Saturday, October 30, 2010

Olive garden without the tacky paint job or fake grapes.

I know, you're about to fall over right? 3 Posts in as many days.  What is the world coming to?  :)

I couldn't pass up this linky party at Southern In My Heart because it involves my favorite way to cook.  Mainly because you can't mess it up.  Unless you're my friend Ashley, and then, well, all bets are off.  

Yes, Ashley does read this, but she'll laugh :) and nod in agreement (and then probably pay me back at work on Monday).  So...this is for YOU Ash.   Smooches. I really do love ya babe.

I make a mean knock-off of the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.  And while i'm bragging, i will go a little further. Mine's better. I use less potatoes, more kale, more meat, and i think more cream, because my version is thicker than the restaurant's.  And instead of white onions, i use leeks. YUMMY.

We start here:

This is snapshot of everything that gets thrown in.  DISCLAIMER - While EACH of the above ingredients is used in this recipe - i did NOT use the entire lot. I was only feeding myself and Vance - they just made a prettier picture with it all spread out.  Moving along...

Here is what i actually used:

  • 3 tablespoons EVOO 
  • An entire bunch of chopped Kale (to give you an idea - 2 bunches are shown here)
  • Entire box Chicken Broth shown above - regular - NOT low sodium - that's for wimps.
  • 1/2 carton of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 lb. Italian Sausage
  • 1 SUPER large Russet Baking Potatoes sliced in thin slices
  • 1 large leek - sliced or chopped. It's soup - it doesn't matter.
  • BACON BACON BACON (As much as your little heart can handle)
Heat up olive oil over med heat.
Scissor up sausage into your pot (I used 2 1/2 of those links pictured above) and brown in the olive oil.  When i use cased sausage for recipes like this i use scissors to cut it up into the pot. I know, weird. But it's easier.
Add bacon when sausage is about cooked through and brown that.  (I used only 3 slices this go around)

This is the point you'll be at in your pot - it should look like this, Ashley.

Can you smell it - this is where scratch and sniff monitors would rock, people.  Someone should get on that.

OK.  Onward.  Now, throw in that gorgeous leek.....

Move it around in there.  Make it feel at home with the bacon.  Now, it's really starting smell great in the kitchen.  This is about where you can tell you know how to work your stove.  and about the point where the man-child starts wondering into the kitchen asking what you're cooking. :0)

After you saute it for a bit, (Ash, this means a minute  - you don't want the leek to get to soft or cooked looking. you want some crisp left in it at this point) throw in those potato slices. This was one large Russet Gold.  You want to use a Russet - they don't go to mush in the pot. NO WHITE OR RED POTATOES FOR THIS SOUP.

Pour box of stock in AND NOW TURN DOWN HEAT TO LEVEL 2 OR LOW.
Throw chopped kale on top.
Stir it around gently so things are mixed up.
While you're stirring, the stove top should be cooling down.  Give it about 5 minutes or 10 minutes depending on your stove for it come down to low heat.

Bored?  Have a glass of wine. Tell yourself how awesome you are.  Make your christmas list.  The one your hubby's going to buy for you.

Now come back to the pot and pour in your cream.   All of this you-time was so that your cream didn't curdle when you poured it into hot liquid.  See - you are an ace multi-tasker! 

Once your cream is warmed gently thru - TURN OFF THE STOVE.  
I promise the soup will stay warm enough AND YOU DON'T WANT CURDLED CREAM.

At this point, we took a walk around the neighborhood which took about 30 minutes. By the time we got back, the potatoes were cooked to perfection.  For us, that means they weren't mushy, they were firm but cooked and were still in slices, not falling apart.  If you want mushier potatoes, you may want to leave the pot on low - very low - for a little bit longer.  

(if you've used the ingredients like i laid them out - there probably is no need for salt or pepper.  The kale is peppery to begin with, and the chicken stock was loaded with salt - AND i don't know if you noticed, but we didn't use any water - just stock and cream - so lots of flavor here)

This is our favorite winter soup.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ashley, go cook.  now. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

Growing up right.

I'm linking over to my vf Vanessa's blog today for Inspiration Fridays - sharing what inspired me this week.

This is what inspires me.  Keeps me motivated to keep going. Keep trying.  This boy (and his brother).

A mom came up to me this week just to tell me thank you, that this boy - this sweet child of mine - had really made her son feel welcome and included.  She had mentioned that there were some cliques in the neighborhood, but Walker had really reached out to her son.  

It meant a lot to her - but you know what - it meant just as much to me, if not more.  knowing that he listens, he gets it.  He's got compassion.  Oh sweet, sweet boy. I'm so proud of you. So much.

We all strive to get our kids to listen.  Be good.  Make good grades.  Stand up straight.  No sass.  But you wonder if it's sinking in at all.  At least i do.  Daily.  I hear myself and shudder sometimes.  Other times, i lay in bed at night replaying conversation or "discussions" with the wee ones and what i should have done or said, not what i did. How i could have handled something better.  Wondering if they're already tuning me out.

Thanks Walker for not just listening, but hearing.  and doing.  and being you.  Mommy loves you so much.

You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. - Deuteronomy 11:19

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Cheap Date

I know you thought I disappeared, but really, i'm just trying to knock out projects one at a time - and honestly, I've had more fun reading your blogs than crafting my own lately!  

However...  :0).........the man returns tonight after being gone all friggin weak AND my little children just left on a plane with their dad for the Westpoint game this weekend - which, sidenote, a tad jealous that the boys are running around NYC without me!!  Oh well.  Where was I?  Oh! We are child free this weekend and V is coming home - so i thought i would set a pretty table and get the playlist ready and have a little romance waiting on him when he returns!

So...i am linking over to Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursdays! I don't think I can remember ever participating in this blog party - not even on the old blog - but i thought it would be fun today.  This is in our sunroom.  Usually, where homework, PS2, and lately, talk about girls (i can't stand it) occurs when the boys are home.  This is their haven...but not tonight!

I see below that I really need to do something about that security sticker.  It's not necessary, and to be honest, kind of bugly.  Not familiar with that term? Butt UglySee, you learned something today.  I'm here to help.  I also see below that there are screw holes that need caps in the french window frames.  GAH.....another project.  WHEN DOES IT END GIRLS, WHEN??


All in all, I'm kind of pleased with my little impromptu soiree set up here.  If you're interested in the details - here they are:  The 3 votive glass candlesticks were in a set from Walmart for $6.97, as were the pumpkin spice votive candles for $0.99 each - and trust me when i say this - Walmart has the STRONGEST (better than yankee IMO) smelling fall candles around. I can't speak to the other scents - i haven't tried them - but the fall ones are all over my house - and they're $5 for the large jar.  

The orange plates - also Walmart from like 4 years ago.  The placemats and napkins were $2.00 a piece from there also - this week - and very cute!  Leaves....Michaels on clearance like 12 years ago. Not kidding - those stupid leaves have moved with me 4 times.  Iced Tea goblets...hold on to your seat...Target.  Yes, i left Walmart for Target.  But...these were also like 10 years ago.  Gosh, i'm beginning to think i have a very cheap, dated table!  Well at least the bowls didn't come from the bargain bin - those came from Pottery Barn a couple years ago.  on clearance. ahem.

So, we're having Lemon-Olive chicken, which when i type this, doesn't sound so good, but it is.  If you like lemons and olives. It's kind of Mediterranean. And i'm going to work on the playlist - I'm thinking some Corrine Bailey Rae, maybe some John Mayer or Jack Johnson...any suggestions? I love a good playlist for different events.

That's it sweets - I promise to get off my duff and post this weekend.

Oh - and for those of you doing the Fly Lady thing - it's entries and Dining Rooms this week - get on it girlies!

Monday, October 18, 2010

There's enough time. I think.

                                                 Simplify 101

I can't be the only one that does this - spring cleans in the fall?  

Our spring is usually spent outside the home - pressure - washing the house, cleaning the windows, screens.  Tearing out the bits of yard that didn't survive the winter and planting the garden.

The fall is when deep cleaning happens inside.  I usually plan out what needs to be done as a countdown to the Christmas holiday - something i got from Fly Lady.  I know everyone knows her - but it's true - without her game plan, i would be sunk before the malls ever put up the first Christmas tree of the season! Do you follow her?

What I love the most is the plan never changes so you're never behind.  Your house is broken down into zones - and it's just repeated each month  - so if you start mid-month, no worries, you just cycle your way back through until the deep cleaning is complete!

I'm starting this week - and this week is the master bedroom.  But before i can get to this....
    from pottery barn

....I have to clean my little heart out!  (actually as cozy as that PB bedroom looks, i think flylady would be ALL over that stack of books and the clutter on the nightstands!)

Thankfully, i'm not left alone to my own devices - there is a playbook that tells me exactly what to do and the order to do it in.  Here is the master bedroom playbook for detailed cleaning you can find on her site:


If you want to start along with me - here is the schedule and i have already given you the link above - i'm ready for the most wonderful time of the year to be here! almost.

These are the zones for October - mark your calendars:

  • Zone 1: The Entrance, Front Porch and Dining Room (October 1)

  • Zone 2: The Kitchen (October 4 - 8)

  • Zone 3: The Bathroom and One Extra Room (October 12 - 15)

  • Zone 4: The Master Bedroom (October 18 - 22)

  • Zone 5: The Living Room (October 26 - 30)

  • Maybe i'll document in pics to make you all feel better about where I'm starting from! Misery loves company :)

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Getting through.

    I don't like surprises.  I hate the unknown.  I'm the girl who has a Plan A, B, C all the way to Z.  I am the one people come to so THEY can calm down.  I'm also the one that has anything on her that you might need at any given time - in my purse.  Ask anyone who sits around me at church. 

    Crayons? got'em.  Tissues, pens, writing paper, gum, bandaid, hand sanitizer, camera (duh, i'm a blogger)...all in that huge mystery bag i carry around.

    photo Country Living

    So, when my future hangs in the balance with regard to my employment, i don't do so well.  And I don't have a back up plan because well, you know, jobs are hard to come by here in Florida where the unemployment rate is above the national average. 

                                                       Country Living, again.

    Times are tough and have been for quite a while for quite a few people.  Including those on my team at work - some of them have only been working with us for a year or less - coming to us from being down-sized out of their previous employ.  Now we're going through it again. But no one is telling us anything yet, but to trooper on.  Keep your nose down.  Work until we tell you not to.  Don't get an attitude. Yea.

                                                CL again

    It's scary, and quite frankly, it stinks.

    And for the last 2 days, it's zapped every ounce of energy i have right out of my body.  Monday night, i sat on the couch and fell asleep before 8:30.  Then yesterday, Vance was hanging a curtain rod in our bedroom, and i sat down on the bed, and fell promptly asleep. (which, btw, wasn't such a bad thing since it was dinnertime and it got me out of making dinner.)  He woke me up at 7 and i'd been asleep for over an hour! WHO DOES THAT??????  i can't remember, aside from yesterday, the last time i took a nap.  

                                               Country Living

    It's funny, i've always said if i had more time, if i didn't work, i would ...make jam.  bake more.  start quilting again.  (yes, i do know how to quilt).  My best friends have said that it wouldn't surprise them if they saw me selling vegetables and jam on the side of the road. That's the real me.  City girl stuck in this concrete city.   I just don't know if i'm ready for that.  I mean, i really like and need a paycheck.

    Pray for me peeps. It's a bumpy ride.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Window Shopping in Savannah.

    Any sign with this on it has me at hello....and how can you NOT walk in when the window out front looks like this...

    Do you see that dress form?? Look at all those layers of fabric.  

    And this just beckons you in. I way dying right about here, btw.  Can you see that chair peaking out?

    Here's it's sister, Ms. Slipper Chandy.

    I wanted to take everything here home. Including that dress made out of black leaves.  What a halloween display.  Glass skulls, check.  Mercury Arsenic bottles, check. Black leaf dress, of course, check.


    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Finally a little fall decor.

    ***edited to add that I'm linking to Cottage and Vine's Falling Up Party***

    I know.  I'm really behind the times.  Nester and her 31 days of baskets, i mean fall. If you're reading her, you'll get the joke behind the basket comment.  But I had a good reason. My camera crapped out and i struggled for a few weeks on whether to bite the bullet and buy the one i really wanted - because i really had a hard time choking down the cost.  But i also have a hard time replacing cameras every 3 years - and that's been the life span of my last 3 point and shoots so.... you know where this going, right? Let's just say i have pictures with this post today.

    We have been really busy around here but a lot of what we've been busy doing doesn't warrant pictures.  Like, i know you really don't want to see the new enviro friendly flush system we installed on our toilet - so i'll spare you that.  Or the debris in the backyard from the oak tree V is in the middle of trimming.   Or the flooring that Vance installed in the attic so we could start putting boxes from our garage up there.  

    Maybe i SHOULD show you - i would feel better thinking we are actually making progress here.  But those aren't the fun ones.  

    Here are the fun ones :)

    Remember when we took the first stab at the front door with paint, but i said there was more to come?  This is where it started originally...

    and this is where we last left it...we hated those fake frosted panes from 1980.  Those had to go.  Vance wanted to just take a hacksaw to them and i was all like "sure...honey...." and worried that we would end up buying new doors after some botched murder job with a hacksaw.

    And this is where we are today....and door-icide....just pretty clear glass. Love that man.  

    How do you like my Southern Living at Home baskets?  These are my absolute favorite accessory.  I stuff all kinds of things in there - the only thing is i need to put some felt on the back because they're already scratching up my paint and that's not gonna do.  

    Here's a closer shot.  I love the frosted autumn fruit.

     I also did a little sprucing up on the inside and will do more this week...but this is good for starters.  I gave my candle a burlap snuggie and a fruit wrap.  Vance laughed. And then quickly said it looked awesome.  Smart man.

    See that beautiful turquoise teapot? His mom sent that to us when Vance mentioned  i loved hot tea.  I love this piece.  I love the color, i love the bird on top. I just love it.  Very very pretty to me.  I think about her every time i sit down on the couch and see it - she's a very awesome woman and very talented writer. My mother gave us the serving tray last Christmas and it quickly became a favorite of mine as well - it's a great starter base for every season as well. Love me some neutral pieces that i can do a lot with.

    That's it for now chickies.  More to come this week now that i have a camera and all ;0)