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: A Place for Everything; Point of Use Storage

I am a little weird, and used to have a list of phrases that I liked and signified happiness.  For example “baby’s first Christmas”, “homemade birthday cake”, and “trip to the strawberry patch”.  But the greatest phrase of all is “a place for everything, and everything in its place.”  Beautiful.

I think most of us are fairly adept at the second part.  Or we at least don’t need to be told how do it.  But the first part…yikes.  A place for everything is actually a huge challenge.   And the answer is very rarely more space.  The answer is also not expensive crates, files, labeled stuff, or shelving.  It is simply: own fewer things and store them in a way that makes sense.

There are a few ways people decide where to put things in their home, but it is usually one of the following organizing philosophies.

  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.  I use them in the order listed above.  So my number one factor in finding a home for something is: WHERE IS IT USED? 

Let’s take cleaning supplies for example.

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This is a page from a Martha Stewart organizing magazine.  (Better write that phrase down in my notebook.)  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.

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

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 that one can be the exception.  But let’s get powder room sinks with vanities in the future.  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, because you have organized that one element of your home in a way that makes sense.

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 the first principle, store at point of use, is the overarching theme of this closet, and it will be functional forever, even though its contents will change as the inhabitants of the home change.

So let’s keep these principles in mind as we decide where to store our belongings.  Let’s do it once, in a way that makes sense and won’t have to be redone next year.  Let’s put our trash cans next to the sink, our coats by the door we use the most, our kid’s craft supplies by the table they color on, our laundry baskets where we get undressed.  If it looks good there, all the better.  But let’s make it function first.

 

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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!

 

 

 

 


Ten Things You Don’t Need at Target (or anywhere)

1.  Embroidered totes for kids toys.

Is there something wrong with shoeboxes?  They’re free, you have them.  You can        always change the labels.

2.  Valentine’s decorations

Must there be another box of junk in your basement?

3.  Sign that says “Eat”, “hello”, or “family”

Try to decorate your house with soul so that it does not have to literally say “home” on the walls.

4.  Tastykakes

I feel you on this one, but no.

5.  Stickers for your planner.

Just get some for your kids and steal one or two if you must.  But sort of a weird trend in general.

6. A fancy crockpot

The old ones are better, and let’s face it, almost everything that comes out of it is gross except beans and chili.

7.  A non-classic book

Request it from the library.  If you still want to own it after that, then okay.

8. Flavored coffee creamer

It is vegetable oil and corn syrup.  Use cream and sugar and get a flavored syrup if you want.

9. That cute scarf

I bet you have one.  They don’t really wear out.

10. Industrial farmhouse anything

The worst.

Sorry!

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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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