Black Bean Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Processed with VSCOcam with a8 presetI’ve kind of been in a cooking rut lately. It’s not like I don’t have a massive archive of recipe inspiration from Pinterest alone, it’s just that I haven’t been motivated to actually try something new. However, last Thursday as I was pinning up my weekly storm, I came across a stuffed pepper quinoa recipe that had me putting my shoes on and running to the door before I could even look up the recipe. I guess you could say that anything stuffed pepper related excites me. My mother makes an incredible Hungarian stuffed pepper dish that I just can’t get right and so this was my opportunity to perfect my own version. And I’ll let you in on a little secret that has seriously changed my life: Bulgarian Feta. It’s feta, only creamier. Enough said. Try my new recipe, and don’t forget the Bulgarian feta.

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What You Need:

  • 2-3 red peppers, but in half (the long way) and gutted
  • Quinoa (cook 1 cup according to the bag)
  • Bulgarian feta (Jon’s market, or any “ethnic” market carries it)
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1/2 a jalapeño, sliced
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tblspn chili powder
  • 1/8 tspn black pepper
  • 1 tspn red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn olive oil
  • 1/2 tspn cumin
  • 1/2 tspn dried oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth

What To Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400º
  2. In a saute pan heat olive oil and add garlic, onions, and jalapeños and stir for 4-5 minutes or until onion turns translucent
  3. Cook your quinoa while you are doing step 2
  4. Once your quinoa is cooked place into a bowl and add black beans, onion mixture, tomatoes, chicken broth, chili powder, cumin, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
  5. Arrange your peppers on a baking trey and fill with quinoa mixture.
  6. Cover the trey with foil and cook in the over for 20 minutes. Remove, add Bulgarian feta to the top and put back into the over (uncovered) for another 5 minutes
  7. Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, lime, or all three!
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DIY Wedding Invitations

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When my wedding planning officially began my mom and I were shocked to find that the first stop we made to look for invitations was it. We just knew they were the ones–gold foil pressed, embossed, kraft-y, chalkboard-y perfection. It embodied everything my ‘I Do’ Pinterest board stands for. What I wasn’t so sure was it, was the price. Apparently you pay a company to essentially design the invitation suite itself, and then every added detail (that makes it so amazing) is extra, plus assembly, plus envelopes, plus postage. Kill. Me. Now.

With a $2500 quote later, I was already plotting with my mother how we would lie and say they were cheaper and we would pay the difference ourselves. It seemed like a fairly reasonable plan at the time until I shared this plan with a friend (come on, I had to tell someone!). I was quickly brought back to earth and aboard a whole different boat in a matter of 2 minutes of her lecturing me (thanks, Kelly!).

[Insert proud smile here]…today I am officially mailing out 110 DIY-ed invitations that were lovingly crafted by my amazing sisters, friends, and yours truly. With an incredible designer I found on Etsy, I was able to pay a mere $27 for the graphic design and then take this to my local printer (also a friend) to have printed at another ridiculously low price. Envelopes were purchased online here, custom stamps ordered from Zazzle, baker’s twine tied (from Amazon), home-made hang tags attached by hand, and 110 (x2 when you add in RSVP envelopes) hand addressed envelopes by moi! So, after months of researching less expensive options and finally realizing what good am I if I can’t even design my own (???!!!), I am happy to share that this entire project cost me a total of $528.00!

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Back to Black

IMG_8140You know you’re getting older when fall suddenly becomes more appealing than summer. I had to explain this concept to one of my good friends the other day, as she was ready to end our friendship after I dissed our beloved season summer. See, I just don’t find summer that fun when I can barely squeeze in a handful of beach days [throughout the entire summer and I live in Southern California] and I’m literally watching my skin shed it’s vacation glow. Instead I’m chained to my desk, forced to scroll faster through my Instagram feed as everyone else apparently has the time to hit the beach Monday-Friday.

Buuuuut, before you think about feeling slightly sorry for me, don’t. October is actually my favorite month [is this now the 3rd or 4th time/year I've shared that?!], and means I get to bust out the chunky knits, booties, beanies, and black! Oh, how I love black. I just feel super gothic wearing it in the summer and to be honest, I don’t have a lot of color in my wardrobe, so summer has become a little tricky for me.

The other reason I love fall? Well, to make this quick, my fiancé likes to sneakily turn off the AC in our apartment so I roast all day and night and when he wants to cuddle on the couch I’m just too hot. However, when it’s fall and the temperatures are naturally cooler, we have a nice cold breeze continually– making it the perfect indoor conditions for cuddles, blankets, hot chocolate, scary movies, and the fireplace! Bring. On. Fall.

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How To Plan A Wedding While Working

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Lately my desk looks like a “full on Monet!” [Clueless reference]. Meaning: from afar it looks pretty cute, but up close it’s a big ole mess! For someone who is pretty OCD, this has definitely given me some self-inflicted anxiety, but there is an added responsibility in my life right now that will exist until June 19th, 2015 [my wedding]. Until then, my desk will remain cluttered with invitations, RSVPs, to-do lists, contracts, etc. The challenge, if you didn’t already see one, is that this work space is also my office in which I do all my creative work. When things are hectic, messy, time-sensitive, and essentially just brimming with pressure, my well being/energy levels tend to get neglected. As you can imagine the work-wedding balance is quite difficult, but I am here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT!

With a well planned timeline of events leading up to the big day, there is no reason why you cannot plan your “dream” wedding while also maintaining a 9-5 [or 7am-9pm for some...ahem, me!]. After all, that’s what lunch breaks were designed for, right? A solid hour of emailing vendors, planners, and agents to continuously follow up, check in, and finalize. It sounds nuts, but that’s how to get shit done!

Lastly, I get a little help from my friends. For me, those “friends” are the lovely people behind the Neuro drinks. With 4 solid purposes for each color, the green [daily immunity] keeps me going on those exceptionally long days; the blue [reduce stress] surprisingly calms my anxiety; the red [energy refreshed] allows me to attend yoga at ungodly hours; and the orange [sweet dreams] provides serenity when I would inevitably wake up at 4am dreaming about social media content I’m working on for clients. In other words, this line of non-jittery, healthy, vitamin-filled energy drinks are currently saving my life. And let’s be real, the lightly carbonated flavors are tasty [not sugary] and only 35 calories for the entire bottle. It works for me–and you know I’m a little on the nutty side!

For more info on Neuro, visit their site and discover which color(s) will work for you.

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Desert Solstice

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You may be wondering how I ended up in such a bizarre setting–desert, fur, wild hair, fabulous jewelry–but not to worry, this is just a glimpse of an incredible lookbook shoot I was lucky to be part of for jewelry designer Charme Silkiner. As a longtime lover of the brand it is always thrilling for me to collaborate with Charme and come up with new concepts each season. Her latest collection, Desert Solstice, is inspired by natural elements, moonstones, textures, winter whites…the list goes on. This week (through the weekend), she is generously giving 10% off any purchase on her site, including this amazing new collection. Shop my favorite picks below, and make sure to use promocode SIVANAYLA10 to get your discount at checkout!

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MTV

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My earliest memory of MTV was in a random hotel in a random country I can’t even recall (I was that young), and a pale man with a mustache was singing about being a “scat man.” I want to say I was in Turkey, traveling with my then-young parents, who were really into the MTV channel so we could listen to music while we packed. I had no clue what a “scat man” was–I thought it was something bad + scary–but I was intrigued that this channel was only singing and dancing (a music video), all. day. long. As I got older (teenage years) I watched the channel transform into a music slash reality show channel, but still found it somewhat nostalgic and continued to watch. Now, almost 10 years past being a “teenager,” I am so far removed from the music-less and all reality channel that I was pretty confused how I was attending an award show about music videos (did they still exist?). Regardless, I enjoyed dressing up for the VMAS and hitting some parties in my home city, Hollywoodland.

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3I’m wearing: Junim dress // Strappy sandals // Coin necklace // Rebecca Minkoff bag

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Skinny Snack: Watermelon + Mint juice

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetIs there anything more refreshing than watermelon or mint? How about them together?! When I’m gifted with a large half of a watermelon, naturally, I am going to make watermelon juice. If you haven’t already become a proud owner of the Magic Bullet, I strongly suggest acquiring one for individual-sized drinks, smoothies, etc. It’s perfect for on-the-whim type of snacks (such as this one). Add a teeny bit of ice, fill with watermelon chunks, top with ripped mint and blend!

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10 Things I learned in St. John

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAside from discovering that the clearest, bluest, warmest, calmest, most beautiful water I’ve ever been in exists around the US Virgin Islands, I have a few other pointers for any of you planning a trip the St. John (and 1 little pointer on St. Thomas). I spent a total of 7 nights there, which I felt to be the right amount even when traveling all the way from Los Angeles, and managed to make the most out of my time. Here is what I learned on this magical trip:

  1. I like to snorkel (drunk). Trunk Bay was hand-down the best beach on the island, with an added bonus of an easy to reach snorkeling area.
  2. Don’t rent a car to “explore.” We rented a Jeep one day and found the roads far too treacherous with not enough to see. The best beaches were a $5 cab away from our resort (The Westin).
  3.  You must LOVE seafood to enjoy the food. I do love seafood but was ultimately disappointed in the cuisine, as the quality wasn’t up to my standards, and the produce was weak. I was pretty burned out on fish tacos and sea bass by the 3rd day.
  4. Only drink Painkillers or Voodoo Juice. The native drink on the island (recipe coming to the blog soon) is rum-based and absolutely delicious! Just think: tropical rums, coconut cream, pineapple, nutmeg. All you need to know.
  5. There are lizards EVERYWHERE. I hate them. They were roaming all around the hotel, the beaches, restaurants. Not sure if I’m the only one that doesn’t enjoy the slithery creatures but I’m warning you.
  6. The sun is exponentially stronger and the water exponentially saltier. Wear sunscreen on every part of your body. I was lucky enough to come home with blisters and what seems to be sweat blisters. Yuck.
  7. Beware of the “invisible sand fleas.” Yeah, they exist. While their bite is much more tolerable than that of a mosquito, they still itch like a mother******!
  8. Prepare for random rain showers. We were blessed with fabulous weather except for a quick 20 minute rain shower that left as quickly as it came.
  9. There is absolutely NO nightlife. Most of the restaurants have a similar vibe (very casual) about them and it appeared that people would linger there to continue drinking after dinner. We were pretty much in bed by 9:00pm each night. Guess you could say I’m very well rested.
  10. St. Thomas, while it doesn’t compare to St. John, had better food. Havana Blue prepared some of the best seafood stew over “dirty rice,” which was served much like paella, and was outstanding.

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Barefoot + Blue

barefoot-blue-dressThere’s nothing sadder than coming home from vacation (when you’re actually ready to come home) and then developing a mean case of Vacation Blues. After a blissful week on the island of St. John I was ready to join the real world (and my puppies) again, but quickly realized upon arriving back, that I was mentally still on the island. It was struggle to head directly back to work the following morning. I mean, why are we not always starting our days with beach-side breakfasts and fresh juice? Leisurely reading the paper while deciding it’s time to begin the day…ahhh….see what I mean?

The last night on the island was spent aboard a sweet sail boat that took us out at sunset to sip champagne and mingle barefoot with fellow vacationers. It was something I would typically steer clear of (as you know I hate touristy activities) but felt as thought our last night needed to be commemorated with something special. And so, we packed my new favorite weekender and hit the sea. As the wind blew our hair just right (or so it felt, the pictures say otherwise), and my dress blew up countless times, it was truly a night to remember.

island-style stela 9 weekender bag blue and white dress

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Tropic Thunder

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 presetWhen in paradise, do as the natives do. Show some skin, embrace the salty air, and wear a hat. Nothing beats sun-kissed skin, beach waves, and a fresh face. I just wish I could look this carefree while not on vacation. I have been experiencing some of the tropical storms running through the Virgin Islands on and off but overall I have absolutely no complaints. You can find me laying on a beach with an island drink in hand catching up on some overdue reading. See you next week!

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I’m wearing: elle a dress // panama hat

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