Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

It officially frosted this morning in central Illinois so that means it’s time to make soup! Actually, I think it’s time to make soup when the temp hits about 60 degrees because for one thing, soup is so easy. Two, it can sit in a crock pot and simmer all day so it’s ready when you want it. Three, well, it’s just warm and cozy so what’s not to love?

I made Chicken Gnocchi Soup to warm us all up and it was delicious so I thought I would share the recipe. It’s loosely based on Olive Garden’s recipe, but as you will see, I add a few special things to mine. For those of you who don’t know what Gnocchi is, it a wonderful little potato dumpling. It’s so good, and what’s even more wonderful is that now you can pretty much find it in any grocery store known to man.

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First, I baked 4 large boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. I actually did this in the crockpot early in the morning and threw them in still frozen, but feel free to use your oven. From a thawed state it would take about an hour in a 375 degree oven.

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Time to gather ingredients. You’ll need EVOO, spinach (fresh or frozen), 2 chicken bouillon cubes (low sodium), 1 stalk of celery, 1 cup of chopped carrots, 4 or 5 button portabella mushrooms, 1 small onion or half a large, 2 cloves of garlic and Rosemary (fresh is best if you have it). Not pictured:  1 can of evaporated milk and 2 cans of low sodium chicken broth, 1 Tbsp. of fresh Thyme and 1 TBSP. of fresh Sage.

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Chop all of your veggies to around the same size so they all cook evenly.

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In your soup pot, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat.

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While my oil was heating, I decided to add one more veggie. I quickly chopped up about half of this Butternut squash and added it to the pile vegetables.

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Soften the celery, carrots and onion for about 10 minutes until fragrant and the onion is translucent. Don’t forget to salt them.  In the meantime, I threw the cubed squash in the microwave for about 5 minutes to give it  a head start.

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Next, add in the mushrooms and garlic and squash.

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Then, pour in the broth and 2 cups of water and the bouillon cubes.

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Once it comes to a nice simmer and all the veggies are cooked, add in a cup of frozen spinach or about 3 cups of fresh spinach, your baked chicken (cubed), the herbs, and the can of milk. Let it all come to a simmer again and then add in the gnocchi, cooking by the manufacturers directions ( I think it takes about 10 minutes).

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Once the gnocchi is done, it’s ready to serve..

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…or you can throw it in the crock pot for later like I did. This recipe freezes well also so feel free to make it in large quantities.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Happy Tuesday.

love,

Val

Monday, October 14, 2013

DIY Pallet Accessory Station

I’ve been harboring an idea in my head for a couple months and this last weekend I finally had the time to act on it. You see, I have detested the jewelry armoire in my bedroom for a long, long time. I HATE when I am getting ready to go somewhere and I have to dig and look for earrings or a necklace. It’s just irritating. Then one day I pulled a drawer out and it broke in my hand and from that point forward, it’s fate was sealed. It had to go. Pronto.

I desperately needed something that displayed all of my jewelry so I could look at it all at the same time and something that made it easy to put the jewelry back where it belongs. So I started looking online for something that would work. I found several different things, but then I saw the price and had a mini heart attack. If you know me very well, you can guess what happened next. I started thinking about how I could create what I needed myself. I also thought about what materials I have available to me (preferably for free) that I could use to create my project. We all know by now that I have a plethora of pallets available to me at any given time, and so an idea was born.

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I confiscated a 30x30 inch pallet from my family’s business and started sanding. I think I ended up sanding it a total of 3 times, each time using a finer grit sand paper, until it was smooth. I then washed the whole thing down, removing any saw dust and dirt.

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I then gave it a very sloppy coat of white acrylic paint and let it dry thoroughly. I then “antiqued” it with this stuff…

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Martha Stewart Tintable Antique Effect and Martha Stewart Satin Craft Paint in Gray Wolf. I simply mixed the antiquing medium with the paint in a bowl until I achieved a a very thin paint. I then applied the paint mixture over the dried white paint on the pallet and then wiped it off quickly, doing small sections at a time. I let this dry completely.

After the pallet was dry, I turned the pallet over and attached a metal grate to the back. You can find metal grates at you local home supply store already cut into lengths of various size, They are usually in the section with all the garage and tool organization supplies.

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I also hot glued some industrial burlap to the back.

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I also attached two metal hangers on each corner of the pallet.

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I then flipped the pallet back over and screwed in cup hooks at various places along the painted boards.

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Here is the finished results so far..

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I took my masterpiece in and had the hubby hand it on the wall. I then proceeded to fill it up and empty that evil armoire.

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You’ll notice the burlap is perfect for pins, broaches, and post earrings.

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The metal grate is great! (Pun totally intended) I can hang my chandelier earring from it.

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The cup hooks hold all my necklaces…

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..and I even attached a dowel rod at the bottom with some extra large hooks for bracelets and scarves.

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You’ll also notice that the top provides a great shelf for my perfumes and ring holders.

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It was actually easier than I thought it was going to be to create this accessory station and now that I have it, I’m not sure how I lived without it!

 

Happy Monday.

Love,

Val

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Finally Fall

I finally got around to decorating my yard for fall today..yippee! I usually do this in September but with being a new homeschooling family, it just didn’t get done. No worries though, I went all out today so I thought I would share my efforts with you.

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In the picture above, I pulled out all my old, spindly petunias. I then went and took some cuttings from my hydrangea and stuffed them in around this pumpkin. I hope it’ll look even more fallish as the hydrangeas brown. …or they could all just get blown away by the next big storm, but hey, I should get an A for effort.

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It’s a rule that I always have to implement a scarecrow into my autumn d├ęcor. So here is my little “fall scene” in the front of my house. Since I live on a main and very heavily traveled road, I like to go all out.

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This is a window box on my garage window that over looks the patio. I left a few of the summer plantings in since they still looked great and then shoved a few pumpkins in to fill it all out.

And of course, it wouldn’t be fall without…

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…our first load of firewood. My Hubby and I spent a little while this evening stacking this all up. It’s a lot of work, but there is something wonderfully cozy about that first load of wood all stacked up and ready.

Happy Tuesday.

Love,

Val