Thursday, August 26, 2010

School Buses and Comfort Food!

While I realize it's still summer...and I want to hang on to every last moment of this season...and it is not "officially" over until September 22nd...I'm beginning to feel a bit of fall in the air. The nights are suddenly much cooler now and sleeping with the windows open is a welcome relief to the constant night-time hum of the air conditioning during our long heat wave. 

As much as I will miss my favorite season, seeing school buses forces me to prepare myself to say goodbye to the freedom summer brings.  I don't look forward to wearing coats again...and  I'll miss the liberty my feet experience from May through September in my open shoes, sandals and flip flops as I look down at my pedicured toes.  I won't say goodbye easily.  My heart belongs to summer.  Yet there is something beautiful about autumn's colors; the smell of crisp air; and curling up in front of the fire wrapped in a warm "snuggy" on a chilly night. 

Oddly enough, today I was craving my "not so traditional" Smokey Chicken Paprikash!  I usually don't think about it in the summer.  It's definitely a chilly weather dish and somewhat of a comfort food for me. It is a lighter version of an old favorite, transformed by using skinless, boneless breasts of chicken along with low fat cream cheese.  I love adding "smoked" paprika to give it a unique autumn-like flavor. The cream cheese adds a smooth and creamy texture without becoming heavy. 

With the transition from summer to fall...nature's brush stroke of autumn colors...cooler air...and back to school routines, comes the realization that the changing seasons bring a refreshing variety to for this reason, I'll embrace the new season as I re-arrange my closets, bring out my sweaters and closed toed shoes...put a log on the fire and cook a comforting meal. 

Smokey Chicken Paprikash

Prep time: 10 minutes |Cook time: 20 minutes |Total time: 30 minutes |Servings: 4


4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. of Olive oil (approx.)
2 Cloves Garlic  (crushed or pressed)
1 Large white onion (chopped or sliced)
1/2 cup(s) of Chicken broth
1/4 cup(s) of White wine (approx.)
1 eight oz. pkg, Cream Cheese (1/3 less fat)
1 tbsp. of Smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. of Finely ground black pepper (approx.)
1 Pkg. egg noodles (or any other noodle or rice)
2 quart(s) of Boiling water (for noodles)
1/2 tsp. of Salt (for boiling water)

*Place a large pot of water with 1/2 tsp. salt over medium heat and bring to boil for the noodles.
*In a large skillet or sauté pan, drizzle olive oil and add garlic.
*Add chicken to pan and sprinkle with black pepper. Begin to cook over medium high heat.
*As chicken begins to brown, add onion and continue to sauté until onions appear translucent and
  chicken is cooked through.
*Add white wine while scraping the browned bits from the bottom of pan.
*Stir in chicken broth and cream cheese until blended.
*Stir in smoked paprika.
*Cover and simmer for approx. 5 - 10 minutes.
*Add noodles to boiling water. Boil according to pkg. directions (approx. 8-10 minutes) and drain.
*Spoon noodles into serving dish and top with Smokey Chicken Paprikash.
*Garnish with a few sprigs of snipped parsley and serve immediately with a side salad or your favorite
  vegetable.  I love cool, crisp cucumbers with this dish!
* Enjoy the smokey flavor and the creamy consistency of this not so traditional paprikash!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Truffles, Crème Brule & Soul Mates

On this date, seventeen years ago... A Summer, Sunday evening, I married Greg, the love of my life!
It was a magical day, as it should be. The weather was picture perfect from beginning to end. Friends and family were coming from near and far to witness this occasion at... the Chicago Historical Society! At first, we were apprehensive about choosing this location because we wanted to make sure that we were not having our wedding in a place which honored the accomplishments of man rather than in the house of God. Our pastor quickly put our minds at ease when he reminded us that it is not the building which matters because God is all-present, all-knowing...He knows our hearts and He who designed marriage will bless us as we choose to honor Him as we become one. What a relief it was to hear this reminder! So...we planned our day according to our desires, but in dedication to God as we asked Him to lead us and bless us along the way.

Interestingly, the Historical Society is located directly across the street from our church. Before we became engaged, we toured the building on a Sunday afternoon in May. I had remarked that this would make a great place for a wedding, not thinking it would ever be my own and not knowing that the following week we would be engaged! Yes, the following week, my husband took me to one of the most elegant French restaurants in the city for my birthday. We had a fabulous dinner and favorite part of the meal, especially at this restaurant.

Dessert always arrived under a silver dome and the presentation was the most dramatic, elegant, and somewhat decadent. I had ordered their renowned crème brule. The waiter announced my dessert, removed the dome as only he could, and presented me with...something other than crème brule....a small gold foil bag with beautiful foil wrapping inside which surrounded a chocolate truffle. I knew this was a truffle before opening the wrapping because I had given this exact same gift to Greg a while back. So...he either didn't like it and was returning it to me as a "gag gift", or loved it so much that he wanted to buy one for me also???  I set the bag aside as the waiter then presented me with dome number crème brule. Now we were talking...I would get to the bag later...I needed to eat this creation...immediately! Greg asked “don't you want to see what is in the bag?” I said, "Sure, after dessert, if that's o.k. with you." I noticed by the look on his face that it wasn't what he had planned, so I decided to humor him and open the bag. As I lifted the shiny gold wrapping from the foil lined bag, I noticed that is was a bit more sparkly than I had remembered. As I looked closer, I saw that around the foil, perched atop the truffle, was the most beautiful diamond ring I'd ever seen! I can't remember if I said anything...I think I just gasped as I tried to remove the ring from the foil wrapping, my hands shaking like a leaf! Greg was on one knee, ready to make his romantic proposal which I'm sure he had rehearsed to perfection. He told me that I am the love of his life and that he had waited all his life for me and asked "will you marry me"! Ahhh...those words! The power of those four amazing words! My heart must have stopped for a moment or two as I was overcome with emotion. I said "Of Course", "Of Course"! We hugged, We kissed, We laughed... then I grabbed the ring and shoved it onto my finger! Fortunately, by this time, he knew me all too well and he was able to offer his commentary on my impulsive action in the same way he always did and still does, allowing me to see the humor in my quirky self, bringing me to laughter! I immediately pulled the ring off, handed it to him (not thinking that he might be worried that I had changed my mind) – then I asked him, " will you please place it on my finger?"  As we left the restaurant, a horse and carriage was waiting to take us through the city. The entire time it felt as though we were floating on a cloud. I was touched even further the next day when I called my parents to tell them "I'm engaged".  My mom said, “I know darling. He was here a few days ago to ask for our blessing. It has been so hard to keep it a secret!"

Three months day!  A whirlwind! We had known each other for several years, first as acquaintances and then as friends, so although we only started dating in January, were engaged in May, and married in August....we knew that this was right!

What a thrill it was to have our wedding at the Historical Society! There was a specific area of the building that we sectioned off for our wedding. A large curved staircase descended from the upper level. I had always dreamed of walking down a grand staircase and meeting my groom at the alter. We had a small alter at which the pastor and my husband- to- be stood waiting. My father waited at the bottom of the staircase as I took his arm and he walked me the remainder of the way to the alter and gave his blessing to each of us as the ceremony began.

Four of our very talented friends blessed us as they sang a few of our favorite songs during the ceremony. Afterwards we had an hors d’oeuvre reception, and several champagne toasts, danced our first dance and then before we knew...the evening was drawing to a close. I tossed the bouquet as my husband whisked me away to the limousine waiting to take us to the airport....we would be in Hawaii the very next day! Oh what a dream come true!

Seventeen years later and I still have goosebumps when we reminisce about our day...a day only the two of us can appreciate in the same way and share with the same emotion. A day that two became one in the presence of God and many witnesses. We continue on the journey now, hand in hand, with God in the center.

Our day in history...our journey...our love...our life together...Happy Anniversary to my dear, loving husband...the love of my life.

~~~~ I almost forgot to mention :)  ~~~~
After we became engaged, Greg reminded me of our very first meeting.  It was at the grand opening of an establishment in the city seven years earlier. I was invited by a date.  Greg was there for his job.  We were introduced, and went our separate ways.  He said, when I walked away, he turned and silently prayed "God, that is the type of girl I want to marry...someone just like her."  Five years passed before we would see each other again. We bumped into each other at church and over the next couple of years, we would occasionally socialize within the same circle of friends. Finally, we ended up at a dear friend's New Year's Day party where it all began. January first, 1993...Engaged in May...Married in August.  Little did Greg know that his prayer would be answered...maybe on a different time schedule than his own, but it was answered.  I probably don't have to tell you that I often remind him that I am the answer to his prayers! :)  ~Just saying! ~
Of course, although I may not have prayed such a specific prayer myself, I can say that those I did pray were also answered and as each year passes, I can see God's wisdom in the timing of it all!

~ When I was just a girl ~                      (written by Lorraine Brown/copyright 2006)

When I was just a girl I wrote a poem a bout a soul mate,
Didn’t know exactly what it meant,
But I had a feeling deep inside my heart,
That something good would be heaven sent.

Wrote about love even thought I didn’t know it,
Realizing that this feeling would be years away,
Even then I knew that something good existed,
Never knowing how I’d feel today.

And now I know that a soul is deep,
And it’s filled with a love I can’t explain,
A true and a pure love that will keep,
And it’s constant through the laughter and the pain.

A love so big I wrote about it in a poem,
And something told me even then that it would be,
The fullness and the joy of coming home,
The comfort and the peace inside of me.

When I was just a girl I wrote a poem about a soul mate,
Didn’t know exactly what it meant,
But I had a feeling deep inside my heart,
That something good would be heaven sent.

***(So, I guess, unknowingly, I prayed for you even then, Greg! And it was so worth the wait!)***

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