Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

From my house to yours I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gearing up for the New Year

I chose not to participate in a bunch of Christmas posts for a couple of reasons.  One everyone is doing it and doing a wonderful job I enjoy reading everyone's holiday posts and two my biggest reason I'm still having a hard time adjusting to an empty nest.  My Christmas shopping has been done for 2 weeks now and has been shipped out and received which has taken a huge load off my shoulders.

Now I'm taking comfort in listening to Christmas music and planning a holiday dinner for my husband and myself and reflecting on how thankful I am that everyone I love is happy and in good health.  It's been pretty hard down sizing the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.  I am use to feeding armies of people.  When living in California we had all my husband's single friends over to share the holidays with us, my daughter's friends, we had an open door policy, I miss that.

Wow, I sound like a Debbie Downer and I didn't plan on that.  I'm sorry.  Time to change gears. (no offense to the Debbie's out there)

Between now and until the end of the year I am going to start planning out my short term and long term goals for 2014 and beyond.

Cooking Groups:

I am going to continue with the two Cooking Groups I'm in:

Baking Partners a group of home bakers working on expanding out of our comfort zone 

Cooking from The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen  Cooking through Food Network Star Amy Thielen's cookbook

A new Cooking Group that starts up in January:

Baking through Monica Holland's cookbook Lick The Bowl Good

Getting in touch with my creative side:

My husband and I are both going to be working on Art Journals.  I have bought each of us a bound sketch journal.  The plan is to use the two open pages to be creative, sketching, painting, doodling, or writing once a week through the whole year.

I plan to work on my writing skills in 2014.  I have two different writer's kit and will be setting aside time each day to do some writing.

I am going to read up on and take online classes in Photography.

I would like to start dabbling into home decorating - my 2014 project will be my bedroom

I am planning on officially opening my Ranch Delux Etsy Shop.  Which will have handmade and vintage gifts.

Enjoy these last few days leading up to Christmas

Sit down with a cup of tea and some of those holiday treats that friends gave to you or that you made yourself.  Watch a Christmas movie, listen to your favorite Christmas CD,  journal about blessings in your life and look forward to the new year and new beginnings.

Monday, December 16, 2013

French Onion Soup

Two weeks ago we got 14 inches of snow, since that day our temps have been getting warmer everyday.  I'm enjoying the 40 and 50 degree temps, however, the snow isn't melting as fast as I would like.  When you are in the sun it is very comfortable but get in the shade with all this snow around you, it's pretty darn chilly.

I went for a walk around our property which was very nice until I got to areas that the sun doesn't hit and I had snow up to my knees.  That's a sight to see me trying to get out of the snow especially when Olive is attacking me. (Olive is our 2 year old English Bull Terrier, who loves the snow)

After flopping around in the snow I was glad I had a big pot of French Onion Soup sitting on the stove top simmering.  The moment I opened the door the aroma put a smile on my face.  There is nothing like warming up with a bowl of steaming soup.

French Onion Soup

1 stick of butter
4 to 5 onions, sliced thin
1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
3 to 4 fresh thyme sprigs
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
pinch red pepper flakes (because everything is good with red pepper flakes)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon, fresh ground pepper
2 heaping tablespoons flour
1 cup red wine (I used Purple Cowboy, Tenacious Red, tastes good too)
1 32oz box beef stock (low sodium)
Gruyere Cheese, shredded
lightly toasted baguette bread, sliced about an inch

In a large stock pot melt butter, add onions, rosemary, thyme, garlic, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Stir until everything has been coated by the butter.  Sauté on low for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle in flour and stir, cook down flour for 5 minutes, add wine, stir and reduce on low for 15 minutes.  Add beef stock, adjust salt and pepper to taste, cover and heat on medium low heat for 25 minutes.  Before serving remove bay leaves and thyme stems. Dish up soup in oven safe bowls, top with a slice of bread and a good amount of cheese.  Place under the broiler until cheese is melted and starts to brown.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.

Shared with Weekend Potluck #99

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chef'n Banana Slicer

My favorite new kitchen gadget is the Chef'n Banana Slicer that I ordered from Williams-Sonoma $9.95 (I did get free shipping).  I know what your thinking just pull out a knife and slice it yourself.  But then I wouldn't get inform slices of banana.  The banana slices are perfect for cereal, banana cream pie and peanut butter banana sandwiches.  Makes a nice stocking stuffer or to threaten your husband.

Video from Chef'n

Then I find this very funny video about banana slicers.  I'm still standing behind my purchase.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables

It is no secret that I make dinners around the vegetables I have in my refrigerator.  I very rarely put specific vegetable in a recipe.  It comes down to personal taste and what we have on hand.  I am lucky to have a family that loves vegetables so we have a little meat with our vegetables, when I make a stir-fry.  That is the beauty of a stir-fry you can put anything thing in this one dish meal.  Serve with a side of steamed rice and you are ready to go in minutes.

Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables

3 chicken breasts, boneless skinless, cut into bite sized chunks
your favorite bottled teriyaki sauce
fresh ginger, approx. 2 inch knob peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 to 3 tablespoons sriracha
1 large garlic clove, minced
your favorite veggies, cut into bite size pieces
I used - carrots, celery, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, orange bell pepper, and snow peas 
8 oz can sliced water chestnuts
8 oz can sliced bamboo shoots
sesame seed oil
canola oil

Start by cutting chicken breasts into bite sized cubes and placing in a ziploc bag.  Pour enough of the teriyaki sauce  in to cover all the chicken along with the sliced ginger; refrigerate for at least two hours or over night.  In a small bowl or jar place 1 cup teriyaki sauce, sriracha, grated ginger and minced garlic; mix together well and refrigerate the same about of time as the chicken.

Cut vegetables into bite size pieces; if using carrots and celery cut thin on the diagonal, slice mushroom. (I used 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, half of a onion, 8 medium mushrooms, one medium orange bell pepper, cup of broccoli florets and a handful of uncut snow peas).  

Using a hot wok or large skillet add a small amount of sesame oil and canola oil (about 1/4 teaspoon of each) on high heat and cook the carrots, onions, broccoli, bell pepper and celery until just tender and remove to a plate, sauté the mushrooms; remove to plate, add chestnuts and bamboo shoots; cook until heated through; while cooking all the vegetables add additional oil if where needed. 

Add additional oil and cook chicken in small batches until it is done; which is about 6 minutes for each batch.  Add vegetables and the uncooked snow peas; pour teriyaki sriracha glaze over chicken and veggies; cook until heated through. Serve with steamed or fried rice.

Note:  If you would like the sauce to be a little thicker after the chicken is done cooking sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch and stir for 4 minutes; then add the vegetables and glaze.

Shared at

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Cheese Appetizers Two Ways

Tis the season for parties.......whether it's for work, family, couples or girls night-in it's time to party.  I made two appetizers using two different cheeses and toppings.  These are perfect if you are bringing them to someone's party or at home since you can serve them at room temperature.  Crack open a couple bottles of wine - The brie pairs nicely with Pinot Grigio and the muenster pairs nicely with a Gewurztaminer.

If you are considering hosting a party think about an Appetizer Party and asking each guest to bring an appetizer.  So you don't end up with all chips and dip consider consider talking to your guests on what they are planning on bringing or maybe putting ideas on a slip of paper, placing them in a Christmas stocking and having them pull out a slip of paper.  You don't want to tell them what to bring put an idea, example: cheese plate, chips and dip, meat appetizer, cheese appetizer, flavored nuts, veggie dish, hot appetizer, cold appetizer.

As the host you can provide a couple of more elaborate appetizers and the drinks.

Cheese Appetizers Two Ways

3 baguette loaves
olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon butter
President Brie Log
Cranberry Relish (recipe below)
large onion
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, rough chopped
muenster cheese
fresh sage, minced
fresh cilantro, minced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the baguette loaves 1/4 inch on the diagonal and place on cookie sheets, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in over for 9 minutes.

Heat a medium skillet until hot on low, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter and olive oil.  Quarter the onion and then slice thin.  Add onion to skillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir until all of the onion slices are covered in the butter and olive oil.  Stir occasionally allowing the onions to caramelize I like to cook them about 50 minutes or until they get a deep brown color. Last 10 minutes add the fresh thyme and stir.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide up the baguette slices into 3 piles.  First pile top with 1/4 sliced Brie and place on a cookie sheet, second pile top with 1/4 slices muenster cheese and place on a cookie sheet.  Place in oven just until cheese starts to melt.  Remove from oven.  Top brie with a teaspoon of cranberry relish and sprinkle with fresh cilantro.  Top muenster cheese with caramelized onions and sprinkle with fresh sage.  The third pile of baguette slices arrange on a plate and serve with the left over cranberry relish.  You can also do extra onions so guests can help themselves with the leftover bread and relish.

Cranberry Relish

2 bags of OceanSpray Fresh Whole Cranberries, picking out any squishy berries
1 1/2 fresh jalapeños, diced
2/3 cup cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, diced small
1/2 red onion, minced
zest from one large orange
juice from that orange
2/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
2/3 cup sugar or to taste

Using a food processor pulse cranberries doing a quarter of them at a time.  With the last batch of cranberries add the diced jalapeños, cilantro and ginger, pulse.  Add to the rest of the cranberries and stir.  Add orange zest, orange juice, stir.  Add sugar and red onion and mix together.  Allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes stir again and taste to see if you want it sweeter.  (you want to make sure the sugar dissolves before tasting) add toasted pecans.   Put relish in a strainer over a bowl for 15 minutes that way the relish will not be real wet.

Shared with Hearth and Soul Blog Hop

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