Friday, October 28, 2011

Panko Crusted Chicken and Autumn Salad

It has been a really really busy month at work for me and this translates in to not enough time to do things around the house. For one thing we are a little short handed so I've had to pick up some extra shifts, for another October is a huge baby month (apparently) so there have been lot's and lot's of them born every day lately. It definitely keeps me busy but I still try to cook new things occasionally. The other night I did an incredibly simple dish (largely due to lack of time) that turned out to be really tasty. Here it is,

This is all made from stuff I had leftover in the fridge and it just came together really well. I had this chicken I bought because it was on sale that I needed to use up so I dipped it in milk, dredged it in seasoned panko crumbs and pan fried it in olive oil. It took maybe 5 minutes on each side to cook and then I stuck it in the oven to keep warm while I made the salad. For the salad I used spinach as a base. I'm a huge fan of spinach salads, I prefer spinach to almost any other type of greenery in my salad. After that it was a matter of using up all the leftover veggies in my fridge so I added chopped celery and carrots, cucumber, and green onions. To give it an Autumn flavor I added chopped apple and dried cranberries and topped it with some slivered almonds and crumbled feta cheese. Over all this was a really tasty and easy meal to make. I used an asiago cheese salad dressing but I think the salad already has so many flavors that it would be better suited with just some oil and vinegar.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adding More Greenery

We've been kind of obsessed with bringing plants inside ever since we bought the house. Something about that Rustic interior seems to cry out for plants and we have been slowly adding plants ever since we moved in. With all these windows it is an ideal environment for growing succulents as well as lots of other types of plants. Here is our latest way of introducing more green in to the house.  

We got the little white pots at Ikea and attached them to the lower part of our loft with bolts. I was able to plant some cuttings of my existing succulent plants in there, I hope they take root and do well!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Fall Decorating

Fall is really in full swing now and I have been adding some more seasonal decorations in preparation for Halloween and Thanksgiving. We have so many acorns and pinecones falling in our yard that I decided to make these candleholders using square glass vases and candles left over from our wedding and filling them part way up with some of the natural items from the yard. We also have a little pumpkin left over from a pumpkin carving party we went to so I may use all three of these things for a Thanksgiving centerpiece.  

We also carved pumpkins last weekend (at the afore mentioned party). The larger one is mine and is loosely based on a tiki head. Eric's is the little one, he made a cute little candle.

That's it for now, I'll let you know what I end up doing with the Thanksgiving centerpiece, I think it needs a bit more tweaking, I may be adding a table runner or something along those lines.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tree Triptych

At long last I've finished the tree paintings I started so long ago! This is a project I began back in February when we had a full week off due to snow and I was cooped up in the house all day. To me that week was heaven, staying at home all day, painting and cooking delicious food in my crock pot. By the time the snow week ended I had only finished two of the three paintings however and I never could quite work up the will to finish the third painting, until today that is :-)  I planed this series of paintings to go over our fireplace in our current house as soon as we started the buying process. We have these huge high ceilings and a big blank wall over the fireplace and I knew I wanted a large piece of art to go there. As a new homeowner however, I knew I wouldn't be able to afford something the size that I wanted to go up there so I decided to make it myself! The imagery is inspired by all the lovely windows that offer views of our plentiful trees. I wanted these paintings to mimic the windows on either side of the fire place and provide a trompe l'oeil effect, acting as faux windows to the outside world. I'm so pleased with how they cam out and so happy to have the whole set finished! Here are some pictures.

The finished triptych

 The images above are some in progress shots taken back at our old house when I was first starting the paintings. I worked in multiples layers of color to add depth and used a lot of scumbling during the process. The paintings are oil on canvas.  

 These a few close up, detail shots of some of the tree branches.

Finished and in their proper place, hooray!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tuscan White Bean Soup

This is another post with no pictures, sorry guys :-( It's partially because by the time I get done making dinner it's pretty dark out now and I don't feel like dealing with the lighting. It's also partially because I use my camera for work every day now and I often accidentally leave it in my car, and then don't feel like going out to get it when there is hot delicious food waiting to be eaten. So basically laziness, I promise the next post will have pictures though :-)

So anyway, on with the post. In 2006 my family took a trip to Italy (specifically Florence) over the Christmas holidays. I have to say it was one of the best trips I've ever taken, it's amazing how much art and culture can exist in one place. And oh my gosh the food! We drank wine with every meal, had some of the best pasta I've ever tasted and had gelato at least 3 times a day. While I was there I had the most amazing white bean soup and I've been on a quest to replicate it ever since.

Last night I came pretty close and by adapting a number of recipes I came up with something magical. here is the recipe, I encourage you to try it, it was amazing and we ended up eating all of it and scraping up the last bits from the bottoms of our bowls, mm mmm!

1 large carrot
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
1 tbs olive oil
1 bunch swiss chard coarsely chopped
1 lb Italian sausage
1 8oz can pureed tomatos
2 cans white beans
2 cups chicken broth (or water with chicken bullion)
4 tbs cooking sherry
2 bay leaves
Pepper to taste
Shaved parmesan cheese to garnish

I started by chopping my garlic, celery, onion and carrots and sautéing them in a little olive oil for about 2 or 3 minutes in a dutch oven. I then added the Italian sausage and cooked all of those things together until the sausage was browned and the onions, carrots, celery and garlic were tender. I then added my chicken broth, white beans, bay leaves, sherry, pepper, chopped swiss chard and pureed tomatos. I didn't find that the recipe needed any extra salt but you can decide that for yourself if you try it. I brought all of this to a boil and then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes or until the chard was tender. After that we scooped it up in to big bowls, topped it shaved parmesan cheese and enjoyed it with a cold beer. It was delightful! It had a rich savory flavor and the chard added just the right amount of earthy bitterness. It was very hearty and filling and we will definitely be making it again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu Planning

This year I have taken on the big challenge of hosting Thanksgiving at our house. I came up with this genius plan right after we got married last year and I was surrounded by all these fancy new casserole dishes and flatware. Hey, why not have all the family over for Thanksgiving next year and get a chance to use all those snazzy dishes? I had to call my plans in to question when the oven stopped working in our rental house last year. However now that we have a our own house with a brand new oven and enough guest bedrooms to accomodate out of town guests the plan is back on. I actually have hosted Thanksgiving once before when I lived in my awesome condo in Atlantic Station but it was really just my immediate family and Eric, all people I feel extremely comfortable with so it wasn't too much pressure for me. Now that I'm a married lady and head of my own household I somehow feel that the stakes are higher. We've invited Eric's Family including his grandma so we have the potential to have 8 or 9 people here for Thanksgiving this year. Needless to say the pressure is on. So in true Audrey from I have been planning super far in advance and making out my menu well ahead of time. I'll also have help from my mom since she has generously volunteered to bring desserts and stuffing, two very key ingredients to the perfect Thanksgiving meal. For my part this is what I'm planning so far.

Turkey- The star of the show. If it were up to me I would just cook a turkey breast since I hate dark meat and it would make my life a lot easier but unfortunately a lot of the men in my life just can't do without dark meat at Thanksgiving. I'm going to try brining the turkey this year since the internet seems to think this is the best way to cook a moist and delicious bird.

Hashbrown Casserole- Just like the Cracker Barrel version! It's so easy to make and delicious, every time I make it it gets gobbled up in no time. It's super fatty and unhealthy which is pretty much why it tastes so good, perfect for Thanksgiving :-)

Sweet Potato Casserole- Mom, Dad and Eric all hate sweet potatoes but Logan and I love them so I'm making them any way :-p

Butternut Squash Soup- Seriously the best soup in the world. We had this at a restaurant in NYC one year on Thanksgiving and it has been a holiday staple ever since.

Cranberry Orange Relish- Not your typical cranberry sauce, this uses all raw ingredients and is just the right amount of tart citrus, the perfect compliment to all those rich foods.

Salad of some kind- Who are we kidding? No one is going to eat salad when there's hashbrown casserole to be had. This is really just so that there is something green on the table.

So that's what I have planned. What are the Thanksgiving staples in your house? I'm trying not to stress myself out too much about this whole thing, if worst comes to worst we can order Chinese :-)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Terrarium Trend

Have you guys noticed how Terrariums are everywhere these days? From what I understand these were big in the 70's and are now making a huge comeback. In my house we are kind obsessed with bringing the greenery inside so I love this idea, it's even better if you live in an apartment and have limited space. I haven't jumped on the bandwagon and gotten one yet, but I'm thinking about it. Regardless it's a trend I can certainly get behind. Here some pretty cool ones from Etsy.

By Sea and Asters

By Blithe Gardens

By Moss and Terrarium

By Tiny Terrains

By e Garden Studio

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rewarding Yourself

I believe in rewarding yourself for job well done. When I first started my job as a photographer at Bella Baby one of my coworkers told me they were planning to get themselves a treat after they photographed 100 babies. What a great idea! I love having little goals and rewards like that to make life more fun. So I decided I would do the same thing and use it as an excuse to expand my art collection. A few weeks ago I passed the 100 mark on baby photography and I ordered myself two prints from Etsy. The first is from YeeHaw studios based out of Eric's home town of Knoxville, TN. I thought it would make a perfect addition to our kitchen.

beautiful letterpress print, unfortunately the light in the kitchen is terrible so this doesn't do it justice. 
 The second is from Groundwork by Danna Ray. I am totally in love with all of her work but the tent seemed very appropriate considering our love of camping. It's currently hanging in our guest bedroom next to one of my paintings.

Limited edition print with hand painted details. Love it!
I have no frames for them yet but hope to remedy that problem soon, maybe frames will be my next reward ;-)

I think everyone should do this though, seriously. Pick a work goal or a personal goal and use it as an excuse to buy yourself something special. Go on, you deserve it!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fire Pit!

Ever since we bought this house we thought it would be a great idea to to have a camp ground style fire pit in our woodsy back yard. Well at first we were preoccupied with flooring and painting and then Summer came and it was just too hot and buggy to work in the yard. Now that Fall is here and the weather is glorious Eric has been working on putting the fire pit together. It's far from finished but the basic structure of the fire pit is done and therefore it's usable. We didn't want to waste these any of these great chilly evenings so we started using it as soon as possible. Right now it's a dirt clearing with some logs to sit on and the pit toward one side, we plan to add some gravel and a brick border to the fire pit area but we want to leave it somewhat natural so that it won't stick out too much in our totally wooded backyard. To share in the fiery goodness we invited my family over for beer, popcorn and games followed by fire pit and s'more making. Here are some pictures of the fire pit's first use, I'm sure we will be spending many evenings to come in this way.

Fire pit in the daylight

Westley checks it out

evening coming on


Marshmallow toasting

s'more, it was heavenly

shot of the fire pit from our deck

The Perfect Pulled Pork Sandwich

Today I made a sandwich so delicious I thought it was worth blogging about. It might have been that it was 3:30 in the afternoon and I hadn't had anything to eat all day but I tend to believe it really was that good. I found this awesome recipe for pulled pork online at I made it for dinner one night last week, it's great for low carb if you skip the bread and the the simple flavors of paprika, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar are to die for! I had a bunch leftover and decided to make this truly awesome pulled pork sandwich for lunch. I reheated the meat in a frying pan with the burner on high to cook out a little bit of the juice so that my bread wouldn't get soggy. I grilled the 5 grain sourdough bread in some butter in my cast iron skillet until it was nice and crispy and piled it up high with pulled pork. I then topped it with some of my home made coleslaw and enjoyed it with a cherry coke, yum! The cole slaw recipe is just red and green cabbage, shredded. Combine that with some finely sliced carrots, as much or little mayo as you choose, a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I'm kind of in love with the stuff) and a dash of powdered mustard. I guess you could top your sandwich with some bottled BBQ sauce but honestly the pulled pork is so juicy and flavorful it really doesn't need it. I highly recommend you all go get you some BBQ on this fine autumn day :-)

Pure deliciousness 

Grilling bread in butter is now the only way I make toast.