Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A peacock and a lady screaming?

If you have never been around peacocks at night the title of this post must be confusing, or intriguing perhaps?
My favorite uncle and aunt lived on a large farm that covered an even larger hill (read mountainish) in Kentucky. I used to love to go,stay with them and explore the farm. I also loved tagging along with my older cousins. I had one I particular who fascinated me with her teenagerness. She had the most gorgeous long dark brown hair and was/is beautiful. I'm sure she hated having her little city-cousin following her all over the farm, but she never let me know if she felt this way. Even her name was exotic to me as it was her parent's names put together. This was before the days of it being a fashionable southern thing to do to give your kids a double name.
My anut and uncle had all tgoes of animals on the farm. Everything from cows to chickens to...yiu guessed it, peacocks. I'm not 100% sure how they ended up with peacocks on a farm in northern Kentucky. Things like this just seemed to happen with them. These were the same people who had so many chickens that they started to roost in the trees close to the house. When you would drive up the gravel road almost at their house they had two chicken trees. Let's just say you tried to never walk under these trees!

So back to the peacocks. I was staying overnight with them and in the middle of the night I was awakened by a lady screaming! I was about 10 years or so old, but was still sure there was someone out there in need of help. I got out of bed and walked to the big sliding glass door and peered out. Again a scream! I was way too (dare I say) chicken to actually walk outside and did not want to wake up my aunt or uncle. I waited out the night scared to death with what the day might bring.
First thing in the morning I told my aunt what I had heard the night before. She howled with laughter and told me there was nothing to be worried about. Apparently when male peacocks are feeling 'amorous' they call out to the ladies around. I wish that she had shared this piece of I formation with me the afternoon before. To this day I can't see a peacock without also hearing an echo of a lady screaming.

My aunt and uncle's peacocks eventually became something's dinner or someone else's worries because they left the farm. They didn't leave without a trace though, my aunt collected all the beautiful feathers they left behind and gave them to my mom and me. I displayed them for awhile in different areas of the house until they lost their appeal and became a dust magnet. I would never get rid of them for their history, but have now repurposed some for Christmas decorations. I jazzed up some plain, boring green wreaths with glitters picks in peacock colors as well as some of the feathers.
My uncle is no longer with us, but he is a part of our Christmas celebrations every year without fail.




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Oh Christmas tree!

Before having a child in the house I had one of those "perfect trees". You know the kind with the perfectly matched ornaments and draped just so. I had so much extra time on my hands (and a heavy dose of OCD) I even made my own large ornaments! Oh to have that kind of time again.....sigh

Now our tree looks different, I think better but the word different is a better descriptor as a nod to my former self. Now the tree has a mismash of ornaments, a lot of them homemade still. These are so much better than my old ones, these have things like 'Kindergarten 2009' and Merry Crissmass' on them. This year we even have a boat from a recent Cub Scout Raingutter Regata making an appearance. Our tree has become a visual journal of our lives together and apart.
There are also ornaments from the annual ornament party to bring back great memories and ornaments from special friends.
This year a friend made me an initial ornament that I am in love with! Not only is it personalized to me, but it's also made with German glitter. Germany holds such a place in my heart that I cannot find the words to describe it. One word is home while others have either not occurred to me or haven't been invented yet!
Another new ornament this year is from a new friend who knew that not only do we have a dog with an underbite, but also a new decorating angle featuring Bulldogs. Ornaments are a great gift for friends and families. It is a way to weave ourselves together into each other's holiday stories.



Consider an ornament as a hostess gift this year, show someone you were thinking of and about them when picking out that special gift. And just in case they aren't a Christmas nerd like me, hang it on a good bottle of wine!




You may have noticed that the tree is elevated. When the tree was bought we lived in a house with 8ft ceilings. When we moved into this house the ceilings were quite a bit higher and the tree looked tiny. Rather than buying another tree I put it on top of an old round table and covered it with an oversized tree skirt. Not only does it give the tree much needed height, it also frees up floor space for when Santa comes! 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Deck those halls and everywhere else too!

I love Christmas. I know that's not a particularly bold statement to make, but it's the truth when it comes to me. I love shopping throughout the year, yes I'm one of those people, and finding the perfect gift for someone. I try to keep a lookout throughout the year and buy when I see an item. Thei helps not only on the December sticker shock, but also relieves some of that Christmas stress.

Today I am thinking about decorating. How else can you change up a room and have it gone before you get tired of it? Yup, Christmas decorating!
I usually start in the days following Thanksgiving. I am a purist when it comes to the timing of decorating. Not until after Thanksgiving and always comes down before Jan 5th or so.
I also try to change things up every year. This year I finally got around to decorating the one area I have always wanted to, the light fixtures above the bar. I envisioned how the garland would look wrapped around the chains and the lights themselves. I threw in a couple of inexpensive picks from Michaels and it turned out so nicely.


Next up we had to put out the many trees. I cut back this year and only put up the big tree, my Dr Suess tree, and a few Aspen trios in various spots throughout the house. I normally also have a "wine tree" and my son has his own tree. 
I have collected Dr Suess ornaments for years and have slowly had to get bigger and bigger trees to fit my collection. This year is no exception as I think I've outgrown the small purple tree! 



  
 


Tomorrow I'll go into the big tree and a few other decorations. My Snow Village plays a big part in my decorations, so that'll be up next!





Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chicken chili - crockpot style!

I love my crock pot, no maybe that's not a strong enough statement. What do you call the emotion you feel when you walk in the door after a long day away and you have food hot and ready just waiting for you? Oh yes, that emotion is indeed love!

So into the crockpot you will need:

3 frozen chicken breasts
3 cans northern beans (drained) or white beans in chili sauce
1 medium can green Chilis
1 - 14oz diced tomatoes or 1 can mild rotel tomatoes
1/3 cup chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 chopped white or yellow onion
32 oz chicken broth

Throw everything in the crockpot and cook for 6 hrs on high or 8 hours on low. When you get home, or about 5 hrs into the cooking, pull the chicken out and chop into small chunks. Return them into the soup and cook for 1-3 hrs more depending on temperature chosen. If you don't have that extra time, no worries. Chop,the chicken and return it to the soup just prior to serving.

Serve with crackers, a dollop of sour cream, or some shredded Monterrey jack cheese. Whatever your preference is for this awesome chili soup.



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Quick spaghetti sauce, yup you heard right

I used to be a jar sauce kind of gal when it came to spaghetti, until I made my own sauce. Now having spoiled myself for...myself I find it hard to ever go back!



Tonight's meal is a favorite in this house and so fabulously easy that it seems almost sinful.

Need:

1 can (or jar) of either crushed or whole tomatoes
Chopped red, yellow, and orange peppers
1/2 white or yellow onion
5-6 garlic cloves (or to taste, we LOVE garlic)
Fresh or dried basil (my favorite in the colder months is in the tube*)
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp fennel (if you like it that is)
1 lb turkey Italian sausage
- any veggies you have leftover be them tomatoes, carrots (not too many as it can sweeten the sauce), mushrooms, peppers...you name it and it can probably go in this sauce!)

Cook the Italian sausage throughly and add the fennel and chopped garlic cloves. Add the onions and peppers and let them simmer with the meat. When the veggies have cooked down a bit add the tomatoes. If I am using whole tomatoes that either I or Hunts have canned I use my emulsifier to 'sauce them up' a bit. I leave a few chucks here and there. Add the basil and oregano and let the sauce simmer in the meat.
Cook your spaghetti and serve with a nice chunk of fresh garlic bread.

* I have used these herb tubes for a few years now and really like them. They're especially nice in the winter months when my herb garden is not available and my stockpiles have been depleted. For my tomato sauce I like to use the Italian blend. So yummy and easy!
http://www.gourmetgarden.com/en/story/39/about-us




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lazy burritos

Day two recipe from the one day of prepping is what I refer to as Lazy Burritos with Guacamole. Lazy because I mix the refried beans straight into the taco meat. This way you can use it as taco or burrito filling.

You'll need:

1lb ground turkey 90/10
1/4 cup chili powder (or to taste, we like a lot!)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbs dried onion (or 1/2 white onion chopped if I have time)
1 can refried or black beans

Cook the first 6 ingredients together until fully browned and then add either a can of low-fat refried beans or a can of black beans - drained well.

Guacamole!

3 large, ripe avocados
1/2 purple onion finely chopped
Cilantro - big handful, roughly chopped
2 medium tomatoes
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp powdered garlic
1/2 lime, juiced

I am very hands on with this recipe, so wash your hands very well before proceeding! Scoop the avocados into a medium bowl and add the chopped onions, salt, and garlic powder. (If the kid isn't eating the guacamole I will also add red peppers or finely chopped fresh seeded jalapeƱos).
I squish all these ingredients together making sure to leave some chunks. I know most people use a fork and or knife, I think this gets the job done faster and leads to the consistency I prefer.
Next add in the chopped cilantro and tomatoes. For this step I do use a fork to combine. This keeps the tomatoes and cilantro from getting too bruised.

Right before serving, lightly mix in the lime juice. It really brightens up the guacamole and adds a nice tanginess.


Oh guacamole! If loving you is wrong, I don't wanna be right...

Monday, December 8, 2014

A many meal kind of day

Back when I worked full-time I would prep and/or cook all my food for the week ahead on Sundays. When my son was a baby this time also included making his baby food and freezing it into portions for the week.
Today I decided that we have been eating out far too much and the main reason is because I've gotten lazy. Lazy in that I not only had no food prepared, but no food in the house! So today I revisited an old habit and revisited some recipes I haven't made in a long while. This week's menu is:

Monday - easy chicken enchiladas
Tuesday - beef burritos with guacamole
Wednesday - spaghetti with garlic bread
Thursday - crockpot chicken chili

Although I made all these meals today, I will be adding the recipes as the week progresses. Tonight's recipe is for easy chicken enchiladas with sour cream/green chili sauce. My family does not like corn tortillas, well I should say that I am outvoted 2-1 on flour vs. corn tortillas!

Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream/Green Chili Sauce

3 chicken breasts 
6-10 corn or flour tortillas 
1 medium yellow onion
1 block low-fat cream cheese
16 oz low-fat sour cream
1 medium can green chilis
1 can low sodium cream of chicken soup
1 block 2% sharp cheddar

Today I poached the chicken with some pico de gallo leftover from one of those aforementioned restaurants. Shred the chicken and set it aside. 
Chop the onion finely (I use a cuisinart mini-chopper) cook the onions until translucent and pour them over the block of cream cheese. Mix the chicken, onion, and cream cheese with 1 tsp ground cumin and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. This is your enchilada 'insides'.

For the sauce - mix 16 oz sour cream, 1 can cream of chicken soup, and green chilis together. 

Stuff each tortilla with the enchilada 'insides'. Tonight I chose to make them a little larger than usual, so only 6 - 10 inch tortillas. If I make them a little thinner I use 10 - 10 inch tortillas. If using 10 tortillas I use a 3 qt. Pyrex dish. With 6 tortillas I used a 10X10 glass dish. 

Spray the glass baking dish of choice with a nonstick spray and place the stuffed tortillas with the seams facing down, side by side. 
Pour the sour cream mixture over the enchiladas and spread it across making sure all the tortillas are covered. 

Grate the cheese and spread it over the enchiladas like so:


Bake for 1/2 hour at 350 degrees. I like to put sliced jalapeƱos on my serving(s) for a little extra spice.