Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Pattie's Day

Hello again. Big day for us today. First off, it's St. Patrick's Day. Second, it's the first home match for our MLS club, Sounders FC. Chrissie and I are season ticket holders and enthusiastic Sounders fans. If you'll forgive my brief aside, I would highly encourage everyone to go to a soccer game in person. Watching it on television really doesn't do it justice. Going to a game in person really is a lot of fun.

Anyway, in honor of St. Pattie's Day, we made an Irish Stew from a friend's blog. You can find the recipe here. Now, I've never had much luck with Crock Pots, but a lot of people swear by them, so I keep trying to find recipes that work for me. I did not successfully execute this recipe. Instead of cooking the stew on the low setting, I cooked it on the high setting (for the entire time). Now, I did this intentionally. I've cooked Crock Pot recipes in the past where I was told to cook something on the low setting only to come back to find that my dish did not cook at all. So, I've come to interpret "cook on low" to "cook on high." Not the case here. The author really means cook on low.

Not all was lost though. The dish was very forgiving and instead of a stew, we ended up with something more like a hash and it was still tasty. Here's a picture of the final results:

Not too bad looking either.

Chrissie and I are looking forward to entertaining you all with stories of our outside adventures soon. We just have to wait for the weather to let up. It's been precipitating in one form or another every day for the past two weeks, so as soon as things dry out, we'll be out there digging in the dirt again. Until next time!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Willow

I've loved willow trees since I was young. The giant weeping willows in the park were just so grandiose. They're the kind of presence that makes even a little kid sit up and recognize that maybe the world is a little bigger and a little older than they are.

Our yard is far too small for a giant lake-side weeping willow, but when it dawned on me that there was any potential for me to finally have a willow of my own (as a part of our backyard rehabilitation project) I became a girl on a mission. So, naturally, I turned to google.

My first search was for dwarf willow trees. They are lovely, but I was semi-shocked that any willow tree existed that would reach a maximum height of 1 - 6 centimeters. A 1 centimeter tree? Really? Helo would destroy that before it even hit the ground.

Then I did some reading that suggested that some willows can be maintained as relatively small trees with diligent pruning. That sounded more like it.

I found a picture of a beautiful golden curls willow and headed to the nursery.

As luck would have it, they didn't have my type of willow tree. For a while, it appeared the only willow they had was a pussy willow. Not quite was I was looking for. Happily, the staff came to the rescue and guided Aaron and I to a cousin of my beloved golden willow - the scarlet curls willow tree. The difference? In the winter, we'll have gorgeous red branches. Double win!

So, as you can see above, I am now the happy owner of a newly planted scarlet curls willow. Anyone want to suggest names for my new friend?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Chili, REAL Chili

I made some chili this week for the first time. It was an amalgamation of recipes and stuff I had picked up. Not much else to say except that it was pretty tasty, and now, I share it with you.

2 Tbsp butter
2 medium onions, sliced (if you want them smaller, dice them)
1 lb ground beef
A 20 ounce can of tomatoes
2 ounces of tomato paste
1/3 cup of beer or ale
1 tsp of salt
A dash of tobasco
1-2 Tbsp of chili powder

Mix & Match ingredients below to your taste. I used them all in these ratios.
1 fresh or dried chili, seeded, stemmed, and minced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground oregeno
A dash of cinnamon

Here's a picture of the motley crew:

Things you'll note - no beans. I am told that real chili doesn't have beans in it. I decided to try it this way for my first time. I've had chili both ways and have enjoyed them both. If you want beans, use them. Not being a purist, I won't look down on you. I believe 2 cups of beans equivalates to 1 pound of meat. You'll have to figure the rest out on your own though. In the spirit of full disclosure though, I like the all-meat version better.

The rice cooker in the background is cooking long grain rice. I served the chili over it. For those of you who don't know, rice cookers can cook any type of rice. Each rice cooker is a little different. They all require slightly different amounts of water to get the rice just right. You'll have to experiment with yours to find out how much to put in exactly. My rice cooker is made by Zojirushi and my experience with it, and other Asian brands, has been to use slightly less water than what the rice maker calls for. Oh, another helpful tip - rinse the rice before cooking. That eliminates all the dust in there with it. You can't see it until you add water, then you'll see the water get cloudy. I rinse my rice twice before cooking. It doesn't eliminate all of the dust, but I don't think you ever will. Your rice will taste much better.


Melt butter in a large pan or pot over medium heat. After it gets hot, saute the onion until it is tender, but not brown. Then add the meat. Break up the meat with a fork. After the meat has browned, add in everything else. Turn the heat to low, cover your pot, and cook at a simmer for an hour. Here's another picture!

After that, it's ready to serve. Easy-peasy! Here's a picture of the final product.

I hope you all enjoy this. If you know of other chili recipes out there, I would love to hear about them and incorporate them into my recipe. Anyway, happy eating!