Saturday, May 29, 2004

This list of key words, which is in no particular order, is to remind me of the things I need to tell you about: knitting, the swingset, the tent, yard saling, tonight's dinner, salt potatoes, The Cars, cutting shorts, butterscotch sauce, Big Lots, cast iron cookware, the scary new ladder, building a garage, strawberries, sundress, price of canning jars.

Like I'm really going to get to even half of these. Oh well, at least I have goals, right?

Friday, May 28, 2004

It turns out that I will likely not have any paid work needing to be accomplished today so I have designated this as Fiber Arts Weekend. I had wanted to say it was Sewing Day, but then my knitting lesson wouldn't fit into the theme.

Yes, you read that right - I have a knitting lesson tonight! I'm very excited because I have wanted to learn to knit for a very long time. I tried reading one of those "learn to knit in 12 easy steps" books but couldn't make heads or tails of it (this could be because I am left handed - most such books are written for righties - and don't have much in the way of spacial awareness). Anyway, I've got all these dreams of whipping up sweaters and cool Harry Potter-esque scarves and cute little mittens and I'm just fidgety with anticipation. Baby steps, I know - I'll probably learn just enough to make some kind of boring thing but I promise not to get discouraged! We must crawl before we can walk before we can run. I'm not good at that kind of moderation, but it's worth keeping in mind.

I'm also planning on finishing the sun dress I started two months ago. All I have to do on that is sew the skirt to the bodice - it's already pinned - and complete the hem. This dress is not for anyone in this house - it's a 2T - but I thought it would make a good first project. When it's done I'm going to send it up to Buffalo so my niece can wear it and have my sister and mom do a critique of its wearability and my overall technique. Since I'm not a natural sewer this kind of feedback is important to improvement.

I'm also hoping to cut and pin a pair of shorts for the Boy Wonder. I bought some very cute searsucker plaids for shorts of him and really need to get going before the summer is over. He's in an awkward size right now where 3T is generally too small, but 4T falls off and I'm constantly nagging him to pull up his shorts. So I'm thinking I'll make him some slightly generous 3Ts with elastic waists. That should be enough sartorial compromise to get him through the summer.

If all goes well and I have time, I will also work on a needlepoint change purse for my aunt and a cross stitch bib for the Little Diva.

I might have some time/space/resource competition this weekend from my husband who has made his own designation for the weekend: Swing Set and Play House Design and Build. I was not surprised to learn that he has no intention of using any of the pre-fab kits or accessories available to saner parents but rather intends to do a complete custom design (except for the slide, which he has said he will purchase). When I teased him about his compunction to go to so much trouble when we could just go to and buy a very nice playset he responded that while we were out we should just buy the Boy a couple pairs of shorts while we were at it.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

This is Confetti Lantana. I bought several this year because it reminds me of J. We had noticed it last year planted around her community's pool and both thought it was very pretty. Down in South Carolina, Lantana grows big and bushy with many blooms all over. Here in Virginia it stays much smaller, although I've enjoyed a lot more - and continuous - bloom than the nursery man suggested I would. I'm finding this very comforting. As if J. were watching and making sure that "our" flowers would be so nice.

I've been actively looking around for mushroom ketchup recipes and have narrowed the selection down to a few that I'll mess around with before settling on either one or a combination. In the process of Project: Ketchup I've also come across a recipe for can-able jerk sauce.

Now, I'd walk many miles for the promise of a good piece of jerked chicken or fish so this bears looking into. How cool would it be to have a few half pint jars of jerk sauce on hand and not be required to go through a lengthy preparation process whenever you wanted it or, worse, spend lots more money buying a prepared sauce or going out? My plan is to make a single batch sometime this week and see how well we like it. If all goes well, the full recipe makes several pints so that should be enough for a year or more.

First, though, I must make more pickled carrots. We're down to two jars and our dill has some heads I want to use so that it doesn't bolt so quickly. The carrots will be short work, though, and should leave some time for experimentation on the ketchup and/or jerk later this week. I'm really looking forward to it - I love being in the kitchen trying something new.

Finally, my husband did the unthinkable last night. He went out to buy some ice cream and came home with a half gallon, some sprinkles, whipped cream and...chocolate sauce. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Well, I wouldn't have actually cried, since it's not that big a deal, but you know what I mean. I was unpacking the bag, saw the chocolate and walked over to the canning cupboard. Calmly opening the door, I asked him if he remembered a couple weeks ago when I made several pints of chocolate sauce. He looked utterly blank for a moment and then slightly sheepish. As I say, though, not a big deal. What's the worst thing, here? That we now have more chocolate in the house?

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Around the world in a bowl of rice... or, Is my blog burning?

So I committed to this blog cooking thing, formally known as Is My Blog Burning? The theme this go 'round is Around the World in a Bowl of Rice. The idea was, as I understood it, to make a rice dish that either is from or references your ancestry and then post the recipe and a picture of said dish. Easy enough. And then somewhere around, oh say, Friday I remembered that my people - who hailed from all over the globe - weren't really rice eaters. Oh, sure, there are a couple dishes picked up from here and there and many of the cuisines I have not yet fully explored, but there was no obvious choice.

So I ended up with a chicken and rice dish that incorporated and referenced elements from many different cuisines. I also cribbed some procedural elements from a recipe recently posted by Smallhands. The picture will come along shortly - it's currently resident on the camera, which my husband has with him at the moment.

With all of this in mind, I present to you:

Global Chicken and Rice

1) Season four bone-in split chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper on both sides. In a Dutch oven, brown the breasts in 4 tablespoons olive oil, making sure that both sides are a nice golden color. Remove from pan.

2) Cook in the hot oil three or four diced shallots and three or four minced garlic cloves until the onions are translucent. Add a half a cup of diced carrot, stir, and continue cooking for five minutes.

3) Stir into the pot a cup of long grain white rice. Add a cup and a half of water and a half a cup of dry white wine. Bring to a boil, add the chicken breasts back into the pan and cover. Cook until the rice is nearly done.

4) When the rice is just about cooked, stir in a cup of green peas (fresh or frozen) and replace the cover on the pan to cook until the rice is done.

5) Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Stir 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese into the rice along with 3 tablespoons finely chopped basil. Let sit for a few minutes.

6) Pour rice into a large bowl or platter. Top with chicken. Sprinkle with black pepper, paprika, and chopped parsley. Very lightly sprinkle with the juice from a fresh lemon.

7) Serve with steamed broccoli which has been sprinkled with a few drops of sesame oil.

So there you have it. When I was typing it all out I realized that it all sounds a bit much going on and too many flavors. Trust me, though, they all work well together and it's a nice dish for a simple family meal - which is how we ate it. The leftover rice was consumed for this morning's breakfast and it was even better after a night's rest.

Now, I'm off to see what everyone else has done. If you're interested, you can start at Chez Pim. Join me, won't you?

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

I've been suffering from a combination of blog block and over busyness lately. It's not that I don't have tons that I want to tell you, because I do, it's just that the words aren't coming quite as easily as they might and when they do I have five or twelve or a hundred things I need to do first. Little things like feed the baby or meet a client deadline.

Tonight I went to bed at 10:15 and finally gave up falling asleep around 11:45. So I've come downstairs to fart around a while and see if I can't exhaust myself into some shut eye. I've placed an order at Sephora (some matte stick treatment thing, along with four gratis samples and checked the going rates for reference books on Ebay (good sales to homeschoolers, it appears) and got caught up on blogs (note to Sue: Math doesn't lie? Really? Fibs to me all the time. You must know a better class of math than I!)

The best way to drift off, though, is with a cookbook in arms. As soon as I'm done here I'm going to look up some ketchup recipes. Mushroom ketchup, anyone? What about peach or plum? That tomato ketchup is our primary reference for spiced and heavily cooked-down purees is kind of an accident of culinary history. In fact, if I understand things correctly, tomato wasn't even the most popular among ketchups until well into the last century.

Ketchup making came to mind because I'm pretty sure I have a couple years' worth of jams, marmalades and jellies now (although there's not a force on this earth that will stop me from making the scented geranium jelly I've been looking forward to), not to mention sauces (although cherry sauce is another virtual certainty for this year) and chutneys. Pickles I always need more of but I kept thinking that something was missing and so I pounced on ketchups as the answer. Without looking more into it, I'm thinking that mushroom ketchup would be a good first, experimental bet. I bet it would be great on a steak, or maybe as part of an omelet.

Damn! Now I'm hungry. Part of the risk of writing about food at this hour of the morning, I guess.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Today is the first installment of an irregularly occuring feature, Ask Hot Water Bath, wherein I answer questions that I have received via e-mail.

Q: "Where's the canning?"

A: Good question and, just you wait. We're coming up on garden season and that means it's all canning all the time around here. Last Saturday was the last day of soccer which means that all Saturday mornings from here on out are reserved for the farmer's market and obtaining canning fodder. I'm actively collecting new recipes to try and am mulling the purchase of a pressure canner to open an entirely new realm in my kitchen life.

Q: "Where do you get your pictures?"

A: All of the pictures I post are pictures that I have taken. The flower photos are of blooms in my garden. Notice that most of them are close-ups. I find this technique hides my lack of photographic ability - a conviction, no doubt, related to that held by those who believe that shouting will make them more understandable.

Q: "What kinds of vegetables do you pickle?"

A: I use the same "dilly bean" recipe that you can find all over the place (including somewhere in my archives, which I'll search out at the earliest opportunity) to can a variety of veggies. I've had great luck with asparagus, brussels sprouts, carrots and baby/cocktail onions (delicious and a ton of work - the peeling is a bitch). I've also done cauliflower which tasted great but turned an unapetizing shade of brownish-gray. Lately, I've been wondering how jicama or beets would do.

Q: "Do you really eat all the stuff you can?"

A: Yes. I don't can things that don't sound yummy to me. Any kind of sweet pickle or relish, for example. I do give away a lot of my canning production - home canned produce makes wonderful gifts. At least that's what my recipients tell me.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The pink peonies are blooming.

Turns out the mouse in the grill episode was just the first of several upclose interactions with nature that I, um, enjoyed this weekend. Both a hornet and the world's largest moth (o.k., not really, but if there are bigger ones I don't want to know about it) found their ways into the house. The resulting ruckus trying to get them back out of doors is amusing only retrospect. The moth, with its 6 inch wing span, only looked the scarier of the two but neither thrilled me overmuch. Then sometime overnight some kind of really buzzy bug came through the screen in the sliding glass door leading from our bedroom. I don't think it was terribly large, since I never actually saw it, but it certainly had a lot to say, and loudly.

For Mother's Day I received half a dozen alpine strawberry plants, which I'm hoping to propogate into another dozen or so more. They will be the beginnings of a lovely border to the herb garden - on the long edges. The short sides will be bordered by lavender and the corners anchored by four kinds of mint. There's still a lot of unoccupied real estate in the garden but I'm trying to remember to take baby steps so as to not become overwhelmed and then give up. Anyway, it was a lovely day punctuated by the additional purchase of a great pair of high heeled strappy sandals. Every day should involve strawberries and new shoes, if you ask me.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

So we're all set to start dinner, which was to be grilled. Our first "cook out" of the year...propane filled, tuna purchased, wine chilled and off we go. Except. I pulled off the grill cover, first noticing how worn it has become after four years of constant exposure to the elements. Maybe time for a new one, I think. Lift up the cover, reach for the nob and...look square in the face of a mouse, who - truth be told - was a little surprised to see me.

Cute, but not what you're looking for in a grill. So I stand there for a moment, tuna on a platter in one hand, long metal spatula in the other, pondering my next move. I see a little fuzzy nest in one corner, wedged between the shell and the burner plates. Clearly, the mouse has been in residence for some time.

What to do, what to do. O.K. Letting the mouse know that it has exactly 30 minutes to get moving before I remove its nest and crank up the heat to begin the cleaning process, I leave the lid up and head back inside. The tuna is broiled for 10 minutes on one side, 5 on the other. Delicious with pearl couscous cooked in chicken broth and steamed broccoli.

When we return outside the mouse is gone. No doubt it will return at some point soon. Unfortunately it will find the grill no longer a hospitable environment. The plates and grate have been heated, cooled and moved indoors for a swim in the dishwasher and the entire shell will be hosed off before reassembly and I will not be able to guarantee future rodent guests the same level of service and accommodation enjoyed by our winter lodger.

There is a part of me that feels somewhat guilty about the eviction. It is, however, not the part of me that enjoys grilled tuna. That part is really o.k. with the whole thing.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

O.K., moving on.

Big news here at the Hot Water Bath homestead: we're finally updating the kitchen! Oh, the happiness of it all. No more orange-red formica (I have nothing against formica, but the orange-red has got to go), no more faux-pebble linoleum. No more three-shades-of-white walls and kind-of-brashish hardware on the cabinets. Wait! Can you hear that? It's the angels singing, celebrating with me the joy of being rid of such eyesores.

Not sure what will go in their place yet. We have a (very) limited budget, so there will be none of the $80,000 upgrades touted in a recent cooking mag. Still, with the money that's available we should be able to come up with some new hardware, fresh paint, countertops and flooring. Our cabinets are good and, even if they're not really my taste, won't be replaced. I think the new hardware will be enough to update them. I'd kind of like a new range, given that its ability to keep a steady temperature is a new adventure every day (that is, one day to get to 350 degrees I need to set it to 475 and the next 225 will do - it's maddening). No new appliances for now, though.

So excuse me while I finish this glass of wine and head out to the nearest home improvement shop.
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