Friday, May 14, 2010

Chicken Soup Friday

So, last week was Chicken Broth...Now for the soup. (Doesn't it look delicious?) After you've made the broth, refrigerated it overnight and skimmed off the fat, making the soup is easy. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add any or all of the following: a chopped onion, chopped celery, diced carrots. One ingredient my family loves is a can of diced tomates (including the juice). Cook until the raw veggies are done, then add diced chicken, any frozen or canned veggies you like (green beans, peas, corn?) and bring back to a boil - you may need to turn up the heat. Now add your pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, serve, eat, enjoy.
One of the neatest things about making your own soup is that the amounts of ingredients are not that important...I usually use one onion, 3 or 4 stalks of celery, a couple cups of diced carrots, 2 to 3 cups cooked chicken, a cup or so of frozen veggies, a can of canned veggies... You get the idea. Same thing with the pasta - depending on what kind I use and how much broth I started with, I might add more or less. Sometimes I use a 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, sometimes I use a 28 oz. can. Every batch of soup ends up being a little bit different, but they're all delicious.

Knitting? Yes knitting has been done (un-knitting, too). I finished the right "Twisted" sock. What can I say? I feel like I just completed a marathon. I'm a fairly experienced knitter, and have knit probably over twenty pairs of socks - employing quite a few different techniques. But these socks...not for the faint of heart! I think this is the first time I've used one of Cookie A.'s patterns. I wonder if they're all this involved/challenging. I learned some new stuff/techniques, and I really like the finished product. If I could change all the un-knitting I did to knitting there would probably be enough stitches for a third sock. And guess what? I'm already thinking about making another pair!!! But not right away.

Here's a pic showing the way the right and left sock "twist" in different directions. I had to pin them to the bed because they were pretty curly. (No, I don't generally block my socks.) One odd thing about working these socks...the right sock ended up being about 3/4 inch longer than the left sock. (Unfortunate, because my left foot is bigger than my right foot.) Don't know where or how I screwed up, but I'm not ripping these babies, no sirree!

And finally, the backyard bird feeders have been busy, busy. A California Quail showed up the other day (but didn't stay long), and Lazuli Buntings have been regular visitors for about a week now. They usually stop by our Treasure Valley for a couple weeks in the spring and then migrate to higher elevations (as weather permits) for nesting. Lots of black birds - Red Winged, Yellow Headed, Brewer's, Brown Headed Cow Birds. And a few Gold Finches, plus the House Finches and the House Sparrows.

(I uploaded an image of a Lazuli Bunting, but could not (COULD NOT!!!!) move it down here to this end of the post.) If anyone reads this and knows how to manage images in blogger, let me know. I've searched in blogger help, etc. and have yet to find any answers. FRUSTRATION.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Home made chicken stock/broth

Making chicken soup from scratch (get it? from "scratch"...chicken soup?) is so easy. But it does take a little time. Although it is very easy, there's a lot of explaining to do, so today I'm only going to address the broth issue. Next week - soup. Making the stock takes a good chunk of one day - it takes several hours. Then you refrigerate it over night so you can easily skim off the fat (which rises to the top of the broth). I'm not posting a picture of the broth because...well...chicken broth is not particularily photogenic. (But I have a yummy pic of chicken soup for next week!)

Here's how I do it. You need chicken bones/pieces, water, 6 or 8 peppercorns, a celery rib or two (cut into three or four pieces per rib), an onion (peeled and quartered), and a carrot or two (scrubbed and cut into a couple or three pieces). The veggies are optional - last time I made stock I didn't have any carrots so no carrots in that batch. Also, you could use a couple or three T. of dried minced onion if you wanted to, in place of the whole onion. And, if you wanted to, you could leave the veggies out altogether. I think they add flavor so I always put some in.

Chicken pieces? Last time I made stock here's what I used - the leftover carcass of the whole chicken that I roasted last Friday. I refrigerated it after Friday night's dinner and on Saturday, I removed the leftover chicken meat and returned the meat to the fridge. (I put it in one of those plastic container things with a lid but you could put it in a baggie). I put the carcass into my big stock pot and added the veggies. I also used a package of chicken legs that I had in the freezer (I think there were about 8 legs...). If I had had leftover chicken meat in the freezer, or if there had been lots more chicken meat on the carcass, I wouldn't have used the chicken legs. The amount of chicken meat needed for your soup is variable - depending on your taste and what your family likes, you can use a little or a lot. I usually use around 2 to 3 cups of meat. If you need to cook and use "new" chicken pieces (as I did), the trick is to just leave them in the broth long enough to cook them. When their meat is done, remove them from the broth and when they are cool enough to handle, remove the meat (add it to your cache in the fridge) and return the bones and skin to the stock pot.

Chicken bones and skin and a long simmer are what make for a deep chicken flavor in the broth. When I buy a whole chicken for frying, I save the backs and the wing tips (freeze them) for making stock. Over time and before you know it, you've got enough saved "pieces parts" to make broth. And/or I use a leftover carcass. Any combination works fine. I also cut-off and save chicken meat after we've had fried chicken or other chicken dishes where all the pieces didn't get eaten. (You know...after the leftover chicken has languished for a couple of days in the fridge and it's obvious that no one is going to eat that last thigh... I'll take the meat off the bone, bag it and freeze it and I'll add the bone and skin to the frozen bones/skin I've already got collecting in the freezer.)

As the broth simmers, check it now and again to be sure that your water isn't getting too low. You want the broth to "cook down" so that the chicken flavor gets concentrated, but you don't want to end up with only a couple cups of broth, or *horrors* a burned pot of chicken yuk.

When the broth has simmered at least three or four hours (even longer is OK as long as you're keeping an eye on the liquid). Strain it, cool it and then refrigerate it. I just pour mine through one of my colanders, but you could use a wire mesh strainer if you wanted to. All the chicken sludge left in the strainer? Throw it away.

The next day, after you've skimmed off the fat, you can either use the broth/stock to make soup or as the base for chicken pot pie or anything else your heart desires, or you can freeze it for use later.

Question: Why would anyone go to all the trouble to make broth from scratch instead of buying canned chicken stock at the store? It's cheaper! It's almost free. And it makes your house smell so good!
Knitting... During my long absence from blog-land I knit several pairs of socks. This one is knit from Knit Picks Stroll Sock Yarn in the "Dusk" color, and is my cobbled-together sock pattern. It's a toe-up sock (Judy's Magic Cast-on), knit on two circular needles, with a Priscilla Gibson Roberts heel (in garter stitch) and the lacy pattern on the front is out of one of Barbara Walker's books - it is called Double Herringbone Mesh.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Tip Tuesday

(I apologize! I started this post on Tuesday, but here it is Thursday - Maybe I should re-name the post "T[h]ip Thursdy" instead of "Tip Tuesday"!)

These notions of mine probably don't really qualify as "tips", but they're things I've learned over the years that make knitting easier for me.

So...stitch markers. At some point after I took up knitting again, I became aware of all the pretty markers you can buy or make and for a while I used those instead of my old plastic ring markers. But...the down-side to both of those types of markers (in my humble opinion) is that they both have this propensity for jumping off the needles right when you're trying to slip them from the left needle to the right needle, and even worse, some of them *poof* disappear once they hit the floor. Over time, my supply of stitch markers had dwindled. I don't think I thought up the idea of making little markers using odd bits of yarn but I began using those. When I began to try lace knitting, those bulky yarn markers were a pain, so I began making them using crochet thread. Now I use crochet thread markers in nearly every project that calls for markers. Easy as pie to make - cut a length of crochet thread about six or seven inches long, fold it in half and then tie an over-hand knot fairly close to the fold. Trim off the excess thread and viola, you have a stitch marker.

Some patterns call for markers that denote different areas or patterns within each row or round - and if all the markers look the same it can be confusing. In this case you can make markers from different colors of crochet thread, or you can just use multiple markers, i.e. one marker for the first marker of the round, two markers for the second marker, etc. (This last method only works well for up to three markers...after that it gets ridiculous.)

If one of the markers manages to jump off the needle, they don't usually go very far - they tend to stick to the knitting, or to your clothes. And if they do make it to the floor, they don't roll and bounce the way plastic/decorative markers do. Nope, they're not very pretty, but they do the job.

On a completely different subject, there were a couple of "new" birds at my feeders this morning - Yellow headed black birds! I've seen this kind of bird before, but not for many, many years. What a nice surprise. (Embiggen picture if you can to actually see those yellow heads.)

And finally, (I'm tempting fate here) here's the heel flap of my second Twisted sock. The first pic shows the heel flap from the right side of the sock. Second pic shows it from the wrong side. (Actually these socks are reversible so there's technically no right or wrong side.) I love the texture on these heel flaps!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Memory Monday

Back in the summer of 1959 Mother and and I moved from Tacoma WA to Baker OR, her home-town. We moved in with her mother - my Grandma - and one of her sisters - my Aunt Hilma. In the fall, I began attending Jr. High school and one of my classes was Home Ec. I don't remember the teacher's name, but I do have a visual image of her stored away in my brain...She was a little grey-haired woman who wore glasses. I towered over her and probably out-weighed her by fifty pounds. One thing I remember learning in her class was that the cloth one used in a sewing project was correctly referred to as "fabric", not "material".

I know we did a variety of cooking projects and sewing projects, but the only project I actually remember is that we made gathered skirts. (The last thing I wanted to wear was a gathered skirt. I did not need a waist-band to accentuate my non-waist, nor three yards of fabric - or was it four yards?- to add bulk to my silhouette!) Anyway, we learned to gather using the longest stitch on the sewing machine, and we learned how to make a sewed-on waist band. I don't remember if we made buttonholes or used some other method to fasten.

At school we had nice electric sewing machines. At home I had the use of Grandma's treadle sewing machine. Straight stitches all the way. At school we cooked on electric stoves. At home Grandma cooked on an old wood-fire cook stove (which also heated the North end of the house). In the summer when the weather was really hot, Grandma often cooked early in the day. But when the cherries were ripe she canned cherries, and when the raspberries came on she made jelly, and when Aunt Jean's garden yielded produce, there was my Grandma in that hot old kitchen canning pickles or green beans or whatever there was to be preserved. She baked bread at least once a week and on Sundays there was almost always a pot roast and scalloped potatoes. Her cherry pies were legendary.

Knitting...Last fall I stitched this Rose Trellis Lace scarf. I charted the pattern, using the instructions in one of Barbara Walker's books. The yarn is a lace weight part-mohair blend leftover from a long-ago scarf I made for my dear Aunt Chris. I think this pattern is one of my favorite lace patterns. Looking back over my pattern notes I see that I cast-on with a size 8 needle and then knitted the piece with a size 6.

Sunday, May 02, 2010


So maybe bragging about progress on the Twisted socks isn't what does me in, it's just mentioning them - after blogging about them the other day, I got hit by the cosmic un-knitting whammy. Yesterday I was happily knitting along when I noticed this little nubbin of a stitch about 3/4 of an inch down from the working needle. Horrors! It was a dropped run-away stitch! The pattern of the twisted rib is such that you would notice right away if you had dropped a stitch - so I know that it happened in the row just previous to the one on the needle...and it had already run a fair distance. I immediately tried to repair the damage using a crochet hook, but this particular yarn is tempermental and that didn't work worth crap. (Actually I already knew that the crochet-fix-it-idea was a lot cause [I had ample experience with "fixing" on the first sock - see previous post], but I had to try - anything to avoid frogging...) Ended up inserting one of those little split-ring stitch markers in the stitch so it couldn't run any farther, and - you guessed it, spent most of the rest of the day unknitting - and again this morning.

The yarn - Bamboo and Ewe is tempermental in that it is both fibery and slippery at the same time. When you go to fix problems using a crochet hook, you inevitable pick up stray fibers - causing even more problems, and yet the stitches gladly (eagerly) slip or run away if given half a chance. In spite of which I do really like the knitted fabric made from this yarn.

Above are a couple pictures of a triangle neck scarf I made from it earlier this year (sorry the scarf is a bit rumpled - it's been folded up in a drawer for a while). I got the idea from one of Katherine Misegades' patterns, but ended up creating my own pattern. Learned a great deal... The original lace pine tree is from one of Barbara Walker's books, and I fiddled around with it to make three different sizes of pine trees. I could have/should have just stayed with the original size. Also, wish I had put more stockinette between/above/below the lace pine trees. I think it would have been visually less confusing and aesthetically more pleasing. I like the size of the triangle just fine - but could have used fewer pine lace thingies. Also, the front ties ended up being a bit too long for my taste. I keep thinking that I'll go back, rip out the last repeat of the design on each tie and re-knit the garter stitch borders. Someday.

I knit it from the tip of the triangle to the shoulder decreases, then put one of the sides on a stitch holder while I continued with the working side. After finishing it, I came back, picked up the stitches-on-hold and knit that side.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Food Friday

It's been a long time since I was here. A lot has changed in my little world since last summer. But knitting is still going on... More about that in a minute.
I'm going to try and do a "Food Friday" every week. Today it's about Roast Chicken with fennel, lemon and potatoes. This is my take on a recipe I first found through a TV program - can't remember which one, sorry. Here's my version:

Roast Chicken with fennel, lemon and potatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Wash a whole chicken with running cold water, remove any giblets and trim away any excess fat.

Place chicken, breast-side-up in a rimmed baking sheet (grease or spray it first)
Cut 2 fennel bulbs in quarters length-wise. Trim away the core at base of each quarter. Arrange fennel pieces around the chicken.
Cut 2 lemons in quarters. Place one or two lemon pieces inside chicken cavity. Arrange the rest of the lemon pieces around the chicken.
Scrub six to eight medium potatoes and cut into quarters. Arrange them in the pan with the lemon and fennel pieces. (I most often use plain ol' Idaho potatoes, but reds or Yukon Golds are delicious, too.)
Drizzle olive oil over the chicken et. al. (2 to 3 T)
Sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Bake/roast in oven about an hour or until chicken is done - test by piercing thigh with sharp knife or fork - juices should run clear. Or cut into thickest part of breast - there should be no pink showing and juices should be clear.
Serve with a salad or your favorite green veggie. Delicious!
For some reason, I don't like left-over chicken reheated. (I don't mind it cold, though...) I usually strip the carcass after the meal, dice or cube any leftover meat and either freeze it or refrigerate it for sandwiches, chicken salad or soup or whatever. I usually save the bones/skin for making chicken stock. Maybe next week's "Food Friday" will be home-made chicken noodle soup. It's so much easier than you might think. And, no I don't make my own noodles - but the home-made chicken stock is just so good!...

OK. Knitting. I don't even know where to begin. Guess I'll start with a current WIP - "Twisted" socks from a recent Knitty. I started these on April 7 and whizzed through the leg and heel of the first sock. Made the mistake of bragging to a knitter friend (he's "Bugzen" on Ravelry) that I was so proud of myself - no unknitting or mistakes. Yup, you guessed it...I got past the heel and had to rip back not once, not twice, not thrice but four freakin' times. And when I got to the toe??!!!?? Oh, my gosh - what a mess! I had been knitting on two circs (my favorite method for socks) but realized after throughly trashing the toe that I needed to switch to dpns and trade out the plastic-ring stitch markers for crochet-thread markers and even then it was dicey for those last few rows. You're supposed to decrease to 8 stitches and then cut the yarn and thread it through those last stitches. I think I got down to 12 stitches and Just. Couldn't. Do. It. Any. More. so I threaded througth 12 and the toe looks fine and I'm not gonna worry about it.
The yarn is Bamboo and Ewe by Sensations and I made the largest size - yup, I have humongous feet. I haven't used this yarn for socks before - in fact it's yarn that was leftover after I made a scarf (of sorts). I'll blog about that sometime soon.

I'm now about three fourths the way down the leg on the second sock. But I'm not going to mention/brag that so far things are going well. No sirree! I learned my lesson!
Before I go for now, one of the things that has changed for me since last summer is that I recently moved from Boise to Star - a small rural community a few miles from Boise. I'm very isolated out here and have to depend on my two adult children for transpo anywhere. I'm lonely (watch out! pity party looming). If anyone out there reads this and knows of any knitters in the Star/Eagle area, let me know. I'd love to join a knitting group or help start one.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cranberry Socks

Well, the cranberry socks are coming along. I'm knitting them on size 1 needles and am just about two pattern repeats past the toe. I'm thinking the pattern will pop more when I get a few more repeats knitted. I used Judy's Magic Cast-on for the toe, but changed it up a bit - on the increase rounds I did K1, P1, Kfb at the beginning of each needle and ended each needle with Kfb, P1, K1. I like the way it looks.

Miss Bunny agreed to model the sock-hat - Next time there will be enough of the pattern over the instep to show it to better advantage. (My apologies re/the date stamp...)

Be sure to check out for her giveaways - especially if you're a quilter. Yummy goodness! in a fabric-y sort of way. :-) And, I think today is the last day, so be quick!