Friday, November 27, 2015

Lightening & Brightening the dining room (part 2)

Do you recall the in progress post about the dining room? If not, click HERE.

The hubbs found this light fixture that someone has set near the dumpster. Other than 1 of the arms being a little loose (nothing a little teflon tape over the threads couldn't fix) it is in pristine condition. FREE is my favorite price!

I love how it brings so much brightness to the room.

It is maybe a little too fancy/ shiny/ blingy for my dining room but I love it regardless! What is one more eclectic piece?

We need to add a touch of adhesive to the ceiling medallion and apply a fresh coat of paint. The best part (besides free) is I now have a chandelier I can decorate for xmas. Yay!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Home is wherever you are...

This is the towel currently on display in my kitchen. The sentiment has taken on additional meaning in light of the global tragedies we have witnessed in the past few weeks.  Life is fraught with many unknowns and far to precious to squander. Let go of the unimportant minutia cluttering your brain and celebrate  your moments with those meaningful people in your life.

I have a deep ingrained sense of home. My childhood was less than stellar. It is only something I have only recently begun to speak about. We moved several dozen times while I was in elementary school, there was a bout or 2 of homelessness (sleeping in the car or floor surfing at a relatives house) and my sisters and I spent a short time in foster care.  Therefore the very connotation of HOME equals stability and is the place I feel safe. I think given my history, it is why I am a homebody and always prefer to putter around my house as opposed to going out to socialize.

My nesting continued over the last couple weekends, as I have been cleaning, cooking, baking canning and organizing. Maybe I am settling in for a long winter's hibernation, ha!

I am continuing my foray into baking bread. I have managed to make some really decent oat bread. I dipped my fingers in the whole grain bread making arena. Um, it wasn't as successful as I had hoped.

Wheat Bread
I followed the directions. The bread sounded hollow when thumped but felt heavy. After cooling, when I cut into into the loaf, the bread had a wet dough ring. So I sliced and cubed all of it, lightly toasted/ dried in the oven and combined  with all the other breads to make home stuffing. I have 4 bags in the freezer ready to go.

The rye bread was slightly dry, somewhat  chewy crust but had excellent flavor and aroma. I served it toasted and it was quite flavorful.
Rye Bread
Oh well, at least there is chocochip banana bread. My banana bread was perfect. Banana bread never disappoints me.
Banana Bread
My daughter gave me her kitchen aid stand mixer. it is the Kitchenaid 550HD Professional with bowl lift. Insert Tim "The Tool Man" grunt and more power! HAHA

 Do y'all have any idea how much I wanted one? Only for 20 years! I broke it in right away making Julia Child's Basic White bread.  It looks awfully pretty on my counter top,  hehe. Is there anything better than the yeasty sweet smell of pillowy soft dough?

This recipe is enough for 2 loaves. I separated the dough after the 1st rise. I baked 1 and froze the 2nd shaped loaf for later use.

I had a major oops, when my shelf fell off the wall and busted my pasta jars. Insert a big ol' frownie face! It was a mess! No major damage to the cabinets, counter top or floor.  The shelf has been reinstalled with much sturdier wall anchors and less weight on the shelf.

My brother-in-law (BIL) installed baseboard, window casing and door trim, YAY!  Look how amazing the this entry looks now compared to the before. No more crooked door frame! There was alot of fancy cutting to make the door frame look square and true.

Once the old door frame was built out to match the new wall, the hubbs pounded a 12 inch wide board into place for the jamb --wow, was that loud!-- it was nailed in place,  then the door casing was installed with a 1/4 inch reveal.

The window casing looks nice and the BIL gave me a nice depth on the window sill to hold a bud vase or 2. And now that the window has been trimmed out I can finally work on the window treatment.

I need to putty the nail holes, prime the jamb and paint all the casing. I am so excited because there is only ONE major project left from the kitchen project list  remaining which is to install the new kitchen entry door (hardware, kickplate and trim work). I am still undecided about installing a tile backsplash. So I guess that is 1 & 1/2 projects. My kitchen is at 99% completion. Woohoo! Fingers crossed if the weather holds, this will be finished by Christmas.

This will be our 1st Thanksgiving using the kitchen but I don't expect any issues. Remember, I was up and cooking in the kitchen for Christmas last year.  We may be inching along but we are still chipping away at the house project list.

Well that is all the news from our homefront. How are y'all doing?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Nesting Weekend

Last weekend, I must have been in a nesting mode. My weekend began with One Pot Chicken Soup on Friday.

Then Saturday I woke early--sleeping in with 2 dogs, so not gonna happen--made a light breakfast of  cheese omelet with toast and jam. And proceeded to over caffeinate myself --really, is there such a thing as over caffeination?--by drinking an entire pot (32 oz) of double strength English Breakfast Tea. Oh yes, I was wired!

Since I had energy to spare, I made a pan of chocolate chip walnut brownies. This was followed by 3 loaves of Oat bread. I baked 2 traditional pan loaves and used the bread maker for the 3rd loaf. 

You know what goes great with fresh baked bread? Vegetable Beef Goulash-Stew.  According to Taste of Home "Stew most often refers to a main dish that contains meat, vegetables and a thick broth made from the stewing juices. Goulash is a kind of stew, usually a Hungarian stew, made with meat and vegetables and seasoned with paprika."

Traditional Hungarian Goulash (Gulyas--which translates to herd or stockman) is heavily flavored with hot Hungarian paprika--often as much as a 1/2 cup and the use of red chili flakes!  Austrian Goulash incorporates both sweet/ hot paprika and caraway seeds. I kinda made my recipe up as I went  along, haha

2 slices of onion, 1/2 inch thick, separate rings
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 TBS flour
1 lb of stew beef diced into small cubes (I quartered my cubes)
1 (28 ounce) can of tomato sauce
3 small bay leaves
4 cups of low sodium beef broth
1 lb of baby potatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
3 ribs of celery, cut into 1/2  inch chunks
1 cup carrots
8 ounces of green beans, halved
1/2 of large green pepper, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 TBS paprika
1 & 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp sugar
1 (15 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1 cup okra (frozen)
1 cup of cabbage shreds

Coat diced beef with flour. Heat oil on med-low heat. Add garlic and onion. Saute for 10 minutes or until aromatic. Add the beef, cook until all sides are browned. Add tomato sauce, bay leaves, cover slightly ajar and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The beef should be very tender and the sauce will have thickened. Add the remaining vegetables EXCEPT the frozen okra and cabbage shreds. Add the paprika, pepper flakes, sugar and beef broth. Increase heat to medium, cover, cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The carrots and potatoes should be fork tender at this point. If not, continue to cook and check every 5 minutes until tender. Add the diced tomatoes, frozen okra and cabbage shreds. Once the temperature resumes the medium boil, cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, skim out bay leaves, cover tightly and let stand about 20 minutes.

The goulash base will have thickened, the cabbage and okra will be translucent and you can actually eat it without it be boiling-lava hot, ha! I added some black pepper and a quick grind of pink Himalayan mineral salt. This kept in the fridge for 2 days and the flavors melded beautifully!

Sunday, I rounded out my nesting by canning a small batch of Cherry Berry Orchard Jam.

This is a blend of cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and grated / diced granny smith apples. Add some sugar, some lemon juice  and cook away!

I took some bread and jam to my coworker's and they lost their collective minds, haha. Overall it was a great productive weekend. Cooking, baking and canning are among my favorite hobbies.

How about y'all--anyone else been nesting?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

One pot chicken soup

There are so many things to love about autumn. The colors of the falling leaves; the earthy smells mixed with the spicy scents of cinnamon; the brisk air and warming by a cozy fire; dressing in layers, sipping on warm mulled cider; and comfort foods of all sorts, but especially soup!

The last few days were a mix of rain (for 2 days straight), cool weather and overcast skies. By the end of this week I was exhausted; whereas, all I wanted to do when I came home on Friday was put on my jammies, cuddle under blanket and eat comfort food.

Anyone can open a can of chicken soup but I find canned soup to be too salty and the veggies are always mushy. Anyone can make chicken soup, whether it be homemade or semi homemade. The trick is a flavorful broth base and fresh ingredients. I use packaged stock because I usually have it on hand, but if you have an opportunity to make and store your own stock (especially bone broth, please do so. Some people swear by the chicken foot broth but I have not yet  made it.)

Here's what you need:

1.5 lbs boneless chicken breast
4 cups of low sodium chicken stock
2 cups of water
2 ribs of chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup carrots 
1 cup okra (I use frozen)
1/4 cup chopped spinach
3/4 cup uncooked, rinsed ditalini pasta
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/2 teaspoon poultry sealeaves andvegetable boullion cubes
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Add oil to a 4 qt stock pot on medium low heat. Once oil is heated add the onion, garlic and celery. Saute for 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add the diced chicken and carrots. Saute, stirring chicken until it is white on all sides. Add 4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cups of water, 2 bouillon cubes, 2 bay leaves and poultry seasoning. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes, (add the frozen okra about 20 minutes in) stirring occasionally. Add the uncooked, rinsed pasta and the 1/4 cup chopped spinach.  Turn the heat up slightly so, the liquid is a slightly more rapid boil. Cook for an additional 10-12 minutes.

Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy. Mmmmmmm. So Good!

There were 2 servings left, and I must say the flavors really came together after sitting in the refrigerator. The pasta had absorbed some of the broth so I added just a little splash of water to thin the soup out when heating. I know spinach seems odd, but I didn't have any parsley. Be warned the broth will take on a slight greenish hue from the spinach, but the flavor is great.  I was looking for a nutrient packed soup and this really delivered!