Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Chicken in the Crock

I have no idea why I've got such an urge to cook, but it's happening. The scallion and corn chowder got me started, and now I'm whipping up soups nightly (keep posted for my carrot and apple soup recipe).

A friend of mine was telling me that she puts her chicken in the crock pot with hot sauce and leaves it until it falls apart. Then she shreds it and uses it as a form of buffalo chicken. I thought it was a great idea, but by the time I got to King's, I decided to make something different entirely. I love when chicken is draped in peppers and onions, and other wonderful things (to make me forget I'm eating chicken). So I decided to do that.



This recipe prep took about 5 minutes, and it needs 6 - 8 hours in the crock pot on low, or 4 hours on high.

Everything but the chicken and stock. I put the chicken in last and then mixed it with my hands, covering the chicken. Last, I added the stock.


What you'll need:

  • 2 garlic cloves, smushed
  • 1 lb. chicken breasts (about 4 breasts)
  • 6 oz. your favorite salsa
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 1 orange pepper, sliced 
  • 6 jalapeño wheels
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 3 slices of lime
  • cilantro for topping

Pour everything into the crock pot and cook on low for 6 - 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. Serve over brown jasmati rice (or your choice of rice) with black beans.

Mexican Chicken in the Crock

I have no idea why I've got such an urge to cook, but it's happening. The scallion and corn chowder got me started, and now I'm whipping up soups nightly (keep posted for my carrot and apple soup recipe).

A friend of mine was telling me that she puts her chicken in the crock pot with hot sauce and leaves it until it falls apart. Then she shreds it and uses it as a form of buffalo chicken. I thought it was a great idea, but by the time I got to King's, I decided to make something different entirely. I love when chicken is draped in peppers and onions, and other wonderful things (to make me forget I'm eating chicken). So I decided to do that.



This recipe prep took about 5 minutes, and it needs 6 - 8 hours in the crock pot on low, or 4 hours on high.

Everything but the chicken and stock. I put the chicken in last and then mixed it with my hands, covering the chicken. Last, I added the stock.


What you'll need:
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 lb. chicken breasts (about 4 breasts)
  • 6 oz. your favorite salsa
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped 
  • 1 orange pepper, sliced 
  • 6 jalapeño wheels
  • 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 3 slices of lime
  • cilantro for topping
Pour everything into the crock pot and cook on low for 6 - 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. Serve over brown jasmati rice (or your choice of rice) with black beans.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Stolen Scallion and Corn Chowder Recipe by Tiffany Curren

I've recently had the joy of being humbled by a soup so amazing that I'd travel three hours to experience it again. It was a special at the Oyster Club in Mystic, CT, where all the food is farm to table. In fact, during the summer, the menu changes daily, based solely on what is freshest and available. The chef even butchers his own meat. When I saw scallion and corn chowder on the menu, it sounded so interesting... but for a summer soup, it also sounded heavy. I asked about the base of the chowder, and our waitress, Drew, told me that it was mostly the pureed vegetable, and just a tiny bit of cream. It sounded lovely, and since it was vegetable (not cream) based, I gave it a try. Suffice it to say, I might have embarrassed myself with all the gushing I did over this appetizer. 

After returning home, I sent a message to the restaurant asking to please share the recipe. It's been two weeks and I haven't heard back, so I decided to attempt it myself. I remembered what Drew told me and tried to replicate it.

To make the soup a little looser than the uber-thick pureed vegetables, I used some of the water from the boiled the corn (bought frozen corn -- I'm sure fresh would be much better) as a base. I added cream, but in such a small about, it's almost negligible. My seat-of-my-pants recipe was so easy and so tasty, I can hardly believe I created it. I am no chef, but I'll say that this recipe makes a sweet, and slightly spicy soup (the spice comes at the tail end of the flavor, and might go unnoticed -- feel free to add more). I'll note that I didn't add salt to the recipe, but I added it to my bowl and definitely think it enhances the flavor, so feel free to salt to taste.

Stolen Scallion and Corn Chowder

This is a simple recipe. I made enough to feed an army, I'd say 12 bowls worth, and I did it so that I could put the remaining soup in jars in the freezer (I love convenience). Feel free to split the recipe in half. To make this, you will need two pots and a blender (I used my Nutribullet, and blended in three batches).

In one pot, combine the water and the frozen corn and cook until it's hot. Add freshly grated nutmeg. 

Water, corn and freshly grated nutmeg.
The freshly grated nutmeg is far and away better than the pre-grated. If you don't use fresh grated, I'd omit it entirely.



While the corn is boiling, put the butter in the other pot on low to medium heat and sauté the white part of the scallions (and a few green stems, for color) until soft. It's not too important how well it's cut, because it's all going to blend into a puree. Add the jalapeños and the cilantro and allow to sit and cool.

I did this in batches, because I didn't know how much I'd need. Your pot should be three times fuller.

Blend the butter pot with the corn, adding the half and half and some water from the pot. That's it. Simple!

What you'll need:
  • 32 oz. (2 lbs.) frozen corn (or fresh equivalent)
  • 9 thick scallions
  • 8 jalapeño slices/wheels
  • 6 T butter
  • 3 T half and half
  • handful of fresh cilantro
  • 1 t freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt, to taste

And if you are planning a trip to Mystic, be sure to reserve a table at the Oyster Club. You will not be disappointed. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Aging Isn't a Four Letter Word

Tomorrow, I will be 46 years old. I've been easing myself into the idea for the past few weeks stating, often at the beginning of sentences, that I'm 46. To some degree, this is a comfort to say, knowing that I am really not there yet, toes in the water without the full plunge. It's just another day. But truly, it marks the last year of me being in my mid-40s and that is a hard pill to swallow.

Things change as we get older. Already, I've noticed that my skin is less elastic, wrinkles are starting to seep from the outer corners of my eyes, and when I look in the mirror, I really see a middle aged woman. I'm not fighting that, but accepting it isn't something that I've learned to do, either. I notice changes in actresses who I've watched through the years, those whose ages hovers around mine; Christina Applegate the young tart from the t.v. show Married with Children, took me by surprise in the movie, Vacation, presenting with crow's feet and aging skin. She is definitely beautiful, but looks her age, and she is younger than I am. So, where exactly does that put me?

This photo, from the Laney Gossip site, shows Applegate at the Vacation premiere.
She's gorgeous, and she is also showing signs of getting older naturally.

In the same movie, Beverly D'Angelo made a cameo appearance and was hardly recognizable. The amount of work she has had done to her face made me feel so sad, and truthfully, she was tough to look at. She didn't look younger, she just looked like an older woman who'd had a lot of work done.

These side by side photos of Beverly D'Angelo, regardless of the years between the time they were taken, show a different woman. It's not the age that's gotten me, it's that she doesn't even have the same face.

I've never been under the knife, for anything other than skin cancer, and I cannot imagine spending the money, or taking the risk to do so, electively. While I would like firmer skin, or to erase the lines that are beginning to creep up, I won't be doing it by way of plastic surgery.

The biggest thing, for me, is to get to a place of acceptance. I'm taking care of myself, eating healthy, exercising, and getting plenty of rest. I've started using a line of skincare to cleanse, moisturize, repair and protect my skin. I'm doing all that I can to put my best face forward. Beyond that, all I really need to do is be okay with the face that I see in the mirror. My husband always says that he wishes I could see myself the way that he sees me. I wish for that, too.

Inside, I have a fear that if I am too accepting of myself, I won't see all the bad things that other people see in me, and will be unprepared when someone makes a snide remark. I worry that if I am too self-accepting, I will let myself go, fall apart, and be an embarrassment to both myself and my family. On the flip side, the more that I worry, the more I have to worry about. I start to improve on how I look and then I think, just a little more and I'll be happy. But there is no end to that way of thinking. There will always be someone younger, fitter, prettier. Happiness will always elude me, if I base it on matching someone else's ideal of beauty.

The only way around all this, in my opinion, is to live in the spirit of gratitude. Instead of thinking about what I don't like, I have to start being grateful for what I do have. Rather than hate parts of my body, I will be grateful that I am healthy. I will focus on what's good and whole, and less on the things that I cannot change. And instead of looking in the mirror and judging myself, I will look at the faces of those that I love and be thankful.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Trendy "I'm Thankful For" Status Update

I find copycat facebook status trends to be annoying. There's one that says something about getting in a sleeping bag and slathering oneself with butter, supposedly in support of breast cancer. There's another, posting solely what color bra you're wearing  in support of the cause. There are the trendy ones that beg for attention, stating something to the effect of I want to see who reads my facebook status, so if you do, post where we first met. All stupid, in my opinion.

There is one that I've liked and participated in for years though. It's the gratitude status that's posted daily beginning the first of November and leading up to Thanksgiving. I hadn't thought to do it this year, however, until divine intervention played a hand.

After a lovely dinner with my cousin T and her friend Lori, we were sitting in traffic when Lori remarked that she was enjoying the ride, and said something about learning patience. I asked her how something like this is learned. She admitted that it's a practice and isn't always perfect, but that she tries to think of all that she is thankful for instead of what's annoying her. She counts her blessings.


When you count your blessings, there isn't room for anything negative. Your mind cannot have two thoughts at once. In traffic, for example, instead of thinking about the traffic, you think instead about the blessing of being in a comfortable car, or sharing time with the people who are riding with you.

I've never been much of a replacement thinker. I've always allowed the thoughts that came into my mind to dominate the inner dialogue. My brain would play scenes and I would react, at least internally, to those thoughts. This is a very stressful way to live. After my night with Lori and T, I started applying the count my blessings practice, and I'm completely in love with reframing my thoughts. Still, it takes practice.

Last weekend, I lost my voice. I'd been run down, doing too much for everybody else and not enough for myself. My body decided that it was going to put a halt on that. Having no voice made it difficult to complain, fight, or do much of anything except rest and yield. Two days of yielding taught me that much of what I battle against on a daily basis is really not important. I don't need to correct the way that something is done, or share a pointless story. During those days, every word counted, because speaking was agitating my vocal chords, so the words I spoke needed to matter. I was forced to lean on others to help me communicate, and I had to find ways to have them hear me when I needed to be heard.

In the midst of my laryngitis, I awoke in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and immediately felt like my balance was compromised. I started to feel like I was at the tipping point of having vertigo. Vertigo is not fun. I've had it more than once, and it's by far one of the most awful things you can experience. I was scared. I went to my husband for comfort, and he sat with me, reassuring me that things would be alright. He would be there for me and take care of me, and he helped to calm me down. At that moment, as I feared the possibility that vertigo might return, I started to think that I would be so grateful if I woke up without vertigo. It wouldn't matter if my voice was still out, or if I felt congested. I just wanted to feel normal.

And there is was. Those grateful thoughts were the jumping point for me to count my blessings. I was blessed to be able to walk normally, to see things clearly. I was blessed to have a husband who would wake up at 3 a.m. with me, listen to my fears and calm them. I was blessed to have a messy house to clean, two wild dogs to walk, a healthy child to drive to school. I was blessed. I am blessed.

You are blessed, too.

I am sharing my blessings daily, and you are welcome to check them out on Instagram (follow me @domesticgoddessltd). I urge you to give yourself the gift of counting your blessings. Start today, and do it every day, as often as you can remember. It's a life changing experience.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Daily Dose of Dog Walking

There is nothing like the love of a dog... except maybe the love that we have for our furry friends. My two dogs, Sugar and Rocco, are potentially the only beings on the planet that love me unconditionally and without judgement, and they provide a comfort that no human can rival. I absolutely treasure them and wish to provide them with all the good things I am able.



In much the same way that parents hire babysitters and nannies to care for their children, dog owners must do they same for their pups. It's no small task, watching and caring for a dog (or two or three) and it's important that we find people that we trust.

My schedule has grown hectic, and though I work mostly from home, I find that I am out for hours at a time while my pups are stuck in the house. Sometimes it's for work, other times I am just running around with the kids, at football games or track meets. I don't want to worry that my poor dogs are sitting in a dark house, or haven't been out for a potty break. In my opinion, they deserve love, some fresh air, and the chance to relieve themselves at least once during the hours that I am away. I began looking into having a daily dog walker for my little ones, and found that help was right around the corner.

There is a local business called Helping Hand Pet Care Services that's run by a woman named Patrice Petronaci. Patrice is a total gem at working with dogs. Sugar, who can at times be skittish, was completely at ease when Patrice visited our home. What's great is that her services are specifically geared towards daily walks, so you can get your dog on the schedule and not worry about any conflicts. In addition, your dog(s) get to know her, and the walk is part of their daily routine. It's a treat to look forward to. And at rates that hover around $18 per walk, it's a totally affordable service.

It's also great for people who might be home but would prefer to contract the job out to someone else (ah, one walk that you can let someone else handle... especially with cold weather ahead). Yes, please!

If you haven't yet tried it, having a regular dog walker is a great thing. It provides consistency, routine, and exercise that your dog craves. Since she is coming into your home and taking care of your beloved pets (she takes care of other animals, too), it's important to choose wisely. If you are in the area, I highly suggest giving Patrice a call. She will come out and meet your mutt(s), and do a free evaluation, based on what you're looking for and how many animals* she will be taking good care of while you are out.

Helping Hand Pet Care Services is available for those living in Mountain Lakes, Boonton Township, Boonton, Denville, Lake Parsippany, Rockaway, and the surrounding area.

Call Patrice at 973-229-5968 to schedule a time to meet and get started!

*Patrice also cares for cats, birds, bunnies and other sweet creatures. Just ask!




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Small Town Takeover

When you're here, you're home.
The Red Barn restaurant

Not everyone lives in a small town. Those of us that do know both the up and the downsides to small town life. The perks are huge. People know your dogs, your kids, and are always looking out for their well being. There are lots of community events, both at the schools and through the town hall, that are either free, or that benefit some aspect of the town. 

I've noticed that, lately, things here are starting to change. Our post office is nothing like what it used to be. Just a year ago, it was a place where people talked as they waited in line, where the clerks knew the locals and would talk to them about their lives, asking how they've been, and sharing stories. I knew that when my letter crossed the desk and went into a bin, it was in good hands.

Now, though they still manage PO boxes and take mail, our mail goes to a neighboring town where it's sorted and put on the truck to go to Newark. It used to be that when I'd send mail in town, it would be there the very next day. It went from my hands to the post office and then out for delivery. Now, it leaves and goes to the neighboring post office, and then to Newark? Ridiculous, and what a waste of gas. While it would be just as easy for me to drop at a friend's house, I like the idea of sending stamped, postmarked mail, and it saddens me to know that, despite my efforts to save our post office, this has happened. I miss my old mail carrier, Rob, who stood with me while I was on the phone with my doctor waiting to see if I had a brain tumor, and who hugged me as I cried tears of relief and said, "I'm okay". I miss going into the PO building and listening to Ferdie sing, or chat with Gabi as she would go through my packages. Alas, the wheels are in motion.

There are other things that could slip into the same role, if we don't pay attention, and I think it's important that we guard them. Our police department currently has dispatch (I think) during the day, but on the off hours, our calls go to another town, 20 minutes away. This was done in an effort to save money. I miss calling and asking who's on, when I have a less than emergency call but just need a little help. Fortunately for us, our police officers are still widely available and helpful, and have an active knowledge of our community. They talk to the kids as they walk home from school, and are sure to be familiar with residents in town. On Halloween, the town closes streets to car traffic so that kids can walk without worry while trick or treating. The police are here to help redirect lost children, answer questions, and let the kids know that they are here for them.

We have a great pharmacy here, too, that's independently owned. The pharmacy, Preston Drugs, will deliver your prescriptions to your home (or your car, if you prefer) so you don't need to get out in bad weather or if you are sick. Still, people choose to go to big box pharmacies, which I don't understand. Now that A&P is closing, the opportunity for people to move their prescriptions to a local, smaller drugstore is available (don't allow them to transfer to Walgreen's just because they'll do it for you, please). Preston has a tab on their website that will help you transfer your prescriptions. Another local option is Main Pharmacy in Boonton. Though I am not familiar with it, it's been in town forever and is a favorite of many locals.

Small shops are what keeps the American dream alive. Say what you will about that dream being dashed -- I know what you are thinking -- but this is still our country and we have the power to make big changes.

Instead of going to chain restaurants, go to indie owned places. We have some great restaurants around here, including Hapgood's in Mountain Lakes, The Reservoir Tavern (locally known as the Res) in Parsippany, Matta Donna in Boonton, and both The Red Barn (breakfast and lunch) and 900* in Towaco.  Rather than shopping online or at the mall, take your business to great places like Simplify Marketplace, which is owned by ML resident Beth Moran. They have pretty much everything you'll ever need, including home goods, personalized stationary, hand made items, jewelry, accessories, Laker apparel, and baked goods. In Denville, you can get home goods and ladies' apparel at two shops on the same block, owned by the Olenowski sisters: Surprises In Store, and Sisters. For footwear, I personally love Shoe & Sneaker Barn (also in Denville). The point is that there are so many opportunities to support our small towns that it would be silly not to. 

And finally, if you are able, please mail cards! Notes, birthday greetings, holiday greetings. Maybe our post office is changing, but let's not allow the art of letter writing/card sending fall by the wayside.

It's so important to nurture and support the places and people that bring joy to your life. Look around and see what it is that you love about the place that you live, then be sure to put your attention there. It's truly the little things, that we sometimes overlook, that we would miss the most if they were gone. Be proactive and keep them strong. Shop local.