Monday, October 24, 2011

Comfort in the form of soup

My mom has made homemade chicken or turkey soup for as long as I can remember. It's always been one of my absolute favorite things. Every so often she'd cook a whole chicken or turkey as a weekend meal just so she could make soup. I still love my moms soup and always will, but now that I live on my own (well, with a roommate but let's not split hairs) I find myself doing the same thing.

For me it started with doctoring up store bought stock but I was never quite satisfied. It was too salty and required far more seasoning than I thought was necessary. The first time I tried to make soup from the chicken bones I didn't boil and simmer it long enough to get the flavors I wanted, but now that I've got that part figured it's been smooth sailing.

When I decided I making the roast chicken from the last post I had every intention of making soup from it. My soup comes out a little different from my mothers, I've just never been able to replicate it so I stopped trying and have found my own flavor.

I put the chicken bones, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, peppercorns, parsley, and thyme into a pot. Fill it with enough water to cover everything. And then set it on the stove to boil, after it boils for a bit, I turn the heat down and just simmer covered for an hour and uncovered for about 30 more minutes or until I get the taste I want.

I leave the vegetables in large chunks because I remove them with the bones after I'm finished simmering. They get too mushy if you leave them in; though sometimes the carrots are fine it all depends on how long it ends up simmering.

This time I left the carrots in because they weren't too mushy
Once the stock is done, I usually add in some fresh vegetables. What I put in varies, this time I just used onions, celery, and carrots. And then some rice. I also don't leave or put any actual chicken in the soup, I don't really care for that (which I definitely get from my mother; she doesn't put it in either).

I love soup in all forms, but a hot bowl of homemade chicken soup is almost definitely at the top of my list. Comfort food at it's best.

What's your favorite comfort food?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stonewall's Roast Chicken

Last Christmas I was given the Stonewall Kitchen Celebrating The Bounty of the Seasons cookbook. It's full of delicious sounding recipes and the food photos are oh so enticing. 

While it's extremely simple, the recipe for Roast Chicken with Roasted Garlic-Herb Butter and Roasted Vegetables has become a favorite in my house. It's easy to make, warms the house on a cold day, you can use pretty much any vegetables that roast well, and makes several delicious meals, not to mention the soup that always ends up coming after from the bones. 

I decided to use onions, carrots, potatoes, and butternut squash
Butter, roasted garlic, sage, rosemary, and thyme

Don't ask why it's in a casserole dish rather than a roasting pan
Look at that crispy skin

It's a tasty, comforting, seasonal meal. And since the only thing that takes a long time is the roasting, it's something that's great to prepare on a weekend day while you're doing other chores or lounging around. 

Up next.... soup. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pemberton The Great

Down the street from my apartment on Mass Ave in Cambridge is Pemberton Farms & Garden Center. When I first moved in I really wanted it to be an awesome little market with fresh, local foods and a variety of interesting foods, but it wasn't. It was a small market with random expensive foods and a garden center. Over the last couple of years they have expanded and improved their selection of foods to the point where you could do the majority of your regular shopping in there (though it's still mostly local purveyors and smaller producers of things so the options are limited of course), they have a full liquor section with a really great selection of wines and craft beers, and of course the garden center is still lively.

At the beginning of October they held a customer appreciation day where they had samples of many of their great local products. Everything from cheeses, gluten free snacks, chips & salsa, dips & spreads, tea, cereal, coconut water, desserts, beer, wine, mead. They also had a grill set up with hamburgers, hot dogs, and sausage. It was a really fun afternoon.

We left with some salsa (in our ever long quest to find good store bought salsa) and a couple bottles of wine, and my new favorite snack.

Falafel Chips.

They really do taste like falafel. They're just salty enough to satisfy my want of salty chips, they're flavorful on their own but great with hummus, and you only need a few chips to make you feel like you've had a decent snack. And though they're still chips, they're healthier than eating regular potato chips, and because they've got a good amount of fiber in them they're also more filling than regular chips so I don't feel the need to eat as many.

It's been great to watch Pemberton expand and really become what I've wanted them to be for the last 5 years. Both Jessica and I are frequent customers, sometimes going in multiple times a day (don't judge!). And I've added their new series of tasting events to my calendar (that I've been kept updated of via facebook) so that we can try more new things and support this great local market.

And tonight, I'll raise my glass of wine (that I bought at the customer appreciation event) to Pemberton Farms!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Get comfy. This is a long (& overdue) post.

It's been awhile since I last posted. The month of September and beginning of October were mentally draining for me.

The organization I work for experienced a sudden loss of a large portion of our income which forced an almost immediate restructure and downsizing of staff. So within about a months time we learned about the loss, we watched our senior leadership and board have meeting after meeting about our restructure, and waited to hear how many and who would be laid off. I was grateful that they kept the staff as updated on the goings on as possible, but the not knowing took a toll on all of us. They announced a week before the actual lay offs that we would go from a staff of 43 to 29, along with some other pertinent administrative cuts.

It was just 2 years ago that I was laid off from Girl Scouts; that lay off was so shocking and devastating to me that I couldn't help but be influenced by it this time around. I tried hard to stay positive and neutral while at work, but holding in my nerves all day meant that coming home I was stressed and exhausted. Because of my previous experience I knew that it was just as likely to be me as it was not to be me, and I knew I needed to put my faith in our leadership, but it was a hard few weeks because our work still needed to go on in the meantime.

I was lucky enough to not be laid off. In fact, I probably got the best deal of everybody. I went from part time to full time, and my job moved from being split between reception and human resources to being fully in HR. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue working with this organization and to be more fully immersed in a field that I want to be working in, to learn from people who are really good at what they do.

We're now in the transition phase in my office, where we have to figure out how to continue to provide the best services we can without the 14 people who were laid off. It'll get better, and in fact, each day has gotten better.

So although I am feeling good that things will work themselves out, it did take a toll on me in the meantime. I didn't have the energy or will when I came home to do much cooking or cleaning or blogging. So I fell into bad eating habits and even worse writing/blogging habits. I'm getting back on track, with both. Starting here.