Saturday, February 19, 2011

Greek Chicken Soup

Anybody got more chicken to use up?? Make soup! Homemade soup! Specifically, make Avgolemono. Since I don't know how to say that word, just call it Greek Chicken Soup! This soup is creamy, and chickeny, and ricey, and lemony. In a word, it's just delightful! And like a lot of these other recipes, a great way to use up ingredients from other meal (GO meal plan!). Here's all you need:

about a cup of cooked chicken (this was leftover fried chicken)
4 cups of chicken broth
1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice (start with a quarter, then taste it...make it as lemony as you want!)
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup carrots sliced or diced or shredded (**see disclaimer)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp flour
1 cup of cooked rice (see all the reasons to make a little too much rice! Makes me giddy!)

**disclaimer. I do not eat orange food (this excludes cheddar, for obvious reasons). The only way I will eat a carrot is if it's in soup and tastes more like chicken than carrot. And the reason I put the larger piece of carrot in this is so it can't sneak up on me. Carry on...**

Bring the chicken broth to a slight boil in a large pot on medium high. Chicken broth gets nutty on high (and not as in "takes on a nutlike flavor or consistency" goes all over the place!). Add in your vegetables. Turn the heat down to medium, and let that simmer for at least 20 minutes:

I let it go longer, so the carrots can taste like chicken!

Meanwhile mash the butter and flour into a paste, like this:

Then stir that paste into the broth.

Now is when this soup gets good. Temper the egg yolks:

Just take a small bit of broth out of the pot and slowly pour into the egg yolks while stirring. (Very hard to take a picture of, by the way!). If you just dump them in, you'll have scrambled egg yolks instead of a creamy soup...

Next throw in the lemon juice, the chicken, and the rice:

Let all this warm up (but turn the heat down to lowish...again, don't mess with an egg yolk...)

That's it!

Serve it in your favorite jadeite bowl...the great thing about vintage dishes is that you are getting a true serving size. Not a modern day America Super Sized serving. My "modern" soup bowls are the same size as my 2 cup mixing bowl. Insanity. Portion control, people. Eat real milk, real sugar, real butter, real food! But not out of mixing bowls!

**Another disclaimer: This portion control trick does not work with coffee cups! I would much rather slurp my coffee up in a "modern" trough-like mug than my dainty lady-like 6 oz jadeite cups. A girl needs her caffeine...don't hold out. And don't serve coffee in a 6 oz cup until after 11am, at least!**

That wraps up Chicken Session #1. Enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Groundnut Stew

More chicken...mmmm! Today is Groundnut Stew. Affectionately called Peanut Butter Chicken at my house. Today we're going to cook at Tracy's house because her counters are pretty than mine. Here's what you need:

Chicken (not pictured! gasp!)
6 oz can of tomato paste
1 green pepper, sliced
half of an onion, cut into wedges
3/4 cup of peanut butter (I strongly recommend using crunchy peanut butter)
3 cups of chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Two side notes here: First off, I don't want to hear anyone saying that this doesn't look good because of the strange ingredients. Do you understand me?? You will try it and you will like it! (That was JMom's voice coming out of my fingers!) Secondly, there are tons of options as to what kind of chicken you use for this recipe. It's a crock pot recipe, so it just depends what you have on hand. I usually use about 5 or 6 chicken tenders. This particular night we used 2 bone-in chicken breasts. You can also use leftover cooked chicken and cut the cook time in half.

Okay, back to's where it gets complicated:

Place the broth and chicken into the slow cooker, then add the tomato paste and peanut butter.

Then add everything else.

These spices rock.

Oh, check, check it:

We went crrrrazy and added mushrooms this time! Talk about throwing caution to the must've been Thirsty Thursday or something!

Cook on low heat for 5-6 hours (about 3 hours with cooked chicken)

Stir everything up occasionally,

Serve over rice with greens, then take a horribly dark picture of this delectable stew.

Beasts that eat Groundnut Stew with a cheerful heart get apples and a cookie for dessert (they actually did not have to be prompted or prodded to eat this...they loved it!).

It doesn't get much easier than this...give it a try before crock pot season is over!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chicken Divan

Chicken, chicken, chicken. What's for dinner? Chicken. Blah! Nothing gets blah faster than chicken.

But good news! We're going to do a few posts on making chicken a bit more delicious. Healthy? Not necessarily. But delicious, yes. And even better news...most of these recipes are perfect for using up leftover chicken which makes meal planning so easy! (Please tell me you meal plan. Please tell me you sit and make a list of 3 weeks worth of meals at a time so you can make the most of your grocery list...I will feel quite awkward if I'm the only person that does that.)

So the recipe today is for chicken divan. As far as the meal planning goes, if you have a whole chicken on Sunday (rotisserie or fried), just shred the leftovers to use again 2 days later. If you grill chicken one evening, throw 2 or 3 more pieces on the grill while you're at it, so you'll have extra for this recipe that week. Here's the other reason that approach is the best one: because I hate poaching chicken. It makes me gag. I cannot stand the smell of just throwing some chicken in some water so I can have cooked chicken for a recipe. GA-ross! Here's the ironic thing: I had to do just that for this blog post. Serves me right, I suppose, for not putting rotisserie chicken on my iGoogle "Meal 1" tab of My Listy. Whatever. Here's we's what you need (stuff you already have, I bet!):

About 2 cups of cooked chicken
1 can of cream of chicken
1/2 cup (give or take) of mayonnaise
a good dollop of sour cream (precision is everything with me)
about a half a bag of frozen broccoli, cooked
1 cup of cheddar, shredded
1 cup of cooked rice

**Meal plan tip--Make more rice than that, so that the next day you can throw all your leftover meats and veggies from that week in with the rice to make fried rice!**

This is where this recipe is so easy, it's almost hard to call it a "recipe".

Dump all the above ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Taste it and add salt and pepper to taste.

Then dump all that into a casserole dish, a 9x13 will be just perfect. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. You want it to be heated through and bubbly.

Delicious. And the joy of a casserole, if you're obsessive like me, is that all your prep dishes have been rinsed and loaded into the dishwasher while it's cooking. Ahhh...I just love a meal like that!

Oh, and word to the wise...add a bag of wavy potato chips to your grocery list on Chicken Divan week. You will adore having wavy chips with your leftovers for lunch the next day!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Any Excuse to Throw a Party!

While we're talking about parties anyway...

I obviously have a insatiable need to entertain. I'm not sure why, but I do keep trying to find reasons to throw a party. Since we have a great group of kids around here, it seemed like the perfect excuse to get them all together for Valentine's Shenanigans.

Disclaimer: I will not throw kids parties without JMom involved. She rocks a kids party.

Homey begged every 15 minutes to get dressed for the party.

She looked stunning in her Valentine's get up. Maybe a little formal, but whatever.

The key to this party was keeping the group of kids smallish--7 or 8 tops. This way, we could have 2 stations set up to keep everyone busy. Here's the Cookie Station:

And group 1 working hard at cookies, stopping for a photo op:

Meanwhile the other group worked on making cards in the office:

Obligatory cousin shot:

Then it was time to switch it up:

Great work!!

The cookies and cards were packed up for the kids to take home...I'm not trying to have that many sugared up children running around!

Time for Valentine's snacks for kiddos:

Also tons of treats for Mommies...enter the Busy Bs:

Deliciousness...away from the children! We served fruit with honey yogurt and Belgian chocolate pudding, brie and crackers, Tracy's puff pastry straws with roasted red pepper sauce, mushroom turnovers and brownie bites a la Tracy. YUM.

Party success with all my favorite children!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Anatomy of a Birthday Party: Part 1

Obviously the first plan is to figure out what your child would like for their magical birthday world. There are soooo many options. I love most of them (unless they get too pink!), and so I try to narrow it down a tad, and give the Homey a few options. This year her options were a Carnival/County Fair party or Alice in Wonderland. She loved both...we checked out a couple of websites and came up with these things to look at:

County Fair

Alice in Wonderland

This was going to be Homey's decision...she loves games and prizes and food from a fair. And of course, every little girl loves Alice, but Homey isn't overly familiar with the story. So I wasn't sure which way she would go. After a little bit of deliberation and careful research together, we decided on Alice. I think she just wanted to dress up for her party, but I told her if we do that, she has to also commit to being Alice for Halloween. Done. Handshake and pinky swear. So in February we are squaring away two fall holidays. Sweet!!!

So this is where the fun really begins. Especially with something like Alice because there are SO many details you can pull out and use. I do love research! And now I can gradually look at all the fun decorations, things for appropriate favors, ideas for food...You know, I think part of starting so early has to do with the fact that Homey has the September birthday (along with every other child I know...). Have you looked in stores in August and September? Horrible. There's nothing fun. Just blah school related stuff. Apples. Pencils. Ick. Even in February stores here are busting out their spring and summer pretties. I went out yesterday for some Valentines ammunition and nearly had a stroke looking through all the fun garden decorations. Lanterns, oversized butterflies, rabbits...fanTAStic stuff to create a Wonderland. Now, I can use that handy 40% off coupon weekly and gradually get my party gear in an affordable manner.

Lots of details will have to wait but I can start putting a few things together for sure....check it out:

I found these glittery outline stickers with the scrapbooking stuff. The plan is to cut them out and attach them to sticks to put in plants and flowers.

Existing silver clock to add to tea party table. Existing vintage watch necklace for me to wear during the party.

New garden decor: a strand of mirrored flowers to hang...

Existing "yard art" pink flamingo that I got at the Fair. Grammy has more that I may have to ask to borrow. They'll be perfect on the croquet court (we actually already have a vintage croquet set...because we rock!). Per the story, you must have flamingos with the croquet.

My main focus right now is brightly colored things to add to the whimsy, and finding clocks and mirrored objects to lend to the real feel of the story of Alice's Adventures.

Last find for the day:
You can find that dress here.

This dress from Etsy. I'm not completely convinced yet, but it certainly is cute! I will keep looking for a little while...

So there you have it...step one is just brainstorming, looking around online, then checking stores as you're out in the world. Another reason this works so well for me is that I despise doing the footwork of shopping. But if I check craft stores, Target, etc as I'm there anyway I can actually accomplish something.

More ideas, both easy and over the top to well as past parties that were a blast to throw! Party on, Wayne...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Preface to Anatomy of a Birthday Party

It's February. My baby's birthday is in September. So why do I get party fever this early? Almost 3 seasons ahead of time? Because I'm an enigma. And also because, this, my friends, is how we roll. Birthdays are a big freakin' deal to me. Especially Homey's! Because I was there. For, like, all of it. It was a long day...and from now on that day will be celebrated like none other.

And my preference is to have spectacular birthday parties in our own yard (or somebody's yard that I know!) rather than paying someone else to provide the venue, entertainment and food. Again...just how I roll. I'm a glutton for punishment, and I love every bit of the creative process. To me, a birthday party should allow the honoree and the guests to spend a couple of hours in a whole other world, eat good food, and go home with things to remind them of their visit to the magical land from the party.

So rule #1 to my approach is to START EARLY. I got online today and started looking through various party ideas...ooh, let me stop here. Again, this is not for everyone, but to me, creating a magical world for an afternoon is a little different than having plates, cups, and napkins (or the Party in a Box) plastered with a character. That's just me though...I like to make my life difficult. It's part of who I am:

Me: "What's the easiest way to do Task A?"

Me: "Probably to just go to a store and see what they have."

Me: "Okay, yeah, you're right. But what if I could...[insert a plethora of problem causing, time consuming ideas]."

I really can't help it. Anyway, I'm not against a theme. I'm just against doing things the easy way. I would much rather take an idea or a theme and inject my child's personality, a twinge of fantasy, and a sprinkling of imagination to make it better. So that brings us to why I start 8 months in advance. Because I don't have any money. I didn't have any money when I had a job, so I certainly don't have any money now! But if you get the idea early (and timeless ideas will be okay with even the most surly child, trust me), you can spend those months looking at ideas, picking up favors little by little, and hand making (or delegating to JMom) decor for a fantastic party! For sooo much less than you would spend on a venue-party-in-a-box party. I have other friends that also create fantastic parties, and I remain in awe of what they're able to create (Christie...that one's for you, and I'm going to ask for some pictures of J-man's recent rock!).

So join me (mwah-ha-ha), on doing things the BusyB's way. Take your time, find your groove, and make your little one's special day more than the cake and the presents. Make it the one day a year they can be an explorer, an artist, a cowgirl/boy, a mermaid or pirate.

I'll show you the magical worlds we've created in the past for pennies. And follow the Anatomy of a Birthday Party this year as we go through the looking glass, to places we've never been before. It's gonna be awesome, people!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shrimp and Grits

This recipe is so good that I can't order shrimp and grits in a restaurant anymore. It is just better. Well, I take that back. There is ONE place on this earth that has better shrimp and grits than mine. This place:

It's the crabshack on Folly Beach. Phenomenal food. Phenomenal print of the place...I have one. It hangs in my office, and I know that dude that painted it. You should look at some of his work here.

Anyway...other than that, you'll have to make recipe. That's all there is to it. Plus if you find shrimp on sale, this is really an inexpensive meal. Yum...let's make it.

1 lb shrimp, thawed and peeled
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup grits
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
about 3 to 4 green onions, diced
1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
5-6 slices of bacon

Start out by cooking the bacon. I absolutely have issues cooking bacon in a skillet so I use the bacon-izer and microwave it (1 minute a slice, plus a minute).

When it's done, pour the bacon grease into a skillet.

If you are talented enough to cook bacon the normal way, just reserve the grease. Mmmm bacon grease! Now crumble the bacon.

While the bacon is cooking, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Pour in the grits and let it come back to a boil.
At that point, cover the pot and turn the heat all the way down to low. This will take about 20ish minutes to cook. When they're done, just turn the heat off and throw the 1/2 stick of butter in there to melt.

In the meantime, with your bacon grease on medium heat, add the shrimp.

They only take about 4 minutes to cook. When they are mostly cooked through, add the garlic and the juice of the lemon. Delicious. Stir all that together, then add the green onion.

Go back to the grits, stir in the butter and parmesan.

That's it! Plate it up...grits, shrimp with some of the lemon/bacon gravy poured on top. Garnish with crumbled bacon. Another cozy meal for another cold, drizzly day. Enjoy!