Honey Mustard Chicken with Bacon and Cheese

This is a meal we eat quite often because everyone likes it and the ingredients are always on hand.  I adapted it from my favorite cookbook, Taste of Home, Best Loved Recipes.  It is out of print and none of the other Taste of Home cookbooks are quite as good.

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You will need:

For the marinade:

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

To assemble:

4 chicken breast cutlets

6 slices of bacon

1/2 cup cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Salt, pepper, and paprika

  1.  Mix up the marinade ingredients and divide the marinade in half. Marinate the chicken in half of the marinade, in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, for 2-4 hours (not too long because of the lemon juice).  Reserve the rest of the marinade.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375. Bring chicken to room temperature for about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large cast iron skillet until partially cooked.  Drain bacon on paper towels
  3. Drain the the chicken.  Generously season with salt, pepper, and paprika.  Brown chicken in the same skillet, using bacon grease, on medium high, three minutes or so per side, until browned but not cooked through.
  4. Arrange chicken in single layer in a 9×13 baking dish.  Pour reserved marinade on top.  Layer cheese and bacon on top.
  5. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, until bacon is crispy and chicken is cooked through.

I served this with a Caesar salad and roasted potatoes for a simple weeknight meal.  I always leave one cutlet without cheese and bacon for the kids to share.

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Organizing the Home: Point of Use Storage

Home organization is a never ending topic and usually involves things like labeled totes, millions of baskets, and contraptions to hold belts.

But what I want to talk about here is more of a home organizing philosophy.

The most common organizing philosophies are:

  1. Store at point of use
  2. Like with like
  3. Put it where it looks good

They are all useful.  Most people use a combination of the three.  But the most commonly used is like with like.

For example, a linen closet holds all the linens in the house. They might not be used there or look good there, but it is the linen closet so they go there.

Or take cleaning supplies for example.

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This is a page from a Martha Stewart organizing magazine.  This cleaning station follows the principle of “like with like”.  All cleaning stuff together.  It also is attractive, so it follows “put it where it looks good” as well.

However, it is a TERRIBLE idea because it completely ignores principle number one, the MOST important principle.

Point of use storage is the most useful organizing principle. Everything is at hand where you need it, and easily put back, keeping your home tidy.

Who is going to run down to their “cleaning station” every time the bathroom needs to be cleaned?  No.  This is just awful.

Instead, put a bottle of glass cleaner, an all purpose cleaner, a Soft-scrub type deep cleaner for toilets and stains, paper towels, rags, and a toilet brush in EVERY bathroom in your home.  Keep them there.  If your powder room has no storage then try a lidded basket.  And magically, you will find that your bathroom is always clean.  It is no trouble to clean it quickly once every day or so because everything is right there. You have organized that one element of your home is a way that makes sense, and that one aspect of life will be easier.

Another example, from the same magazine.

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Yes!  Wonderful!  A closet at the back door for all the things you might need at that location!  With a stepstool, where it is needed!  Now within this beautiful closet/ cabinet, things are organized by the secondary principles, like with like, and put it where it looks good.  

But this back door closet is mostly organized with the principle of point of use storage, and it will function forever.

Imagine someone storing their toothbrush on their nightstand. Obviously a lunatic, right? And yet we do things like put our board games in the coat closet when we play games in the dining room. Put those games in the china cabinet. And why bread in the pantry when you use it for toast every single day. Put it by the toaster! In a bread box, or a large drawer below the toaster. You get the idea. It might feel weird at first, but as you use things you will easily remember where everything is stored.

Yes, there will be some things stored in places that will only make sense to you.

I store some things in strange places that have made my life much, much easier. An extra kids hairbrush with clips and ties in the kitchen junk drawer. They always come down with it looking messy, so I fix it while they color at the kitchen table. And guess what is below the junk drawer? Their coloring and craft supplies.

I know this all seems very obvious, but believe me in many cases it is not. Think about how you really use your rooms and what is needed in each. And never again ask the question, where does this go?

Have a good week, and happy organizing!


Trying to Make an Inviting Home

Our house is new, and fairly large (almost 3000 square feet), two things that are working against it in my quest to make it charming, cozy, and comfortable.  Now before we built this house we lived in the old cottage that came on the property, which was old, tiny, and infested with kitchen mice and attic snakes, so I am not complaining.

It was NOT charming, because it was in such disrepair, and not comfortable, because it was always cold and there was only one bathroom.  But it was cozy.  I will give it that.  Every square inch was used, and the things of life were out on display.  Cookbooks, toys, pots, homework.  When the cutting garden was in season, it seemed overflowing with flowers.  When we had guests, it felt full and bustling.  The new house is lacking that somehow.  I want to correct it.  Here is what I am trying.

1.  More things out

This goes against my very nature, as I like things put away.  But there is no need to pretend we don’t live here, and no need to exhaust oneself putting away baby toys during naps just to take them out again when she wakes up.  And “things” are proof that people live there.  Fruit, flowers (from Costco, and quite beautiful), crayons, sugar and flour canisters, a basket of potatoes and onions, even a pot on the stove. They have been invited to live on the counter or breakfast table as evidence of life.

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2. Less stuff out for kids.  

It is well known that once kids destroy a playroom with toys, they lose interest in it.  So they are being made to clean up every evening, not just because it is right, but because when their playroom is a mess they don’t use it.  Also it is more of a loft and I have to see it when I go upstairs.  Every night they pick up, and every Friday I switch out their toys to keep them interested.  If they are in the middle of making an “important store of out of magnets”, I will of course leave it alone.

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(Looks like this bookshelf needs a little help!)

3.  Keeping the dining table set

So the only picture I have of it appear to be of it not set.  But it is much more inviting with plates, place mats, cloth napkins, and silverware.  I keep it cleared off to make it easier to wipe down after lunch, and Camilla sets it after her quiet time in the afternoons.  It makes the room feel more alive.  The sun shines in the front of the house in the afternoons too, and generally cheers everyone up.

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4.  More people, more animals

Of course nothing makes a house feel more alive than actual life!  So we let the kittens in on cold days, play with the baby, and try to enjoy each other’s company.  Having guests over is always nice.  More babies too.  I now sit at the kids little kitchen table while they color.  I work on grocery lists and garden plans next to them instead of somewhere else.  We feel a little more together, and I find that the more focused attention they get, the less whining there is later.

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5.  Books, puzzles, board games

TV is so often depressing and isolating.  Why not do something that either invites a companion, or allows to you be together in comfortable silence?

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In the future, I need to work on getting curtains, getting some rooms painted in warmer, richer colors, and getting some furniture in empty feeling rooms like the dining room, master bedroom, and guest bedroom.  I will get there!

 

 

 

 


Cozy Christmas

The Christmas decorations are still up (it is still Christmas!), and I am glad, as some of them made their appearance on Christmas Eve.  It is a shame to rush things so much that you are sick of them by the time they have actually become appropriate.  (Like premarital sex, filling up on snacks before dinner, giving two month old babies toys that they can’t play with, etc.)

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The holly can only last so long when your house is a toasty 78 degrees because of your delightful fireplace!

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(We used this gingerbread recipe and loved it, tons of flavor, unlike gingerbread cookies that look charming and taste like nothing.)

The last few days of school before winter break, we worked hard on our cookies, packaging up soap for teachers, and setting out our final decorations.

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The peanuts had a week and a half off school, and after one day back, it snowed half an inch and they were given two snow days.

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So we have been making garlands out of glittery construction paper stars…

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Drinking some of our fifty dollars worth of tea we bought with a Christmas gift card.

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And enjoying our Christmas gifts.

Soon it will be time to jump into January organization and garden planning and seed starting.  But now… it is still time to celebrate!

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Merry Christmas!

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