Sunday, September 30, 2012

31 Days of Comfort Food: Day 1, Chicken Noodle Soup

Welcome! If this is your first time here, you can scroll down to read Day 1. Otherwise, here are the current links for my series, "31 Days of Comfort Food."

Day 1
Put on your stretchy pants, pull up your chair, and grab a fork; it's time to eat! 
Welcome to the first of what will {hopefully} be 31 days of mouth-watering comfort food. 

I don't need an excuse to cook; it's my love language. But this. 31 days of comfort food. This is my heaven.

I feel like I should preface this series with a caveat, so here it is:
I am not a chef, nor am I an expert food photographer. I tend to make things up as I go, so my measurements are not always very precise, and I don't have lovely step-by-step photos. But I'll do my best to explain everything. If you have questions about anything, just let me know in the comments. 

Now that we have that out of the way we can get on with the good stuff. Cool autumn days just beg for  hot, hearty soups, so I thought I would kick off this series with the original comfort food; chicken noodle soup.
Heck, it is so comforting it even has medicinal qualities. Cures the cold, fights off the flu. It's practically magical. Plus- it's easy to make. Whenever we have a rotisserie or roast chicken, I boil up the carcass to make stock. It is so handy to have in the freezer and adds great flavor to all manner of dishes. 
But that's not what I did here. Nope, this here is cheater chicken soup, with broth from a carton. But it tastes just as good, and it still cures the common cold. I promise.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup
Here's what you'll need:
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 peeled and chopped carrots
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme 
Bay leaf
Splash {or two} of white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
2 1/2-3 quarts chicken broth {homemade or not, either way is good.
I used Swanson's reduced sodium broth for this batch.}
3 cups Egg noodles 
1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Toss in the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery and cook until soft {3-4 minutes}. 
Stir in the thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper, wine, broth, and chicken. A note on the wine: I didn't have any real wine on hand, so I substituted cooking wine instead. {Sacre bleu! Forgive me, real cooks everywhere.} If you do likewise, be careful how much salt you add to the broth. Cooking wine contains salt, so it should be used sparingly. But it does add flavor and depth to the broth. 
Simmer and cook till the vegetables are tender, this can take as little as 15 minutes, but in my opinion the flavor improves over time. I usually let it simmer for an hour or so. You can add more broth if it evaporates a bit.  
Stir in the noodles and cook till they are just tender, about 5 minutes. Toss in the parsley, check the seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!
There you have it; Day 1 of 31 Days of Comfort Food. 
Only 30 more days to go. I can do this.
Check back tomorrow to see what's on the menu for Day 2!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kitchen Tour and 31 Days

 It is a gorgeous fall day, so naturally, I elected to spend the entire day inside cleaning. In light of this ill-planned decision, I thought I would at least document the kitchen's short-lived state of clean. Our kitchen works hard: I like to cook, my family likes to eat. And it's a good thing, because I've decided to join The Nester for her 31 Days series. I'll be focusing on 31 Days of Comfort Food.
Starting Monday, I will post 31 days of my favorite fall and winter comfort foods. 
Adios, Weight Watchers. Hello, stretch pants.
Be sure and check back every day in October for all the finger-lickin' goodness.

And now, on with the tour!
 We have lived in this house for almost 7 years now, and we updated the kitchen about 3 years into that time. Like all our projects, it was done on a shoestring and in classic-DIY fashion. Meaning we did what we could, and left the rest to wait for our lottery win. 
 I would love to knock out the soffits above the cupboards and scrape down the textured ceilings, but that just ain't gonna happen any time soon. 
The door beyond the stove goes into the garage, and there is a guest bath to the left. On the right is our little locker room area {as evidenced by the pink hockey stick Caitlin just deposited there} and a small pantry.
 The window above the sink looks out on the back yard and deck, so I can easily holler at see the kids.
The view from the kitchen toward our dining area. You can read more about this area here.  
Be sure and check back on Monday and every day in October to see what I'm up to in this hard-workin' little kitchen. 
Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What I Wore Randoms

It's Wednesday again, time for another round of What I Wore! I'll be linking up with Lindsey at The Pleated Poppy. 
pleated poppy
Hunter has been taking my pictures lately and, as a lefty, he has hard time holding the camera straight. So please excuse us if it seems that I am listing a bit to the port side.

What do you think- should I have a belt on with this outfit? The tunic thing is super comfy, but that is probably because it is the same shape as my nightgown.
Scarf, tunic/dress, jeans: Old Navy
Flats: Target

I like to call this my pseudo-Ralph Lauren-equestrian look. I do love Ralph. Just can't afford to wear his stuff!
Vest, sweater: Lands End
Jeans: Old Navy
Boots: Keen

I've got about thirty shades of gray going on in this outfit. Maybe that is because more than half of my closet is composed of gray clothing. Especially sweaters. I buy gray sweaters and white t-shirts compulsively. It's an addiction. I'm looking for a good 12-step program.
Jeans: Same ones I wore all week. Until I saw these  pictures, I didn't even notice! I'd like to tell you I washed them in between wearings... but that would be a little white big fat lie.
Sweater, scarf, tank: Old Navy
Shoes: Target

Chris took this one before church on Sunday. It's hard to tell, but my shoes and earrings are the exact same shade as the top. Throw in the coordinating scarf and I'm in match-y heaven!
Everything but the shoes: Banana Republic
Shoes: Target
A better shot of the pretty amethyst earrings. For some reason I grew up thinking the only gem I could wear was my own birthstone {garnet, which I do really like}, but I always wished my birth stone was an amethyst. I just think they are so pretty. I finally realized that a) I impose weird rules on myself and b) I can wear whatever color gemstone I like. 
So, after that needlessly long explanation, that is why I am so jazzed about wearing these earrings.
So, to sum this week up, we've got:
*My kid takes crooked pictures.
* I wear the same pants all week.
*I love amethysts. And also matching.
*I might need a belt.
*And I suffer from a monochromatic clothing addiction.
If you made it through this random post.. bless your heart and Happy Wednesday!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Halloween Mantel Inspired by "The Raven"

As a confirmed bibliophile, I always appreciate a nod to the literary world. My love of all things written does not end with books and shelves either. It influences many aspects of my life. My ring-tone is from Harry Potter. One of our cats is named Edgar Allen Poe {though he prefers to go by just Poe} and our dog is named for a Tolkien character. In fact, I campaigned to name our daughter after some of my favorite literary heroines, but, alas, my husband was not quite on board {Lucy Anne, with an e, would have been so cute!}. So when my son begged for a spooky Halloween mantel, I naturally thought of Poe {the Gothic writer, not the friendly feline}. 
I give you our kitchen mantel:
Although Hunter would have preferred something more blatantly gory, I did not relish the idea of severed hands looming over our dining table, so I went for a more refined version of spooky.
The lines from "The Raven" are just written on craft pumpkins with a Sharpie. I started off trying to do the lettering with a tiny paint brush, and then realized that I was making it way too hard. The Sharpie worked like a charm!
Once I had the pumpkins done, everything else was easy. I used some of my vintage Nancy Drew books and a few mini headstones. We added a wee bottle of poison {empty}, lots of candles, and an Ikea lantern. Hunter did manage to sneak in few skulls, and though it's difficult to see, there is a birdcage filled with more old mystery books on the hearth.
I had a lot of fun working on this mantel and have been enjoying its subtle-spookiness. The living room mantel has more of a classic fall feel, so this is a nice contrast.
{You can see our Autumn Harvest Mantel here}
Thanks so much for stopping by and Happy Halloween!
I'll be linking up here:

Autumn Harvest Mantel

I've made no secret of my love for the fall. The colors, the cool weather, the comfort food; it's all wonderful in my book. Naturally, fall decorating is one of my favorites. For me, this is no time for restraint. Autumn is all about abundance. It's harvest time, when the fruit of summer's labor is finally gathered and consumed. Autumn is a celebration and I wanted my mantel to reflect that idea. 
 I started off by gathering together all my fall-ish decor and "harvesting" my mantel theme from there. I've been looking for an excuse to use the opulent gold frame I found at a craft store for $6, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. The framed monogram was cobbled together with things I had around the house. I lined the oval frame with burlap for textural interest. The candles were from my kitchen "beachy" summer mantel, I just moved them into the living room for fall.
The little cherubs were a garage sale find from way back, and I've been collecting white pumpkins for several years. I pick up a few every year after Halloween when they go on clearance. In fact, the only thing new is the garland. I bought two strands at Micheal's and wound them together, then added the burlap ribbon to fill in the gaps and really enhance the feeling of autumn's plenty.
Even the guardians of our hearth (the literary lions, Tolkien and Lewis) were bedecked in honor of the harvest bounty. A bouquet of pheasant feathers and wheat round out the celebration of nature.
Though it's not part of our harvest mantel, I also wanted to share the simple message written on the chalkboard near our front door. As we move into the holiday season, I am always more aware of the importance to "gather and give thanks" but it's something I try and live throughout the year, too. Being able to gather together with loved ones and give thanks for the abundance of blessings in our lives is a gift I hope to enjoy over and over again in the coming months.
 Thanks so much for stopping by.
{Be sure to check out our kitchen Halloween mantel inspired by "The Raven"}
I'll be linking up here:
Jennifer Rizzo

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What I Wore: September Days

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.
~Helen Hunt Jackson
I have been in my glory this week. 
The days are cool but sunny, and the nights are chilly enough for a fire. And the layers are back, baby! The beauty-full weather must get my mojo going, because I finally got around to recreating a few of my favorite Pinterest outfits.
{You can follow me on Pinterest by clicking here.}

Here's the original {posh} version of the outfit:

Here's my  budget-friendly version:
 Sweater: Banana Republic
Gingham shirt: Old Navy
Jeans, flats: Target
Pearls: Dress Barn {I think? They're old!}

I love this one, too, but it seems a bit on the summery side.

When I saw this dress at Target, though, I knew I could re-imagine it for fall.
 Dress, belt : Target
Jeans: Old Navy
Boots: Keens
Necklace: Allora Handmade

I felt like this dress/sweater combo was cuter in real life, but the angle of the photo doesn't do it justice.
 Sweater, dress: Lands End
Belt: Target
Shoes: Macy's

 I love this sweater {I have it in gray, too}. It's  like wrapping up in a big ol' blanket.
Sweater: Lands End
Tee, flats: Target
Jeans: Silver
That's it for this week... I'm off to drink apple cider and jump in a leaf pile.
I'll be linking up here:
pleated poppy

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall Dining Room and a Simple Fall Tablescape

Oh, autumn, how I love thee. Your warm, toasty colors. Your delicious scents. The feeling of coziness you lend the atmosphere. As the temperature drops, I am compelled to cook and entertain; therefore, my dining room was one of the first areas of our home to get the full fall-treatment.
Since it was all spiffed up, I thought this would be a good time to give you a peek at our dining area/homeschool classroom.
That's right. Our dining room is also our school room. So as much as I would have liked to create an elaborate autumnal tablescape, it just wasn't in the cards.
So I give you:
My {Ridiculously Simple} Fall Tablescape
Ahem. It's not so much a tablescape as it is table-scraps! But it's pretty, easy to move, and the pumpkin candles smell amazing.
The mantel, the buffet, the chandelier, the table all got some fall-lovin'... no surface is safe from my seasonal decorating.
 The buffet and the hutch are from this amazing local shop, Ramshackled Treasures. Chris and the kids got them for me on Mother's Day two years ago and I just love them.
  Our little built-in desk area has housed various appliances and electronics over the years. It's currently the home of the microwave, but it's held a coffee station, a laptop, land-line phones, and who knows what else. Check back in a month, and there's a good chance it will look different!
{For perspective's sake- this area is sandwiched in-between the fireplace and the fridge.}
 Here's a sneak-peek at our Halloween-themed mantel. Later this week, I'll give the details for it and for our harvest-themed mantel in the living room, so be sure and check back.

 I'll be linking up at The Lettered Cottage.

Thanks for stopping by and happy fall!