Bossy Italian Book Review: Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster

The moment I read Jen Lancaster's "My Fair Lazy," I knew that I loved her. But fiction is another genre entirely....still, I was curious to read this book because, as a [mostly] nonfiction writer myself, I wanted to see how it all transcended. (Because I have not, I am sorry to report read her other fiction novel, If You Were Here). After reading "Here I Go Again" what have I to say? WOW.

I read this book in a day. A day. It was highly entertaining, creative, and just really well written. Jen Lancaster approaches fiction writing  with the same bravado and guts she does her nonfiction and it sparkles!

First, let's talk about the concept (and really, I want you all to be just as surprised as I was, so no spoiler alerts). But basically, this book is about that really mean chick you went to high school with. We all had them...they said and did mean things. They were all about themselves. And they grew up to be just about as rotten as we had imagined. And yet.

When you take the cover off--the book is
even cooler!
This story is also about redemption. And failure. And redemption. All of it set vividly against the early 90s, hair bands/grunge music/pop culture references galore, lunchroom embarrassments, and a pack of mean girls you will love to hate. It's like Mean Girls meets Back To The Future meets Clueless--in all the best ways.

Jen Lancaster is a fiction force to be reckoned with. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if this book was picked up and made into a movie. It has all the making of a great film, really. I see this being a book that women really enjoy--from the modern day reality TV references to the throwback aspects of the book. It's a great, feel-good read that forced me to drop everything in the name of reading!

**Bossy Italian Wife participated in reviewing this book as part of BlogHer's book club. I was compensated for my opinion, but all views expressed are my own. Ya Heard?! 

I Have [Breakfast] Issues

Breakfast. The most important meal of the day. Or is it? If it's the most important, how come I keep skipping it and not feeling bad about it? It's like everyday I wake up and I'm thinking to myself, "Today will be the day--the day I start magically wanting to eat breakfast like everyone in the commercials." And each day, that is not the case.

I drink my coffee, I start my work, ad the next thing I know, I'm like, "HEY! It's eleven o'clock--lunch time!" Now, I'm not going to lie, there are some days when 10:30 rolls around and my tummy is growling...but as far as I am concerned, there is no limit on when lunch can I heat up some pasta and throw in some arugula and call it lunch.

There have, of course, been periods when I have tried harder with moderate success to eat breakfast. Sometimes I meet I cereal I lust after and we have a quick fling...but when the box runneth empty, so does my will to keep the breakfast fire burning and I abandon my effort. I also tend to do well on mornings when I work out because I know I need fuel for working out.... so I eat dry cereal or granola bars while I sip my coffee.

But in general, as in "life," I just can't seem to get over the breakfast hump. I want to--really I do... but it seems like all the breakfast foods are sweet and the ones that aren't sweet are milky, and I don't like milk. If they aren't either of those things they probably involve cheese and eggs, and I love both cheese and eggs, but as a daily habit, well, the proposition seems plumping. And then there is the fact that I just don't want to put fourth that much effort in the morning. I just want to do what I want, which, is apparently not eating breakfast.

I have to get over this. It's breakfast, not jumping off the side of a really tall building! And the fact of the matter is that I love this should be easy. So I am resolved. Or I will be. Or I will try to be. Some form of any of that. I'm going to try harder to eat breakfast. I have a feeling this is going to take a little more planning on my part.

Which means I am going to need your help. Help a sister out, y'all. Leave me your favorite breakfast food, good advice on eating breakfast consistently, or just some words of encouragement in the comments section below. Let's have breakfast together. 

Stuffed Squash For Two Recipe!

Before my mother-in-law taught me this recipe years ago, I am not sure I knew that acorn squash existed--or that it was edible. Since then, though, I have made this recipe a million-billion times because it's just that good. So if you are/were like, "What in the heck--you can eat that squash?" Yes, it's true.

This recipe is easily made for two, or for many more, depending on who you are feeding. It's also pretty versatile, accommodating nearly any type of meat you wanna throw in it.

And, for those of you among us who don't fancy meat, you could even modify this recipe and stuff these suckers with quinoa instead. Now, before we get any deeper into this squash recipe, I have a confession to make. For some of you, this may come as a shock...but nonetheless, I feel obligated to tell you.

We're going to use ketchup. Yes. Ketchup. Let it sink in. Really. And now, I give you permission to get happy about it. Look, I've had my issues with ketchup, but then Honey Boo Boo showed me the light. Now, I am unafraid. Let's declare this together, and proudly and LOUDLY:


To begin you will need to half an acorn squash and scoop the seeds out. Place them in a pan and set aside, but only after you have taken a moment to appreciate how floral and lovely they look. 

Here I have about a half pound of venison. Doesn't it look pretty? I know I am not alone in my love of meat. 

In a skillet, put two tablespoons of olive oil and let it heat over medium high heat. Add your meat and break it up into crumbles. 

Once the meat is getting nice and browned (about 5 minutes or so), add half a diced onion, and some garlic, too. Let that cook until the onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes more. 

Worcestershire sauce is undoubtedly one of my favorite things in the world. Two tablespoons of it are going in. And honestly, I wish you could smell this picture because at this moment, I was just standing here taking in the lovely smell of meat and worcestershire sauce. Heavenly. 
If you are feeling especially frisky, throw in a dash of cayenne. 

YAY! Ketchup time. Say a prayer to the processed food gods and banish the evil thoughts from your mind. Or, if you prefer, use tomato paste and water in place of the ketchup--no one but you loses out--and we aren't fooled by your denial of liking ketchup! 
I'm not even going to put a measurement on this because how much ketchup you use will be entirely up to you. It's likely to be somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 cup. Mine was somewhere in the middle. 

Stir to combine. 

Looking saucy, there. 
(That was a little food flirting. No shame in talking a little sexy with the filling, right?!)

Now you'll want to be making use of those squash--by filling them with your lovely meat and ketchup concoction. 
If you have leftover filling, just eat it because it's yummy and you know you are dying for a bite. Or save it and make a sandwich out of it. 

Now, take some water and pour it into your pan. I go about an inch--you don't need to overdo it, just a little will be fine. 

Cover the whole thing with foil. 
Pop it in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.... and when it's done, it'll come out all good and steamed and delicious! I like to test mine with a fork. If the fork goes into the squash easily, it's done! 

HELLLOOOO there....I hear you have a little ketchup in you. Mind if I take a look? Hehe. More food flirting. What can I say? Ketchup makes me feel positively naughty! 

To remove the skin, using a knife to go around the edges. It should come off very easily! 

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Time: 20 minutes + 45 min. to bake | Serves: 2 | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need: 

1 acorn squash
1/2 lb. ground meat (I used venison) 
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 dash cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
Ketchup (anywhere from 1/4 c. to 1/2 c.--your choice) 
Salt & pepper to taste 


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 

Half your acorn with a sharp knife, and scoop out and discard the seeds, leaving a nice space for filling. Put the two halves in a baking dish and set aside. 

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the meat and using a spatula, break it up so that it "crumbles" into smaller pieces. Allow the meat to cook and brown, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. 

Once the meat is nearly browned, add your onion and garlic. Continue to cook and stir for another 3-4 minutes or until the onions become translucent. 

Add your dash of cayenne pepper (optional) as well as the worcestershire sauce. Stir. 

Add ketchup (as much as you like) and stir, creating a sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Remove the skillet from the heat. Spoon the filling into the prepared squash, dividing evenly. 

Fill the pan containing the squash with some water-about 1 inch or so. Cover the pan with tinfoil and bake in the preheated oven about 45 minutes or until squash is tender. 

I usually serve it with a salad, or pickled beets! 

Open Mouth, Insert Foot [Tales From the Karmic Slingshot]

I am always hammering home these points to my husband...stuff like, “Don’t generalize groups of people” and “Don’t be judgmental” --you know, things like that. You likely have your own set of things that you repeat like this either to your children or to your husband or whoever is closest to you.

Of course the universe is a strange place to live in and it’s always smacking you with your own lessons. If you are repeating to someone else, you are sure to need a cosmic nudge in it’s direction--at least that is what I come to find over and over. I have a name I made up for it...I call it the karmic slingshot.

The karmic slingshot is the moment when you get your lesson slung right back in your face like a universal chain reaction. It generally happens rapidly. I had one such incident just a week ago when I was enjoying a playoff game at a friend’s house.

Now, I am not big drinker, but I had three beers that evening. I’m a little lady, so these three beers made me a little tipsy. The group of people I was with was discussing someone I don’t know. They said, “Oh you know, she’s a lawyer, she’s supposed to be smart.” So what did I do? I tried to fit into the conversation by saying something really dumb [which was also not so nice] to make everyone laugh.

I said, “Oh you know lawyers--they are smart, but lack all common sense.” Just coming out of my mouth, it tasted stupid. And right away there was an awkward pause because not only was there a lawyer present in the room, but the host’s father is also a lawyer.

Open mouth, insert foot. I felt like an idiot. 

Now, no one else really seemed to care beyond a five second window. My friends, thank god, know me pretty well and didn’t pass judgment on me. The lawyer, who I later complimented as “one of the smartest lawyers I know” let my stupid remark roll right off his back. And yet...I knew I had become the recent recipient of my own karmic slingshot.

As I rode home that night, I could hear my own self in my head saying, “Never generalize a group of people.” Which is, of course, what I did in that moment. I chalked it up to another example of why I should never drink in public as well as a profoundly impulsive thing to say.

Certainly I wasn’t trying to make a comment about lawyers in general as much as I was falling back into the old habit of wanting to belong. I had nothing nice to say, as it were, and I should have kept my mouth shut and said nothing at all. But the tug of wanting to identify with a group of people is a huge motivator. And that was when I found myself jumping in and wanting to be “included.”

People do this a lot--in general. Some get their karmic slingshot instantly and are humbled and others have to wait a little longer for their lightbulb moment. I have been doing a great job avoiding drama, and luckily this didn’t lead to any big thing.

What it did do, though, was to serve as a great reminder that once in a while we all make mistakes--sometimes when we least expect it. If you can be aware of the dumb crap you do or say, you at least stand a  better chance of not repeating.

As for me? When I have nothing nice to say, I won’t say anything at all...especially when it concerns generalizing an entire group of people. I have to keep in mind that people like me for who I am and I don’t have to always relate to people, or overreach to belong. And for the record, I think lawyers are very, very smart...and they have a lot of common sense.

So what about you? Do you have times when you feel like you need to break into a conversation to belong? Have you had any recent put your foot in your mouth moments? Let’s discuss in the comment section below!

Cooking Rules I Break!

There are rules in cooking you can't break--like the fact that you have to cook chicken thoroughly--but there are some that aren't hard and fast. Some people will subscribe to one camp or another, but me? I'm more the Switzerland of the cooking world. That is, sometimes I am a rule follower and other times, a rule breaker. You have to know when it's appropriate.

In an effort to empower people everywhere to take to the kitchen I wanted to share the times I break "rules" in the kitchen--in case you do it and you feel internally guilty or just plain confused as to whether or not you can do that.

I am huge on substitutions. But not all subs are created equal. This is an argument I have with my mom a lot because she will tell me a wacky substitution she made and I will say, "MOM!" and then I will tell her about my sub and she'll say, "SEE! You do it too!!"

But let's quickly review; I will substitute almond milk for regular in just about everything (even homemade ice cream) without a second thought. But when a recipe calls for pumpkin, I am not likely to substitute peanut butter (Mom). What I will sub for pumpkin? Butternut squash. Also, I will interchange mozzarella and parmesan cheese a lot. Or greek yogurt for sour cream. Or applesauce for sugar. Sometimes I get more creative...usually at the insistence of my mom, but if there is ever a question--google it!

There have been a ton of times I have been surprised at what you can interchange--like sugar and brown sugar--who knew?! The rules, as I have said, don't always apply.

Now I mostly always use measurements on my recipes here because I am providing them to the public and I hope that new and budding home chefs will become inspired and want to learn. And when you are learning, the measurements mean a lot (at least they did for me!) But when I am cooking for pleasure, I don't measure--even if I am following a recipe.

Now for baking, I pretty much measure all the time. Baking is a science, and I don't claim to be a great baker because I am more of a cook...but someday I hope to be good enough to eyeball a cup of sugar or flour. Wouldn't that be awesome?!

Times & Temperatures
I will up a temperature in a heartbeat. When my baking is going too slow, I become a skeptic. I will also lower if it's going too fast. The truth of the matter is that sometimes people put out recipes that are, well, a little half-baked.

So if I need more time, I add it. If I need more heat, I crank it up! This is where intuition comes in handy!

Tell me, what cooking rules do you break? None? Some? ALL!? I want to know! Leave it comments section below!

Are YOU Addicted To DRAMA!?

I wanted to take a moment to talk about drama....and not, like, the good kind of drama that takes place in movies or on stage, but the type of drama that happens in your life. It happens in families, in groups of friends--certainly it happens in the workplace. You will see people (and hear people) go on ad nauseum about how much they hate drama, but to be perfectly frank, it’s just not true.

People freaking love drama. Why do you think that movies are so popular and television shows and books give us gripping DRAMA? It sells. Duh.

And you wanna know something else about drama? It’s awesome from a distance. That is to say, that if you aren’t the direct target of it, it’s a lot better to sit back and speculate about. Which is where we all come in. Ever notice this about groups of much they use other people’s drama as a “rally point”??? Sometimes it happens by accident, other times it happens on purpose. What it all has in common, though, is that people like to talk.

It’s the reason your girlfriends can’t wait to tell you about “what happened to so-and-so” or why your coworkers are all gossiping around the water cooler about another’s relationship, poor work performance or whatever the heck else happens in offices. (When I am talking around my own water cooler, it’s to a plant, so I have to go on imagination for that one.)

When you are target of all that drama--say a group of women are mean to you for whatever reason or you overhear your coworkers talking smack on you, or someone tells you third hand what someone else said about you--it totally sucks. Many of us feel completely jilted at the point where the storm comes directly overtop of us. That is the moment when most of us hate the drama.

But it’s as though we also come down with amnesia the moment the drama has passed, and then revert right back to the tactics, of course focusing on someone else, that got us into trouble in the first place. Well I am here to tap you on the shoulder. This is why I wanted to have this talk.

See, belonging is one of the most important things the human race experiences. We are wired to want to feel a part of a group--even if the group (pardon my French) sort of sucks. We use drama (ie- gossip, belittling, telling other people’s secrets) as a way to bond with one another...and it WORKS! So we keep on doing it.

When it turns on us, we are shocked, but it rarely breaks the cycle. Today, I implore you to walk the drama-free walk. I have been walking it for a while now, and I have a few things to report.
1) At first, it was hard (you would be surprised how much we talk about other people just to fill silence)
2) Then, it was easier (I started having more meaningful conversations and friendships)
3) I suddenly got more hobbies
4) Dramatic friends melted away like magic
5) There have been no events to turn on me because I’m living my life differently.

None of this is to say that I was a “mean girl.” Most of us aren’t--you probably aren't mean, are you?! But that doesn’t mean we can’t do better and better all the time. Taking the drama out of life takes friendships to a whole new level, and everyone should have an experience like that, if you ask me! You will not only feel better about yourself, but you will absolutely get out what you put in.

So tell me, how do you accidentally (or not accidentally) participate in drama? Have you stopped living a drama-laced existence and found it as marvelous as I have?!? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below!

Quick Fix: Deep Fried Pickles & Ravioli!

The words "deep" and "fried" send some people running for the hills....not me! I love some deep fried foods. They aren't something I enjoy all the time, but they are something I enjoy. This New Year's Eve, I made up some fried pickles in my Mama's Fry Daddy (hehe...Mama's Fry Daddy, has a ring to it, doesn't it?) and when the night was over, she said, "You borrow it." I was only too happy to take her up on it.

I had been saving some ravioli for such an ocassion as my mom lending me her Fry Daddy! Remember the prosciutto and fig ravioli?? Yep, I still a couple in the freezer just begging to be deep fried. So one afternoon, fry them I did!!!

Now I understand that pickles and ravioli may not seem the most likely foods to pair, but when you are deep frying, there are no rules. I feel deep frying is like meditation... it just clears your mind. Maybe it's the smell of the grease or maybe it's the sizzle. I don't know precisely, but I love it. Love. It. So get yer ravioli and pickles ready! Let's fry together, shall we?

Observe: frozen raviolis. When it comes to homemade raviolis, freezing is a must! (at least in my book!) Just before you are ready to fry, pull them out of the freezer and let them thaw a tad. 

Getcha pickles ready! I save my juice for bloodies. It's how I roll. 

Hello Fry Daddy! 
Plug it in, let it heat up! 

One egg and some milk. Best batter coater. Mix it up with a fork real goooood. 

On another plate, add some bread crumbs and, if you like, some heat. My Mama gave me this "Slap ya Mama" spice. It's kickin'! 

I started with my raviolis. 

I coat them first in the egg..... 

And then in the breadcrumbs.

Note: my hand model, Jenn. She's doing a lovely job, isn't she?! 

Then drop it in your pre-heated oil. 

I let them fry about 4 minutes and they were perfect!!! 

We are doing virtually the same thing with the pickles. First in the egg/milk mixture and then the breadcrumbs. 

Get a good coating on there. 
Then fry them for about 5 minutes. I know it seems silly to fry the pickles more than the ravioli, but that was how it worked out. Go figure. 

Look at them purdy pickles. They make me happy! 

Put 'em on a plate and serve with your choice of dipping sauces. 

I used some marinara sauce and some homemade chipotle mayo--YUM!

Fried Ravioli & Pickles

Time: 15 minutes | Makes: Depends on what you got | Difficulty: Deep-fried Easy!

You Will Need:

Ravioli (I used 10)
Sliced Dill pickles

1 egg
Some milk (about 1/4-1/3 cup)
Bread crumbs
Spicy hot spice mix (optional)

Special equipment: FRY DADDY!!


Preheat your Fry Daddy by plugging that sucker in. Mine usually takes about 7 minutes. (Make sure you have oil in it, of course.)

A word on your ravioli. If you have frozen, then take them out and set them aside. Let them "thaw" about five minutes. If you have fresh ones, that is great too.

Prepare your batter: on a plat beat one egg and about 1/4 cup of milk until blended. On a separate plate,  pour a nice sized pile of bread crumbs. Add some spicy spice if you like (to taste), optional. I like a little heat on mine, but you might not!

Prepare your pickles by draining them from the juice. I save my juice, but whatever works for you.

Lay out a plate with paper towels so that when your stuff is done frying you have a nice place to put it.

Start with your raviolis: dip them one at a time first in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs to coat. Place it carefully into the Fry Daddy (being gentle so you don't get a face full of hot oil.) I fried about 5 at a time together. Allow it to fry 3-4 minutes.

Remove from the fryer and place on your plate.

For the pickles: You can use as many as you like, and I do them in batches about a fistful at a time. Roll them first in the egg and then in the breadcrumbs. place them in the fryer and let them go about 5 minutes. Remove to the plate with the paper towels when finished.

To serve, I leave them right on that plate (no sense in transferring them when they will be disappearing in seconds flat anyway!) and I serve them with some dipping sauces. Marinara for the ravioli and chipotle mayo for the pickles!

Bossy Italian Classics: Utopia by Thomas More

Image from Biblio 
As some of you may or may not recall, I have vowed to read the classics this year as part of my New Year's resolutions. I am a woman of my word, and have started the year off with Thomas More's Utopia. Upon starting this book, I am sad to report that I swiftly began rethinking the validity of my resolution. Perhaps this was not the book I should have started with...

I have be honest when I tell you I thought long and hard about "reviewing" classics on my blog at all... "What if I say something truly stupid about a beloved classic?!" I thought to myself. But in all truth, this classic may be more of time piece than anything else. Look I have to be myself, and if I am being myself, I have to say this book put me to sleep....for a week!

Utopia is not a long book. In total it's about 135 pages. Granted, these pages are typed in very small font. But it felt like a million pages. I struggled through it despite the translator's claim that he took out the tautologies (or redundancies)  in this in book. Maybe it is modern me who thinks, "Why wax on for six pages about why prisoners shouldn't be killed for stealing food?--we know this already!"

So FINALLY, about 70 pages in, we get to what Utopian society is like, and I have to say it held my interest for several pages. But some of it was just too old fashioned. Where are the women in this society?! Oh wait, there she is--being stripped nude to her prospective groom (a full 100 pages into the book.) Glad she could make a stark-naked appearance. Don't be alarmed. More compares this ritual to the buying of a horse. You would make sure the horse was in working order, and why in the world would you treat a woman differently?

And seriously--Utopian society urges the invalid to kill themselves?! Am I supposed to agree with that!?

Look, I can admire Thomas More for essentially creating a genre, and if I put into context the fact that this book was written in 1500's, then I can appreciate that it was groundbreaking...but out of context does this book stand the test of time? Well, I hate to say that I am not only torn on the matter, but I am skeptical.

None of this is to say you shouldn't read it. I feel expanded and enlightened...just not in the ways I expected. Instead of being taken forward, I was taken both back and aback by this book. Call me crazy, but it seemed completely contradictory being read in modern times. The juxtaposition of such liberation and yet such repression (in way of women's rights) was striking...perhaps offensive.

Groundbreaking for it's time, lackluster in a modern light, Utopia created a genre and paved the way for  [more] modern Utopian novels. Classic...well, sure. I'd go with more "classical." Though I have to say, I found it a bit of snoozer. 

Chicken Foot Stock Recipe

When my friend, Jenn, contacted me and asked me if I knew how to make chicken stock out of chicken feet, I was really excited. I have made chicken stock extensively, so how different could it possibly be?!  That, and, if you guys know me, I just love using every part of an animal in cooking. Chicken feet? Bring it on!

Jenn needed the stock for a very noble cause, after all. She's on a mission to make chicken foot soup for her grandfather as he remembers it from his childhood. This is something very dear to my heart, as you might recall, last year, I made ravioli for my grandma which she had not had since her childhood.

So, on a Wednesday afternoon, Jenn and I made chicken foot stock!

I tried a new thing with my photos today. I hope you guys all enjoy it! 

In the center is our ingredients: two bags of chicken feet, onions, garlic, carrots, leeks, celery, parsley, peppercorns, and bay leaves. 

A word on the feet; we used organic chicken feet, and I have to say this is probably the way to go. Just think about it a moment and I am sure you will agree. 

A word on the rest of the ingredients-- what I love about stocks is that you can use what you have in them. I feel that onions, peppercorns, celery and carrots are a must, but beyond that, you know, whatever else you add is a bonus. So if you have some broccoli? Throw it in! Some leftover cabbage? Go for it! You get the idea, yea? 

Now before you just up and throw those feet in your stock pot, they have to be prepared. By "prepared" I basically mean you have to cut the nails off. This seemed a little daunting at first, but I assure you it wasn't as daunting as it initially seemed. To prepare the  toes for their clippin' you will need to boil the feet in water for about 20 minutes to soften them up a bit. 

While the feet are boiling (which is a funny thing to type to be honest!), prepare your stock pot with all your herbs and vegetables. It's not necessary to spend a whole lot of time chopping them small. Leave 'em big. And leave the skin on your onions--there is good flavor in there! 

After you've boiled up your feet and they are tender, you are going to want to drain them. Let them cool slightly until you can handle them without getting burned. We found that the best way to cut their nails off was with scissors. We almost didn't have to touch them this way. Not that we cared. We totally touched them. I had to take a picture of the nails... a little morbid, perhaps, but whatever. 

Once that clippin' is all over and done with, you are ready to add the feet to the pot. We had 32 feet in total--do you believe that?!?! 
Anyway, once you've added the feet, you are ready to get your water going. So add two gallons of water to the whole sha-banger. (Which is 32 cups of water). 

Then you bring it a boil, cover, reduce heat to simmer and make yourself a drink. I mean, you just clipped nails off of 32 chicken's feet--you deserve a drink. 

After the four hours is up, take that lid off the pot. Bring it back to a boil and let 'er go for another hour to hour and a half. I had to show you what the foot looked like after all that cooking.... neat huh? 

When the stock has thickened and it's done boiling to perfection, then you'll want to give it a taste and adjust seasonings...which pretty much to me means "add salt!" We added 3 palmfuls of kosher salt. 

Once you are satisfied with the flavor, it's time to drain your stock. 

Now, I think the best way to save my stock is to put it in mason jars and freeze it (and I like the multiple sizes because then I can choose as I go). Leave PLENTY of headspace in your jars if you are freezing because if you don't, your jar will burst. 

I was really pleased with what came out. And the color was nice too!!! All in all, a very productive day and an eye opening experience to chicken feet!!! 

Chicken Foot Stock: 

Time: 6-8 hours | Makes: Approx. 2 gallons of stock | Difficulty: Medium

You Will Need:

A super large stock pot (I borrowed mine from my mother in law--thanks Chris!) 

2 gallons of water (32 cups) 
2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
2 bags of organic chicken feet ( 32 in total) 
1 pound of carrots
2 leeks
4 onions, 3 yellow 1 vidalia (you can use any combination, even red onions if you like!) 
1/2 bunch fresh parsley 
1 celery heart 
3 bay leaves
2 bulbs garlic (most of the outer skin removed) 


First prepare the feet. 

To prepare the feet place them in a pot. Cover the feet with water and bring to a boil. Allow the feet to boil for approximately 20 minutes. 

While the feet are boiling, prepare the pot that you will be boiling the stock in. You want a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients as well as two gallons (32 cups) of water. Cut your veggies into large pieces. There is no need to dice or get all fancy on them. For instance, I quarter my onions. Leave the skin of the onions on, there is a ton of flavor in there. For the garlic, remove the outer most skin, but don't worry about peeling each clove. Just break the bulbs up a bit and throw them in. Throw all your vegetables, herbs, and spices into the pot. 

When the feet are done boiling, they should be soft and pliable. Drain them in a colander and allow then to cool a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, clip off the nails of each chicken foot at the joint. It should be very easy. Discard the nails... or save them and take a picture, your choice. 

Once you have removed the nails, throw the feet into your stock pot with the veggies and add the two gallons of water. Stir to combine. Bring it all to a boil. 

When it comes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for four hours. Opening occasionally to check and stir. 

After four hours, remove the lid and bring it up to a boil again. Allow it boil and reduce slightly for an hour to an hour and a half. 

Drain off the veggies (reserving stock in a LARGE bowl) and store. I recommend freezing. 

Stuff I Use: Digital [Meat] Thermometer

For years I just plain refused to use a thermometer. After a few years, though, I found this old thermometer in one of the drawers of my house... I have this habit of using that kind of thing...and so I started using that old thermometer. After a while, though, I starting to doubt if was actually working. The mercury just wasn't rising like it used to.

So one day, at the kitchen supply store (which is like the candy land of stores for me!) I saw this cute, green digital thermometer and I thought, "Heck, why not?!" And I bought it. For a whopping...wait for it... $10! Seriously. How in the world can you beat that?! 

I don't know how I ever lived without this thing. I am completely in love with this little lime green digital temperature gage. It makes my life in the kitchen exponentially easier. It measures with a ton of accuracy. There's no mercury to watch, and best of all, I feel sense of security with this little gadget. 

Look, let's level, we all know what we do without these thermometers....we cut open meat to see if they are done. At first, we all confident as we say to ourselves, "Oh it totally looks done!" And then we cut it up, revealing that it still has a little while to go. So what then? We cut it again to re-check doneness. Or is it just me that does that?! 


No more! This little gadget saves my meat-cutting neck and allows me to serve with confidence. If you don't already know the wonder of the digital thermometer, well, you are simply going to have to buy one. It's worth it's weight in gold. You'll thank me. Over and over. 

Also? It has a cute protection case and is easy to clean and operate. Also has a Celsius temperature option for the metric lover in you! 

Happy temperature gaging, my friends! 

The Truth: Make Up Doesn't Make You Prettier

I enjoy putting on a little eyeliner and mascara as much as the next girl, but I am starting to worry a little bit about the nature of our society. Is it just me or are we getting a little too superficial these days? I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard or read about a woman who doesn't know how to leave their house without make up on. I'd be rich. And I'd also need a change machine because I would have a ton of nickels that needed to wrapped for the bank.

The truth is we women may have come a long way in the liberation department, but we've still got a long way to go in the self esteem department. I've heard it said that women don't dress for men, they dress for other women...well if that is the case, then why are we all being so hard on one another?? What are we so afraid of?

Is wrinkled skin or an undefined lash line the gateway drug to societal anarchy or something??? I want to say that once for all that make up does not make you prettier. It might make you shinier. It might make you But as for pretty?

Well, forgive me, but that is something that my mama taught me comes from the inside. Pretty is a glow that shines when you are confident, and perhaps well rested, and above all, kind of heart. You just can't gloss and coat and spackle your way to pretty. Pretty is a feeling you have about yourself despite what other people say.

I worry when too many people begin putting too high a premium on appearance as it is presented in a certain package and not enough emphasis on the inside and all the things that create a natural glow on the outside. When I watch anything on TV, which is far more than I am going to admit, I am stricken by how many ads are trying to get us to buy this or that with the promise that we will somehow be more spectacular.

Buy an eye cream so you feel younger. Buy this yogurt to feel skinner. Buy this toilet paper to feel cleaner. Buy this mascara to feel prettier. You get the idea. What ever gave us the impression that we could buy any of these feelings? Are feelings suddenly for sale?

None of these products really make you any of these things. Self acceptance is hard--especially in a world where judging one another seems like a pastime--but that doesn't make it less important. So this week, as you start off to work or school, or wherever your journey leads you, think about what is important to you and how you might be trying to please others instead of yourself.

And keep in mind, it's not the make up that makes you prettier. It's the glow of knowing and loving yourself that makes you SHINE! 

Haters Gonna Hate...

I’m a lover. It’s just how I roll. Sometimes I have less loving moments than I would like, but hey, no one is perfect. I had this situation the other day where I was finding myself feeling like I wanted nail someone to the wall. I’m a fiery gal, as you can imagine, and so it happened. The context of this is really unimportant because it all really goes the same way....I got a little mad.

And you know, life can get that way--life can make ya M-A-D sometimes. So, I took a deep breath, wrote an email, deleted it, and then took another deep breath... because you know what? Haters gonna hate.

There is always going to be some jerk trying overtly or underhandedly to get under your skin. Those kinds of people will always be out there. They are as numerous as the day is long. People will constantly be trying to hand you lemons and you just gotta take those lemons and open a factory to squeeze those suckers into lemonade. Then sweeten it with some sugar.

I am actively working to accept life as it comes and to keep in mind my reactions to things. I genuinely want to grow into being as a loving person because I believe in it as a life practice. We can really only change ourselves, and this includes how we react to other people and situations. Lovers gonna love...and that is how I want to respond to things. It’s not always easy, but if you can choose kindness, it really is the better option.

It’s not without a hiccup (or 29,657) but Buddha says “there is no wasted effort” and I agree.

I have never lost anything by being kind or coming from a place of love. So, like in my situation the other day, I had to think about what I stood to lose if I came from a place that didn’t include love. I found there was more to gain by coming from love, and much more to lose by unleashing from an unkind place.

Sometimes we just get caught up. We have a moment that turns into pure emotion and logic flies right out the window. We’re human, after all. But if you can learn to catch yourself, and stop and wait out emotion a little, then you might be able to harness your love and come from a place that isn’t impulsive or primal emotional’s something more evolved, more patient, and generally more kind.

Because hater are gonna hate...but you can choose love instead!

Quick Fix: Bloody Mary MIX!

As you all might know by now, I am quite the bloody mary enthusiast. I have been addicted to them ever since the day after my wedding when my father handed me a bloody mary with tequila (known formally as the "bloody maria.") Since that day, I have been on a bloody journey.

My goal? To make the best bloody possible.

A huge part of this includes making the perfect mix. Now, there are lots of great mixes out there, don't get me wrong. I have tasted some really great ones. But nothing compares for me to the freedom of making my own. So last summer when We Three Canners (that's our canning club consisting of me, my mom, and my mother-in-law) decided to expand our canning operation, I insisted on tomato juice being a part of the expansion. Best. Decision. Ever.

So, my base for my bloody mix is my home-canned tomato juice. You can also use V8, organic vegetable juice, or whatever type of tomato juice you enjoy the most. If you can can your own, even better. Either way, this is a recipe that is sure to hit the spot when it comes to a great mix!

We've got all the makings of a perfect bloody mix here! 
Tomato juice, (of course), worcestershire sauce, extra spicy horseradish, Old Bay seasoning, red pepper flakes, and fresh garlic cloves (my secret weapon), as well as some salt and pepper. Not pictured  is my hot sauce, but that is also optional.  

You are gonna put this allllll in blender. 
Starting with the garlic. I am using 7 cloves of fresh garlic. It's one of my secret weapons. It makes the mix extra tasty and it gives it a healthy boost that only garlic can provide.

Worcestershire Sauce.... 

Horseradish. Now, I used extra spicy, but you can use regular--whatever you like. I understand some people don't enjoy spicy as much as I do. 

Old Bay Seasoning. It's the bestest in the whole wide world. Now, I understand that not everyone has access to this wonderful and wild spice, but thanks to internet, hopefully you can get your hands on it. There is no bloody mary that is ever better than with Old Bay! 

Red pepper flakes. 
Now if you don't want the spice, you can skip it. But I think it adds the perfect POW! 

Generously sprinkle in some salt and pepper. More pepper than salt, I'd say! 

Look at all that goodness going into our bloody mix. 
It's as though angels are singing and the clouds are parting and I spellbound. 
That's how much I love this drink. 

Now I have poured in my quart of tomato juice. And I'm gonna blend it up in the blender. 
This is the part where I turn it on and my male Border Collie gets worked up in a tizzy because he hates the noise the machine makes. He comes running the in the kitchen barking his head off at me, and I tell him to relax and he gives me a "woof!" and runs out. Honestly, if this exchange between my Border Collie and I didn't happen, I would feel like the mix was missing something... just sayin'. 

Once you've blended it, give it a taste. 
I, of course, thought it needed a teaspoon of some hottie hot hot sauce. 

At this point, you can call it a day, if you want to. Because this is bound to be a bomb mix. However, if you are like me, you wanna break NASTY on these bloodies (and by "nasty" I mean "fabulous") you can do one more thing.... 

You can mix your mix with three cups of Clamato--my favorite clammy tomato-y drink EVER! 

Mixing these two gives you the ultimate in bloody mix. Seriously. No one beats this mix. And anyone who thinks they do can take me up on the challenge.

A fully mixed 56 ounces of bloody goodness!! 
When I make my bloody, I add to the cup a two count pour of pickle juice, a three count pour of vodka, and then I fill the glass with bloody mix. Garnish with celery and try to gulp it down in three seconds flat. 

Billie's Best Ever Bloody Mix 

Time: 10 minutes | Makes 56 ounces (almost 2 quarts) | Difficulty: EASY! 

You Will Need:

1 quart tomato juice (or veggie juice)
1/3 cup worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
3 tablespoons horseradish (I used extra spicy)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6-8 cloves fresh garlic
Fresh ground pepper (to taste)
salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

Of course you can stop here, but if you want to kick it up another notch:

3 cups Clamato (optional)


In a blender add your garlic, worcestershire, Old Bay, horseradish, red pepper flakes, ground pepper and salt.

Add in your tomato or vegetable juice. Blend until mixed, 30-45 seconds.

Taste and if you want a little more heat, add a teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce. Blend another 30 seconds.

If you are satisfied with the mix, mix with vodka and enjoy.

For an extra kick of bloody satisfaction, in a pitcher or other container, mix with 3 cups of Clamato. Serve with a splash of pickle juice and vodka. Garnish with a piece of celery or a pickle!

YUM, right?!!?