An End of Summer Dinner Party: The Main Dish

bruschetta, salad, lemonadeTo make the most of the rest of Summer, I was fortunate enough to have Chef Shayna help me plan a menu, prepare the food and throw a casual End of Summer Dinner Party. We created simple, delicious and (mostly) healthy recipes with the goal of using food that’s in season and will make our guests feel great + summery!

Our friend, Brittany, came over and we had so much fun just in Shayna’s kitchen, learning how to properly chop and make dishes we hadn’t before. If you’ve been wanting to plan an activity with friends, get in the kitchen!


Drink: Refreshing Lemonade with a healthy twist (a cocktail version too!)

Appetizer: Bite-Size Bruschetta Cups

Main Dish: Chicken Summer Salad with strawberries & goat cheese

Dessert: Mini Peach Cobblers Summer recipe_bruschetta_filling the cupsYesterday’s post was on the bite-size bruschetta cups. Today’s is the Main Dish – the Chicken Summer Salad, which could also be accurately called “A Bowl of our Favorite Things”. All of the ingredients used in the salad are really good individually. When combined they make a sweet and savory explosion! SR_summer salad_overhead shotLight and nutrient-rich spinach and butter lettuce with flavorful chicken, smooth avocado, sweet strawberries, creamy goat cheese, crunchy pistachios and deep olive oil makes for a colorful, protein + healthy fat-packed salad.

The good thing is that this salad would be great anytime of the year. For Fall, instead of strawberries, swap in any other fruit that’s in season, like figs or grapes. SR_drizzle with balsamic glazeLovely Chicken Summer Salad:

servings: 4


  • 1 whole rotisserie chicken, deboned + cubed or 3 grilled chicken breasts, cubed
  • 6 ounces of spinach (about a bag)
  • 6 ounces of butter lettuce (about a bag)
  • 6 ounces crumbled feta or goat cheese (we used goat cheese)
  • 5 cups strawberries
  • 1/2 cup raw pistachio kernels from Keenan Farms or ½ cup candied pecans – or any of your favorite nut
  • 1-2 avocado, chopped


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • salt + pepper to taste
  • drizzle of balsamic glaze (we used Trader Giotto’s)

Prep: SR_lettuce up closeChop or tear + combine the lettuces in a large salad bowl. SR_deboned + cubed chickenSR_add chicken to saladIn this order (the thinking is heavy to light ingredients), add the rotisserie chicken. SR_avocadoThen, add the avocado. SR_slice strawberries 1Add the strawberries.SR_goat cheese crumbles 2Then, the goat cheese.SR_raw pistachio kernelsSR_add nuts to saladand finally the pistachios. SR_add olive oil to saladDrizzle olive oil over salad, then balsamic glaze. SR_drizzle with balsamic glazeSR_final summer salad_close upSR_summer salad on plateSince it’s so bright and beautiful, wait until your guests have seen it, then toss right before ready to serve!

Check back in for the Mini Peach Cobbler recipe…

Photos by Photography by MJD for A Lovely Life.

Find out more easy + great recipes your friends, family + kiddos will love at

I’d love to know – do you have a favorite Summer salad recipe?



An End of Summer Dinner Party: The Appetizer

bruschetta, salad, lemonadeOne of the best things about Summer are its long, sunny days. Everything seems a little brighter and lighter. It makes it the perfect time to gather friends together for a casual meal, especially with all the delicious and nutritious produce in season.

I asked Shayna Telesmanic (a.k.a. Chef Shayna), the owner of Young Chefs Academy in Fresno and Food Editor for ABC30 to help me create a menu and cook a light and healthy Summer meal for a few of our girlfriends. I really like her way of making easy and no-fuss recipes so any of us feel like we can make them!

The goal for all the drinks and dishes on the menu was low-maintenance, in season and to avoid spending much time in a hot kitchen. We also wanted it to be fun for your friends or kids to jump in and help out. Basically, nothing that requires so much work that you stress over it.Summer recipes_Kelly & Shayna by final mealThis is what we came up with for a celebratory End of Summer Casual Dinner Party…


Drink: Refreshing Lemonade (a cocktail version too)

Appetizer: Bite-Size Bruschetta Cups

Main Dish: Chicken Summer Salad with strawberries & goat cheese

Dessert: Mini Peach Cobblers

Today, we’ll start with the bruschetta cups. summer recipes_bruschetta cups_side viewBruschetta Cups 

servings: 4.


  • sliced wheat or white bread or wonton wrappers (best to use bread with a more moldable texture, like Sara Lee)
  • 1/2 basket of red or yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 15 small mozzarella balls (buy the ones in liquid)
  • about 6 leaves of fresh basil, finely cut
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • balsamic glaze (we like the Trader Giotto’s one)
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Prep: Summer recipes_roll out bread, step 2Roll out each slice of bread with a rolling pin. Summer recipes_bruschetta_cookie cutter, step 3With a 2” round cookie cutter, make 24 rounds out of the bread. Spray a mini cupcake pan with cooking spray to form a light coat. Summer recipes_forming bread into panPlace and mold rounds into the cupcake pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Summer Recipes_bruschetta_chop tomatoesSlice the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls into 1/3 pieces. Summer recipes_bruschetta_slicing mozzarellaToss the tomatoes and mozzarella together in a bowl with the olive oil. Season with salt & pepper to taste.  Summer recipe_bruschetta_filling the cupsOnce bread is baked, add the tomato and mozzarella mixture equally into the bread cups. Drizzle balsamic glaze on top and garnish with fresh basil. Summer recipes_bruschetta_drizzle balsamicSummer recipes_passing bruschettaAnd enjoy!!

Check back in tomorrow for the Chicken Summer Salad recipe!

Photos by Photography by MJD for A Lovely Life.

Find out more easy + great recipes your friends, family + kiddos will love at

We’d love to know how you like it, so please let us know.



One Year Anniversary of A Lovely Life!

regularlogoBThis month marks the first anniversary of the launch of A Lovely Life! Since last August, it has been a time of amazing growth, improvement and lessons.

Writing the blog has brought up areas of my life that I need to work on. It’s taught me about prioritizing, goal setting, time blocking, clear communication & transparency and knowing how I work best. These have all been blessings.

I love being able to share Health + Wellness, Authentic Living, Lifestyle and Beauty + Style topics with you! I also love collaborating on stories with like-minded people. I hope you’ve enjoyed the blog too and that it’s made your life a little bit more lovely.

These are some of my (+ your) favorite posts from the 1st year:

heartWorking Out & The Lean Out Cleanse with FitnessSocial

heartHow To & the Benefits of Dry Skin Brushing


heartA Lovely Home: Our Home Remodel

heartHow to Organize 101: Help from a Professional Organizer

Please stay tuned for what’s to come in the future ~ new content, a new web design, great photography + more!

I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any suggestions for the blog? What content and topics would you like to see more of? How often would you like there to be a new blog post?

THANK YOU for your support this first year!


A Superfood, Turmeric

turmeric, pic via well+goodA lovely life is a healthy life. Part of a healthy life is eating/drinking a balanced diet consisting of greens, protein, good fats and complex carbs. If most of what you eat isn’t natural, unprocessed and nutrient-dense, you most likely don’t feel as vibrant and clearheaded as you could and should! One easy way to up the health and wellness of your diet is to add in superfoods, like turmeric.

heartWhat is Turmeric?

The brightly-hued turmeric is a popular culinary spice in Asian and Indian cultures. It’s found in a lot of Indian dishes like curries, but also gives basic American mustard its color.

Turmeric is also a disease-fighter. Curcumin, the compound found in turmeric, has been shown to prevent many illnesses due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers. These are some ways it works its magic…

heartThe Health Benefits of Turmeric:  

  • tames heartburn & an upset stomach.
  • prevents heart attacks.
  • delays diabetes for those with pre-diabetes.
  • prevents or helps fight cancer.
  • protects the brain & promotes repair to stem cells in the brain. *great for recovery from neurodegenerative diseases like stroke & Alzheimer’s*
  • curbs joint pain as effectively as ibuprofen.

I heard about and was encouraged to try turmeric by an Ayurvedic practitioner. She’s a big proponent of including it in your diet because of its anti-inflammatory properties. I first started to use it in kitchari, an Indian dish that’s a complete meal.

Lately, I’ve been craving macaroni and cheese, which doesn’t happen often. I was tempted to make homemade macaroni and cheese (the real, cheesy deal) or the store-bought Annie’s. Looking through mac and cheese recipes on Pinterest, I saw this healthy, creamy recipe. Of course, I can’t pass up a healthy twist on a comfort food! mac and cheese via MindBodyGreen

the healthy mac & cheese recipe I made. 

I used fusilli pasta because it reminds me of the Kraft spiral Macaroni and Cheese I absolutely loved as a kid. It turned out well and was easy to make. It’s such a powerhouse meal (healthy fats + complex carbs) that I heated it up for breakfast the next morning.

heartOther Ways to Incorporate it into your Diet: 

Taking a turmeric capsule or tablet is always an option. But, to enjoy its flavor, I found some great, appetizing ways to add it into your diet on one of my go-to health & wellness sites, Well + Goodturmeric milk

hearta warming turmeric milk.

heartstart your morning with Taryn Toomey’s (creator of the class) detoxing turmeric tonic.

heartkosmic kitchari recipe from the yogi behind Santa Monica’s Bhakti Yoga Shala.


be creative and sprinkle it on scrambled eggs, potatoes, roasted veggies or whatever else you can think of.

Sources: Huffington Post and Well + Good articles. Read more in depth about the amazing benefits of turmeric here and here.  

Images by: (1 & 3) Well + Good, (2) mindbodygreen.

I hope you enjoy!

I’d love to know – do you eat turmeric? If so, let me know your favorite recipes!


A Lovely Body: Congrats Dina Juve!

next fitness starIf you’ve been following my fitness, nutrition and weight loss journey over the past few months, you know that I’ve been working out at FitnessSocial, guided by Dina Juve. She’s played a big role by being very hands-on.

Before beginning, I met with her, talked to her about my primary goals and in her no-nonsense, yet understanding way she’s helped me get there. I credit her for encouraging me and holding me accountable me while doing the Lean Out Cleanse, during workouts and with the weekly measurements. Dina's before + after{Dina’s before + after}

It’s clear she practices what she preaches and it works! I’ve seen the results in my own body, in her clients and in her’s. She was overweight in her early 20’s. Unhappy with the way she looked and felt, she made the commitment to improve her well-being. As a result of making exercise and a clean diet a new part of her lifestyle, she lost a total of 80 pounds. The fact that she has kept the weight off for 20 years has always impressed me. That commitment, determination and goal-setting is what she passes on to her clients.

A reason why I wanted to partner with her is because she encourages you to create a body you love – in complete alignment with creating a life you love! If you follow and commit to the plans she gives you you will lose weight, get in better shape and, most likely, feel more comfortable in your body. Dina_next fitness star{the 5 ladies chosen. Check out Dina front + center}

Because of all of this I’m sooo happy that Dina has been selected out of thousands throughout the country as a top finalist for Women’s Health 2015 Next Fitness Star! She’s 1 of 5 women chosen as “the strongest and most inspirational personal trainers”.

She’s helped so many on their fitness journey, so now’s the chance to follow and support her. Read about Dina, watch her video and learn about the other 4 motivating ladies on You can vote daily with voting ending August 3rd. Tell your friends to vote too!

I’d love to know — what inspires you about Dina’s story?

the next fitness star photos are via Women’s Health.