Archive for December, 2011

Merry + Green Christmas!

Posted on December 16th, 2011 by Tonia No Comments

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We’re heading off to the cabin in the woods with Mike’s side of the family this weekend. There will be games, gifts, food, laughter, football, and lots and lots of kissing/playing with our sweet niece. Pret-ty excited!

Please excuse the quietness of the blog lately…the holidays have officially taken over our lives for the time being. I’m sure, and I hope, that you’re busy with your own holiday celebrations, so you don’t need me distracting you anyway. ;)

Until we meet again, here are a couple posts I did last year regarding eco-friendly and homemade holiday decorations:

Green Christmas Decor
Green Christmas Decor II

And more homemade decor ideas that will transform your home into a cozy holiday scene without a lot of plastic crap that will sit in a landfill for eternity after you’re done with it:

Ice lanterns {we’re going to do this for our New Years Eve party! You can buy an ice mold -or- you can cut the top off a milk jug and fill it with water!}
Plaid-shirt ornaments {I’d try to use something other than styrofoam for the inside, though…}
Paper-bag flowers {to go with your coffee-filter poufs, of course!}
Yarn balls {would make a beautiful centerpiece for the table, piled in a bowl. Make them smaller and with Christmas-colored yarn, perhaps.}

Happy Holidays, all you wonderful readers!

Homemade Holiday Gifts: Headbands

Posted on December 15th, 2011 by Tonia 5 Comments

It has been a regular ol’ Santa’s workshop around here lately! I am crafting up a storm. Yesterday I made six of these puppies:

Here’s the tutorial I followed. I wear a headband like this almost every day. It’s probably my favorite accessory and is especially handy when my bangs are in the annoying growing-out stage, or when I’m camping and haven’t washed my hair for days. I am so glad I learned how to make this kind of headband and I hope that my girlfriends who receive them will find them as handy and as cute as I do.

Hope your gift-making is going well! We’re getting down to the wire!

Paella Party

Posted on December 12th, 2011 by Tonia 1 Comment

Our friends hosted a dinner party this weekend and made paella for everyone. Nothing tastes better on a cold winter night than a plate of spicy, smokey rice. The Italians have risotto, the Spanish have paella. Both are delicious and make it easy to feed a lot of people, so they’re perfect for dinner parties {or big Catholic families.}

We arrived early to help them mince the herbs, chop the onions, and get the fire started. Paella is traditionally cooked outside over a fire pit in a large, shallow pan. I wondered what the Spaniards would think of us, cooking paella this way in the middle of December with six inches of snow on the ground.

Folks started to arrive, and we all huddled in our coats and boots around the fire pit, watching the magic happen. First the pork, marinated in pomegranate juice and herbs, was browned in the pan. Then the garlic and onions went in, along with a healthy amount of oil. Then the sausage was added along with a big bowl of chopped watercress and other herbs. And finally the rice was poured into the mix and sauteed a moment before everything was coated with homemade chicken broth and hot wine, covered with foil and left alone to cook.

Our friends served the paella with a huge salad of greens, pomegranate seeds, and oranges. Dessert was homemade chocolate mousse, topped with whipped cream and homemade chocolate lace cookies. Everyone died and went to heaven. It was incredible.

Are you salivating yet? Good, because I really think you ought to make yourself a steaming bowl of paella tonight. Here’s a basic recipe, but you can get much fancier or creative with it if you’re brave. The meat is optional and flexible in this dish. We used pork loin and sausage in our version, because that’s what we have locally-raised and free-range around here. If you’re lucky enough to live near an ocean, by all means use seafood.

Cooking meals together is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend the cold winter months. This meal goes well with your most conversational friends and this song playing in the background.

Chicken, Shrimp and Chorizo Paella The Jewels of New York

serves 4

1 Spanish chorizo sausage, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken thighs
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon spanish paprika
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1 1/2 cups Arborio or other short grain rice
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
salt and pepper to taste

*special equipment: large paella pan or large shallow skillet

Season chicken with salt, pepper and a light dusting of paprika.

In a large paella pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Saute chorizo until browned and edges curl. Remove and reserve for later use. In the same pan, add chicken and brown skin side down until crispy but not cooked though. Reserve to the side.

Over medium heat, sauté onions, garlic and parsley until golden and soft. Combine rice and 3 cups of broth into mixture. Bring to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste and add crumbled saffron.

Add chicken, chorizo and shrimp and continue to simmer without stirring until the liquid has evaporated and the rice is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Cover with foil to ensure all rice cooks through. Finish paella by turning up the heat during the last bit of cooking, this gives a nice toasted rice bottom to the dish. Let the dish rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving. Stir in peas and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

{Images from The Jewels of NY blog}

Mysteries

Posted on December 7th, 2011 by Tonia 1 Comment

{First photo taken at Potter’s Farm, the rest taken on our property.}