Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Annual 25 Days of Nightlight Readings

Starting today on my history/lit blog I started back in '09 is Nightlight Readings' First Annual 25 Days of Christmas Nighlight Readings. A great way to break up the marathon of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies—open a classic and settle down for a warm, Winter nap.

Rice Bowls on a Budget by Everything Golden

I just have to share this, from my best friend's blog! I thought this was a great way to make a healthy dish under $5 and make several meals out of it. And if you love Cafe Yumm!, you will love this rendition. You can either go here Rice Bowls or read below.

In our house we cook a lot with rice. Rice and chicken, rice and steak, rice and beans, rice and get the idea. Rice is easy to cook, cheap and goes with just about any delicious sauce you have sitting around. Yesterday I needed to make some lunches for my hubby so he has something good to eat at work the rest of the week. We had one box of flavored rice as well as some canned veggies so I got a bit creative and this is what I came up with!


1 box Broccoli Au Gratin Rice ($1.00)
1 can Black Beans ($1.00)
1 can Mushrooms ($0.25)
1 can Peas and Carrots ($0.75)
1 can Zucchini in tomato sauce ($0.75)
1 small handful of shredded cheese to garnish ($1.00)

Cook rice as directed. Let cool just slightly then add beans and veggies. I used canned veggies because (a) they were cheaper and (2) when I bought the ingredients I knew I wasn't going to be making it right away. I've made this before using chicken or tuna as the protein but beans (again) are cheaper so that's what I went with this time. But really, you can do just about anything you want with rice, a sauce and some veggies!

After it cools a bit, divide it into lunch portions, top with a little cheese, and refrigerate. I was able to get four good size lunches out of this recipe for Jermaine so two went into the fridge and another two into the freezer. So for only $4.75 I was able to feed him for almost an entire week of work lunches. Not bad!

Sleighbells, Fir Trees, & Christmas Houses

Back in September, Kenny and I ventured to Sleighbells Christmas Tree Farm, in search of the perfect tree. Mission accomplished, tagged, cut, and prepared for pick-up, Kenny, his mom, one of his best men, and I went out for breakfast and jingled all the way to the tree farm.

Once we had the tree, and our much needed decorations (and fudge) from the gift shop, we traveled back to Kenny's home, where I decorated, made hot apple cider, and bean dip (while watching Scrooged and listening to Christmas music of course!).

We also picked out our very first Department 56 Christmas house. We are going to start the tradition of purchasing a house each Christmas to add to our collection and hopefully make a village.

Kenny in front of his Christmas tree. And me after I finished decorating it.

Me vs. Mr. Turkey

Since Kenny's mother and my future mother-in-law was laid up with a ruptured disc in her back, I thought I would try to tackle my first Thanksgiving meal (since Kenny loves his Turkey Day leftovers and I love him). I kept telling myself, "I can do this! I can do this!" Of course, per my style, I stressed over all that could go wrong and even had a nightmare I dropped the turkey on the floor. Let me just say, I think I bit off more than I could chew. However, I learned many valuable lessons. And as my mom and Granny said, "It's a rite of passage."

Lesson 1: Don't allow your fiance to pick out the bird. It will be the second largest one he can find and one I can't carry. (He picked out a 23lb turkey. At least it wasn't the 38lb turkey he found first!)
Lesson 2: If I can pick it up and dance with it, it's the bird for us! The smaller the better!
Lesson 3: Do as much prep work as possible.
Lesson 5: Drink wine.
Lesson 6: Make sure you have the oven on bake, not broil (the skin will burn before the turkey is cooked—if this does happen, make sure to put a tinfoil tent over it ASAP).
Lesson 7: Drink wine.
Lesson 8: Get a bigger kitchen and oven. Or just buy a bird that is in ratio to the kitchen/oven size. Note to self: register for a large roasting pan.
Lesson 9: Date the gravy. Be patient. Don't add so much flour that it becomes a paste.
Lesson 10: Did I say drink wine? If not, drink wine!

There are some things that are necessary to do ahead of time, like the brine. Yes, I brined the turkey and yes, I'm probably crazy.

4 cups kosher salt (grocery store was out of kosher salt, so I used sea salt)
5 cups granulated sugar
2 large onions, cut into 1" chunks
2 leeks (including green portion), cut into 1" chunks
2 carrots, cut into 1" chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into 1" chunks
1 garlic head, halved but not peeled
3 bay leaves
2 1/2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
2 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 teaspoons whole allspice
8 cups water (or however much fits in your largest pot—it does fill up fast with the ingredients so make sure and leave room—I had to dump a little water out as I went when I realized it would overflow if I kept adding things).

Directions: Place all ingredients in the pot of water. Stir and combine and let boil. Remove from heat and let cool completely (over night) before putting the turkey in the brine. I bought an oven bag, put the turkey in (with the help of Kenny) breast side down, poured the brine over the turkey and filled the rest up with water to cover the turkey. [Note: make sure you take out the neck and giblets before you do all this.]

I also made a spiced butter rub for the turkey. (Sorry, no picture.)
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened (3 sticks)
1 Tablespoon kosher salt (or in my case, regular salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

Directions: Combine ingredients and rub all over turkey. You can use all of it, even if it seems like a lot of butter. It's supposed to make a fine crusty skin. Since I accidentally had my oven on broil for the first 30 minutes, my poor skin burned.

I was so frazzled making the rest of the sides, I did not take a picture before Kenny started carving it. Luckily, no one was poisoned, I did not drop the turkey on the floor, and everyone was well satisfied. In fact, I felt rather accomplished after I was all done. Here is a turkey roasting guide that I used to help me know how much time I needed: Turked Cooking Time Guide.

Here is the stuffing recipe I used: good ol' herb stuffing.

Thankfully, after we filled our bellies, Kenny and I traveled over to the Strand family Thanksgiving dinner and got our fill of laughter, joy, and drinks galore!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Cold, Wet Evening in the Northwest

After a very wet and windy afternoon, we hunkered down for the evening. While Thomasina slept by the fire, I made a chicken pot pie casserole.
Per request of my BFF, here is the recipe. Give yourself an hour to an hour and a half to prepare and cook. The recipe requires white wine, so make sure you pick one you enjoy, so you can pour yourself some while you are cooking.


  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 roasted chicken, shredded
  • 1/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups peas, blanched
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, blanched
  • 2 potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled
  • 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash


Thaw puff pastry according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken, sweet pepper, and shallots and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in flour, salt, tarragon, and black pepper. Add milk and cream all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in wine, peas, carrots and potatoes; heat thoroughly. Transfer the hot chicken mixture to a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Place pastry over the hot chicken mixture in casserole dish. Brush puff pastry with egg wash then cut slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes. 

Pour yourself another glass, make a little salad, and enjoy being warm inside while the wind howls, while catching up on DVR-ed shows.

A Zoological Engagement Shoot

Courtesy of my beloved sister-in-law, Haley, Kenny and I spent a fun sunny afternoon at the Oregon Zoo taking some engagement pictures. She is starting up her own photography business and is very talented. Check her out here. Our pictures are not on the website yet, so I'll display a few here.

*For my fellow budget conscious brides: it's all about who you know. You will be surprised who can help out with wedding necessities in our social circle, and their circles. I have been able to find many things via Facebook friends, friends or family who just got married, or who have been involved in certain aspects of the wedding business. Plus, many photographers have complementary engagement shoots when you purchase your wedding package. I found my wedding photographer through referral: Jennifer O'Donnell Photography. We will be having a complementary engagement shoot with her probably after the holidays—so look forward to some snowy love bird photos!

Wine Tasting Uncorked

Last Thursday with some dear friends of mine, and the mama, I went to an initial consultation with a caterer, Cafe Uncorked. We discussed our wants, likes, dislikes, and what would work for our wedding and our budget. We stayed for lunch and had delicious fresh salads, sandwiches, and soup. We are a step closer on our search for the right wedding caterer.

After lunch I took the ladies up to the wedding site, Youngberg Hill Vineyard, to tour the grounds and to taste some wine. It was a beautiful fall day—possibly our last before the wet, cold weather hits the Northwest (hitting today 11/16).
Allie (congratulations! she is also getting married next summer!), Caitlin (who was visiting from the far off land of Nashville), and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening wine tasting in the McMinnville area, and even had a good ol' fashion slumber party—complete with pasta, wine, bridal mags, and great trashy reality TV. (Our thoughts and wishes were with our absent friend Mrs. Meagan Golden—we included a video chat in our evening.)

A toast to great friendships and an exciting year ahead of us!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On a Cold Afternoon, Eat Mac 'N' Cheese, Drink Hot Cider, & Put your Hands to a Craft

So I cannot divulge much about what crafts I put my hands to this afternoon—Top Secret Wedding Stuff! But I can say that I spent some time digging into a warm bowl of Macaroni and Cheese (the Blue Box kind) and some hot apple cider from Oregon Heritage Farms, while listening to the Pandora Christmas radio station (I know it may be too early for some—but I go in full-fledged Christmas mode as soon as Halloween is over).

A little something to my early Christmas celebrators: 2011 Holiday TV Schedule. Keep checking back as this site is updated often.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Weddin' Bloggin'

Found this wedding blog, Wedding Chicks Wedding Blog, tonight. This particular blog is full of DIY ideas and real weddings to help inspire your own wedding planning.

The blog even has FREE wedding stationary (you only have to pay to print and post).

I love this glamorous fall wedding! Almost makes me wish we're getting married in the fall instead (almost...I wouldn't be able to wait till next autumn!).

Some of these details make me think of one of my best friends and fellow summer 2012 bride, Allie's wedding. It's been so much fun so far planning together!

I want a lingerie party! Hint hint ladies! ;-)

Love the fancy, romantic pastels in this wedding!

When celebrating—eat cake!

In celebration of my first sub job, Kenny and our moms, and I went cake tasting. When originally thinking of a place to make our wedding cake, only one came to mind: Beaverton Bakery. Not only are they a local business, their baked goods are to die for!

I am not a big frosting person, but I do love Beaverton Bakery's buttercream frosting! I cannot tell everyone what flavors we decided, but I will say that it will be delectable and elegant.