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It’s A Chicken Soup Day

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Turkey Tracks: September 20, 2020

It’s A Chicken Soup Day

Our temps are dropping pretty low at night now and for the next few days will not reach 70 during the day. It’s Chicken Soup time!

I start by dragging out my big Creuset cast iron/enamel pot, melting in some duck fat, and sautéing whatever savory veggies I have on hand. This time I have leeks, just harvested onion, carrots, celery, a celeriac bulb, and a zucchini. And, herbs and salt, always herbs and salt. (I have chopped cabbage too, but am withholding it for the moment.) See that brown on the bottom of one side of this pot—that’s what I’m aiming for—brown but not burned. It’s that brown stuff that gives the soup a deep flavor.

Meanwhile, I roughly chopped a whole package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs that I bought on sale. There are at least 12 in the package. I love the thighs for soup as they have so much flavor.

When the veggies are getting too hot, I stir in the meat, which cools everything down.

I like short-grain rice for a soup. It stands up better than a long-grain type so it does not disintegrate into the soup.

I mix it in when the meat is mostly done and let it cook a bit with the mixture. AND NOTE: if you have a Creuset pot, do not use metal utensils with it—except to dip out the soup with a metal dipper. Metal tools can weaken the enamel and cause it to crack and chip over time. I have two of these pots—this is the bigger, newer one. My 5-quart smaller, older one is over 40 years old and is going strong.

I add my chopped fresh cabbage at this stage—I don’t like for cabbage to over cook as that is what gives a soup the too-cabbagy taste.

When the cabbage is mixed in, I add water and taste for salt. I add water until the pot is about an inch or so from the top.

While the soup heats, I chop some fresh Italian parsley I had on hand—it will top the soup when it is done.

After I bring the soup to a good simmer, I cover it and turn the heat down very very low and cook it until the rice is done—usually about 35 to 40 minutes. This pot is very heavy and does not have to be watched every 5 minutes or so. You will need to check and recheck with a thinner pot. Don’t let it all boil—that makes all the veggies way, way too soft.

I made this soup in the morning, so I pulled off what I wanted to reheat for lunch and put it in a separate smaller pot. I left the soup on the stove, uncovered, until it cooled thoroughly, which can take a hour or more. Then I filled one of my silicone bags (I LOVE THESE) for the freezer—they are absolutely no-leak when sealed. Then I put the rest of the soup in a bowl and cleaned my pot. I can dip out of this bowl and reheat what I want to eat. I do not reheat the whole bowl as it makes the soup ingredients too soft.

If I find I’m not eating the whole thing in two days and I’m tired of it, I just freeze the rest for another day. I would not keep the soup without reheating the whole thing after 2 days.

On other meals, to change things up, one can top the soup with yogurt or heavy cream or thin it with some milk for a cream soup. One can add other ingredients as well: cooked beans, greens, corn, tomatoes, cheeses that melt on top, etc. I added corn kernels after the first day.

I am eating mine with a side of goat cheese smeared on good quality corn tortilla chips. If it’s corn, I’m all in. I can also heat a corn tortilla in the oven and put mozzarella on top to melt.

Is it time for YOU to make a hearty fall soup?

Written by louisaenright

September 20, 2020 at 10:05 am

A Yummy Lunch and Progress on the Design Wall

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Turkey Tracks: September 19, 2020

A Yummy Lunch and Progress on the Design Wall

I’ve had a gastro thing from the histamine issue I have so I have been eating cooked food—rather than my beloved big salad—for lunch. And fruit is a no-no right now as well. (But all is so much better now as I write—stress causes this gastro reaction, as well as various triggers—and we are living in truly stressful times these days.)

***Stress made more so by the very sad death of RBG yesterday. I’m taking a deep breath and thinking of her as I write here.

The other day I had these fresh veggies on hand, so I popped them into a pan with heated duck fat and some dried herbs. And, salt. Good sea salt. Aren’t they pretty? A feast for the eyes already.

I had some cooked chicken drumsticks that reheated in the oven while I sautéed the veggies and cooked this fragrant basmanti rice.

Yes, I know it is very processed rice, but it cooks in 10 minutes, smells heavenly, tastes wonderfully, and I thought it might add some needed bulk to my system. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. I will confess I just bought this new package of it. Oh my…

Voila! A tasty and hearty lunch.

Lunch is my first meal of the day, so cooked or salad, it is a hearty meal for me. The fat in this meal holds me until dinner time, so there is no snacking through the day. Except for a coffee some time in the afternoon. When I really want a treat, AC and I go downtown to Zoot coffee where I get a not-too-sweet maple syrup latte with whip cream to go. AC loves the whip cream. Me, too. Napkins are involved in that endeavor.

And here’s the design wall. I’m looking forward to sewing these blocks into a top. It’s been a really fun project—a leader/ender that took over the design wall, so became a primary project. (Yesterday I started sewing the rows together—and—YEAH—they are matching up beautifully.)

I wanted to sprinkle in low-volume pieces through the top. I wanted to make blocks that “popped” with their combinations. And I wanted to use up 3 1/2 inch strips from my storage bins as well as making some sort of dent in my stash, especially by using up small pieces living there.

And look at this EPP project that now has two rows finished—out of six.

This project is the 36-Ring Circus EPP project—that is a riff on a classic wedding ring quilt.

This one has been VERY slow going for me as it is HARD. But, wow. Suddenly it is seeming like maybe it is worth doing. The centers are, so far, all Cotton+Steel/Ruby Star Society. The rings are pastels. And the rest are darker solids. There will be 6 rows finished.

So…

I will keep going this winter.

Right now I’m sewing down binding on a finished quilt that just came off the longarm—where I had a lot of fun doodling designs. And today I will put “On Point” from The Color Collective (Denyse Schmidt) on the longarm—God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise, as my dad used to say.

Written by louisaenright

September 19, 2020 at 9:22 am

It Makes No Sense…

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Turkey Tracks: September 6, 2020

It Makes No Sense…

…to cook just ONE ear of corn at a time.

It takes a bit pot of water and a lot of energy to heat the water for one ear of corn.

I usually cook 4 at a time. I eat one or two for whatever meal I’m cooking and let the remaining ears cool on a plate. It takes about 10 seconds each to remove the corn kernels with a sharp knife. Then I have a food asset in the refrigerator.

This week I got a beautiful head of Bok Choy in my weekly food pick-up from my Community Shared Agriculture farm Hope’s Edge.

After working in the garden all morning, I came inside hungry and tired. While I warmed up two chicken drumsticks in the oven, I got out the Bok Choy and sautéed it in some duck fat (add some herbs, garlic, and good salt) and when it was done, I added some of my saved corn kernels just long enough to heat them.

Can I just say this was a DELICIOUS mixture. Both the Bok Choy and the corn have a certain sweetness—as does the duck fat.

Best of all, I had leftovers, which I added to a stir fry I cooked for dinner.

The local corn may be “done” now for the year. It has been so good this year: so sweet and tender. I already miss it.

Written by louisaenright

September 6, 2020 at 10:12 am

Some of This; Some of That

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Turkey Tracks: September 4, 2020

Some of This; Some of That

A bit of leftover cooked rice.

Half of a baked, meatloaf stuffed green pepper.

An egg.

Lots of veggies.

A small, fresh pickling cucumber.

Duck fat.

Why not make some fried rice for lunch?

Sauté veggies in the duck fat. When they begin to sweat, add some chopped fresh garlic, whatever herbs float your boat, and salt. Here I roughly chopped and cooked a handful of cauliflower bits, half of a small zucchini, a small bright yellow pitty-pan squash, half a red pepper, and some sliced fresh sweet onion. I added some cooked corn I took off the cob last night with the rice. When that was mixed up and warm, I added the chopped up baked green pepper—it had a hamburger meatloaf mixture inside—and mixed everything up well before breaking a fresh egg into the pan and mixing it in until it was totally cooked.

Delicious! And I have some leftover for dinner as a side dish.

Written by louisaenright

September 5, 2020 at 9:55 am

Summer Pleasures: Ad Hoc Cooking

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Turkey Tracks: July 25, 2020

Summer Pleasures: Ad Hoc Cooking

Yesterday evolved into a “foodie” day in part.

I took AC to the dog park for a pleasant hour in the morning and then came home HUNGRY.

I love that my little grill is “all ready to go” on my back deck this year and that when I fire it up, it is hot in under 15 minutes. I splashed some olive oil, salt, and herbs on some chicken tenders and they cooked in 6 minutes flat. AND smelled delicious.

I have a bag full of arugula from Hope’s Edge, so used that as a layer under the salad I made. I absolutely LOVE sweet onion and eat it raw. It is sweet and crunchy and, more importantly, is a great source of sulfur which is so important for human health and which is lacking in our commercially produced vegetables today. The herb is raw dill, which I can’t seem to get enough of these days. And we now have those small cucumbers in the local markets that are so tender.

I also had a package of defrosted lamb stew chunks that needed using. And a bag of beets with their greens from Hope’s Edge. While I sauteed the meat in beef tallow in my heavy Creuset cast iron/enamel pot, I peeled the beets with a peeler, and cleaned and chopped the beet greens, including the stalks on the leaves. The bottom parts of the stalk are like celery, and I threw those into the meat pan, alongside chopped garlic scapes, herbs, and salt. I took out some tiny new red potatoes, peeled some white carrots, chopped the green onions that came also from Hope’s Edge, and cut some sweet onion that went into the meat pot.

The pot went into the oven for 45 minutes—with garlic scapes, the beet green stalks, the onion, herbs, salt for 45 minutes.

While I was at it, I prepped the BIG bunch of kale from Hope’s Edge. I love the lavender color of the stems, but I just tear off the leaves from the stem with my hands and put the stems in the compost.

I drop the leaves into a pot of boiling water until they wilt down. No more than 5 minutes of cooking as you don’t want to cook them to death. Drain. Refresh with cold water until you can pick up the mass with your hands and chop it. Half went into the freezer and half is waiting for me to heat it in butter in a pan—which I could just eat as a side veggie or put into an omelet with cheese on top. YOU could add some nutmeg to the butter.

I wanted some rice for some reason, so I measured out a cup, added salt and some butter, and let the pot sit on the top of the oven until I got ready to finish dinner. It never hurts to let rice soak a bit. It will cook faster.

The meat pot came out of the oven and was left to cool on top of the stove, uncovered.

Thirty or so minutes before I wanted dinner, I heated the oven (350), added a little more water and heated my meat pot on the stove, added my prepped veggies (NOT the beet greens), covered it and cooked it in the oven for 30 or so minutes. Cook until the potatoes are soft inside. Then I stirred in the beet greens, recovered the pot, and cooked for another 5-6 minutes.

Yummo!

The “bread” is a corn tortilla toasted in the oven with bits of raw butter and salt on top. The organic fruit is the last of the cantaloup I’ve been eating, fresh red cherries, and a sliced nectarine. And, an after dinner coffee with raw honey and raw milk and cream.

More yummo! And I have food for today so can play.

Written by louisaenright

July 25, 2020 at 9:54 am

Simple Choices

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Turkey Tracks: July 21, 2020

Simple Choices

I’m enjoying the red geraniums in the oak barrels. They were a “simple” choice as in the past I planted an array of different flowers in these barrels.

It will be a “simple” choice to weed the rocks behind the barrels after the next good rain. They come out pretty easily. OK. I could wet them with the hose too. But it is hot and humid, which always saps my strength and energy. It’s a simple choice to just go with what the body says it needs too. Weeding gravel paths is an ongoing summer project around here.

On Sunday I grilled some boned chicken thighs on the grill, which only takes a little time as without bones, the meat is flat. I’ve left my little grill out away from the house rather than putting it away neatly after each use. It’s so easy to just run out, light it, and put some food on it. It heats up really quickly. AND there is no messy clean-up in the kitchen.

I love thighs and drumsticks. Each has so much more flavor than the overblown breasts which in my opinion are pretty tasteless—unless, of course they are a free-range chicken raised locally. Grilling the quick-marinated chicken gave the stir fry I was making a whole new level of “tasty” good.

I sliced up the cooked chicken and added it at the very last minute to a stir fry cooked in chicken fat. As usual, I used many types of vegetables—all fresh and in our local markets and also coming to me weekly from Hope’s Edge CSA. This one has cabbage, carrot, red pepper, celery, garlic scapes, some diced potato, herbs, salt, and some cut up pre-cooked broccoli rabe from another meal. Spring onions are added toward the last as I don’t like them cooked to mush. I started the stir fry with the diced potato in the fat as it would cook a bit slower than the other items. The chicken is added when I turn off the heat. I like stir fries that are not limp, so I turn the ingredients on a regular basis.

Quinoa cooks in 15 minutes. And I was hungry, so I went with quinoa rather than rice. Grains are a treat for me, so this meal was satisfying, for sure. And I have enough leftovers to feed me for a few more meals, which is nice on these hot, humid days when I also have an engaging sewing project. Cooking up a big stir fry is also a simple choice.

The “Bedrock” quilt top is almost done—from The Color Collective and designed by Tara Faughnan. There will be pictures this week for sure.

Written by louisaenright

July 21, 2020 at 8:10 am

Bits and Pieces: July 9, 2020

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Turkey Tracks: July 9, 2020

Bits and Pieces: July 9, 2020

Here’s what’s happening on my design wall at the moment. These circles are from the backs of the big circles we learned how to do in The Color Collective (Tara Faughnan, Sewtopia) season 1. When you trim out the back of the big circle after you have sewn down the circles on the front, you have these little circles left over. I couldn’t throw them out. Some time over the past two years I bought the light grey solid and cut it into squares on which I planned to mount the little circles. When I started sewing, though, I had more circles than I thought and I ran out of the light grey, so I just added in a darker grey from my stash.

My goodness these are cute! I was planning to use these circles in an improv quilt, but they really just wanted to stay by themselves. I made myself throw out the little grey circles from the backs of these circles. Time to STOP.

The 6 by 3-inch flying geese are a “leader/ender” project. Bonnie Hunter pioneered this method to keep running sewing projects through your machine rather than breaking thread. She suggests a new leader/ender project each year in July and has just revealed this year’s choice. Basically, you are making two quilts at the same time. That info for this year’s project is on her blog at quiltville.com.

I’ve cut a lot more fabric combinations, so these present colors will spread out. I’m thinking at least 10 rows wide. For play, I often stop and make some of these geese blocks. Who was it who said “no more new projects until the to-do projects are done”?

The shell peas are ready to pick now. I picked these at Hope’s Edge on Tuesday, came home, and put some raw on my lunch salad. They are delicious! The rest I added into a lamb/rice stew when it came out of the oven. I just recovered the pot and let the peas cook in the heat of the hot stew. BTW, the lamb also came from Hope’s Edge last fall.

On the way to pick up my weekly raw milk order, I passed a mommy duck walked her babies…somewhere. I tried for a longer video, but a biker came by me and ruined that one. Aren’t they adorable?

I’ve been in the garden for DAYS, and order has been restored out there. For the most part. There are always small jobs that have to be done. I am so grateful to Duane and Leslie Smith and their crew for helping me.

We are having cool weather, mixed with overcast, rainy, and sunny days. The temps fall at night into the 60s, so the sleeping has been lovely. The drought has broken, and everything is looking green and lush again.

Summer doesn’t really come to Maine with predictable hot weather until after July 4th. This year is no exception. Our summers are short and sweet and so filled with wonderful food and beautiful flowers.

Garden Garter Snakes and Garlic Cream Kale

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Turkey Tracks: July 5, 2020

Garden Garter Snakes and Garlic Cream Kale

I was in the garden all day yesterday, the 4th of July. The weather was overcast, the temps cool, and the ground was so soft that weeds just leaped into my hands. Restoring order is going quicker than I would have thought. And I hope to get back into the garden today.

It was my first big day in the garden this year, since the Brown Tail Caterpillar hairs have been so toxic that it has been impossible to weed without encountering the discarded hairs that were on all the plants. The hairs make a rash that is filled with blisters and that itches like mad, for days. My arms are only now healing up.

AC was “on it” with me.  He is fascinated with the garden snakes and is getting braver about grabbing them.  He has come close to catching them several times now and almost got one the other day with me looking on. The snake was hiding under the spent daffs by the strawberries—it was a longer one—about 18 or so inches.  I stepped in to give the snake some time to retreat across the path and into the growth and rocks on the other side. I think AC did grab it but jumped back with his mouth open as if the snake had shot it with some sort of noxious fumes. These snakes can do that, actually. It is a protective measure.

I uncovered a little one yesterday—6 or 8 inches—while trimming back the climbing hydrangea on the wall along the path—s/he was up by the house and went under the lower set of shingles above the concrete strip on the ground.  So, AC spent most of our many hours outside going from one “snake” place to another.  And, of course, checking on “mouse” at the compost bins, and “squirrel” on the upper porch, and “chipmunk” on the stone wall in back.  He was really tired after his dinner.  But happy.

Garter snakes work hard in the garden. They are a sign of a healthy garden, I’ve always been told. They eat insects, among other things. I know I have several here. And each year I see new little ones. The female snake gives birth to live little snakes. They don’t hatch from outside eggs. These snakes live together in a den. In the wild they can live to around five years. Some online sites say much longer. It probably depends on each snake’s habitat. Anyway, here they love the rock steps and the stone paths, where they lie in the sun. That is, until AC arrived. He does not allow such snake displays.

Yesterday I really wanted to grill something—it was the 4th after all. I wound up grilling chicken thighs for a salad lunch and, later, a little steak for a dinner that included corn on the cob, kale in garlic cream, and a bowl of summer berries (raspberries, blueberries, cherries, and strawberries from my garden).

Kale, garlic, and cream are a magic combo. Add nutmeg, for an even more magic treat.

Kale in Garlic Cream

Remember that it takes a LOT of kale to make enough food for more than two people. I count on one bunch for two people.

First, prep the kale. Put the kale in a sink and run water over it to knock off any sand or other debris. Start a big pot of water to boil—you only need about 3 or 4 inches of water. (This method is good for collards, too, but not chard or spinach, both of which are more delicate. Chard and spinach are better pan wilted in a good fat with only the rinsing water clinging to the leaves.)

I strip off the leaves with my hands. They come away from the central stem easily. Keep the leaves in big pieces for now. Some would lay the leaf on a cutting board and cut away the stem with a knife. I think that’s too much work for kale, but that is good for collards which have a tougher leaf. But, whatever.

When the pot of water is boiling, throw in the kale leaves and push them under the water with…something. Let them cook until they wilt really well—no longer than 5 minutes, which is probably a bit too long for kale. You don’t want to cook kale to death.

Drain into a colander and run cold water over the hot mass. When you can pick it up, ball it up with your hands and squeeze out all the water. Put the mass on a cutting board and cut it into smaller pieces—about one inch along the mass, then turn it, and cut the other way. Don’t cut it into tiny, tiny bits. You won’t some texture.

You can prep the kale at any time—even the day before. I prepped my kale at lunch while grilling the chicken.

Second, chop as much or as little garlic as you like. (You could do this step while the kale is cooking.) In my world, there is no such thing as too much garlic. Heat a knob of butter in a smaller size frying pan—enough to allow a generous coating and warming of your kale. Add the garlic and let it just simmer until it smells lovely. That will take only 30 to 40 seconds. Add the kale and turn it all around until it is coated and is warm.

Add a LOT of heavy cream—what looks good to you. For my one-bunch of kale, I probably added 1/2 cup of heavy cream. You could also add some nutmeg if you like it. Nutmeg on greens is magic. I can’t do it, so I added tarragon to my butter and garlic. Tarragon is sweet and adds a kind of licorice taste. Definitely add some sea salt. Pepper wouldn’t be bad either. Hmmm. I’m wondering if adding some heat wouldn’t be nice? Something in the hot pepper range? Then you would get a sweet/hot taste. Cook until everything is combined and is warm.

Enjoy!

My batch left me with about half the batch for another meal. I’m going to put it into an omelet for a meal today, probably with some mozzarella cheese added, since I can eat that cheese. Ricotta might be nice too instead if I had some here today. And maybe more tarragon.

Written by louisaenright

July 5, 2020 at 9:20 am

Mint Tea Led to Herbal Tea Adventures

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Turkey Tracks: June 27, 2020

Mint Tea Led to Herbal Tea Adventures

Look at this adorable little teapot I found in the back of a cabinet when I took everything out to wash and reorganize. I had totally forgotten about it—which makes sense as I have not been able to drink tea, given my Histamine Intolerance issues. (Black and green teas are fermented and inhibit one of the two enzymes one needs to process an overload of histamine.) I think it might have been a gift, but I have long since forgotten who gave it to me—along with its two adorable little cups.

So these days, I drink coffee. A lot of coffee, it seems. Probably too much coffee. The other day—after finding this pot—I really wanted to use it. Most commercial herbal tea mixtures have a lot of ingredients, to include a lot of “natural” flavor additives, which are chemicals I cannot tolerate. (I think, as well, that these chemicals are standing in for the real ingredients.) And the single herbal teas are…expensive.

This little pot comes with an insert where one can put a loose tea. I stuffed it full of my dried mint—which I dry every fall. And I added some sprigs of fresh mint and tarragon from the garden and let it steep while I ate my lunch.

It was DELICIOUS! Look at the depth of color it has. And I savored it with my fruit salad dessert, while I caught up with my Word2 games online.

I may have partially been swayed by watching THE GOOD WITCH—a tv show on Netflix which is a Hallmark production that is partly Canadian made. There, Cassie promotes drinking a lot of healthy healing teas instead of caffeine. I’m finding this sweet little show to be full of the kind of values with which I grew up and which seem so lost right now. It’s soothing to watch it, for me at least, in these challenging and turbulent times. The “right way,” for Cassie, is to find the way through a problem that does not trample on the needs of other people AND to work through what is really a better choice for our own lives.

Hmmmm… Fresh sage came in my food from Hope’s Edge CSA farm (Community Shared Agriculture). What if I dried it, flowers and all, to make tea? I had, at one point, bought herbal sage tea. It was…expensive, especially given the amount one needs to really get a strong flavor.

AND, I have sage in my garden. And it is blooming. And what about drying tarragon? One jar of these herbs is…expensive. And it would take about half of the jar to make one pot of tea. AND, I’ll be cutting more mint to dry right now rather than waiting for fall.

I really love having fresh herbs in my garden in the summer. And sometimes it is nice to just cut up some veggies and a meat protein for lunch—topped with fresh herbs, salt, and a bit of good olive oil. I’d add vinegar if I could.

Written by louisaenright

June 27, 2020 at 8:41 am

Oh No!

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Turkey Tracks: June 9, 2020

Oh No!

You know that pretty picture I posted with the blueberry bush with all the flowers on it?

At lunchtime I went outside to get some fresh herbs for my lunch salad and discovered it COVERED with brown tail caterpillars happily munching away at all the leaves on the two bushes. They have nearly been denuded.

I had just put diatomaceous dirt (which looks like a white powder) on the new blueberry bushes, which were suffering the same fate, and had dusted the new raspberry canes and the strawberries, which are blooming heavily and forming fruit. Yes, some of the new raspberry canes showed signs of being chewed, and I could see some of the caterpillars in the strawberries.

I brought the herbs inside and turned right around to get more diatomaceous dirt for the big blueberry bushes. LOTS of caterpillars on them. Ugh! I did my best. Now I just have to wait and see. I came inside to wash up (again) and found a caterpillar on my shirt. More Ugh!

Here was my reward, topped with fresh dill, chive flowers, chopped chive stalks, and tarragon. The lettuce is from my garden, too. The protein is roasted chicken.

I need to buy rosemary plants…

Written by louisaenright

June 9, 2020 at 9:58 am