French Onion Chicken

French Onion Chicken

One of my all time favorite soups is French Onion Soup. For me, it’s the perfect soup with the broth, the onions, and of course, the bread and cheese. So good! It’s not for everyone, this I know and anticipated as much when I made this dish. Mostly, my husband is happy simply when I cook, but I knew ahead of time this would be my dish, not his. And the girls? Of course not, but when I made it, they were on vacation with their grandparents. Note to self: when I make this next time, halve the recipe because even with as much as I enjoyed it, I got burned out on it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsps. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed (I used chicken thighs)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tbsps. all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1 baguette, sliced

Preparation:

Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large oven safe skillet over medium heat. Add onions and stir to coat with oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cook onions, stirring occasionally to avoid burning until onions are tender and slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Place cooked onions in a small dish and set aside.

Return skillet to stove over medium heat and add remaining olive oil. Season chicken with S&P and thyme. Add chicken and cook until all sides are brown and cooked thoroughly. Transfer chicken from skillet to a plate. Increase temperature to high. Add in beef broth and deglaze skillet. Reduce temperature back to medium. Gradually whisk in flour until broth is thickened. Season with a pinch of S&P and thyme.

Stir in cooked chicken and onions until combined with beef gravy. Sprinkle with Swiss cheese and place in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until cheese in melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with a pinch of thyme if desired. To serve, place a few baguette slices in a shallow bowl. Top with chicken and gravy. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Source: http://www.motherthyme.com/2015/08/french-onion-chicken.html

 

 

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Books of 2015

A few weeks ago, I posted about the book a week challenge I completed in 2014. As an avid reader, I’m never very far from a book, or two, or five – sometimes reading more than one at a time. In 2015, I didn’t have the same goal as 2014, but I still kept track of what I read and noted my favorites and have continued to do so. Below are the books of 2015:

  1. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, & Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent Killers, David Perlmutter, MD
  2. Wonder, R.J. Palacio
  3. Still Alice, Lisa Genova
  4. Women, Chloe Caldwell
  5. 10% Happier, Dan Harris
  6. I Regret Nothing: A Memoir, Jen Lancaster
  7. When I Found You, Catherine Ryan Hyde
  8. Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyossiki
  9. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards
  10. Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin
  11. The Girl on The Train, Paula Hawkins
  12. Harvesting Heart, Jodi Picoult
  13. Paper Towns, John Green
  14. The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens
  15. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari
  16. I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron
  17. Plan B, Jonathan Tropper
  18. The Silent Wife, A.S.A Harrison
  19. The Memory Garden, Mary Rickert
  20. The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith
  21. Rising Strong, Brene Brown
  22. Room, Emma Donoghue

My top five, in no particular order:

Grain Brain

This book was eye opening on so many levels. At the time I read it, it challenged most of the concepts I held to be true about health and wellness of the physical kind. That’s the beauty of reading – you learn that not everything you were raised to know is in fact true, but quite the contrary. If you’re not familiar with the anti grain movement, you will, without question, be rocked to the core with the information. This book makes sense to me in a variety of ways, and while I’ve adopted some things, I’ve still got work to do.

Wonder

Yes, it’s a children’s book, but don’t let that sway or diminish the importance as a book for people of all ages to read and enjoy; especially one that emphasizes the value and necessity of kindness, compassion, and empathy – characteristics we can all use more of. Furthermore, the book excels at showing us how our respective view point shapes the responses/ reactions we have in life and that not everything is as it seems.

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Mindfulness, a buzzword of sorts, I suppose, but in my line of work (social work) an exceptionally important one. We are very much a nation of go, go, go and relish in the glorification of busy, busy, busy that so much of life is lost in its simplicity and knowing who we are, reflecting on what is just in the moment, not 5 minutes from now, or what happened yesterday, but just now. Or, perhaps you’re the type of person who doesn’t pause or take consideration of what you’re doing or how it’s impacting your day to day world until all that you’ve swept under the rug is creeping out from every corner. Mindfulness teaches you how to deal in the moment to gain a greater understanding. I am a self-proclaimed lover of all things ‘based on a true story’ because nothing has the power to teach us more than true life experiences.

The Memory Garden

I can’t quite put my finger on why I enjoyed this book so much, but I did. It was different and focused on relationships, of which I’m a big fan. In my experience, both personally and professionally as a therapist, relationships are the foundation of everything and it’s not only the relationships we have with our friends and family, but also, and perhaps the most important, the relationship we have with ourselves. This book unfolds all of those things through mystery and magic, food, and secrets.

room-emma-donoghue[1]

Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, by all means, read the book. The description and language is exquisite and essential to the storyline. This is a book like none other and possesses the vast power of emotion, struggle, success, and acclimation of a new reality.

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Nutella Mug Cake

Nutella Mug Cake

Disclaimer: I’ve never been a fan of mug cakes or mug cookies. I’ve tried my fair share of the ones who claim “Best Ever” or “So Good” and while I’m always eager and hopeful ahead of time, I’m always left feeling a little let down afterwards. Even though in my head, I know it’s a shortcut version to something sweet in a snap and shouldn’t truly be compared to the results an entire cake or full batch of cookies warrants, but my taste buds always get me psyched up like it is. And, further truth be told, most of the time I’m not very good at portion control at some things like cake or cookies. I stand in awe and amazement at someone who can take 1 or 2 cookies and be completely satisfied. I’m definitely more like Cookie Monster minus all those wasted cookie crumbs!

Lately, the family and I have been watching the carb intake and while it’s been going well, I’m also about to welcome Aunt Flo for a visit and she sometimes has a sneaky way of hijacking my hormones and adjusting my dial for something sweet and something chocolate from manageable to WANT. Yesterday, while I was scrolling along, I came across this recipe and knew I’d try it out because it just so happened I had a small jar of Nutella in the cabinet that had been untouched for months.

I’m here to tell you, this little mug cake was good and sated my want for something chocolatey & sweet. It was so filling that I didn’t even finish it all, which, trust me when I say, is unheard of. I mean, really, how do you not finish something like chocolate cake? But it happened. The directions said to heat it in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes. I opted for the 1 1/2 minutes and as I watched it rise, I thought it might come up and over, spilling down the sides of the mug, but it didn’t. After I removed it, the top had settled back down again. It’s safe to say this passed my “this is a good mug cake” test and I’ll happily make it again.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. Nutella
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 tsp. chocolate chips

Preparation:

In a large mug, melt the butter and stir in the cream and Nutella. Fold in the egg and then add in the flour, unsweetened cocoa, and sugar. Blend until fully incorporated and smooth; stir in the chocolate chips. Microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

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52 Book Challenge of 2014

Books I read in 2014:

  1. We Are Water, Wally Lamb
  2. The Theory of Opposites, Allison Winn Scotch
  3. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
  4. All The Lonely People, Jess Riley
  5. How To Talk To A Widower, Jonathan Tropper
  6. I Am Nujood, Age 10 & Divorced, Nujood Ali w/ Delphine Minoui
  7. Mouseton Abbey
  8. Body of Work: Finding the Thread That Ties Your Story Together, Pamela Slim
  9. The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
  10. The Blindfolded Marriage: Ever Feel Like Your Relationship Is Harder Than It Should Be? Jonathan Hoover
  11. The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan
  12. The Mastery of Management: or How To Solve The Mystery of Mismanagement, Taibi Kahler
  13. Look Me In The Eye: My Life With Asperger’s, John Elder Robison
  14. Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, & Parent, Brene Brown
  15. A Memoir of Going Home: Mennonite In A Little Black Dress, Rhoda Janzen
  16. The Dream Manager, Matthew Kelly
  17. Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Trip To Heaven, Todd Bopo, Sonja Bopo, & Colton Bopo
  18. The Giver, Lois Lowry
  19. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  20. Remember Me Like This, Bret Anthony Johnson
  21. Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell
  22. This Is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper
  23. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume
  24. The Husband’s Secret, Liane Moriarty
  25. The Lone Survivor, Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson
  26. Moloka’I, Alan Brennert
  27. Landline, Rainbow Rowell
  28. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  29. The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis
  30. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar, Cheryl Strayed
  31. Larger Than Life, Jodi Picoult
  32. Tell The Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt
  33. The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
  34. Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale, Ian Morgan Cron
  35. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
  36. Learning From The Voices In My Head, Eleanor Longden
  37. Bossypants, Tina Fey
  38. Blind, Rachel DeWoskin
  39. Get Busy Living, Jenny Hardin
  40. American Sniper, Chris Kyle
  41. Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
  42. Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn
  43. Plain Truth, Jodi Picoult
  44. The Light Between Oceans: A Novel, M.L. Stedman
  45. Natural Spirituality: Recovering the Wisdom Tradition In Christianity, Joyce Rockwood Hudson
  46. Department of Speculation, Jenny Offill
  47. Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
  48. You Better Not Cry, Augusten Burroughs
  49. The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman
  50. The Silver Star, Jeanette Walls
  51. Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, Ethan Watters
  52. Euphoria, Lily King

My top 5 favorite (In no particular order):

The Worst Hard Time

As much as I love to read, I like to remind my girls, that true life is by far more interesting than fiction. I’ve always been a sucker for true life stories, and this one, my friends, is utterly fascinating.

Daring Greatly

2014 was the year I learned about Brene Brown and subsequently fell in love. Like her, I’m a LMSW so the self help genre has always interested me. Naturally, there are a lot of “crap” books out there that fall under self help, but this one is a complete and utter gem. If you’ve seen either one of her TED Talks then this book is that on steroids! You cannot go wrong reading this book. I guarantee you will learn something about yourself.

Eleanor & Park

I don’t recall how I came across this book. I’m thinking perhaps I read an article about it or the author; I know it wasn’t recommended to me, but oh my this book! Yes, it’s geared toward teen and young adult, but I don’t care. This is still probably one of my favorites. It’s set in the 1980’s and involves comic books, mixed tapes, and first love, need I say more? What sets it apart is that as I completed it, I knew without a doubt, my oldest daughter (13 at the time) would absolutely adore it – and she did. We both hope that it will make it’s way to the big screen – only if it does the book justice, though. One of the many things I love about books is their ability to transcend age and unite generations and this book did just that.

The Screwtape Letters

Growing up, my dad was never much of a reader (other than the newspaper), though on those big, long distance road trips, he’d check out an audio book or two from the library and listen to them. It’s only in retirement, and really even only in the last couple of years, that he’s started to read books. He’s been a Christian since before my parents met and married, and will gladly tell you how he came to accept Christ in his life and the peace he’s had ever since. This is the first book, outside of scriptures in the bible that I’ve read that is faith based. It’s small, but mighty and shook me to my core.

The Light Between Oceans

One of my childhood friends is an English professor and during my quest to fulfill my goal, she’d routinely recommend books to me. I read one or two and wasn’t as moved by them as she, but then she suggested I read this one and I am so very glad I did. It is heartbreakingly beautiful. The emotions in this book are raw and tangible. It’s soon to be released as a major motion picture and while I generally hesitate to see a movie once I’ve read the book, I’m actually looking forward to this one.

The official movie trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5SOdK-9f_A

Through this experience, I discovered new to me authors like Jonathan Tropper and Liane Moriarty and have enjoyed reading other books by them. Lastly, even though the books didn’t make it into my top 5 of 2014, there are two books that, while not my favorite, have definitely stayed with me. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert and The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion.

 

 

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My Love of Books

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On New Year’s Eve of 2014, I set out to read 52 books in the year. I’m proud to report I was successful in achieving my goal and it very well may have been my first time ever (and last) accomplishing a New Year’s Eve goal.

I’ve always been an avid reader. I was the kid who got busted for reading by the light of the hallway when I should have been fast asleep. I spent plenty a pretty penny of my earned or gifted money on books. Sweet Valley High or VC Andrews, anyone? On long road trips with family I spent the passing time with my nose in a book and as daylight turned to dusk, I would strain my eyes savoring the last little bit of natural light reading what I could. Or the times I would feel extremely lucky if there was a constant stream of cars behind us. Oh yeah, I was that kid who read by the headlight of another car as it shone in from behind because my parents refused to drove with an overhead light on. Kids these days don’t know the struggle!

As the years passed, depending upon the stage of my life, I read more or significantly less. I distinctly remember not wanting to read much of anything after graduating with my Bachelor’s, but even that only lasted a few months as I fell in love with the works of Wally Lamb and later Augusten Burroughs. After my girls were born, I read mostly children’s books, but managed to sneak in a few while they were still relatively young, or again on road trips. While I worked towards my Master’s degree, I reverted back to my undergrad days as so much of my time was spent reading texts and books that were required; any reading for pleasure was put off until I walked at graduation in 2009. When 2014 came along, I challenged myself and since I had to keep track of each book, I began my list. After the completion of each book, I’d post a picture and a quote commemorating the moment. While I no longer feel compelled to read 52 books a year, I still read and have maintained my lists for each subsequent year and decided to add them here.

Friends routinely ask me for book recommendations and I’ll gladly give them; however, books to me are very much like music in that what appeals to some doesn’t to others. Mostly, I read fiction and memoirs for pleasure, but occasionally, I’ll read to learn more about a time in history or relevant topic. Come along and join me, you just might stumble across a book you love.

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Cucumber, Tomato, & Avocado Salad

Cucumber, tomato, & avocado salad

I regularly tell my daughters how their taste buds will change as they get older. They usually give me a skeptical look that reads, “Ah, there goes that mom of ours thinking she knows things and stuff.” Yep, that’s me. You know why? Because I do know stuff! Admittedly, when I was 13 and 15, you couldn’t pay me to eat this salad. Heck, even as a 23 or 25 year old. . .maybe even a 33 or 35 year old. After all, it was just a year or so ago that I discovered quite the fondness over guacamole and now, I routinely buy avocadoes for not only guacamole, but for breakfast as an accessory to the eggs or even (shh, don’t tell my girls) slicing it up and adding it to a sandwich. It’s possible I wouldn’t have believed myself had I the ability to go back in time to report to my younger self. But in the here and now, I’m happy to report this is a salad that my hubby and I are happy to eat all by ourselves while the girls are happy with plain old cucumber slices.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 tomato, deseeded
  • 2 avocados
  • 1/2 of a red onion, sliced
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1/4 cilantro
  • S&P

Preparation:

Cut the cucumber lengthwise in half, with each half cut into another half and then dice. Deseed and dice the tomato and avocados; slice the onion. Toss the cucumber, tomato, avocados, and onion into the bowl. Season with S&P, add in the cilantro and gently toss. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon and olive oil, stir to combine. Eat immediately.

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Strawberry Trifle

Strawberry Trifle Bowl

The summer heat just screams cool, creamy desserts and as a result, this makes Chris very happy. I’m fairly confident he’d be perfectly content to only ever have a no bake dessert filled with whipped cream or pudding. Me? Not so much. I like to bake. I like to mix all the ingredients together, swipe a clean finger through to taste the dough, batter, or frosting. And let’s not forget the aroma of a well loved baked in kitchen. You know what I mean. The kind that conjures up memories, makes your house a home. It’s no wonder that some real estate agents recommend baking ready to bake refrigerated cookies prior to a showing. Because cookies, the waft of delight. . . yeah, no need to explain any further. I digress. It’s summer, it’s hot, and cool, creamy, and no bake desserts certainly have their place.

Ingredients:

  • 2 big packages of fresh strawberries, washed, tops removed, and sliced
  • 2 packages Angel food cake (I used store bought), cubed
  • 1 package instant vanilla made per package directions
  • 1 12 oz. container of Cool Whip

Preparation:

The most time consuming part of this recipe is all the slicing, dicing, and cutting into cubes. Start with the angel food. With a cutting board, cut into smaller sections and with each section, cut into cubes. Toss into a bowl and set aside. On the same cutting board, remove the tops of the strawberries and then slice. Transfer to another bowl; set aside. In a large bowl, prepare the pudding per package instructions. Once complete, fold in the Cool Whip until incorporated. Beginning and ending with strawberries, fill the bottom of the trifle bowl with a layer of strawberries, top with angel food cake, and pudding/ Cool Whip mixture and repeat. Store in refrigerator for 1-2 hours until ready to serve. Transfer leftovers to airtight container or cover the trifle bowl with cling wrap.

 

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