Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chicken Soup for Halloween

I can't remember if I've done a chicken soup post, so I'm just going to do (another?) one since I've got soup in its final stages in the crockpot right now.

We're into the cold and rainy part of fall, and it's a good time to make soup. I just got a flu shot, so it's an even *better* time to make soup. This stuff's easy, and you have to put salt in it or it won't taste like chicken soup as you understand chicken soup to exist. I don't like putting salt in it, so I leave that out when I'm making it initially and then I go "why isn't this salty and delicious in the way I expect chicken soup to be?" Every time. I recently read a straightforward egg noodle recipe, so I may try that next time. For now, though, chicken soup.

Some vegetables (whatever you want! maybe dice them! carrots are good in this situation.)
A potato, if you like potatoes in soup. I had a potato, so I put it in there. I diced it first.
Onion (diced. technically, it will be way more delicious if you saute the onion first before putting it into the crockpot, but this is very EASY chicken soup. Easy does not always mean "maximum delicious." This is the burden we lazy people must bear.)
Garlic (you could dice it, I don't care. I remove the garlic skin and just put the whole cloves in because I'm lazy.)
Some chicken (I got leg quarters from ALDI for $0.85/pound. I used one piece, because it's a small crockpot, and I don't like a lot of chicken, actually! Just put this in however you get it - fresh or frozen, whatever. You want skin and bones going into this for a heartier, fattier soup. Remove the skin if you want it to be less delicious. Leave the bones. Bones go in soup!)
An assortment of herbs. I usually put in some parsley, celery seeds (I don't know, they're in my pantry. I don't even know where they came from), rosemary, black pepper, poultry seasoning (see my note on celery seeds), lemon rind (again, no idea) and anything else that I notice that I think might be nice. I don't like sage. I'm just not a fan. If you like sage, I'm happy for you. Please explain it to me, because it's so, so gross.

Put everything in the crock pot and cover with water. Cook on high for a couple hours, then switch to low. It's ready when the meat is falling off the bones. I like to pull the meat out at this point, remove the bones and skin, cut up the meat and put that back into the soup.

Have some soup. Go "why isn't this at all salty?"

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why I Enjoy Baking/Unfocused ramblings about baking

Short answer: Because it's fairly straightforward and it makes the house smell nice.

Longer answer: Because my mom gave me her old Sunbeam Mixmaster (is that right? I'm too lazy to walk to the kitchen to check) with the note that "you have to watch it. you can't just leave it alone." This surprised me, because that is my assumption about mixers! I was not aware that there were any mixers that could be left unsupervised during operation! What a world we live in! What a marvelous future! Having a stand mixer on the counter made me think more frequently about baking things, like chocolate chip cookies. Then I started baking chocolate chip cookies. A lot.

I guess that short answer #2 is "stand mixer."

I make excellent chocolate chip cookies now, I barely have to look at the recipe. By the way, Maida Heatter is a wonderful cookbook author, at least for desserts. I've read about a third of her cake book, and I don't even have any interest in baking cakes. I just enjoy reading her cake-related writing. For a while, I was making a couple batches of cookies each month, which was excessive, but it was a pleasant and delicious hobby, and cookies make thoughtful-seeming presents. They aren't actually thoughtful when you're compulsively baking for reasons you don't fully understand and you don't want to eat four dozen cookies every week, but they seem that way!

 Now I've been made aware of quickbreads (two words? quick breads?), starting with this recipe.
Pretty delicious, actually.
It's ridiculously seasonal, thanks to the fact that it is pumpkin bread, but that's kind of nice. I like that element of baking. I'm not much for decorating the house, though I do have a tiny fake Christmas tree and some decorative candles that I put up after Thanksgiving, but I like the idea of a tradition of baked goods for various times of year. There's something appealing about ritual, and baking seems fairly benign. You take simple ingredients, you make something delicious.

People are surprisingly impressed by baked goods. I don't know why this is, though it's probably one of those "you have the luxury to take the time to bake things sometimes. Good for you" sorts of situations. When I started typing this I was thinking "maybe people think baking is hard and they are impressed because they don't think they can do it," but now I suspect it's more "Oh of course, you childless single person with copious amounts of time spent alone, of course you bake."

So that's a rundown on my thoughts about baking. Because it's a pleasant way to pass the time, it's not very expensive, it makes the house smell nice, it makes me feel like my kitchen appliances are justifying the counter space they use, and when it's all over, I get to eat something I made. Or at least look appreciatively at something I made, and then wrap it up to give to someone else as a "thoughtful" present.