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Monthly Archives: November 2011

For the Love of Soup

The seed for my lifelong love affair with soup was planted at age 5. I was a kindergartner at Kempsville Elementary in Virginia Beach, VA. Along with reading the beloved children’s classic Stone Soup (which is a wonderful lesson in cooperation), my teacher decided it would be fun to have the class actually cook the eponymous soup as well.

Every student was instructed to bring an ingredient. I was assigned a rutabaga. This threw my mother into a bit of a tailspin, you see, as rutabagas were not a staple item in the Adams kitchen. We did finally wrangle one up, though. I can still recall with absolute clarity, 30 years later, each student putting our ingredients into the pot (although, in my mind’s eye, it was more of a cauldron than a pot; no clue as to why, seeing as that I really like that teacher and she wasn’t the least bit “witchy”…), watching it boil away.

And so it was that I came to love soup. Pine for soup. Long for soup. Just ask Hubs; all autumn and winter-long, I could eat soup morning, noon and night. The other night I was worried I might be coming down with something, feeling incredibly fatigued and a bit achy. And so, Hubs pulled out the well-worn stock pot and put on a pot of chicken soup. But not just any chicken soup, no. Hubs never does just any old thing; he imbues everything with his signature double-punch of creativity and whimsy.

The soup pictured above is the outcome of his time at the stove. It’s his spin on Greek chicken soup, with fennel, spinach and dill included along with the more pedestrian carrots, celery and chicken. It’s. So. Good. You want to make this soup, you really do. The recipe makes a big pot, enough for a large family or multiple meals for a hungry bachelor or bachelorette.

Glenn’s Greek Chicken Soup
The Goods: 
-3 tablespoons olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-2 carrots, diced
-3 stalks of celery, diced

-1 bulb of fennel, diced (reserve the fronds)

-3 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 tablespoons fennel seeds
-2 pounds chicken breast, cubed
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-Several grinds black pepper
-14-ounces diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
-1 cup wine (your choice)
-Juice of 1 to 2 lemons (depending on how lemony you like it)
-3-4 quarts chicken stock (depending on how brothy you like it)
-2 teaspoons dill
-2 teaspoons thyme
-1 teaspoons marjoram
-10-ounces box of frozen chopped spinach, or 1 lb fresh greens of your choice
-5 ounces soup rings, or other small noodles
-1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped (half for cooking in the soup, half for garnishing the soup)
-Additional sea salt to taste
-Feta for crumbling on top of the soup

The Deal:
1) In a stock pot or dutch oven, cook the onions, carrots, celery, and fennel in the olive oil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
2) Add the garlic and fennel seeds; cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
3) Add the chicken, salt, and pepper; cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all of the chicken looks cooked on the outside.
4) Add the tomatoes, wine, lemon juice, stock, and herbs; cook about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally.

5) Add the spinach or greens, the fennel fronds, and the soup rings, and cook for about 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
6) Stir in half of the chopped cilantro leaves.
7) Taste to adjust salt and pepper.
8) Ladle into individual bowls, and garnish with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro leaves to serve.
Reserve some feta and cilantro leaves to enjoy on the soup all week long!

Better With Butter (+Giveaway!!!)

I used to be an incredibly frugal butter-spreader. In other words, sure, I’d put butter on my toast or my baked potato, but only in the tiniest, slightest, skimpiest amount imaginable. Once I discovered, though, that whole, full, nutritious, all-natural animal fats made me feel and look better, I started slathering it on, thickly.

Now I use butter in almost everything I bake, spread it liberally on biscuits, and put a nice amount into a bowl of hot peas. I also often make my own butter. It’s creamy, whipped goodness is amazing, and incredibly easy to “whip up.” Here’s how: 

Shake, Rattle, & Roll
(Reprinted with permission from my book Homemade Living: Home Dairy © 2011 by Ashley English, Lark Crafts, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.) :
Yield: Approximately 1 cup. 
You will need:
-1 quart-sized jar with lid
-1 pint heavy cream
-1 glass marble
-Cutting board
– ¼ tsp. salt, optional

To Prepare:
1. Allow cream to come to room temperature, or right around 72-74° F. To do this, simply take the cream out of the refrigerator, set it on the counter, put a dairy thermometer into it, and check on it every 30 minutes or so until the temperature rises. This allows the cream to ripen slightly, raising its acidity, and thereby becoming easier to whip and full of flavor.
2. Place cream and marble inside of your jar, secure the lid, and begin shaking vigorously.
3. Continue shaking, about once per second, until the cream begins to thicken. You’ll hear it, as it changes from a constant sloshing sound to a heavier thud. This process will take anywhere between 5-30 minutes, depending on the intensity and frequency of the shaking.
4. Using a spatula, remove the butter from the jar, draining off the buttermilk (save that for biscuits or cornbread-making!).
5. Take the marble out, place the butter in a medium-sized bowl, and run cold water over it. Empty the water out, and repeat several times until the water is clear in the bowl. Strain off any remaining water.
6. If using salt, stir it in with a metal spoon. Otherwise, place the butter on a cutting board.
7. Using either clean hands or a wooden spoon, begin pressing the butter repeatedly, allowing any liquid inside of it to drain off. Continue pressing until you no longer see liquid coming from your butter.
8. Depending on whether you intend to use your butter now or in the future, you can store at room temperature in a butter crock, or chilled or frozen in wax or parchment paper, or a covered container in the refrigerator or the freezer. 

In recognition of this most delicious of condiments, I’m doing a giveaway today of a butter bell, also known as a butter crock. Pictured above, butter bells have been in use for ages, keeping butter fresh without refrigeration. Butter is placed in the recessed vessel on top, the bottom basin is filled about 2/3rds of the way with cold water, and then the butter-holding vessel is placed butter-side down. You’ll need to refresh the water daily to keep the butter from spoiling.    

With the American Thanksgiving holiday on its way next week, I thought a butter bell would be a nifty addition to the bountiful spreads that will be appearing on tables coast to coast. If you’ve never made butter before, give it a go. I think you’ll be amazed at just how easy and delicious it is. And all of your friends and family will be beyond thankful, come Thanksgiving, for your butter-making chops.     

To enter, simply leave a comment saying what you think is made better with butter. Corn on the cob? Heavens, yes. Cream cheese frosting? Need you ask? Mashed potatoes? Is the Pope Catholic? You get the picture. Because I’d like to get this out to the winner’s table by Thanksgiving day, I’ll only be running the giveaway through this Thursday, the 17th, midnight EST. I’ll announce the winner on Friday morning, get their mailing info., and high-tail it to the post office to get it out with that day’s mail.     

And although my neighbors to the north have already had their own Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to open this small measure giveaway to Canadians. Let’s hear your butter love, too!    

Please do leave a means of contacting you in your comment, via either a link back to your own blog or website, or with your email information. Otherwise, I won’t have any means of reaching you, should you be the winner. 

UPDATE: Congratulations to Tina J, lucky #83! Thank you so much to all who entered! Clearly, there’s some big butter lovin’ going on up in here!!! 

Gettin’ Stitched

Local yokels, my friend Sarabeth Lattimore (the fashion designer and seamstress extraordinaire I profiled back here) will be hosting a discussion on all things sewing related tomorrow at Waechter’s Fine Fabrics.

Here’s the information she forwarded to me:

10am-1pm Meet and Greet with Sarahbeth Larrimore of Unabashed apparel – Meet our designer-in-residence and learn about her up and coming Sewing Studio Saturdays, a sewing class geared towards the next generation of younger folks learning to sew (ages 18-40ish.) This “class” is for folks just starting out, or folks that sew but want to learn more & have the support of a young, hip sewist community!

Events going on throughout the day taught by the Waechterettes:

10:30-11 Fabric + Pattern Selections that wow.

11:30-12 Best Top Patterns for beginners to advanced sewers.   

12:30-1: Pressing Matters: Pressing tools and how to use them.

1:30-2: Best Jackets for beginners to advanced sewers.

2:30-3: Trims trims trims! Personalize and inspire!

3:30-4 Featured Techniques: Hong Kong finish, French Seams, Handpicked zippers etc.  
If you’re free and looking to learn more about sewing, go visit Sarahbeth, and do be sure to tell her I sent you!!!  

Cradle of Love

The simplest things make me so happy these days. A mug of hot coffee. Baby giggles. A maple tree clad in golden leaves. And firewood. Well-seasoned, cut-to-length, tightly stacked firewood.

Hubs has tried out a variety of firewood cradles since purchasing the property back in 2004. While they’ve all worked, each had a number of design issues. Until now.

He built this hefty cradle in an ideal location near the house (creating a shorter schlepping distance, YES!), with strong lumber and metal support braces to keep it from toppling over. Ever the artist, he gave it a dark wood stain and an eye-catching green roof so that we can actually enjoy looking out the kitchen window all winter long at our wood pile. The concrete blocks underneath provide an additional level of fortification. The wooden dowel running the length of the cradle will be used to hold up a tarp, for keeping out the moisture that accompanies winter snowstorms and spring rains.

This project, like any learn-as-you-go one, wasn’t without it’s fair share of snafus. Halfway through, Hubs realized he hadn’t put down enough pressure-treated 4’x4’s to provide a flat bottom for stacking the wood (apparently, he told me that, upon this discovery, he laid down in the driveway for a minute and almost cried). Never one to walk away from a challenge, he re-jiggered and tweaked the design until it achieved his ideal, both structurally and aesthetically.

There was a time when new nightclubs, fancy cocktails imbibed at said nightclubs, and dancing the night away with my fancy cocktail at the nightclub were the things that got me excited. Now, it’s firewood, cradled with care in a lovingly built wood shed. I still dance, and sip, only now I do so in my flannel p.j.’s, surrounded by my fellas, enjoying the warmth offered by a glowing hearth and a content heart.

*If any of you locals need a great firewood supplier, let me know. I’ve got a guy….For those of you that have asked, here’s the information:
-Fred Nelson.
-He’s in Waynesville.
-$125 will get you a true, seasoned cord, delivered & stacked.
-828/456-4365 (H) or 828/400-3872 (C).
And, please, tell him I sent ya!!!

My Two Guys

Oh, how I love them so. Crazy to think they looked like this just over a year ago!

Sorry for the radio silence, friends. Hubs’ folks have been staying with us since Thursday and we’ve been busy with all sorts of grandparently activities the past few days.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a fresh, new, exciting, riveting (one can hope, right???) post!!!