Saturday, March 24

tasty chicken soup

[Not Tasty soup. Tasty is doing just fine as the prima donna only chicken.]

Goal: A (new to me) Chicken Soup.

I make chicken soup a lot. We like chicken soup. Franz finally caught the cold that Zach and I are mostly recovered from. Franz wanted chicken soup. I'm bored of my usual soups and wanted to experiment. I had a hankering for something lemony. Inspired by ingredients on hand and whatever caught my eye at the store, I searched the internet and found a couple recipes that inspired me, then I concocted the following.

chicken thighs: boneless, skinless, package of 6
1/3 c kosher salt
1 T brown sugar
1 to 2 bay leaves (preferably fresh)
1 T olive oil
1 shallot chopped fine
1 bunch green onions chopped fine
3 carrots diced
1 bunch red swiss chard stems and leaves chopped separately
1 bunch cilantro finely chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh or preservative-free organic bottled juice)
chicken stock (1 32 ounce box Imagine Organic chicken broth)
1 cup orzo uncooked
salt and pepper to taste

early in day

Brine the Chicken: combine 1 cup water, 1/3 cup kosher salt and 1 T brown sugar in saucepan, bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat, add several cups of cold water, add the chicken thighs and more water to cover as necessary. Cover pan and put in fridge.

2 hours before dinner

remove saucepan with chicken from fridge. Drain the brine, add fresh water and drain a couple times to rinse chicken, replace with just enough fresh water to cover chicken and add bay leaves. Poach chicken on low heat.

Heat soup pot, add olive oil. Saute shallot and green onions til soft. Add carrots and saute a few more minutes. Add chicken broth, lemon juice and the partially poached chicken along with the poaching water and bay leaves. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes

Meanwhile, clean swiss chard, separate stems from leaves. Chop stems into quarter inch long units and add to simmering soup. Chop leaves finely and reserve. Chop cilantro finely and add to reserved chard leaves.

Remove chicken from soup to cut into soup-sized pieces. My method is irregular. While holding chicken piece over soup pot with tongs, I use kitchen shears to cut it into smaller pieces which drop right back into soup. afterwards, shears and tongs go directly into the dishwasher and there's no cutting board to clean.

About half hour before dinner, wash out the now empty medium saucepan used to brine and poach the chicken. Add 4 to 6 cups fresh water with a dash of salt and put on stove to heat to a boil. When it boils, add orzo, boil 5 minutes. Drain. add partially cooked orzo to soup along with the chard leaves and cilantro. [my package of orzo did not state how long it took to cook. I knew I wanted to precook it separately to avoid the soup getting too starchy. Five minutes of boiling separately was fine to get it mostly cooked.]

Simmer a few more minutes to cook the chard and cilantro and finish cooking the orzo. Add salt and pepper to taste and more lemon juice if desired.


result: I thought it was terrific, just what I was looking for. Franz wasn't expecting and didn't love the lemony taste, but he still ate two big bowl-fulls. Zach and I also each had two servings and there's enough for a couple lunch-sized servings left over.

some knitting content

Vintage undyed Bawneen became this:

Inspired by Vicki's Fibonacci Sweater, I wanted a boxy, deep V neck cardigan.

Knit in the round using Elizabeth Zimmerman Percentage Formula.
  • provisional cast-on 160 stitches. worked body upwards til decided to start V neck. Steek planned for end of round where colors change
  • Body worked on US9 addi circulars at 4 stitches/6 rows per inch
  • V neck created by decreasing on stitch at each side of steek every 6th row.
  • at underarms, put 12 stitches on holder and provisionally cast-on 40 stitches
  • worked the usual raglan decreases til done
  • reinforced steek using crochet method
  • cut steek
  • picked up the live stitches at the bottom, worked K1p1 ribbing back and forth on US7 addi circular needle
  • picked up button-band/collar on US7 addis, worked 6 ridges of garter stitch including three buttonholes.
Now I am working the sleeves on DPNs top-down. I was too impatient to finish the body and see if it was actually going to fit. As kmkat noted, changing direction using a provisional cast-on does shift the stitches a half-stitch. I swatched to make sure this wasn't a problem, and sure enough, given the stockinette stitch and the rustic nature of the wool, this is not noticeable.

Sunday, March 11

Catching Up

Greetings from the family room.

I usually blog, surf the net, read the news, correspond with family and friends from my computer, situated in a sunny corner of the kitchen. Centrally located, it allows me to monitor meal preparation and offers easy access to the coffee pot. But the wooden chair is not super comfortable. Zach was given an old computer sans peripherals which he set up using our TV as the monitor. I hijacked it for the morning so I could blog in the comfort of a beanbag chair.

Time for some random catching up. Let's get the hard part over first. The sad part. Elaine, maybe you should stop reading now, ok?

My chickens. I haven't really blogged about the chickens in a long while. Well, recall that Amelia had gotten sick, was getting better but moulted and the other girls were picking on her? Well, we may have underestimated how much she was picked on until it was too late. She started escaping from the yard so we sent her to a friend's coop to see if she'd be happier. Alas, she started escaping from their yard and the third time she escaped, she was gone for good. We searched all the neighboring yards, but no signs of anything. We suspect coyotes.

The four remaining birds were doing fine, handled the cold and wet winter fairly well, but alas, more predation a couple weeks ago. Something came into the yard and ate three of them. This time, the carnage was obvious. Sigh. We suspect raccoons. Annie and Lucy were laid to rest in Nancy's pet cemetery aka side yard, and Orpie met her end at a separate event and is at peace in our yard, not far from gerbils Vivek and Rollie.

Tasty has surprised us all and so far avoided the same fate. She has also learned how to get out of the backyard, but not so much escaping as exploring. Fortunately the neighbors are all pretty cool about it, except for one neighbor's downstairs tenant who claims that Tasty scares her cat. They have a bird feeder situated in a tree about 10 feet from the entrance to her garden apartment. And of course right below the feeder is a great spot for Tasty to collect all the dropped food. When Tasty is over there enjoying a snack, her poor cat is too freaked out to come home. Tenant knocks on my door and I grab the tupperware of corn I keep in the fridge and coax Tasty home.

Chickens get lonely and need to be in flocks. (However they also are mean to each other; pecking order is not just a metaphor. go figure) For Tasty's long term health, we've had a note posted in an urban chicken newsletter offering her up for adoption. No takers yet though.

On to other topics.

The Nerd's application to Transition School, an early entrance program at the University of Washington, is in and being considered. We will find out this week whether he advances to the next stage and be invited to an interview. I have no idea what the likelihood of that and they interview about40 candidates for 16 slots, so the odds are still low. His grades and scores are mostly good. His ACT scores are respectable for a 13 year old, but are perhaps not high enough for Transition School. But he is in his first of two years of eligibility so there's a good chance they will say try again next year. That wouldn't be the end of the world, as we've been able to have him skip 8th grade next year so he will be in high school in the fall.

I've got a cold, my throat hurts, my head hurts. It's not too bad though, I've been able to listen to archived This American Life podcasts and knit. Franz offered to make me soup, but I made his volunteer efforts easier by having a craving for Chicken Tom Ka Gai from Marlai Thai. It hit the spot.

I've been knitting way too many projects, for my sake more than others, I will list them below in no particular order. I don't really mind knitting on multiple projects at once, because they all have different size needles --- easier on my hands to switch around --- and they require different levels of concentration.

  • Franz's Cambridge Jacket. while exploring the possibility of reknitting the sleeves, I decided to unseam the sleeve caps and see if reseaming them will help. I suspect it will. Current state: One sleeve is about 5/6th unseamed.
  • Ribbi Cardi. All done except one sleeve. I have started the sleeve but haven't gotten far. The stumbling block is that knitting the sleeve done entirely in k2p2 rib is tiresome and the increases look sloppy, although I have tried many variants on Make1. I'll finish eventually though. If I ever do something like this again, I think I might knit the sleeve cap using a provisional cast on, then pick up the stitches on the bottom and knit the sleeve proper using decreases instead of increases. Can't help but think it would be tidier.
  • Moebius shoulder bag ala Cat Bordhi. Her Moebius Cast-on is fascinatingly clever. The felted bags are constructed by knitting the shoulder strap as a moebius strip with an after-thought opening for the bag. I have almost finished the shoulder strap, using Lamb's Pride bulky. It has an i-cord bind off which is really really slow, given that I had about320 stitches to bind off. I have less than 100 stitches to go. I think the bag part of this will be a fast knit.
  • Tartan Plaid. Yup, the reason I have so much Lamb's Pride lying around ready for a felted bag is because of choosing colors for this jacket. I haven't abandoned it for good, but am unsure about its potential as a wearable FO. I love this jacket, I covet this jacket. I have the back and one front completed and one sleeve halfway finished. They look great. But I am worried that seaming is going to look like crap. The pattern has no specific instructions for how to seam the slip stitch pattern and I just can't see how it can be done in a tidy fashion given the bulkiness of the fabric. I plan to purchase some Lambs Pride worsted in the appropriate color for the seaming. I figure my next step will be to procure this yarn and practice seaming the pieces I have finished. If I can make it look good enough, that will encourage me to finish.
  • Pippa/EZ hybrid. Using my hand-dyed Aurora 6 which is very similar to DB Baby Cashmerino (the recommended yarn for Pippa) but is 100% wool, I've started a pullover using EZ's percentage system and the mock rib detailing from Pippa. Knit in the round from the bottom up, it will probably become a raglan crew neck. Coolest thing about it is the tubular cast-on k1p1 ribbing along the bottom.
  • Vintage bawneen cardigan. I dyed most of the rest of the vintage bawneen in semi-solids and started a striped cardigan. Knit in the round I will steek it where the colors change. I'm sort of copying a store-bought acrylic V-neck cardigan that I have had for years and always (inexplicably) get lots of compliments when I wear it. Seriously, I keep almost throwing it into the Goodwill bag, then every once in a while I find everything else in the laundry so I wear it and everyone notices and says how nice it is.
  • Micro Clapotis. Inspired by Erika's micro clapotis scarf, I started one myself. This is a portable project being knit on bamboo straight needles, which make it a quiet knit --- good for knitting in public during a talk or concert.
That's about it. A few random things in the closet go unmentioned, a Dulaan hat, a warshrag. And the log cabin which is a long term project, I knit on it occasionally when I want completely mindless garter stitch for TV watching. But I don't feel any anxiety about finishing it.

Friday, March 9

Out of the mouths of teens

My kid just complimented me (I think) by saying that I ought to write a book, because I have a "coherent philosophy of life."

This happened just after he was rummaging through the fridge for a snack and whined that we were out of jam and I said "Yeah, life's a bitch. Deal."

Tuesday, March 6

Cashmere keeps us warm

Our thirst for cheap cashmere combined with China's desire to participate in world economy has resulted in an overpopulation of goats turning millions of acres of grassland into a dustbowl.

Not only is the resulting pollution spread worldwide, evidence suggests that pollution from Asia blowing across the Pacific Ocean is changing weather patterns along the West coast of North America, intensifying storms and carrying warmer air to the Arctic.