Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shrimp and Artichokes Over Rice

This is one of my favorite meals! It doesn't hurt that it takes, oh, about 10 minutes to make. It utilizes pantry ingredients and the only chopping you have to do is some parsley and garlic.

Here's the cast of characters:

1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb of shrimp, peeled and deveined (I use frozen, so that's already done!)
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/3 cup chopped parsley

Here's how to make:

1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, saute for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add shrimp, cook for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp are pink.
2. Add in everything else. Cook until mixture is hot and bubbly and shrimp are done.

Could it be any easier? (Chandler Bing anyone?)

Serve over hot cooked rice. Make sure and spoon lots of pan sauce onto the rice, that's where the flavor is at.

Ohhhhhh yeah. Mama like :)

*Chef's Note*
This makes about 4 servings. I get 2 more meals out of this when it's just the hubby and I and I must say that it makes excellent leftovers. It warms up well the next day and the flavors meld even more overnight.
A funny story about this as well. I've adapted this from a Cooking Light recipe that calls for 1 1/2 tbsp's of crushed red pepper. I made this for the first time when I was just learning how to cook, so needless to say, I put in the full amount of crushed red pepper. Yowza! I don't think I've ever had anything so hot in my entire life!

It's That Time of Year Again

Yes, it's almost March. Which means Spring. Which here in Kentucky means Tornado Season. It's that time of year that Gizmo and I loathe. I am glued to Channel 3 and, and Gizmo... well, Gizmo lives under the bed. I just sit, wait, and watch for the sky to turn this color:

I exaggerate. Where I am in Kentucky is actually very safe. I am tucked away in the hills of Ashland. We do get the occasional tornado warning here and there but from what the hubby tells me, if a tornado were to approach our area it would most likely hit one of the hills and go back up into the sky. He says flat areas are the more dangerous areas and the ones to worry about. He would know, he grew up here. We do have a basement (I have grabbed the dogs and hid in the basement like a tornado-newbie during a couple of those tornado warnings last year!) which are the safest places to be during a tornado.

We had some pretty good thunderstorms last night. If I hadn't already been up most of the night like a crazy insomniac, the thunder would have woken me up. A few cracks felt like they were right over the house. I don't think I could have pried Gizmo out from underneath the covers if I tried.

I've since gotten up and checked what the weather should be for the day, and while there are thunderstorms in the forecast for the day, there is nary a tornado watch or warning for the day. Gizmo should be thrilled. Speaking of Gizmo, the latest T-storm just passed and Gizmo has deemed it safe to crawl out of his safe place and approach the living room. All he gets is a contemptuous look from the brave dog, Haloti, who has not bothered to move from his post on the back of the couch :)

I obviously should have knocked on wood, because about an hour after I published this post, the county we live in was put on tornado watch for the rest of the day. The hubby also informed me that this is very early for tornado season, it usually holds off until May/June. Hopefully this is just another blip in this very weird winter.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Butterscotch Blondies

So, the hubby is working tonight and I got the urge to bake... maybe a little push from the sweet tooth as well. Hmm.

I've had butterscotch chips and toffee bits in my pantry for awhile, I am not even sure what I bought them for at this point. After doing some internet researching, I settled on Butterscotch Blondies.

They turned out to be the perfect late night snack. Very decadent and rich however, so definitely a once in a while treat. They satisfied my sweet tooth though!

Butterscotch Blondies
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup toffee bits

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk together. Set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until pale and creamy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs and vanilla, mix until combined.
4. Add flour in 3 additions, scraping sides of bowl. Mix until well combined.
5. Fold in butterscotch chips and toffee bits.
6. Spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into prepared pan, spread evenly with a spatula. Bake 35-45 minutes. Blondies should be golden brown on top and toothpick inserted into cake should come out with a few crumbs but not wet. (I cooked mine 35 minutes, the toothpick came out with crumbs on it, and the cake was golden brown but I still feel it could have cooked a little longer. We here at the Jarrell household are ever fearful of over-baking, however.)
7. Let blondies cool in pan completely before cutting and removing.
8. Unbutton your skinny jeans and indulge :)

Comfort Foods

Cooking Light
So, that Cooking Light magazine that I got in the mail almost 2 weeks ago that I was going to read almost 2 weeks ago? Yeah, I got around to that last night. I told you I was a procrastinator! What is equally bad is there are only 2 reasons I got around to my Cooking Light last night. #1 being the hubby is working night shifts this week and #2 being I was without my eyes.

Yes, without my eyes. You see, I am blind as a bat. I wear contacts most of the time, but they get awfully uncomfortable at the end of the day, which is when I put on my glasses. My glasses are in the shop right now having new lenses put in the frames (while this was badly needed, there is never a good time for it). Whilst I usually watch a little TV before going to bed, this was impossible without my glasses. I could however, bring a magazine within a few centimeters of my face to read. Sexy, I know. Thank goodness the hubby was at work.

Anyhoo the point of all this was that one of the first articles I read posed the question,

"What's on Your Top 10 Comfort Food List?"

This, of course, got me thinking, "What is on my Top 10 Comfort Food List?". I think I have got it narrowed down.

1. Mom's Spaghetti- A couple of item's on this list are made by my parents. Food made by parents should be one of the many definitions of comfort food. It was always a good day when I was a child when I would return from school, and the house smelled like spaghetti sauce had been simmering all day.
2. Chicken Parmesan- I've had a love affair with this simple dish for quite some time. I'm making it tonight in fact.
3. Chocolate Chip Cookies- Nuff' said!

The classic, Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
4. Dad's Chili- My Dad's chili is quite unique, very Mid-Western. There's no tomatoes in it and it's served over macaroni and topped with fresh grated cheese and onions. It was tradition to have it on Halloween and serve it with crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside Italian bread.
5. Chef's Special Chow Mein from Kin Tin in Corvallis, OR- If you haven't been to this restaurant, you wouldn't understand. This Chinese joint ruined all other Chinese food I have ever had, with this dish being over the top. Beef, chicken,  BBQ pork, shrimp, mushrooms, bok choy, baby corn, water chestnuts, and chow mien noodles all tossed in a delightfully salty sauce. It's making my mouth water thinking about it. And it's 2700 miles away :(
6. Filet Mignon- Who doesn't love Filet Mignon? The melt-in-your-mouth goodness. One of my favorite places to get it is Morton's of Chicago. Hey, if you are going to go out, go out with a bang!

Filet Mignon
7. Mom's Green Bean Casserole- One of my favorite's growing up and one of the dishes I requested the most for my birthday dinners (you know, the dinners where your mom says "What would you like me to make for you?"). A combination of ground hamburger, onion, and green beans in gravy, topped with mashed potatoes and grated cheddar cheese. Yum.
8. Buffalo Wings- This is no brainer. Anyone who knows me knows I go nuts for Buffalo Wings.
9. Clam Chowder- Such a comfort food. What could be better than a rich, creamy, hot soup sopped up with a crusty bread to comfort you?
10. Pulled Pork Tacos- Oh, how I love Pulled Pork Tacos. I could sing the praises of Pulled Pork Tacos all day. I could bury my face in Pulled Pork Tacos. Ok, that's probably taking it a little bit far.

Pulled Pork Tacos
I challenge you to think of the top 10 foods on your comfort food list! It will make you hungry!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Margarita Monday: Taco Salad

Mexican cuisine is by far my favorite cuisine and one of the things I get cravings for all the time. It's not always the healthiest though. This recipe for Taco Salad takes care of my cravings but is served over greens, so it's a lot healthier than other taco salad recipes out there served in tostadas. It's also incredibly easy to make and sneaks mucho veggies in.

The first step is to make the meat topping. I usually make this with a lb of hamburger, but you could make it with ground turkey, chicken, or pork. There's actually only 3 ingredients in the meat.

Fresh salsa (2 cups)
Chopped fresh cilantro (1/4 cup)
Chopped red pepper (1 pepper)

I like to use a good quality salsa, like this one I find at Sam's Club (my area's Costco substitute)-

After browning and draining the fat off the meat, I toss in the bell peppers and saute for 2-3 minutes.

Then pour in the salsa until it's hot and bubbly-

Throw in the cilantro and the meat topping is done!

Put out all the toppings you want.

We are big fans of fresh grated cheddar!

The romaine lettuce is the base but we like to add cheese, tomatoes, green onions, more cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips, and sour cream. I like to add avocado when I have it, but I didn't have any on hand.

The only left to do is inhale the plate.

The next thing you know, your plate will be empty and you will be very sad.

FYI- I may have to go back and change the name of this post as there weren't actually any margaritas on this Margarita Monday. Or maybe I will just get a shot of tequila and call it good :)

Chihuahua In A Pouch

Happy Monday! I can't believe another weekend is gone. The blink of an eye, people, the blink of an eye.

We had a very pleasant surprise this weekend, a visitor from the West Coast! One of the hubby's friends was miraculously in town on business (I know, out here in the middle of nowhere!) so we got to spend Saturday and Sunday chauffeuring him around our small area, showing him the sites, and sampling our local cuisine. It's always wonderful to catch up with old friends.

Last night, the hubby decided to do something for Haloti that he hadn't done in awhile that Haloti goes absolutely nuts for... He put Haloti in a pouch.

Cheech in a pouch
There's no rhyme or reason, and there ain't no splainin' it. This dog loves to be carried around anywhere in this pouch. The hubby carried him around the house for approximately 20 minutes, but Haloti can't get enough! He even likes to stay in the pouch when the hubby sits on the couch and watches TV.

He's made himself quite at home
The funny thing is, when Jerame takes the pouch off and tries to get Haloti out of it, Haloti is pretty resistant to coming out. To the point of growling. Such a weird creature!

In other big news, the hubby and I just got back from the bank this morning and... we got pre-approved for a mortgage! Yipee! Our next step is getting a realtor and then we begin house shopping. I am counting the days till we move out of the rental we are currently in, I am literally having dreams about it. There's no denying it now, this kid is growing up :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I Think I'm Obsessed With Muffins...

I may have a problem on my hands. The hubby and I polished off the last of the Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins yesterday and there I was again today, toiling away in the kitchen, making more muffins.

Today's muffin of choice was Lemon Blueberry Muffins, inspired by Your Homebased Mom. Oh, come on. You aren't seriously surprised, are you?

Lemon Blueberry Muffins
I just love having fresh muffins for breakfast. They are the perfect complement for coffee. Like all the recipes I have tried from Your Homebased Mom, these are delicious. I must say it is the sour-sweet glaze atop the muffins that really puts them over the top. There is also a touch of nutmeg flavor to the muffin that sets them apart. You can find her recipe here.

The recipe also makes a small batch which I was happy about since I am making cookies this week (revamping those Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies) and probably going to make cupcakes as well. I made 10 muffins, but I contemplated later that I definitely could have made larger muffins.

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix flour through lemon zest. In another bowl, mix oil through egg. Add liquid into flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin pan 3/4 full (I recommend using liners on this recipe).
3. Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on baking rack until muffins are completely cool.
4. Mix lemon juice and sugar to desired consistency to drizzle with. Drizzle cooled muffins with lemon juice mixture.

Linked to: Retro Re-Pin Party

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Confessions Of A Mascara Junkie

Mascara is the beauty product that I couldn't live without, unless you count lip balm as a beauty product which I decidedly don't (lip balm is a necessity, not a beauty product people!). I think the latest stat I read was something like 61% of women use mascara. That's a lot of women!

My love affair with mascara started when I was 13. I have a lot of lashes and they are long, but they are stick straight. I hated them before I knew what to do with them. I first discovered the eye lash curler on my mom's bathroom counter when I was a child and it scared me. It scared me to see her use it. Still, I got over this fear and got up the nerve to press this thing onto my eye and was pleasantly surprised by the curl it produced. That is, until I put on a layer of mascara and my eyelashes drooped back down into the long, straight line that they always were.

I stood in front of the mirror, staring in disbelief. How could this be? All the magazines I read had promised model-worthy lashes with an eyelash curler and some mascara. Did I have mutant eyelashes? I was beyond frustrated. This frustration continued through many tubes of mascara and many months until the one happy day that I bought my first tube of... ta da! Waterproof mascara!

Waterproof mascara changed my life. Sure, it's controversial. Some women love it, some women hate it. There is usually not an in-between. This woman? This woman will never use anything else. From the day I bought that little, shiny, green tube of Covergirl wonderful-ness, I have never looked back. I flit from one waterproof mascara to another, from one brand to another but it's always waterproof.

Maybe it's something about my lashes, I don't know but I can't curl my lashes and put regular mascara on them without my lashes completely deflating back into that long, straight line that I have always despised. When I tell girls that I only use waterproof mascara, the number one thing I hear is that it's just too hard to take off. Pish posh! That excuse doesn't cut it these days with so many revolutionary makeup removers on the market! I have my curl and coat routine down and I have my makeup remover that is strong enough to remove waterproof makeup ready to go.

Hello, my name is Jessica. And I am a Mascara Junkie :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pasta e Fagioli

Why not make your house smell amazing as you simmer this Italian bean and pasta soup for an afternoon? This is a delicious recipe and (bonus!) full of filling fiber! It might take a couple of hours to make but it's easy to clean as you go and by dinner time, the kitchen is sparkling clean, the house smells wonderful, and all you have to do is sit down to a homemade meal. Enjoy!

Pasta e Fagioli
1 lb dried beans of your choice (I like pinto)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, sliced
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained (I like to use fire-roasted)
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 garlic gloves, chopped
3/4 cup ditalini (short, tube shaped pasta)
1 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Sort and wash beans, place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain beans and set aside.
2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Add 2 garlic cloves, cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add beans, chicken broth, red pepper, and bay leaf, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour and 50 minutes.
3. Add salt through additional 2 garlic cloves. Cover and simmer another 25 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
4. Place 2 cups of bean mixture in a food processor. Process until smooth. Add bean puree back into pot, stir well.
5. Add pasta to pot, cook 7-8 minutes or until pasta is done.
6. Remove pot from heat. Stir in parsley and black pepper.
7. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish bowls with fresh grated cheese if using.

*Chef's Note*
This recipe makes about 8 servings (with a serving being a 1 1/2 cups of soup), so when I make this for me and the hubby, I freeze a lot! This soup can get really thick, some might call it an Italian stew. So if you find the beans or the pasta are sucking up too much of your broth, I think it would be appropriate to thin out the mixture either with more chicken broth, veggie broth, or even water if you so choose. My only problem with water is that I think it thins out the flavor too much. Happy eating friends!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Losing Steam

Has anyone heard of Boo? That adorable Pomeranian with the lion cut that is all over Facebook? That dog has over 3 million followers! He also has book deals, Twitter followers, and has even been on 'Good Morning America'!

Probably like every other crazy dog owner in America, I totally think my dogs are cuter. So about a year ago, I went all gung-ho and created Facebook pages for my dogs, determined to show the world how adorable my dogs are. I seriously underestimated the amount of work it would be.

I can barely maintain my own Facebook page, let alone 2 other pages. So, I have decided the sun has set on Haloti and Gizmo's Facebook pages. There were some pretty cute pictures I had uploaded on their pages, so I decided to share some of those gems before they are forever gone.

One of Gizmo's favorite poses, showing off his vampire teeth
Haloti is the consummate lap dog
Sitting on the dash of Jerame's old work truck 
Gizmo and his best friend, "Blue Monkey"
Ready on a Game Day
Dressed for a chilly fall walk
Found himself a basket full of clean, warm towels
This silly dog loves laying on his back for some reason
One of my faves

Thursday Randoms

I can't believe it's Thursday already! Where has the week gone? Here's what's on my mind today:

1. Couponing

Thursday Goal
I have gotten in the bad habit of not cleaning out my coupon binder and cutting up my inserts on Sundays anymore. This is how people get disorganized and I have never been a disorganized person. I also got my monthly 'All You' in the mail yesterday so one of my goals today is to clean the expired coupons out of my binder, cut up my inserts, cut the coupons out of 'All You', and mark the recipes I want to make in the magazine. I really need to get back in the habit of doing this on Sundays when I get the inserts.

Another goal I made at the beginning of the year was to go through all my food magazines and tear out the recipes I want to try. I want to get a gigantic binder and laminate sheets and organize all my recipes and then recycle all the magazines. This is daunting as I have hundreds of magazines around the house but I do want to get around to it at some point.

2. New Year's Goal Breakdown

Why do you have to tempt me?
I am not proud of this one but... on Monday, I had Taco Bell. Ugh. The hubby and I were running around, far from home. We left early in the day and I had brought some light snacks but of course, I was hungry later in the day. We were miles from home and hours from dinner and we had to go to his mom's to help her with some paperwork. We were starving so we stopped to get food and I gave in to temptation. I had a chicken burrito. I did fall off the wagon, but it could have been worse. I felt pretty guilty, but I did go 2 months without fast food. My new goal is to see if I can go 3 months without fast food. I am trying to let the guilt go, there is nothing I can do but move on. There is no point in beating myself up over it now.

3. Gizmo

"I'm Not That Innocent"
Don't be fooled by that adorable face. True to his name, he is another creature after midnight (not that we feed him or get him wet!) He is ferociously territorial in bed at night. I am a tosser and a turner and inevitably, one of my limbs will approach him in the middle of the night. At this point, I get a Gremlin-like growl/bark and bite on said limb. Where does this behavior come from? And every night? No matter how much I scold him, he still does this! Granted, he doesn't have enough jaw strength to hurt me but geez! I was having an especially hard time sleeping last night and the Gremlin came out a couple of times.

4. Cabin Fever

I think I see some sun!
For the last couple of weeks, the weather has been bad. Very, very cold with some snow here and there. And now for the last week, the weather has been very "Oregon". Cloudy and rainy. Today though, is actually fairly nice. At least right now! As you can see, it is not raining and there is some sun. I am definitely going to take advantage of this and take the dogs for a 20 minute walk because I think they are sick of being stuck inside as much as I am.

And finally, I am whipping up a nice, big batch of Pasta e Fagioli today. Pasta e Fagioli is an Italian bean soup that is very tasty. It uses dried beans so it takes a couple of hours to make. I usually have to start it early in the afternoon to have it ready by dinner time. It makes a ton so I have lots for the freezer. Checking my inventory of the freezer however, I think next week will be time to use some of my freezer meals. Less work for me, which means next week will be also be a good time for some deep cleaning around the house :)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins are "OMG!" good! I think that they are my new favorite muffin. This is funny to me, because I am not really a banana fan. When I was a kid, I had a really bad food allergy to citric acid (Vitamin C) that has lessened with time, thank goodness. Due to this food allergy, the only fruit my mom would let me eat as a child was bananas and I grew to loathe bananas. There is something about these muffins though, that is magic...

I found the recipe on, of course, Your Homebased Mom. I was going to just make banana bread muffins but I think the addition of chocolate chips just makes anything better, don't you?

You can find her recipe here. I've already had 2 for breakfast, I just couldn't help myself! It was a great way to start the day, in my opinion :)

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 cup flour
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix sugar and next 6 ingredients (through salt). Add in vanilla.
3. Add in flour and mix just until combined and moistened. Do not overmix.
4. Fold in chocolate chips.
5. Grease pan or line with paper liners. Fill cups 3/4 full.
5. Bake for approximately 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
6. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Reminder Not To Take Love For Granted

I was on Facebook this morning when I read this story on one of my friend's profile. She had shared it from another person's profile who had shared it from another... and so on and so forth. Needless to say, I am not sure of the origin of this story but it's a beautiful, sad story and made me cry into my morning coffee (yes, that's a good thing!).

“When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, I’ve got something to tell you. She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes.

Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. I want a divorce. I raised the topic calmly. She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, why?

I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, you are not a man! That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her!

With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company. She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now.

The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane. When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again.

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into out bridal room on our wedding day. She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request.

I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions. . She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce, she said scornfully.

My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, daddy is holding mommy in his arms. His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; don’t tell our son about the divorce. I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office.

On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was graying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her.

On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger.

She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, all my dresses have grown bigger. I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily.

Suddenly it hit me… she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head.

Our son came in at the moment and said, Dad, it’s time to carry mom out. To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day.

But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy. I drove to office…. jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind…I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore.

She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. Do you have a fever? She said. I moved her hand off my head. Sorry, Jane, I said, I won’t divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart. Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away. At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart.

That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed -dead. My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from the whatever negative reaction from our son, in case we push through with the divorce.— At least, in the eyes of our son—- I’m a loving husband….

The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the bank. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves.

So find time to be your spouse’s friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy. Do have a real happy marriage!"

Semi-Homemade Chicken and Dumplins'

I call this semi-homemade #1 because I bought a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and #2 because I used Bisquick to make my dumplings (I was going to make homemade dumplings but the hubby and I were running around all day yesterday and I ran out of time). But this dish tastes completely homemade and this batch was one of my best!

I bought my chicken at the grocery store on Sunday. I went up to the deli counter to ask the chicken lady when the rotisseries would be done at the exact moment she was pulling them out (score!), so I got a fresh chicken. I love when that happens. I had the hubby remove all the meat on Sunday night while I put the bones in the crock pot with cut up onions, celery, carrots, and about 8 cups of water. I set it on low for the night and by morning, I had chicken broth.

After straining the bones and the veggies from the broth, I let it chill all day to let the fat rise to the top and then skimmed it off right before the broth went into the soup. This soup was soooo good with homemade broth! Yum!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup baby carrots, sliced
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 cup cooking sherry
6-7 cups chicken broth
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp cornstarch
Meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
1 cup frozen green peas

2 cups Bisquick
2/3 cup fat free milk

Chopped parsley

1. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrot, and celery. Saute 5 minutes or until tender.
2. Add sherry through bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Add chicken to pan. Stir to combine. Add peas to pan. Stir to combine.
4. Combine water and cornstarch in small bowl with a whisk. Add cornstarch mixture to pan, mix well.
5. To make the dumplings, mix the Bisquick and milk in a large mixing bowl. Drop dough into chicken mixture to form 16 dumplings. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (flipping dumplings). Cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through.
6. Garnish with parsley.

*Chef's Note*
This is a labor intensive recipe and probably not one for a weeknight. I have also made this one with canned chicken broth and it's still pretty good. I just haven't been buying canned chicken broth since I've figured out how cheap it is to make it. Another note: When you first put the dumplings in the chicken mixture, wait at least 4-5 minutes before the first flip to give them time to form. It looks like they are fusing together but don't worry, they aren't. And by the way, this makes 8 servings. I freeze a large bag of this. To defrost, I let it set for 24 hours in the fridge and then stir minimally in the pot when reheating as to not break up the dumplings. Tastes just as good!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Product Review: Revlon Lip Butter & More

I've been meaning to review a couple of new products that I tried and I had just completely forgotten about, so I am getting around to it today! I love trying new products and I love even more when they work!

1. Revlon Lip Butter
I tried Revlon's Lip Butter in Tutti Frutti as I look best in a light coral. I have to say that for a product labeled a lip butter, this product wasn't as moisturizing as I hoped and didn't seem to be as moisturizing as Covergirl's NatureLuxe Lip Balm. However, I always put on chap stick 5 minutes before I put my makeup on so I don't have too much of a problem with that. I liked this color and I liked the pigmentation in this product. It wasn't too much, definitely more like a gloss. It's a build able product so if you layer a second coat on top of the first, you will get more pigmentation. I like it light, so I stick with a light first layer. The verdict? I would buy this again, but I like Covergirl's NatureLuxe Lip Balm better.

2. Revlon PhotoReady Perfecting Primer
I love, love, LOVE this product! I find it comparable to Smashbox's Photo Finish Primer. I put this on before my foundation and I do not have to touch up with powder the rest of the day. I do have to do an oil blotting mid afternoon, but then I am good to go! This is going to save me some moolah on powder! The only weird thing about is (and this may sound crazy) but I have to use a more sheer foundation with it. My normal foundation looks thick with this primer. This is fine for me, as I have several foundations on hand and I love using sheer foundation, but if you like using a thick foundation this may not be the primer for you. Use this primer and sheer foundation, and your face looks like your skin, only better! The verdict? This has been added to my must-haves and has replaced my normal primer.

3. Loreal Studio Line Plumping Volume
My hair color has been ever-evolving this year and I have noticed that dry shampoo looks gray on dark roots. Thanks to aging (I hate getting older! *tear*) my hair is noticeably flatter. On days when I don't shampoo, I have started just running the blowdryer all over my hair to start. I then spray this volumizer all over and then roll my roots up in velcro rollers the size of coke bottles. A shot of hairspray and I leave the rollers in for 20 minutes. When I take my hair out, voila! I have youthful volume. There are probably plenty of other volumizers out there that work but this one often goes on sale and I can always find coupons for it (I usually buy this for under $2). It also works, as my hair stays voluminous most of the day. The verdict? I love it, and I have kept buying it for quite some time now.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fast and Easy Recipe: Spaghetti Carbonara

This is one of my favorite recipes. It's super easy to make and I can have it on the table in 30 minutes, but it tastes like so much more! This dish packs a ton of flavor! The ingredients are all items I consistently have on hand so it's definitely one of my go-to's. Best of all, it's one of the hubby's favorites. I never get a complaint out of him when I make this. We weren't starving tonight so I just served it with garlic bread but I usually round this meal out with a simple Italian salad.

1 egg
1 1/2 ounces grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup loosely packed parsley, finely chopped
1/8 tsp black pepper
2-3 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
salt (optional)
8 ounces dried spaghetti

1. Put large pot of water on stove to boil
2. In a large mixing bowl, crack egg. Beat lightly. Stir in grated cheese, parsley, and black pepper. Set aside.
3. In a large saute pan, fry bacon until browned over medium-high heat. Add garlic, cook about 30 seconds. Add wine, reduce by about half. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. When water comes to boil, salt water to liking and add spaghetti. Cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain well and add immediately to bowl with egg mixture. Toss to combine.
5. Add spaghetti mixture to saute pan and toss to combine with bacon/wine mixture. Garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately (serves 2-3).

*Chef's Note*
It's important to have all prep done before cooking the pasta. You want to move the pasta quickly from cooking to the egg mixture to make sure the hot pasta cooks the egg and then cooks a little bit more in the saute pan. I've made this more times than I can count and the hubby and I have never had a problem with it.

A Nice Slow Sunday

Ah, back to the blog! The hubby and I have spent the last couple of days relaxing in Cincinnati with his cousin and his wife. We had a fantastic time! It's been a long, long time since we have been able to get away and do some fun things so we made the most out of our time with family.
We drove up on Thursday afternoon and got to Cincinnati around 6:45 that night. The hubby's cousin and wife took us to an amazing Mexican restaurant. I haven't been to one that good since I left Oregon! We had baskets of chips and salsa and margaritas and stayed for quite a while. On Friday, while the cousin's wife had to work, the rest of us went to Indiana to ski. Yes, that's right, Indiana. While it sounds far, it was about an hour from the cousin's house.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, the only places I have skied are mountains. The place we went in Indiana, Perfect North, is a hill where they MAKE snow and use bulldozers to push snow over the hill.
Perfect North, Indiana
Very interesting, as I had never heard of this concept. Perfect for a horrible, beginner skier like me but it didn't seem to have much to offer for advanced skiers like the hubby and his cousin. They had fun though. 
Later that night, we met back up with the cousin's wife and they took us to dinner at the most amazing Italian restaurant near their house. It was one of those places that you have to know is there, otherwise you might just drive on by. Their food was amazing though, homemade and fresh! I am so mad at myself though, I wish I had been thinking clearly and taken pictures of our plates before we completely devoured them because they were gorgeous!. I ordered the Frutti di Mare, which was clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops tossed in a spicy tomato sauce with linguine. Heaven! I will have to go back just to take pictures of my plates next time!

Stefano's Italian Cafe, Middletown, Ohio
We drove back to Ashland late yesterday afternoon and we are having a relaxing Sunday today. I still haven't decided if I am going to tackle the grocery shopping today or tomorrow. I have the ingredients to make Spaghetti Carbonara tonight, so I might just stay home and do the grocery shopping tomorrow. After all, I came home to a Cooking Light magazine in the mail yesterday!

My Sunday morning! Cooking Light and coffee :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

Since I am making breakfast for dinner tonight, I decided to make a breakfast-y type muffin for dinner tonight. The hubby loves cornbread and I had a jalapeno in the fridge, so I decided to give it a whirl. I adapted a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa's, found here.

They turned out really good, very yummy! A nice ego boost after the chicken fiasco. I used a good quality cheddar and it gives the muffins a really nice flavor. The texture is good as well, light and fluffy. I wouldn't say it tastes like a traditional cornbread, but I am guessing that's due to the flour/cornmeal ratio.

Here's the recipe for these little suckers (makes 12 standard size muffins)-

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup milk
1 1/2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 ounces Cheddar, shredded
1 jalapeno, minced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl (flour through salt).
3. In a another large mixing bowl combine milk, eggs, and butter.
4. With a wooden spoon, stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir just until most lumps are dissolved.
5. Fold in cheese and jalapenos.
6. Let mixture sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
7. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.
8. Fill the muffin pan and bake 15-20 or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes.
9. Serve warm or at room temperature.