Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Now that the holidays are over, you might be looking for a hearty meal idea that is not only healthy, but quick and easy to make. Here is a comforting and cozy soup recipe that is deliciously creamy and will warm your bones during these cold winter months. This soup only takes 30 minutes from start to finish, and is sure to satisfy.

AdobeStock_70592182.jpeg

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup half and half, or more, as needed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken to the stockpot and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes; set aside.
  2. Melt butter in the stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, mushrooms, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in thyme until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaf and chicken thighs, and cook, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Stir in half and half until heated through, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper to taste. If the soup is too thick, add more half and half as needed until desired consistency is reached.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and rosemary, if desired.

Enjoy!

8 Holiday Sleep Tips So You Don’t Become the Grinch!

 

The holidays can be full of magic, family fun, delicious foods and more but they can also be full of stress, guests and interruptions of your regular schedule. Here are some ways to ensure the holidays are enjoyable and you get all the zzz’s you need to bring joy this season!

  1. Get ahead of the holidays

This time of year is always hectic. There are many things that need doing, from decorating for the holidays to baking to shopping for presents, preparing for guests, and more. Many of us put these jobs off until the last minute, which makes for a stressful holiday. It is no fun to be running around on the eve of the holiday looking for the last-minute gifts you forgot to order or grocery shopping on the day of a big dinner.

To avoid stress and sleep deprivation, get a jump start on your holiday planning. Make a list of things that need to be done and begin to make a timeline for when the tasks need to be done. If after writing your to-do list you still feel overwhelmed, ask for help!

  1. Don’t overload yourself

The holidays are about spending time with your loved ones and enjoying each other’s company. What better way to make your holiday less stressful than to recruit your family to help you prepare for the holidays? Plan a shopping trip or a baking day to help bring fun to tasks that can feel overwhelming. If you are hosting a dinner, ask family members to bring a dish to help minimize the amount you need to prepare.

  1. Don’t stop exercising

Active retired couple playing in the snow

Routine exercise is one of the greatest promoters of good, quality sleep. While it is tempting to take some time off during the holidays, don’t do it! It’s not only good for the body, it is great for the mind as well. Exercise is a great tool to help eliminate stress. You can always adapt your exercise routine around the holidays. If you have company staying, try picking activities that they can be included in, such as walks or outings. If you have young children, get outside and enjoy the outdoors, build a snowman, go snowshoeing or skiing, etc.

  1. Don’t overdo the snacking, especially at night.

All the yummy foods and desserts make an appearance this time of year, and the temptation to indulge can be a constant battle. It is ok to have some treats here and there, but stuffing yourself right before bed can cause your body to have to work harder to break down all that food while you are asleep. When your body has to focus more energy on processing those gingerbread cookies, it takes away from repairing and refreshing itself during sleep. Also late-night snacking can increase acid reflux, which can make falling asleep and staying asleep that much more difficult.

So what foods are best for nighttime snacking? Shredded wheat cereal with milk, or crackers and cheese, make great snacks. Complex carbs, milk and cheese are great at promoting sleep.

  1. Don’t drink too much

Drunken Gingerbread cookie man in a Christmas cocktail

Be aware of those tempting eggnog and peppermint specialty drinks this holiday.

While alcohol can induce drowsiness and help you fall asleep more quickly it can also disturb your rest and lessen the quality of your sleep. Alcohol decreases the amount of REM sleep, which is when dreaming occurs and learning and when memories are stored.

  1. Keep your regular sleep schedule

It is easy to stay up later than normal, catching up with old friends, attending Christmas parties, wrapping presents, etc. but those late nights can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. It is important to keep your regular sleep schedule, but if disruptions are unavoidable, try to limit them to no more than an hour off your regular schedule. Sleep deprivation can lead to mood and behavior changes, so if you don’t want to become Scrooge, make sure that sleep is a priority.

If you are traveling across time zones, it can be harder to keep your regular schedule. Try to maintain as close to a regular sleep schedule as possible, especially on “mini vacations,” so it won’t affect you in the long run.

  1. Turn off that technology

Mom with child reading book and relaxing by the fire place some cold evening, winter weekends, cozy scene

To promote restful sleep, it is best to have a relaxing bedtime routine. Turn off tablets, phones, computers, etc. at least an hour before bed to allow your brain to “power down.”

Electronic devices emit a light similar to that of daylight. Our brains get tricked by this light, as it associates it with daylight, which can delay the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

Be sure to not let the holidays rob you of that sweet, deep slumber you not only crave, but need to make it through to the new year.

Perfect End-of-Summer Recipes

It is the last weekend of summer and time for one last BBQ before we put the grills back into storage. If summer has to end we might as well make good food to send it off right. Here are some great recipes to help make the perfect Summer’s end feast!

Watermelon “CAPRESE” with Balsamic Glaze

Photo Courtesy: www.skinnytaste.com
Photo Credit: http://www.skinnytaste.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 red seedless watermelon, sliced 1/2 inch thick (calculated with 16 oz)
  • 8 – 1 oz thin slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1 loose cup baby arugula
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp balsamic glaze

DIRECTIONS

Use a 4-inch star-shaped cookie cutter (or any shape) and cut 16 stars out of the watermelon (about 1 oz each). Save the excess watermelon for another use.

Arrange the watermelon on a platter, then layer with cheese, arugula, 1/4 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt on each. Top with a final star, drizzle each with balsamic glaze and serve.

For the full recipe click HERE.

Turkey Burgers with Orange Mustard Glaze

Photo Credit: www.foodnetwork.com
Photo Credit: http://www.foodnetwork.com

INGREDIENTS

Burgers:

  • 1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 3 lbs ground turkey (white and dark meat)

Glaze:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced jalapeno peppers, with seeds
  • 1 9 oz jar orange marmalade (with peel)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder

DIRECTIONS

Prep the burgers: Combine the salt, paprika, pepper and granulated garlic in a small bowl. Form 6 turkey patties and sprinkle on both sides with the seasoning mixture.

Make the glaze: Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeños and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the marmalade, mustard, black pepper and chili powder and cook about 2 minutes, until fully combined. Reserve until ready to use.

Preheat a grill to high. Grill the patties until nice markings are shown, about 5 minutes per side, then reduce the flame to medium and cook until well done, 12 more minutes, flipping after 5 minutes. At the same time, toast the buns on the grill.

Serve the burgers on the buns; top with the glaze, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Serve with pickles.

For the full recipe click HERE.

Banana Split Kebobs

Photo Credit: www.delish.com
Photo Credit: http://www.delish.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bananas, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 24 1″ pieces pineapple
  • 12 large strawberries, rinsed, dried, and halved
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • ½ cup peanuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Assemble the kebobs: thread two pieces of banana, pineapple, and strawberry onto skewer. Repeat process to assemble 23 more skewers. Place all on parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate in microwave using 30-second intervals and stirring in between until completely smooth.

Drizzle chocolate over fruit kebobs and top with chopped peanuts.

Freeze until ready to serve.

For the full recipe click HERE.

Father’s Day gift ideas

Great last minute Father’s Day gift ideas:AdobeStock_106425785(2).jpeg

Don’t forget your dad this Father’s Day.

Here are some great gift ideas for your special dad.

 

  1. Plan an Outing:  Take your dad to his favorite restaurant or plan a family fishing trip, hike with a picnic, movie, concert, or sporting event that he would enjoy.Family fishing
  2. Plan a special at-home treat: Make him breakfast in bed, or plan a night in you can make his favorite dinner, then watch a video and relax.
  3.  Build him an eco-inspired bird house out of a recycled bottle – HERE 
  4. Get dad some new items for the barbecue to inspire more summer night barbecues.Grill, bbq area with tools hanging on the wall
  5. Show dad how much he’s appreciated by making a homemade picture frame. Here’s a link for some creatives ways to make a frame – HERE
  6. Create a gift basket and fill it with some of his favorite things. Maybe pick a theme based on his hobbies or favorite treats and fill the basket based on the theme. Some great examples of theme ideas: sportsman, coffee lover, sweet-tooth fanatic, bookworm, Mr. Fix It, film buff or outdoorsman, to name just a few.
  7. Get him a digital magazine subscription or pick out some books by his favorite author at a used bookstore.

This Father’s Day, show dad how important he is and how much he’s loved.

 

Don’t Forget Breakfast This Thanksgiving

As we gear up for Thanksgiving, we have the turkeys prepped and the menu planned. If you’re like me, breakfast is the last thing on my mind. Breakfast shouldn’t be too complicated, because from the moment the coffee is brewing, I am busy.

To help make the morning more enjoyable and less stressful, here are several recipes that are quick, easy and delicious. Some of these recipes you can make the night before and reheat that morning. They can even become a new yearly tradition.

Crustless Zucchini and Basil Mini-Quiches

2995536015_3a950ae2e4_oMakes 4 Dozen

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil for pan
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small zucchini, grated
  • ¼ cup grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil, finely chopped

Heat oven to 450°F.

Prepare Batter: Put the cornstarch in a medium bowl. Whisking steadily, slowly pour in a 1/2 cup of milk, mixing until quite smooth. Whisk in the whole eggs and egg yolks, mixing again until smooth, then gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, the cream, the salt, and the nutmeg. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to one day. If using the next day, be sure to re-whisk.

Prepare Zucchini Mixture: In a nonstick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add grated zucchini and stir until just softened, another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

Oil mini muffin tins well. Put a pinch of grated cheese, a teaspoon of zucchini mixture, and a pinch of chopped fresh basil, into each muffin cup. Pour 1 tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup.

Bake until the quiches puff and start to turn golden, 15-18 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then carefully run a paring knife around the rim of each muffin cup. Carefully lift each quiche out of its cup.

Mini quiches freeze very well. Let cool, then freeze in a single layer in a covered container. Reheat on a cookie sheet in a 400° oven for about 5-10 minutes.

Spiced Crock-Pot Porridge

img_1555Makes about eight 1-cup servings; recipe can be doubled.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups steel-cut oats
  • 8 cups water
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped apricots
  • ½ cup chopped dates
  • ½ cup chopped figs or raisins
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, split, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 1 orange

Toppings: Chopped roasted nuts, jam, fresh fruit, more dried fruit, milk, yogurt, leftover eggnog

Combine everything except the orange zest and toppings in the bowl of a 3-quart or larger slow cooker. Set the cooker on its lowest cook setting (“LOW” or 8-10 hours), and leave overnight.

If you happen to get up during the night, give the porridge a stir as you pass by. If not, no worries.

In the morning, break up the thin film that forms over the top of the porridge and stir it in. Scrape the sides and bottom. Stir in the orange zest.

Serve with toppings. Leftover porridge will keep refrigerated for at least a week. Reheat with a little milk or water to make creamy again.

Lemon Scones

6849616359_e1952942a5_oIngredients

  • 2 cups flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 4 teaspoons baking powder

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1 egg, plus enough milk to make 3/4 cup

  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • Zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven 425° F

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and pinch of salt in a bowl.

Add butter and mix in a processor on “pulse,” or rub together with your fingertips until it looks like a crumble or bread crumbs.

Break an egg in to a measuring cup and add milk up to the 3/4 cup mark, and lightly beat with a fork.

Add the egg/milk mixture to dry ingredients and mix just until well combined. (Do not overmix).

Feel free to add extras at this step, such as lemon zest, cranberries, blueberries, chocolate chips, raisins, pieces of apple, or currants. There are unlimited possibilities!

Place spoonfuls of the mixture on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Tip: Keep on eye on them, because depending on the size you make, they may cook more quickly. Also, leave some space in between the scones because they grow. Serve plain or with butter or jam.

Eat up and enjoy!