Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Growing up, my Mom would always make batch after batch of her famed "Killer Cookie" recipe around the holidays. They were always quick to disappear, and in high demand at family gatherings. It wasn't until years later, when I proudly brought them to a party, that I learned they are actually a pretty common and popular recipe, found on the side of the Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk can. I'm on to you Mom. Nevertheless, Magic Cookie Bars have remained one of my all time favorite treats to indulge in and share at Christmas time. If you haven't tried them, be warned: they are highly addictive and it's near impossible to stop at just one cookie.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Roasted Tomatoes with Shrimp and Feta

This weekend I had some friends over and made this delicious one-dish meal to enjoy for dinner. I served it with crusty french bread for dipping in the sauce as the recipe suggests, but the leftovers were equally as good served over rice the next day. This was really easy to make and my guests all said they loved it!

* I went a little bit heavier on the garlic, lemon, and parsley and was pleased with my executive decision to do so
** I used white truffle salt from the farmers market

  1. Heat oven to 450° F. Place the tomatoes in a large baking dish and spoon the olive oil and garlic over them.
  2. Sprinkle with ¾ teaspoon each salt and pepper and toss. Roast on top rack of oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove baking dish from oven and stir in the shrimp, parsley, and lemon juice. Sprinkle with the Feta.
  4. Return the dish to oven until the shrimp are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm with the bread.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Seeing Red


For the most part, I'm drawn to red clothing and accessories year round, but I like to take full advantage of the fact that the holidays give me a special reason to incorporate the fun eye-catching color into my wardrobe and make-up daily for the sake of feeling festive. Here are some old and new favorites that have been making regular appearances the last few weeks. Click on the set for more details.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


...I've been traveling a lot. Dallas, Philadelphia, and Austin. They were all awesome
...I can't get enough of Trader Joe's turkey meatballs
...Work has been going really well, and I'm thrilled to say I've been enjoying my job
...I've been trying to crack down on studying the real estate stuff (my apologies for my absence on here)
...Sausage, egg, and cheese hotpockets are my guilty pleasure
...I've been grateful for my roommate and our long chats
...The combination of yoga and kickboxing has me feeling like a million bucks
...Bon Iver and Naked and Famous are on frequent rotation on my Pandora
...I drink a lot of hot tea... green, white, rooibos, herbal... I'm an equal opportunist really
...TV doesn't appeal to me much
...My favorite alcoholic beverage is Jameson + Ginger
...Mastin's The Daily Love is always a treat that I really look forward to reading everyday
...I try not to spend too much time on facebook. It gives me anxiety
...I've been frequenting the Brentwood Farmers Market on Sundays
...My bucket list and 2012 resolutions have been under construction
...I eat spinach everyday. And I love it. And I think I have my Dad to thank for that (still addicted to this of course)
...I've missed my blog, and plan to write on here more

 What a treat it was to get a glimpse of fall on the east coast
A very relaxing sunset over Lake Austin before heading to the airport to come home


      Tuesday, October 25, 2011

      New Glasses

      I've been wanting new glasses for a couple years now, but since my insurance only covers either contacts or glasses once a year, I've just been opting for contacts. I've considered splurging on glasses but of course I lust over all the expensive designer frames, so after you add prescription lenses I'm easily looking at a $300+ dent in my pocket. Enter They have tons of super cute options to choose from, a virtual mirror that allows you to try out your choices, and each pair is only $88 including your prescription! My glasses were on my doorstep in about 2 weeks and I'm really happy with them!

      Wednesday, October 12, 2011

      Pumpkin Spice Muffins

      Last night it occurred to me that we are almost halfway through October and I haven't consumed anything with pumpkin yet! I wanted to feel festive with a yummy smelling apartment and treats to share with co-workers but I didn't want to spend hours in a hot kitchen since the fall weather hasn't exactly found it's way to LA yet. Enter the easiest muffin recipe ever:
      • 1 box spice cake mix
      • 1 15oz can of pumpkin
        • Mix well, drop in lined muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 (yields 12)
      That's it! They were a hit at work and I was impressed with how moist they were, but next time I definitely think I'll experiment with adding chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, or even a bit of a crumb topping. The best part is that these are pretty healthy since there is no need to add oil, butter, or eggs. I'll definitely be making these again before the season is over. What are your favorite sweets for Fall?

      Tuesday, October 11, 2011


      I'm heading to Texas again this weekend and I guess my Mom figured it would be a good time to hand down these babies. She had the red and turquoise pairs made years ago and they fit like a glove! The middle pair are extra special to me because my Grandma (who was a feisty Texan herself) wanted me to have them when she passed away. I'm not exactly sure why, but I have a feeling it's because she always said I was the 'sassiest' of the 3 grand daughters, and she knew I'd make her proud in her boots.

      I'm really looking forward to a quick weekend away and the Texas State Fair which of course means tons of yummy food, beer, and live music.

      Monday, October 10, 2011


      It occurred to me recently that here on my blog I rarely ever discuss something that I consider a significant element of my lifestyle. Fitness. I've been pretty active since I ran track in high school, but after college I found that I had a lot more time to make exercise more of a priority. The last few months I've been doing a combination of kickboxing and yoga 4-5 times a week and I've been feeling amazing. The intensity of the kickboxing has also motivated me to clean up my diet a bit because I notice a huge difference in my energy level and ability to keep up with the fast paced, high impact classes when I have better fuel in my system.

      The yoga is of course a slower paced routine that provides flexibility, strength, and a number of other physical benefits, but it also gives me mental clarity. At the beginning of every class we set an intention; either something we want to work to improve and motivate us through the class, or something we want to let go of that is effecting our lives. Another huge benefit of the classes is the fact that they are heated 95-105 degrees so we sweat out all kinds of toxins that do damage to our bodies over time.

      I'm going to try to incorporate fitness and exercise into more of my posts because most people who know me well know that when I have free time, exercising is something I really enjoy. What are your favorite/most beneficial forms of exercise?

      photos via

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Homemade Pesto

      Last Friday I bought a basil plant at Trader Joes and decided there was obviously no better way to utilize my new purchase than with homemade pesto. This delicious recipe yielded plenty of pesto for paninis with friends, and a creamy pesto shrimp pasta dish with leftovers that I'm still working on finishing.


      • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 1/4 cup pine nuts
      • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil divided
      • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
      • 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese


      Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor (I used the magic bullet)  and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

      Monday, October 3, 2011

      Fall Lust List

      Fall Lust List

      Fall is on it's way and although it rarely gets much below 70 dgrees here in LA, I'm looking forward to chunky sweaters, boots, maxis, and fun fall shades of denim. Here are some items on my lust list. Click on the set for more details. What are your must haves for Fall?

      Wednesday, September 28, 2011

      Spicy Sausage and Peppers Over Rice

      Last week I made this  hearty (but healthy) recipe and dined out on the patio to enjoy one of the last few nights of summer. I used a whole package of turkey kielbasa, added red bell pepper, skipped the pimento, and used white onion instead of red, but I think this recipe is a hit with or without my adjustments!
      • 1 cup brown rice
      • 2 cups water (I used chicken broth as usual)
      • 2 turkey sausage links, cut into 1-inch pieces
      • 1 tablespoon minced garlic*, or to taste
      • 3/4 red onion, diced
      • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
      • 3/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth
      • 1 cup grape tomatoes
      • 2 tablespoons diced pimento
      • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
      • Cajun seasoning to taste
      • black pepper to taste
      1. Pour brown rice and water into a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender, about 40 minutes.
      2. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey sausage, and cook until well browned on the outside, and no longer pink on the inside. Remove cooked sausage, then stir in garlic and onion. Cook for a few minutes until the onion softens and begins to turn translucent. Add green pepper and cook for 2 minutes.
      3. Pour in half of the vegetable stock along with the tomatoes and pimiento. Season to taste with red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, and pepper. Cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Stir in sausage with remaining vegetable broth, and simmer until all is hot. Serve sausage mixture over brown rice.               

      * By the way, have you seen this ?? I just think these are the coolest little contraptions (since I despise mincing garlic.)


      As an LA resident, I spend a lot of time driving sitting in traffic. This past Sunday, I decided to take the train for a quick visit up to San Luis Obispo to visit my sister. My experience was quite lovely. Not only did I catch gorgeous ocean sunsets on the way there and back, but I also got to chat with friendly travelers and catch up on some blog and magazine reading. Public transit = Success.

      (Elle, coconut water, and Toms.. what more do I need?)

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      Los Angeles, I Love you.

      (One man's love letter to LA. Too cute not to share with my fellow Angelenos!)

      You met her at a bar.
      She was a perfect 10.
      Actress. Model. Dancer. Whatever.

      You’ve seen her in pictures, watched her on TV, and heard about her from friends but you always wondered. And now she is right in front of you, but there’s just one problem, she’s a raging bitch.

      She rarely pays attention to you.
      She makes you feel insignificant.
      She hates your friends.
      She hates your apartment.
      She hates your car.
      She is always looking over your shoulder at someone else.
      She four squares everything.
      She loves TMZ.

      She makes it really hard to love her.

      Her name is Los Angeles.

      I am part of the rare breed of Native Los Angelenos, yes we do exist. I grew up in the neighborhood of Atwater Village (you know that strip of land in between Intelligentsia and Armenia). After 27 years of living and growing up in this town I can say I hated it. I was sick of the traffic, $14 martinis, the Ed Hardy, the yogis, the vegans, the valley, everything. So I moved away. I moved to Connecticut for a glimpse of the countryside, the “better life”. I worked there for 2 years, paid super low rent, and spent weekends in New York. But about half way through that endeavor I realized I missed LA.

      I missed the culture.
      I missed the style.
      I missed the 24 hour restaurants.
      I missed the music.
      I missed living in a place where “limited release” movies were actually released.
      I missed the weather.

      There was a period during winter in Connecticut when I didn’t see the sun for two weeks. I decided to get in my truck and drive south until I hit sunshine (it took 3 hours). While I met some amazing people in my time in the Northeast I knew it wasn’t for me.

      And so I came back to California. I took an almost 40% pay cut to come back to the Angel City because I missed her.

      I came back to her culture.
      I came back to her fashion.
      I came back to her culinary mecca.
      I came back to her art.
      I came back to her opportunities.

      The movie industry films here because its 70 degrees and sunny every day so you can work year round. While other parts of the country have snow, heat waves, and humidity I rarely go a day without sandals on my feet. You can take your tornados and I’ll keep my earthquakes (we don’t even look up from our iphones for less than a 5.0). Each neighborhood has it’s own personality may it be from the hipsters in Silverlake, the key grips in the valley, the plastics in Beverly Hills, La Raza in Boyle heights, or the stoners in Venice. Sure there is ubiquitous traffic that everyone complains about but that’s only from people that don’t actually live here. People that live here accept that its part of the package deal and don’t complain about it. It would be like New Yorkers complaining about that weird smell in the subway or all the graffiti. Celebrities that constantly complain in interviews about how everyone here is “so fake” might want to re read their job description and then hang out with a different crowd. There are real people here and I have seen them in these streets that I know so well working as a Paramedic. I have rubbed elbows with them at In N’ Out, we have waited for our Grande soy sugar free vanilla lattes together, and I have cheered with them at the upper deck of Laker games. So don’t belittle my city celebrities, a city that has brought you so much.

      Most tourists hate this town too but LA is like a fungus, it grows on you. There is no immediate visual pull like San Francisco, or history like Paris, or skyline like New York. There is no real town center like most any other city of the world. Think about it, what do you tell out of towners to do once they get here? I have no idea either. Besides Hollywood blvd. there is no Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, or Wrigley FIeld. When they ask you where to stay you say, “it depends”. When they ask you what to eat, “it depends”. Each neighborhood has a personality as does each cuisine and each person here. While we may not have many marquee attractions, what we do have is a bunch tiny pieces to the mosaic that makes up this great city.

      Don’t get me wrong though, as with any relationship you sometimes hate each other. The parking, pretentious hostesses/bouncers, cupcakes, greenpeace volunteers, menus that tell you what’s NOT in your food (no preservatives, gluten-free, no dairy, flourless, etc.). Sure she may nag you, tell you to take out the trash, or ask you if you think these pants make her look fat but this is the place you, me, and that guy next to you in the Prius have chosen to live.

      This is where I grew up and this is my town, and if you don’t like it get the fuck out, because traffic here is a bitch.

      Los Angeles, I love you.

      Eternally Yours,
      Chris Backley

      Monday, September 12, 2011

      FNO LA

      As I'm sure many of you know, September 8th was the third annul Fashion's Night Out. I love the initiative of retailers and shoppers coming together worldwide after hours to celebrate a shared passion for fashion. In support of the event, I decided to pay a visit to some of the smaller shops on Main Street in Santa Monica near my apartment. Below are a few pictures of the adorable storefront and party festivities at hip'tique.

      Saturday, September 10, 2011


      It's been a busy week and trying to transition back into work mode after a 5 day trip has not been an easy task. Miami was incredible, and while we made sure to enjoy the beautiful beach and (ridiculously) warm water, there was still plenty of  exploring of Little Havana, the Bayside lifestyle, Coconut Grove, and all of the art deco architecture that contributes to that Miami character and energy. Here are some instagram* snapshots from the vaycay. (More to come from the Nikon)
      Pool party ready
      Gazpacho and a Cuban steak sandwich
      Rooftop pool party at the Gansevort
      Empenadas at El Cristo on Calle Ocho
      Cigar shopping
      Refreshing mojitos and daiquiris at the marina
      Cabbin it
      SushiSamba: Beef Maki Roll bacon, boniato, rocoto jam, soy-garlic jus
      Tuna Ceviche coconut, tomato, serrano, grapefruit, cilantro
       Samba Dromo Roll maine lobster, mango, tomato, chive, crispy rice, soy paper, peanut curry
      Night out at Arkadia
      East coast seafood on the water
      South Beach

      *Add me on instagram! @hi_im_jess

      Thursday, September 1, 2011

      Overpackers Anonymous

      I'm notoriously a [shameful] overpacker. I find that when eyeing my wardrobe for travel, I often consider all possible occurrences and situations that I will [obviously] require the perfect outfit for. Last year after an incredible 2 weeks in Italy, France, and Spain, my travel high came to a screeching halt when I  had to pay an extra £150 (approximately $200) to the airline to fly my overstuffed suitcase safely back to the states. This was the point when I realized I had a problem... and I needed help. Since then, I have made a serious effort to pack lighter, and be more realistic as to what the 'necessities' really are when traveling. Below are the items that are coming with me to South Beach tomorrow. I hope you all have a fabulous holiday weekend!