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New Year's Resolutions

Hello Again!  How is everyone?  I am doing great and staying busy.  I made a promise to myself that I would start blogging again back in September and then I stopped.  So this New Year I made blogging one of my resolutions.  I got so busy and put blogging on the back burner but that is really just an excuse.  I am never too busy to blog at least 3 days a week.  What really happens is a get use to not blogging and start doing everything else but that.  I make excuses that the house needs to be cleaned, Addison need help with homework or diving, or I need the finish an order.  But I need to remember that blogging keeps me sane, just like cooking and crafting.  It gives me a way to share the things I love and that makes me feel great about myself.  So 2015 I am going to share again things I create, cook, bake, and love.  I hope everyone comes back and I get new readers.  And of course I hope everyone enjoys what I have to share.  Hey it is cheaper than therapy.  :)

Today I would like to share recipe and our 2014 Christmas card.

I made Southernwestern Chicken Soup last night it was so good.  I do not have step by step pictures because I decided to blog about this soup this morning but I promise I will start taking step by step pictures again.  The Chosen One always tells me she loves my step by step pictures.  She actually would tell me to make the recipe again so I could take step by step pictures.  LOL!

I get a lot of my inspiration on what to cook from cooking magazines, cooking shows, Pinterest, Instagram, and blogs.  One of my favorite blogs right now is the Williams-Sonoma blog.  I also follow them on Instagram.  I have been getting great recipes from the Williams-Sonoma website for years but when The Chosen One showed me their blog I knew I would love it.  I have spent many hours pinning recipes to make in the future.

Four days ago, Williams-Sonoma's Instagram showed a picture of this Chicken-Tortilla Soup and I raced over to the blog to pin the recipe.  I thought about it for the next 3 days, purchased the ingredients, and started cooking.  I had one problem though.  Their recipe was made in a slow cooker.  We all know I have a fabulous All Clad slow cooker so this should not be a problem.  But my fabulous slow cooker is at the farm which is an hour away.  I am not driving to the farm just to pick up the slow cooker so I thought what about my dutch oven.  I did some research and found out how to convert slow cooker times to dutch oven times.  For the low setting on the slow cooker, you need to divide by 4 to get the dutch oven cooking time. For the high setting on the slow cooker, you need to divide by 2 to get the dutch oven cooking time.  Oh the oven should be set to 325 degrees.  So the Chicken-Tortilla Soup recipe states cook on the low setting for 5 hours.  I cooked it in my dutch oven at 325 degrees for 1.25 hours or 90 minutes.

I did not just change what I cooked the soup in.  I did change a few things in this recipe.  I browned the chicken before placing tomato, garlic, onion and chiles puree to give the soup some depth of flavor.  I also finished the soup on the stovetop instead placing back in the oven to cook the corn.  When I added the corn at the end I also added some extra stock to the recipe.  I felt like after braising in the oven it needed a little more stock to make it a soup. A lot of the liquid had cooked down.  I also served the soup with Jalapeño-Cheddar Corn Bread which is also a Williams-Sonoma recipe.  You can find the recipe here.  This one of my favorite cornbread to make and with the soup it was amazing.  This cornbread is so much better than plain tortillas.  Everyone got seconds.

Southwestern Soup
Serves 6

1 can (15 oz) tomato purée or crushed tomatoes

1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, smashed

2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and chopped

8 cups chicken stock

2 lb. skinless, bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat

3 limes

1 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. ground cumin

3 bay leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 1⁄2 cups (15 oz./470 g) thawed frozen corn kernels

2 small avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and diced

2 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Over a medium high heat add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a dutch oven.  Salt and pepper the chicken thighs.  When oil is hot add chicken thighs, brown both sides.

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeño chiles to taste and 1 cup of the stock and process until smooth. Pour into a dutch oven with chicken thighs.

Add the the remaining 6 cups of stock, the juice of 1 lime, the vinegar, cumin, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and cook in the oven for 90 minutes. The chicken should be very tender.

Transfer the chicken pieces to a cutting board. Remove the meat from the bones, and discard the bones. Chop or shred the meat. Using a large spoon, skim away the fat from the braising liquid. Return the chicken meat to the dutch oven. Add the corn kernels and the rest of the stock, cook on stovetop over medium heat until corn is tender, about 15 minutes more. Remove and discard the bay leaves.

Ladle the soup into warm shallow bowls. Garnish each bowl with some of the avocados, cilantro, and lime juice.

I hope you guys make the soup and enjoy it.

Now to crafting.  Every year I spend weeks brainstorming and creating our Christmas card.  Do you guys remember our past 3 years of Christmas cards?

Our 2013 Christmas Card:

Front of card

Addison's Christmas picture

Other side of front flap

Inside: Infograph


Other Flap

Envelope liner

And our 2012 Christmas Card:

And our 2011 Christmas Card:

Well this year, hubby bought me a Cricut Explore.  This has become my favorite crafting machine and has upped my paper crafting game.  I luckily have a Cricut Cake, which cuts fondant but I used for paper also, so I knew how to use the basics of this machine.  Oh but did they improve it.  It did take me some hours to figure out the software and what this machine could do.  But when I finally did I was so amazed.  I fortunately have Adobe Illustrator so I can use this machine beyond it's potential.  Everyday I am learning something new.  So our 2014 Christmas card just scratched the surface of this machine.  I will share more of what the Cricut Explore can do in future blogs.  

Because of my new machine I decided this Christmas card would be all about paper cutting.  I found some inspiration on Pinterest and then had to figure out how to execute it.  I created a design that was made up of holiday words.  I had some difficulty making sure all the words connected together so the card would hold together.  After countless hours, many fonts, and attaching words to the correct areas, I finally had a whole card and just need to cut 40 of them.  Cutting was a problem at first.  I use pretty thick cardstock, from Papertrey Ink, to create my cards.  So I had to figure out the correct pressure so everything would cut well even the small intricate pieces.  Luckily I have a wonderful husband that helped my weed out all the negative space.  He is a pro with tweezers and a exacto knife.  I made the words font top a pocket and glued it on top of a card so I could slide in our holiday picture and our year in review.  The inside of the card has a sweet holiday message.  

Our 2014 Christmas Card:

It came in green

And also red

The pocket on top of the card

Inside of the card

The 2014 Christmas picture

I love the way the card turned out.  I have created many some great cards and invitations with this amazing machine.  I can not wait to share everything.  

Talk to you soon,