Friday, September 28, 2012

Foodie Fridays: White Chicken Chili

From Betty Crocker

With the arrival of cooler weather and football season, heartier fare like chili returns to our dinner table. Chili recipes abound, and I have several favorites, but this is the one I like when I want to use chicken.  The list of ingredients is rather long and there are several steps involved, but it really does not take much time to make, and the end result is worth the little bit of extra effort.  Unless you know what all partakers prefer, it is probably best to serve the cilantro on the side, or leave it out completely.  People either love or hate this aromatic seasoning (I love it, my husband does not).  Cilantro aversion may be a genetic predisposition (some even find the smell unpleasant), so for the sake of those who have no control over their dislike it is best to use this herb carefully.  With or without cilantro, White Chicken Chili one of the ultimate comfort foods for fall, and it is time for me to whip up a pot soon!

White Chicken Chili

1 C. water
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 T. oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 C.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (11-14 oz.) white corn, drained (or use about 2 C. frozen instead)
1 can (15-16 oz.) great Northern or cannellini beans, undrained
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies, undrained
3 T. lime juice
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/3 C. sour cream
2 T. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Bring the water and cumin seeds to a boil.  Add the chicken.  Lower the heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes until the chicken is tender.  Strain and reserve the broth.  Cube or shred the chicken.  Sauté the onion in the oil for 5 minutes until soft.  Add the garlic and sauté for one minute.  Stir in the next seven ingredients with the reserved broth.  Bring to a boil.  Add the chicken, lower the heat, and cook to heat through.  Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream.  Stir in the cilantro, serve it on the side, or leave it out completely.  Serves 4.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: A Passion for Puffins

Did you know that there are close to 10,000 known species of birds? And of this vast number, if I were to choose just one favorite, it would have to be Fratercula arctica, or the Atlantic Puffin.  I have never even seen one in real life, but there is just something about their striking and rather risible appearance that I find irresistible.  These pelagic seabirds in the Auk family are the only puffins found in the Atlantic Ocean.  While not endangered worldwide, they have become less populous on the coast of Maine, which is the only place in the United States with breeding colonies.  This decline in numbers prompted the formation of Project Puffin, a research effort that is attempting to restore puffin breeding colonies to some of the coastal islands.  You can even adopt a puffin if you are interested in supporting this worthy cause!

Of course a real puffin will (sadly) never grace the interior of my home, but with a little effort I could bring the likeness of this charming bird anywhere I would like!  I think this puffin shower curtain would feel right at home in our guest bathroom:

From Deny Designs

Some puffin throw pillows on the living room sofa would be nice:


A sturdy puffin mug for morning coffee or tea would be the ideal way to start the day:

From Etsy

And I love the idea of a Puffin Design Biscuit Barrel for the kitchen:

From Toys & Interiors

Compared to some other species (like the currently rather ubiquitous owl), the puffin is a relatively underused bird when it comes to interior design.  I can only hope that some day the Atlantic Puffin will take the design world by storm, and we will see this cute and comical little bird in homes everywhere!

From I Love Funny Animal

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wish List Wednesday: The Puffin Collection by hansel

Fashion is not one of my main interests, but when it combines my favorite bird with casual comfort, how can I resist?  The Puffin Collection by hansel is Singapore designer Jo Soh's whimsical homage to this cute and comical bird.  The dress above is my favorite, and is available on the website for $189.  But I also like the sleeveless version,

 and there are so many more to choose from as well:

Even if you don't suffer from puffin mania like I do, you are sure to find an outfit that appeals to you in this fabulous collection!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Seasonal Style: Autumn Casual

Summer is officially over with the arrival of the Autumnal Equinox today, and not a moment too soon as far as I am concerned!  After the unusually hot weather we had this year, I am really looking forward to milder temperatures.  Autumn is my favorite season, not only for the cooler weather, but also for the warm colors that dominate the landscape.  These are the colors I love to see in both my home and my wardrobe:

From Glamour

From Coastal Living

Warm, comfortable, contemporary, and casual would best describe this look, and it is the style I prefer.  I am so ready to welcome autumn into my life right now!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Slow Cooker Chicken and Vegetables


Lately I've been extremely busy taking care of two animals with serious illnesses.  This doesn't leave me much time to do other chores, including cooking.  I am always on the lookout for recipes that are almost effortless anyway, because for me the best part of any dish is the consumption rather than the preparation.  Since slow cooker meals don't require a lot of attention from me, they are ideal, especially healthier dishes that don't call for much fat or salt.  I recently found this variation on a recipe for Baked Slow Cooker Chicken (I fully intend to try the original recipe one of these days).  The variation calls for the addition of liquid so it is technically more of a braised than a baked chicken (minus the browning step), but why quibble?  The end result is a flavorful, fall-off-the-bone bird with a pot full of tasty vegetables.

I found the breast meat to be a bit dry, but if you remove the meat from the bones and allow it to sit in the pot juices it will become more moist.  I would suggest letting the covered pot stand for a while after removing the bones and before serving.  I did wonder if the breast meat would be more juicy if the chicken was cooked back end up rather than front end up, but one site I found pretty much advised against this.  I thought it was interesting that most of the commenters recommended not cooking a whole bird in the slow cooker, mainly because the bird falls apart.  As far as I am concerned, meat falling off the bone is a good thing, as it will have to come off eventually anyway, and I am spared the extra step of slicing!

This is another recipe with many variations.  Some call for different herbs and spices, while others suggest stuffing the cavity with flavorings such as onion, garlic, lemon, or apple.  Different liquids can be used, and if you prefer other vegetables in the pot give them a try.  A particularly interesting variation calls for removing all skin and fat from the bird, since the cook has a passionate aversion to fat in the cooking liquid!  Actually, this is not a bad idea -- it will result in a healthier meal, and the advantage of the slow cooker is that fat is not needed to keep foods moist.  I may just try this technique next time, which I am sure will be soon.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Vegetables

1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs.), rinsed and dried
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
black pepper to taste (1/2 tsp. if you like it; I don't so I use a lot less)
1 lb. new potatoes (any color), halved or quartered
1 bag (1 lb.) baby carrots
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 C. water mixed with 1/2 tsp. salt (or 1/2 C. chicken broth)

Combine the salt, pepper, and paprika and rub all over the chicken, inside and out.  Spray the interior of a slow cooker pot with cooking spray.  Place the potatoes, carrots, and onion in the pot, then pour the salt water mixture over.  Nestle the chicken into the vegetables.  Cover and set the slow cooker on HIGH for one hour, then on LOW for about 8-10 hours or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear.  If the white meat is dry, remove from the bones and push down into the pot juices.  Allow to stand for about 1/2 hour to moisten the meat before serving.  Serves 6.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Bird-Inspired Lighting

From HD Wallpapers N Backgrounds

Let birds light up your life by adding some bird-inspired lighting fixtures and/or accessories to your home!  The possibilities are almost endless, but here are a few of the more creative ideas:

Marina's Birds by Fajno on Behance

Llum lamp from Peca via designboom

Atelier Areti Birds "U" Ceiling Lamp from Wayfair

Freeze Frame Birds Pendant Light from Property Furniture

Plywood Bird Lamp from Martijn Westphal

Alessi I Love Animals Bird Table Lamp from A White Room

Birds of Light from The Little Kidz Closet

Resin Bird Lamp from Creative Co-op

Turquoise Bird Lamp from Ornate Home

Kiwi Bird Lamp Shade by ShadeNatureinArt on Etsy

Black Word Bird Lamp Shade w/Text from Seven Dandelions

While all of the above are lovely, I find myself especially interested in the two following items.  First, because I am partial to puffins, this lampshade really appeals to me:

Pair of Puffins Lamp Shade from Barbara Gail's Lamps

But I have to say, even though I am not normally a chandelier sort of person, the beauty and rather humorous idea behind Wyatt Little's Bird Poop Chandelier  truly makes my day.  This fixture would find a place in my home just for the amusement factor, but in spite of the name it is actually quite attractive:

As you can see, whether you are an early bird, a night owl, or even crazy as a loon you will have no problem finding your perfect bird-inspired lighting!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Holiday Hits: Talk Like a Pirate Day!

From 1000 Flags

Ahoy, mateys -- happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!  And what better way to practice the lingo than by watching this silent movie called "The Black Pirate" (1926) while filling in the dialogue yourself?  (Just in case you're a little rusty, here are a few helpful hints).  Now weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen, then splice the mainbrace with a bottle of rum and sing a few chanteys until you're three sheets to the wind -- but don't go walking any planks, dancing with Jack Ketch, or visiting Davey Jones' locker.  Fair winds, me buckos!  Arrrr!!!

Wish List Wednesdays: White Bird Curtain Rod Finials

Sometimes it's the little things in life that bring the greatest joy.  These White Bird Curtain Rod Finials are a good example.  Simple, attractive, and reasonably priced ($24 for a pair), they are the perfect way to bring a subtle touch of avian décor into the home.  And even though they are being sold as an accessory for a child's space, I think they would look great in just about any room!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Chicken Piccata

From Perdue

Chicken Piccata is my sister's favorite chicken dish.  It is very similar to my favorite Chicken Marsala, which I featured last week.  The difference is the sauce, which is a butter sauce seasoned with lemon, white wine, capers, and parsley that gives the chicken a deliciously tart and tangy flavor.  Once again the recipe is quick and easy to make and great for casual meals or entertaining.  For a great lesson on how to make Chicken Piccata, and to see how easy it is to prepare, just watch this video.  But please, don't blame me if you suddenly become very hungry!

Chicken Piccata

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 T. olive oil
1 T. capers
1/2 C. white wine
1/4 C. lemon juice
1/4 C. water
3 T. butter
2 T. minced fresh parsley

Pound the chicken breasts to 1/2-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a pie plate.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour.  Place in the skillet, reduce heat to medium, and cook the chicken until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove from the skillet and keep warm.

Add the capers to the skillet and lightly crush about half of them to release their flavor.  Cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in the wine.  Scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon.  Cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.  Add the lemon juice, water, and butter, then stir continuously until a thick sauce forms, about 2 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and stir in the parsley.  Return the chicken to the skillet and heat through for about 1-2 minutes.  Serve over rice or pasta with the sauce spooned over the top.  Serves 4.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Bird Print Wall Coverings

There are times when a flock of beautiful birds will literally fill the sky, as in the impressive photo above.  You can achieve this same look in the home with wall coverings, as there are quite a few which feature avian species!  Are you partial to parrots?  Then this wallpaper is for you:

Aimée Wilder Lovebirds Paradise

Perhaps you favor flamingoes.  Never fear, because they are right here:

Contour Flamingo Pink

If you adore owls, then look no farther than this attractive offering:

Abigail Edwards Owls of the British Isles

Or maybe you would rather opt for ostriches:

Beware the Moon Ostrich

Should your thoughts tend to turn toward the tropics, then these birds will appeal to you:

Frontier Tropical Birds

I have to admit that wallpaper is not one of my favorite design elements, but even I would consider  a giant wall mural such as this one for my home:

Birds and Birch Mural

It seems that just about everyone's favorite feathered friend has been the focus of some form of wall covering, and if not I would venture to guess it is only a matter of time before that happy day arrives (designers, I am patiently awaiting my Puffins, please)!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Happy Bird Earrings

I don't have pierced ears, but if I did, I would get a pair of these Happy Bird Earrings post haste!  Created by Dutch designer Michiel Cornelissen, these baubles are made using a special 3D printing technology that allows the bird and swing to be formed inside the cage -- no post-production assembly required.  A wide range of colors is available from the Netherlands distributor Soonsalon, but here in the United States the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) offers these earrings in pink for $45.  This almost makes me wish I had pierced ears (or I could just get the same design as a necklace from Soonsalon!).


Friday, September 7, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Chicken Marsala

From Southern Food

Since September is National Chicken Month, it seems only appropriate to feature chicken recipes, and that is exactly what I plan to do!  I will start off with one of my favorite dishes -- Chicken Marsala.  Marsala wine adds a rich, nutty flavor to the mushroom sauce that is made with the pan juices when the chicken is cooked.  I like to serve this over linguini, which soaks up any extra sauce and tastes delicious.  Chicken Marsala is very fast and easy to prepare, and is a great dish for both casual meals and entertaining.

There are many, many variations on the recipe, but I prefer a simple version.  You can add any herbs or spices you like to the dredging mixture.  Some onions, shallots, and/or garlic can be sautéed with the mushrooms, and sherry, white wine, and/or chicken broth can be used in addition to the Marsala wine.  You could also make this with chicken breasts that have not been pounded, but naturally the cooking time will be longer.  For a really frugal method, slice two chicken breasts in half lengthwise before pounding to create four servings.  If you have never made Chicken Marsala before, I suggest trying this simple recipe first, and then trying variations to see if you like them better.  Be sure to use a good quality imported Marsala wine for the best flavor, but you don't have to buy a really expensive one.  Enjoy!

Chicken Marsala

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3 T. butter
3 T. olive oil
8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms (any type)
1/2 C. Marsala wine

Pound the chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a pie plate.  Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour.  Place in the skillet and cook the chicken until lightly browned on one side, about 2-3 minutes.  Turn the chicken and add the mushrooms.  Cook for another 2 minutes, then stir the mushrooms. Pour in the Marsala wine.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve over pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes.  Serves 4.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Birds and Interior Design

A pair of pretty Puffins (from StuffPoint)

I don't know what it is with birds, but something about them really inspires artistic creativity in people when it comes to interior design. This being the time of year when many of our fine feathered friends begin their annual migration to milder climes, I thought I would feature all things avian for the month of September.  And if perchance you are a bit skeptical of my claim that we are experiencing an ornithological obsession in the world of home décor, just take a look at some of these examples (be forewarned that if you suffer from ornithophobia it would be a good idea to close your eyes now):

In the living room with restraint (from Wall Mural Gallery)

In the living room with exuberance (from Tickle Me Vintage)

In the dining room (above from COCOCOZY; below from Casart Coverings)

In the bedroom (above from House to Home; below from Home Klondike)

In the nursery (above from Baby Nursery Decor; below from Unique Baby Gear Ideas)

And even in the bathroom! (above from HGTV; below from The Cottage Mix)

It seems that birds are everywhere in the home these days.  I can't explain this avian invasion, but I will certainly have fun taking a closer look at the trend -- and I might even find some inspiration for my own home as well!