Sunday, October 6, 2013


At the present moment, I am in the throes of quite a nasty cold that has been floating around school, and one of the results of said cold is that I've completely lost my voice save for a whisper.  And not even a stage-whisper, but a real whisper.  For a motormouth like me, this is an interesting experience.  I have so many things I want to say, but it's either too painful (my throat feels like a bunch of rusty razor blades rubbing together every time I swallow, speak, or mouth-breathe) or it goes unheard because I have no volume.  Plus, in order for me to get back to work as a music teacher, I need to rest my voice so that I can speak, sing, and otherwise vocalize with the kiddos.  So I'm staying quiet for a few days.

Yesterday I visited my mom and my uncle and rasped through some conversation.  I was so excited to share my experiences about my new job that I didn't really pay much heed to the hoarseness that kept getting worse as our brunch went on.  I stayed quiet on my drive back home and made sure to gargle with plenty of throat-soothing things, but I woke up today completely voiceless.  I was pretty much completely hoarse last night and so my husband and I had a quiet evening (he's not much of a talker), and today has been eerily quiet.

I grew up in a home that seemed to hate silence.  At least my mother and brother did their best to fill the home with as much talk as possible.  My dad was always okay with quiet, but as we got older, my brother's constant talking became a presence in the house that we were totally used to.  (He even talks to himself if no one's around.)  When I met my husband, I found it odd that he could sit with his family in near-silence, just reading a book or watching TV, and we would all be the better for it.  At my husband's family's house, we didn't have to fill every silence with words or noise.  We could just *be.*

I still struggle with this concept of just *being.*  I am a born and bred motormouth, and I always want to say things, discuss things, ask questions, share stories, and converse with people.  I thrive on a certain amount of social interaction (though I like my alone time too).  But right now, I have time to sit back and listen and think, instead of being at the forefront of every conversation.  I wonder if it's a need for self-expression that makes me want to talk so much.  As it is I feel like I haven't really expressed myself all day, even through the text messages I've sent to my husband to tell him things he couldn't understand me whispering.

It's been a frustrating day, but also an educational one.  Tomorrow I will be silenced again, as my voice has not even begun to come back yet.  I hope by the end of tomorrow I can at least start to stage-whisper.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Food: Chili Love

Okay, so I have to recant a previous statement.  My previous statement said that I hate beans in any form except green beans.  I lied.  I like a small amount of beans in chili, and oh boy howdy do I love chili.

All my life my mom has made Cincinnati-style chili, and while I have loved the smell of the chili powder cooking away on the stove, putting it over spaghetti with onions and cheese did not appeal to me, and I refused to eat the chili and instead ate spaghetti with cheese on it for many of my growing-up years.

Enter Rosemary.  She is Winston's breeder and has become a dear friend to us.  One day, Joe and I went up to her home to visit her passel of ridgebacks and have dinner.  She had made chili, and I was about to eat it to be polite.  I didn't want to tell this friend who had worked hard to make something delicious for us that I refused to eat chili even though I liked the smell, so I dove in and took a risk.

It was amazing.  I liked it.  Even the beans, though I still think they are the weakest link in the chili-gestalt.

So I decided to make a pot of chili myself.  After experimenting a couple times and researching several NON-Cincinnati recipes, I came up with this recipe that I will use forever.

You need:
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced finely
2 large onions, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained exceedingly well
1 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes, not drained
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 12-ounce bottle/can of lager beer (today we're using Heineken)
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 cup beef stock (not broth)
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
about 25 grinds of black pepper (from the grinder)
grated cheddar cheese for serving

First, brown the meats together in a pan until they are crumbly.  During this process, feel free to sprinkle the meats with chili powder, garlic powder, and pepper.  No salt though, or the chili will be too salty.

Add the onion, jalapeno, and green pepper, and cook until the onions are translucent but not brown.

Pour in the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, beer, and beef stock.  Stir.  Sprinkle with the cornmeal and stir in.

Season the chili with the seasonings listed above.

Simmer on the stove for several hours.  Today I am doing about 3 to 4 hours to let the flavors meld.  It's even better if you cook it one day, let it sit overnight in the fridge, and then heat it up the next.  But it smells so good today that I'm letting us have it today.

Serve in bowls covered with grated cheese.  It's also good over brown rice.

Note: this is pretty mild, one-alarm chili, but it's plenty hot for us.  We like mild Indian food, but we don't like our mouths to be on fire.  Instead we prefer richness of flavor and a touch of heat.

Happy Superbowl Sunday!  We are spending it eating chili and studiously avoiding football in all forms, American or otherwise.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Food: Rosemary's Pot Roast Chicken

My friend Rosemary, who hails from England, told me about a pot-roast chicken that she made for a friend who was sick.  She even put up a photo of it on facebook and made me positively drool.  Last Saturday I went to her house for dinner and got the "recipe" (more like a formulary, really) from her, and I made it yesterday.  And oh, man.  It was amazing.

Here's what you need:
1 whole chicken, giblets removed (I used a roaster, not sure about weight)
about 3 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
1 pound small potatoes or large potatoes cut up
3 leeks, cleaned and cut into 2" pieces
2 large onions, chopped up into large pieces
1 mugful of white wine (I used a 12-oz mug)
fresh thyme or whatever herbs you like, to taste (I used probably 2 Tbsp thyme)
a couple tablespoons unsalted butter
seasoned salt
black pepper

Heat oven to 350 Farenheit.

Remove giblets if you haven't already.  This is a step I loathe, and I use rubber gloves for it every time I do it, even if the giblets are in a tidy little bag.  YUCK!

Layer the onions and leeks in the bottom of a large, oven-safe pot with an oven-safe lid.  Mine was a 5qt enameled cast iron Dutch oven, and it BARELY held everything; I had to do some very creative formatting to get it all to fit in.  Try for 6 or more quarts to make your life easier.

Add carrots and potatoes on bottom.  This is where I had to do creative formatting.  I put the carrots and potatoes around the chicken because otherwise the lid wouldn't shut and you need to cover this bad boy up.

Pour your mugful of white wine over the chicken.  Dot the chicken with the butter that you crumbled up or cut up (either way - I crumbled), sprinkle with the fresh thyme that you chopped up, and season with seasoned salt and black pepper to your taste.

Cover and bake for a long time.  My chicken took over 2 hours.  The rule is 20 minutes per pound I think.  But most whole chickens have instructions on the package.  Consult this.  I cooked mine until the handy-dandy pop-up thermometer thing in it popped up.  It may sound silly, but I am utterly lost without that thing, and that thermometer makes me cook a moist chicken every time.

During the cooking process, baste the chicken about twice with the liquid in the bottom of the pot.

For the last half hour, remove the lid of the pot so the chicken skin can brown on top.  I also turned up the heat to 400 because I was getting impatient and hungry, which yielded a nicely browned skin and moist bird.

Serve and try not to eat it all in one sitting.  It is delicious.