Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Weeknight Inspiration: Cheddar Chicken

Saw this in the last issue of Real Simple so decided to give it a go.  Good call.  Best new recipe I've had in a long time.  You can see the recipe in the magazine but trust me, after giving it a go, if you use these changes, it'll be out of control.  And this is a seriously good recipe for weeknights or entertaining because it is so easy and there is very little clean up because you bake the chicken on foil. 

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16 Ritz crackers
3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 clove of garlic, finely minced or grated
fresh cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh thyme (or dried, just decrease the amount slightly)

Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper.  Let them come to room temperature. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the Ritz crackers in a bowl and crush.  I used the bottom of a small juice glass which worked perfectly.  Add the cheese and garlic and thyme.  (Note: the original recipe had you mix the salt and pepper in with the mix but I found the chicken could have done with some separate seasoning.  The thyme isn't in the original recipe but would have made it awesome.)  Mix with a spoon so all ingredients are mixed together.

Line a baking tray with tinfoil.  Dip each chicken breast into the cheese and cracker mixture and coat thoroughly on each side.  Place evenly on the baking sheet. 

Bake for approximately 30 minutes.  For the last minute or two, turn the oven up to broil so that the crackers and cheese crust up.

We had ours with herbed rice pilaf and my favorite LeSeur peas (if you have never had these, GET THEM).  Such a delicious supper!

In addition to tasting great, your house will smell divine!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I found four of 'em when I was walking today.  Sure, they're missing the bottoms but that is an easy fix.  They're sturdy and have a great shape to them.  My mind is whirling with thoughts.  Any one have any thoughts or want to offer up color/fabric inspiration?  I love a blank slate.

I think some sanding and a fun paint color are definitely in order.  Deciding on the fabric is going to be torture for me.

It's gonna be a bootie.

Supposedly.  For a baby.  I've got to make the partner and then figure out how to sew it up.  We shall see...

Tuesday Tip: Wrapping Odd Shaped Presents

I love wrapping so I love having boxes that make everything look neat and square and perfect for a pretty bow to go around.  It is because of this love of wrapping neatly that I hoard boxes.  I save them from gifts, dig them out of the trash at work, save boxes from things that arrive in the mail.  But no matter how many I hoard, there always seems to be those presents that just won't fit in a box.  Yesterday was my friend Lane's birthday (happy, happy, Laney!) and a few days ago I was wrapping her present (haven't seen her to give it to her yet so can't spill the beans on what it is but regardless, it didn't fit in any box I had.

I always keep two things on hand for wrapping odd sized gifts:

1. Tissue paper - any color (even if you only have white, you can jazz it up with a colorful bow)
2. Clear celphane wrap (it comes on a roll so you can store along with your other rolls of gift wrap)

Just place a layer of celophane on the floor that is big enough to wrap around the gift.  Then layer several sheets of tissue paper on top of the celophane.  Sit the gift in the middle of the tissue and celphane.  Bring each of the four sides up to the top and secure with a bow.  Easy and looks pretty too!  Just be careful not to smush it when transporting...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weeknight Inspiration: Oven Baked Caprese Risotto

Typically I reserve risotto for weekends or days when I have time to dedicate to cooking which is not usually what I feel like doing when I get home from work.  However, I saw a recipe for this no stir, oven baked risotto in Southern Living recently and decided to give it a try - with a few tweaks of my own, of course.  Not only did it sound easy but it was another version of my favorite foods of late - tomatoes, fresh mozarella and fresh basil to make caprese.  If you'll remember, I also talked about two other versions of this - Chicken Caprese and the spicy arugla caprese salad - both worth trying!

What you need:
2 cups tomatoes (I used cherry but you could use grape - use what you like or what you have on hand)
1 small onion, diced
1 cup (uncooked) arborio rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups roast chicken (I purchased one of the rotiserrie chickens from the store but they had a half of one which was perfect for this amount and only $3.99!)
1 ball of fresh mozarella cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup fresh shredded basil
1/2 tsp salt
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

What you do:
Cover a baking sheet with tinfoil (less mess to clean up later!) and lay tomatoes out.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 350 degrees for about thirty minutes.  Stop if tomatoes begin to burst.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.  Place butter into an oven proof baking dish and bake until the butter is melted and coats the dish.  Once melted, stir in broth, rice onion and salt.  Bake covered for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven.  Fluff rice with a fork.

Stir in the chicken, mozarella, tomatoes and basil.  Serve immediately.

We had some steamed green beans on the side.  I love a green veggie!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The start of the fruit collection?

I finished another baby hat last week in all my travels.  I have lots of ideas to start making lots of different fruits.  This is my first one; an apple.  I can't wait to see it on a little baby head and not just on my table!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weeknight Inspiration: Easy Pasta Sauce

There's nothing out of the ordinary that happens with my meat pasta sauce (other than the diced carrots - more in a minute) but everyone has their "famous" meat sauce.  My problem with it is that people tend to make it in a pot big enough to feed an army and then I get sick to death of having pasta and meat sauce as leftovers (and that is coming from a girl who loves leftovers and takes them to lunch every day!).  This makes just the right amount and can be tweaked anyway you like it.  The thing I like to add to mine that's a little different is a cup of diced carrots.  It is a trick I learned from my friend Alan.  I never thought about having carrots in a sauce but I like the sweetness of it, the color that it adds, and not to mention it is one more veggie in the dish!  Try it.

The longer this sauce simmers, the better it is.  If you have time you can fix it the night before and then put it on right when you get home from work and let it simmer until you are ready to eat supper.

Weeknight Pasta Meat Sauce
1 lb. lean ground beef (or turkey - whatever you prefer)
1 white onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup carrots, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes (16 oz. each)
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz.)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup red wine
salt and pepper
approximately 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped
freshly shredded or grated parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp olive oil

Heat a large pot and add olive oil.  Once the oil is warm, add the onion, garlic and carrots and cook until tender.  Add the ground beef. 

Season with salt and pepper and brown meat until it is cooked all the way through.  Add red wine and red pepper flakes and simmer for about 5 minutes. 

Add the canned tomatoes and sauce.  If you have fresh ones on hand that you need to use up, sometimes I like to toss those in too.  Add the oregano and half of the fresh basil.  Save the rest of the basil for garnish.  Cover and simmer for as long as you've got time for.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water to al dente.  Serve the sauce over the pasta and top with fresh basil and cheese.

Contact Adorned Abode

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Using fresh herbs in your flower arrangements

One day my friend Emily brought me a bouquet of flowers from Eastern Market that had some fresh herbs mixed in with the flowers.  I was immediately in love with it.  It smelled so divine and I thought it was such a unique touch.  Ever since then, I mix fresh herbs in the spring and summer with almost all of my flower arrangements whether I buy the flowers from the store or pick them from the yard.  Mint grows in our yard like a weed so there is always an abundance of that and the smell throughout the house is incredible.  Oregano and thyme are another option - they smell so fresh and lemony and woodsy but cost pennies to throw into your arrangements. 

Another idea if you have an abundance of fresh herbs is to take some as a hostess gift the next time you go to dinner at someone's house.  I keep vintage jars and vases on hand so it makes a lovely little treat for your host or hostess.  They'll last quite a while in water on a kitchen countertop. 

Here are a couple of examples of arrangements with herbs.  The possibilities are endless.

This one I saw on Me Likey features oregano as the herb of choice.  I love the hobnob milk glass vase and the little white foo dragons in the vignette.

This one from Shop Talk has a vintage holder and it looks like some fresh mint and maybe more oregano as well.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A few good things

I'm back.  My sweet grandmother had a stroke on Wednesday and I've been in Norfolk, VA at the hospital with her.  She's doing a little better and we were able to move her out of ICU and for that I am so thankful.  It's been a rough past four days having to see her deal with the effects of the stroke but I'm trying to stay positive - something that is hard for me as a naturally pessimistic person!

So, that being said, here are some things that I'm thankful for.

1.  Emery.  My friend Reeves had a beautiful baby girl, Emery, on Friday.  Everyone is healthy and happy.  Here she is modeling her hat that Aunt Cameron knit for her.  You can see the before pictures (of the hat, not the baby) here.

2.  Guinness.  No, not the beer; the dog.  My cousin Beau got a little beautiful puppy named Guinness.  At 12 weeks he is already bigger than my dog.  There's something so happy feeling about a puppy.

3.  Family.  The blessing that came out of my time in Norfolk with my grandmother was being with my family.  We are all communicating and talking regularly and working through this together.  My grandmother would be so proud.  Actually, I think she can hear us but she just can't speak.  I'm sure we'll get an earful about this later if the therapy works...

4. Junk.  I was taking the pup for his afternoon walk and came across this little table thrown out by the curb.  Haven't figured out exactly what I'm going to do with it yet but I'll keep you posted.  I'm sure I looked crazy walking down the street carrying this along with the dog on the leash.

5.  Friends.  I've been so blessed by everyone checking in with me and thinking of my family, especially my grandmother.

I hope you had a good weekend and that you have lots to be thankful for! 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Where was this in January?

I was reading one of my favorite blogs yesterday, Little Green Notebook and she introduced me to this side that manufactures sofas that look designer but are really affordable.  I am so depressed I didn't know about this in January when we bought our new couch.  The company is called Custom Sofa Design.  If you may or may not be in the market for a new couch, this is worth spending time to check it out.  Even if you aren't, you may suddenly finding yourself needing a new one.  Here is just a sample of some of the ones I love.  Keep in mind, you can change out fabric, colors on all of their pieces.  They all range from $599-$899; most of them are $799.  BARGAIN.

I especially love these last two because not only would they make a good looking sofa but they could also double as a banquette at a dining table. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

To Dry For

Have ya'll heard of this site?  I do love a dishtowel.  I read about "To Dry For" it this morning on Design*Sponge but once I looked at their site, I found dishtowels that I liked even better than the ones they featured.  I laughed out loud at a couple of them.

This one is HANDS DOWN my fave:

Get it?  Mr. "TEA" Towel.  Ha ha ha!!

I need this one.  That's what we feel like every night after dinner with no dishwasher.

That's my dog for you.

Amen (in my house anyway).  I don't do breakfast.

The rest of these I just thought were really pretty:

Too bad it is a UK site so all the prices are in pounds and I bet they cost a pretty penny to ship.  That's why I window shop on the web!  However, that Mr. Tea Towel might have to be mine. 

Tuesday Tip: Timing Mashed Potatoes

One of my favorite foods (unfortunately for my waist line) is mashed potatoes.  I could eat them with every meal.  I don't, thankfully.  But this weekend we did cook mashed potatoes (roasted garlic ones that were delish!) which reminded me of this trick I learned from Tyler Florence when watching the Food Network

One of the hardest things for me in cooking is getting the timing right for everything.  I usually feel like a maniac right before trying to get everything to the table.  I've gotten better at it but mashed potatoes feel extremely difficult.  There's nothing worse than a cold, sticky mashed potato.  Tyler's trick is this:

Fix your mashed potatoes as the receipt calls for or as you noramlly would.  Top with a lid.  Right before you are ready to serve, add about half a cup of reserved liquid (milk, cream, whatever) and mash that in.  It will bring them back to life and the lid helps keep the heat in.  They'll be ready to eat when you are ready to serve. 

Image from

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scenes from the back yard

What a beautiful weekend it was!  We got lots of planting done and finally got all of our veggies in the ground - three kinds of tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, eggplant and strawberries.  We've got lettuce and basil growing in their own pots and a huge herb garden with oregano, thyme, cilantro, rosemary and chives.  Mint is taking over the side yard but it sure does smell yummy!

Pot o' basil.  The one in the middle is a new kind called boxwood basil because it'll grow into a little bush that resembles a boxwood.  It tastes the same as regular sweet basil though.

The mound of oregano that is threatening to take over the herb garden.

The wee little garden.  Now GROW!

I don't know what this vine is but the neighbors are growing it and we trained it to come through the fence and grow.  The little flowers are just about to bloom.

A sunbathing puppy.

Columbine in a pot in the front.

Close-up of Columbine.

A begonia.  I like it cause it reminds me of my favorite flower, a peony, just in a miniature version.

Wire tea cup of pansies.  This was a flea market find in Charlottesville.

Yummy bib lettuce.  Almost enough for a salad!

Homage to New Mexico.  A handmade dried green chile ristra.  It looks rotten to me but the husband swears he is gonna dry the seeds and then cook with them.  Yum?  I was impressed at how many chiles he had to grow to make that!  Speaking of impressive, he took every one of the pictures in this blog himself!

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