1.31.2015





{Beautiful flowers from last year}

Last year was one of tremendous inner searching for me. Digging deep. Rooting out the good and the not so good. Letting go of things and people that no longer serve me. Opening up to new possibilities. There was a fair amount of travel, lots of it solo which was great for me. But the biggest investment of my time was spent on myself. Piles of books read. Journals filled. Dreams voiced. Hands stained with ink. The truth is that it takes nothing but time to invest in yourself. There is always time for self care, self love and self reflection. There is always a choice to be made on where to invest that time. It may seem selfish to direct a chunk of that to myself this year too, but what good am I to others if I cannot take care of me? Think about that.



1.30.2015

:: Burrrrr ::





 I am just not a winter girl! I love winter clothing - sweaters, boots, cute jackets and all the whatnot's and accessories that go with it. I love winter food all that comfort food is right up my alley believe it! Christmas meals, hot chocolate, seasonal Starbucks beverages, warm soups and chili. But, when it comes to the freezing cold mixed weather, and the icy roads, and just freezing my tooshie off in general, coupled with the fact that it is completely dark when I get off work and I find myself staying inside all  the time... I'm just not a fan!  All is good until December 26th and then I am ready for spring. I know, I still have a long way to go. I know. And I plan on finding some ways to cope until the faint signs of Spring begin to arrive. Really, if you have any good ideas. Don't be shy. Share them with me.
 








1.29.2015

:: Cloudy, with a chance of tears ::




Insomnia: sleep deprivation is eating me up. I feel like I've hit rock bottom. Wondering, how much longer I'll have to exist in this fog. I know it will end. But right now it feels so thick and heavy. It's a struggle to get through each day, let alone endure another long night. I'm walking around in a daze most of the time. Totally unmotivated. I can barely communicate. My memory is shot, along with my patience. I just want to crawl back into bed and get a really good nights sleep. Hopefully soon. There are things to do. The world just keeps moving forward...









1.28.2015

:: Interesting Word ::





Pronounced {hoo-guh} It is a Danish word. The closest equivalent to English I think would probably be Complete. I came to this conclusion because of the full description I read about this word and its real meaning. Here is the description of this one little word:

"it is spending real quality time with others, of enjoying the moment, feeling connected and finding balance and warmth. There's an art to hygge – it's about caring and loving (yourself and others), not striving for perfection and finding sanctuary among the everyday hustle and bustle of modern life." 

What do you think? If day to day I could really live like this, I would indeed feel completed. Whole. Happy. Comforted. I would feel complete. I read where the Danish are world leaders in happiness, finding balance, sharing moments, and take time for quiet contemplation in their everyday lives on a daily basis. That is pretty impressive. I think there is a lot we can learn from them, don't you?










1.27.2015

:: On tattoos ::






Have you ever tried temporary tattoos? Well if you haven't I would love to share some really cool finds with you. I would never get a real tattoo myself, I just can't make that decision to permanently mark my skin with one thing. What if I didn't like it years later? But, this is the perfect solution. Now, I can choose several and wear one anytime I feel like it! Yeah!!!!!! So here are some that I found that I just got:



Aren't they really cute? !!! I know! Right?
Now here's the kicker, there are many ways to make your own.
This spring, I'm going to try to find someone who does henna tattoos and get one.
I hear they last for a little while longer.
How about you? Any experience with this you can share with me?









1.26.2015

:: Whirlwind weekend ::






This weekend was a busy whirlwind for sure. It was filled with ups and downs but all in all it went by too fast like they always do. Highlights from this weekend past… Macaroon shopping for a friends birthday {Happy Birthday Deanna!} they all looked so good, it's always hard to choose just a few! A thrift store afternoon with a friend, then lunch.

I watched the movie "Unbroken". I loved the book, the movie not so much. Too much emphasis on just one part of his life when he was a prisoner of war. True, that was horrific, and the worst, but he was much more than the sum of a man who was tortured in a prisoner of war camp. They did not elaborate on his life after coming home, and finding God again, thereby changing his life from that day forward. Too bad too because he did so much good in his life. Then there was the the application of the temporary tattoos and where they should be placed, and their were delicious snacks, yes, quite delicious.

Sunday morning brought a get together for brunch which is my most favorite meal. I love brunch, it is just so perfect. Not too early, not too late. Just one meal not breakfast then lunch. Just brunch. It should be like that everyday don't you think? I can only wish.  Hope your weekend was amazing! :)









1.25.2015

Soup Swap




People will be soup swapping all over the place on January 25th! Why? Because it's National Soup Swap Day!  Who knew? Have you ever been to a holiday cookie exchange? This is a similar idea, but it's soup!

What’s a soup swap? A group of friends gathers for a party, each bringing several quarts of soup. One quart from each person gets heated and sampled that night (along with plenty of snacks and wine, of course). Before going home, everyone trades soups.


I recently learned about this National "Holiday," and I think it is such a fantastic, fun way to share recipes and good times with friends and family.  Also, it never hurts to have some delicious servings of soup ready to go in the freezer.


Here's the idea — and a handful of my favorite soup recipes to wow friends and family:

Schedule your Soup Swap Party.


  1. Invite some guests.  {it works best with six} Ask each guest to bring six, separate quarts of frozen soup. Everyone contributes the same number of quarts of soup as there will be people at the party. (For example, if six people will attend, each should bring 6 quarts—five to give away to friends, one to sample that night. You won’t bring home your own soup.) Guests can also bring garnishes like sour cream, wine, snacks or dessert {or the host can provide those}.
  2. Gather your gear Dig in your cupboard for as many mugs, small bowls and spoons as you can find. You’ll also need a few pots for warming soup. (Microwaving quarts of soup one at a time takes too long.)
  3. At the party, put all the soups out where they can be admired.
  4. Let the feast begin As guests mingle, heat up 1 quart of each person’s soup. Don’t worry if you can’t warm them all up at once. It’s actually more fun if you sample one or two at a time so the party moves at a leisurely pace, with guests helping themselves. If you don’t have enough dishes or spoons to last through all the soups—you probably won’t—just do a quick rinse between rounds. Same goes for pots. This is a casual affair!
  5. Draw numbers to begin to swap. Place numbers in a bowl for every person who brought some soup. Have each participant draw a number — this is the order that the soups will be chosen to talk about.
  6. In the order of numbers drawn, have the guests talk about their soup, and why it's special. What are the flavors? Is it organic? Spicy? Sweet? Has it been handed down by Grandma? Guests will leave with 1 quart less than when they arrived, but they’ll have a variety of ready-to-eat homemade dinners to stash in the freezer and enjoy through the winter. 
  7. Also, ask for the recipes before hand and make a little recipe book to give to everyone who participated.. 

What makes a soup freezer-friendly? Choose broth- or tomato-based recipes. Avoid dairy (cream, milk or cheese) and flour-thickened soups, which sometimes become grainy in the freezer. For noodle soups, consider attaching a baggie of dry pasta to each quart because pasta sometimes gets mushy when frozen. (Your friends can cook the noodles separately and stir them into their reheated quart of soup.) Transfer cooled soup to quart-size containers, leaving room for the soup to expand as it freezes. If you use glass containers, be sure the label reads freezer-safe.

You'll have a great night, and everyone will have a wonderful variety of soup to take home!



Soup Ideas:




Hearty Pizza Soup

Ingredients
1 lb ground Italian pork sausage
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1/2 c. green pepper, chopped
4 1/4 c. water, divided
1/2 t. Italian seasoning
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. dried basil
1/8 t. dried rosemary
1/8 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
2 15 oz jars pizza sauce
2 tomatoes, chopped
6 oz pkg pepperoni, chopped
Garnish- shredded mozzarella cheese, chopped mushrooms

Directions
Brown sausage in a skillet over med. heat; drain; Add onion, green pepper and 1/4 c. water; saute until tender. Stir in seasoning. In a large saucepan over med. heat, combine pizza sauce, remaining water, tomatoes, pepperoni and sauce mixture. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to med-low and simmer for about 15 min. As serving time, top each bowl with shredded cheese and chopped mushrooms. Makes 4-6 servings. 

Kitchen Notes
When I made this, I just added all to the crockpot, except garnish and cooked low for 7 hours while I was gone all day. It could be cooked on high for 3 hours. To make it extra hearty, stir in noodles once done.




Chicken Tortilla Soup 


Ingredients:

  • 2 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Diced Onion
  • 1/4 cup Diced Green Bell Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Red Bell Pepper
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 can (10 Oz. Can) Rotel Tomatoes And Green Chilies
  • 32 ounces, fluid Low Sodium Chicken Stock
  • 3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 4 cups Hot Water
  • 2 cans (15 Oz. Can) Black Beans, Drained
  • 3 Tablespoons Cornmeal Or Masa
  • 5 whole Corn Tortillas, Cut Into Uniform Strips Around 2 To 3 Inches
  •  _____
  •  FOR THE GARNISHES:
  •  Sour Cream
  •  Diced Avocado
  •  Diced Red Onion
  •  Salsa Or Pico De Gallo
  •  Grated Monterey Jack Cheese
  •  Cilantro

Preparation Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder, and salt. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on chicken breasts, then sprinkle a small amount of spice mix on both sides. Set aside the rest of the spice mix.
Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until chicken is done. Use two forks to shred chicken. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add onions, red pepper, green pepper, and minced garlic. Stir and begin cooking, then add the rest of the spice mix. Stir to combine, then add shredded chicken and stir.
Pour in Rotel, chicken stock, tomato paste, water, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.
Mix cornmeal with a small amount of water. Pour into the soup, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Check seasonings, adding more if needed---add more chili powder if it needs more spice, and be sure not to undersalt. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. Five minutes before serving, gently stir in tortilla strips.
Ladle into bowls, then top with sour cream, diced red onion, diced avocado, pico de gallo, and grated cheese, if you have it! 


Chicken Stew and Dumplings

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup flour
drizzle olive oil
1 small onion, grated (or diced)
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt pepper
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 quarts chicken broth
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups diced carrots
4 cups diced, peeled potatoes
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning (recipe to follow)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour, divided
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Dumplings
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter (softened)
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water

Combine ingredients. 

DIRECTIONS:


On a large plate combine flour, salt and pepper.  Dredge chicken breasts through flour and pat flour onto chicken to get an even coating all over.  

In a large stock pot (12 quart), over medium-high heat, allow pan to heat up.  Once pan is hot enough to cause a drop of water to scatter, drizzle pan with olive oil and add chicken in one layer.  Once chicken is browned on one side, turn chicken.  Brown on the other side.  Remove chicken from pan once both side are browned, and set aside.  Add onions to pan and cook until translucent.  Add garlic.  Stir well and begin adding chicken broth, bouillon cubes, chicken, potatoes, carrots, beans, pepper and Creole Seasoning. Bring to a boil.

In a separate pot melt butter, add 1/2 cup of flour.  Whisk to combine and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes to cook out the flour taste.  Add the milk, whisk until combined well.  (It is okay if you have some lumps, these will cook out in the stew).  Add to stew and stir well to combine.  Bring back to boil, reduce to simmer.  Simmer over low-medium for 1 to 2 hours, until chicken is cooked and stew is thickened.  

After 2 hours of simmering, combine flour, baking powder, salt, butter, milk and water. Stir well with a spoon until combined.  Turn stew to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Drop dumplings by spoonfuls on top of boiling stew.  Cover tightly and cook for 12 minutes.  Remove cover and serve stew.



Emeril's Creole Seasoning
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup




Queso Potato Chowder

Yield: Makes 9 cups
  • Total:1 Hour, 10 Minutes


  • Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 poblano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 (20-oz.) package refrigerated Southwestern-style hash brown potatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 (14-oz.) cans low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded asadero cheese*
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Toppings: fried corn tortilla chips, coarsely chopped deli-fried chicken tenders, finely chopped red onion, sliced jalapeño peppers, fresh cilantro sprigs

Preparation:


1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add bell pepper and next 3 ingredients, and sauté 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add potatoes and cumin, and sauté 5 minutes or until browned and tender. Gradually stir in broth, stirring to loosen particles from bottom of Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 25 minutes.
2. Whisk together flour and next 2 ingredients. Stir into potato mixture, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat to low.
3. Add cheeses, and cook, stirring constantly, until cheeses melt and mixture is thoroughly heated. Serve with desired toppings.



1.24.2015

:: This rings true ::








“ Whatever life takes away from you, let it go. When you surrender and let go of the past, 
you allow yourself to be fully alive in the moment. Letting go of the past means you can 
enjoy the dream that is happening right now."


~ Don Miguel Ruiz






1.23.2015

:: Currently ::











Making : a complete mess
Cooking :  macaroni and cheese
Drinking : a strawberry margarita
Reading: orange is the new black 
Wanting: my house to magically clean itself
Looking: for any excuse so I can play
Playing: board games with the neighbors
Wasting: too much time
Sewing: a rice bag for those aches and pains
Wishing: it were not bitter cold
Enjoying: catching up on movies
Waiting: to catch the latest flu bug
Liking: my new fluffy soft socks
Wondering: if I can sneak in a nap
Loving: my new art journal
Hoping: for a little more calm at work

Marveling: at nature, even in the dead of winter
Needing: another drink
Smelling: delicious cinnamon rolls, almost done!
Wearing: a big apron
Following: aunt Elsie's recipe to a tee.
Noticing: everyone is waiting for a cinnamon roll
Knowing: I better save a couple or I won't get one
Thinking: why did I invite anyone over when I'm baking?
Bookmarking: a new recipe - looks good - I'll let you know
Opening: my latest order from Amazon, more craft supplies
Giggling: because I got a great deal... Yes!
Feeling: pretty good, pretty good indeed


How about you? How are you doing today?

:: Foodie Friday ::





Ingredients:

2 lbs flank steak
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
for spice rub---
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

For serving:

corn tortillas
avocado slices
cilantro
your favorite salsa
limes

Directions:

Mix together all spices in a small bowl. Rub the spices all over your flank steak---be generous here!
Then, place your steak at the bottom of your crock pot.
Cover the steak with the chopped onions, bell peppers and jalapeno pepper. Turn heat on LOW and cook
for 8 hours. After 8 hours, remove meat from crock pot and shred with a fork. It should be super easy
easy to shred. You can either stick the shredded meat back in the pot for another hour or serve as is.
To serve, heat your corn tortillas in a skillet on the stove. Spoon some carnitas on a tortilla then
top with salsa, avocado, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy with a margarita for best results!!!









1.22.2015

:: It's Simple, kinda ::





 “What does simple living mean to you?”

That's kind of a tough question isn't it? I think that's because having a simple life has a different meaning and a different value for each and every one of us. In fact, ask me what I think and chances are good that you will get several different answers. Why? because simple can be a little bit complicated. What I need may change year to year, depending upon circumstance, seasons in life and so forth.. And that’s OK. For me, right now, it means eliminating all but the essential, and making way for peace, and spending my time creating experiences for myself, cultivating friendships, doing what’s important to me. That means getting rid of many of the other things I do - so I can spend time with the people that I love and give myself the time to do the things I love. It means getting rid of all the clutter so that all I am left with is that which gives me real value with my time.

However, getting to that point is anything but easy. It's not a simple process either, rather it's more like a journey, one which is filled with two steps forward, and one backward. You would think it would very simple right? It should look like this:


  1. Identify what is most important to you.
  2. Eliminate everything else.
  3. Done.


See what I mean? If life were only that simple. But, it's simply not.


For me, my list looks something like this:


cut away at the excess in life

create experiences
cultivate friendships
de-clutter constantly
say no to things that I don't need or don't need to do
take time to do nothing
practice gratitude
live an environmentally conscious life…

I think that my ideas of enough are pretty simple and straight forward. But, I'm sure that they will change from time to time as well as I grow and change. After all, simplicity is really nothing more than a mindset but that's not the point in and of itself. The way we live, and the life we live - this is the point. The sun, the fun, the travel, the laughter, the memories. These are the point. Noticing them and carving a life from these tiny moments – that is the point.

The de-cluttering helps me to get there. Learning to say no helps me to get there. Letting go of being constantly busy helps me. So what does simple living mean to me? Living. Simply.





1.21.2015

:: Turkish Delights ::



Who doesn't love Turkish Delight? Who? I ask you. Nobody. Everybody loves it. Simply everybody.
Have you ever tried to make the stuff? It seems like it would be really difficult to do doesn't it? Well, allow me to start by saying there are a good many recipes for it, but I have chosen just two for you. Why? I've tried both of them. One is simple and quick and good, the other, though more time consuming is nothing short of deliciousness at it's yummy best. Seriously, both are good. You have to start somewhere right?

The easy recipe:

TURKISH DELIGHT- LEMON OR ROSEWATER
2 cups plain sugar
3 Tb edible gelatin (powdered)
pinch salt
1 cup water
4 tsps pure rosewater or 1 lemon 
tiny drop of red or yellow food coloring
cornflour and icing sugar
Stir together the sugar, gelatin and salt in a heavy-based pot. Add water and bring mixture to a gentle boil. Continue to slowly boil mixture for 10-15 minutes, without stirring. Then remove from heat and add either the rosewater or the zest and juice of one lemon. Next add a very small drop of food coloring. Choose a small dish (I used a ceramic baking dish) and rinse it with some water, but don't dry it. Tip in your sugar mixture, let it cool and then leave in the fridge for a few hours to set. When it's firm, you can get it out of the dish but it can be a bit tricky. Find a clean work surface and tip some icing sugar and cornflour onto it, mix it together with your fingers. Using a thin fish slice or similar, you'll need peel it away from the dish (hopefully in one piece) then place it onto the powered surface. Cut the delight into pieces with a hot knife (dipping it in boiling water helps). Roll each piece in more powder to stop it from sticking then arrange in a box.




The harder recipe:
yield : Makes about 100 one-inch candies
Worth It: A delightfully soft and chewy sweet that's better than any store-bought version you've encountered. Rosewater is the traditional flavoring, and is available at many specialty and gourmet stores, but feel free to replace it with the same amount of whatever pure extract you like, such as orange or vanilla. 

Do note that this recipe requires expert timing {don't worry: that doesn't mean you have to be fast} just read it through a couple of times before you start! It's not a difficult recipe, but if you don't have a good idea of how everything gets put together before you begin, it's easy to get confused. So, just get prepared.
Ingredients:
Special Equipment:
Small (9" x 13") rimmed baking sheet
Heatproof spatula or wooden spoon
Candy thermometer
Large cutting board
Cooking spray or vegetable oil
For the sugar syrup
3 cups (575 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (175 g) honey
1/2 cup (120 g) water
Pinch of cream of tartar
For the cornstarch mixture
1 cup (150 g) cornstarch
1 cup (130 g) confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 cups (600 g) water
1 teaspoon (3 g) cream of tartar
For the flavoring
2 1/2 teaspoons (12 g) rosewater
2 cups (300 g) shelled roasted unsalted pistachios (if you can only find them raw, check out how to toast them yourself on page 284)
2 or 3 drops red food coloring (optional)
For cutting and dredging
About 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, for dusting the cutting board
1/2 cup cornstarch sifted together with 1 cup confectioners' sugar
preparation

1. Generously coat the baking sheet with cooking spray, and set it aside.

2. Make the sugar syrup: Combine the sugar, honey, water, and cream of tartar in a medium-size (4-quart) saucepan, and mix with the heatproof spatula to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, and insert the candy thermometer. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 260°F/127°C (hard ball stage), about 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile (keeping an eye on the sugar syrup), make the cornstarch mixture: In a large (6-quart) saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, confectioners' sugar, water, and cream of tartar to combine. Once the sugar syrup reaches 250°F/121°C (firm ball stage), place the cornstarch mixture over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with the whisk; it will thicken and boil quickly, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the mixture on the hot burner; stir well a few times with a whisk, and set aside.

4. At this point, the sugar syrup should be close to 260°F/127°C (hard ball stage); when it reaches that temperature, remove it from the heat and carefully pour it into the cornstarch mixture. Stir well with the whisk to combine. Bring everything to a low boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to low and cook at a low simmer, stirring frequently with the spatula, until the mixture is thick and gluey and a light golden color, 30 to 45 minutes. Don't turn your back on it! You need to make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula every few minutes to prevent scorching and lumps.

5. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flavorings: stir in the rosewater, pistachios, and food coloring (if using).

6. Wearing oven mitts, immediately pour the candy into the prepared baking sheet. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the candy to prevent it from forming a skin as it cools. Allow it to cool until it has set and is firm and cool to the touch, 6 to 8 hours.

7. Gently peel off the plastic wrap. Dust the cutting board with the confectioners' sugar. Run the tip of a paring knife between the candy and the sheet, and gently turn the candy out onto the prepared board.

8. Place the cornstarch mixture in a medium-size bowl. Generously coat a sharp chef's knife with cooking spray, and use a gentle slicing motion to cut the candy into 1-inch squares. Dredge the pieces in the cornstarch mixture until well coated.

Store the Turkish delights, layered with wax paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 1 month. That's it! You've done it! And now, you'll do it again and again! Your so good.












1.20.2015

:: The Bread Book ::



 

   


 




I bought this book brand spanking new... in 1994. I wanted to learn to bake bread by hand.
I have to tell ya. This book has never failed me. The recipes are tried and true, tested and made
over and over again for many holidays, and for everydays. I own a lot of cookbooks, but this one
shows the wear and the tear of one that is used. And often. Do you have a favorite cookbook like that?