taste if you use unsalted)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 stalked finely chopped celery

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp garlic powder

2/3 cup marsala cooking wine

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1.5 cups swiss cheese

8 oz. reduced fat cream cheese

1 pound cooked spaghetti (you can also substitute rice)

1 pound chopped cooked chicken breast (rotisserie chicken works great)

1/2 pound diced ham (I used chopped sliced ham)

12 oz can peas, drained (optional)

4 oz italian bread crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery; sauté 6-8 minutes or until onions are slightly brown. Add garlic powder & marsala; cook 1 minute.
  3. Gradually add flour to pan; stir to incorporate. Gradually add broth, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
  4.  Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, all swiss cheese and cream cheese, whisk until cream cheese melts. Add pasta, chicken, ham and peas; stir until blended. Pour into large casserole dish coated with cooking spray (- recipe can also be divided into two casseroles and one frozen).
  5. Combine breadcrumbs and ½ cup Parmesan cheese; sprinkle evenly over pasta.
  6. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Remove casserole from oven; let stand 15 minutes.
  7. Serve and enjoy

Makes 12 servings.

photoI love this because it is FULL of flavor.  The marsala adds SO much flavor – Matt said it smelled amazing.

Casseroles – yes or no?

Wedding Recap: All Things MUSIC

It’s time for another wedding Wednesday post! Today we are talking about wedding music.

When it came to wedding plans, the one thing I was not really too excited about figuring out was the music – there are (were) so many choices and SO many things to choose music for.  Spoiler alert: It’s not just your first dance song – it’s music for the entire day.

I procrastinated pretty much until I couldn’t any longer read: the day before my FINAL meeting with the DJ and ended up spending most of a Sunday and > $20 on music from iTunes, but I figured it all out.  Going into it, I knew I wanted You & Me by Dave Matthews Band for our first dance song (I am a huge DMB fan after all) but that was pretty much all I knew.  I also have a soft spot for classical music and string quartets.  SOMEHOW, I found Vitamin String Quartet (A string quartet from LA that does tributes to various rock /  pop music) which was truly a fantastic thing because I was failing miserably at finding anything I really liked.

Finding VSQ really turned things around and I was pretty quickly able to craft the remainder of our wedding (which was everything but our first dance song).

Here is the musical timeline of our wedding Ceremony:

While Guests Arrive:  Various Disney instrumental songs then: Wonderful Tonight – Vitamin String Quartet, Beautiful Day – VSQ, Crash Into Me – VSQ, Satellite – VSQ,

For Parents and grandparents seating: A Thousand Years – VSQ

Bridal Party Entrance: Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Lumiere String Quartet

Bride’s Entrance Walk:  Canon in D (Pachelbel’s Canon) – Lumiere String Quartet (started right before the first big swell).

Bride and Grooms Exit Walk:  You & Me – VSQ (I wanted a nod to our first dance song)

Bridal Party Exit:  You & Me – VSQ

Guest Exit:  Stairway to Heaven – VSQ (Matt loves Led Zeppelin, this was his only request)

We ended up with the following for the reception: 
    Introductions at Reception:  Bridal Party Song: Suit & Tie – Justin Timberlake (I would choose another song in retrospect)

Bride & Groom Song: Thunderstruck – AC/DC (this was perfect)

Bride & Groom’s First Dance: You & Me – Dave Matthews Band

Father-Daughter Dance: What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong  (great song, and not too emotional – my Dad originally wanted Butterfly Kisses which would have had me sobbing in 0.1 seconds)

Mother-Son Dance: I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack (I cannot think of a better MotherSon dance song)

 Cutting of the Cake: Snow Outside – Dave Matthews Band (the lyrics of this song are absolutely perfect).

Throwing the Bouquet: Single Ladies – Beyonce & Hit Me With Your Best Shot – Pat Benataur

Throwing of the Garter: Legs – ZZ Top & Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top (Matt loves ZZ Top)

Last Dance: Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton

Basically, you can see our wedding was a tribute to DMB with a fair amount of classic rock thrown in and it ended up being absolutely perfect for us.

If you’re local to Raleigh and planning a wedding, check out our DJ Stephen Scott (we can’t say enough good things about him).

Raleigh-NC-Wedding-Photographer-37(pp_w760_h570)-1Our entrance and first dance pictures! Photos by Faith Teasley.

Question: What was / will be your first dance song at your wedding? Have you ever heard of VSQ?

Wedding Recap: Things I Don’t Want To Forget

It’s over, I’m married!

If you’ve been following along since we got engaged, then what you’ve really been waiting for starts NOW.

Everyone tells you when you are getting married, to take a few minutes to take in everything on your wedding day because the entire day FLIES.  Let me tell you, they aren’t kidding.  From the moment I woke up to the end of the day I swear was the blink of an eye.


Now that I’m old and married, I wanted to write up a list of things I don’t want to forget from our wedding day.

  • The feeling I had all day – kind of a mix of butterflies, nerves, happiness, sadness (one chapter of my life is now over), joy, etc.
  • How happy my parents and entire family were. We’re talking cheesy grins.
  • The anticipation of being able to see Matt for the first time (going ALL day without seeing him was SO hard) Though we did talk twice on the phone that morning – I thought it would be the best way to put us both at ease since we weren’t going to do a first look.
  • The complete disbelief I felt that TODAY was my wedding day.
  • The moment I put my dress on after my makeup was done.
  • When I saw my Dad for the first time (we cried).
  • Walking down the aisle (even though it’s already a blur – I was trying SO hard to keep from crying).
  • My Dad’s voice cracking as he gave me away.
  • When my veil fell off right as we were both about to fall completely apart.
  • Mouthing ‘I love you’ to Matt while we listened to the Pastor.
  • Our first kiss
  • Walking back down the aisle and into the venue.  We hugged for SO long. It felt like a lifetime being apart all day and we were So glad to be married and together for the first time all day.
  • Our entire reception. The intense love and joy that were coming from that room was ALMOST tangible.  I have never felt so completely happy and in love in my entire life.
  • Dancing with my Dad.
  • Our first dance.

1463345_10200892138811051_307335438_nI would like to amend my list to say that I don’t want to forget ANYTHING about the best. day. ever.

Question: If you’re married, what was the most memorable part of your wedding day?

Farm To Table Styled Shoot

Now that our wedding has passed – I have SO much to share with you.  For now, I will leave you with a teaser photo from a shoot I did with my boutique, LaMaLu Boutique. I am the bride in the shoot, so you can see the dress I chose!

farm-table-style-shoot-118Check out more photos from the styled shoot on the boutique blog here!

The ONE Month Countdown

Here we are… exactly one month until the big day.  I have lots of posts in mind to share with you, but I’ve been super busy with LaMaLu, wedding planning and moving.

Behold, my final wedding checklist.  From Your Bridal

*Choose wedding date Read Post here.

*Decide type of wedding desired (traditional, big/small, etc.)

*Determine what religion the service will be performed in, if any

*Decide time of wedding and reception Read Post here.

*Choose desired location for wedding ceremony Read Post here.

*Choose desired location for reception Read Post here.

*Set wedding budget and decide how wedding will be financed Read post here.

Then hire the individuals from whom you will need their services on the wedding day…

*Choose/hire individual who will perform your wedding Rev Mary Mooney

*Interview/Choose photographer and then book him/her Faith Teasley

*Interview/Choose Florist and then book him/her Ashlee Little Events

*Interview/Choose caterer. Read post here.

Ten to Twelve Months in Advance

*Decide how large/small wedding party will be 3 bridesmaids, 3 groomsman.

*Choose/order wedding dress and veil Read post here.

*Set honeymoon budget Sandals Montego Bay booked!

*Announce engagement to friends and family. Called as soon as it happened!

Six to Ten Months in Advance

*First meeting with minister/officiant

*Begin writing vows

*Choose ceremony music (prelude, processional, solos, recessional, postlude, etc.) – On the agenda for this weekend.

*Choose attendants and ask if they’ll accept the position. Done! Sent Kate Spade Paperless Post invites.

*Begin looking for bridesmaid dresses. Handled when I bought the dress.

*Pick out tuxedos for groom and groomsmen/ushers/fathers. Ashamed to say I did this just last week.

*Choose/reserve desired location for rehearsal dinner. Cafe Luna – where we had our first date and took our engagement pictures.

*Look for and reserve block of rooms at nearby hotel for out-of-town guests. Done! Blocked off 10 rooms at a local hotel.

*Choose invitations. Read about our invites here.

*Make first draft of invite list. This was one of the first things I did.

*Plan honeymoon and book all lodgings/transportation/event tickets. Did this almost immediately after we picked a date.

*Check passports/visas.

*Discuss if a bridal registry is desired and what items would be on it. We registered at Macy’s, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond and Sears.

Four to Six Months in Advance

*Choose prose/poetry/scripture readings for ceremony

*Choose readers for ceremony and ask if they’ll accept the position

*Buy/make favors to give guests, if desired Handled by Ashlee Little.

*Order bridesmaid dresses. Each girl is handling, and has already done it.

*Hire limousine driver or arrange other transportation to/from ceremony and reception. About that, still not done.

*Pick out/order wedding bands

*Select reception decorations such as candles, flowers, balloons, arches, etc. Ashlee Little again.

*Meet with florist to choose amount and type of flowers for ceremony and reception and any other accessories (ex. pew bows, candelabras, etc). Ashlee Little for the win.

*Meet with cake baker to choose flavor(s) and style of wedding cake. We LOVE Ashley Cakes.  One of our favorite things so far.  What we chose is a surprise.

*Register gift preferences with one or more bridal registries at nearby and/or nationwide store

*Get measurements from groom/ushers/fathers/groomsmen for tuxedos. Having them handle themselves.

Two to Four Months in Advance

*First wedding gown fitting. Spent almost half of my dresses cost on alterations.

*Buy disposable cameras. Haven’t decided if I’m doing this or not.

*Choose reception food with caterer. This weekend!

*Determine how attendants will process and stand at ceremony. Hmmmm….

*Choose reception music (1st dance, father/daughter dance, mother/son dance etc.). On the agenda for this weekend.

*Finalize vows and memorize (if necessary). Done!

*Bride buy gifts for bridesmaids, parents, fiancée, personal attendant. Done a la Etsy.  Can’t wait to share (after the wedding).

*Groom buy gifts for groomsmen, parents, fiancée, ushers. Matt – get on this.

*Finalize invite list and get addresses of all people on invite list

*Order invitations

*Set date with fiancée to get marriage license

Two Months in Advance

*Book rooms for out-of-town attendants at hotel

*Go over rough draft of duties with all involved in wedding

*Determine order/timing of events at reception (cake-cutting, garter toss, etc.)

*Buy honeymoon clothes and going away outfit if necessary. I own a boutique, I’m ALL OVER this.

*Buy/decide on rehearsal/rehearsal dinner outfit.

*Determine the “something borrowed, …blue, …old, and …new” to wear on wedding day

*Call to inform all people who need to be at rehearsal

*Buy guest book and pen. Thanks to Etsy!

*Obtain marriage certificate

*Last meeting with minister/officiant

*Make itinerary of wedding day for all involved

*Buy stamps for invitations, response cards, and some to get started on thank-you notes

*Ensure formalwear shop has all tuxedo measurements

One to One-and-a-Half Months in Advance

*Address/mail wedding invitations

One Month in Advance

*Find out if reception caterers will make a basket of food for you to take to your hotel after reception

*Determine when items needed at reception (toasting glasses, etc.) will be taken there

*Show final program to minister and organist to check for accuracy

*Box and wrap all gifts for attendants, etc.

*Ensure band/DJ has equipment/music needed to play your chosen reception music

*Pick up wedding bands

*Confirm honeymoon reservations

*Record gifts as you receive them and send thank-you notes

*Inform car/home/renter’s insurance of marriage (discounted rates may apply)

Two Weeks in Advance

*Final meeting with florist – overview and give him/her map to ceremony and reception sites

*Final meeting with reception hall/caterer – overview and tell them names of florist, band or DJ, and baker (just in case!)

*Final meeting with photographer – tell him/her about any specific pictures you want, choose album style and color, and give him/her map

*Final conversation with band – overview of times & special songs, mail him/her/them map

*Mail directions to limousine driver and confirm times

*Meet with rehearsal dinner caterers for final details

*Final wedding gown fitting

*Confirm hotel reservations for wedding night

One Week in Advance

*Pack for honeymoon

*Fill out first page of guest book

*Take marriage certificate to minister/officiant

*Give final guest count to reception facility and/or caterer

Day Before Wedding

*Pick up wedding gown and veil

*Pick up tux

*Take favors, disposable cameras, centerpieces, cake knife and server, toasting glasses, CD’s, and birdseed roses to reception hall

*Rehearsal and rehearsal dinner

Morning of Wedding

*Bride’s hair appointment

*Give groom’s wedding band to Maid of Honor and bride’s wedding band to Best Man prior to ceremony

*Relax and let it all sink in!*

*Leave yourself off the things to do list today if there are any remaining items. You need to relax and enjoy the whole day, and in the long run, you won’t remember the little things

Wedding: Our Non-Traditional Guestbook

Ok so, we discussed our wedding invitations, now we are on to our non-traditional guestbook.

When it came to my list of things we needed for the wedding (another post, coming soon), I came across guestbook and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted something that we could display in our future home(s).

I did a quick-ish search on Etsy, and came acorss the Harvey Grey Etsy shop.

I fell in LOVE with the Wedding Guest Book Alternative Print and knew we had to get it.

icm_fullxfull.29382141_pufji1cpp344c08w4okwGuests will sign each heart and we will be able to frame it.  I ordered it in our wedding colors and absolutely LOVE the way it turned out.  We are so glad we went the non-traditional route and can’t wait to hang this in our house ASAP.

Question: Did you / will you have a traditional guest book from your wedding?