Archive for the ‘home’ Category

Chicken and Black Pepper Dumplings

September 20, 2020

When I eat my feelings it’s usually a riff on something my mother and grandmother made back in the day. Chicken and dumplings are a staple of my childhood. In their world chicken and dumplings were just a poached chicken and Bisquick dumplings. Adding veg and tarting up a biscuit dough is somewhat treasonous. As always when I make something I’m particularly proud of, my kids wanted none of it. Whatever. One of them is addicted to boxed mac and cheese and the other frequently chews on painters tape. Not arbiters of all that is tasty.

We ate the C&D before I took a picture. So here are the comfort food rejectors on their first day of pandemic school.

Soup:
1 large white onion, peeled and diced
4 large garlic cloves, sliced
2 tbs rendered bacon fat
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 heart of celery w/ leaves, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
¼ tsp poultry seasoning
8 cups chicken stock
1 pound shredded chicken
¼ cup sour cream
1 tbs Dijon mustard


Dumplings:
¼ cup butter, melted
2 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
black pepper, fresh ground
1 cup butter milk

Sauté onion in bacon fat.  Add the garlic and cook until soft.  Stir in carrots and celery, then add seasonings and stock.  Cook until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes.  Stir in chicken, sour cream, and mustard.  Reduce to a simmer.

Melt butter in a microwave proof bowl.  Add all dumpling ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough.  Drop dumplings off of a spoon into simmering soup, but be careful not to boil them or they’ll fall apart.  Partially cover, and cook just simmering for about 20 minutes.

Delight.  Utter delight.  Even given that my kids were all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ because their mission is to fully reject the only food culture I can give them.

Anti- Cream of Chemical Shit Storm King Ranch Chicken

July 1, 2020

 

For those days when <waves hand> all of this is just too much to bear, but you’d still rather not ingest cream-o-chemical soup.

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For the sauce:
1 tbs bacon fat
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp celery seeds
2 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
2 cans low sodium chicken stock
1 15oz can stewed tomatoes w/ chiles
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste. (Maybe some ground cumin too.  MOAR cumin!)

For the casserole:
1 sauce recipe as above
1 lb shredded chicken
1 lb sliced crimini mushrooms, sautéd in bacon fat
3.8 oz can of ripe olives, sliced
1 cup jack cheese, shredded
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
20 corn tortillas, sliced in half

I generally sauté the mushrooms in bacon fat in a straight sided skillet and set them aside.  Then in that pan, add some more bacon fat (Sorry… we’re not here for health today we’re here for the calming of existential dread) and soften your onions and bell pepper in that.   Add the crushed garlic and stir through till soft.  Then add all of the seasonings except the salt and pepper.  Fry them until the kitchen smells like you might survive after all.   Add the butter to melt, then add the flour and mix until it all forms a paste.  Let that brown a little.  Add the chicken stock and (well strained) tomatoes.  Simmer until it thickens then turn off the heat and add the sour cream.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Decide it’s not quite right and add some ground cumin.  Then maybe a little more cumin.  This is the sauce!  You did this to avoid cream of chemical shit storm in a can and it’s worth it.

Dump  a little sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish (Mine was glass and 13×9).  Then cover the sauce w/ tortilla halves.  Layer on more sauce, some chicken, olives, mushrooms.  Then more tortillas, then sauce, then chicken/olives/mushrooms, finish this layer with the jack cheese.  MORE tortillas but instead of sauce go straight to chicken/olives/mushrooms.  Then the rest of the sauce spread evenly over the top. Try to have a little more than 1/3 of the sauce left for this step.  Sharp  cheddar cheese on the now very saucy top.   Cover with foil.

I generally make casseroles either the day before or at lunch time and refrigerate, then bang them in a 400 F oven covered for 45 minutes and uncovered until bubbly.  About 15 minutes.  This is a good time to go take a statin and some blood pressure meds. Check that your jeans are sufficiently stretchy.

Let it stand on the counter for a while so that it sets and you avoid pizza mouth blisters.  Eat it.  Keep eating until you either burst or stop feeling all of the feelings you don’t want to be feeling.

At least it’s no preservatives… right?

 

Mixed Berry Muffins

September 4, 2017

muffin

My daughters have come to expect a batch of muffins just about every week to serve as their school day breakfast.  Occasionally instead of muffins I’m asked for stones (scones)  but this week I had a bunch of strawberries and dewberries left over and needed to use them up.  So in a muffin they went.  I had hoped the muffins would be a cheery pinkish purple color and the batter was just so.  I added the jam partially for color’s sake and partially because my berries weren’t terribly sweet.  They baked out to a fairly uniform white shade though so if you’re inclined and not averse a drop or two of pink food coloring wouldn’t go wrong.

These turned out ridiculously tender and buttery with a nice thin crust to the tops.  I set two of them out under a pie safe and the rest go in a gallon baggie in the freezer to be doled out from Monday to Friday.

Makes 15 muffins.

Mixed Berry Muffins
2 cups white flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 2/3 cup fresh mixed berries, chopped
2 tbs blackberry (dewberry) or strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 425. Dice berries and combine with jam.  Add all other ingredients and stir, just to combine.  Portion out into lined muffin tins.  Bake for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Custom beds

July 3, 2013

We’re far far from home right now in Vermont.  Having put our little spot in Dripping Springs on the market, we decided to stay away for 6 months.  The first we spent in a friend’s snow bound cabin in St Adolphe d Howard, about 2 hours from Montreal.  The next 5 months, we’re spending in our preferred rental house in Burlington, Vermont.

The thing about me is that though I love to travel and feel the various textures of the world, I am an inveterate home body.  To me, the best part of any ocean crossing adventure is the pull I feel, constantly, to return to my not so tidy hobbit hole.

Here I am now, 3 months homeless.  I have no permanent address, and my babies are sleeping on crib mattresses on the floor.  The hobbit in me quivers.

If there’s one thing I do better than feather a nest however, it’s plan.  I have lists, databases, and maps of potential next homes.  I have flowcharts in my head of just how our move southward will go.  I also have custom furniture.

My brother in law, Matt Mitchell, it turns out is quite the artist when it comes to woodwork.  He has recently founded a custom furniture business called Austin Joinery.  He’s building a portfolio, and so I managed to commission two very special beds for my girls.  These will be the first feathers laid in my next nest and I find it appropriate that they are for the girls, made by family, and flecked with symbolism.

The frame is of Massaranduba, aka Bullet proof wood. To stand up to my kids and our frenetic life, bullet proof is good:

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The inlays are burled walnut. Burled as in full of knots. Imperfect, just like their mom.

The final touch is a walnut inlay of a personally significant deco rose design:

That design is very similar to one that I have tattooed on my back. It’s a memorial tattoo for my best friend and my father’s father, who died within months of each other in 2001. The grandfather grew beautiful roses. The friend’s memory confronted me repeatedly on a trip I took to Scotland. I first saw a similar design in Glasgow and it reminded me of her and him simultaneously.

As it stands, I have no permanent address.  I have a home, the place I carry with me to where ever Andy and I land.  My nest is only really in my mind just now though, and  these two pieces of furniture built with the aid of a talented craftsman, are the first feathers I have for it.

Banana Nut Muffins

May 12, 2013

Okay. I admit once and for all that I don’t measure anything. Ever. So you’ll have to use your eyeballs when assembling these muffins because they were both the bomb and the diggity. If it looks too wet, add more dry. If it looks too dry, add more wet. We’re grown ups and can handle this, right?

3 horrendously over ripe bananas I’d forgotten on top of the fridge
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce I needed to be rid of
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted  (Yes.  You read that right.)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup maple syrup (I really  just glugged until Andy shouted “HOLY SHIT!”)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup pecans or walnut pieces

Beat the bananas and apple sauce until smooth. Slowly wiz in the melted butter. Add in the rest of the ingredients one at a time except the nuts. Fold those in at the very last minute.

Pour into lined muffin tins, almost filling each cup. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until just done. Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

Feed them to a baby so hungry, she’s prepared to eat her own foot. Save some for yourself.

Dude, I should blog more.

December 31, 2012

I just got my 2012 year in review and it basically tells me that I haven’t blogged since my 2011 year in review.  My dude is at least partially responsible for those fireworks on your email thingy, so he  got to be amused to see what would happen when a person had exactly one post.  January 1.  1 firework blast.  And there was much rejoicing.

It seems like most of the people that find me by search terms are looking for information on Tibial Plateau fractures.   I had one on January 25, 2009.  It’s an easy date to remember because it’s about 12 hours after this happened:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looked like this a few days after surgery:

It looked like this a few days after surgery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About 2 years later I had the 6 screws and the plate taken out. It looked like this (I particularly like the “yes” which means “Yes. Please cut open this leg. Again.)
For the TPF curious: It was very painful after repair and didn’t feel like my own leg again for the two years between the addition and subtraction of metal bits. When the metal bits came out it stopped feeling like there was a car bumper in there and I mostly don’t notice it any more. It hurts if the weather changes or if I try to kneel on it, or hit it with the car door. Otherwise, aces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

zoe_1400

In other news, I have two awesome kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My dog is Bean, because she has pintos over her eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a very nice husband too. This is part of his face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy new year. This is my favorite shoe.

 

 

 

Our Daughter

March 5, 2010

Working title: Georgia Marie Skelton

Lentil Moussaka

January 10, 2010

We’ve decided to stay up in Vermont for the winter. I know! I know! Most people fly south for the winter.  After spending 29 of my 30 years in Texas, however, I decided an actual winter was in order.  So I wake up to this every morning:

This is where Andy spends most of his winter days.

Of course, the dude can work any where he likes. I on the other hand am continuing my unemployment trend in pursuit of another life long goal.  This gives me ample time to cook and blog.  Hopefully this will end the 6 month or so long blog dry spell.  I’ve been cooking all this time, but also teaching 8th grade, so there’s been very little time to actually write about it.

The weather seems to make me want nothing but soft, warm comfort food. When I was recently asked to bring some sort of hearty vegetable dish to a family gathering, the only thought that would come into my head was Moussaka.  I love all things Greek. I love eggplant. I love feta cheese.  I certainly love béchamel.  The only thing I don’t love is the current lack of Zoe-friendly meat in my freezer.  We’re pretty much on vegetarian rations right now.  That’s fine, actually.  I do love the challenge of filling us up without the ease of using meat.

The following is what I came up with after pursuing recipes for moussaka.  It’s a combination of different points from the many that I read.  Over all, I loved it.  It was a rather time-consuming recipe, but I was in the mood to chop and fuss and prep.

Filling:
1/2 cup of green lentils
4-6 cups water
2 small yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup beer
2 (14 oz) cans tomatoes, diced
1 cup cherry tomato, halved
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves, chopped
2 tbs fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tbs fresh oregano leaves, chopped
kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper

Casserole:
2 eggplants, peeled and sliced
2 zucchini, sliced
2 baking potato, sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole grain bread crumbs

Bechamel:
5 tbs unsalted butter
4 tbs unbleached flour
3 cups 2% milk
1 cup half and half
1 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of white pepper (which I didn’t have, so I used black)

Peel eggplant, and slice it about 1/8 inch thick.  Place the slices in a large colander and apply a very liberal amount of salt.  Set this aside for at least 30 minutes while you prep the filling and slice the other vegetables.  The goal here is to pull some of the moisture from the eggplant.  After 30 minutes, rinse thoroughly with water and then dry with paper towels.

To prepare the filling: Boil the lentils in the water (salted) until almost done.  Leave them with just a little bite to them.  Drain and set aside.  In a large pot, sauté the onions in a small amount of olive oil.  Add garlic, and cook just to soften.  Deglaze the pan with the beer, then add the canned tomato. Add back the lentils, fresh tomato, and seasonings.  Simmer the filling for a bout 30 minutes.  The filling should be quite, thick and most of the liquid will reduce.  (I had extra filling which I used on top of some whole wheat spaghetti for lunch.)

In a large skillet, heat a little bit of olive oil.  Brown the eggplant, one side at a time. Set aside.  Brown the zucchini in the same pan and set aside.  Add a small amount more oil, then cook the potatoes until they are a bit softened, but not fully cooked.  Set aside.

In a 13X9 inch pan, lay down a layer with each of the vegetables.  You will have more eggplant than anything else, so try to work it so that each of the 3 layers will have some of each vegetable.  I placed eggplant, zucchini, and potato in bands.  For the bottom layer I placed: eggplant, zucchini, eggplant, potato.  In the next layer I placed the vegetables so that they were directly above a different vegetable. The idea was that each piece cut from the casserole would contain all three vegetables.

On top of the first layer of vegetable spread about 1 cup of the lentil filling, then top that with a little feta and a little Parmesan.  Top with another layer of vegetables, then filling, then cheese.  Make sure to end the layering with vegetables on top.  Bake the casserole at 350°F for about 25 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow it to stand for about 15 minutes.  The casserole may be a little watery when taken from the oven, but should reabsorb most of the liquid.

While it cools, make the white sauce.  In a straight sided skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sprinkle the flour on top of the butter and whisk together to form a roux.  Cook the roux until it is a dark sandy color, just starting to brown.  Add the milk and half and half, whisking to incorporate.  Continue to stir until the mixture thickens.  Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Taste for flavor, and re-season if necessary. (You will have extra white sauce.  Use it on pasta, or any recipe that calls for a cream sauce.  Mine will probably go into Tuna Noodle Casserole to be frozen for later.)

Pour just enough of the béchamel over the vegetable casserole to cover it lightly.  Top with the bread crumbs and more cheese if desired.  Bake uncovered until the potatoes are fully cooked, about 30 minutes.  Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.

The view from my dream house.

July 8, 2009

Near Oakalla Tx

Near Oakalla Tx

Perfect summer nights

July 2, 2008

I love summer.  Love the desperation of it and the way that heat can be something you get molded into. Love watching my skin turn into the olive and brown it has adapted to through six or so generations in the swelter.  Love the feeling of grit on the back of my neck and a the shock of knowing that my body can’t tolerate this indefinitely. Love realizing that I must have water.

More than that, I love a cool summer night after a muggy, blastedly hot day and eventual rain.  Love the clean smell of it and the momentary respite, sitting in a wooden swing.  It reminds me that in about three months I’ll smell something crisp and feel the first tiny breeze of fall just before the summer kicks up into its last, bitchiest wave.