an art party

June 25, 2013 § 2 Comments

My baby turned nine yesterday – I cannot believe it – and we celebrated in style with a lovely art party. My girls have been invited to a few art parties in recent years at different painting stores in the area. Sophie loves art, so we decided to do our own at-home version complete with real canvases for the girls to paint. For the art project each guest painted her own initial surrounded by different designs. It was a little rainy (typical June Seattle) so we had to set-up the painting in the garage instead of the grass like I’d imagined, but the guests didn’t seem to care. We served our favorite macaroni and cheese and sandwiches and had paint-your-own frosted cupcakes for dessert.

I love the colors we chose – orange and aqua – and had so much fun picking up cool treat bags, candies, straws, flowers and decor to match. I bought the smocks at the craft store but sewed orange chevron pockets to the front and tied on some coordinating ribbon – an easy way to make a store-bought apron look homemade. All and all, a simple and adorable birthday party that made my Sophie a very happy girl. And a happy girl makes a happy mommy!!

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.

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.

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!

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.

blueberry muffins

May 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

I love to bake, and it’s one of my favorite things to do for my family. I got up a little early this morning, and it was cool and rainy outside – the perfect morning for blueberry muffins. This is a great recipe; I’ve been making it for years. The best part is the sugar sprinkled on top before baking, which creates a crunchy sweet crust that is so yummy! My girls were excited to wake up to this treat. They had a warm muffin for breakfast, and then we wrapped one for each of them – tied up in a cloth napkin Little House on the Prairie style – to take for a school snack. Enjoy these with your family!

Blueberry Muffins

3/4 cup butter softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/3 cups milk
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, creaming. In another bowl, combine 2 and 2/3 cups of flour and remaining dry ingredients. Mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, and then slowly add the milk. Combine until moist – do not over-mix. Place remaining 1/3 cup of flour in a ziplock bag, add the rinsed berries and shake to coat with the flour. Stir the blueberries into batter. Fill muffin tins (either greased or lined with papers) almost full. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

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