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Posts Tagged ‘chicago’

We’re collecting mushrooms.  Check out that impressive oyster mushroom.

And this gorgeous, huge shiitake.  Looks sorta like a rock, doesn’t it?  But cuter.  So more like a pet rock.  Which would mean…yes.  I’ve now officially eaten a pet.  Honestly, though, you saw that coming.

Trying to make pizza pot pies a la Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinders, a fab little cash-only pizza place right here in Chi-town.

Don’t worry, we baked them!  (If you’re considering trying this yourselves, I highly recommend greasing the rims of the bowls.  Then it’ll be all the more dramatic when you flip it upside down onto a plate and tuck in with a fork and steak knife.  (Dramatic as opposed to pathetic, i.e. scratching and chipping and scraping off little shards of crust, not that that happened.)

Receiving fabuloso CSA shipments, as always.  And desperately hoping that tomorrow’s delivery will still go through, despite the avalanche that buried Chicago this week.  What you see in the picture, clockwise from bottom left, is a humongo  purple turnip (got cubed up and roasted under a chicken), cremini mushrooms (got thrown into the pizza pot pies), carrots (chopped into chicken soup made from the leftover chicken carcass and meat), apples (eaten as is), yellow onions (soup, etc.), potatoes (chicken soup), chard (Italian sausage, chard, and white bean soup–we’re eating a lotta soup, kay JUST GET OFF MY BACK), bananas (Gen’s breakfasts), mandarin oranges (eaten fresh and juiced, with some leftover to make a citrus poppyseed loaf), frozen peas (tuna salad and, drumroll, soup).

Eating more wonderful The Boy breakfasts.  That’s a buttered English muffin, a sliced up blood orange, and a fried egg over some potato and onion hash.  Life.  Is.  Good.

And a bunch of other things not documented in photo form (thankfully, as our current abode lacks the luscious natural light our last place had).  Like frenzied seed swapping via online exchanges, shoveling (not as frenzied…that sounds dangerous), ordering next week’s CSA/groceries whilst in a frenzy, listening to The Boy’s Homebrewed Altibier bubbling away (in a frenzied manner), pondering our collapsed closet (ruh roh), and trying to get The Boy to stay home like all the other snowbound peeps in this city.  Frenziedly.  As you know if you follow me on Twitter, that attempt was met with limited success.

Tonight we’ll be eating hot corned beef sandwiches with the mustard-y green tomato chow chow I put up at summer’s end.  Except mine will be more like a chow chow sandwich with hot corned beef.  Mmm…chow chow.

What’s goin’ on ’round your homestead?  What are you eating that you put up last summer?  What do you wish you’d canned/frozen more of, and what are you forcing down your throat with the aid of a canning funnel while swearing to never make again?

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Hiya.

Yeah, that’s right.  I’m talking.  Me.  The pretzel.

So how’s it going?

That’s nice.

Enough small talk.  This is just a friendly reminder that if you haven’t made your own soft pretzels yet this year…

What could you possibly be waiting for?  Everyone knows the Germans actually celebrate Oktoberfest in September.

But you can have a free pass this time.  I give you until mid-October.  Frankly, there’s no bad time for pretzels and beer.  (What’s that, Atkins people?  You don’t like carbs?  What are you even DOING at this blog?)

First, the beer.  Whip up a batch of delicious home brew, a la The Boy.  Or find some local brew pubs that may be selling growlers of malty, hoppy, autumnal carryout craft beer near you.

If you’re in the Chicago area, you might try Half Acre, Piece, or the fine offerings on tap for sampling at Brew & Grow.

Well that was easy enough.  Now onto those pretzels.  Here’s one nice recipe I found for your classic, white, soft pretzel.  Craving something different that’ll pass for dinner so you can soothe your conscience?  (” A conscience?  What’s that?”) How do chicken stuffed soft pretzels with homemade honey mustard sound?

Somewhere, Keanu Reeves just went, “Whoah.”

Or, OOOooooooh, Garlic Soft Pretzels.

And if you’re a fan of those big ‘ol pretzels ye can procure from ye olde chaine shoppe in the mall, this should intrigue you: Mall Pretzels. (Because sometimes we just gotta calls ’em as we sees ’em.)

Or, gaaaaaaa, cannot speak because sweet tooth is enlarging, ENLARGING: Cinnamon Raisin Soft Pretzels.

What’s that, you say?  You want the recipe for mine?  The ones in the picture?  The ones that look like…

THIS!?

Well, you can’t have it.  Not because I don’t want to give it to you.  But because there isn’t one.

I couldn’t give you measurements on this one if I tried.  But I can tell you roughly what I did, and those of you who are accustomed to baking bread and working with sourdough and work by feel and instinct, as I do, will be able to follow along.

By feel and instinct.  You can do a lot of things that way. Including making love, raising children, and killing a man.

But I digress.

The FEEL AND INSTINCT METHOD for soft sourdough pretzels is:

Proof some sourdough starter.  A little for a few pretzels.  A lot for lots.  (Told you this would be vague.)  Once it’s ready, toss in some flour.  Some whole wheat.  Some white.  Mix it in.  Add some kosher salt, and some melted butter.  I’m going to say I made a large batch, somewhere around 3 lbs. of dough, and I used about 8 Tablespoons, or 1/2 cup, of melted butter.  Oh, relax.

Now stir that all in, and add more flour.  You know what I’m talking about.  Until it’s…not needing any more flour.  Don’t worry about getting it quite as dry as regular bread dough.  And it doesn’t need to be elastic either.  Just knead in enough flour and work the dough until it could hold a decent shape.  Now stick it in that trusty, oiled bowl and cover it with your favorite heirloom tea towel until it’s doubled…2 hours, wouldja say?

Actually, guys, I don’t feel as if I’ve been honest with you.  I didn’t let it rise for a few hours.  Instead I stuck it in the fridge overnight to rise in there.  What?  You didn’t know you could do that?  Well, you can.  Just let your dough sit at room temp a little while before you work with it.  I know, I know.  I’m brilliant.  I should really charge for all the fascinating things you learn here.  Like how to kill a man by instinct.  Anyway.  Moving on.

Divide the dough into balls and roll ’em into ropes.  I’ll say mine were about 18-20 inches long.  I like my soft pretzels on the small-ish side.  You know that annoying person who always takes, like, two bites of something, and then puts it back in the container for later?  That would be me.  Anyway, small foods give you options, man.  And that’s what I’m all about, dude.  Options.

Do a cool twisty thing where you make a pretzel.  The Girl says some of my pretzels have an extra twist in them.  I say they have just the right number/amount of twist(s).  Decide for yourself, man.  You gotta do what’s right for you, dude.  That’s what it’s all about, bros.  Doing what’s right for you.

Crud, this is going to take all day.

‘Kay, so now you’ve got a bunch of baby pretzels all lined up on some buttered parchment.  Oh, yeah, go back in time and butter some parchment.  Now set a pot of water to boil.  I used 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup baking soda.  Once it’s boiling, slowly tong each pretzel into the water, let it cook for 30 seconds, and take it back out.  Repeat.  As many times as you need.  Until you’re out of pretzels.

Now go back in time again, and preheat the oven to 450.  Thanks.  Take some coarse sea salt and sprinkle it over the pretzels.  Be sorta liberal about it.  Pretzel making is no time for conservatism.  Or limited sodium consumption.  I’m not making a political statement here.  I’m just saying, I think even the GOP could agree that pretzels should be salted liberally.

You know, pretzels are really the thing that could bring our nation together.

Wait, didn’t George Dubya Bush aspirate on a pretzel or something?

Forget it.  Peace and Harmony plan busted.

Once they’re all salted, bop ’em into the oven.  Now watch ’em.  That’s right, I said “watch ’em.”  I’ll be honest, friends…I don’t use recommended baking times that much.  I find that most of the time, they’re not accurate.  I just know when bread is done.  And if you’re actually able to follow this recipe up to this point, you probably do, too.  But it’s maybe around 15 minutes.  When they’re nice and golden.  My darker batch was more to my liking than my lighter batch.  What can I say?  I like my pretzels like I like my….

Not going there.

Now this is optional.  After you’ve pulled them out of the oven and oohed and aahed over how amazing you find yourself to be and how you don’t know why someone hasn’t made you Princess Pretzel yet, brush them with melted butter.  Oh.  Yeah.  Now stick ’em on a cooling rack to, you know, cool and stuff.

But eat ’em while they’re still warm.

I’m only gonna say this once: pretzels do not keep well.

Actually, this is important, so twice: Pretzels do not keep well.  Only make what you think you’ll eat today.  I hear you whining, being all, “wah wah wah, I don’t wanna do all this again tomorrow.”  Well, tough, Cupcake!

Just kidding, Cupcake.  Please don’t be mad, Cupcake.  I don’t know what’s come over me lately, Cupcake.

You could do what I did.  Just go back in time, now, and don’t boil all your pretzels.  Freeze them after the shaping, and make a solemn promise to pick up where you left off the next time you want pretzels, adding just a few seconds to boiling and a few minutes to baking.  You could also continue to do as I did, and break that solemn promise and end up with an emergency bag of emergency soft pretzels for when you have a soft pretzel emergency…for emergencies.

Totally awesome.

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Now that I’m outta there, I could fill volumes with thoughts on New York living.  But I won’t.  For now.  Be grateful.  All that matters at the moment is a story about how I came to appreciate sunshine more.

The Boy and I lived in a small studio in New York City for a while.  At first, I didn’t even notice how little sunlight I was getting from the two small windows we had–both of which faced brick walls.  In fact, it probably took about six months for the reality of our dark existence to hit me, when I decided it might be nice to have a few plants to supplement our other unmet need–FUCKING OXYGEN.

Before long I came to realize that I couldn’t support as much plant life as I like to (which, granted, is a METRIC SHIT TON), and then I had to wonder if The Boy and I would one day crumple up  in disappointing heaps just like so many seedlings.  Dramatic, I know, but you’ve come to expect that from me by this point.  I’d hope.

Well anyhow, when we moved into our new place in Chicago–an apartment with real windows and air that doesn’t feel like a biohazard–I just couldn’t wait to get back to growing serious amounts of my own food.  Have a look at this year’s results so far…

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The other day I had to wonder if I was getting out of hand (“Oh, hee hee, haha OH HONEY THAT SHIP HAS SAILED.”) As I was passing by the windows, I spun to face The Boy and oozed, “You’re so cute–I love you!”  He thanked me but then turned pink and said, “Wait…were you talking to me or the plants?”

Okay, so occasionally we talk.  I mean, I talk to them.

When they’ve done something cool, I fluff their leaves like I’m ruffling up the messy head of a mischievous five-year-old.  When one of them looks worse for the wear, I drop everything, apply organic fertilizer, and organize a pagan vigil.  And when I feed them, I’ve been known to ask, “Which of my wittle misfit plant babies wants some bat guano and earthworm castings todaaaay?  Hmmmmm?”

But really, it’s not the plants that I love so much–it’s what gardening represents.  Self-sufficiency.  Diligence.  Give-and-take.  Efforts that actually pay off.  Working with nature for spectacular results.  When I garden, I feel like I’m privy to a special form of mysticism.  Exotic knowledge.  I feel powerful.  But more often than not, I feel humbled.

When I stand before something I’ve planted that’s approaching my height (and which will probably eclipse me entirely in one sunny week’s time), I have a sense of smallness that makes me feel, of all things, safe.  We think we have so much control–and we do, to an extent.  But really, we just help things along, manipulate them a bit to our liking–the potential for greatness has always been there.  It will show itself whether or not we make a move.  And even if we act against it, cut it down, it will come back.  Not to defy us–just to be itself, as we all should be.  Its only purpose is life.

Except maybe for the tomato plant–its other purpose might be destruction.  But that’s another post.

So I guess we would’ve been okay even if we’d stayed in that New York apartment.  Significantly paler, more cramped, and perhaps a little worse for the wear, but we would’ve made it.  Still, I’m glad to be here.  Glad to be able to stretch out.  Glad to be able to take a deep, clean breath.  And glad to look over at the windowsill with pride and say,

“OMFG THE BOY RUN FOR YOUR LIFE THE TOMATO’S BECOME SENTIENT AArggHH-GAAAAA!”

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