when the boy is away, the cat will…

…sleep on his bathrobe.

Every. day.

Why the guilty look George? Or is it that you want to claw my eyes out for interrupting your nap?

***********************

A few days ago Josh wore a funny shirt to school that said “I’m allergic to homework” – typical sort of thing for a 2nd grader. Except, then he rationalized to the teacher that it was actually true. And I quote “I’m allergic to pollen, and pollen is on trees, and paper comes from trees and homework is on paper, so I really am allergic to homework!” Oy vey.

granite and foliage

Damon was speaking at a conference this past weekend and Josh and I tagged along so we could all spend a little time in a part of Maine that we don’t know particularly well. We were waaaay the heck up Rt. 1, in Northport. The hours and hours spent driving in the rain on that horrid road was well worth it the next day though!

This was the cutest little cabin you have ever seen:

It smelled like fresh pine inside, but had all the amenities of a 2 bedroom hotel suite. We really didn’t want to leave!

We did some sightseeing on Saturday and I took the opportunity to work on my photography skills. The rain made it difficult but I think the pictures turned out better than if all that granite had been dry.

These are of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory and Fort Knox, in Prospect, Maine. It was well worth the trip if you’re ever going that way!

skip dinner and go for the brownies

I helped throw a baby shower this weekend and I just about killed myself in the kitchen! 😉 (Only for you Nicole!)

Thankfully the desserts I made were prettily arranged by someone else and photographed by someone else since by then I was incapable of either. (Thanks for letting me steal your photo Amy!)

The only thing this doesn’t show is the sheer number of sweets we had. Oy.

Now I know how to make petit fours! And I’m not going to tell you, because I just can’t relive the horror one more time right now, even by writing it down. I did a practice run last week just to see if I could do it. Well I did it but I’ll be scraping icing out of every nook in my kitchen for the next two years.

This was the practice run:

Of course I remembered to photograph the practice ones and not the good ones right??

Anyway, what I really wanted to share with you were those itty bitty brownie bites, that to me are total, complete, chocolate heaven.

I always use a brownie recipe that I got off the back of a Hersey’s baking chocolate package many years ago and I’ve never found a better one. I make only two changes to the original, I don’t bake them quite as long, and I use homemade vanilla (and twice as much!) It makes all the difference!!

Here’s the best part about these particular brownie bites; I sunk a hunk of chocolate cookie dough in the center before baking. Holy cow. Make these. Seriously.

ps. If you live in Southern NH and you need to order a gorgeous, fabulous, yummy cake you need to get it from Jake’s. OMG.

chicken soup weather!

A friend of mine recently asked me for my chicken soup recipe. Since it’s cold and rainy, and I made this soup for lunch, I thought it was the perfect time to finally write it down.

I admit, I make really, really good chicken soup. And I make it often – in the winter it simmers on my stove at least once a week. The problem is I don’t really have a recipe. I use what I have on hand and go on instinct. Sometimes I have lots of time to make it and I do it one way, other times I want to get it done quick so I do some things another way. Either way, the end result is pretty much the same, so whatever way YOU want to get it done will work fine!

First, some notes. Because I am nothing if not long winded. And really, this is the most important part – because a recipe won’t really do you any good if you don’t know techniques, substitutions, and tips on winging it. Winging. Chicken. Hee hee. 🙂

The chicken! I roast a medium chicken almost every week, so I always have cooked chicken to throw into my soup, if you do this, you need at least half the chicken. We usually get couple of meals out of it, and then I make my soup.

As a side note, after I roast it, I strain and reserve the “juice” in the refrigerator, and when I make my soup I skim the fat off the top and use the gelatinous portion from the bottom. This adds a lot of flavor to the soup and it’s good for your bones, joints, hair, and nails! It’s a good quick soup fix when I can’t make my own stock. (Stock would be a whole other post!)

Okay, so you don’t want to roast a whole chicken? Really, any cooked chicken will do. Have some breasts in the freezer you need to use up? Bake them, cube them, and throw them in ten minutes before you serve the soup. (Sooner will dry white meat out.) Found some thighs on sale? Cut off as much skin and fat as possible and boil them in about six cups of water until just barely done, debone if necessary, then cut them up quickly (against the grain always!) and throw them back in with everything else. Don’t dump the water – That’s your soup starter!

Next up, onions. At least one large white or yellow onion. (Or 2 medium, or three small. Whatever!) My family loves the taste of onions, but they hate the texture of cooked onions in anything. So I puree them in a food processor. If you and your family love chunks of onions, by all means start by sautéing some in a bit of butter or oil right in your big soup pot. Just don’t burn them! I often start this way when I have the time, but when I have to get it done quick the pureeing really helps because you can dump them directly into your broth.

Garlic, garlic, and lots more garlic. Seriously. I am of the opinion you can never have too much garlic. Even more important than onions – don’t burn the garlic! If you are sautéing the onions, and using fresh minced garlic add it when the onions are almost done. If you are pureeing your onions (be like me and try this!) put your fresh cloves in the food processor with them! Easy peasy. If you are using jarred garlic (and there’s nothing wrong with that!) you can add it to your broth any time. Just put in more than you think you should.

The broth. I love to make a good stock out of the chicken bones but I can’t always do that, and I’m really not a stock purist so canned broth and bouillon cubes are always in my pantry. If you can make your own stock, great, use it! Especially since boiling those bones add lots of extra calcium to your soup! If not, don’t worry, your soup will still be great. 🙂 Just remember you can always add more bouillon later, but you can’t take it out if you add too many to start.

The recipe (such as it is!) All quantities are approximations. I never, ever measure, so please adjust to your liking.

Start with your stock/broth/water/ and your rice/barley/quinoa in a large soup pot on med-high and bring to a low boil. If you are using fresh veggies now is the time to add them if you like them well cooked. I’m not big on crunchy carrots in soup!

After you reach a boil, turn the heat down to low, add pureed onions and garlic if you haven’t already, bouillon cubes if you’re using them, and simmer for about 30-45 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Now you can add frozen veggies, cooked chicken, and any other seasonings. Simmer another 10-15 minutes.

Taste for seasoning and broth level. Add more of whatever as needed to suit you. Taste, taste, and taste again until it’s perfect. I like mine with lots of black and cayenne pepper, but if I expect Josh to eat it too I have to hold back on the spicy! But the garlic? He looooves the garlic. 🙂 I hope you do too!

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