Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Crowd Pleaser - Chicken Divan

Miracles happen. I have 3 children who all eat table food, and last night I attempted to make ONE DINNER and feed it to my entire little family as we sat around the table together.


I have to share the recipe - it's from "The Gourmet Cookbook" but it's very easy to make. Just a few steps and a few pots and pans, but don't be intimidated. It was so so delicious and with a few tweaks I think it will become a staple in our meal rotation. Anything that gets me excited to eat broccoli is a winner in my book.

(*Important: I substituted a bag of ready-to-steam fresh broccoli florets for the long-stemmed broccoli in this recipe, and it was a huge mistake. I also boiled it for too long, what a rookie move. I should know better. It fell apart to mush in the cream sauce, so go get a big sturdy stalk of broccoli, and for pete's sake don't overcook it!)


1 1/4 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T olive oil
1 large bunch broccoli (1 1/2 lbs) trimmed and cut into 4 inch long florets
1/2 stick (4 T) unsalted butter
5 T flour
2 C chicken broth
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 C medium-dry sherry
2 t fresh lemon juice
1 C finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot but not smoking. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until cooked through, 8-12 minutes total. Let stand for 5 minutes, then cut into long thin slices.

Meanwhile, cook broccoli in a 4 or 5 quart pot of well salted boiling water, 3-6 minutes but do not overcook! Drain and set aside.

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, whisking, for 3 minutes to make a roux. Add stock in a slow stream, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil, whisking. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, whisking occasionally, for 10 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Beat cream with electric mixer until it holds stiff peaks. Fold cream into sauce, along with sherry and lemon juice. Stir in 1/4 t salt and 1/8 t pepper.

Arrange broccoli evenly in bottom of a 2 quart gratin or other flameproof shallow baking dish. Pour half of sauce over broccoli. Stir in 1/2 C Parmesan into remaining sauce. Arrange chicken slices over broccoli and pour remaining sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 C Parmesan.

Bake until just hot, about 15 minutes. Turn oven to broil and keep a close eye, pulling the baking dish out when the sauce on top is golden and bubbling, about 1 minute.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012


This weekend we went for a walk through the Arboretum one evening just before sunset. It was chilly and gorgeous and the fresh air felt so good. At one point a squirrel ran up to us, about a foot away from the kids and I! Ellie kept asking to kiss it and couldn't understand why we didn't let her pet it when it seemed like a fearless domestic animal. (Rob scared it away for us.)

The kids collected pinecones and dried out blossoms that had fallen from trees, Rob gave shoulder rides when little legs got tired, and I snuggled Maddie in the Ergo Carrier. Total bliss. This is my happy place, for sure. Any season, any day, but always with my little family.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Unexpected love

Our little family has been hobbling through the last 6 days fighting off chest colds and sore throats and boogie noses. Valentine's Day loomed on the horizon and to be honest I couldn't have cared less. I love my family, and I love to celebrate, so you know it's bad when I pass up an excuse to bust out sprinkles, gift wrap, balloons and/or themed greeting cards.

It got so bad that I actually drove myself to the doctor on Monday, praying for a strep diagnosis so that I would be sent home with medication. No such luck! I was feeling desperate (creative?) at one point and threw the kids in the bath tub with me just so I could soak and be warm. I poured in extra bubble bath, and the only rules were 1) stay in the tub until I say it's time to get out, and 2) don't touch mommy because she hurts. everywhere. (also known as 'stay on your side of the tub')

It was fairly successful.

Haha - oh yeah, and then they got a little wild, so I told them we were going to play a game: Who can count to 10 with their eyes closed?! I was so desperate for a few minutes of peace, this is what I actually coerced my children to do. A couple of times in a row. Which means I bought myself another minute or two of soaking. I am embarrassed to have done this, looking back.

This was all while Maddie took her late afternoon nap. Rob came home to find the 4 of us in our pajamas at 5:30pm in our walk-in closet, kids hiding in the clothes, me in the middle of the floor sipping hot tea and trying hard not to talk (the agony!). What a mess motherhood can become when you are ill. I'm glad these are memories now. Kinda funny.

So we woke up on Valentine's Day still sick, Maddie had developed a fresh chest cough to round out her clogged green nose (lovely) and I was convinced I was dying, or at least had developed mono. My mom came to our rescue and spent the morning with us, bringing the kids V-day gifts and generally saving the day. I was feeling so down all morning, discouraged from how long I had been sick, how cabin feverish we were getting, and bummed to be missing out on a fun little chance to celebrate love with my kiddos.

And then sweet things started to fall into place.

My mom left just as I got all of the kids down for a nap at the same time. I spent a few minutes in the kitchen by myself picking up and wiping the counters down, and the thought occurred to me: I had yet to ask the Lord to heal my sickness. I had waited it out, gone to the doctor, and brought home a few over the counter natural aids and teas to ease my pain. But I had not first taken my burden to God. So I stopped cleaning and just prayed a simple, desperate prayer in my kitchen that the Lord would take away my illness and bless me with health again. Very embarrassed that it was my last resort as opposed to my first inclination.

Then I went upstairs and laid down and slept for an hour and a half, and as we all woke up from our naps at the same time, I actually felt a little less sick.

The kids and I headed downstairs for an afternoon snack, and I picked up a box on the counter that we had received from a dear friend last week but hadn't opened yet. I was holding out until we could really enjoy it together, and it seemed like a sure way to boost our spirits.

Precious words and gifts from loved ones who know and love us so well. What a blessing!

I switched the girls' shirts out for the ones I had found a while back and saved for this day.

A knock on the door then, and yet another dear friend showing up to love on us. Warming our home with her daughters' sweetly decorated cookies and this little jewel that will remind me of how lucky I am that we have found close, sweet friendship in one another.

I felt a little more energized and festive, and so I popped Maddie in the baby bjorn and set about making dinner for the kids and putting Rob's and my dinner in the oven for later. The day wasn't over yet - I was bound to salvage what was left and make the most of what we had left of Valentine's Day!

One fast batch of pink frosted cupcakes - check.

Then Rob walked in the door with beautiful bouquets of flowers - for me AND Ellie! Oh be still my heart. It was the highlight of my day, watching him give those to her... the look on her face... receiving her first flowers, and from daddy. Perfection. They were as big as her.

Rob asked Robbie to help him carry them inside at first, explaining to Robbie that the flowers were from him AND Robbie, for the girls. Teaching Robbie how to love. How to grow up and not always receive, but how to give. To his mother. To his sister. More heart-melting as I watched it all unfold. Thinking, this is my family. The husband I get to spend my life with. The children we are raising and loving. The man who will teach our boy how to become a man himself. I don't deserve any of this. Any of them.

I learned a few important things this Valentine's Day.

I usually try to pull things off on my own. But celebrating love is not a one-man show or a one-day affair. I couldn't make the holiday what I wanted to for the kids - full of themed playdates and homemade cookies and handmade cards and calls across the country to express the love in our hearts for those who are dearest to us.

What I found, instead, was a richness that came from allowing others into the space that sat empty of plans and activities and expectations. By becoming an observer instead of the orchestrator, I was able to realize how loved we are as family and friends took turns expressing themselves.

This may not make sense to anyone. Maybe it makes sense to you reading this, if you have a personality that is similar to mine. I hope it resonates in some way though, and encourages you to open up and receive things differently than you might be used to doing. I know I am learning to force things less (health... fun... agenda... routine!) and roll with things more. Release. Appreciate. Observe. Ask Him first. Wait. Submit. Accept.

And then bask in His glory. Because He always shows Himself to be faithful and true and loving when we seek Him first.

My heart is so full this Valentine's Day.

And also? This set of sweet cheeks is starting to spread her wings. Pulling herself up on everything all of the sudden. You have never seen such a narrow little babe from the back, especially when she is naked!

She can't stop pulling up to standing in her crib, but has yet to master the dismount and therefore cries and cries until she is rescued and laid back down. These little ones. So funny as they figure things out.

Hope your Valentine's Day was lovely and full of love in unexpected places!

{*I celebrated the end of my awful cold by getting a haircut today. Can we shallowly discuss for a moment how wonderful it is when someone else shampoos your hair? Heaven. And then my stylist showed me how to curl my hair with a straight-iron. A straight-iron, people. My mind was blown. I think it makes me a little nerdy or something that this entertains me but there you have it.}