Friday, August 21, 2015

Freestyle Friday:Hospitality

Hey y'all!

Today, I want to talk a little bit about hospitality. I'm actually just going to touch on this topic today and will delve into the different branches of it in more detail in later weeks. Hospitality is defined as "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers". This topic is one that enhances life so much. It's so meaningful to me, but it seems that the fine art of hospitality has lost its value in today's world. I too, tend to get too ' busy ' & overlook hospitality, but I want to start making a conscious effort to make it blend into everyday life at my home.

Have you ever walked into someone's house & immediately felt just warm and relaxed inside? It's almost like you're greeted with an invisible hug and you know you can make yourself at home there. I believe the hospitable nature of that home - which, of course, is put into place by the host - is what makes you feel that way. Hospitality  does, for the most part, seem to be a fading part of life; but I've been thinking about it a lot lately and I want to bring it into my home as a part of everyday life. Everyday hospitality doesn't mean you have to have someone over every day, but I think it means always welcoming that idea and never letting busyness get into your way of that. I also feel like when you welcome others into your home, even for just a short visit, it enriches life for both you and your guest(s). I think it brings a lot of joy to your life, not to mention the memories you make. 

I've noticed with myself, that a lot of times when I want to catch up with a friend or meet someone new, I always suggest meeting at a restaurant, book store, bakery, etc. I never say, "I would love to catch up with you sometime, Would you like to come over for dessert?". Every time, I suggest somewhere outside of my home. But, starting today, I want to make a more conscious effort to invite friends & family and whoever else this may pertain to, into my home for visits and 'catching up'. For staying connected and a part of each other's lives. I want to challenge each of my readers to do the same. Over the coming weeks, challenge yourself to make your home a more hospitable one.

Some ways of making a hospitable home that come to mind right away are: 

  1. Keeping a tidy home (not perfect, but tidy -we'll go deeper on this later)
  2. Having a refreshing drink (even iced water will do!) on hand
  3. Having goodies of some sort on hand - muffins, cookies, etc.
  4. Flowers on the table
  5. Blankets on couches, chairs
  6. A pleasant scent around the house (achieved by candles, essential oils, etc. or just having windows open!)
  7. Hand lotion & tissues for guests in bathrooms
  8. Invitations for dessert, dinner, or a visit (by phone call or written mail)
  9. A door that opens easily (and I'm not talking about the hinges! ;) )
  10. Your smile! :)
I'm sure there are many more ways to show hospitality in your home, but these are just the first ones that jumped into my mind - things that make a home feel warm and welcoming, feel like more than just a building where people reside. I am so excited to get started on this challenge and I look forward to sharing more with y'all over the coming weeks and months. :)

Leave your ideas or experiences in the comments below!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Weekend Reading

Hey Y'all!

Got any weekend plans? I have a few things going on, but mostly just taking it easy - the way I like it. :) Here are two articles to take a look at in your downtime:

1. This one has some great baking tips!

2. This one isn't food related, but still a quick, enjoyable read. There truly is a lot of richness in a so-called "boring life" . :)
Happy Weekend! :)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Freestyle Friday: Organizing 'The Utensil Drawer'

Hey Y'all!

I am so excited to be sharing my first Freestyle Friday post. I was a bit delayed getting started on these posts, but I finally have the first one ready to go. In this first post, I am sharing with you all the recent organization of my utensil drawer; more accurately 'The Utensil Drawer'. That ominous drawer in just about every kitchen that becomes the catch-all for every extra spatula, serving spoon, grater, and measuring cup. I cringed every time I opened that drawer - everything was such a jumbled mess! So recently I decided it was time to straighten it up once and for all. Lucky for you all, I didn't get a 'before' photo. However, the photo below shows everything that I had crammed in that one drawer.

Yes, I had all of that crammed in this drawer.

I'm sure you can imagine the disaster it looked like before!

I removed any utensils/tools that were broken or not frequently used, then grouped the remaining items together by type/function.

Once everything was categorized that way, I could better see how it should all be laid out in the drawer. The end result was this.

Like items were grouped together and the most frequently used items took up the front 2/3 of the drawer for easy access.

Less frequently used items such as extra whisks and graters as well as decorative cookie cutters were placed in the back.

Since I was on a roll, I went ahead and straightened up my main utensil drawer too.

As with the other drawer, least used items (large scoop, baster, & panini spatula) were placed in the back. I also placed our pizza cutter in the back - not because it isn't used often! haha - simply because of it's size. The most used utensils/tools were placed in the compartment on the right side of our silverware. The less frequently used utensils/tools were placed on the left side of our silverware.

I went ahead and straightened my utensil crock as well (although it's really hard to tell). These are the utensils I use on a daily/weekly basis which I keep by my stove for easy access. All I did here was separate the sides with spatulas, spoons, and tongs on the right and baking/mixing tools on the left. 

Lastly, I placed any tools that I rarely use in a ziploc bag to go in my pantry. I don't neccessarily want to get rid of the items, but I see no need for them to take up space in a drawer or crock at this time. 

The only broken utensil I had was this one:

The little piece that had these together was broken and they could not function properly without it. I had known that for several months. Why I had held on to them all this time is beyond me. haha ;)

I am pleased to say that these drawers have remained organized for the past 3 weeks now! I think my grouping strategy worked this time. I love how the first drawer just glides open now, it makes me so happy. It's the little things in life y'all, it really is. ;)  One day, if I'm brave enough I'll clean my pantry and can share that with y'all, but until then I'm finished organizing my kitchen.

Stay tuned for next Friday's post! :) I'll reveal the topic of next week's post on my Facebook page Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Barbeque Chicken Salad

Hey Y'all!

We are in the final month of summer already, but I refuse to start getting all crazy about fall. It seems like everywhere I look lately there's 'back to school' and pumpkin-everything and cozy sweaters. And I just won't have it. Not yet. Fall is a lovely season, but summer is my favorite and I will not rush it. I just will not. ;)

So, with that in my mind, I wanted to share a very simple, fresh, laid-back summertime salad with you all. Salads definitely mean 'spring/summer' to me. Interestingly, I typically have no desire for salads in the colder months but the moment the weather starts warming up, I think salads are great for almost every meal! :) And in the opposite way, during the warm months I have no desire for soups, casseroles, etc., but the moment the weather starts turning cold, that's all I want. For every meal. It's like I have an internal seasonal appetite regulator. hehe

Anyway . . . I went off on a bit of a bunny trail, didn't I? Back to the salad. I saw a photo for a bbq chicken salad recently and decided to make it for our dinner one night. I must admit, I measured almost nothing. I added ingredients based on the looks of things alone. But that's part of what makes this salad so simple. No recipe to follow really, just a general round-up of ingredients.

I thawed 1 chicken breast (for two entree size salads), then butterflied it completely in half to thin it out and sliced it into strips. After that, I seasoned it with a southwestern seasoning. Almost any will do - taco, Adobo - whatever you have on hand. Once it was seasoned, I just tossed it in a pan and sauteed it until it was cooked through.

While the chicken cooked, I chopped up a combination of Romaine and iceberg lettuce. To the lettuce, I added sliced onions, chopped green bell pepper, cherry tomatoes - halved, canned corn - drained, and black beans - drained & rinsed. (You'll probably notice there aren't any tomatoes in the photo of the salad. I took a photo of my husband's salad because it looked prettier than mine, but he's not a fan of tomatoes so that's why they aren't there. :) ) By the time I had the veggies all mixed up and plated, the chicken was finished cooking. I added it directly on top of the salad in addition to tortilla strips and freshly grated cheddar cheese. For the finishing touch, I drizzled on some classic Ranch dressing and some bbq sauce.

From start to finish, the assembly of this entire salad only took about 20 minutes. It was so convenient for a weeknight and gave us the benefit of being both filling and light at the same time if that makes sense. ;) Filled with fresh garden veggies, this salad definitely makes me feel like we're still deep in summertime and that makes me very happy. :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rotisserie Chicken: One Bird, Countless Meals

Hey Y'all!

I am back today with a post that I have wanted to write for so long now. I have learned that when it comes to budgeting, rotisserie chickens can really be your best friend. About once a month I will buy a rotisserie chicken and use it to make 5 - 7 days worth of meals. Since there's just the two of us right now, we're able to make one chicken last all week, but keep in mind that with more people you might have to buy two chickens. There are countless ways - and I really mean countless - that you can use rotisserie chicken in recipes. In the wintertime, it's really great to use the chicken in soups & pot pies. The chicken also works well for chicken sandwiches or in a salad for lunch.  I also use the bones of the chicken to make a broth each time. I always have chicken broth on hand - never have to buy it at the store anymore! :) Below, I will share with you three meal ideas for using rotisserie chicken. 

First up, the most simple. Eat some of the chicken 'as is' for your main dish and pair some sides with it. Here I added snaps, lard biscuits, & chive mashed potatoes. Really, does a (mostly) home-cooked supper get any easier than that? ;)

Next up, quesadillas. My husband & I LOOOVE quesadillas. They are perfect, they are delicious, they are quick, they are easy. They are so satisfying. Again, a simple meal, but definitely a good one. I like to add shredded lettuce, sour cream, & *runny* salsa to the side to try to give it that restaurant feel. ahaha. ;) This is on our list of meals every time I buy a rotisserie chicken. Every time. I will share my quesadilla recipe on here soon. It is delish.

Lastly, I would like to share chicken & rice. I can't cook rice correctly to save my life but the gravy and chicken disguise it as something good. =D Needless to say, rice is easy to cook for normal people so this dish falls into the easy category as well. Just make a gravy to go with it or if you're feeling exceptionally unmotivated (that sounds better than lazy, hehe) combine some sour cream with cream of mushroom soup and voila! There's your gravy, baby. And the chicken? Just shred it on top of the rice. Easy-peasy.

What meals would you use rotisserie chicken in?