chicken chili

January 15, 2013 § 1 Comment

chicken chili

A friend of mine is thinking about making chicken chili for a party she’s throwing, and I told her that I had the perfect one. It’s important to have a few well-worn, loved and trusted recipes in your kitchen. For me, the more used the cookbook or the more destroyed the printed recipe, the better! One of my best – and definitely most worn – recipes is the Soup Nazi’s Chicken Chili from the Top Secret Recipes online site. (You know the Soup Nazi, made famous in one of the best Seinfeld episodes where George doesn’t follow the strict ordering procedure and gets a sharp “No soup for you!” from the crabby but genius soup stand chef.) This recipe came to me from my friend Stacy’s mom, and they’d both already made a few modifications before it sending it my way. I’ve tweaked it a bit more, and the result is the most delicious chicken chili I’ve ever eaten. This is a crowd pleaser – give it a try!

The Soup Nazi’s Mexican Chicken Chili

2 pounds of chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 small onion
2 cups frozen corn
2 carrots, sliced
3-4 celery stalks, diced
3 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans red kidney beans, no liquid
1 jalapeno, diced
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 – 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of basil
dash of oregano
salt to taste

Saute the chicken breasts in the olive oil in a large pot over medium/high heat. Cook the chicken on both sides until done – about 7-10 minutes per side. Cool the chicken until it can be handled. Do not rinse the pot. Shred the chicken by hand into bite-sized pieces and place the pieces back into the pot. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and turn heat to high. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 4-5 hours. Stir mixture often so that many of the chicken pieces shred into much smaller bits. Chili should reduce substantially to thicken and darken (less orange, more brown) when done. Combine some chopped Italian parsley with sour cream and serve it on the side for topping the chili, if desired.

goal setting

January 10, 2013 § 2 Comments

i think i can

Another new year, time for some new goals – or in my case, re-addressing some of my old goals in new ways. In January, lots of people like to evaluate their choices from the previous year and perhaps tweak a few things. My New Year’s resolutions always seem to be the same: to not worry so much, to enjoy my life more, to spend more time on my writing and other personal projects, and to get in shape. On the subject of that last one, I’m kick-starting my new healthier self with a cleanse that I saw in the January’s Redbook magazine: no processed foods, no caffeine, no alcohol, no dairy, no breads, no sugar. If my celebrity muse Gwyneth Paltrow can do it for three weeks, then surely I can do it for five days. I’m not making her exact recipes and probably eating more than I should, but hey at least I’m trying.

My motivation with these kinds of things usually comes from the challenge. I ran my first half marathon in 2009 mostly because I didn’t think I could. My friend Stacy wanted to run one, and honestly I didn’t think there was any way I would be able to run that far. I’d never been much of a runner and hadn’t even run 5 miles at one time before. But being able to cross something off the bucket list seemed as good a reason as any to try. It makes me happy to be out of my usual routine and to work a little harder to see just what I’m made of. Of course, exactly 0 miles into my new running challenge, completing a FULL marathon in June, I’m feeling a little skeptical of whether the surprising-even-myself philosophy will be enough. I just have to stay positive: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can …

I’m on day four of this cleanse and have been dealing with massive headaches. But focusing on the good – of how proud of myself I’ll be and how nice it will feel to know I’m working hard to stay healthy – may just get me through. That and the fact that Friday evening is Bella’s birthday party, and I for one am planning to have an extra big helping of my homemade mac and cheese and a glass of wine to celebrate. Yes, cross another challenge off the list!

letting it happen

January 3, 2013 § 3 Comments

all you need

It’s funny how things work out sometimes – so different from how you planned, yet sometimes so much better. The annual Christmas card is always such a big deal to me. Sending them out and receiving them from family and friends is one of my highlights of the season. I love to really think about our card. I’m a planner, and I look through old photos or set-up little photo shoots to get the perfect image for the card each year. This time around, I found a really cool card on Tiny Prints with a Beatles quote (one of my faves) and knew I wanted to use it. We needed to get one great shot of the girls set to the side so that the wording would show. So we headed down to Volunteer Park in Seattle where there’s an awesome brick wall, the perfect place for my perfect Christmas card photo. But life – and our little sister – had something different planned.

The posed shots from that day were just OK, not many real smiles and a little stiff, but when Sophie decided to bust out her rock star moves (so Sophie), it cracked us up and ended up being more than perfect – it’s one of my favorite pictures ever of my girls! And all the other candid photos from that day were wonderful, too. Sometimes it’s those unplanned moments – the pictures between the pictures – that really captures life. Sometimes just letting it happen lets the real us shine through.

bolognese

December 31, 2012 § 2 Comments

bolognese

It’s a quiet New Year’s Eve for us this year, and I’m chilling at home making a favorite. This is one of my most cherished recipes – tried and true, a crumpled and well-worn page torn from a Cooking Light magazine. This recipe for Bolognese sauce is the best I’ve found. Unlike a lot of the tomato-heavy spaghetti sauces we’re used to seeing in America, this sauce is a beautiful orange color filled with carrots, celery and onion, and flavored with nutmeg and bay leaf, chicken broth and milk. Eating it reminds me of the first bowl of spaghetti I ate in Venice on my honeymoon. Ooh, I though, this is what all the fuss is about. I couldn’t get that sauce out of my mind and spent a number of years trying to replicate it. This wonderful recipe comes pretty close. I always make at least a double batch and love it over egg fettuccine with lots of Parmesan; and I’ve also recently started using it as the sauce for my lasagna – delizioso! Happy New Year!

Ragu Alla Bolognese

From Cooking Light magazine – This recipe is adapted from the classic ragus of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
5 ounces ground veal (I usually sub turkey)
5 ounces ground pork
5 ounces ground round
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot; cover and cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove onion mixture from pan. Add meat to pan; cook over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Add wine, salt, pepper, nutmeg and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Add the onion mixture, broth and tomato puree; bring to a simmer. Cook 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in milk and minced parsley; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 40 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Yield: 8 (1 1/2 cup) servings.

Lasagna with Bolognese

1 batch Bolognese sauce
lasagna noodles, cooked
2 eggs
24 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese

Combine eggs, ricotta, pepper and Parmesan, stirring well. Spread about 1 cup Bolognese sauce in bottom of 13×9 baking dish. Layer half each of noodles, ricotta cheese mixture, mozzarella cheese and Bolognese sauce. Repeat layers. Top with additional grated Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

chihuly glass

December 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

I don’t think blown glass was something I’d given much thought to before we moved to Seattle. But here in the backyard of the famous glass blower Dale Chihuly, you can’t help but take notice. With my mom who’s in town visiting, we went to check out the newest addition to the downtown Seattle scene: Chihuly Garden and Glass – a comprehensive collection of Chihuly’s work displayed through indoor halls, a glasshouse and an outdoor garden. The size and scope of some of the pieces were so impressive that a lot of the conversation by the admirers was about the sheer logistics of making, transporting and installing work of this nature. I think I was most impressed by the colors – every one on the color wheel everywhere you looked. We went in the evening and the lights gave the garden a truly magical quality, but the daylight view is supposed to be equally stunning. Guess I’ll have to make plans for a return visit.

The work of Chihuly is known and admired around the world. Two years ago when we were in Venice, we went on a glass blowing tour on the island of Murano. When the man in the studio heard we were from Seattle, he excitedly told us in broken English that Chihuly has visited them there to work and collaborate on projects. There in gorgeous and impressive Venice, I was proud to be from gorgeous and impressive Seattle. It’s just another little thing that makes this a cool place to live.

vanilla sugar

December 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

vanilla sugar jars

I came across the idea of homemade flavored sugars in the May issue of Country Living and saved it for the holidays. These recipes are so simple to make and taste great in tea or coffee. Start with 2 cups granulated sugar. For vanilla sugar, split 1 vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds from the bean into the sugar; then bury the bean in the sugar. For cinnamon sugar, add 1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon and 2 cinnamon sticks. I am loving the little chalkboard spice jars at Anthropologie, and this delicious vanilla sugar was the perfect thing to put inside as a holiday gift. Merry Christmas!

weck jars

December 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

candied pecan jars

weckIn my never-ending quest for new variations on the glass jar (yes, scary that this is a quest of mine), I’ve stumbled across an oldie but a goodie: Weck jars. Introduced in Germany in the early 1900s, these jars popularized home canning and have been a staple in Europe ever since. I noticed them popping up in American stores like World Market this year, and they were featured in Williams Sonoma’s canning displays. Weck-brand canning jars come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have cool detachable lids and metal clips to fasten them shut. I’m a sucker for an interesting glass jar, and these have been perfect for gifts of candied pecans this holiday season. I’m also using a bunch of jars to hold leftovers in my kitchen and supplies in the craft room. Oh yeah, and I guess at some point I might get around to actually canning something with them.

a year of flowers

December 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog long enough to have entries a year in the making. Last January, I gave myself a challenge: to put together one fresh flower arrangement for the house every month. I stipulated that the flowers and greenery in the arrangements must be chosen separately by me (no pre-arranged flowers for this girl), which forced me to take my time, think about colors and textures and types of flowers, and to arrange them in a pretty way. I have always loved flowers and love that Drew gives them to the girls and me to mark important occasions. This has been a fun project and may be something that sticks around for a long time. Because these fresh flowers have definitely added a little more happy to our house, and our darker Seattle days have seemed just a bit brighter. It’s little things like this that make life more beautiful.

baking party

December 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

baking party

We just went to an awesome baking party yesterday, and I was reminded of Bella’s 6th birthday. This was one of my favorite parties! Fun party planning for me always begins with a great idea for the invitation and the party favors, and for this one the recipe card invites and the homemade aprons were so much fun to make. I loved the retro papers and fabrics I used – I even found a matching dress for my birthday girl to wear. I’m not great with patterns but pretty handy with the sewing machine, and these aprons weren’t too hard to cut and patch together without a pattern. The guests were set up around the kitchen island and spent the evening making their own pizzas and rolling and decorating sugar cookies. Most children love to help in the kitchen and, just like at the party yesterday, the adults were impressed with just how quiet it got as the little one focused in on their grown-up baking. It was an adorable party, and the memories are unforgettable.

washi tags

December 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

washi tags

I love that my craft room looks like Santa’s workshop right now with all the fun holiday wrapping supplies I’ve amassed being put to good use. My friend Stacy had a Christmas tag making party last week (something she’s done for the past couple of years), and we discovered that all the cool Washi tape we’d been collecting makes for AWESOME holiday tags. I love homemade tags, and these are so simple and cute. I can’t wait to see how great they look on all my “brown paper packages tied up with string – these are a few of my favorite things.” (Sorry, but I can’t possibly wrap presents or even think about wrapping without singing the Sound of Music.) The holidays just make me happy!