Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts

28 February 2007

Winter Along the Bay and Patchwork Quilts

When this is how it looks outside, your thoughts turn to hearty food — and that's what I've got on the menu for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, I wanted to call your attention to a new site that brings together "a patchwork quilt" of women bloggers, 100 BloggingBabes. As it happens, a post from this blog is today's feature.

I like the quilt analogy a lot. One of my first important gifts from Grandma Annie was a 1930s-era Sunbonnet Sue quilt, with lilac as its predominant color. I treasured that quilt for years, until I gave it to my niece Molly on the the day she was baptized. I am a firm believer in passing such gifts along in your lifetime. We are only caretakers, not owners, of family legacies.

I do not have ready access to a photo of the quilt. Instead, I share today one of the reasons we like quilts so much: Cold weather. Every bed in my house has at least one quilt. In winter, sometimes two are piled on. So, yes, they keep us warm and comfortable.

But also, quilts are a way of preserving those odd bits of material and memory and a way of paying forward. We've all heard the saying, "When life gives you scraps, make a quilt." Yes, it may be a bit corny, but it reflects my approach to life and often, to cooking.

Finally, quilts have always represented a way for women to bond. Mémére had a quilting frame (long gone, alas!) set up in her sunny living room and I am told that in the 1930s and 1940s, she and her friends often sat there in the afternoons, making warmth from remnants.

How I wish I could have watched them.

25 February 2007

Spicy Chicken Breasts With Ratatouille Vegetables in a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Winter has finally come to my corner of the Upper Midwest. It hit around 3 a.m. on Sunday morning and has been going full force. Schools are closed, kids are inside and the only sound you hear is the cacophony of snowblowers and the occasional freight train trundling through town. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to work from home are doing that.

After Blowing Us Out Round One on Sunday, my husband made chili. Hot stuff. I made something similarly spicy cobbled together from what was on hand and in the larder: Chicken Breasts with Ratatouille Vegetables in a Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.

It's a fricassee kind of dish, served with strips of eggplant, peppers and zucchini. Since I'm off carbs for two weeks, I had to make up for that sacrifice with protein and heat.

For the Chicken

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • dash sel de fleur
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with roasted red pepper
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers from a jar
  • 1/2 cup salt-free chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Toss seasonings and chicken in a plastic bag to coat. Then, use a heavy skillet to lightly brown chicken in olive oil. When chicken is barely golden brown, remove it from pan; set aside. Add onion and garlic and brown lightly, adding a little more olive oil, if necessary. Cook for about three minutes. Pour in tomatoes and water. Add red pepper. You may chop this into small pieces, or even mince it. Return the chicken to the skillet and cook for about 30-45 minutes under low heat. Since I was using dried thyme, I added it midway through the cooking process.

I always use a meat thermometer to check chicken prepared this way, or any way, for that matter.

I kept checking the sauce and adding more spices. There is no prescribed amount, really; it's whatever you can tolerate.

For the Vegetables

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 peppers, green and red
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • fleur de sel

While the chicken was cooking, the vegetables were roasting in a 450-degree oven. These I prepared earlier in the day, working with the eggplant first, cutting it into strips, but not peeling it. I sprinkled it with sel de fleur and let it sit for about an hour to remove water. I almost always use a mix of salt and herbes de Provence (above). The peppers and the zucchini were also cut in strips. I drizzled the vegetables with olive oil before putting them in the oven.

I timed it so the vegetables and chicken were done at the same time. Usually, I get the timing all messed up, and one thing ends up being cold or overcooked.

Having nothing else to do (well, nothing else I had to do), enabled me to get it just right.

Let's hear it for snow days.