Chicken Cacciatore

I’m not Italian, (contrary to popular belief), but I made one hell of meal to sway the general consensus in favour of the proud Nonnas and Nonnos last night.
I love one pot meals. They’re creative yet easy and so delicious. I also despise post-cooking cleanup so this is the way to go on any lazy Friday night. What is chicken cacciatore, you may ask? It’s a fancy way of saying chicken drowned in crushed tomatoes, any plethora of veggies and simmered down to a scalding Le Creuset pot of goodness.

chicken


  • bone-in, skin on chicken thighs (4-8 depending on desired serving size – I only had Sam and I so it was 4 for us)
  • swallow bowl of 1/2 cup flour + a pinch of salt
  • seeded, cored and sliced green pepper
  • fresh parsley
  • 1 large, thinly sliced onion
  • a few strips of cooked and crumbled bacon
  • basil and oregano (fresh or dried)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • tomato sauce or diced tomatoes if you prefer
  • 3 stalks of celery chopped and thinly sliced
  • 2 large carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (or 2tbsp olive oil)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

Now it all gets easy. You’ll want to dry your chicken with paper towels before even rolling them around in your swallow bowl of flour and salt mix. (I added a bit of garlic powder here, but that’s just because I love having breathe that could potentially save me under a vamp take-over). Did you know that if you don’t dry the chicken it won’t brown? Well, if you didn’t, now you do. Now toss in some butter into your medium-large cooking pot and allow to melt down and warm before adding your chicken. It normally takes 4-6 minutes of cooking on each side of chicken thighs for them to cook through. Once your home smells wonderfully of browned chicken and butter, remove your chicken and place aside. Drain out the fat from your pot and add a touch more butter or olive oil. Toss in your onion and mushrooms and allow to brown. (If you crowd the mushrooms, browning will take longer). Then add your garlic, celery, pepper and carrot to the mix. Let simmer in their own juices for about 8 minutes. Pour in your tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes) and the chicken broth. Stir, picking up the vegetables from the bottom of the pot to combine all flavours. Using tongs, place your chicken back into the pot to gently poach and marinate in your saucy creation. Leave simmering for 20 minutes. Let cool, and maybe serve on a bed of rice, and enjoy!

Tea, Please

You know you have a problem when you’ve dedicated an entire cupboard in a pocket-size kitchen to your tea collection. Oh, plus honey – honey is also in that cupboard. So, that makes it less sad.

Comfort is an underrated commitment. People scoff at the simplicity of being comfortable, labeling it as selfish or lazy. But I think it’s necessary to making the most of your happiness. It allows each inch of yourself the reward of resting and looking directly at the moment and recognizing those easy joys. Some of my favourite days are the ones riddled with solitary self-spoiling. Where I can get home after work to an empty house, maybe go for a long run, pour myself a glass of wine, (or cup of tea!), do some writing, listen to music without the consideration of headphones and maybe watch a movie that would make Sam puke.

I think we deprive ourselves of that pleasure all too often in the name of ambition. We don’t want to waste time on nothingness, but I love that idleness some days. It’s deserved some days. It’s required others.

So instead of negligence in the name of activity, let the commitment to yourself, in all ways, be loved. Bask in the moments that let you be your unguarded, idle self.

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

Pets Allowed

It’s surreal that in less than a month Sam and I will be living together. I suppose it’s considered a ‘big step’ in our relationship but it’s been such a long time coming that I can practically shrug it off. That is, until I realize the commitment behind it. Committing to not only live under the same roof as my less-than-clean boyfriend, but committing to saying bye to a chunk of my paycheque each month and to all the easy conveniences of living at home. It’s a little nerve wrecking.

The finances have been hashed out, I can easily afford our joint life, Sam is the love of my life and pets are allowed. That should be all the motivation I need, yet I’m still antsy and paranoid of really setting myself in this path.

2015 is looking to be a year of big, exciting changes and I’m so achingly torn. I have a fear of letting Sam down. Of not letting the best of our relationship be the soul of it. It’s so easy to recall the worst of times when you’re living in bliss because our minds suck. You know what I mean right? The reel of highlights that’s shadowed by the few not-so-funny bloopers? I hate that. I hate that the few bad times can poison my judgment and fuel my commitment fears. Poisonous mind wandering is obviously behind it all and it’s still something I’m working to get under control.

In order to ease my fears I’m working hard all this month at being the better girlfriend that I am. The one in the highlights that doesn’t even let a negative memory slither in to tarnish the gold of the moments. It goes hand in hand with my ‘living in the moment’ commitment, as well ‘putting an end to deadly mind wandering’. But this one is more in line with committing to being less of a nag really. Sam and I will be living together soon. The excitement should be all that matters. I don’t need to fear this path…this is the right kind of commitment.

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

Message Sent

A few weeks ago I decided to take a few little steps to making my friendships more meaningful and appreciated. I’m so lucky to have a loyal, solid group of friends in my life. What better commitment could I make than to be a better friend?

I’ve put together a few non-formal vows to help myself achieve this:

1. Say yes.
All too often I respond to invites with “maybe”. I almost feel inconvenienced by friends when they ask what nights I’m free after work, or how my schedule is looking for the upcoming week. It’s completely irrational and stupid of me. Gratitude and kindness should be present at all times when a friend wants to make time in their own lives for me.

2. Commit to ONE set of plans at a time.
Regrettably, I’m one of those people who double books and lumps social events together as often as I can to try to appease as many people as possible. Due to my instinct to reply with ‘maybe’, I frequently overbook my nights and mash people and plans together. Not only is it inconsiderate to my friends, it also takes away from the personal connections I would otherwise be more conscious of making if I were only with the one person instead of the two/more I’ve had tag along.

3. Get in contact for no particular reason.
Over the year I’ve gotten progressively worse at responding to texts, emails and messages and we all know calling is practically a dead form of communication nowadays. When I do contact people it’s usually to make plans, confirm them or ask favours or advice. I rarely send spontaneous messages like I used to back in high school anymore. The average person checks their phone 150 times per day. Yet I can’t find the time to text someone a ‘good morning’? I can do better.

4. Show up.
Even when a friend does manage to get me to say a definite ‘yes’ to a set of plans, I’ve pulled the infamous last-minute reschedule too many times. After a long day of work, or even just the looming threat of an early morning I’ll dread any plans I’ve committed to for the night and ask to cancel, then beg forgiveness. I always have a great time when I force myself to get over that hesitation hump and later chaste myself for dreading the plans in the first place. Minds as well just skip the whole guilt of bailing and just stick to the plans regardless of my sore soles or aching shoulders.

So, that’s about it. There’s my over all plan for committing to be a better friend. They deserve the best of me and I’ve slacked long enough.

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

Reference Realization

I’ve referenced, non-specifically, the correlation between commitment and happiness over the past few entries. In all honesty, I hadn’t intended for this year to boost my personal happiness but it’s such a brilliant concept that I’m gonna go with it full tilt.

Psychology experts have suggested that even those not born with a sunny disposition (hello), can bring more meaning and satisfaction to their lives which really is the true basis of happiness. This year of commitment started on a whim and it’s growing unexpectedly. It’s really all such a simple concept! Committing to being a greater friend, or daughter alleviates my stress and guilt as well as brings those around me joy. Their joy alone is enough to give me quite a happiness fix.

This new realization allows me to introduce the newest, firmest, and most relevant of my yearly commitments… Committing to happiness.

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

Downward Dog

Twenty one days. That’s how long it supposedly takes to create a habit. This blog is at the seven day mark, my nail biting has been a solid 24 years and yoga, twenty days!

For the past few years I’ve fallen off the wagon, climbed back on, slipped again, and so on. This is the longest, uninterrupted stretch I’ve lasted for in this daily routine. Let me explain something vitally important here. I suck(!) at yoga. I get uncomfortable in most poses, I need constant reminder to breathe and when people instruct me to smile through the movement, I look like I’m snarling. Practice, whether at home or in the studio, is something I need to coax myself into and it takes more willpower than I care to admit to not leave my mat and sob in the corner due to my sad lack of flexibility. At twenty days I still need pep talks and reassurance that I’m getting somewhere.

I don’t believe in this twenty one day nonsense. Waking up tomorrow with the sudden, vigorous need to do some Vinyasa, isn’t going to happen. Getting yourself to do better isn’t easy, and there’s never a definite cut-off to when you don’t need to work as hard at it. I force myself into awkward body twists and stretches because there is a calmness to the practice that I strive for in my life and the health benefits are undeniable.

The things that we work the hardest for in life are the greatest of our accomplishments.
Back to the mat I go.

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

In The Moment

I’ve decided one of the top things that should be committed to each and every day, should be living in the moment.

You know that auto-pilot sensation you get when you’re on your way home from work or running a mundane daily errand? The world passes by without you really noticing it and when you think back later, you barely recall the actual travel time or activity. It’s actually pretty scary, especially when that travel time involved driving at over 100km on the highway. Our minds are always so preoccupied with the ‘other’ that we neglect the now.

A study by Daniel Gilbert uncovered that 46.9% of peoples’ time is spent ‘mind wandering’. And the kicker is that, apparently, this activity isn’t enjoyable and actually results in less happiness for the majority of people. Isn’t that crazy? We spend a little under half of our time partaking in something that deprives us of joy.

The key times when we zone out the most are when we are working, resting or using a home computer. So, as part of my commitment to being in the moment, I’ll only write when I can. If I’m having a busy day then I’ll make my post as quick as possible so I can be there with Sam, or my family, or doing the things that make me happiest. It’s hard to take yourself out of the habit of being in your own mind, but I’m going to give it the best shot I can. Wish me luck!

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

The Wrong Kind Of Commitment Issues

When I first admitted out loud to believing I suffered from a fear of commitment, the first immediate question from a coworker was, ‘What has been your longest relationship?’  Then inevitably came that awkward reveal of being in a dedicated five year relationship that actually comes up shy on my prior dating history of a whooping seven years. Committing myself to one person in total monogamy bliss has never been a problem for me. Sam is deeply intelligent, caring, ambitious and so charismatic that I look like a hobbit or general recluse next to him.  He is great at jeopardy, knows a bit of everything and is completely useless when it comes to closing cupboard doors after himself or putting empty glasses in the sink instead of stock piling them on the coffee table. I love him and look forward to a future with him. A couple years ago we tentatively talked about moving in together, a year ago we seriously discussed it, the past few months we have casually hatched out our plan of action and in the last week we’ve looked at places, figured out finances and applied for a two bedroom rental in a four floor walk-up in the Village.

If you plug ‘Commitment issues’ into google, the results on the top of the page are, “8 ways to know you’re dating a guy with commitment issues” and “How I ditched my commitment issues…by snooping”. So clearly I’m not in the hip loop when it comes to commitment conundrums. When I reveal my relationship status to people they immediately disregard my fear because it’s not the ‘right’ sort of commitment-phobia. It’s not juicy or worthy of Cosmo and it’s actually more confusing than I gave it credit for when I first jokingly labelled myself with it. But I see it slipping into every aspect of my life and I feel it robbing me of the happiness that I shouldn’t be limiting.

The small commitments I keep this year, like maintaining a tidier home or blogging daily, are stepping stones for the larger ones that can only happen when I start appreciating myself. I’ve never committed to myself because there’s always so much more to be doing. I don’t commit to big ideas or dreams because it feels almost ‘too good to be true’ or too unrealistic. I suppose it’s why I have reservations about moving in with Sam – I will happily, and readily concede to a forever with him but if it happens it’s almost too good of a thing. To commit to living with him means I commit to my hopes for our future together. It’s a strange kind of commitment fear, but it’s a fear nonetheless.

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

Closet Clean-Out

Day 2.

So far, so good. I suppose a two day commitment shouldn’t warrant an applause, but I’m handing out self satisfying pats on the back regardless.

Today I have managed to tackle a few nagging bullets on my to-do list and I’m feeling pretty great about it. (Rule one of this year is going to be appreciate and enjoy even the smallest of accomplishments). Finally I deposited my work bonus cheques, (from Christmas), cleaned out my over-flowing closet, paid a parking ticket that I’ve neglected for weeks and meticulously collected together paperwork in preparation for rental applications. Even now, while typing up this entry, I’m successfully checking off a box on the old ‘Get it Done’ list.

It seems so simple and, (for lack of a better word), lame to be smiling a little broader for de-cluttering a closet, but here I am, beaming. I’m smug and satisfied and it’s completely comical. I feel as though I’m more deserving of the tea and book sitting next to me.

There’s always pride behind stepping up to a responsibility and in this case I’m counting it as a win towards my commitment goal. It’s not like a messy closet is a fear, but watching and letting something become disorganized in my life seems non-committal. I should be committed to bettering myself day in and day out and that shouldn’t need to be through a massive task or daunting goal. Cleaning and tidying my material life seems like a sound commitment considering how easily I shrug off a pile of clothes draped carelessly over a chair with the excuse of being tired. It takes just seconds to hang my jacket up when I get in, but instead it gets tossed onto the pile with little thought because the ease of being lazy after a hard work day seems gratifying. When I look around at the mess accumulating though, I feel drained and irritated. Why not commit to shedding that self-inflicted annoyance?

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

Day 1

At twenty-five, I barely have my SIN number figured out, let alone what I plan to do in life. A close friend recently turned the page on her twenty-sixth birthday, and being the supportive pal that I am, I relentlessly teased her of course, ignoring my own impending 6 month away bday. She groaned about still being in school working on her second degree, and we compared futile stresses about our general futures.

Maybe it’s naive of me, but I am trying desperately to trust the popular notion that I’m part of a generation of time-takers, of ambitious workers who will find where they belong after they have tried the size and style of different jobs and positions. I travel, I take temporary work placements, (which always become permanent offers that I tend to turn down), and maybe, just maybe, I have career-commitment issues. My justification (or excuse), is that my CV is growing brilliantly with my plethora of experiences. Yet, I’m terrified to apply to the ‘real’ jobs – the ones that I may actually be aiming to nail myself to in the long run. The juxtaposition is very real.

As my first blog post ever, welcome to my confused, young-adult existence. I think I intend this to collect my thoughts from day to day. To maybe help me measure my ambitions against reality. And also, to attempt to fulfill a resolution of personal commitment.

Cheers to a year of keeping track.

The Musings of an Amateur Author and Brooding Bibliophile