Review: Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Jacket

In December Piper won an Instagram contest to become an official reviewer for the new Extreme Warmer jacket from Hurtta, a Finnish company that produces functional, high-quality dog clothing and equipment. Piper is one of those dogs that loves being outside no matter how cold, windy, or snowy the weather might be, so this jacket was especially intriguing to me since it would provide significantly better coverage and warmth than the horse blanket-style coats that Piper already owns. Continue reading

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One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans

This one pot pasta dish with sausage, kale and white beans is hearty, warming and satisfying… perfect for a cold winter night!  Of course, winter is drawing to an end (or it better be, at least!) so I figure I should hurry up and get this recipe up on the blog while we’re all still in the mood to see some comfort food.

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans 1

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of cooking an entire pasta dish in one pot but it wasn’t until a few months ago that Matt and I actually tried this technique for ourselves.  It turns out that there’s nothing particularly hard about making a one pot meal… you simply layer in each ingredient as you go.  First you brown the meat, then throw in the onions and beans, toss in a little garlic, add broth, water and uncooked pasta, then add in your kale in two batches… the first to cook down into the dish and the remainder to add a little bite and pop of color.  Easy!  Thanks to the cooked-down white beans, the resulting dish has a creamy, thick, almost stew-like consistency that is very different from a normal “two pot” recipe where the pasta is cooked separately in boiling water.

Matt and I have been making variations of this pasta almost every week this winter.  Sometimes we use spinach instead of kale or we throw in steamed broccoli along with the greens.  Feel free to change up the meat (hot sausage adds a nice kick) and the pasta… we’ve had delicious results with gemelli, fusilli lunghi, rigatoni and penne.

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans  (serves 4; recipe adapted from Cool Spring CSA)

You will need…
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb. ground Sweet Italian Sausage, ground (remove casings if using normal sausage)
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 – 15 oz. cans Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
5-6 cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dried Oregano
Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
1 lb. Pasta (we used Gemelli this time)
1 bunch Kale, washed, stems removed, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a large (6+ qt.) dutch oven brown the crumbled sausage with 1-2T olive oil over medium-high heat.  When the sausage is cooked through, add the onion and beans and saute, stirring occassionally, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, oregano and red pepper and stir for 30 seconds or until garlic is fragrant.

Pour in the chicken broth, water, pasta and half of the chopped kale and stir well to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cover with a tightly fitted lid.  Allow the mixture to cook undisturbed for 6 minutes, then layer in the remaining kale on top of the pasta without stirring.  Recover and cook for another 4 minutes.  Remove the lid, stir, and taste test a piece of pasta.  (My favorite part!)

Allow the dish to continue to simmer uncovered for another few minutes until the pasta is cooked to your desired consistency.  Remove from heat, stir in the cheese, drizzle in a tablespoon or so of olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve and enjoy!

One Pot Pasta with Sausage, Kale and White Beans 2

Snow Puppy

As I type this my little Piper pup is on the couch next to me, exhausted from today’s hiking adventures.  She is sleeping on her back with her hind legs splayed open (she’s not the most ladylike puppy I’ve ever met!) and her breathing sounds like something between a snort and a snore.  She’s been sleeping this way for at least an hour – a long time for a nap in Piper’s world! – so I’m taking advantage of this afternoon lull to do a quick photo post!

3331 Piper

Last Tuesday we got about an inch of snow in eastern Pennsylvania and I snapped some photos of Piper playing in the back yard on my lunch break.  Piper seemed totally undeterred by the sub-freezing temperatures and had a blast romping around in the snow, chasing sticks and snatching up the occasional mouthful of snow… she loves this weather!!

We’ve had Piper for 11 weeks now.  Only 11 weeks!!!  It seems like she’s been a part of our family for MUCH longer than that!  Matt and I are having a blast with her and I can’t wait to see what the next 11 weeks bring!!  😄

Snow Day!

Happy Thanksgiving eve!  It snowed in eastern Pennsylvania today.  The snow might have been less than ideal for people traveling along the I-95 corridor for the holiday, but Matt and I were off from work and had a blast playing with Piper in her first snowstorm.

Little Piper puppy in the snow

Piper took the snow in stride.  She spent the first several minutes trying to eat the mysterious white stuff, then joined Matt for a slippery game of fetch.  I snapped some photos as they played.

After our playtime in the snow we went inside for hot cocoa (for us) and nap time (for Pipe).  So far she’s been great about settling down for quiet snuggle time on the couch while we watch tv (or edit snow day photos).  I’ll have to take a photo of her actually sleeping someday (my mom still doesn’t believe that Piper EVER sits still!) but for now I’ll leave you with this gem.  I love this wacky puppy!

I'm Helping!!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflection

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is reflection:

Canadian Goose Reflection

I captured this photo of a Canadian Goose and his reflection on February 5th during the damaging ice storm that caused hundreds of thousands of power outages in our area.  I was wandering around my mom’s icy backyard on snowshoes with my Nikon D90 when I spotted this goose standing at the edge of the pond.  Hershey the chocolate lab saw the goose too and took off across the yard towards it.  Luckily I had my camera up and ready and was able to snap a few shots as the goose flapped its wings and flew across the ice!

February’s Icy Start

Snowy Winter Road

Let It Snow!On December 1st Matt and I bought a charming little decorative sign that cheerfully proclaimed “LET IT SNOW!” We hung the sign in our kitchen and since then our town has received over 3 1/2 feet of snow, resulting in 5 snow days and 2 late openings and early closings at work.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Last Wednesday’s ice storm was the season’s most disruptive storm by far (as of today, at least!).  After a snow storm on Monday weighed down our trees with 7-8″ of heavy, wet snow, a wintry mix arrived late Tuesday night and coated everything in a thick layer of ice.  We lost power in the middle of the night (along with 620,000 other PECO customers!) and the only sounds we could hear when we woke up were the violent cracks of tree branches snapping under the weight of snow and ice.  Look at our sad, sad pine trees…

In addition to the extensive pine tree damage we also lost half a tree in our front yard as well as several large branches.  My mom’s yard fared even worse… Matt and I had to remove a tree from her driveway (before / after) in order to get to her house and upon our arrival we discovered her once-beautiful weeping willow tree had uprooted under the weight of the ice and was keeled over on its side in the snow.

It wasn’t all bad, though.  My mom and stepfather have a generator so our whole family ended up at their house for the day.  We spent our ice storm day chatting, drinking coffee, and completing a huge 1000 piece puzzle before enjoying a yummy dinner together.  On Wednesday night Matt and I received word from our neighbors that our power was back on (woohoo!!!) so after our day of fun we were able to go home and gratefully enjoy heat, running water, and internet.  🙂

Here are some photos that I took on Wednesday during the ice storm.  Brr…

Icy Pine Needles

526 Frozen

Icy Needles

Ice Fence Rails

Matt and I contemplated taking down our Let It Snow sign today but decided to leave it up a little longer.  We’ll see if it’s still hanging in the kitchen after the storm that’s forecasted to hit us on Thursday…  8-12″ of snow!!!  What a winter!

White Bean Chili with Sausage and Chicken

It has been bitterly cold here in southeastern PA.  We haven’t seen above-freezing temperatures in a week and the 14 inches of snow that fell last Tuesday still look fresh and powdery… no melting whatsoever!  I’m not complaining, though.  I’ll take extreme winter weather with lots of snow and cold over a mediocre, unexciting winter any year!

The cold weather means that Matt and I have been making soups, stews, and chilis almost every week.  Right now we have a beef chili simmering on the stove that’s made with “real” dried beans that we had to soak overnight… first time I’ve ever done that!  Tonight’s chili still has another hour or so to cook before it will be ready so I thought I’d use that time to post about another stew that we made a few weeks ago… white bean chili with hot sausage, chicken, bacon, and five types of peppers… yum!!

White Bean Chili with Sausage, Bacon and Chicken

This white bean chili comes together really quickly… just under an hour from start to finish.  That’s much faster than tonight’s beef chili which has been simmering for nearly 7 hours! (Can you tell that I am impatiently waiting for it to be done?  I’m starving!!)  Getting back to the white bean chili, I found that the “white” cannellini beans and navy beans were a nice change from the basic kidney beans and black beans that my chilis usually include and I definitely liked the combination of bell peppers, jalapeño, green chiles, and chipotles en adobo.  Oh, and of course I thoroughly enjoyed the bacon and hot sausage… how could you not like that winning combination?  🙂

White Bean Chili with Sausage and Chicken (adapted from this recipe at Food52)

Chili Ingredients:
Olive Oil
5 slices Bacon, chopped
1 lb. Chicken Breast, cut into 1″ cubes
1 lb. Hot Italian Sausage, ground (or removed from casing)
2 Yellow Onions, diced
1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeño Pepper, minced
2 – 4 oz. cans Diced Green Chiles
2 Chipotles en Adobo, minced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
3 tablespoons Cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons Chili Powder
3 tablespoons Mexican Oregano
3 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
6 cups Chicken Stock
1 – 15 oz. can Cannellinni Beans, partially drained
1 – 15 oz. can Navy Beans, partially drained

Garnishes:
Your choice of Sour Cream, Grated Cheddar Cheese, Fresh Cilantro, Lime Wedges, Avocado, and/or Tortilla Strips

White Bean Chili In Process

Directions:
Heat a large (7-8 qt) stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and brown the chopped bacon until it is just starting to get crispy.  Add in the chicken and sausage.  Brown the meat, stirring frequently, for approx. 12 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sausage is well crumbled.

Stir in the next seven ingredients (onion thru garlic) and saute until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the spices (black pepper thru Mexican oregano), stir well, and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, stir, and cook for 3 more minutes.  Next, add the chicken stock 1 cup at a time, stirring and scraping the browned bits off of bottom of the pot between each cup.  Bring the chili to a boil then add the beans and stir well to combine.  Reduce the heat and simmer the chili for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve the white bean chili in large bowls and top with your choice of garnish.  We enjoyed our chili with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and cilantro and it was delicious!

White Bean Chili 4

Here are some of the other Chilis and Stews that we’ve been making lately.  Enjoy and stay warm!
•  Pozole Verde
•  Pork and Green Chile Stew
•  Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili