Pecan Chicken with Whiskey Maple Sauce

Friday, December 30, 2011 - 
My momma is visiting (say hi mom!) for the week as I have some time off of work to enjoy the holiday season. I love this week. It allows me to do all that fun stuff - and I do mean fun - like cleaning and organizing closets and drawers in our house. I love to organize. I'm wondering if I could be a professional organizer and event planner. I mean, they are similar, aren't they?

Anyway, I digress. My momma is here. She helped me clean out some closets earlier this week, but really, we are operating as normal. Nothing too special besides some quality time with each other, closets, the couch, and a few stores here and there. She loves that I like to cook, so that has stayed the same as well. I keep cooking the same things that I would cook without her here.

She was flipping through a book I received from my mother-in-law over the holidays. It is a Southern Living book called "Off the Beaten Path." A drive through the south with restaurants and recipes along the way. I was walking by and saw a bourbon maple syrup sauce and I thought, "mmm, I could make that tonight." I had bought a few things for some sort of chicken dinner, but hadn't fine tuned my thoughts and this seemed like a step in the right direction.

The chicken turned out tender with a crispy crust. It was savory and matched well with the sauce I had adapted for the chicken. The sauce was sweet with maple but tangy with mustard flavor as well. A rich, salty and smokey taste also came through from the bacon and drippings I had used as the base of the sauce. I could have made mine a little bit thinner, but the sauce had some great flavor it.

Now, this isn't part of the 'eating lighter' motif by any means. But a little goes a long way, so it still isn't too much of a healthy sin. Plus, I had roasted some shallots and Brussels sprouts to go along with the meal. And my mom had given me a healthy dose of her cheesy potatoes from Christmas Day. A perfect side to this Southern inspired dish.

Order of the meal preparation:
1. Roast the veggies
2. Prep and begin cooking chicken
3. Make the sauce, plate the meal!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots
Ingredients: Bag of fresh Brussels Sprouts, two shallots, salt, pepper, olive oil
Remove the outer leaves of the Brussels sprouts, chop them in half, and toss with sliced shallots on a shallow baking sheet. Toss with some olive oil, maybe one or two tablespoons, just enough to cover the veggies. Season with salt and pepper (I also added garlic powder and a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes) and bake at 400 degrees for about 25/30 minutes. By the time I finished everything else, the veggies were ready to go.

Pecan Chicken with Whiskey Maple Sauce
Ingredients: 1 c. pecans, 6 tbsp flour (split), 4 chicken breasts (trimmed and thinly pounded), 4 slices of bacon, two chopped shallots , 3 tbsp. maple syrup, 1/3 c. whiskey (bourbon if available!), 1/3 c. dijon mustard, 8 oz. whipping cream
1. Finely chop pecans and mix with 4 tablespoons of flour. Dredge chicken breasts with the pecan flour mixture, let rest for a minute while prepping oil.
2. Heat 1/4 of an inch of vegetable oil for a shallow fry. Cooking in batches, fry the chicken breasts for a few minutes on each side until done. Set aside and keep warm while working on the sauce (that is, if you don't make them at the same time like I did. I am a multi-tasker by heart).
3. Fry bacon until crisp. Drain the bacon, keep the drippings. Add two chopped shallots to the drippings and saute for two minutes until fragrant and soft.
4. Add two tablespoons of flour and cook until everything is incorporated and brown. Stir constantly to ensure it doesn't burn, and add the maple syrup to the mix.
5. Remove from heat and add whiskey. I'm all about safety which is why I encourage you to remove from flame if applicable. Return to heat after the whiskey is incorporated, and add the mustard to the mix.
6. Continuing to stir, add the whipping cream. Cook until thickened for a sauce to serve over chicken.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 29, 2011 - 
Holidays with the family are amazing. We are fortunate that we are able to spend it with members of both of our families as many of them live in Green Bay. We make the trek (usually with books on CD) and enjoy the limited days with those we love.

Traditionally, we spend Christmas Eve with my family. Christmas Eve is special - an evening with my parents, brothers, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. We had a special guest, my sister-in-law's sister, join as well this year rounding out a quiet party of ten. Drinks followed by a delicious dinner of prime rib and cheesy potatoes is always a highlight. With more drinks in hand, we finish up the evening with cherry cheesecake and opening of gifts. Just a few photos from the holiday celebration at my parents house:

On Christmas Day, hubs and I wake up to the smell of coffee brewing at my parents home. I help my mother create our traditional breakfast of eggs benedict - sorry I overcooked your egg hubs. But the rest was delish as always! We clean up and head to his mother's house to spend time with his siblings, their families (including our nieces and nephews), and his aunts, uncles and cousins. It is always a full house and great to see everyone come together. Over a buffet lunch that his mother spends so much time preparing, we gorge our bellies with the Disney holiday parade in the background. Then, all the kids rip open their gifts as we smile and laugh as they ooo and ahhh over their new toys.

And of course, Christmas Day means Packers vs. Bears. We were fortunate to head to the game and enjoy the evening together with a Packers victory! We had so much fun dancing with other fans, eating brats and kraut with some fried cheese curds and sipping on beer and/or hot chocolate with every touchdown. It was fantastic - congrats Packers on another great game!

And no, we don't know the man in Roger's jersey - talk about timing!

Hope you enjoyed your holiday (if celebrating) - I know we did!

You Got Me What!?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011 - 
Fondue. Sure, it may make people think of the 1970's or of shag carpet. It reminds me of friends of delicious cheese and chocolate. We end up dining at The Melting Pot at least a few times a year, particularly around the holidays. I had a love affair with the restaurant a while back. I still enjoy it, but not as much as I used to. But don't get me wrong, still delicious and I look forward to it every time Do You Fondue? I do! rolls around on the advent calendar. Day 20, and we ended a delicious dinner at the MP.

Day 21: Holiday Tree was a night where we would make some dinner together and enjoy under our Christmas tree lights. Unfortunately, I forgot I had a meeting. So, changes happen as mentioned before. Hubs made a great dinner and I was able to enjoy it when I got home.

Holiday gifts were all over the month this year. But our big gifts were given on day 22: Merry Christmas hubby! As we exchanged gifts, hubs received his remote control helicopter that he had been wanting, while I received my beautiful NEW CAMERA! EEK! Isn't it gorgeous?! This beauty is a Canon t3i, everything I wanted in a DSLR. I've been asking for one for quite sometime, and he went all out. Not only did he purchase a camera, but I also received three lenses and a bunch of other great accessories. And of course, every new camera needs a bag, and I got this beauty from Epiphanie. Love. I'm so in love with my holiday gifts - thanks hubby!!!

Not much can top the new camera love, but day 23: I'll Be Home for Christmas is a close one. We drove home to Green Bay that evening with a book on cd and the pups in the back seat. They love nap time.

In preparation for the Christmas Day Packer vs. Bears game, hubs received his final gift. Day 24: A Cold Christmas Eve gave hubs a new winter Packer hat for the game - which the Packers won! It was a great game, and we had a wonderful time! GO PACK GO!

Hope everyone (who was celebrating) had a great Christmas Eve!

Jingle Rails

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 - 
Day 17: Western Cold Front found us at the Eiteljorg Museum. Out of all the museums in Indy, hubs and I had never been to the Eiteljorg. I have no idea why. With the exhibit 'Jingle Rails', I decided we needed to make it happen.

The main reason we went was for Jingle Rails, an exhibit full of model trains and models of locations in the Indianapolis area and in the Western part of the country. These exhibits were great - I was so impressed with what was built out of stones, sticks and other natural products. Take a look:

And of course, being an American Indian and Western Art museum, there were a lot of great exhibits about the Native Americans. We even got to built our own tee-pees.

It was a great day ending with a great night at the JW Marriott. We dined at their restaurant, High Velocity, with burgers and fries before relaxing without any plans. It was really great to not have plans and relax with the beautiful skyline behind us.

Perfect for preparing for day 18: Lazy brunch morning. We dined at Granite City to give it a go - caramel rolls and build your own benedict. We had a busy afternoon, so starting our Sunday with lazy was definitely the way to go.

Day 19: Who was an evening of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, though we ended up not even watching the movie. Prepping for the holiday weekend, we knew it was going to be a busy week so we had to get a move on with laundry and packing! Stay tuned for the rest of the advent recap (and of course, holiday photos!) this week.

Cccccchanges (David Bowie Style)

Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 
Changes. Mr. Bowie informed us that changes happen. Changes even effect the advent fun of our household. Small change of course, but it happens. Here is a quick recap of what has been happening:

  • Day 14: Deck the Hall with Globes - the venue where I am a special events coordinator at had their staff holiday party and I was excited to add this to the calendar. Rather than the typical staff party of eating, drinking and being merry with co-workers, we had the opportunity to make something besides memories. Being an art school as well as a great wedding venue, we all participated in glass blowing. Among the eating and (non-alcoholic) drinking - after all, we were literally playing with fire - we all took a turn to make our own holiday ornaments. It is much more difficult than it looks, but is a lot of fun at the same time. Great holiday party for sure, and we walked away with something for our tree.
  • Day 15: Holiday Murder Mystery - and this is where our change happens. We had a busy week and the upcoming week wasn't looking any slower, so hubs opted to pass on his evening plans of attending a holiday murder mystery dinner at the Propylaeum. This was fine with me because something like this is just more fun with a group, and unfortunately, none of our friends were joining us. So what did we do instead? Well, we each got some gifts. Mine had been coming in from various vendors throughout the week, but I found all of his at Target randomly that day. Perfect timing if you ask me! As mentioned, hubs loves his Rudolph. I couldn't pass up these when I saw them, especially since I have a few of my own (Disney Villian style of course). And to add to my Vinylmation collection, I received (by received, I mean gifted myself or had my hubs buy them for me as I watched) the Jingle Smells collection. I LOVE them!
  • Day 16: Holiday Gift - we had a busy evening ahead of us with a friend's dinner and comedy club celebration, followed by another friends holiday party. Couldn't really 'plan and execute' anything for the evening, so hubs got a new shirt. He strut it that evening - always good when he likes the clothing I get him versus it sitting on the shelf!
The holidays are in full swing and we continue to be busy with each day. How are your holiday plans coming along? Is your shopping complete?

Gifts for the Holiday

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 
My hubs is a homebrewer. And not just any kind of homebrewer. He is a fantastically gifted homebrewer. What I'm saying is this guy's hobby is the best hobby for him because he is raging good at it. Right now, he has a variety of beers at home for drinking, including Hefe, cider, and two others.

I mean it. This guy is good.

I like to think of him as a beer connoisseur in his own right. And that made day twelve's gift very easy. Themed beer connoisseur, he received a magazine subscription for Beer Connoisseur magazine. I don't know much about beer magazines. He really wants BYOBrew, but this was a great deal from Sweet Jack that I couldn't pass up.

The funny thing about his brewing, it is a perfect bachelor activity. So when I'm traveling for work or have an evening event, he always lines up a new beer to brew. Another thing he loves about his bachelor time is the random food that he eats. Things that I just don't understand. Like Funyons. I mentioned this last year too - he loves his Funyons for a bachelor evening. Day thirteen was easy on a busy night (which ended up not happening, but he still appreciates the crunch). Themed bachelor food, he (and I'm sure the pups helped) unwrapped a bag of Funyon treats that he could enjoy all to himself.

Sometimes it is the simple things.

Traditions: A Wreath, Gingerbread & Socks

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 
Traditions. Everyone has them. This past weekend, hubs and I celebrated three different traditions. But this time around, there was something interesting about these traditions.  Let me begins with socks.

Tradition 1 - Socks. Hubs steals my socks. My white gym socks that is. To the point that I have no more. Let's ignore the fact that I didn't notice until I started to visit the gym again. Yes, I went on hiatus. A very long hiatus. But that isn't the point here. Day eight, warm & toasty, brought hubs the gift of socks. He has 16 new pairs of socks, so there is no reason for him to steal mine anymore. This is a tradition that I didn't even know that we had until I started to write this post. I always give him socks during his advent calendar. Why? Because he always needs them. This year, we both needed them. That is what happens when your husband steals your socks.

Tradition 2 - Wreath. With warm and toasty toes, he was ready for the next day. Day nine was trimming the door, aka making our annual wreath. We gathered the materials and got sappy while putting it together. With needles everywhere, lots of greens and floral wire, our sappy hands made the best wreath we've ever made. I absolutely adore it! And if you look closely, you'll see Nala saying hello!

Tradition 3 - Gingerbread House. Hubs and I are competitive people. Christmas season isn't excluded from this spirit as our tradition of competing gingerbread houses takes center stage. We always decorate our own side of the house and whoever decorates it the 'best' wins. The prize is nothing more than the self pride of winning. This year, I thought I would switch it up and throw out a variation. Day ten, gingerbread hunt, was an alternative to building. This alternate was a hunt for gingerbread houses in the Arts District (if you live in the area and are interested, research it here). However, hubs wanted to stick to building. Then he threw in his own variation - he wanted to bake rather than buying a kit.

As he said that, I immediately panicked. Little did he know that day eleven was holiday treats meaning we would be baking cookies for the Packer victory (yup, I'm optimistic - and now I know I can tell the future! 13-0 - GO PACK GO!). With that, I clued him in and we decided to combine the two days. We bought some candy to decorate each respective home and got to baking.

As you can see, the icing didn't necessarily want to hold the gingerbread in place. My house of shambles didn't even make it to a photos. What you see here is what is left of hubs masterpiece. I might add, this is a friendly competition between the two of us that we do every year. Since hubs made 'stained glass windows' with sugar and his actually stood much longer then mine, he did win this year. I say by default, but he'd argue he would have won no matter what.

This is all we have left of the gingerbread cookies. They are tasty - we snacked on them throughout the Packer victory on Sunday afternoon.

What are your holiday traditions? Do you ever change them up?

Silver & Gold...Almost

Monday, December 12, 2011 - 
My hubs loves Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  It is his all time favorite holiday movie. However, we have specific circumstances to watch the movie.
  1. It has to be snowing or snow must be on the ground.
  2. No talking is allowed.
It only makes sense that this is his stocking.

Day five was St. Nick's Day. That means this stocking was full of treats, including movies, candy, more popcorn shakers and other items. I wasn't home to fill the stocking as I was still in Vegas (for work), so prior to departing I set up a scavenger hunt for him to find when he arrived home. He searched for his favorite movie, then a board game, and a few other items around the house in search of the stocking.

Maybe this was a reward because the next day, he had to do a little 'work'. He helps out with holiday cards for family and friends by labeling them. So any of you who receive a card, know that hubs helped out on day six, family & friends. And if you haven't picked up cards yet, consider looking at Two Designs. Tara is extremely talented, just sayin'. Yes, a shameless plug for a bestie - it happens.

I would have loved all the labels were stuck when I got home on day seven, themed cuddle time. But alas, we wrapped them up together that evening when I got home. A holiday movie followed with warm and cozy blankets. Even the pups were warm and cozy.

Was it Rudolph?  Well, no. The weather wasn't quite right.

Bright Lights & Vegas Delights

Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 
Hubs and I made our way to Las Vegas for a long weekend. We both just needed to 'get away,' and we had a variety of reasons for a vacay.
  1. It was our delayed anniversary trip. When we got married, we promised one another we would always travel for our anniversary, alternating international with national travel. In addition, it had to be somewhere we had never been together. 
  2. I had won a two night stay at the Green Valley Ranch from a silent auction, so we had our hotel taken care of.
  3. I had a work conference in Vegas, so we were able to make this happen without me having to add another trip towards the end of the year.
A vacation was the perfect way to kick off hub's Advent calendar as well!  Day two brought winning big, an opportunity to walk the strip and gamble a little bit, to see all the hotels and what the strip has to offer. We walked around stores, dropped some money in the casino (and no, we didn't win big), and even sampled a local brewery, Sin City Brewing Company.

Day three - see the talent of Vegas - brought us to see a show on the strip. But first, we started with a day trip to Hoover Dam to take in the sites. We also stopped in at a local brewery, Boulder Dam Brewery. And let me tell you, that day, the 'dam' jokes didn't stop.

That evening, we saw Cirque du Soleil's Mystere show at Treasure Island. It was the first Cirque show in Vegas which is why we picked it versus all the others. The stage was immaculate - amazing how it could change and what it could do to impact the show. Of course, the actors/gymnasts were amazing, their strength is something that words just can't describe.

Unfortunately, hubs couldn't stay with me while I worked, so he found himself flying back to Indy on day four, themed vacation relaxation. When he arrived home, he found a simple gift of popcorn, popcorn shakers (honestly, hubs loves to flavor popcorn) and hot chocolate to help him relax after a weekend of fun in Vegas.

We had a great, unscheduled, relaxing vacation. It is always great to get away and enjoy time with your best friend. Hope everyone else enjoyed the first weekend of the holiday season in December!

Oh Christmas Tree...

Thursday, December 1, 2011 - 
I want to live in a house that has multiple trees.

There. I said it (again.)

This doesn't mean I need a huge house, but I just LOVE the idea of having multiple themed trees. One may ask, why would you want multiple trees?  Well, as mentioned, themes! I'm almost to the Disney themed tree that I've been collecting for quite sometime. Here are a few other trees I would like to have:
  • Classic red and green tree
  • Silver and blue tree
  • Family oriented tree - this means all those great ornaments from our parents and grandparents
  • Travel tree - since hubs and I collect ornaments when we travel, it would be great to have a tree just full of those ornaments
  • Snowman tree - I like snowman, so I have quite a collection of those ornaments
Really, there are so many more that could be had. And right now, I'm happy to report we've got two.  Sure, they aren't straight up themed, but both are pretty close.

Our artificial tree is on the first floor. This is a combination of a snowman and family oriented tree. This tree has seen a good few years, and I think after this holiday, it may be retired to the land of discarded holiday trees.The second tree is our real tree. And if I do say myself, this tree is a pretty great tree. We picked it out in a matter of five minutes, and it is perfect for us. Around 8 feet, it is a great size and has that classic shape.  Sitting in our main living area, it lights up our living room every night. And, this tree is almost a full Disney tree. There are a few ornaments regarding travel, or special meaning ornaments between the two of us.

With the trees up and ready for gifts (yes, I theme my wrapping paper every year too. This year, purple and green,) that means December is just about here.  December 1st means the return of hubs advent calendar.  I'll be keeping you posted on all the events as I did last year. It may be delayed though, because hubs and I are celebrating our four year anniversary a tad bit late (yes, September 29th has come and gone this year, I know that. Sometimes new additions delay things.) by taking a trip to LAS VEGAS!

Photo Credit

So...December 1 is "Sparkly Night Lights" meaning our night flight to Las Vegas to the strip lights!

And yes, if you keep track, I may recycle some themes from last year. Don't judge.

We leave today.  Bags are packed, pups are at the 'spa', and we are ready to go!  If you have advice on things we must do, please share. We have a slight itinerary, but everything is extremely flexible!