Thursday, December 31, 2009

Recipe 911

This morning I received the following email:

Subject: Your chili Recipe we had at your House

Please send recipe

Bonnie has mentioned several times
So I better make it

Love Dad

Dear Dad,
Here's what I did:

Little Hunting Creek White Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 pounds(approx) boneless skinless chicken thighs (I used a bag from Trader Joes)
Cut into chunks, fat removed
4 cups chicken broth (I used whole quart of chicken broth in box)
1 small can chopped green chiles
2 cans white beans
1 teaspoon dried oregano or to taste
2 teaspoons chili powder or to taste (I used Penzeys chili powder)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
salt, pepper

First I chopped the onions and gently sauteed them in the olive oil on medium heat. Don't let them burn, we just want them soft. While they were softening I cut up all of the chicken thighs into bite size pieces.
Then when the onions were soft(about 15 minutes or so) I added the chicken thighs and garlic, and then the chopped green chiles. Stir that, let them cook a few minutes so that they don't look raw and then add your herbs and spices, salt, pepper etc. Add chicken broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Then add the two cans of drained white beans. I used cannellini beans, because that's what I had.
Simmer, taste and see if it needs more salt, pepper , or chili powder. Some people like it spicier, some don't. Chef's choice.
Then at the end, I mix a couple teaspoons of cornstarch with chicken broth , or beer or water (depending on what I have and my mood) and drizzle that into the simmering chili until slightly thickened. Taste again, just to make sure. This is the best part of being the chef.

We topped with fresh chopped tomatoes, grated jack cheese and chopped green onions.

Serve with tortillas, bread or corn bread. Leftovers are good on top of hot dogs or wrapped in a tortilla as a burrito.

Happy New Year!
Mrs. Hunting Creek

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Soup for Supper

There comes a time every holiday season when I just can't eat another French Truffle. No more Brie, no St. Andre Triple Cream cheese, no rib roast, no cake or pie. I just can't take another bite. That's the time when we make soup. It is super cold this week, and cold weather gives me soup cravings. In our household soup is a forbidden fruit: our daughter actively dislikes soup, and complains loudly whenever we have it. So Mr. Hunting Creek and I have to plan our soup for when she is not eating with us. This gives our soup suppers an appealing air of intrigue. Very seldom has bean soup been seen as a controlled substance, but around here, we have to sneak it.
I usually keep a package of dried beans on hand for soup purposes. You never know when you'll be able to make it! I did the quick soak method, (cover beans with cold water, bring to a boil, let sit for an this case a couple hours, because I forgot about them, but no matter). Now I'm not going to nag you about this, but whenever I cook dried beans, half of the time I sort through and find a teeny tiny rock or dirt clod. I always rinse them off and then proceed with soaking.

Here's how Mr. Hunting Creek and I made our:

Forbidden Bean Soup

1 lb. navy beans, sorted and soaked
3 tablespoons olive oil (or you could use butter, or vegetable oil.)
3 chopped onions
about half a cup of chopped celery (if you don't have any you could leave it out)
4 chopped carrots
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
8 cups of water
1 ham bone with some meat on it, or a couple ham hocks
1 teaspoon thyme (or your favorite soup herb - maybe oregano or marjoram would be nice here)
A Bay leaf is nice if you have one

(We baked a ham last week, since I wanted to make a big batch of ham salad for my sister for a present She loves ham salad. (I also made a loaf of bread and gave them both to her for Christmas. she was delighted). So I had a ham bone available. If you have a ham bone but don't feel like making soup, zip it in a plastic bag and stash it in the freezer for later, when you have time.)

In a large pan, saute your onions, celery, carrots in the oil until soft. About 15 minutes - then add the garlic, drained beans, water, ham bone, and thyme and bay leaf. Don't add salt yet.
Simmer for about two or three hours, or until beans are cooked. You will keep an eye on it and stir occasionally. I don't know if this does anything, but it make me feel better. Sometimes I add a little more water. After the two/three hours, when the beans are cooked, take the ham bone out, let it cool off, then cut off the meat and put the meat back in. Add salt and pepper to taste. Normally Virginia ham is so salty already that the soup doesn't need much more. I like it peppery, so I always add pepper. Serve with bread and salad.

I made popovers to go with our soup. I had never made them before, but I read about popovers on the King Arthur Flour baking blog, so I wanted to make them. I followed instructions and they came out perfectly on the first try. Mr. Hunting Creek was very impressed. I think he ate four of them. Then I had a clementine for dessert; Mr. Hunting Creek had cookies and ice cream.
I'd have soup every night if I could, but these darn kids won't let me (but they will go out with friends on New Year's Eve, so maybe I can sneak some more in!)

Is it time to make soup at your house?

Sunday, December 27, 2009


The period between Christmas and New Year's, (sort's really about eleven days) is what my mother always said was the epact. This period is the excess of days between the solar and the lunar year.
It always feels like filling time at work. You don't really feel like starting a new project. I clean out my desk, my email, start new files and delete old ones. It's an epact at work too. The New Year starts next week and mentally we all go back to work then. But in the mean time, we're all in the epact.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

p.s. the hot pad pictured is adapted from the pattern in Quilting Arts Gifts 2009.
Of course I used their idea, but did my own thing. I like to think is because I am so creative, but in fact I just may be incapable of following other people's directions. The nice thing about sewing/cooking/all creative endeavors is that there are hundreds of ways to do stuff and all of them are right.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Photo Gift Tags

Here is a last minute holiday idea for you. I made these cute Holiday Photo Gift tags with a free template from HP. You can too; just go to HP's website. They took less than a minute to make and they are so cute! You could customize with the picture of the recipient or a theme to give a can use your own photos so the sky's the limit.
Merry Gift Tags!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

White Christmas

It started snowing last night and shows no signs of stopping. Bob Ryan says we might get two feet. For the Washington DC area, that might as well be ten feet - people are seriously snow averse here. The stores are sold out of sliced bread, sandwich meat, potato chips and toilet paper. Do people here only eat cold sandwiches during snow storms? Being a California girl, I sometimes still do not understand the East Coast Mind. What's with the potato chips and cold cuts?
Chez Hunting Creek, we'll make soup and homemade rolls and salad, and watch football while we wrap presents. I might even sew some last minute gifties.
I feel sorry for the stores though. This is a big shopping weekend for them and now no one can get out on the East Coast to go shopping!
Is all of your shopping done? Mine sure isn't.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah to all!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Streusel-topped Cranberry Muffins

Admit probably have leftover cranberry sauce or relish lurking in your fridge right now. Cranberry sauce is not exactly the condiment of a thousand uses in most kitchens. My son puts it on his turkey sandwiches. But other than that it gets neglected for a while until you notice that it has gotten some strange furry mold on it, and then it gets thrown away. I had some leftover cranberry relish, the kind that is raw cranberries chopped up with a whole orange and some sugar. Delicious with turkey, great on turkey sandwiches, but I had about a cup left. I was brought up believing that it was a sin to waste food, and even if you don't believe that, it is a waste of money. When I woke up this morning I knew I was making these muffins, and the recipe details popped right in my head like a revelation.
My daughter said that they were the BEST muffins EVER.
Do you adapt recipes? I do it all the time. It is just like changing a pattern only you get to eat the results, which most of the time are delicious.
I adapted these from the Walnut-Strawberry Quick Bread recipe in my copy of the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.You can turn quick bread recipes into muffins easily - just put the batter in muffin tins and shorten the baking time accordingly.

Streusel Topped Cranberry Muffins
first make your streusel topping (see below)
Preheat your oven to 350

Streusel topping- this will make EXTRA - enough for two batches of muffins, or a 9x13 coffee cake. I always have some in my fridge for streusel emergencies.
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but nice)
In a medium sized mixing bowl mix all the dry ingredients together. Melt the butter, (I melt it in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave) and add the extracts to the melted butter and then pour this into the dry stuff and blend with a whisk or fork until it gets blended into crumbs. (Don't eat it all! Save some for your muffins. It's tasty.)

Muffin batter:
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans, but chopped almonds or walnuts would work too)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (cinnamon would be nice too)
2 large eggs
1 cup cranberry relish (the kind that is raw cranberries chopped with sugar and an orange)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a mixing bowl, blend the dry ingredients together, then whisk in the eggs, oil, applesauce, cranberry relish, vanilla etc. If you don't have vanilla, you could use rum instead or just leave it out.

Scoop into muffin tins (I line mine with muffin papers) top with the streusel and bake for about 22 minutes.

Any muffins that don't get eaten will freeze nicely and be great for breakfast later in the week.
These were awesome with our coffee this morning, and equally good later in the afternoon with a glass of cold milk.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Just Say No

Sometimes Mrs. Hunting Creek has to put her foot down and say NO.
No I do not want to develop a sloper for someone else. No I do not want to teach you how to quilt. As Christina said so eloquently a few months ago: "Hem your own damn pants."
I could not have said it better myself.
Others who say it better include the Selfish Seamstress, who inspires me to stop being so nice to people. What IS it with people who think just because I like to sew, that must mean that I would love to spend my precious leisure hours working in their sweatshop...I mean...sewing room?
This is not to say that I do not sew for others. I do. I make all kinds of gifts for other people. But I get to decide what I make. I will not make your curtains, ten identical placemats or maternity clothes.
Things I hate to sew:
Someone else's ripped pants, tears, someone else's buttons, worn out old pajamas, and hemming men's pants.(you know guys, they come sold already hemmed with certain lengths. If they don't have your magic number, don't assume I'll fix them up for you.)
There. I feel better now.
What do you hate to sew?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beginning to feel a lot like...

What do Grinches do when they are having trouble getting in the Holiday spirit?
They decorate! To the left you see a teeny tiny tree, for which I made a teeny tiny tree skirt. I made this tiny tree skirt by setting the lid to my All-Clad Saute pan on top of the red fabric and drawing the circle with tailor's chalk. I cut it out, folded it in quarters and cut out the inside circle so that the tree base would fit inside. I carefully measured by setting the little tree in top and eyeballing it. Then I did a satin stitch all around the edges and my mini tree skirt was done. Add tiny presents! "Do you think we can get away with this as the Christmas tree?". I asked Mr. Grinch, hopefully. "Nope", he said."You're dreaming."
I needed more Christmas spririt. Act the way you want to feel, right? So I made a Christmas stocking. Stockings are small and fast and fun to design, plus they make great gifts. This one is inspired by the stocking shown in Fast, Fun and Easy Christmas Stockings in the gallery. No instructions are given for this one, but that sort of thing doesn't faze Mrs. Hunting Creek. We don't need no stinking instructions, as my mom would say.

The little stocking is removeable, and hanging from the mantelpiece on the stocking. The Big stocking is hanging from my mantelpiece. Very meta, my son said.
The cardinal bird was my own genius addition to the design.
This sent the Holiday Spiritometer up only a notch. Clearly I would have to design my own stocking.

So I thought about doves, stars, snowflakes and the Holy Spirit, and came up with this one:

To make the doves, I traced a dove from last years Quilting Arts Gifts magazine issue. They had a dove tracing that was just what I had in mind, in the gift bag article. Well, I would repurpose their dove. Then I cut out the traced dove and then with the dove shaped hole in my tissue paper, gently penciled a dove on my white fabric. Then I cut out the two doves, but they were kind of plain, so I did a rubbing on them with a gold paintstick and the curves rubbing plate(but ONLY on the dove). I glued them to the fabric with an Elmer's glue stick and then when I liked the placement I zigzagged them on with gold thread. (Elmer's Gluestick is my secret weapon for applique. You could also use Steam A seam or Wonder Under. I like Elmer's for non-clothing applications.) I stood back and admired and then decided the blue fabric with gold stars needed more... I decided to stencil on some snowflakes with the silver paintstik.
Have you ever done a paintstik stencil? I never had before. I looked up the procedure in my copy of Paintstiks on Fabric, which tells you everything you need to know and then some about using paintstiks. The stencils are a nice weight of plastic, not too thin. I held them tight to the fabric with a little painter's tape. Scotch tape works too. Whatever you have so that the stencil does not move while you are painting. Then I used a little stencil brush to color in the stencil and when I was done I lifted it up and was careful not to smear it when I did the additional snowflakes by setting some wax paper over the finished ones.
Then I left the body of the stocking to dry for 24 hours and did the snowflakes on the cuff with my new sapphire blue paintstik. It's a beautiful dark iridescent blue that matched my fabric. Tonight I'll sew the stocking together and hang up and admire. I especially like how the dove at the top(done with just paintstiks to indicate a spirit dove) came out.
If you have never used the paintstiks before, I have to tell you that they are super fun and it is only because my family made me stop that we don't have multicolored (every color!) snowflakes all over the whole house. I can hardly wait to try the leaf stencils. Maybe I'll make a table runner...

Sometimes to break a creative slump it helps to do something totally different from your usual pursuits. I am thinking now of all kinds of fun and creative paintstik applications.
Here are some ideas:
A silk wrap with stenciled leaves or snowflakes or other designs, or rubbings
A table runner
painstiked appliques along the bottom of a skirt
On the bottom or pockets of jeans
On T shirt fabric for a custom design
I'm sure you could add more to my list.

Have you done anything fun lately to break a creative slump? Sometimes I think we don't let ourselves have enough fun. Maybe that should be my 2010 resolution: have more fun.