Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Portage, again....Just can't get enough!

Here is our view of the marsh and lake. Check out those massive snow-flakes!
We always keep an eye out for wild-life, but only saw birds on this trip.

Chad and I headed up to Portage last weekend. I know - another portage post right after the last one? Sorry, but that 2nd part was a continuation of the actual trip back in November. I know - lame blog fail on my part, but I wanted to get the recipes posted. This weekend proved to be another great success - and in real time, yay!

It was a weekend of wood-fires, reading (I started the first book of the Twilight trilogy,) cooking and eating. Friday, I was lazy so we cracked a bag of jalapeno chips (my favorite!) and threw in a frozen pizza. I had a hankering for "swill" beer, so I was drinking high-life, the champagne of beer, and managed to guzzle 4 throughout the evening. Sometimes beer just tastes so good! Definitely not clean eating nor healthy, but I was in comfort food heaven.

Saturday, I woke early-ish (way before Chad got up) so I made my favorite and typical breakfast: 2 eggs, over-easy on toast with bacon. If there's one tip I can give to making bacon, slow and steady wins the race! Cook on medium-low and be patient. Your bacon will be sure to turn out crispy and chewy and perfect. Man, I love me my bacon!

I had planned a Blueberry French Toast Casserole, but forgot that you are supposed to make it and let it sit overnight. So, I proceeded to make the casserole for the next morning. It is SO EASY. Make sure to make it with REAL blueberries in the casserole part - otherwise it turns out more soggy, in my opinion. I made the mistake of not bringing what I needed for the 2nd part to the recipe (for the blueberry syrup), but it worked with regular syrup instead.

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For the afternoon, I planned to make a potato soup recipe that I found. It looked pretty easy and healthy. It calls to be made in a crock-pot, but like a crack-pot I forgot that at home, so we ended up making it on the stove. I wasn't sure of the timing, but we weren't going anywhere so I just made sure to watch it carefully.

This turned out AMAZING!!! I WILL make this again. I'm lazy and don't like the peel potatoes, and don't mind having peels in my food, so I just cooked them with them on. I chopped the potatoes about a half to one inch cubed and it seemed to cook down pretty well. Also, I used some of the bacon from the morning to add, along with cheese and green onions. These really jazz up the soup (even though it doesn't really need it.

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Favorite part of the weekend? Sunday, it started snowing, and the large windows make it so relaxing to just sit and watch the flakes come down. Also, there is a sky-light in the living area that lets us know when it's raining or coming down hard. I think that is one of my favorite and relaxing sounds. We also were stalking the fishermen on the ice. Chad and I were scoping out what they were up to with our binoculars from time-to-time. We feel so secluded up here, it's nice to see some people out and about!

Here are some more views from our weekend. I am not all that experienced on Instagram so I was playing around with it quite a bit.

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Such a gorgeous view! Very peaceful.
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No birds in this shot, but I love glancing over and seeing what bird comes next. We see tons of different kinds up here.

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I LOVE this mug that my aunt has at the house. They are perfect for cold beer or drinks because they don't sweat, so no coaster needed. There is more to this story coming later this week so check back about my new favorite mugs :)

Funny back-story. We made the Blueberry french toast on a previous trip (last summer). Packing up to head out, we loaded a big cooler full of all our left-overs and took off like we always do. Only, we forgot the cooler in the kitchen. It was the summer so the food did not survive the following weekend when my aunt and uncle made it up there. So, we only got to have the french toast for one meal. Such a bummer, but something we look back on and laugh about!

Hope you enjoy these recipes! I know WE did! :)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Weekend in Portage :: Part II

The fire is roaring!!! Chad is reading while I'm tending to the stock.

Remember back in November when I posted this first part to my trip up to Portage, Wisconsin? Well, here is the long-awaited sequel to this weekend of cooking and r-and-r (I know, finally!) I left off with how to cook a chicken - did you try it? How easy was that! It just takes a little time for the cooking part. So now you have this huge bird. Now what?

I gutted the bird - it gives you SUCH great meat!

Well, for some crazy reason I was wanting to make some chicken stock. I go through these phases where I get so mad at the grocery store - there is so much crappy food out there. Or food that they fill with all this stuff you've never heard of. It's very difficult and expensive to get the better food - that just ticks me off. I believe quality food should be readily accessible and affordable for everyone.

Enough of my rant - so I wanted to make chicken stock - and progress from that to make homemade chicken noodle soup from the chicken that I just cooked as well. The stock wasn't too difficult. More tedious. It took chopping A LOT of veggies (carrots, celery, onions) along with the bones, carcass, and giblets from the chicken, and basically simmering all day. It smelled AMAZING and made the house so cozy and comforting with the aromas. We also had the wood-burning fire-place going all day. Chad is quite the fire-whisperer. I've learned to let him take on this task - If I ever have a desire to go on survivor, then I'll get more hands-on with flint and steel. :)

Here is what the stock looks like - all the veggies are chopped and I'm simmering away.

Once the stock was actually complete, I really was a bit disappointed. I was envisioning it being the best I'd ever tasted! Turned out it didn't have much flavor - probably because of the normal salt and MSG that we have grown so accustom to in food. Anywhoo - I believe the next time I make chicken soup, I will save the time it takes and spend a bit more on low-sodium, organic chicken stock. I'm sure it's probably just as good as what I spent all day making. Plus, I was not too thrilled at all the carrots, celery, and onions that got thrown away after. It seemed like more of a waste.

This is what it looks like when you remove all the junk from the stock. It was a messy process.

But, I have to say, the chicken soup was AMAZING! Making it from scratch with the chicken, and I added whole-wheat egg noodles. My favorite thing to have with a great soup is an equally great bread. We got one of those fresh-baked loaves from the bakery section of the grocery store. Slap on some butter and it's a feast!

Clean Eating Chicken Stock

Chicken Bones
Carrots - chopped
Onions - chopped
Celeery - chopped
2 small bay leaves
1 tbsp peppercorns

1. After you've removed all the edible parts of your chicken, put everything else in a very large stock pot.
2. Add approximately 20 cups of water to the pot
3. Add Veggies (you can add others if you would like). Include carrot tops and celery tops - anything that will give the broth flavor will work.
4. Add your herbs and spices and set the pot to boil. Boil with the lid on ffor the first hour. Then remove the lid and allow the stock to cook down until it achieves the strength of flavor you enjoy. Taste about every 45-60 minutes.
5. Allow the pot to cool and place in fridge overnight.
6. Skim off any fat that has risen to the top.
7. Drain the entire contents of the pot through a sieve into another large pot.
8. Throw out the remains and bottle your stock.

Storage: If you won't be using your stock within 3 days of making it, it can be frozen for 6 months to a year. But, I recommend you us frozen stock no later than 8 months for flavor.

Home-Made Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 2 large onion, diced
  • 8 large carrots, sliced
  • 8 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 16 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Chicken (I used the whole bird that I cooked, chopped up)
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaf
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup parlsey, chopped
  • 16 oz. whole wheat, egg noodles

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery and saute for about 5-8 minutes. Do not brown. Add 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the rest of the chicken broth to the large soup pot along with the whole black peppercorns and bay leaf. Add chicken to the soup pot. Turn heat up and return to boil. Add water and noodles. Boil 15-20 minutes until noodles are done. Add freshly ground pepper to taste and 1/4 cup parlsey. Stir to combine, remove bay leaf, and serve.



Monday, January 21, 2013

The Secret to Life :: Balance

It has been quite a while since I have blogged as frequent as I would like! I came into some freelance design work (which I was thrilled about - great timing to make some extra mullah for the wedding!) and that has taken up all my free-time. I know we all try to juggle 'it all' now-a-days, but if there's one secret I've learned in life it's a life of balance. "Too much of a good thing" good or bad can be very evident in life now today... I believe in work-hard, but also believe in playing and resting hard as well.

With Graphic design, I feel at times like I have have my closest and personal relationship with my computers. First, during the day with my desktop at work, and then right when I got home I would again jump on my laptop and begin clicking constantly into the evening until it was time to head to bed. Chad was very good at helping me out by making dinners or doing the dishes so I could squeeze in a bit more time here-and-there. I had a defined deadline, so keeping on task and not getting behind was very important in the large task that I was given. As much as I love my machines, I really relish the time I am able to get away from them.

Thought the past few months it has definitely made me think about how grateful I am that I learned how to be disciplined and good at scheduling my time. Back in school, I was the total opposite; leaving projects until the ultimate last minute. I think those experiences traumatized me enough to want to plan ahead and stay on task when trying to achieve an ultimate goal. It doesn't come without procrastination here-and-there, still, but now I even slot for those breaks in order to keep my sanity.

Now that my most recent project is finished, I've been really enjoying the time away from my computer. I have even buried my cell phone more than normal - avoiding social media, contact and other technology if I can help it. Ironically enough, I'm now cuddling up with my kindle reading some books I've been dying to read. Hence the great fulfillment of balance has returned.

Working out is another area that is a great example where balance is needed. Before my project I was on a great schedule for working out - attending classes at least 3 times a week. Since the holidays, I took a bit of a hiatus due to travel, being sick, and just wanting to break from the normal schedule. It's been a great run, but even though I really relish laying around all day doing nothing but watching tv and reading, I definitely notice a change in the quality of my energy and sleep. Next week begins getting back into the routine again. I have a major goal that is leering over me so I need to start taking the initial steps to achieving it. The break has been great because I've really gotten to enjoy it and didn't let myself feel guilty for laying around. That's pretty tough to do - isn't it?

Eating is another huge area that I struggle with balance. Especially during the holidays - there is so much decadent and indulgent food just lying there for you to in-hail... and I did! It was amazing - my major vices were shrimp and cocktail sauce, chips-and-dip, and the wonderful meals our families provided. Now, I'm back to working more of the nutritional food... veggies and such, but in the cold weather I crave comfort foods like mad. Mac-n-cheese, or mashed potatoes - I haven't been regulating what I eat, but more-so how much. That seems to really work for me so I don't feel deprived. But getting back on track is not easy. It is a little-by-little battle for sure (difficult for the impatient, like me)!

Finally, my hiatus from posting on this blog is up! I have lots planned in the coming months and lots to clue you in on regarding the wedding. We have made most of the major decisions so far - Reception location, Ceremony location, the family has been asked, dresses have been ordered. While I don't want to reveal the details (in anticipation for the big day) I can tell you some cool things I've learned along the way. Also, I've been doing design work that I've been meaning to share on here.

So, here's to lots of different posts to come! Remember - it's ok to say no to certain things in your life for periods of time and not feel guilty about it. No one can do everything and do it all well (without being miserable). Well, maybe Martha Stewart, but I like the imperfect and don't feel like I have to put on a show or impress others. I do it because I like it and I like to; if that changes, so will my motivation. Plus, when you take on too much you really sacrifice quality. I'd much rather do less things well, than have it all be half-@$$ed! Balance - such a simple concept and yet how easily we stray!
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