Happy 2008!

Happy New Year's Eve!

Let's see, how about a quick check-in on my goals that I set a year ago?

The house is more unpacked and organized, but it's not exactly simplified and we've still got quite a ways to go. But, some progress was made (many thanks to my hubby, who helped out with that goal over the weekend by unpacking a bunch of books and arranging them on the bookshelves in our red room!).

I did learn a bit more about photography, as seen here and here. I just love me some close-ups! I can't wait to learn even more in 2008, and maybe I'll even finally get my dSLR that I've been longing for. :)

I definitely sewed more, but didn't really scrap more. I've kind of fallen off the scrapbooking wagon, and I'm not sure if/when I'll get back on. It's a great hobby and expression of art, but I'm just not into it now. But sewing? Oh yeah, bring it. (a sewing-heavy wrap-up of my handmade holidays is coming up, just as soon as a few more gifts are received)

Be more active....check. I haven't blogged about it yet, but Karl and I joined the gym a little over a week ago. It's kicking my tail big time, but in a good way. We took our first yoga class this past weekend, and Oh. My. Goodness. I'm still sore! I lost 1.0 pound during our first week of seriously working out, and Karl lost 1.5. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Make more meals at home...definitely accomplished this goal. 2007 taught me that I really love to cook, and that every once in a while I'm pretty good at it too! :) Granted, there are still plenty of days where I don't feel like tackling the never-ending mountain of dishes (how do 2 people produce so many dishes??) and we end up grabbing take-out. But those days don't happen as often as they used to, so that's a good thing!

What are my goals for 2008? Let's see...

* Grow a vegetable garden and learn how to can fruits & veggies

* Reach my weight loss goals in a sustainable fashion, and help Karl do the same

* Sew a quilt

* Enjoy the great outdoors (which will be much easier thanks to our sweet Christmas gift from Susan and Rocky!)

* Make our house more energy-efficient by increasing the insulation and weatherizing (is that even a word?) the doors and windows

* Finish off the red room to make it a usable space

* Travel more

* Continue working on my 2007 goals

Here's wishing everyone a safe, healthy and happy 2008. May you reach all of your goals and then some.

(We gave Henry a haircut a week or so ago, and he's so soft and cuddly now. The only downside is that his cute little curls on top of his head are so much shorter...but he's still so darn cute. I just can't get enough of the little guy.)



Christmas Food

This Christmas, we decided that we were going to have a quiet day at home. No flying, no driving…just spending the day in pajamas at home, enjoying lots of good food. :)

Christmas morning started out with overnight oatmeal, using this recipe. A bit less oat-y than the traditional oatmeal that I’m used to, but still quite tasty nonetheless. Next time, I think I’ll put in raisins and a little less water.

Then for lunch we kept it on the lighter side and just had our favorite caprese salad – slices of fresh mozzarella layered with juicy tomatoes, a sprinkle of salt & pepper, a drizzle of olive oil & balsamic vinegar and top it all off with some fresh basil. So. Freaking. Good. :)

For Christmas dinner, we put our heads together a few days earlier and came up with a plan for what we most felt like eating. And what did we come up with, you ask? Well let me tell you!

Chicken pot pie and mashed potatoes. Otherwise known as Comfort Food Extraordinaire. Otherwise known as Mmmm, Mmmm Good. Otherwise known as….well, you get the point!

First, the potatoes. Karl thinks these should be called The Ultimate Potato. They are from the Pioneer Woman (who is not only a great cook, but a great photographer and writer as well…check out both of her blogs!). This is the 2nd time I’ve made these potatoes, and they are so, so good. This time, I cut the Pioneer Woman’s recipe in half, used low-fat cream cheese and a few tablespoons less of butter than what it called for. And I added in some garlic powder to the mix just for fun. Sinfully good, these potatoes are. Must be reserved for special occasions only!

Now, on to the pot pie. We really love Twin Hens pot pies. These little pies are to die for, people! But the prices are a bit steep and the portions are a bit small for a Christmas dinner. So what’s a girl to do? Figure out how to make it on her own, of course! :)

I scoured a whole bunch of pot pie recipes on allrecipes.com, and here’s what I ended up doing:

* 1 fryer chicken (ours was ~3.5 lbs)
* Chopped fresh veggies: 1-2 cups carrots, 1/3 lb mushrooms (we used shitake), 2-3 small potatoes (we used baby Yukon gold), 2 stems celery, ½ of an onion
* Frozen veggies: 1 cup frozen peas
* Chicken broth, about 4 cups
* 1/3 cup butter
* 1/3 cup flour
* 2/3 cup milk
* a healthy glug of sherry
* seasonings – salt, pepper, celery seed, cayenne, fresh thyme
* minced garlic
* phyllo dough

* Remove the phyllo dough from the freezer and set it out to thaw. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

* Roast the chicken (I put a little oil on my bird, then seasoned it up with Johnny’s seasoning and pepper, then roasted it at 425 for about an hour…or until the juices ran clear), set aside to let it cool down. Remove skin and feed some of it to the dog…then regret that move because you realize it means he is never ever going to leave your side as long as you are in the kitchen for fear that he may miss another sweet treat. Remove as much of the meat as possible (I got about 14 oz from my bird) from the bone, then dice it up and set it aside.

* In a saucepan, boil the carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, celery and peas in about a 50-50 mixture of chicken broth and water (enough to cover the veggies)…for 5-8 minutes, or until the veggies are just beginning to get tender (they will soften up more later on when you bake the pie). Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

* Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and cook onions until they are soft and translucent. Add in the minced garlic and cook for about another minute. Whisk in the flour and let that cook for about 30 seconds, then whisk in the seasonings (I used ~1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, ¼ tsp celery seed, couple sprigs thyme and a couple shakes of cayenne…next time, I’ll use a bit more salt, a bit more thyme and I’ll probably add in some fresh rosemary as well). Slowly whisk in the liquids (2/3 c milk, 1 ¾ c broth, glug of sherry) and let it all simmer over med-lo heat until the sauce thickens.

* Mix together the veggies and meat, then pour the sauce over it all and gently stir.

* Take either a deep pie plate or a small casserole dish and place one of the phyllo crusts on the bottom. Spread the veggie/meat/sauce mixture on top, then put the other phyllo dough on top and pinch the edges to seal.

* Bake, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling away. Probably a good idea to put a cookie sheet underneath your pan so the drippings don’t get on the heating element and cause your smoke detector to go off. I’m just sayin’. ;)

* Remove from oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

There you have it….heaven on a plate. :) All of our veggies were either from Pioneer Organics or Top of The Hill Produce here in Renton, and the chicken was from Skagit River Ranch. We firmly believe that quality ingredients = quality food…and these recipes really showcase that philosophy!

Okay, thanks for letting me ramble on and on about cooking!


Merry Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

We hope you all have a lovely holiday, and we are sorry that we aren't able to travel and visit with all of you. Perhaps next year, when we feel more comfortable leaving the puppy (or flying with the pup), we'll be able to make a trip back to Missouri.

We're celebrating Christmas Eve with our dear friends tonight, and using a gift certificate that we opened a little early. :) I can't wait! Thanks, Brian and Michelle!

Okay, now can we open the rest of the gifts??

What if I look extra cute? Then will you let me??

Merry Christmas, y'all! :-)


Can't blog, too close to Christmas...

Remember last year, when I said that I wasn't going to stress myself out by waiting until the last minute to make homemade Christmas gifts? Yeah, who was I kidding? I always wait until the last minute!

It's just so hard for me to not give handmade gifts for the holidays, because I really believe that handmade is the best and most thoughtful way to go. Next year, I may even take the pledge. This year, however, I'm just making as much as I can. Hence, the quiet blog. Still haven't gotten that zipper figured out though, so I'm moving on to Plan B.

Cooper, as you can see, is totally bored by it all.

As soon as he gets up from his nap, I'll be able to cross 2 more gifts off my list. :)

Happy Sunday!