Thursday, January 12, 2017

Welcome 2017 | Roast Chicken, A Menu Staple

The bustle of the holidays are behind us and a new year stretched out ahead.  It's hard to believe we are already halfway through January.  We really did enjoy the long break with our boys and squeezed in lots of family time (some of my favorites were ice skating on Fountain Square, a day spent antiquing with Andrew looking for his annual nutcracker, snow tubing, Christmas movie watching and baking with Charlie).  I tried to slow down and enjoy the season, tried to finish shopping early, not be over ambitious with my baking, to the keep the decorations minimal and meaningful.  I think we can sometimes get lost in trying to make it all so special or fulfill every holiday activity we imagined, that we forget to be still and just savor the time together and let go of the unnecessary expectations we put upon ourselves.  Each year I get a little better, a little more laid back with all the preparations and less wrapped up in the fuss.

Now that a bleak winter lies between us and spring, I'm all about lots of cozy, candle lit dinners, mornings by the fire with a cup of tea, lazy Sundays reading good books, family game nights and baked after schools snacks with homemade hot chocolate.  So, basically lots of eating and taking it easy!  Ha!  

I definitely have some repeat offenders when it comes to cooking this time of year.  One recipe that I've been making several times a month since October is roast chicken. If you've never roasted your own chicken, I strongly suggest making it a 2017 resolution. (side of my resolutions this year is to cook a lobster - I've been completely intimidated by the whole affair, but 2017 is the year to conquer that crustacean!  Though roasting a chicken is far less intimidating in my opinion!!) There is nothing more comforting than a roast chicken for dinner.  Your home will smell incredible and everyone will be happy.  All for very minimal effort.  See why I make it so often?! :)

When it comes to buying a whole roasting chicken, I have had the best results with the Amish chickens sold at Kroger.  The worst chickens I've had have come from Whole Foods. (sorry, but they tend to be a bit scrawny and dry.)   Trader Joe's organic chickens are also very good and a little bigger than than Amish chickens.  We do have a local farm that sells amazing chicken too if you plan ahead.

There are two ways I prepare a roast chicken - one is with a pan gravy and the other is with roasted  vegetables.  It just depends on what I feel like making.  The gravy is excellent and probably the kids' favorite.  I on the other hand, can never get enough vegetables when cooked with a roast of any kind so that version is mine.

Here are the recipes for both:
Perfect Roast Chicken with Pan Gravy 
(source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

1, 5-6 pound roasting chicken
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 large bunch thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head of garlic, cut in half
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 Spanish onion thickly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 425.

Remove chicken giblets.  Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry.  Remove any excess fat and left over pinfeathers (this sounds much worse than the reality).  Place chicken in roasting pan,  liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.  Stuff cavity with a bunch of thyme, both halves of the lemon and all the garlic.  Brush the outside with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Tie legs with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips under the body of the chicken.  Scatter onion slices around the chicken.  Roast for 1 and half hours. Remove to platter and cover with foil.

Prepare the gravy: Remove all the fat from the bottom of the pan, reserving 2 tablespoons in a small up.  Add the chicken stock to the pan and cook on high heat for about 5 minutes, until reduced, scraping the bottom of the pan.  Combine the 2 tablespoons of chicken fat with flour an add to the pan.  Boil for a few minutes to cook the flour.  strain the gravy into a small saucepan and season it to taste.  Keep it warm over very low flame while you carve the chicken.  (You can completely skip the gravy step if you are short on time,  I usually serve with gravy if I'm making this on a Sunday night, and skip the gravy on a weeknight - too many messy pans for a week night!)

Perfect Roast Chicken with Vegetables
(source: Barefoot Contessa)
1, 5-6 pound chicken
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 large bunch of thyme
1 lemon halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons butter, melted (or olive oil)
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2 inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed and cut into wedges (remove the bitter core too)
olive oil

Preheat oven to 425.

Remove chicken giblets.  Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry.  Remove any excess fat and left over pinfeathers.  Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken.  Stuff cavity with bunch of thyme, both halves of the lemon and all the garlic.  Brush the outside with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Tie legs with kitchen twine and tuck wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place onions, carrots, fennel in a roasting pan.  Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme and olive oil.  Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place chicken on top.  Roast for 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Remove chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil or about 20 minutes before serving.


Friday, December 9, 2016

our christmas home

Happy Friday!  I'm currently sitting as close to the fire as possible trying to keep warm.  It feels so cozy in my living room, which I'm excited to share with you!  Over the last few months I've made some changes in this room.  They have been small but sometimes moving things around a bit and changing a few patterns is enough to bring new life into a space and help it from feeling tired and dated.  While some of these changes I've shared on instagram, it's still not completely finished and I'll be making a few more tweaks in the new year.  This is our 10th Christmas in this home so it felt like a good time to freshen things up.  Even though my style hasn't really changed I think it's part of what makes a home feel good, the little layers we add over time.  Here are a few pictures... (my camera ran out of battery before I was finished, so I might be back with a bit more before Christmas!)

^^ I moved our little Martha's Vineyard secretary (picked up on a spring trip with Jimmy many years ago) along the staircase.  I added an Ikea parson chair with a Bemz slip in a dusty gray-blue linen.  I also added a vintage bamboo coat rack (estate sale) to our "foyer".  Everyone in my family thinks the old walking stick and canes are funny and they have all sorts of jokes about them (and me). I keep telling them to pretend we live in an English country home somewhere. :)  The vintage rug is new here too (Actually picked it up when sourcing for a client.  I might swap it out for a striped rug in the summer if it feels too warm in the space.  For Christmas, I used faux garland with fresh magnolia leaves tucked in.  The copper ribbon was purchased last year.  Fresh greens on the door with my brass temple bells.^^

 ^^ When I moved the secretary this little area just had too many dark wood antiques in a small space so I added a tablecloth to the gateleg table.  This is just an old burlap cloth intended for a round table and doesn't fit properly. I will have a new one made eventually, maybe change it up for different times of year, but I love the way it changed this part of the room and styling the tale became much more fun too!  The old brass lamp base got a new custom lampshade that I adore.  When I took down my old floral drapes, I felt I could add pattern in a few other places without things looking too busy.  One was on the lamp shade and another is on a side chair that I will show below.^^
 ^^ Fresh greenery in the pitcher that is probably getting ready to be replaced.  The holly was looking a little crispy. :)^^

^^I added a couple plates ,picked up at an antique mall, on either side of the mirror.  I like that they pull all the colors of the room together.  I always felt like that wall was missing a little something.  I added faux magnolia branches to the top of the wreath on the mirror and mini brass bells^^

^^Ummm, THIS CHAIR deserves it's own post.  And boo, this is when my camera ran out of power.  Is this not the prettiest?!  Slipped in a favorite Peter Dunham fabric.  This chair was once in Charlie's room, then in our family room and now the living room.  I'm obsessed with it.  The throw pillow is Lisa Fine fabric.  I will be adding a standing lamp on the right side just as soon as I stop debating which one I want. The bench that used to be by our staircase now serves as a coffee table.  The glass hurricane is filled with whole hazelnuts and a candle for the holiday season.^^

^^My little table top tree is covered with mini brass pinecones  I bought with Jimmy last year in Beacon Hill and large brass pinecones found a few years ago when antiquing with Andrew.  I added some new ones this year too from Crate and Barrel^^

Hope you enjoyed this little peek!  Hopefully I'll be back before Christmas with a bit more - once I charge my camera!!  I've got fun ideas for baked treats and gift wrap that I'd love to share! ^^

Sunday, December 4, 2016

cozy and warm christmas inspiration

Traditional Home
As I mentioned in my last post, I went with a bit of a muted and natural color scheme with our Christmas decor this year as a way to mix things up and make decorating for the season fun.  I think it all started with the addition of magnolia, which naturally encouraged more brown tones since the back of their leaves are brown.  I'm sure red return in our Christmas home in future years, but it's nice to take a little break now and then too.  I thought it would be fun to share some of the images that inspired me this season.  This feels a whole lot like a blog post I would have done about 6 years ago, before pinterest and instagram changed the way we all share inspiration.  These images (at least most of them) and links to their sources can be found on my Christmas Pinterest Board too.  

Now I'm off to trim our tree. Literally, trim the tree, because it is taking over our family room.  And smells quite heavenly too! Happy Sunday, friends! 

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