Monday, January 30, 2012

Creamy Mushroom Soup with Chicken

This is one of two dishes that I'll be posting this week that doesn't look good in a picture.  But believe me, it tastes AMAZING!  This is probably the most involved recipe I have ever posted, but it was just so tasty that I had to share it!

I've adapted the recipe from Williams Sonoma's Cookbook (pictured below).  It is a phenomenal book with loads of great recipes!

For ingredients, you will need:
2 1/2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced against the grain
4 cups chicken stock
2 packages (8 oz each) of crimini mushrooms
1 ounce of dry porcini mushrooms
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup of butter
1 onion, chopped finely (I only had part of one, which worked just fine)
A pinch of salt to your taste

For supplies (the big ones), you will need:
A blender
A strainer lined with cheesecloth (I substituted a coffee filter for the cloth- it worked fine but was pretty tricky)
A large pot
A sauce pot

First, combine the chicken stock and the dried mushrooms in a sauce pot.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about five minutes.  Then, remove the pot from heat and let it sit.
Next, melt the butter in the large pot and add the onions over medium high heat.  Saute them until they are soft.
Then add the fresh mushrooms and saute them together until the mushrooms are softened.  Sprinkle the flour and some salt to taste over the mushroom/onion mix and stir until the mushrooms are coated.  Remove from the heat.

This was the part I found trickiest and would probably be made easier with a mesh colander and cheesecloth: Drain the chicken stock and mushrooms that had been set aside, saving the stock. 
Add both the stock and the mushrooms to the large pot and return it to heat.  Let it simmer for a few minutes, then transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and puree until it is slightly textured- not too smooth.

Return the mushroom soup to the pot, back to medium high heat.  Add in the chicken and allow it to cook through (3-5 minutes).  Add the half and half and the wine and allow the soup to simmer for a few more minutes. 

It's a pretty lengthy process, it took me around an hour to make it, but let me tell you: it is totally worth it!  Comfort food that reminds me of the soups in Ireland. :)  The mushrooms have such a great flavor that it would even be a great dish without the chicken. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Good Natured Giveaway!

I am so excited to be offering you all another fabulous giveaway!  This giveaway is from Good Natured by Dani, a fun shop on Etsy that sells all sorts of cute things.

Here's a few fun things about Dani (besides being my college suite mate!):

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself:  Hi! I'm Dani! I live in Missouri with my husband (my junior high sweetheart!) and our pets: 2 dogs, 3 cats and 2 chickens!  I work at a zoo as an educator, which means I take animals to schools and other facilities and present very fun programs.  In my spare time, I love to read, travel, garden and make things!  We try to live a very green and self-sufficient life, and I dream of one day having a little farm! 

2. Tell us a little bit about your shop:  My shop, Good Natured, has a fun collection of jewelry made from fabric, felt, wool, and even paper origami (that my husband folds).  There's bit of pottery and ceramic jewelry too, but my favorite items are the needle felted wool creations.  I'm slowly building the collection, and there are lots of critters, wool potted plants and even pin cushions!

3. What is your favorite material to work with?
  Wool!  It seems strange that I can start with a wad of wool and sculpt it into something recognizable--but that's also what is so intriguing and fun about it!

4. Where do you get your inspiration?  I have a degree in Biology and have always loved animals.  Since I work at a zoo, inspiration is very close at hand when it comes to deciding what felt critter to make next.  I love to spend time outdoors, whether I'm doing anything from gardening to hiking, so any "nature time" is usually good for sparking new ideas.  And let's not forget Pinterest. :)

5. Any new, exciting things coming to your shop?  I'm hoping to create some more needle felted jewelry, especially the little critters.  I have just a few little owl and penguin earrings available, but I'm planning to expand that collection.  I'd also like to offer some coordinating sets of my needle felted a barnyard set with my pig, sheep and chicken and a woodland set with an owl, chipmunk, fox, etc.

6. If you could pick anywhere in the world to visit, where would it be?  Oh boy.  Well, my husband and I love to travel.  Currently I'm planning a trip to Ireland and Scotland.  And I love Europe.  But the places that I'd really like to visit one day are Australia and New Zealand.  There are some crazy animals that live there! (Here I go with the animals again--but seriously--have you seen a duck-billed platypus? Or a cassowary? Weird!)  And from what I gather, the landscape is beautiful.  Also, I haven't had a wine from Australia's Barossa Valley that I did not like. Seems to me like this would be a win-win trip, right? ;)

Now for the giveaway!  Dani is generous enough to give one lucky reader a $20 credit to her Etsy shop!  I think I would have a hard time choosing...
Look how cute these custom owls are!
I love this sunny yellow brooch :)
Isn't this plate beautiful??
 To enter the giveaway, there are just three simple steps:

1. Follow this blog with Google Friend Connect or Blog Lovin' (both have buttons to the side)
3. Comment on this post telling me your favorite item from the Good Natured shop!

Easy peasy!  You have until February 12th to enter.  The winner will be announced on Monday, February 13th!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Window Treatments!

It has been a looong time coming, but we finally have new window treatments up in our bedroom.  The curtains that were up are curtains I remember from when I was a little girl and my grandparents lived here.  They were OLD (at least two decades, most likely more).
The old bedroom.  Old paint, old curtains, old bedding.  Old, old, old.  And very blue...
Well, we've painted over the blue walls and the printed paneling, we got new bedding as a wedding gift, and at long last, we have new shades.
Not the best picture... trouble with windows is they're usually back lit :)

I still plan to dress up the windows a little bit (maybe with some sheer panels?) but these are far and away better than the old curtains.  They were so bad that we couldn't even open them- they would just fall off the wall if you pulled the cord!  Much better. 

What do you think- What should I do to finish them off?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Semi Precious Stones

I've added a few new earrings to my Etsy shop!  Don't forget, you can get 20% off anything in the shop with the code VALENTINE20 :)
In case you missed the last pair of malachite earrings, here is a new pair!
If blue is your color, check out these semi-precious sodalite earrings
Round stones instead, but still pretty blue sodalite!
These semi-precious crystal earrings might just be my new favorites...
 If you're feeling crafty, you can always check out my DIY on this style of earring and make your own!

Friday, January 20, 2012

DIY Brush Holder

I saw this idea in InStyle magazine and knew I had to make it.  I recently bought a set of makeup brushes and am so happy I did!  But, I didn't have anywhere to put them, so they were still in their original box.  Not anymore!  This is so easy to do, too.

What you need:
A piece of craft wood (you can find these at the craft store, but I'm sure you would be just as good to look at a hardware store)
A drill
Multiple drill bits of varying sizes

All you have to do is drill holes into the wood.  Make sure you compare the bit to the brush so you can be sure it will fit.  I love the way mine turned out, even if the holes are a little crooked.  You can paint it or stain it as well... I'm still deciding if I'll do anything more with mine.  Maybe paint it black?

On a side note, does anyone have a must-have makeup brush?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Through the Looking Glass

I have been on the hunt for a mirror to hang above our new sideboard ever since we got it.  I have searched all the typical haunts, but finally found exactly what I was looking for at T.J. Maxx, and the price was unbelievable!  I even scored two new table lamps there (to replace our mismatched pair) all for less than what a similar mirror would have cost elsewhere.  They have this great mercury glass effect that adds some subtle texture.

Mirror: $39.99

Table Lamps, $39.99 each
I know where I'll be headed the next time I need some home goods!

Oh, and I also somehow drifted into the shoe section and found a pair I just had to have ;)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Orzo Salad with Avocado, Tomato, and Feta

This is a delicious dish.  Not the traditional "warm your belly" winter food, but it's so refreshing for when you feel like you've had a bit too much comfort food.

For two dinner sized servings, you will need:

1/2 pound orzo (half of a typical sized box)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed (wait to do this until just before you add it so it stays nice and green)
3 ounces feta cheese
1/4 cup (or less) extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1/2 orange

This recipe is so simple, I didn't even need to do step by step photos! :)  Boil the orzo for about 9 minutes.  Drain it well, running cold water over it to stop it from cooking.

Put the orzo in a large bowl and toss it with half of the olive oil.  Add the rest of the ingredients and toss gently.  You're done!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

One Month to Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is one month away!  To celebrate, I'm running a 20% off promotion in my Etsy shop, and I wanted to share with you some festive gift tags I made:
In purple, white, and blue
In pink, purple, and white

Inspired by the conversation heart candies, I have a bunch of varieties in the shop- check them out, and don't forget to use the code VALENTINE20 for your 20% off!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Polishing Off a Bad Habit

So, one of my new year's resolutions is to stop biting my nails for once and for all.  In order to do that, I have a few different tactics.  Keeping nail files handy and moisturizing are a few of my strategies.  The most enjoyable part of breaking this habit, though, is the nail polish.  Lots of nail polish :)  I bought several new shades, all work appropriate but still fun, to help motivate me.

Gilty Pleasure
First is Gilty Pleasure from Sally Hansen's Complete Salon Manicure.  The color is great, fun but still subdued, but what I really love about this polish is that brush is wider, shorter, and thicker than the typical nail polish brush.  It makes applying the polish super easy.
School of Hard Rocks
Next up is another Essie polish, School of Hard Rocks.  I love this shade- it's got color and kick to make it fun, but it's not too bold.  This is my first Essie polish, a brand everyone raves about, and now I see why.  It goes on great and there are so many fabulous colors!
Mink Muffs
Another Essie polish that I am really liking is Mink Muffs.  It's such a pretty brown!
Greycian Goddess

Last but not least, Greycian Goddess by L'Oreal.  It doesn't go on well as a single coat, but after two it looks great!  I've been wanting a grey polish for a while and I'm happy with the results.

The strategy of lots of nail color varieties seems to be working- I haven't nibbled my nails yet!  Anyone have any must-try colors?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Etsy Trinkets

I've recently added a few new items to my etsy shop- you should check them out!

I have a pair of marcasite tassel earrings that I made in the same way as the drop tassel DIY tutorial.  I think they're really pretty.  I especially like the natural deep green stone with the gold.
Malachite earrings

I also have a whole bunch of gift tags along the same lines as my gift tag DIY tutorial.  I even have a listing to let you custom order your shape and words!
Valentine's gift tags in white, pink, and red!
I'm so excited to be back and adding items to my shop!  I hope you enjoy! :)

If you want to order anything from my shop, I'm currently running a 20% off special!  Just use the code VALENTINE20 when you place your order!

Monday, January 9, 2012

DIY Gift Tags

These are so cute and easy!  I have been trying to think of things to do with my metal letter stamping set, so here is another project you can try.

You will need:

Sculpey (or any other polymer clay)
Letter stamps (metal or rubber)
Acrylic paint
A needle
String or embroidery floss
A glass or something else to roll the clay out

First, roll the clay out into a thin (about 1/8 of an inch) sheet.  Use a cookie cutter or a knife to cut out the shape you want.
Then, choose your letters and stamp away!
Using a needle (I used a safety pin), put a hole through your tag big enough to fit your string through.
Place the tags on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake according to the package directions (mine are to bake at 275 degrees for 10-15 minutes for every quarter inch of thickness)

Finally, if you'd like, rub some paint over the letters and use a damp paper towel to wipe away the excess.
Ta da!  Now, just add your string and attach it to your present! :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bacon Wrapped, Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates

These are a perennial new year's eve favorite for me.  They're sweet and salty and savory, crunchy and creamy.  It's the perfect little appetizer!  And the best part is how easy they are to make.

You will need:

Pitted dates
Cream cheese
Preheat your oven to 375.  Then, make a small slit down the side of each date to make filling them easier.

Then, add as much cream cheese as the date can hold.
Next, cut the bacon strips into thirds. Wrap one-third of a strip around the date, using a toothpick to secure the bacon. 
Finally, using a rimmed pan lined with aluminum foil, pop them into the oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the bacon looks done.

So good and so simple!  These also freeze well pre-baking; just thaw, bake, and serve :)
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