Red Pear, Goat Cheese, and Candied Pecan Salad {with Raspberry Vinaigrette}

easy button pear salad 2ed 600We could also call this “The Best Ever ‘Easy Button’ Salad” too.

Because it is.

My friend Lara said to me once, “I totally pressed the Easy Button today and bought a rotisserie chicken for dinner”, and that got me thinking. . . . Yes. Easy button foods are good. Especially for this time of year.

So, we’re pressing the Easy Button here, because when we press it, it’s like a big breath of stressed air gushes out and relief replaces it.

I’m serious about this salad. Add it to your holiday dinner menu.

We’re buying the dressing. Some day, I’ll figure out to make my own raspberry vinaigrette – because homemade is healthier, yada yada yada. But right now, we’re using this → Because it’s awesome. End of story.

You can either buy or make your candied pecans, then you’re slicing and placing various delicious accoutrements – that’s it. Your guests will rave about the resulting salad-come-party-platter.

Northwest peeps? I envy you right now, because I used Red D’Anjou pears in this arrangement. They are both beautiful and delicious in such a softly sweet, unassuming, delicate way – and they are grown in your neck of the woods October-December (As I gather from my super extensive, one-click, internet research anyway).

So here it is. I strongly encourage you to add it to your menu.

Mwa!

Red Pear, Goat Cheese, and Candied Pecan Salad {with Raspberry Vinaigrette}

Rating: 51

Total Time: 12 minutes

Yield: 8-10 sides

This salad is a version of one that's found in so so many places, but it's so easy and beautiful. The D'Anjou pears are a highlight - as are the pecans and the dressing. You just can't go wrong. Above all - it's EASY! Hallelujah for easy. :-)

Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 Red D'Anjou pears
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • A large smattering of salad greens. I used 8-10 oz. organic spring salad mix
  • 1/2 to 1 cup candied pecans
  • 3 oz crumbled goat cheese
  • 6-8 oz raspberry vinaigrette (I used Marie's - because YUM, and EASY. Find it in the refrigerated dressing section in your grocery store).

Directions

First, prepare your pears by slicing them thinly and placing them in a medium sized bowl. Pour lemon juice and apple juice over them, then toss gently to coat each slice. This prevents browning and keeps them pretty.

Next, pile your greens on your serving platter. Drizzle with a little dressing. (Don't overdo it, you're going to do more later to make it all pretty!). Then sprinkle on most of the pecans and goat cheese, reserving a little of each for the final presentation. Arrange your pear slices over the top and drizzle dressing again. Top with the remaining goat cheese and nuts to make it beautiful, and lastly, top with some fresh groung black pepper. Voila. Beautiful, delicious salad.

Source

Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/12/19/red-pear-goat-cheese-and-candied-pecan-salad-with-raspberry-vinaigrette/

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans

Let’s be quick today.

We’re talking about nuts. (*snicker*)

Candied pecans, to be exact.

We’re going to rip through this post, because I have an end goal – which might be the easiest fancy-pants, company-impressive salad on the planet, but we can’t get there unless we have candied pecans – homemade or otherwise.

And since these also make a delightful Christmas treat for hostesses, teachers, and helpers of all sorts, we’re making our own and wrapping them up in cute little jam jars with silvery tied ribbons after we’ve stashed a good measure for our salad selves.

Here’s the skinny: nuts, egg white, sugars, spice, a quick little bake in the oven, and tender loving separation of each little nut. Boom.

Coming next: what I like to call “Easy Button” Fancy Pants Salad. It’ll have your dinner guests raving. I know. Because I made it, and mine did.

Sweet and Spicy Candied Pecans

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 cups

This is a recipe adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen (so it's awesome, of course!) back in 2008. She, in turn, adapted it from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country. It's a good, solid, delightful recipe, and I only took the liberty of changing a few small things. These pecans are a perfect addition to salads, for snacking, or for a gourmet little gift for someone special.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (heaping) fresh ground black pepper (a fine grind is better here)
  • 1/8 teaspoon (heaping) cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups raw pecan halves (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 1 egg white, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Set aside.

Mix sugars and spices in a small bowl, making sure there are no lumps. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg white and water until frothy but not stiff.

Add nuts to egg white and toss to coat evenly.

Add sugar and spice mixture to nuts, and toss until evenly coated.

Spread sugared nuts on prepared cookie sheets in a single layer.

Bake 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I forgot to stir them last time and they turned out great anyway, so you probably don't need to fret this step).

Remove from the oven and separate the nuts as they cool. Once completely cool, you can store the nuts, tightly covered, in a bowl or tupperware. Separate any that are stuck together before you store them - and I store mine in the fridge to keep them a little more firm until I'm ready to use them, however refrigeration isn't required for storage.

Source

Adapted by Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are, from Smittenkitchen, who adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country.

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/12/18/sweet-and-spicy-candied-pecans/

Driving Blindfolded

Simply say yes; Driving blindfolded

This is a never-posted oldie, but it was the start of the story that’s currently underway. I didn’t want to post in real-time, because what if it went nowhere? What if I failed? What if, what if, what if?? But I don’t care anymore. I’ll catch you up, and then we can watch it unravel together. We’re going back to June 2013 here. It’s similar to some of the posts I’ve published before, but for some reason I felt much more wary of posting this one in particular. Since it’s the true beginning I didn’t want to leave it out, so I do apologize if it feels repetitive. . . but so began the journey.

***

I felt it again last night.

It’s been sliding in and out of my days like a distant beacon, threatening to flicker out then sputtering back to life. Still reminding me.

It’s that feeling that plays around in my chest.

It settles in behind my sternum, pulses in a low-grade thrum that never really leaves, and it tells me there is something more for me to do.

What is it?  I know it’s something I’m meant to start living.

Be a mama, yes. Be a wife, yes, but be a mama and a wife and? And what?

I pull up the sheets of our unmade bed by the glow of the reading lamp.

The kids played there today. Made a fort out of all the pillows and the fleece blanket from the Little Guy’s lower bunk.

They played with loose hangars from the closet. Made a nest for their imaginary baby dinosaur.

Anxiety rises, again, about this feeling.

I have a nagging desire to do something to help someone.

But who?

I know there is a purpose for me but I can’t get to the part where I understand who it is or how I am meant to do it.

Always, I can find an excuse for why I “can’t”.

My family needs me. The timing isn’t right. I am afraid. We don’t have the proper disposable income. I have no way to make it happen. I’m not sure to whom I am supposed to reach out.

But I’m watching Lindsay spend a year in the Philippines, I’m watching Ann meet Anna in Africa, I’m watching Shannan adopt Robert – a young man in prison, I’m watching Sonja and Alex write a cookbook to fund aid for sex-trafficked girls in Cambodia, and I remember my own trips to Jamaica and the Philippines when I was a teenage girl on the cusp of adulthood.

I remember the truth that was mine, that I belonged there – at least for the moment – doing what I was doing; and in this vortex of stories and memories, I know there is more that I am meant to do than lead this quiet, peaceful right-now life. There is something that belongs with this life that is mine.  It goes hand in hand with it and fits into it like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

I feel like I hear the whisper, “Who have you helped?”  – the same question George Ritchie heard as he was enveloped on the bright and pure white light in his moments of death.

What is it?

I pray in the yellow lamp light.

I pull up the duvet to meet the pillows and I smooth the top sheet.

Show me what it is.. . .

When I ask like this, I have learned, I’ll get an answer.

I’ll know it when it hits me.

As I fold back the layers of blankets and glance at the nightstand, looking for my novel, a different book catches my eye.

I haven’t opened it for months.

I feel it pulling, and I know this might be my nudge.

I climb into bed and grab the book.

I pull the satin bookmark. March 14th. That was the last day I read it. I page over to June 29th.

My heart thump-throbs a rhythm of anticipation inside my chest.

My hands sting with the mist of perspiration.

adrenaline.

I know enough to know this probably means something.

What will it say?

The instant fish accept

that they will not have arms

they grow fins.

- Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I look back at June 28th:

Discernment is a process of letting go of what we are not.

                                    – Father Thomas Keating as quoted in The Book of Awakening

I feel bits of comprehension playing right at the tip of my understanding, but I can’t quite grasp it.

“. . . before we can be what we are meant to be, we must accept what we are not. This form of discernment asks us to let go of those grand fantasies that take us out of our nature, that make us work to be famous instead of loving, or perfect instead of compassionate.

Yet the instant we can accept what is not in our nature, rather than being distracted by all we think we could or should be, then all our inner resources are free to transform us into the particular self we are aching to be.”

All of the sudden, it hits me.

I need to stop holding you at arm’s length. Fooling myself too.

The me I let you see here is not all of who I am. “discernment is a process of letting go of who we are not. . . .”

Let’s be straightforward with each other. I know that you know I’m nothing special in the cooking department. I’m a home cook. I love to cook and experiment, and try new things, but I don’t have any amazing skill or exceptional creativity in that department. Not like thousands of other truly amazing cooks do.

In fact, I’m quite fond of nineteen nineties cuisine and I’m content to dig out my Grandma’s recipes circa 1956.

I’m a nobody in the foodie world. It’s ok. You seem to like me anyway.

So, I am not a culinary mastermind. What I am though, is a lover of people, a believer in Grace and Divine intervention, and a truth-seeker; and I believe, somehow, some way, bits of that are meant to be shared over time.

In that I believe I may grow fins.

I  feel like I am supposed to invite you along on this vague and nondescript ride with me –  on this scavenger hunt for the elusive jigsaw piece, this adventure to stop pretending that it’s all about food.

This seems a bit like driving a car blindfolded, finding my way only by someone speaking directions in my ear.

It’s blind faith, but I trust The One who’s breathing words into my heart.

So I’m holding my breath and clutching the wheel with his hand resting on my shoulder, telling me to take the next turn, even if I don’t know where it leads except into an intersection of unknowns. 

Come with me.

I’m going to share with you some of these things that have nothing to do with food and might not make much sense, but they will be more of me, and in being more me I’ve got a shot at fins.

And maybe someday we’ll click through old posts together and be able to point at today and say, “Wow. It all started there with all that weird talk about fish and fins.”

A Turkey Day Doodle

Thanksgiving doodle 2014

For you, Lovelies. A Thanksgiving day doodle for the kids to color while the bird roasts and you sweat your booty off in the kitchen. . . .

Oh, wait, I mean. . . for you to color with your kids while you all enjoy Hallmark quality family time around a cozy fireplace with hot chocolates in hand.

Or, you could print ‘em up, roll ‘em up, tie ‘em with a ribbon, and tuck them in with each place setting. Then you all can talk about what you’re thankful for. Examples included in the doodle:

  • Mr. Worm, “I’m thankful for hot dogs!!”
  • Mr. Turkey, “I’m thankful for steaks!”
  • Mr. Giraffe, “I’m thankful for polka dots!”

I’m thankful for cool Southern winter days, warm little fingers that still hold mine, squeezy husband hugs, shiny new friendships and those that are weathered and worn, fresh journeys, and answered prayers. And you! I’m thankful for you crazy peeps who keep coming around these parts for better or for worse. ♥♥♥

What are you thankful for??

My Make-Believe Thanksgiving Menu

make ahead mashed potatoespecan bars Roasted Carrot Salad Caramel Apple Pie Bars TRoasted Cauliflower and Asparagus Soup| Home is Where The Cookies AreTraditional Thanksgiving

I feel a little torn today because, really, I want to start catching you up on old stuff so I can start talking about new stuff and then in my perfect little world, we’d all be on the same page. But I also feel like Thanksgiving is in a few days.

Actually, Thanksgiving IS in a few days, and, well, I feel the duty to post something Thanksgiving-y.

And since our Thanksgiving menu remains the same every year, I figure maybe the thing to do right now is daydream with you all.

If I were the Thanksgiving Menu Curator this year, this is how I’d roll:

1. I would spatchcock a Turkey, Bon Appetit style, but I’d probably skip the anise seed and orange and stick with salt/garlic/rosemary/thyme/pepper/honey.

2. I’d saute some green beans with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then toss them with crispy prosciutto bits, julienned sun-dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.

3. I’d roast some cauliflower and carrots ahead of time too, and serve them at room temp over a bed of peppery greens, sprinkled with goat cheese – the whole shebang smattered with slow fried shallots.

4. I’d make my mashed potatoes the day before.

5. And the sweet potato casserole too.

6. I’d start today and make some homemade rolls. Then I’d freeze them and let them thaw out on the drive to the In-laws on Thursday.

7. I’d go traditional with a Libby’s pumpkin pie, but then I’d veer outside tradition and steer straight into easily handled cookie bars for the apple and pecan pie varieties of dessert. Oh! And Spuma. I’d offer this cranberry maple spuma because it’s my menu, and I can.

What about you?? What’s on your Thanksgiving menu? And if I snuck in one new thing this year, what would you suggest? Because I might just do it. . . . . ;-)

Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

Thyme and Cheddar Scallopped PotatoesCheesy. Potatoes.

That’s really all you need to know.

These are the kind of potatoes that say, I ♥ you, therefore I give you cheese.

Garlicky, herby, creamy cheese.

Oh, and carbs. Nothing says love like carbs.

I love you and I’m thankful for you: so I made you carb-y, cheesy, super thinly sliced potatoes baked to golden, crunchy-on-top perfection.

If you’re looking for a side for your Thanksgiving turkey, try them.

If you’re all set for Thanksgiving, and you’re looking for something to go with sliders and hot dogs for your next football party? Try them.

If you just want a different side to go with your meatloaf, because your tired of mashed potatoes. . . Yup. Try them.

If you’re a vegetarian and you don’t eat sliders or hot dogs or turkey or meatloaf and you want something to go with your. . . what do you eat? Beans? Yes. . . try them.

BTW – Tyler Florence? Thank you for the original recipe and your stylishly coiffed hair. Both have made life significantly more enjoyable.

Sooo.

Pretend there is a super apropos segue here – and not the kind the mall cops ride around on. I mean words that lead you nicely and smoothly into another subject.

Oh Look!

Here we are.

What were we talking about?

Oh yes. Change.

Life is changing, schedules are changing, activities are changing, and things will be changing here too.

Namely: topics.

I’ve realized that if I want to keep up here, then the subject matter is going to have to adjust along with me, so. . . weird?

We’ll still have food of course, but I chuckle when I think about how I’ve submitted myself to a total  food coup. It’s completely taken over.

In the beginning of all these cooking/blogging shenanigans, I imagined food would comprise about one-third of the content here, but obviously, I didn’t have a firm grip on my own obsessions. (It was also here that I discovered my weakness for chocolate. . .  to which I was somehow oblivious for my entire life up untill then.)

Food was central to our lives (well, it still pretty much is. . . ). It was happening all the time (still does), it’s what I loved (still do), and it was easy (enough) because I could “work” while the kiddos were away for their day at school (really, really, NOT so much anymore). As daily schedules would have it, my quiet cooking time has almost ceased to exist (as has interruption-free photography time). At the same time, old loves are re-emerging (art – with serious kid orientation), and new loves (the local homeless community) are meeting me where I’m at.

It’s no surprise, really –  I’ve talked about some of it before – I just never knew the W’s of it all (who, what, when, where. . .).

But it’s finally come together, and with a bit of a story to boot.

So I’ll share with you the parts I’m allowed to share. I’ll take you on the journey from the beginning – which was actually quite a while ago and a bit haphazard. It might come off a bit like a ride through a funky time warp (count this as your preemptive warning).

Our range of topics here will increase to equal Food+. Plus what, you say? Plus anything we want, I say.Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

The world blogosphere is our oyster.

From here on out, we will be about food and all the other things too.

I hope you’ll stick around.

And before I go – the recipe for the potatoes, lest I come off the wrong way – food will always remain!

Thyme and Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 01 hour

Yield: 8 servings

Don't worry if you don't have a 10" cast iron skillet, or if you need to make a larger batch. You can easily double the recipe and bake it in a 9"x13" casserole dish. I'd be leaving out important information too, if I didn't admit that I started day dreaming about a more potent cheese in this recipe. . . Don't be afraid to try Gruyere - or maybe Fontinella. . . the options are nearly endless!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 sprigs of fresh Thyme
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • salt (to taste), and fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • butter - enough to coat skillet
  • 1 1/2 pounds potatoes (I used a mix of Russet and Yukon Gold. 1 medium Russet, and 3 smallish Yukon Golds)
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered and very thinly sliced.
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup (heaping!!) shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese

Directions

Pre heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat a 10" cast-iron skillet with butter.

In a medium saucepan combine the cream, thyme, bay leaves, garlic cloves, and nutmeg.

Heat cream mixture slowly over medium-low heat. Whisk to combine, and taste when warm. Add desired salt and pepper. Keep hot, but do not simmer or boil, while slicing the potatoes.

Meanwhile, wash and peel the potatoes and slice them very thin (I used a Mandolin set at 1).

Place the sliced potatoes and thinly sliced onion in a large bowl. Remove and discard the solids from the cream mixture using a slotted spoon. Whisk in the cheddar cheese until melted and integrated well. Pour the cream and cheese mixture over the potatoes, stirring gently (and using clean hands if necessary), to make sure each potato slice gets a coating of the cream mixture. Add in 1/2 cup of the grated parmesan cheese and mix again. Spoon potato and cream mixture into the skillet. Arrange into an even layer. Pour remaining cream over the top, and sprinkle with the last 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake, covered with foil for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for about 20-25 more minutes, or until bubbly and top is golden brown.

Source

Sara|Home is Where the Cookies are, adapted from Tyler Florence

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/11/12/thyme-and-cheddar-scalloped-potatoes/

Easy Homemade* Tomato Herb Soup

Easy Homemade* Tomato Herb Soup

I just got lost in Facebook for a whole episode of Doc McStuffins while our Littlest snuggled into a pile of blankets on the floor (I managed to jinx ourselves into sickness. I JUST thought to myself two days ago, “Wow. It’s already Halloween, and we haven’t had a bug yet this year. . . . Touché, mother nature, touché.)

This is why I stink at Facebook: basically, I fear it will suck my life away, so I avoid it like the plague – or, erm, a stomach bug.

But I love to hate Facebook so much that I joined Instagram too.

Just now.

Like minutes ago.

This makes no sense, you say?

Well, I’m not the spouse who went to med school folks.

I’m the spouse who went to art school; logic doesn’t always play a significant role in my actions.

So I’m there. On Instagram now.

I have no idea how to use it, which totally makes me feel like a wicked-old fart.

I see hashtags, but I thiiiiink the hashtags have more to do with being linked to Twitter.

Which, btw Twitter, watch out, bc #yourenext.

So – Instagrammy.

If you wish to join me there, you can find me here. (I believe so anyway, there’s no way I can confirm nor deny this currently. . . . If you try and fail, let me know. If you try and succeed, I’ll see you there.)

I’ve got one super awesome picture of a paper pumpkin up there. Mostly because I had no idea what else to post at the moment. It was sort of a tester.

“Testing, one, two, pumpkin. Testing, testing. . . . ”

So anyway.

Tomato soup.

It’s super easy – and I only * the ‘homemade’ part, because, well, we’re starting with tomatoes from a carton (and chicken broth from a can if you don’t have homemade stock on hand) instead of from the garden (or your own chicken), which means three things:

1. They’re tomatoes like these**, which means we’re dealing with nothing but tomatoes ⇒ *healthy!*Easy Homemade Tomato Herb Soup

2. Because they’re from a carton, there’s no need for all the steps that go into getting smooth tomato soup, it’s just smooth anyway. So, snip open a carton, and we’re good to go.

3. We can have this soup any time of year, summer or not, in a matter of minutes; so when it’s blustering snow outside and nothing sounds better than a steaming bowl of out-of-season-tomato soup and a grilled cheese? Looky here, folks. This recipe is your ticket.

***I harp on these tomatoes all the time. No, they’re not paying me (but they should), I just love them.

Easy Homemade* Tomato Herb Soup

Total Time: 30 minutes

This recipe originally came from my friend Meredith a few years ago. We've been eating it ever since, with just a few changes to lighten it up a little bit and adapt it to our family's preferences.

Ingredients

  • 2 (26 ounce) cartons Pomi Strained Tomatoes (Or something similar- just tomatoes, no sugar, salt, or preservatives)
  • 3 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock (or 2 14.5 ounce cans low sodium chicken broth)
  • 20 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • fresh chives, chopped, for garnish

Directions

Add tomatoes and broth to a large saucepan, stir, and bring to a boil. Recuce heat, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add chopped basil and sugar. Stir. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream and butter. Cook until butter is melted. Top each serving with fresh chives.

Source

Sara|Home is Where The Cookies Are, via Meredith K.

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/10/30/easy-homemade-tomato-herb-soup/

Easy Little Zombie Ghost Craft

spooky zombie ghosts

Don’t be freaked out, now.

It’s only a little zombie ghost.

These have names, actually. Alvin is on the far left, Simon is that bean pole in the middle, and that thick boned little guy on the right is Theodore.

As a girl who’s got luke-warm emotions about Halloween in general, I must admit I’m somewhat of a sucker for cutesy pumpkins and pillowcase ghosts. AndLetsNotForgetTheCandy.

Remember how I said I love my kids’ teachers?

Alvin was the creation of my little guy under the direction of his second grade teacher, and he’s one of my most favorite ever decorations for the end of October.

When we made Simon and Theodore, it took us roughly 10.2 seconds once the jars were clean. And the project drained my pocket-book of around $13.50 ($6 for the tealights, $3.50 for the bandage (at Wal-Mart), and $3.00 for the googley eyes) and we have enough supplies left over to make at least 4 more chipmunks zombie ghosts (I’m just guessing a number here, because we still have leftover tealights, wrap, and oodles of googley eyes).

All it takes is this:

spooky zombie ghost suppliesI can neither confirm nor deny the effectiveness of the sports tape. We haven’t used it yet. I can confirm however, the effectiveness of pudgy little pre-school fingers organizing the supplies. They’re excellent for the job. Also excellent? Self adhering sports wrap. Life. Saver. Don’t skimp.

And the Wiggle Eyes . . . fun, yes. But not absolutely necessary. I say a good ‘ol pair of black construction paper lookin’ balls would do just swell here. Use a single hole punch to let the pupils’ glow come through.

So here’s the deal:

1. Clean your jar. We’ve got one spaghetti sauce jar, one olive jar, and one salsa jar.

Soak them in water for a few hours to wet the labels, then scrape them off. Wash ‘em one last time to remove any residual goo. Let them dry completely.

2. This is going to be a tricky 4 seconds. Starting at the bottom edge of the side of the jar, start winding the self adhesive wrap around the jar and work your way to the top, layering the wrap slightly as you go. When you reach the top, snip it and stick it. Phew. Thank goodness that’s done.

3. Glue on your oculus of choice.

4. Insert tiny little battery operated tealight.

5. Watch your adorable little Zombie Chipmunks flicker in the night.

If they were real zombies? They might look creepier – like this:

spooky zombie ghosts

I just thought of something – these guys could star in “The Not Walking Dead”.

Get it? Because they don’t have legs. So they can’t walk. Plus, they’re not alive. Which, I guess technically, neither are zombies. But whatever. I’m confusing myself.

The kids nixed the creepy version though. They like these guys friendly and cute. Bonus if you spy them hanging out in broad daylight:

spooky zombie ghosts

Our Favorite Roast Chicken

Favorite Roast Chicken|Home Is Where The Cookies Are

Can we just agree that life always seems to come back around to being crazy?

Always.

Sometimes there is an ebb, sometimes a flow, but Crazy always makes his way back.

Sometimes we might be fooled into thinking if we can just get over the hump, all of a sudden we will be standing in the greener pasture, a fresh breeze will be blowing, our kids will be skipping gleefully through the wildflowers and maybe even holding hands – and our schools will initiate a no homework policy. Forever and ever, Amen.

Ahhh. If only. . . .

But then, the hump never comes, it just changes. And we go through the cycle again.

So, we’re in another cycle now, and I’m coming out of the kicking/screaming/crying about it phase, and going back into the embracing it/making it work phase, which means . . . planning ahead.

That’s where dinners make a huge difference.

That’s where roasting two chickens at once so you can have one today, leftovers tomorrow, and chicken soup, enchiladas, or chicken pesto pasta a few days down the road makes a mama happy.

And what do we all know? A happy mama makes a happy home.

I’m not going to get all wordsy at you right now.

Mostly because roast chicken doesn’t need to be a wordsy thing, (spell-check is also telling me that “wordsy” is not a word. Whatevs, “spell-check”) but also because there are ideas and inspirations percolating in my deep-heart, quiet places and I’m waiting for them to come full circle before I blab about them.

But the chicken. . . .

Favorite Roast Chicken|Home Is Where The Cookies Are

The basics for the recipe came from my sister – the method, the cooking time, the loose suggestions for brine and rub ingredients, and this is the combo we’ve been using since I first made it and my family practically cried out in unison, “Can you please only ever make this roast chicken?!”

This chick’s got everything a good chick should have – super moist savory meat, delightfully golden, flavor-packed, crispy skin, and an aroma that just plain says, “We’re home, and we’re cozy tonight”.

It’s a hands down favorite. It’s pretty. It’s delicious enough for company and easy enough (with planning ahead) to make on a school night, and certainly fancy enough for Sunday Supper. (And let us not forget – it makes great leftovers.) I have yet to truly mess it up – because even when I messed it up, it still got rave reviews. My mother-in-law even admitted to me that she’d entertained ideas of asking me to cook one ahead for her and she’d come pick it up.

She lives 60 miles away.

You might want to try it.

Our Favorite Roast Chicken

Prep Time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours, 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6

Our Favorite Roast Chicken

As my sister said, "This sounds complicated, but it's actually pretty easy. It's probably only 20 minutes of prep, total". It's true - you just need to think ahead a little. Be sure to allow time for the brining, anywhere from 4-24 hours, then allow a total of 2 hours for prepping, cooking, and resting the chicken before you carve it. (In the cooking times listed above, I've included the minimum brining time, the prep time, and I've added the resting time in with the cooking time, so when you're planning ahead you can make time for each step). Also, in this recipe, I've not specified a specific weight of bird. I find that they're all pretty average sized (I usually buy the Coleman Organic Whole Chickens from Costco), and as long as you are using a meat theremometer as your guide, the size doesn't matter so much.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, average sized (I like to do two at a time. if you're doing two, get them slightly smaller, so they can fit in the brine bowl together. Then increase brine ingredients by 1/2, and double the rub ingredients so you have enough for both birds.)
  • For the brine:
  • 2 cups of water (plus more later, and some ice)
  • 1/3 cup table salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 peeled and roughly chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • For the "rub":
  • 3 tablespoons butter, mostly melted (I use salted butter, and I find the herbs mix in best if it's not completely melted, but slightly drippy, and more like thick cream.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, preferably pressed, but finely minced would be ok too, or garlic powder would be ok in a pinch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme (rubbed between palms)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste ( I do about a half teaspoon)
  • 1/2 lemon

Directions

For the brine:

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of water and next 5 ingredients (through peppercorns). Bring to a boil.

While you're waiting for the brine to boil, get a large bowl (think mixing bowl or popcorn bowl) and fill it with about 6-8 cups of ice. (you can skip this step if you have time to allow your brine to cool to room temperature before submerging your chicken).

Once the brine boils, pour it over the ice and allow it to melt, then stir to mix well.

Prep the chicken by removing anything from the inside - gizzards, pouches, neck pieces, etc).

Put the chicken in the brine, breast down. If the chicken is not completely covered by the brine, add enough water to make it so. Cover, and refrigerate overnight if you have time. (If not, I've found 4-6 hours to be good too.)

When you're ready to cook the chicken, Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse it with water. Pat it completely dry with paper towels (this makes for crispy skin). Place it on a roasting rack in a roasting pan, breast side up, and wings tucked back (if you want - I don't always do this).

For the rub:

Combine mostly melted butter, garlic, and spices (I usually just give it a quick stir with a fork).

Slowly pour the melted butter mixture over the chicken, using a rubber spatula or your fingers to rub evenly over the skin. Save a little for the bottom too, and if you have a little left over, drip it inside the cavity as well. Squeeze the half lemon inside the chicken cavity, and leave the squeezed half inside while roasting. At this point, if you like, you can tie the legs together with kitchen twin - or not. Either way works.

Place the chicken in the oven and cook at 500 degrees F for about 18 minutes. Then, turn the heat down to 400 degrees, or 350 if you have more time available. After 40 - 50 minutes, remove the chicken from the oven and, in the thickest part of the breast meat, test with a meat thermometer. The temperature must read 160 degrees before you can remove it for resting (as it rests, temperature will rise to a safe 170 degrees). If it's not at 160, pop it back in the oven and cook it a little longer. Once your thermometer reads 160, remove the chicken from the oven and tent it with foil for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, carve it, and eat!

Source

Sara, via her sister, Jill|Home is Where The Cookies Are

http://www.wherethecookiesare.com/2014/10/16/our-favorite-roast-chicken/

Another Man’s Treasure. . . .

Another man's treasure Collage 1 1000

So you might remember I got a bee in my bonnet and claimed all chill-like that I wanted to decorate.

Bees in my bonnet, indeed.

I went a little bit crazy-town.

I chanted to myself for three hours each morning, “You can’t ruin it if you don’t like it to begin with”, thank you, Nester.

That one statement led me to chop off 2 inches of the yoga pants I never wear because they are too long and then don them happily to the grocery store.

I went to Marshall’s and bought an autumn scented candle and – get this – burned it.

I let that warm little flame dance and twinkle, then I went and bought 5 more, I loved it so much.

I got so amped up about the whole decorating binge that I tucked a measuring tape into my purse and scoured the isles of home decorating stores for fabric and furniture pieces.

I actually found the perfect “piece”.

And then, I froze.

Because I realized something.

In order to decorate, one needs to pare down a bit (and paint, but that’s a whole separate issue. . . . )

Like totally declutter.

Which brings me to many things, but some of the many, are books.

I love books.

But if I’m serious about doing this thang – the sprucing up, decorating thang – then I best be clearing away some of the excess.

So, I’ve piled a stash of extras.

Actually, I’ve made two piles. One for charity, and one for friends – and by friends I mean you.

Is this weird? Tacky?

Maybe. But nothing’s ever really stopped me from being weird and tacky before. . . .

So this is the deal.

I’ve got some loot. It’s all still totally good, it’s just that I’ve got extra.

And who doesn’t like, good, free stuff? (Don’t tell me if you don’t.)

So I’m going to give some to you. It’ll be like web-shopping a yard sale, picking the thing you like, and having the seller tell you it’s free and she’ll send it to you, her treat. All you have to do is put your feet up and wait for the nice USPS worker to drop it on your porch.

I’m going to post a few things here and there. Odd ball bits and pieces, and you’re going to leave a comment in the Rafflecopter telling me which thing you’d like. The Rafflecopter will pick the winner, and I’ll send you your fave thing!

It’s that easy.

And we could do this for a while.

I’ve got lots of extras.

I’m sort of thinking that now and then I’ll might go Sesame Street on you all.

You know, four things, and one not like the other – just to keep it interesting.

Aaand, maybe not. That’s sort of sounds like a pain.

We’ll see.

The first weird and tacky giveaway starts today!

Next time, I’ll be back with food.

Thing no. 1:

Halloween books

Books for October – this creepy time of year. Scoob Doobs glows in the dark, and No More Monsters For Me was always one of my faves – just not one of my kids’. . . . All are in excellent condition. There might be a name inside one of the covers, but I’ll just block that out with sharpie if need be, and maybe add a little, “I Love You, Dear Reader, xoxo!!”

hemingwayI said to my dad one time that I thought he ought to stop reading such depressing literature, and then sent him a collection of Hemingway stories. Uhhhhh. . . . What?

If you’re into fancy things like classic authors, then you’ll enjoy this book way more than my dad. It’s in great condition too. You’d never know no-one ever read it.

Polo dress

Oh yessss. Time for baby prep. It’s a Ralph Lauren size 3/3T. My gal only wore it about 2 times because she’s more of a hippie than a jockey –  so it’s pretty much brand new. I didn’t iron for the picture (because I’m pretty much allergic to ironing), but I’d do it for you.

That’s all for now. I need to go dig through more closets.

Tell me what you want, and the Rafflecopter will tell me who to mail to. We’ll close this shindig on Friday, friends!

a Rafflecopter giveaway