Christmas decorations have begun to go up, spurred on by a surprise post-Thanksgiving snow storm! Over two inches of snow lasted almost a week, and it was the perfect inspiration for starting to get out the julbocken and julgrisen – that is, the Christmas goats and the Christmas pig! The julstjärna (Christmas star) is up on the windows, and we’ve been keeping the house a toasty 75 all evening long. It atones for the mornings when it’s fifty degrees in here!
Chicken pot pie happens to be in my husbands top-five favorite foods. I rather like it myself (understatement of the year) and it is one of the handiest meals to have in the freezer. My sister in law was asking how I do this, so here’s my method.
Part 1: Chicken Stock
(There are other ways to do this – roast your own chicken, use chicken wings/legs, etc. This is my personal favorite, however, and probably the easiest.)
Step 1: Make your way to Costco. Purchase yourself one $5.00 rotisserie chicken and two loaves of their artisan bread. I like the Pugliese. Have a nice, easy dinner or lunch with the breast of the chicken sliced on the bread. For an extra (expensive) kick, add some hard white cheddar. Yum!
(My father claims that if you make stock out of it, a $5.00 rotisserie chicken is one of the best food-for-money purchases you can make. I’m inclined to agree.)
Step 2: Strip the chicken of all of the remaining white meat. You can ignore the tough bits and the brown meat – they’ll add nice flavor. This job is much easier when the chicken is warm. Set the white meat aside, and put the carcass (bones, bits, skin and all) into a stock pot.
Step 3: Pour water over the carcass until it’s just about covered. This is usually about a gallon of water. Throw in an onion, peeled and quartered, three large carrots (washed but not peeled), and a couple of sticks of celery. You can also add a few bay leaves and/or cloves of garlic.
Step 4: Set this on the stove. Simmer for three to five hours. Don’t boil! Boiling gives it a weird, off flavor. My stove is a bugger and refuses NOT to boil something even when it’s on the lowest of low settings. I try my best but usually fail. Alas.
Step 5: Get a huge bowl or container. Normally, I use one of these. Set a strainer/colander in the top of it, and line the strainer with cheese cloth. Gently ladle the stock out of the stock pot into the strainer. The cheese cloth is there to give you a really nice, clear stock. Alternatively, you could just dump the whole stock into the strainer, sans cheese cloth, but it’s generally very cloudy if you do that.
Tada! You made chicken stock. I prefer to keep mine unsalted, but that’s a hangover from living and cooking at home, where my dad is on a fairly strict low sodium diet.
Next, let’s launch into the chicken pot pie side of things.
Part 2: Chicken Pot Pie
Credit where credit is due – this recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1989 version. It’s what I grew up with and what I think works pretty darn well. It’s altered to how I make it here, but basically it’s the same.
I frequently double, triple, quadruple or even octuple this recipe.
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cups butter
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
(Have some chicken bullion on hand. You’ll thank me.)
2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
~ 1.5 cups chopped carrots
~ 1 cup frozen peas
~ 1 cup frozen corn
To start with, defrost you chicken breasts and pop them in the oven at 350°. They’ll take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to cook.
Slice your carrots and set them on a back burner to cook. Remember they’re there! The carrots will probably be done before the sauce is, so that works out nicely.
Melt the butter in a stock pot or large sauce pan. Saute the chopped onion with the butter until the onions are transparent.
Add the flour to the butter and onion mixture, along with the sage, thyme and pepper. Stir frequently until it’s well combined, hot and a tiny bit bubbly. It’ll be a thick mixture.
(At this point, this is called a roux. It’s the base for any dairy based cream sauce, such as mac-n-cheese or alfredo)
Pour in the milk and chicken broth all at once. Stir this until it’s thick and bubbly. It’ll probably take a while, but take heart – it will eventually thicken up.
Taste your sauce. If it’s not chicken-y enough, add some chicken bullion. I like Better than Bullion. If it’s a little bland, add some salt. Keep adjusting until it tastes right. Don’t over-do it on the salt, though. It’s easy enough to add salt on the table, and impossible to take it out once you’ve added it.
Once it’s thick, add the frozen peas, frozen corn and drained, cooked carrots. If it doesn’t look like enough of any of those, add more. I usually just add the peas and corn frozen, straight from the freezer. It takes a while for the whole mixture to heat up again, but that’s okay. It gives me time to cube the chicken.
This is also the point by which your chicken should be done. Check the breasts with an instant read thermometer. They should read at least 165°. Pull them out, cube them and add them to the pot. (If you made the stock you used recently, remember to add the chicken you picked off before making the stock. Because I totally didn’t remember to last time I did this.)
Cook the whole mixture until it’s bubbly. Turn off the heat and let it cool down for a while.
And presto – chicken pot pie filling.
It is at this point that you have reached a crossroad. What will you now do with this filling! The options are endless!
You could make the traditional pastry crust. You could do that. But you could also . . .
- Serve it over rice. Seriously! It’s delicious, and it stretches it out nicely.
- Make a biscuit top. Use any ol’ biscuit recipe. If you want a more tender top, add an egg or two to your biscuit mix, along with the milk, so it’s more batter than dough. Pour this over top of the hot filling and cook until the biscuit is done.
- Make personal sized pasties. Make a pastry crust, about 12″ in diameter. Pour cold filling on one side, fold over the other side, then roll and flute your edges. Self contained, freezable, personal pies!
- Freeze it. I usually do 4 cups in a quart sized bag. Lay the bag on it’s side in the freezer and it’ll freeze nice and flat. Frankly, this is what I do every time I do chicken pot pie – the last time I made it, I froze nine quarts of the stuff, plus the pie that we ate that night. There’s nothing quite like knowing you have ready-to-go, customized meals in the freezer. Just pull it out, defrost, and serve with a biscuit top or rice. It’s fast, easy and really yummy.
Saturday 1/18 – Air and Space Museum – NASA X-15
Saturday 1/18 – Natural History Museum – Kayak made by Maligiaq Padilla
Saturday 1/18 – Natural History Museum Rotunda
Saturday 1/18 – Capitol building at dusk
Saturday 1/18 – Washington Monument
Sunday 1/19 – Natural History Museum gem collection!
Sunday 1/19 – Freer Gallery, Whistler’s Peacock Room
Monday 1/20 – Mount Vernon upper garden and greenhouse
Monday 1/20 – Mount Vernon upper garden
Monday 1/20 – Mount Vernon kitchen
Monday 1/20 – Evidence of true (shoe) love.
Monday 1/20 – Mount Vernon from the bowling green
Tuesday 1/21 – Crack of dawn Harris Teeter run
Tuesday 1/21 – Snow Day!
Wednesday 1/21 – And the snow is still there. And it’s really, really cold.
Here’s a couple of quick snapshots of the first few days in DC . . .
Tuesday: The communist grocery store in the Crystal City Underground.
Wednesday Morning: Leaving for a trip to the Pentagon City Mall + Harris Teeters. Hauled back 20 lbs of groceries and effectively killed my feet. Rocked the PNW REI look among the suits.
Wednesday Evening: Walked with Rik from L’Enfant metro to the Arlington metro at sunset. Long but worth it . . . and we both effectively killed our feet – again.
Wednesday Evening: Interior of the Lincoln Memorial.
Thursday: View out of the apartment at 5:00am. Getting up at 4:00 isn’t actually that bad.
Thursday morning: Crystal City metro station. Such an iconic bit of architecture.
Thursday: Exterior of the National Gallery of Art. After finishing grading I popped into town just as the museum was opening.
I managed to get through just the west side of the upper floor. Rembrandt was the highlight, for sure, but the rest of the stuff was really interesting too.
The Dying Gaul – just to show my students when I get back. It’s dates to the 1-2nd century BC, from a villa outside Rome.
Friday: Stayed home (except for a trip to Rite-Aid to buy laundry detergent) and puttered around. We’ll probably go somewhere this afternoon/evening. Three day weekend, here we come!
Today started out pretty crappy, honestly. Nothing like a good morning funk to throw your day out of whack. Cold house, quizzes to write and a nagging and unsettling dream still rolling around in my head.
…so I decided to launch into dinner. Pioneer Woman’s Italian Chicken Soup, to be exact.
Nine pots, six bowls and three hours later, dinner turned out to be 6 quarts of soup. For two people. Opps.
Good thing there’s a potluck tomorrow. (Though that may have been a motivation all along.)
The taste tests confirms: yes, it was all worth it. Goodness gracious, that is one heck of a soup. Peoples of the world – go try it now. Go buy the heavy whipping cream and fresh oregano (which I will do next time…the dried isn’t quite the same) and the bell pepper (two, not one…that was a mistake) and the chicken and the stock and the celery and the onion and the tomatoes . In fact, get some tomatoes and stew them yourself. Stew extra, because it’s better with more.
I may or may not be able to stop thinking about this darn soup and when I can justify having another bowl. Ahem.
My guilty conscious is now telling me to go on a run. That cream in that soup…
I hate my guilty conscious, but I think it’s right.
I give up. My poor camera. I took it to Yakima this last weekend, intending to take pictures of how beautiful the valley is in the fall. Fail. I either forgot about it or it didn’t work. It’s old. I’m pretty sure we got it in early 2007, after our first camera was stolen. It’s so old it means I don’t have an in computer card reader to get pictures off of it, I have to use the painfully slow USB cord to get it. It’s so old it doesn’t have USB 3.
Anyway. Maybe it’ll dry out and start working again.
So, blog post without pictures. That’s okay, I guess, because writing workbook pages, watching Modern Marvels and drinking obscene amounts of tea is absurdly boring.
I surprised myself today when looking at my schedule for Ancient History – instead of going straight onto India, last year I scheduled a week just for geography. Yay! . . . I still have no idea what we’re doing in class, but the workbook is all done. Thankfully, I did discover a really fun resource – National Geographic has a great selection of huge mega monster maps, table top maps and 1 page maps, all available for free. And they’re customization! The big maps are printed out and tiled together, which I’m toying with using for class on Monday.
The Husband’s parents and sister are coming over for dinner. I’m really excited – I haven’t seen his sister since our wedding. She and her husband moved to Tennessee for work and as such, we don’t see much of them.
On that note, I better finish up prep for classes and clean the house. And maybe do laundry (ha. Fat chance of that, self.)
(That’s our house with new paint! It was a hideous blue with bare wood showing through on most surfaces. Now it’s almost done – just two more sides to do the trim on. We’re super psyched about how it turned out.)
I’ve been trying to walk every week day that I’m home – Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and every other Friday. It’s one of the advantages of living in a subdivision – I’ve got quite a few miles of road to walk that’s much safer than where I used to live!
We’ve got a wonderful high pressure inversion sitting off the Washington coast right now that leaves us with 24/7 fog. Walking is a bit chilly when it’s 47° and 97% humidity all day long, but it was totally worth it today. There were nearly thirty boats fishing on the Hood Canal – the Sockeye season opened today. The distant hum of diesel engines was audible even from the house.
It’s evening now and The Husband and I are watching Deep Space Nine and drinking ginger lemon tea. I’m not looking forward to the morning – far too much to do – but for now, I’ll enjoy the relaxation and together time.
For my first date night kit (and possibly the best one…I kind of forgot to save the best for last!) I’m working on a Star Trek themed date.
The box will include the following – all graphics assembled by yours truly using Photoshop CS3 and various fonts and clipart found on the web.
StarTrek: Date Night Instructions
Tea. Earl Grey. Hot (Custom Envelope for Tea Bags – Earl Grey Envelope PDF for Print)
Star Fleet Popcorn (Custom Wrapper/Label – StarFleet Popcorn – PDF to Print)
Andorian Ale (Blue Soda!) – (Custom Wrapper/Label – Andorian Ale Label for Print)
StarTrek: TOS Drinking Game (StarTrek: TOS Drinking Game PDF for Print)
And I’m going to make a TOS episode selector . . . so far, not too many great ideas on how to accomplish that, but it WILL get done, even if it’s drawing names from a hat!
So my last post on groups in costuming kind of got posted by accident – I thought I had saved in as a draft and oooops, it published.
But I figured I’ll take some time and revise it, because I think that the thoughts included are at least a bit useful and legitimate.
I singled out three groups:
PPP – Pretty Pretty Princesses – Those who are single or ladies with partners/spouses that costume by themselves, and aren’t really involved in reenacting. Depending on the level of history involved, can look like an adult version of dress up.
FARF – Fantastically Able Reenacting Families – Those who reenact as a family and do historical costumes because they reenact.
FVLL – Fabulous Vintage Lifestyle Ladies – Those who rock the vintage lifestyle and image, with varying levels of commitment and authenticity.
Now, keep in mind that these are stereotypes. I’m not attempting to judge or be harsh towards you or anybody you know that might fit into one of these categories. Lots of people cross over between categories, and if I know you and you fit in between any or all of these categories, I pretty much guarantee I thought of you during this post.
I guess this becomes a pertinent topic in my mind because the blogging world tends to run in little circles that cross over into other circles every so often. It’s a giant, interconnected web. I enjoy a lot of aspects of it, but am realizing that every circle has certain faults and flaws. I also find it very interesting that certain groups tend to come from the same slices of society as others in their group. Something about reenacting draws more conservative people with families. Something about hobbyist costuming draws more single, liberal ladies. Something about the vintage lifestyle draws younger, hipster, and offbeat ladies.
Not that any of these groups only draws those sort of people. But sometimes I wonder why each slice of the hobby is interesting to those who participate in it. What is attractive in these lifestyles? What is important to these people? What does their hobby show about their goals and priorities in life? What my participation in any of these groups say about my priorities and goals?
I’m not comfortable putting myself into any of these groups right now. I love aspects of every one of them. I have volunteered at Fort Nisqually and run my own independent living history events. I love vintage clothing and will be working for a vintage shop doing repairs to garments this summer. I’ve also done my fair share of costuming not connected to reenacting or theater, but just for fun. Individuals who I might categorize into one or more of the groups have given me great assistance and advice on my way to becoming the costumer/seamstress I am now.
I feel tension right now in my life. I don’t have a community that I can identify with when it comes to hobbies, or work, or school. I am very used to having at least some sort of identity in hobbies or work or school. I am finding myself in the middle of redefinition – from single to married, from student to graduate, from theater costumer to . . . I don’t know.
I love vintage clothes, but I also love my classic PNW clothes – down puffer jacket, Patagonia skirts and pants, Chacos, workout tops, Keens and tall fuzzy wool socks. It’s definitely polar opposite from the vintage look I also love. I love sewing and go crazy if I’m not creating, but I also realize that I need balance in my life – I need to spend time with Rik, and my family, and his family, and all of that.
When it comes down to it, I think I know where this tension exists.
My identity is not in my hobbies. It’s not in how I dress. It’s not in what blogs I read or what costumes I make or how I make them. Ultimately, my identity is in Christ. I know who I am and who I need to be. I’m first in Christ. Then I am a fiancee/wife. Then I am a family member. I am a life long student and learner. Then I can work out the little bits of hobby after that, and how it applies to my life.
But I need to let first things be first. And let myself be myself. And let my highest identity be where it really belongs.
For my future sister and brother in law’s wedding (because my fiance’s two sisters are BOTH getting married this summer), I decided it’d be really fun to go with a set of date night kits/boxes.
The ground rules:
– It has to be inexpensive. My most expensive box is going to cost about $30, and that was just because ThinkGeek just HAPPENED to have a killer sale and I couldn’t pass it up, could I?
– It has to reflect them as a couple, and be something they’d both enjoy.
– It’s great if it’s geeky and has a theme.
– It needs to have at least one non-disposable item in it for each of them.
I’m going to do a series of posts as I make these of everything that goes into them, and hopefully pictures of the completed kits.
Here’s what I’m working on so far:
– StarTrek: Date Night!
– Hot and Steamy: Date for a summer night without AC
– Coffee and Tea: Lazy Saturday morning
– Firefly: Best Date in the ‘Verse
– Picnic: Inside Edition
– StarWars: Return of the Date
First up . . . Star Trek!