Friday, October 26, 2012

Loving Fall :: Our New Tree

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We had one heck of a wind storm in July 2011.  It wiped out so many trees on our street, including the one right in front of our house.


It was a Bradford Pear tree.  If you don’t know about them, they are cute little fat trees that are commonly planted in newer neighborhoods.  They grow fast and dense.  The problem starts when they get a too top heavy from lack of pruning.  Unfortunately, these trees are often planted on the “city side” of the street and therefore pruning isn’t really a priority.  One major storm and down they go. 

I only knew about them because my parents had one our my childhood home.  It had a short thick trunk and a beautifully (top heavy) top.  Then we had an ice storm which added more weight to it.  Oh, I also forgot to mention that these trees sometimes fail to shed their leaves completely in the fall, so the ice just clings to it!  So, the ice, plus the wind and that tree came right through the dinning room picture window.  Scary!!

So when we moved into our house I knew that our lush and quickly growing Bradford tree’s days were numbered.  And then last summer, my fears came true.


Crazy gusty wind storm with nothing to slow it down but a sea of suburbia Bradford Pear trees.  Several other Bradford trees were lost in this storm. In fact, this landed right in front of our driveway from another neighbors tree…


The worst thing about it was that again, the tree was on the “city side”.  You basically have to beg the city to come and take it down.  This was JULY 2011!  You would have thought they could squeeze us in before winter.  They did come around and remove the broken part.  However, we were left with half a tree smack dab in front of our house for the entire winter.  It was kind of like Two-Face.  One side looked normal…the other was completely gone.  Wish I had a picture, but it wasn’t exactly a proud homeowner moment.

Finally this spring, the city came and took the sad thing down.  We were hoping to plant a tree right away.  Unfortunately it took them several more months to remove the stump!  Grrrrr.

Well, fall is a beautiful time to plant trees too and after the awful drought we had this summer, it was probably for the best anyway.

So here’s our little tree, showing off its fall color.


It is an ‘October Glory’ maple and I’m in love!  Even though its still kind of pint sized, the color show is so gorgeous!


We picked it for several reason.  Obviously, the tree has glorious fall color.  My mom has one in her yard and its just breathtaking.  Secondly, this variety has medium to fast growth, so we might actually get some shade out of it in our lifetime.  Smile 


I also love the idea that we’ve kind of made our mark on this street forever.  My parent planted several trees at my childhood home and its fun to go back and see how huge they are now. 

One last shot for fun…


Happy fall everyone!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One Rotisserie Chicken = Multiple Meals and Homemade Stock

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Our local grocery store often sells rotisserie chickens for $5.  Sometimes even less!  When they are on sale like this, I grab at least one.  Do you know there are SO many ways to utilize this meal starter besides the obvious chicken and a side of veggies?

For example, the last time I picked up a rotisserie chicken, I pulled all the meat off the bones (aka pickin’ the bird), keeping the breasts separate from the rest of the meat.  That night I used the breast meat for chicken wraps with an assortment of veggies, cheeses and dressings. 

Then, I used the rest of the chicken meat for a healthy chicken noodle soup recipe, utilizing the bones from the rotisserie chicken to make homemade chicken stock.  Sure, making stock might sound daunting, but its much easier than I imagined.  Here’s the resulting stock from my first try using only one rotisserie carcass…


And the yummy resulting soup that I made with my very first batch of stock…


Derek said that this was the most delicious chicken noodle soup that I’ve ever made.  That’s HUGE coming from my “It’s ok.” hubby.  I think it’s the stock.  It seriously seemed to add a whole load of flavor compared to my usual canned broth based soup.  I decided then and there that I would be repeating my stock recipe.  To make a larger batch, I saved bones in freezer bags whenever we ate bone-in chicken.  This includes chicken leg quarters, split breasts or whole chickens. 

When I made this soup, I happened to have zucchini and yellow squash so that’s what I put in it.   I feel like soup recipes, especially ones that contain a few different vegetables, are made to be adjusted and suited to the season and tastes of the family.  Get creative and toss in whatever you enjoy! 


Chicken Noodle Soup with Vegetables

  • 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 each yellow squash and zucchini, cut into rounds and then halved
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth (I used some homemade stock and some canned broth)
  • 1 1/2 cups green beans, frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups corn, frozen
  • 6 oz. No-Yolk wide noodles, uncooked
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (read this somewhere but it really adds just a hint of flavor, no heat)
  • 2+ cups chicken meat (mine was mostly dark meat leftover from my rotisserie chicken)
  • Pinches of salt, fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 –2 teaspoons of dill, dried (optional)
  1. Place oil into a large stock pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash in the oil. Cook and stir until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in fresh garlic; mix it for 30 seconds and then stir in the stock or broth.
  2. Increase heat until it just starts to boil. Add in the green beans and corn, bringing mixture back to a boil.
  3. Stir in noodles and cook for a few minutes less that the package directions.  
  4. Finally, add hot sauce, chicken, and seasonings to taste. Add dill if using.  Serve immediately. 

And now onto to the stock...


Homemade Chicken Stock

  • 3+ chicken carcasses
  • 2 carrots, halved
  • 2 stalks of celery, halved
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • water
  1. Place chicken bones at the bottom of a large stock pot. 
  2. Add carrots, celery and onion. 
  3. Add water until everything is covered plus two inches higher. 
  4. Bring to a low gentle boil and skim off any dark foam that rises to the top of the pot. 
  5. Lower temperature and continue to simmer for 4 hours, skimming foam as needed. Do NOT boil! Add one cup or two of water if liquid levels get low.  
  6. Remove from heat, strain and discard all bones, vegetables and solids through a sieve.
  7. Let resulting stock cool in the fridge overnight. 
  8. Skim solidified fat and discard.  Use right away or refrigerate for up two 2 days.  Can be frozen for up to 3 months.

A few tips…

  • Save chicken carcasses and bones in the freezer until you have enough to make a nice big pot of stock.  I saved bones from chicken leg quarters and split chicken breasts along with my rotisserie chicken carcasses. 
  • After the stock has cooled, it will become gelatinous.  (See picture below)  And this, believe it or not, is a good thing.  You can read why stock is so beneficial here and here.  I’m sold!
  • Leave the skins on the onions and carrots.  They add more flavor!
  • I prefer not to add salt to the stock.  That way I can add salt as needed to my future dishes.  Plus, there already will be some salt from the rotisserie bits. 
  • You can also add a ‘bouquet garni”, which is basically fresh herbs tied together and simmered along with the bones and veggies to add more flavor.  I don’t usually have these items fresh from day to day, but would love to try this addition sometime. 

Snapped this picture this morning of my second attempt at homemade stock. 


Gelatinous.  Check!  This time I used a lot of saved up bones and it made twice as much stock.  I reserved enough to make soup tomorrow and then froze the rest.  Such an easy project with HUGE payoffs. 

So there you have it…rotisserie chicken = multiple meals.  And I really didn’t even touch the countless possibilities.  We’ve used rotisserie chickens for everything from  tacos  to casseroles.  Just remember…save those bones! 

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pinterest Cooking :: White Chicken Enchiladas

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Is it crazy weird to admit that I’ve never made enchiladas before?  Blame on the country mouse thing I suppose.  I’ve certainly eaten them in several Mexican joints over the years, I just never tried my hand at them at home before.  So I ran across a pin claiming “The BEST white chicken enchilada EVER” and had to check it out.  The ingredients were super simple and blogger Joyful Momma claims that its kid friendly.  I’m in. 

White Chicken Enchiladas (from Joyful Momma)

  • 10 soft taco shells (I actually used corn enchilada shells that I unexpectedly found.)
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (SEE THE END OF POST)
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan or casserole dish. 

2. Mix chicken and 1 cup cheese.  Roll up in tortillas and place in pan.



3. In a sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook 1 minute.  Add broth and whisk until smooth.  Heat over medium heat until thick and bubbly. 

4. Stir in sour cream and chilies.  To avoid curdling,be careful not to boil.

5. Pour sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.


6. Bake 22 min and then under high broil for 3 min to brown the cheese.


Shredded Chicken:

This recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded chicken.  Of course the easiest route would be to use rotisserie chicken and I might do that in the future.  HOwever, this time I already had two chicken breasts thawed so I used those.  I seasoned them with cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Then I cooked them until they well browned in a skillet with a little canola oil.  Next, I added enough water to the skillet to cover them half way, a few squirts of lime juice,  put a lid on the skillet and braised them until they were completely cooked, turning once.  This adds moisture to the chicken and makes them easier to shred.  Sorry I didn’t take pictures of this step. 


They were a hit!  I was surprised how much the boys were loving this recipe.  The chilies are very mild and only add a little more flavor to the dish.  I did a little browsing of other white enchiladas and might try some variations on this recipe in the future.  For instance, adding onions to the chicken mixture.  Also, it seems like this recipe is all over Pinterest from different bloggers.  Does anyone know its original source?  I think it’s a very similar, yet simplified version of PW’s White Enchiladas.  Her version is a little more labor intensive, but the pictures say it all.  YUM!

Hope you enjoyed this culinary not-so-adventurous adventure of mine.  Just proves once again, your kids will eat what you provide.  Just keep trying!


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Monday, October 1, 2012

L’s Room: “I’m not a baby anymore” Updates and Mod Podge Image Transfer

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Lanham’s room was one of the very first rooms we painted when we bought our house.  It was dark DARK blue on two walls and it felt like a cave when we first saw it.  We painted it a pale blue.  A blue that I thought at the time was a “mature” blue, not baby blue.  Turns out that over time, it looked more baby boy blue than I thought. 

Here’s a picture of what it used to look like when we painted it 6+ years ago.


The childish (according to Lanham) factor paired with wear and tear over time, meant a repainting job was due for his room.  While I was at it, I talked to Lanham about his current baseball theme.  He still wanted to keep the baseball room, but we both agreed that it needed to be “tweened” up a bit.

The “I’m not a baby anymore” Plan:

  • Paint – updated color that he/we can live with through the tween/teen years 
  • Shelving – a place to put all of his favorite trophies and trinkets
  • Artwork and Team Pennants – update the artwork and add his favorite team pennants to the walls
  • New Blinds – his room is the last room to get new blinds

Obviously we started with the paint choice, but I’ll get to that later when I reveal the entire room.  For now, I’d like to share how I reworked some of his “baby” baseball art into “cooler” big kid art.

We had these two canvas pieces from his original room.


They’re very cute and I thought about donating them.  However, they were in such great shape I thought I should try to reuse the canvases to save a few bucks.  New blank canvases alone aren’t cheap.

After spray painting both of the canvases, I decided the best plan would be to try out my photo transfer technique that I used before with portraits I took of the boys.  I was actually excited to try the transfer technique again and wanted to answer some questions for my readers.  It seems that some of you have had trouble using my transfer method, so I wanted to be sure that it actually still worked for me too.

Here’s one of the images just before I applied the Mod Podge…


A few differences this this time around…

1)  Before, I had only used black and white images, so I was a little nervous about the red dot in the above image.  Crossed fingers, hoped for the best.

2)  Any part of paper that you use in the transfer process will attach to the canvas, even if there aren’t any images in certain spots. There will be dried Mod Podge in the spaces that are white on your print out. I trimmed my images pretty tight this time.

3) My images contained words and logos this time, so I printed my images in reverse.  This will allow them to transfer in the correct way.   

After applying the Mod Podge and placing my images, I let the canvases sit overnight just like I did in the past.

The next day, I began the tedious rubbing process.  When I sprayed the images with water, there was a pink tint and I got a little worried.


However, once I started rubbing off the paper, the images were the nice dark black that I wanted.  Woo hoo!


I added a few accents to each canvas using craft paint, bases on one and a red stripe on the other.


There is still a ghost-like appearance to the transferred images, but that’s normal and I kind of like the old worn look that it brings to the artwork.


Here’s the second smaller canvas…


The red dot didn’t really cause any trouble during the transfer process.  When I tried to remove the excess Mod Podge and air bubbles, some of the Mod Podge that seeped out was a slight pinky color.  That didn’t effect the resulting image transfer though, minus a small amount of bleeding.  To make the dot pop, I used some of the same red paint from the stripe.


Lanham LOVES the new White Sox artwork and it looks great in his new big kid tween room.  Can’t wait to share the rest of our room updates soon!

Oh and I have to say that I was happy to have this process work out for my the second time around.  Please please PLEASE email me with any questions or concerns that you’re having with this process.  I’d love to help!

Check out my complete Mod Podge Image Transfer Tutorial for step by step instructions!

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