Monthly Archives: December 2015

¡Feliz año Nuevo!

it’s December 31st and another year is gone. Just like everyone, I’m sure, my year was filled with ups and downs and it was a crazy roller coaster ride. One I wouldn’t trade in for anything. 

I’m working on a ‘year in review’ to share with you some of our experiences; see what we’ve been up to and where we’re going next. 

I’m very lucky to have our beautiful, healthy and happy little familia, to be living on a tropical island, having my father share in watching Gabriela grow up, and all the love and support from James’ parents, Vicki and Don, as well as all of our dear family and friends. 

So be safe tonight out there and I hope that 2016 will bring many more memories and happy times to all of you. ❤️

Cheers, 

Jen, James, and Gabriela

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¡Feliz navidad!

i hope everyone had an awesome merry Christmas! Ours was pretty low key with not much happening other than…. Building a chicken coop!

Yes, my friends, you read right! We are constructing our very own chicken coop that will (soon) house 4 chickens. Keeping chickens has been something my husband has wanted to do for years but unfortunately we could never pull the trigger in Dothan because we knew we’d be leaving at anytime. We feel pretty certain we’re here for the long haul so finally he gets his chickens! 

The three of us (but mostly my father) have been tackling this project and being that I know nothing of carpentry, it’s actually been pretty fun. We’re doing this Design and so far so good (knock on wood)!

We’ll be getting chicks so we can raise them ourselves and they will become familiar with us. We’re hoping to purchase the in the next few weeks…once I read up on chick care. I know, what are we getting ourselves into. 😉

The holidays have wreaked havoc on my meal planning and cooking, not to mention a screwy work schedule for the husband so not much to report on the cooking Homefront. We did get to enjoy some zucchini last night that was picked from our garden. It’s amazing how different fresh picked produce vs supermarket produce tastes! The green beans are blooming, tomatoes are growing, herbs are coming in, and hoping for some more zucchini and squash!

So I’ll be posting updates on our progress so check back! We’ll (of course) be naming our little pets so if you have any ideas please feel free to share!

  

I wonder Wednesday

i can totally blame my lateness on it being Christmas week, right?? Hey, a procrastinator can try!

With that being said, I’m sure there is going to be amazing feasts happening the next few days and lots of layers of flavors and ingredient combinations happening. If you checked my last blog post I mentioned a bit of a mixed review from the pork dish I made. It was quite yummy but my father has a hard time reconciling eating something savory (pork chops and onions) with something sweet (apples). 

Which made me wonder: how do you all feel about combining  savory and sweet?

I love it! Sweet and sour pork/chicken; prosciutto and cantaloupe; spinach salad with cranberries and goat cheese — I could go on… And my all time favorite: fig and prosciutto pizza with buffalo mozzarella and arugula (oh how I miss me some figs). I find the flavor complexities interesting and it adds a little something more to the mix. My father on the hand, not so much. 

And that’s quite ok. He’s never not eaten anything I’ve made (he picks off the figs and gives them to me so that’s a bonus, right??!!), it’s just not his style. 

So what’s your take on this debate?

I hope everyone has an amazing Christmas and holiday with your family, loved ones, and friends. Stay safe and be merry and we’ll talk soon!

   

my _Mad Hungry_ week!

I did it, folks! I cooked the whole week from one cookbook: Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys. Well, ALMOST a week. Friday was beach day and yes, a pizza did find it’s way into the house. And let me tell you, it was yummy! You need a day off, right??!!

And before I even really get started, no, i did not do pictures. Again. I don’t know why not. So you’ll have to just imagine some beautiful dishes and instead see some cute pics of sweet baby Gabriela.

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lunching with her buddies

All in all I was very pleased with all the recipes. None were too time consuming (other than the (braised beef short ribs) . These guys need to be marinated overnight (or at least 6 hours) so really get the taste to go throughout the ribs. Unfortunately, I could only find the long skinny type of ribs here on the island. If you can, I totally recommend that you try to find the thick, shorter versions of the ribs. Braising really takes a bite out of the overall amount of meat you start with (so I also suggest over-shooting the amount you need/the recipe calls for. Left-overs are always a bonus). Because mine were on the thin and long side some didn’t start off with very much meat so by the time 3 hours go by the only thing you’re left with is just a bone. Bummer. But that flavor does enhance the sauce. So moral of the story: get extra meat! The sauce was very rich and it was pretty good mixed with the mashed potatoes.

I grilled (in the rain) LSQ’s flat roast chicken. If you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken (or turkey for that matter) I highly suggest you give it a try. AND get a brick or two, wrap them in aluminum foil and put them on top of the chicken to help press it down and to get a really good even sear. It’s a little daunting at first but once ou get confident in breaking down your chicken you’ll want to do it instead of buying an already cut up chicken, which can cost a little more.

I also rubbed some butter mixed with extra herbs under the skin of the breast to boost the flavor and to make sure it didn’t dry out. It really does make a difference. 

We love shrimp around here so I of course had to do her Shrimp scampi. This is very simple and straightforward. I like this version because it really does make the shrimp the star, enhanced by the sauce. I may have put in more bitter than what was called for but I can neither confirm or deny that. Seriously, for a quick weeknight dinner that just feels fancy, give this a try! 

I had mixed reviews on the Pork chops with apples and onions. Mixed being it was just my dad and me trying them out and not anything bad, just a difference of opinion on combining savory and sweet all together on one plate. I’m saving this debate for my ‘I wonder wednesday’ post so be sure to check back. 🙂 My father cleaned his plate so I’m sure it wasn’t THAT bad. 

I’m a sucker for a good soup and I seem to always have lots left over so my freezer stash consists of chicken and dumplings, beef barley, and now a very hearty Lentil soup. The cookbook version is vegetarian (you can either add chicken or vegetable broth) but my guys like meat so I added ground beef. I cooked off the beef in the same pot while I was sautéing the onions, carrots, and celery. I don’t normally season too much at this point because I drain the fat and you don’t want to lose much flavor. I also added frozen spinach for some extra nutrients. Loved. It! I served it along with a grilled cheese. What could be any better? 

 

So there you have it: my week in review. There’s still plenty more recipes I want to try so I’ll be keeping this cookbook in the mix. It’s a shame her show is no longer on air. It was always neat seeing her cook with her three boys, mother, siblings, husband…anyone. Food really does bring people together. 

I’ll be doing dishes from Ree Drummonds new cookbook Dinnertime. This is my first book of hers and I love it because it’s like reading her blog, but in a book. Great photos and her personality sure does shine through! 

Oh—- GARDEN UPDATE!!!! So my veggie garden was pretty much destroyed over the summer because of our drought. Being somewhat lazy I left two tomato plants hanging out because they were still producing fruit here and there but nothing substantial. I figured they’d feed some birds. Fast forward a few months, after pulling everything out, turning the soil, fertilizing, and dropping in more soul, we started seeing little tomato seedlings  popping up. Everywhere. Apparently the dropped fruits started to seed and I had (at least) 20-30 new plants growing. Without any intervention from me! I thinned them out, replanted some throughout our yard, gave to friends and now we’re left with 16 tomato plants (I couldn’t bear the thought of killing them off. Yep, I’m odd.)

multiple plants starting from a cherry tomato

one square filled with seedlings. another square was just as filled as well as seedlings scattered all around.


Along with the crazy tomatoes, I was able to get lots of seeds into the ground and within weeks our garden has exploded! 

 

just planted seeds

   
 

zuchinni, squash, beans, and cucumbers

  

little seedlings popping up


 

bananas from our tree

  

our first zuchinni: easter egg. so fresh tasting. and white globe radishes.


 

See you soon, friends! 
  

What’s cooking *update*

Can you believe Christmas is a week from Friday?!? What?? I swear the older I get the faster time is going by and I can’t tell you how much I want it to slow down because my sweet darling baby Gabriela is growing up way too fast! I know, clichèd, but it’s true. And damn Timehop doesn’t help when I see how itty bitty she was a year ago…

 

sweet girl was 3 days old. (July 13, 2014)

  

future soccer star in the making (taken Dec. 13, 2015)


Sigh…

So what’s cooking this week? If you remember my previous post (from LAST WEEK – eeeck – I’m trying to get better, I promise), I’m going to be doing recipes from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s _Mad Hungry: feeding men and boys. So yesterday (actually Sunday, being it’s Tuesday at 3.30am right now) I sat down and went through her whole cookbook, page by page. And I just gotta say: I really love going through a cookbook like that and I don’t really do it very often. Sure when I just get a new one I’ll flip through it quickly but normally I use them as a quick reference for a recipe. To really take the time to read the ingredients list, check out out the prep, and gaze upon the wonderfully styled photos is pretty darn enjoyable…. Or maybe it’s just me??

Here is what will be cooking this week. (Note: there’s one more but I can’t think of it for the life of me while laying in bed so check back later this morning when I can get to my list and update. Thanks!) 

Spatchcocked chicken

Pork chops with apples and onions

Lentil soup

Shrimp scampi

* what I forgot….beef short ribs….yum!

I’m really really hoping to stick to this plan but life with baby, sleepless nights (on my end), and the husband working nights, life may just hand us a pizza for dinner. I’m going to try to track down the recipes I use online but that can be hit or miss. If there’s a dish you’d like to try but I can’t post the recipe shoot me a message and I’ll do my best to get it to you. 

So far we’ve done her spatchcocked chicken, which I grilled yesterday. In the rain. And Monday we had pork chops with onions and apples. I’ll talk more of these later this week. Oh! And Hasselback potatoes—- have you ever had/made them? I first attempted it Sunday with the chicken but they came out a bit undercook. Tried again with the pork and turned out much better but a bit too crispy for me (but my father loved them). I’m trying to find that happy medium. Any suggestions??

Hopefully now I can drift off to sleep. Thankfully Gabriela loves to sleep in (8am wake-ups lately. Score!) so I’ve got a few hours for some zzzzzzz’s. 

*update #2- I jinxed myself…she was wide ass awake at 6am. Ugh. 😉

 

freezer stash of _Mad Hungry_ beef empanadas i made the other weekend. goes straight from the freezer to the oven.

 
 

On feeding men…

Hey gang! Hope all is going well as we are getting closer to the holiday season. Living on an island where the temps hover around 82 degrees daily really doesn’t help get one into feeling very festive. Or at least I don’t feel too festive. But my little town sure knows how to do it up right with decorations! (I’ll have to get pics of our town square). 

So I have the special privilege of cooking and feeding two men in my household: my husband and father (as well as my good – at times- little eater, Gabriela). But man, do they eat! My dad is a meat and potato kinda guy who graciously humors me when I spend 5 hours making a Julia recipe and my husband, who will eat ANYTHING, has turned into a little foodie by giving me very detailed descriptions of how my food tastes. I guess being married to a former restaurant reviewer for a magazine rubbed off on him. Score!

So my dinners have to be hearty and substantial for my crew. And I can’t lie, I love me a big plate of food. This is why I run!

I started watching Lucinda Scala Quinn‘s _Mad Hungry_ a few years ago before it was discontinued. She was a pretty big deal working with Martha Stewart and I just loved her presence and pretty much everything that she cooked. She, too, had a household of all men and she penned a cookbook directed to just that: Feeding Men and Boys. And she has a few more out there, too. 

 

This book rocks! It’s got everything from breakfast to dessert and even includes salads. We are salad kinda people. I haven’t done very many recipes since I’ve had the cookbook so I’m thinking next week I’ll exclusively cook from it. And then move on to another book so I can get use out of the 15 or so that I have!

I did make her empanadas the other day, though, with some modifications of course. I just can’t do a recipe as is. They are in the freezer ready for those days of a needed quick bite. 

I’m excited to meal plan over the weekend and I’ll try to post the recipes that I’ll be working from on the very unused recipes tab on the blog, as well as do some very needed updates here and there. 

Have a great rest of the week and we’ll chat soon! 

   

Mustard spanked chicken

yea, I was hoping the title caught your attention. And I figure with my being MIA I owe you, my fabulous followers, a fun post and recap!

For those who are new around here, this recipe was taken from _the 50 shades of chicken_ cookbook that my lovely husband got me years ago. My mother in law was visiting for the holiday and why not a roast chicken??!! This was pretty good: you mix Dijon mustard with fresh chopped basil, garlic (lots), olive oil and a splash of white wine and you smear (or spank) it all over your bird. I’ve started separating the skin from the breast and thighs/legs and putting the seasoning there to add extra flavor and to keep things nice and juicy. I think next time I’ll up the herbs and marinate either earlier in the morning or overnight because the flavore really didn’t penetrate all the way through. 

 

visiting with oma is thumbs up!

 
Which brings me to thanksgiving (and of course no pics. I suck.). I swear, the day before AND the day ocbmj f thanksgiving are my favorite days of the year. I look forward to making a menus, chopping, prepping, sautéing my way through recipes. It’s so calming for me that I can’t understand how people freak out about it! Planning helps a lot! 

So I normally start the day before to knock out some dishes so I’m not spending all day in the kitchen on Thursday. Last year we went to the beach, came home, started the turkey and all was awesome. 

  
Here was our turkey day line-up. I’ve been in a bit of a Pioneer Woman kick so I used a few of her recipes. Here we go!

– Turkey brine via Alton brown. I will ONLY do my turkey this way and if you invite me to your house I’ll insist on doing the turkey. Just sayin. 

– Spinach artichoke dip for a pre-dinner snack. 

– Cranberry sauce. I added more sugar because my orange was quite tart. 

– Green bean casserole. Uhm, YUM!

– Dressing. I used this as a base and added mushrooms and omitted the clove and nutmeg. So earthy and flavorful!

– Spice infused sangria. Because you need a good libation. And the fruit is oh so delicious!

– the gravy I just improvised using the turkey drippings, mixing in flour to form a roux, rosemary and thyme from the garden, and butterrrrrr. Mmmmmmm. 

I was planning on mashed potatoes but my crew were napping late and I lost motivation. Lol. But there was more than enough of oh so yummy goodness! 

It was a great day and a great week with oma!

 

mojitos!

  

gabriela’s furst virgin pina colada.


Hope everyone had a fabulous turkey day and I’m glad to be back! ❤️

 

The Life of Jan

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