January 31, 2013

Winter Comfort Food

ScriptOk. Not the best photo. I do what I can with the TOTAL LACK OF GOOD LIGHT these days. Don’t see this a pile of yellow gobbledygook on a plate. See it instead as sunny, golden goodness, infused with a fluffy, biscuity, chickeny melting of happiness on a plate. THAT’S what you need to be seeing, because that’s what it is.

_DSC0043This is a recipe that I found originally in my beloved and sadly departed Cookie magazine, which I talk about all the time. IT WAS SUCH A GOOD MAGAZINE.

_DSC0030My mother used to make chicken and dumplings when I was little and I thought it was greatest thing I had ever had in my life. I don’t have her recipe written down, but her liquid was cream based and her ‘dumplings’ were like flat, chewy, thick noodles, which I’ve since discovered comes from Pennsylvanian Dutch recipes for chicken and dumplings.

_DSC0031That there what you’re seeing up above is THYME. It is a magical ingredient. Thyme is now my favorite herb, I’ve decided.

When I first came across the Cookie magazine recipe, my first reaction was “Oh. That looks plain. And NOT LIKE MY MOM’S.”

But I made it anyway.

_DSC0033And…not only do I like better than my mom’s, it is FAR AND AWAY one of the best recipes I’ve ever made in my life.

Gonna repeat. ONE OF THE BEST THINGS I’VE EVER MADE. It really, really is. I have a thyme plant, so I can snip my own thyme. But if I didn’t, I’d go seek out some fresh thyme. I’ve never made this with dried thyme, so I can’t weigh in on whether or not that makes a difference. You could prolly use dried thyme and it would still taste awesome.

_DSC0034Seasoned flour.

_DSC0035Bay leaves. (I am so helpful.)

_DSC0046The Cookie mag version has you making biscuits that are cooked in the braising liquid and they soak up chicken stock juice as they cook. THEY ARE UNBELIEVABLE.

Not gonna lie. There are some steps to this recipe. You gotta chop and and prep the veggies. But if you do that, and assemble things ahead of time, you can make this on a weeknight. Or make it when you have more time on the weekend.

I was so terrified of losing this recipe that I had it well hidden for awhile, and then I couldn’t find it and freaked out. I hid it too well. But it’s floating around in internet land, and now that I’m putting it all down here, I don’t have to be so crazed about holding onto that torn out sheet of magazine from whence it came. THAT’S A RELIEF.

Friends, this is a GIFT I am giving to you! I want you to know. I hope you appreciate. It is so so so so good.

Cookie Magazine Chicken and Dumplings

For the Soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3lb chicken, cut up (i use all thighs)
1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
1 medium yellow onion, cut into large chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into large chunks
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme (i use more like 3, or maybe 4. I like thyme)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

For the Dumplings:
1 and 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 3/4 cups heavy cream

1) In a wide, heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, heat the olive oil. 2) Dredge the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, then brown them in the oil over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes a side. Remove and set aside. 3) Add the onion to the pot and cook for 2 minutes. 4) Add the carrots, celery, bay leaf, thyme, turmeric, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute more. 5) Stir in the broth. 6) Return the chicken (and juices) to the pot, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

7) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the first 5 dumpling ingredients. 8) Add the cream and mix until just combined. 9) Drop about 12 heaping tablespoons of dumpling mixture into the pot. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes more. 10) To serve, scoop the dumplings and chicken into bowls, and then cover with broth. Garnish with parsley. (I have never done this ever.)

(Already used this photo in another post, but here it is again.)

This recipe might maybe (probably not) make winter more bearable. But at least if the weather is making you miserable, your tummy can be happy. CUZ YUMMY FOOD MAKES IT ALL BETTER.

January 30, 2013

Chinese New Year Books! And a Rad Dragon.

It's almost time for Happy Chinese New Year! I love Happy Chinese New Year. I love it so much more than non-Chinese New Year. There is RED! There are lucky coins! There are noodles! There are superstitions! (don't wash or cut your hair, yo!)

There are DRAGONS.

Andrew would like you to know that he drew that SWEET DRAGON, and also designed the awesome lens flare, AND THEN chose to write the little greeting in Papyrus font, the bane of web designers everywhere. YOU'RE WELCOME. He's so happy with himself, you have no idea. He wishes that we could have added sound effects too, and had really loud rock music blaring because "That dragon is so metal."

This year, the Chinese lunar new year is on Sunday, February 10. Year of the Snake, that's my husband's Chinese astrological sign. I'm a Rooster and Julia is a dog. (she's bummed about that, she wants to be a dragon or a tiger.) I've made a Happy Chinese New Year list of extremely fun books for you and your kidlets to read. So enjoy a story, make a dragon, eat some dumplings and have yourself a GUNG HAY FAT CHOY time.

1) 'Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats' by Nina Simonds and Meilo So. 2) 'Happy, Happy Chinese New Year' by Demi. 3) 'The Year of the Snake' by Oliver Chin and Jennifer Wood.

4) 'The Dancing Dragon' by Marcia Vaughan and Stanley Wong Hoo Foom. 5) 'Chinese Children's Favorite Stories' by Mingmei Yip. 6) 'Long-Long's New Year' by Catherine Gower and He Zhihong.

Hope you enjoy! The 'Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats' books is on its way to us now; I've been coveting that one for ages. And today I'm off trying to find some of the others from the library.

Are you excited for Happy Chinese New Year like I am? Probably not like I am. But a little maybe? And more importantly, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT DRAGON???

January 29, 2013

Is it spring? It is not.

P1030949P1030952 (2)P1030953P1030954_DSC0005_DSC0013
We've gone from the freezing fog to the rain. I'm losing hope that it will snow this year, but Andrew reminded me that we're only really a month into winter. I was getting excited at the prospect of SPRING, but really, we're only 2/3rds into winter. Well....shoot.

Those bubble things on the spider web? ICE. Weird huh? I'm feeling oddly not chatty today. HOW BIZARRE. I will force myself. Do you like my picture wall? I like my picture wall. (I'm big on self-affirmation.) I wanted a picture wall every since I saw the picture wall in Amanda Peet's house, which was featured in Domino, back in the day. I WILL MISS DOMINO FOREVER. I'm such a junkie that I keep buying their new recycled whatever-it-is-not-quite-a-magazine-or-a-book publications, which aren't that great. Also, Cookie. It's been years, and I'm still not over it. Isn't that weird how much one can attach to a magazine?

I am however, excited about the trifecta of celebrations coming to our household soon, Happy Chinese New Year (that's what I call it, Happy Chinese New Year, the whole phrase, I also refer to it that way when I speak in real life.), Valentine's Day and Julia's birthday. And then my ma's birthday. Good GRAVY, then the crazy train ends for awhile until Easter. This year, because they are only 4 days apart, I will be celebrating Happy Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day together. I'm very excited to inflict that pain upon you all.

And that's all I got, loveys. I feel weird. In my MIND. Winter induced seasonal affective disorder is a-happenin! I went and got me some Vit B, some Vit D3 drops and some Floradix, have any of you tried that? I feel like some Vit B12 injections might be in order, have you ever tried that? I have been trying to get out and walk as much as possible but still, the tiredness, it has descended upon me and is not going away. It's been a difficult week for me and my kid, and I'm not sure if my mood is influencing her mood or vice versa, or both. I know I've got PMS. She's acting like she's got it too, but she's 6.

I also diagnosed myself with SCURVY, so I've been taking Ester-C.

I feel weirder after having written all of this. Have any of you been feeling weird? Let's feel weird together.

January 28, 2013

Nora's Stars

I love 'Nora's Stars'. I love love love love it. I think it might be a perfect book. I don't like to bandy that word around too often because it's filled with such....hubris...and expectation...and well, perfect is subjective. What's perfect for me may not be perfect for you.

But there is a small, rare circle of books that I've found in my life that are just perfect in their way. And this is one of them. Perfect in the sense that the writing, the art, the overall story and the mood all convene into a total package of the best kind of book escapism. When your mind and emotions are totally in synch with the story; you're not just reading the story, you're IN the story.

Some perfect children's books that have come into my life are 'Stuart Little', 'Mandy', 'A Little Princess', 'Ballet Shoes', 'The Dark is Rising' series, 'Finn Family Moomintroll' and 'Candian Wonder Tales'. These are books that I read and re-read and re-read and re-read. I like to re-read my books.

Picture books, those are trickier for me to recall and write down. I'm sure Julia would put 'Stuck' by Oliver Jeffers on her list. You have no idea how she loves that one. I would put 'Little Richard' and anything Gyo Fujikawa.  I really loved my Raggedy Ann books.

So why so much love for 'Nora's Stars' by Satomi Ichikawa? There is so much cool art out there, but hers rises to a special level of sheer prettiness, and I really like pretty things. Also, I like elements of the magical, and many of her stories involve magical toys. This book is mysterious, a bit otherworldly, beautiful and uplifting, and really makes me feel like I've entered a cloud of pink starry enchantment. Julia and I re-read this one A LOT. 

It's so darn pretty! And it reinforces a great message, which is this:

SHARE BEAUTY. Don't hoard it.

Do you have a perfect book? Share. Tell. Melissa wants to know.

January 25, 2013

Cool Stuff I Like

Hello friendsies! Well since it seems like the whole wide world is sick, this week's Cool List is all about natural ways to stay well. I'm a big big fan of Epsom Salt baths, have you tried those? We've had the craziest weather here of late ~ a solid week of freezing fog. Have you ever spent much time in freezing fog?? It's like the vapor and water droplets get into YOUR SOUL. And then stay there. So cold! I've been thinking fondly of pulling weeds in spring...and I never think fondly of pulling weeds. Hey, how did you like 'Downton' this week? I thought it was a good return to Season 1 greatness. Except I seriously have no idea what is happening with the prison storyline. I can't understand the accents. Why is he in trouble? Why is he now not in trouble? What's that stuff they keep hiding and finding? I have no idea. P.S. jenny's recaps just keep getting funnier....

COOL STUFF of the wellness variety:

Fab 5 Flu Buster (via The Local Rose, a blog with which I am IN LOVE).

Clove Coconut Tea.

Surviving Winter Guide.

Super C Juice.

How to Healthify Hot Chocolate!

Garden Cherry Kernel Hand Cleanser.

Golden Elixir.

Hot colds and cold colds?

Natura Lung and Bronchial Tonic. (I've used this to great effect on Julia. Always check with your doc about any and all supplements! #legaldisclaimer)

'Healthy in a Hurry' cookbook.

Detox Bath.

Cool Book of the Week: 'A Small Tall Tale From the Far Far North' by Peter Sis. YOU GUYS, this book is so cool! It really is! You seriously have to see this one. I've never seen a picture book like it, it's like a polar expedition map adventure set into book format. Author/illustrator Sis has taken the story of Arctic folk hero and explorer Jan Welzl and interwoven fact with fiction in a really intriguing fashion. There are drawings and maps that are to be used when reading the story. It's really really exciting and yet easy to understand, it feels like you're holding an undiscovered treasure map that also happens to be telling you a story. The pictures are AMAZING, conveying a sense of the cold and sheer vastness of the polar landscape.

Eskimos. Northern Lights. Magnetic mountains. Sled Runners. So much awesome.

Have a lovely weekend! Don't get sick! If you're sick, get better! 


January 24, 2013

Being a kid is fun. And funny.

January 23, 2013

Leftover Birthday

_DSC0025_DSC0004_DSC0029Here’s my cake! That I had for my birthday last week! I always make my own cake because I’m The Cake Maker in my family. I mentioned on Facebook (are you my friend on Facebook? Let’s be!) that I used this recipe for my cakey.

Weeeeeellllll, it was good. But not great. Not perfect. Mind you, I did not sift my flour like I was supposed to because I CAN’T BE BOTHERED. Nor did I use the sugar spray technique. I did wrap the layers in plastic wrap to trap in the moisture. But, but…I think my search for perfect yellow cake must continue. I’ve already found white cake perfection, as well as chocolate cake perfection.

But yellow cake is the holy grail of cakes that continues to elude me. The yellow cake cupcakes that I made from the Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook have come the closest.

Of course, I managed to eat my not-quite-perfectly-perfect cake down to the cake stand. Julia and I ate a slice every day until it was gone. That’s called COOPERATION.

And here are my presents. I like presents. I got some very excellent presents that I two-out-of-3 chose for myself and then my kind family went and got for me. And one of them Mr. Andrew dreamed up all on his own, I was very much impressed.

Present #1:
P1040001For years now, I’ve been wanting some kind of lockety thing or some kind of jewelry item that had the names or initials of my family on it or in it or something to that effect. I saw these initial charms and my mom was jolly enough to get them as my present from her. The ‘j’ looks like an ‘i’ kinda, but it’s a ‘j’. Jolly is my new word! I’m jolly well going to use it until you all can’t stand it anymore.

Present #2:
P1030983P1030980Andrew got me a sushi mat kit! We’re gonna make sushi! I’m so excited! He thought of it on his own! I have no idea how to make sushi! I will learn. And then use my most excellent chopsticks.

Present #3:
P1030987P1030990P1030991P1030995P1030993I GOT ME SOME RACKHAM, YO!! I looooove Arthur Rackham and I love fairy tales, and when I saw 'Fairy Tales from Many Lands' online I longed and yearned for it OH SO MUCH. I very helpfully pointed Andrew in the direction of a used copy. Used copies start around $13, which is a scorching deal! It's BEE-YOO-TEE-FULL!!!!!

Arthur Rackham is the best fairytale illustrator ever, in my opinion.

Now that my birthday is over and done, it's time to gear up for the next one: Julia. She's next month and I already feel way way behind on the getting-readiness of it all. Also there's Chinese New Year and Valentine's to deal with before her birthday. This year I might have to send out Chinese New Year Valentine cards.

January 22, 2013

Flu! Germs! Everyone Hide!

P1030960Because I like to get beneath rocks and live under them, and because I avoid the news as much as I possibly can, I didn’t realize until just last week that the flu was any kind of big deal this year. I had no idea. And then I kept seeing all these people saying they were sick on Facebook. And then my brother got the flu. And then I went online and had a good time at the CDC website.

P1030972P1030977Do you know this about me? That I’m totally obsessed with contagious disease, in addition to being paranoid about extreme weather? And that I’m a hypochondriac who likes to stick my fingers in my eyes, mouth, ears, and yes, the nose. Also, I’m more of a catcher than a resister. So if the super flu comes around someday (AND IT WILL), I’ll probably be out in the first wave.

P1030963I got my flu shot this year, as I’ve done every year since I got the flu really badly, and had a 102 fever and ended up buying a cat while I was delirious, who had the screechiest, awfullest, most nails-on-a-chalkboard Siamese voice you ever heard in your life.

Friends, don’t buy cats while you have the flu.

P1030965If you’d like to debate about whether it is good or bad to get flu shots, feel free to do so in the comments. I won’t debate you. But maybe someone else in the comments will debate you and that will be jolly fun for me to read. Just joking! (totally not joking)

P1030964People should do what makes them feel comfortable as far as flu shots go. Except people should NOT come around when they’re sick, like my brother tried to do. TRIED. My ma and I shut him down. We were like no no, you keep your flu self at home. And he was sad because he wanted to watch a football game with my step dad, but me and Andrew and Julia were supposed to come over for dinner. And I was like, I WILL NOT SET ONE FOOT IN THE HOUSE if anyone with flu is over here and then the grandchild won’t be coming over.

P1030976The grandchild card always wins.

P1030969P1030975The scariest film I’ve ever seen is ‘The Stand’. (not true. That would be 'The Mothman Prophecies'.) But the super flu prospect terrifies me. I thought that movie ‘Contagion’ would be too much for me, but even though I saw it ON A PLANE (#recycledgerms), I didn’t think it was that scary. No movie with Gwyneth Paltrow can be THAT scary. It’s Gwynnie! Even though she bites it (#Melissaspoilsmovies) (#themoviecameoutlastyear) (#getoverit), I feel that any movie with Gwyneth will ultimately be one wherein everyone comes out on top because Gwynnie would have it no other way. The humans ain’t gonna lose in a Gwynnie film.

P1030979Have you noticed I’ve been showing pix from the funniest book about germs?? It’s winningly called ‘Germs!’ by Martin Howard and Colin Stimpson. Love the exclamation point in the title. This book is SO FUNNY. I was given some books to review and then a choice of a third book to pick. I chose this one. And I wasn’t disappointed. It’s HILARIOUS, plus there are lots and lots of toilet pix, which is the mark of good humor as everyone knows. Queen Bacteria and her army try to savage King Antibodee, seizing the opportunity to wage war when a little boy forgets to wash his hands.

It’s good germs vs. bad germs! Who wins? Who winds up in the toilet? THIS BOOK IS SO FUNNY! We looooved it. Julia and I were seriously laughing out loud. Which means I can write the following, which Andrew is very surprised that I haven't written this phrase already:

OMG this book was so awesome! LOL!

But really, it was.

Stay healthy my lovelies!