Warming Winter Soup

(Image via Williams Sonoma)

I made a wonderful soup for my husband’s family Friday after Thanksgiving.  One of my nieces wasn’t feeling so good and she is a vegetarian so I came up with this vegetable soup for her.  Its very similar to a soup I found in the Williams Sonoma recipe file.  I made kielbasa on the side to add to the soup for those of us who are carnivores.  Here’s what you will need:

1 Tbsp. butter

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

2 cans white beans, rinsed

64 oz. chicken or vegetable stock

1 bunch kale or Swiss chard, coarsely chopped

1 Polska Kielbasa (optional)

 

Heat butter in a stock pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat.   Add the pepper and onion and sauté until soft and fragrant (about 2-3 minutes).  Add squash and sauté until softened.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add chicken stock and beans and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and add kale.  Brown kielbasa and slice.  Serve.  Yum!

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O, Christmas Tree! O, Christmas Tree!

‘Tis the season for Christmas decorations!  My family and I love this time of year.  The house feels so cozy when its all aglow with twinkling lights.  We trim as much of the house as possible.  My children get all excited at the notion of Santa, baking cookies and snow!  (We rarely get snow down here in the South.)  It’s just a wonderful time of year.  But as much as I enjoy it, I know there are many people who do not enjoy it.  The thought of lugging the tree out of storage, or the woods, depending on preference, setting it up, decorating it and taking it all down in a month is just exhausting.  And then there are others who want their tree to look like it came out of a magazine but don’t know how to do it.  And still others who just don’t have the time to mess with it.  I understand all of you, whichever category you fall in to.  I have some very simple tips that I follow and I will share them with you. 

 

1.  Keep in simple.  Some of you are not going to like this, but I have a fake tree.  A 7′, pre-lit stunner that I spent a fortune on.  It is an investment, but I waited until very close to Christmas, got it for 30% off and it has a 10 year warranty.  There are 800 twinkling lights already in place.  If a light goes out or it malfunctions in any way, I take it back and get a replacement.  It stores easily in a bag in the attic and goes together in 5 minutes.  I light a Yankee Candle Balsam and Cedar scented candle and you could swear I have a real tree in the house!  Simple.

2.  Choose just 3 colors. That’s my rule for ornaments.  My tree is green, white and red.  I only use white lights.  You can use any 3 colors.  For a coastal look use blue, white and silver.  For a woodsy look use brown, red and white.  Think snow, burlap and cardinals. 

Feeling Blue 

  Image via Coastal Living                                       Image via Google

 

3Theme-less is timeless.  Nobody says that your tree has to have a theme.  Glass ornaments do the trick.  You can buy them by the dozen in all different shapes and sizes and colors.  Glass ornaments never go out of style.  I use glass ornaments all over the house.  I have bowl of them just sitting on the kitchen table as decoration.  My tree has tons.  I have been known to even hang them from chandeliers.  And since they are so affordable, I don’t cry if one breaks. 

                                                    Image via Ebay

4.  Don’t be too type A.  Coming from me, that is quite a statement because “Type A” is my middle name.  But seriously, your tree should be a reflection of you and your family.  It’s a time to celebrate each other,  our blessings and our love.  Enjoy trimming the tree together and it doesn’t have to be perfect.  It should just make you all smile. 

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Weekly Menu 11/26–11/30

I hope y’all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I did not host Thanksgiving dinner so I don’t have any left over turkey to work with so this weeks menu is turkey free.  I am on detox this week from all the wine and food consumed over the holiday.  Time to reset the old body clock. 

Monday – Fish Cakes and Cole Slaw

Tuesday – Kale Salad topped with smoked salmon (This kale salad was served at Thanksgiving dinner and I loved it!  So yummy and healthy, and in season!)

Wednesday – Easy Pasta (pasta tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and parmesan)

Thursday – Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken (I serve mine with quinoa instead of couscous)

Friday – Smoky grilled steak with blue cheese mashed potatoes (my secret weapon is smoked salt used on top of my steaks)

Refrigerator/Freezer Concoction

OK, so I never, NEVER, create my own recipes.  I’m just not that good.  But we are leaving town tomorrow for Thanksgiving and I didn’t want to do any grocery shopping.  I looked in the refrigerator this morning and found some fresh (sort of) sage, one onion, a half empty bottle of white wine (how did that happen?) and garlic.  In the freezer I had chicken thighs.  Soooo I had an idea – white wine braised chicken thighs with sage!  Now, when I say braised, I mean a 30 – 45 minute braise, not the 6 hour kind of braise.  I know, low and slow is better, but I didn’t have that kind of time.  So here it goes:

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4 chicken thighs – bone in, skin on

12 – 15 fresh sage leaves

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

1/4 C white wine

1/4 C chicken broth

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

salt and pepper

 

Rinse and pat dry the chicken thighs.  Salt and pepper both sides.  Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add chicken thighs and brown on both sides.  Once both are browned, leave skins side up.  Add onion, garlic and sage.  Sauté for 1 –2 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium.  Add wine and broth.  Stir and cover for 30 min.

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It was actually pretty good.  My son and husband both asked for seconds.  I served it with roasted carrots and sweet potato in a maple syrup glaze.  By glaze, I mean drizzled over the top.  I do what I can.   

Happy Thanksgiving!  I wish everyone safe travels and enjoying their family!  I am thankful that you are reading my blog.

Catalogs for Christmas

I seem to get every catalog under the sun.  I’m sure we all do.  Most of them I throw away, especially when a new company sends one.  I breeze through my home décor ones (my favorites) and Williams Sonoma and then recycle them.  I love getting ideas from their pages and WS has some great recipes.  Yesterday I went to my mailbox and discovered a new catalog, Mark and Graham.  What a great catalog!  Super for all of you monogram junkies out there, like me.  The parent company is Williams Sonoma, so it is very simple yet chic.  Love it!  I want to order everything!  Just look at these great linen wine bags.  Perfect for hostess gifts for holiday parties.

Linen Wine Bag with Grosgrain Tie

I am particularly in love with these paper placemats.  You can write the menu on them for dinner parties!  How brilliant!

Bon Apetit Paper Placemats

And something I have always wanted (Santa, are you listening?), monogrammed napkins.  They come in almost any color monogram you can imagine.  And you can choose your font.  Free personalization and $5 flat rate shipping!  Yahoo!

Typographer's Linen Napkins

Weekly Menu 11/12–11/16

This weeks meals were planned with warm, coziness in mind.  I wanted some yummy comfort food but I’m on a lower carb kick.  I want to begin to fend off the holiday bulge before it begins!

Monday – Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs (to cook a spaghetti squash, cut it in half lengthwise, take out the seeds, bake in a 375 degree oven with skin side up for 30 minutes, shred with a fork)

Tuesday – Tacos

Wednesday – Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Noodles

Thursday – Broccoli Quinoa Casserole (found via Pinterest)

Friday – Slow Cooker Baked Potato Soup

Weekly Menu 11/5–11/9

It’s another wonderful fall day.  Yesterday was spent watching football, playing football and eating some wings with friends.  I planned this menu with some savory fall meals.  I love fall because the food can be cozier and a bit heavier.  I enjoy all of the flavors of fall – apple, maple, cream, bacon.  Yum! 

Monday – Autumn Meat Loaf (recipe below)

Tuesday – Crockpot Pork Loin with Apples and Cinnamon

Wednesday – Chicken with Creamy Mushrooms (this recipe is from Real Simple)

Thursday – Beef Bourginonne Barefoot Contessa style!

Friday – dinner out with friends

 

Here is my awesome Autumn Meat Loaf recipe.  My 6 year old actually cheered when I told him that this is what’s for dinner.

1 1/2 lb. ground turkey

1 box Stove Top cornbread stuffing mix

1/2 onion, chopped

1 1/2 C. milk

1 C. shredded cheddar cheese

1 C. shredded apple

4 strips of bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix stuffing and the milk until moist.  Add all the other ingredients except the bacon and mix until well combined.  I use my hands to do this.  Form mixture into a loaf or pack into a loaf pan.  Lay bacon over the top and bake for 45 min. to an hour.  Voila!  Bon Appetit!

Fall Front Porches

Halloween is over and November is here!  Can you believe it?!  In 3 weeks we will be sitting around a table with our family and a turkey.  For now, Halloween is over and the decorations must come down.  That means that we are in the décor “lame duck” period.  It’s too early for Christmas decorations, but we can’t leave Halloween up because its over.  So I’ve been looking for some inspiration.  Here is what I’ve stumbled upon.

Etch Them

Lots and lots of pumpkins!  Photo courtesy of Southern Living.

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Super orange hues.  Photo courtesy of Houzz.

 

Leaves and hay make a beautiful harvest theme.  I love the walnuts in the candle holders! Photo from google.

I’ll post what I come up with.  Now comes the task of taking down the Halloween Décor while my kiddos aren’t home.  Oh, the heartbreak!