Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pseudo-Traditional

We bought a fridge today, but it won't be delivered until next week. I'm glad to know we'll have a fridge soon, but bummed to know my savings are all gone now. I cooked a rice/beans/tomatoes thing (all day, I came home between classes to tend it), but we ultimately decided not to eat it today (P was really craving meat, and we can't have that in the house right now, because meat should actually be refrigerated). It's in the oven hanging out. We'll eat it for breakfast. No fussing - it'll be fine unrefrigerated, as long as we don't let it sit too too long.

I had no time for baking today, so I exercised a small feeling of traditionalism by eating cut up apples drizzled with honey, and forcing a bite into P's mouth. They were really delicious, and I think I might cut more.


Shana Tova, guys.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Roasted Pear and Sprouts over Rice

This is the first meal we're having now that we're back home. Our landlord brought us some pears from his brother's tree, and I really wanted to eat some. However, they're actually a little harder than even I like them, so I decided to chop a few into little bites and roast with some vegetables.

I hope you like this.

1 cup rice
1 can broth (vegetable or chicken)
salt to taste
1 tablespoon lime ends (the ends of ten key limes, in this instance)
1 teaspoon lemon ends (the ends of three lemons - this is the remainder of the preserving citrus)

1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut off cob
6 large brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed and cut into quarters
1 small white onion, cut into half-moons
3 small pears (1 large pear from the store), cut into bite-sized chunks
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dried sage, rubbed

Preheat oven to 400F. Place citrus rinds in cheesecloth, then put broth, salt, rice and rinds in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat for ten minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit at least 15 more minutes, covered and undisturbed. Combine all remaining ingredients in a casserole dish. Cover and roast for 45 minutes, stirring after each 15 minutes. Remove citrus rind bag from rice, and dish the rice. Top with vegetables and sauce (sauce being the drippings from roasting). Serves 2.

This, by the way, is a terrible picture. I have no idea where my camera is, so I used the one on the laptop. But it's a picture, none-the-less.

Return to Home

We finally got to go home last night. It was a bittersweet experience. On one hand, we enjoyed living with J so much it was sad to leave, on the other hand, we are back in our own home. It's a mess. We cleaned out the living room, taking all our stuff off the couch and hooking up the electronics. Initially, the cable didn't work, but then it started (after I made a service appointment, of course). P built our new TV table (the former one died in the flood). We slept on the couch last night. The desk that probably no longer will house the desktop (since it also got flooded) is fine, but has tons of stuff all over it. I'm ignoring that part of the cleaning right now.

The house is full of mosquitoes. I never get bitten typically, but they're even interested in me. I guess P doesn't have enough blood to sustain them all. I've killed a couple so far, as has P. Aleister, naturally, refuses to do his part in the pest control arena.

I just moved all the dishes that required washing from their various places to the sink. We don't have a refrigerator anymore. Well, ok - the refrigerator is still here, but it needs to be removed, along with all its contents. The length of time we were without power caused everything left in the freezer (farewell, lovely Hatch chiles - KNEW I should've canned you!) caused everything to... well, liquify. Any mould. A lot. The fridge and freezer are so mould-infested that the 30 seconds I had them open, combined, caused me shortness of breath for a while. So right now, I'm thinking we'll just do the no-fridge-thing for a bit, until we figure out the money for a replacement. I'm thankful for my pseudo-wacko-survivalist tendencies, since we will still be able to eat well, despite not being able to have refrigerated items. I will just really need to scale down the portions I cook, or I will really need to get a lot more canning jars. :)

Anyway, I cleaned up a bit of the kitchen. I need to do all the dishes in a little while. I bought some lemons at the store today, to make more preserved lemons. I've been leaving a trail of preserved lemons everywhere I've been during this adventure, but my remaining jar, sadly, I'd stuffed in the fridge. So once the dishes are done, I'll make another jar or two. I also picked up some limes to preserve as well. I'm glad I decided I like canning, since I may be doing a lot of canning for the next little bit. I feel somewhat paranoid about storing foods in any other manner at the moment, even if I did have a fridge.

Oh, and I found some gigantic brussels sprouts at the store when I got the lemons, limes and water, so I bought several to roast. I also got an ear of corn to roast, and I think I'll serve it with rice instead of pasta this time. P will enjoy that.

I had a billion tests, also, this week. I didn't do as well as I would normally have expected of myself, but I'm still satisfied with my performance.

Anyway, more cleaning, more cleaning, more cleaning. That's where we're at. Maybe tonight we will sleep in our bed. Maybe not. We shall see.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Last update before we can move home

Ok, so this is the last update I think I'll need to post before I can go back home.

We are still staying w/ our friend J here in Houston. Aleister has not only adjusted well to his new home, he is hamming it up and seeking all the attentions he can get.

At our house, the landlord seems to have already done a lot of work. The sheet rock hasn't been done yet, but as much as we are enjoying staying where we are, we are anxious to go home and regain some normalcy in our lives. Once the power is back on (who knows when that'll be), we'll likely go back home at that time. I think we will need a new cable box, since ours drowned in the water.

Right now we're at P's school in the library, doing homework. I am obviously cheating and taking a little break. The internets here are fast. My laptop bag also drowned in the water, and smells ... bad. I don't want to describe it. We went and got me another bag, but I think we're going to have to take it back. I have to bring a ridiculous amount of crap to school with me each day, and I don't think it's going to hold enough, despite my initial belief it would.

I have a new laptop (thank you, M and K!).

I think that's about it. I'm mainly just cooking simple comfort foods; nothing you haven't seen on here already. I'll post again when we live at home. And thank you again, to everyone who has given us so much support in so many ways through this.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Back in Houston

We came back to Houston last night. Our house still has standing water in it, though not much. We are staying w/ a friend here. She's been really great. 

School starts back on Monday. I haven't decided yet if I'll be doing any work the rest of the week, though it turns out I'll be able to. 

Aleister is truckin' along, like nothing ever happened. Thankfully, he adjusts to new things very, very well.

Our landlord is working on fixing our house, and also the house we'll probably be living in while ours is being repaired.

That's about it. Thanks again, to all who have emailed to express concern and offers for help, as well as all the other people who've kept us in their thoughts, provided a place to stay, have arranged things for us, and so many other things you've done. We cannot express how grateful we are and how lucky we feel.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Update, Part Two

It's looking like we'll be heading back to Houston tomorrow at some point. A friend of ours has power and has offered us a place in her home, so we will stock up on food and supplies here and transport them back.

P's school is open already, and mine probably will be by Thursday. I've emailed my professors in an effort to keep up on my studies while I'm not attending. I am hopeful that the financial aid department at my school will process my disbursement soon. It'll be a huge help, since I can't work right now, and am not sure when I'll be able to. I'm not too worried about this, though. It's completely out of my hands, and I'm choosing to focus more on things I do have some control over.

Our landlord is coming into town to survey his other properties in hopes of finding us a place to live while our home is being repaired.

We've filed a claim with FEMA. We'll see how that goes. Thus far, it doesn't seem like they've handled things too smoothly. Any handling is better than none, though. I heard they were finally getting some food to people.

The bank with whom I have my car payment has told me they understand my bank isn't working right now, and will waive any late fees that occur if my payment is late while this mess is cleaned up.

People are setting up furnishings for us to have when we have a place we live, and also are putting together packaged of towels, blankets, sheets, etc. to send us when we have an address again. That all will be a huge help, knowing we don't have to worry about buying replacements for much of what is lost.

As an unrelated piece of good news, my application to the National Scholars Honor Society was accepted. That's good for my resume, and a lovely piece of news at a time like this. I'd completely forgotten I had applied.

I don't think I have anything else to say. So, yeah.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Update

We weathered Ike without incident. We were mainly just bored, because we had no power or running water, and P doesn't enjoy playing cards while powerless, as I do. :) Even the cat was just bored, instead of freaking out. He had this perpetual expression that clearly read, "Mama, can we turn the TV on now, please? I'm bored and my mice aren't exciting anymore." He likes to watch TV.

Saturday night we went to bed. It was raining (apparently there was a non-Ike related storm), and the rain was hard enough to wake us periodically. In the morning, P woke up to the sound of Aleister splashing around our room, and a rushing noise. I woke up to the rushing noise. We got up and were pretty groggy, mainly confused about why there was six inches of dirty water in the floor. Aleister should've been unhappy about the water, seeing as he's a cat, but it seemed fun to him somehow. Then we realised the water was rising, and we were not groggy anymore. We splashed through the house to assess the damage. There was a lot of water. Like this:


This was the begining. We didn't really understand, since the hurricane was over. So we peeked out the front window. And we saw this:


Neat. It was still raining. We took pictures of all our stuff to submit to insurance (which, oh-so-happily has declined to cover flood damage. They will only cover damages caused by the loss of power). We packed the backpacker's backpack with clothes. We put a small ziplock bag of food for the cat. We got the emergency packpack (with food cubes) out of the car. And two camping chairs, for a sense of "luxury." Then we got a little water of the house, and we left. We saw across the main cross street there was some high ground. So we trekked through thigh deep water, P carrying the big backpack and the chairs, and me carrying the cat in his carrier and the emergency pack. I had to lift the cat up to my head to keep him dry. That was kind of funny. He had been crying when he went into the carrier, but when I lifted and carried him through the current, he seemed to realise this was not a good time to be causing more problems and he settled down. The current was fairly strong, so we walked using a modified kayak ferry technique (basically we moved with the current and across it at the same time) to get across safely. We didn't want to fall, particularly strapped to heavy items, with a cat who wouldn't be able to swim out of the carrier if he was lost. We got across fine and set up our chairs, watching across to where our street was. Eventually it stopped raining.

Here's a picture of some people I saw moving their children in shopping carts. You can see the children's feet are in the water:


Here's another picture of the flooding, at its finest:


Finally the water receeded enough for us to go back, get water out of the house, collect some more things and to leave the city. Aleister, lovely cat that he is, knocked our laptops in the water, so we don't have computers anymore. Both desktops and both laptops are gone. We're still working out replacing them, since effectively, our entire lives were on those computers - homework, address books, finances.. everything. All the other property losses are insignificant to me, though I'd have appreciated it in my harp hadn't gotten flooded, as I'd been trying to sell it.

I took some more pictures of the neighbourhood, and the damage to it. So this is what's left of my neighbourhood.









So... Yeah. We're in Dallas right now, staying with a friend. Wednesday we have to go back, and we will be staying somewhere outside Katy, because neither of us is willing to drop our classes this semester. It's going to be hellish until we have a place to live, but we'll get through it.

On an upside, we have really had the opportunity to discover how strong some of our friendships are, and how wonderful of a support network we have. Family, friends, people we barely know, and even our landlord have rallied for us, trying to provide as much comfort, living accommodations and help as possible. For which we are unspeakably grateful.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Bake-Off

It's my first hurricane, and I am very excited. I have waited, and waited, and waited, and finally I get my reward. To commemorate this exciting event, I've been baking a lot. P and I have been eating up some left-overs, though I made another fried rice for breakfast today (truffle-infused rice I found in my fridge and cooked last night for this, ham, savoy cabbage, zucchini, tomato, palm heart, egg, mirepoix, lemon, salt, pepper, sesame and veggie oil, soy sauce, coconut vinegar and a touch of rice cooking wine).

So here's what I've done so far:

Chocolate Chip and Cherry Cookies - just use the Tollhouse recipe, but w/ milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet, and throw in several handfuls of dried, pitted cherries

Cranberry-Ginger Biscotti - you guys already know all about me making these, except this time I used crystalised ginger I made myself. Which is easy to do - make a simple 1:1 syrup, toss in slices of fresh peeled ginger, simmer or let steep for a few hours. Then roll in sugar dry at 175-200F overnight in the oven. The ginger retains its spiciness, which makes the biscotti more interesting to me, I've discovered - sweet, spicy and tart. Really good. Even P is eating them, and he's not big on biscotti.

Orange Saffron Butter Cookies - I was sent this recipe by saffron.com when I took advantage of their ridiculously cheap, good quality saffron and vanilla beans. The recipe is as follows, for those who are curious. I am curious. They're in the oven now and I am excited!

Ingredients: 1 1/8 cup flour, 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), 1/4 gram saffron threads, crushed (1/2 teaspoon), 1/2 tablespoon orange ring, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 large egg yolks.

Instructions: Leave stick of butter out to soften. Place saffron threads in heavy frying pan on medium heat. Toast until brittle, then crush with the back of metal spoon on wax paper (ok, I used my mortar and pestle, but you do what you like). Butter should be spreadable by now. Work saffron and orange rind into butter. Blend in sugar, then egg yolks, one at a time (I just used a wooden spoon for this whole recipe, since it seemed more in keeping with the spirit of the recipe). Add flour to form soft ball of dough. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. When ready to bake, remove dough from refrigerator to soften slightly (ok - they mean this part, I discovered). Preheat oven to 325F. Pinch off bite size pieces of dough and place on ungreased cookie sheet. When sheet is full, press dough flat with back of a metal fork. Bake 10 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cook on rack. Store in an airtight container.

And I also made the dough of my mother's jelly cookies. I seem to be stalling on rolling them out, though normally I don't mind this part. I'll do it tomorrow, and maybe make banana bread, too. I have three bananas in the freezer.

Anyway, I hope you all are having a great weekend. P and I are enjoying a weekend off with cookies, tv and fun!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Omnivore's 100

Ok... I'll bite. This is everywhere now, so I hesitated to do it as well. But I feel like crap today, so I thought I'd do this instead of making food you haven't seen from me yet.

Andrew Wheeler at Very Good Taste put out his personal list called The Omnivore’s One Hundred and asked of people the following :

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. (edit - I just realised how difficult it is to see what I've put in bold, so it will all be changed now to blue)

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating (Mine are in red).

4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

Here are my responses and following it is a list of other potential omnivore delicacies compiled in response:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (can I count alligator?)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Phở
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (ok... this is lunacy, though I've eaten many cooked)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (the cigar being second-hand smoked)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat (I'm going to count this, despite the goat not being "curried;" I eat it w/ mole)
42. Whole insects (not on purpose; on motorcycle and in kayak, though I'd be willing to try cooked; I have also seen a small bug fly into food as I was cooking it, and I've just left it... shhh)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/€80/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin (eaten and been stung by; equally unpleasant experiences)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi (candied, and vinegar; but not the 'true' form)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (gross; I'm not 100% I'd try this)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (I've eaten this in medicine and such, but not on purpose)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or Brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash (not proper though, so I'm not even sure I should mark this)
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate (mixed w/ other variety)
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

And, here's another list someone added (I found it here, but I don't know if this is the person who added it)

1. Nutella ice cream
2. Corn Dog
3. Kangaroo
4. Ostrich steak (not in steak form, but yes)
5. Socca
6. Quahogs
7. Ndole
8. Unpasteurised milk
9. Pint of authentic Guinness (I couldn't make it through a pint - ew)
10. Moonshine
11. Arancini/zuppli
12. Saskatoons
13. Curry chips
14. Tomme d’Ariège
15. Flapjacks
16. Bullfrog
17. Kifto
18. White chocolate Oreos
19. A Tom Collins
20. Apple pie with cheddar cheese
21. Pimientos de padron
22. strawberries and black pepper
23. Crepe Suzette
24. Rabbit
25. Wild boar
26. Testicles (of any kind)
27. Vegemite (there's just something about this that scares me a bit)
28. Merguez
29. Tagine
30. Muhammara
31. Espresso martini
32. Razor clam
33. Pigs ear
34. Tripe
35. Steak & kidney pie
36. Torta della nonna
37. Teff
38. Real wasabi
39. Speculoos
40. Kimchee
41. Schiacciata
42. Byriani
43. Agave nectar
44. Steak Fiorentina
45. Deep fried chocolate bar
46. Macaroons from Pierre Hermé
47. Green tea éclair
48. Digestive biscuits
49. Graham crackers
50. Mesquite flour
51. Quinoa
52. Home made berry jam
53. Black sesame seeds
54. Tacobell tacos
55. A coffee from Starbucks
56. Pigs cheek
57. Caribou paté
58. Bison steak
59. Bok choy
60. Galangal
61. Vindaloo
62. Coddle
63. Camel hump
64. Dog (probable, but not verified)
65. Squirrel
66. Racoon
67. Kopi luwak coffee
68. Casu Frazigu
69. Shepherds pie
70. Cheeseless pizza
71. Dolfin chocolate
72. Slippery elm powder
73. Medjool dates
74. Toblerone
75. Argan oil (how I wish I could afford this)
76. Goose egg
77. Stilton
78. Grappa
79. Arak
80. Jamón ibérico de bellota from Jabugo
81. pasta alla norma
82. Zabaione/sabayon
83. Pavlova
84. Chocolate and zucchini bread
85. Pumpkin pie
86. Marzipan
87. Perogys
88. Wheatgrass shot
89. Baci chocolates
90. Pacharán
91. Kefir
92. Duck eggs
93. Baked alaska
94. Liver
95. Yak milk
96. Gubeen
97. Shark meat
98. Bo Bun
99. Monterey jack cheese
100. Camel cheese

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Southwestern Style Chili

For those of you who know me well, I'll try not to wax poetic for too long about chili. I know you've heard it all before. But for those of you who don't? I love chili. I love it to a degree that's probably illegal outside of Texas. I love every regions variation (ok... I'll tell the truth. I'm not a fan of Cincinnati-style, though I do love my chili on pasta) of chili. My favourite, though? Surprisingly, for someone as exceptionally anal-retentive about proper chili cooking methods, it's not the traditional Texas chili. It's the Southwestern style. I love putting corn in my chili. And you really can't do that unless you make a Southwestern. Somehow, it's wrong.

This is for cooking on the weekend, unless you're unemployed. It takes all day.

This, however, has stepped away from the traditional Southwestern and has become some kind of bizarre creation that almost shouldn't be called chili anymore. It is, however, delicious. P and I are both sweating a little, which is a lovely, purifying feeling I never really get unless I eat chili. And for once, I actually did stick beans in this chili. A lot of them, in fact. Anyway, I can feel myself wanting to talk and talk and talk about chilis in general, so I'll stop and just tell you how to make this one. Well, sort of, anyway. A lot of chili making is feel, and instinct, and love. Mostly love. I'm excited to can the rest this week. There are some ingredients listed you might not need to use. Keep tasting throughout.

Oh, and a quick note about chiles: the smaller you cut them, the spicier they are. If you are very sensitive to chiles, you can use less varieties, less spicy varieties, leave them whole (wrapped in cheese cloth and later removed), or dice a potato into little bits and add it in. It'll absorb and reduce the heat.

Oh yeah. The total cost on this was about 18 or 19 dollars. It makes 6-ish quarts.

1 pound (yes, 1 pound) dry pinto beans
water

4 pounds meat, cut into thumb-nail sized pieces (if you buy a roast, trim it down first)
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1 bottle beer (I used Negro Modelo; you use what you have)
1 can medium black olives, finely chopped (food processor)
1 can corn kernels
approximately 1 1/2 cups chili powder (I know it sounds like a lot, but trust me, it'll wind up being roughly this much), divided
1/2 teaspoon each: lemon pepper, dry mustard, seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon each: cayenne, celery salt, galangal powder (optional)
1 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, coriander seed, paprika, Mexican oregano
6 ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons honey (I actually used apricot flavoured honey, but regular will be just ducky)

2 large onions, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces sliced button mushrooms (this is another weird ingredient, so if you feel awkward about it, leave it out)
2 bell peppers
1 pound tomatillos, diced
5-6 garden tomatoes, diced
Chiles, 1-2 of as many varieties as you like

3 limes
salt and pepper to season where you see fit.

Soak the beans overnight. I was really shocked by how many beans this was, because I kind of forgot what a pound of swollen beans looks like, and the volume it occupies. But when they're nice and soaked (I changed the water 3-4 times), cook them. I simmered mine for about 75 minutes, then salted them and gave them another 15 minutes. I didn't drain them while the rest was happening, until I was ready to stick them in the chili. Cut up the meat, and sear it in a large pan. Toss it in a slow cooker, or in a huge pot, and add in the tomato sauce, beer, corn, olives and the juice of one lime. Turn it onto high (slow cooker high, not stove high) and put the lid on it.

Heat the oil in the same pan you seared the meat in. Throw in the onion and let them hang out for a while. They should cook over low heat and be almost carmelised when they're done. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook down. Then toss in the bell peppers and give it another 15 minutes. Then the tomatillos for 15 more minutes. Then the tomatoes, for 30-45 minutes. When you put the tomatoes in the pan with the other veggies, go ahead and add the beans and spices to the meat (but not the sugar, or the honey). Add the stewed tomato mixture to the meat. If it all looks really liquidy, toss in the tomato paste. You might not need this, though probably you will. I like it, usually. Let this hang out 30 minutes to an hour, to meld.

Now it's time to start looking at the chiles themselves. First, sort them according to heat. It's very important to think about the chiles, and treat them nicely. Chiles are not just in the chili to make it hot. To me, that's their secondary function. Each type of chile has a unique and special flavour (see? here I go, even though I said I wouldn't), and they should be treated with respect. Unless you're a heat monkey (in which case just skip this paragraph and do what you like, since I imagine you've got your own way on this), you'll want to build the chili properly here. It takes care, and above all, it takes TASTING. So, you want to arrange them according to their heat level. You'll put the mildest in first and work your way to the hottest (I end w/ a habenero, which sounds like it will make you cry, but my chili is actually not very spicy, relative to how it could be if I went for heat and not flavour). When you cut the chiles, take out not only the seeds, but the membranes. And for Heaven's sake, wear gloves if possible (and a mask if you're sensitive). Oh, and add in more line juice as you see fit. This is supposed to be personalised.

Put in the mildest chile. Stir it in, cover it, and let it cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Then the next hottest chile. And another 30 minutes to an hour. And so on. Do this process for each chile. It allows the chili to get the flavour of each pepper and not be overwhelmed by heat. After the last chile goes in, give it another hour at least (or up to overnight). Then you can eat. I like it with cheddar and onion. And sometimes on top of fritos. And other times on rice. Or by itself. Or with pasta. Or cornbread, and cobbler for dessert. Yum.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. If it tastes bitter from all the cumin (mine did today), add in the teaspoon of sugar, and keep tasting. The honey sweetens it nicely and balances the bitter without ruining the flavour. So just use that first bit of sugar, then the honey.

(I really love chili).

The first picture is what chili looks like while it's cooking. The second picture is what good chili really looks like.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Preserving

I've been busy reading all the end of summer, "I'm canning this and that and getting my winter stores ready" posts in people's blogs. Despite my childhood dislike of canning, I've become jealous of all of you with functional gardens (unlike my parsley and chive garden). So as a result, I decided to make a huge batch of meat sauce and tomorrow when it's done and we've had dinner, I'll can the remainder (turns out, btw, the recipe makes somewhere in the 6-7 quart range; sometimes more when I don't use the slow cooker). I also made another large bottle of preserved lemons, and next week I am seriously considering a large batch of Southestern-style chili to can as well.

If I'm not sick of canning by then, it will appear I've overcome my distaste for all the work of canning. I might not complain about that, since it'll keep leftover soups out of the freezer in the future.

I found out, however, that despite the ridiculously increasing food prices, this meat sauce is still really inexpensive to make. The meat was about 8 dollars (sale price), the tomato sauce went up to 3.50, and I think the other ingredients ran about 4 or 5 dollars more. Which still makes this sauce extremely economical, since it makes so-so-so-so much food.