Kick Out The Cold

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Spring.

The sun is back and it is a miracle, a gift from god, it IS god. You get it. You understand our ancestors on a whole new level. You want to go build a Stonehenge, too. You want to copy your cats – spy a sunspot and lay there all afternoon, your whiskers twitching slightly. But you don’t have whiskers, nor do you have all afternoon to lay around and you also don’t have giant slabs of rock or muscles or slaves (? maybe? Historians?)* Anyway, there are dogs to walk and basking to be done out there.

Stunned by a sunbeam

You’re leaving the house in fewer clothes, less layers. You’re taking those sleeves off under the big ball of sky-fire to air out your sweat in the (slightly too cool) breeze. You are not wearing pants to bed – you never do – but now you’re not so cocooned in that big squishy blanket. Your fan is on a higher setting. You leave the windows open all day.

And so you have a cold again. You just wiped it out, decimated it with vitamins and juice and apples and new medicine you didn’t want to take but had to because goddamn you hate waking up so many times in the night to cough. Or maybe that was asthma and not a cold. But anyway. You wake up with a nose full of snot now.

And
It
Blows
(sorry)

In fact it doesn’t blow at all. You cannot clear this shit out that way. You need to do it from the inside. Kick that cold right out of you and into the big ball of sky-fire.

So make some soup like your grandma did. Which means you need to make chicken stock. It’s all about boiling those bones and getting all the magic healing out of them. The marrow or something? I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. I’m a … person who eats a lot of food. I’m an eater, dammit!

Here is how I make chicken stock.

Start with some veggies. Here’s a crappy picture of mine.

Always these: onions, carrots, celery.

And that’s exactly what I throw in. Wash them, yes, but you can throw in every bit of the things. Skins are fine (onion skins add a great yellow colour to the stock. You can use onion skins for dyes actually. Don’t use food colouring, wtf), stems are fine, leaves are also fine. Also fine is a bag of “ends” and almost-rotten-vegetables that you cut up ahead of time and froze. Cut these things into chunks of relatively the same size – and not too small, don’t dice – and throw them into a stock pot.

Cheap chicken parts, so appetizing amirite?!

Now you need some chicken, with bones. This can be the carcass from your roast chicken dinner, or you can buy it fresh. If you’re making soup from this where you want pieces of chicken, don’t just use chicken backs. Get some drumsticks or something in there, too. There is very little actual meat on chicken backs., as I discovered this time. If you’re just making chicken stock and don’t need chicken meat, then the backs should be fine. Also look how cheap they are! This is way cheaper than buying boxed stock, you guys.

Rinse your chicken, then it goes in the pot with the veggies. Cover with lots of water. Fill the stock pot about half way up, if you have enough stuff in there. I think I used 8 cups of water, maybe 10, for this amount of chicken. If you’re using more chicken you can add more water. Remember that the water will evaporate off while cooking so make sure you add enough, but also remember if you want a stronger stock less water may be for you. It doesn’t really matter, you can’t really eff this up.

Salt makes food good. Don't be skimpy.

Add salt and pepper and any other seasonings you wish. Some people don’t add anything at this stage because they want a purer stock, but I like my food to taste yummy so I add salt. Also I figure if I add salt now I won’t have to later. I think I also added celery salt? And black pepper.

With everything in the pot it is time to turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil.

Skim that foam off the top. Once it boils, cover (partially, so steam can still escape) and turn the heat down so it simmers without too many bubbles coming up. You don’t want it rippling and bubbling like crazy because it breaks everything down too fast. And now you leave it alone to do it’s thing for 30-45 minutes or so. Occasionally skim the foam off the top and give it a little stir.

If you’re like me and started this way too late in the day and are currently starving, make some of these:

Mmmmmmmmm

Back to the stock. If you’re going to use the meat check it starting around the half-hour mark. When it is done cooking, or just about done (when the pink is gone) take it out and let it cool while the other stuff keeps cooking.

I seriously had to dig to get this much meat out of those backs.

When the chicken has cooled, start picking it apart. Put the meat you’re going to cook with (into soup or whatever, you can also use it for salad or sandwiches) aside in a bowl and put the bones back into the simmering water. Let the stock continue to cook for another half an hour or so.

After that half an hour you can strain the stuff out of the stock. Press on the solids to get all the yummy flavour out of them, then discard all of it. You now have a large amount of fairly greasy stock. Put it in the fridge, overnight if possible but a few hours is fine, and when it’s cool all the fat will have hardened to the top. You can cook with this fat, or toss it, or feed it to a dog. If you don’t have a few hours, pour it into smaller containers so it cools faster. If using glass, be very careful about the hot stock and let it cool for a little bit first. Or don’t use glass.

Now you have homemade chicken stock! Use it in everything – it has amazing flavour. I had enough to make risotto and it turned out great! But, as I said I was sick and wanted chicken noodle soup. Briefly, here’s how I made it:

Carrots, celery, parsnips.

You should have your cooked chicken from earlier.
If making noodle soup, start cooking your noodles in a separate pot.
Chop some veggies – I used one celery, one carrot, one parsnip, and a bit of diced onion from the freezer. And garlic! I used a lot of that.
Melt some oil in a pot – I used chicken fat or butter. On medium heat, saute onions then add garlic and other vegetables. Cook ‘em for a bit, till the veggies are getting soft.
Sprinkle your herbs/seasonings on top. I believe I used thyme, sage, basil and some cayenne pepper for heat.
Add your chicken stock! If you find it really fatty looking you can do part stock/part water. Bring to a low boil.
Add your chicken meat. Gently simmer this while your noodles finish up, or for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir in your drained noodles and any frozen vegetables (peas or corn.)

Eat it and be well!

*troll disclaimer: That does not mean I wish for slaves or slavery, obviously. Go back to your cave.

Warm Noms

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The sun has returned to the city. Well, it never really left I guess. It’s been a pretty mild winter. But it’s already t-shirt weather during the high sun of the day and it is glorious. I have the best days, biking around in short sleeves and jeans (without tights underneath!) romping around the parks with the dogs and getting muddy as hell.

I can’t wait for the middle of summer and all the fresh veggies. Salads! I can’t wait for salad. For now we’re still filling our bellies with warmth and cozy goodness. Here are some of my favourite noms lately.

 

oatmeal & apples

 

Vegetable Bean Risotto

 

Veggies

+ Chicken

= Soup!

I made the soup with home-made chicken stock. Maybe I’ll post about that next time.

 

 

Life, lately.

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It’s been quiet around these parts. I suppose I haven’t posted since January. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe just the long, dark of February; the last of old man’s winter’s appearances; a rattly cold that won’t depart; constant running with four-legged friends in the daylight. All of them together leaving me content to be as lazy as possible in the evenings.

I stopped using my camera as much. I was worried about the wet weather and the juggling of camera strap and leashes. I tried to clean our room one day, get a jump-start on spring cleaning, and my lungs have been protesting since. This was more than a month ago, too. But the wheezing made way for a cold that’s stuck around. I’ve been lacking energy in the evenings and on the weekends from fighting it and not breathing deeply enough.

I haven’t been a total shut-in, though. We went to two crafternoons which were both lovely; we went dancing for the first time in a long time; we had tea in the park with some friends. It’s been a really wonderful winter in fact. Never too cold in the day for me and my pack and when the winds blow at night with the sun down we’ve had the coziness of company to keep us warm. We’ve fought dragons, stared down zombies, eaten warm food, basked in conversation and wine. Well I guess we weren’t basking in the wine, that would be too messy even for me.

One thing that I’m very glad about with these lazy evenings is that I’ve been making things again. Drawing, painting, crocheting, designing. I even carved a printing block for the first time since University so I can make business cards. And I’ve been hanging around my friend’s art supply store, though maybe not as much as I wish I could. Just being in that space gets me in the mood to make stuff. And making stuff is the best way to pass a lazy evening at home. I want to post photos of things I’ve drawn and painted but am worried about thieves.

I’m still so excited about my day job. Hanging with dogs all day really is fulfilling something I didn’t realize I was missing. I was practically raised by animals and it’s great surrounding myself by them again. Plus I spend almost the whole day in the parks amidst the trees. I forget about the city and listen to the birds. The cardinals have been particularly noticeable, chirping from the very tops of the pines. There are two who are always hanging around our place, their voices rising above the noisy sparrows that fill every bush. And I’ve seen the hawks more times than I can count. From January 1 to about mid February I had seen one or both at least 10 times.


And now I am full of warm chicken soup and tired from the day. Until next time.

Butternut Squash Soup

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The first time I had this soup was after an afternoon spent tobogganing and tumbling in the snow with the kiddos. It was there on the stove for us, still warm from when a mysterious gnome had cooked it in our absence. While the kids chose a snack of popcorn to go with their movie that day, I warmed up over a bowl of this deliciously fresh tasting soup.

I’ve made it a few times on my own since then and this last time was no less magical. Though it was for different reasons – it was Christmas and I was drunk.

Please ignore the dust.

Scribbles

Here is the recipe, as written in my messy scrawl. This is how I write down all my recipes – ingredients on one side and the instructions on the other. It works sometimes.

First step is to roast your squash – 1 hour @ 375-400 works for me. Make sure you poke it first with a fork all over or you will spend the rest of the day scrubbing squash explosion off your oven walls. You can roast your squash a day or two before making the soup.

Now gather the rest of your ingredients.

Apples, onions, squash, stock, apple juice, curry powder, salt and pepper.

After you take a nice photo (or ten) of your pile of ingredients, it’s time to get chopping.

Wash your two apples.

Grannies

Peel ‘em.

And dice.

Now grab yer onions. If you’ll be using vegetable stock, only use one onion because veggie stock is mostly onion.

And dice.

Now put a soup pot on medium heat. Toss in some butter or oil.

And melt it.

Now add your chopped apples.

And your diced onions.

And let them saute together for a few minutes, until they are translucent and soft.

Okay so this is the point when you start getting your squash ready. You’ve already roasted it, so it should be nice and soft. What you need to do, then, is peel it and chop it up a bit.

Beautiful Butternut

Now, before you really start chopping you need to remember something about squash in general. There are seeds and you should try to cut them out in an orderly fashion. I recommend cutting the large, round part of the squash off first and then cutting it in half, so you can scoop the seeds out with a spoon.

I don’t recommend forgetting completely that there are seeds in there. But sometimes, like when it’s Christmas and you’re on your third or fourth rum and coke you do forget these things. And you take a photo for your blog anyway.

Yep, that's a drunk kitchen.

So this is the part where I started getting distracted and forgetting the order of all the steps. The best part about soup? You can’t mess it up! If I didn’t mess it up when I was Christmas Drunk then seriously, you will not mess it up!

Don’t add the squash to the pot just yet. First you want your curry powder to heat up a bit. Like with cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper and some other spices, curry powder needs heat to really release the delicious flavours.

Measure a FULL tblsp of curry powder, unlike me.

Measure out a tablespoon of curry powder. Or, take another sip of your ron y coke and spill most of the curry powder all over your cutting board and squash bits, and estimate how much should be in the spoon. Remember that you love curry powder, it’s soup, and you don’t care. Christmas!

It's all going in the same pot anyway.

Once you’re finished laughing at yourself (and sloshing your drink all over the floor) add the curry powder to the pot of onions and apples, and let it warm up. Your kitchen will smell amazing.

Smells Fucking Awesome

Once the curry powder is smelling very fragrant, turn to your beautiful squash. You will now be adding it to the pot. Let’s all laugh together at my “beautiful squash.”

What a Monster

In it goes. Now add 1 cup of apple juice and 4 cups of stock (or one full box.)

Mid-Pour Shot. Aw YEAH!

And now let it all simmer for 10 minutes or so.

Add some salt and pepper now if you wish. After it simmers for 10 minutes, you’ll need to blend it. I use an immersion blender because I am lazy and it causes less dishes. Blend it up and taste. If it needs more salt and pepper add it now.

Butternut Squash Deliciousness

And there you are! You can serve it with a yogurt swirl if you like. I didn’t.

Congratulations, you made a totally delicious soup and it was so easy, right?

Now go pour yourself another drink.

 

Missing Monkeys

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Tree and Ladybug, Summer 2011

Insomnia.

It blows.

In spite of staying out very late and dancing all night at the Rich Aucoin show on Friday, I barely slept that night. This means I slept right through my alarm.

In spite of staying up very late on Saturday night watching crappy television, I barely slept that night. I think I had about 2 hours total and spent the rest tossing and turning. I couldn’t sleep all day – instead enjoyed the company of some lovelies at Crafternoon.

In spite of staying up late last night, in spite of enjoying the libations I usually do, I barely slept last night. I remember most hours of the entire night and feel like I had no sleep at all, though I know I must have nodded off at least once or twice.

When I don’t sleep it becomes very difficult to ignore Big Feelings. It becomes very difficult to suppress the Sads.

It’s very difficult ignoring my grief today. Maybe grief is a misnomer – the children are not lost to this world. But to me they are. They were ripped right out of my world. And even if I ever do hear anything back from a letter sent, it will never be the same.

I love my “new life.” I love that I don’t work 45 hours; that I don’t have a hellish commute. I love my dogs and I love being independent. I love not being a slave to someone’s unbalanced mental state anymore. I love not dealing with diapers or boogers or temper tantrums or homework.

But I miss them like crazy. It all happened so fast: one minute I was a much-loved nanny devoted to these two lovely little souls, cutting up apple slices in the kitchen; the next I was applying for EI and advertising for dog walking. This is not a post about a terrible mother’s terrible attitude. This is not a post about inequality or injustice or being fired for asking for a raise. This is not a post about yuppies or assholes.

This is me today; looking at photos of a girl’s fourth birthday; thinking of her squishy arms and step, step fall when she was just 12 months; remembering a tiny boy afraid of Kindergarten; the joy of a first training-wheel-less ride to the corner.

This is me today, so tired I can’t suppress the lingering emotions that are always there. The big difficult-to-ignore Nothingness that is a void. Usually I can just forget, I can concentrate on muddy paws, waggy tails and liver treats. Usually I pretend I can’t hear Twinkle Twinkle in her little voice in my head; usually I can ignore the terrible knock-knock jokes of his floating around in my brain.

But when I don’t sleep, and when I see photos of such happiness in my absence, and when I send letters and necklaces and gifts and hear nothing, and when I hear “it was really hard for them to lose you” when I’ve been thinking maybe it was out of sight out of mind for me to them, well. That’s when I look at all my old photos of their beautiful faces and flood my own with watery memories.

~Me with a messy face, now.

We won’t keep it all in our heads

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Rich Aucoin

Rich Aucoin @ Drake Underground Jan 13, 2012

August 2011 saw us traveling to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for our first trip to the east coast. We were headed to Wolfville for our lovely friends’ beautiful wedding but first wanted to see a little bit of the town we’d sung about so many times. After meeting up with some friends for seafood and beer, we headed to a bar called Gus’ Pub at the other end of town. We were there for a show a friend had read about in the paper. We weren’t sure what to expect, really – when I thought of Halifax and music I couldn’t help but think of fiddles in kitchens.

The bar was a dive as we expected – though we weren’t really prepared for the glass-walled in-bar casino/smoking room. We sipped our way through the bottles and found the least offensive tasting beer (Schooner Lager, wasn’t actually too bad especially once we had even more) and tried to talk over the screaming of the first act. The second band was an improvement, saw us up and dancing and was something more akin to music but when Rich Aucoin took the stage as the main act our socks were blown right off and into the Atlantic.

Explosive Positivity

Yes, that is a confetti cannon.

Rich Aucoin can be summed up in one word: positivity. His show is an audio/visual explosion of colourful lights, confetti, sing-a-longs, and awesome music with a great beat to dance to, often incorporating¬† YouTube videos and other hilarious internet memes as samples. Guaranteed at any show is an audience dancing, clapping, laughing, singing and playing under a giant colourful parachute — yes, just like in Kindergarten. I don’t know if I’ve ever had so much fun at a show as I did that night in Gus’ Pub. It’s amazing that our first experience seeing Aucoin was on his home turf, the energy in the crowd was audible.¬† Last night, Aucoin showed he takes that energy with him no matter the town.

Here are some of my favourite shots from last night. More can be found here.

Dancing in the crowd

Tripping Balls

The visuals are so awesome!

But.. he hasn't even had the medical exam yet!

The Dude was tickled by this

Amazing as always

Photography, it’s what’s for dinner

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Last night I decided to make Potato Leek soup, a nice veggie reprieve from all the junk as of late.

But first, of course, I started photographing the ingredients of the soup, as I do. Then I started really playing around with the arrangement of the veggies. I felt mildly bad that instead of making dinner I was taking photos of it, but luckily my dude has a bit of a PB&J addiction and that kept him from starving to death.

It started innocently enough, with shots of the leeks and potatoes on the cutting board.

Just a close up on some veggies!

And some detail on the weirder, more unique bits of this particular veggie.

Tentacles?

Leeks!

But then I started to get a bit artsy….

Composition yo!

Palm trees and rocks maybe?

 

What am I doing even

And then I thought “okay enough! You are a hungry person and need to feed your belly not just your eyeballs!” So I started cutting up the veggies. But holy moly, leeks, how are you so beautiful?! So I took more photos. MOAR!

Colours! Patterns! Ahhh so much beauty!

A whole pile of pretty things

Finally I started throwing all that into the pot and made a yummy soup. Did I take photos of the finished product? Of course not! I was bloody starving at that point!

Here’s the rest of the set for anyone interested in seeing even more photos of leeks.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessimocha/sets/72157628809360395/with/6673337387/

Until next time!