Monday, November 27, 2017

More crochet pics!

Scrap scarf
I don't remember what it's called, but it's
made with alternating front-post and
back-post double crochet stitches

Friday, November 24, 2017

A word from Scrooge

As we hurl ourselves into the holiday season (making some of us want to hurl), I must make an effort to educate you lot about one more language thing that makes me crazy. Well, crazier.

Which of the following is a Christmas carol?

A.  Joy to the world
B.  Here we come a-caroling
C.  I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus
D.  We need a little Christmas
E.  Coventry carol

The correct answer is B. Only B. OK, sometimes E, depending on how it's treated. A is a Christmas hymn. C and D are Christmas songs. (D is also an abomination, but I digress.)

A Christmas carol is a type of Christmas song. It is not every Christmas song. Wikipedia, that authoritative source, defines it thusly: "A carol is in Modern English a festive song, generally religious but not necessarily connected with church worship, and often with a dance-like or popular character." Please note the the important characteristics: festive, dance-like or popular character, not necessarily connected with church worship. 

Picture actual carolers in medieval England, going from house to house offering a few moments of entertainment, hoping to be invited in for a mug of wassail and gifted with a coin or two. The carolers would have been poor tenant farmers or townspeople knocking on doors of wealthy merchants or landholders. Would they be singing "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas"? Not likely. They'd be singing "Good King Wenceslaus" or "Deck the Hall". The spirit of those carols made reference to Christmas while also celebrating the secular fun that is had at Christmas--often poking fun at the householder they're serenading, suggesting the only way to show the Christmas spirit is to invite the carolers in.

Splitting hairs?  Yes. Will it spoil your holiday season if you use the wrong term? I doubt it. Will it spoil mine? Not really. But God keeps track of such things!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Photos of last weekend's craft bazaar

I did a Christ Church Riverdale's Holiday Craft Bazaar last weekend.  Here are some pics!

My variety of hats. this photo was taken at home.

I had much more stuff than I needed.

Wearing the sweater I'd made hubby.
I wore various shawls throughout the day.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Another cooking post: my delicious chili

My chili is based on the chili I watched my mother make all of my childhood, amped up a little bit.  I honestly don't know what Tex-Mex purists might think of it, but I've never had anyone say he didn't like it.  As with my chicken soup, all measurements are guesses approximations, and you should adjust to taste.

Not my chli, but mine looks like this

  • Roughly chop four small onions and add to your stock pot, with a healthy swig of vegetable oil and a good pinch of salt.
  • Add chili powder, adobo chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, dried garlic, coriander, and a slight dash of cinnamon, as well as any other seasonings you fancy.  Amounts are up to you, but I recommend 1 tsp each for starters, except for the cinnamon. If you want more, you can add it later. Toasting them at this stage enhances the flavor.  
  • Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent.
  • Add 2 or more lbs. of ground beef and another pinch of salt, as well as freshly ground black pepper.  Stir frequently to break beef into small pieces. Allow any liquid that cooks out to evaporate and ensure your beef is well browned.  
  • Add two 28 oz. cans of crushed or diced tomoatoes and two 28 oz. cans of red beans or pinto beans.  To get as much of the goop out of the bottom of the cans as possible, I swish leftover coffee back and forth between the cans and pour it in.  Beef stock or water would also work.  Those who add beer to their chili would find this an opportune way to introduce it.
  • Add more liquid to fill the stock pot, stir well, and bring to a boil.  
  • Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally.  And simmer.  And simmer some more.  Then simmer another hour.  Simmering several hours is crucial. The flavor mellows remarkably over that time.
  • 30 minutes or more before serving, add in shredded corn tortillas to thicken.  The tortillas will dissolve completely. Alternatively, use a slurry of corn meal and water or milk. (Milk is especially useful if you find you've added too much heat. You can also add butter to reduce the heat.)
  • Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  • I serve with the following toppings, which guests can mix or match to their liking:
    • Sour cream
    • Corn chips or tortilla chips
    • Shredded cheese
    • Diced raw onion
    • Sliced jalapeno peppers
    • Cilantro
    • Bottled hot sauces, if desired.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Ridiculously easy two-day chicken soup

With the weather finally turning chilly here in the Tri-State area, I've entered full-speed into soup season.  Not that I hadn't been making soups and chili before, but it seems time to mention it.  I have a delicious pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove, so I thought I'd describe how I make it.  All measurements and quantities are approximate, and to individual taste.  Modify at will.

  • 1 pkg chicken thighs (at my supermarket, you can get 8 thighs for about $8)
  • 2 small or 1 large onion(s)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1-2 stalk(s) celery
  • salt to taste
  • pepper corns
  • parsley and other fresh herbs to taste (this is an excellent use for any fresh herbs in your fridge that are getting old)
  • dried herbs, if desired
  • fresh garlic, if desired

Bake chicken thighs at 325 deg. F. until skin is golden and crispy, about 35-40 minutes.  Set aside to cool.  Roughly chop the celery, carrot, onion, garlic and sweat in the bottom of your large stock pot in a little bit of olive oil.  (I don't bother to chop much, or even to peel the veg.--all of this will be discarded when you strain the soup.) Add dried herbs.  When the onions are translucent, remove from heat and set aside.  Add the other seasonings.  When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skins and throw in the pot.  Remove meat from the bones, and throw the bones in the pot.  (You don't have to get every shred of meat--leaving a little bit on the bones improves the stock.)  Keep the meat in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Preserve the chicken fat from the baking pan and place in fridge, too.  Scrape the solids from the baking pan into the pot. Add enough water to bring pot about 3/4 full.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for 90 minutes or longer.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for a half hour or more.

Place a metal colander in a large metal or glass mixing bowl.  Remove the solids from the stock and place in the colander to drain.  Discard the solids, but return the liquid that has drained from them back to the stock.  Strain the stock and place in storage containers.  Refrigerate overnight, and enjoy how this process has made your house smell.  At this point you could stop, and you'll have a good quantity of homemade chicken stock that is much better than what you buy from the store.  But you want soup, don't you?

The next day, retrieve the stock, chicken, and chicken fat from the fridge.  Place some of the solidified chicken fat in the bottom of your stock pot.  (This is why you need to refrigerate overnight.)  Chop another small onion, another stalk of celery, and another carrot into bite-size pieces, but you don't have to dice it as if you're taking a culinary school exam.  Sweat all these vegetables in the melted chicken fat.  Mince a few cloves of garlic, if desired, and add when the onions are translucent.  Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces, and add to the veg.  Add the chicken stock. If there's a jelly in the bowl you stored the chicken fat in, add that as well.  Bring this to a boil and simmer for as long as you can stand the delicious aroma before digging in.  Add a cup of rice or some dried pasta 30-45 minutes before serving, if desired.  Add some chopped fresh parsley, if desired.

Other options:

  • Keep bones from any chicken meal in the freezer until you have enough to make stock. Use these instead of or in addition to the chicken thighs.
  • Buy legs or wings instead, using them whole in the stock.  I don't think there's enough meat on them to make picking it off useful.
  • After you pick the meat off the bones, put bones back in the oven to brown a bit before adding to the pot.
  • Roast veg along with the chicken and add to the stock.