1 House 100 Years

Preparing For The Centennial Of A Place That Matters

Month: October, 2013

The Best “World Series Chicken Chili Stew” Of My Life!

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Fall is when my garden is loaded down with peppers, both sweet and hot. This was a surprise to me at first because I have always thought of them as being a hot climate crop, and so I assumed that they would be most productive during the hottest summer months.

It’s also time for the World Series, the last lingering bit of summer fun before the winter holiday season. This is a great recipe for this time of year, and like so many other dishes like this, it tastes better the next day so you can just heat and eat.

It’s funny how on house project posts I assume that readers know about working with wood, plaster, and paint. I don’t really assume that with these sometimes overly detailed recipes. I’d like to believe that every guy would like to be able to cook something special for his someone special, so that’s the main reason for the way these recipes are written.

This recipe starts with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. When these are on sale, I usually buy several packages and freeze them all. These taste great, are low in fat, are difficult to overcooking, and don’t need to be defrosted if you are going to boil them. They are practically foolproof.

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In a medium Dutch oven, make these basic boiled chicken thighs. This can be used in many different recipes. Start by placing

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 to 3 freshly pressed cloves of garlic (use more or less depending on personal taste)

Pinch of salt

Into the Dutch oven, and then on low to medium low heat, slowly sauté the garlic, stirring occasionally. You don’t want the garlic to turn brown or fry. It’s the slow, low sauté that brings out the sweetness in the garlic. High heat and quick cooking will not give the best taste.

This is a good time to work dice one medium sized onion. Keep an eye on the garlic, and then add

1 medium onion, diced

Pinch of salt

and continue to sauté. When the onion is beginning to turn transparent, add

5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 can chicken broth (reduced salt)

and bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. This is also the time to add

1 bay leaf

and any other herbs that you want to use. This recipe just uses the bay leaf, but for other recipes, I add thyme or tarragon or rosemary.

Cover and simmer for one hour, checking on it occasionally. The chicken should be covered with the liquid, but if not completely, it’s fine to flip them over when you check on them.

Everything in your house should begin to smell great. This is also a good time to wonder, “Why there are only five chicken thighs in most small packages?!?” This recipe can be doubled to make more and to even things out so you don’t have to wonder where the missing chicken thigh might be.

At the end of the hour, throw away the bay leaf and remove the chicken and place in a bowl. It should be thoroughly cooked, tender, and infused with herb flavor.

Pour the liquid into a large measuring cup. There should be about 2 or more cups of liquid. You will use some of this later, the remainder can be frozen. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Shred, cut up, and chop the chicken thighs for this recipe. (In other recipes, you may handle them differently, but here you want the meat in fairly small pieces, with a few nice chunks here and there.)

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While the chicken is cooking it is a good time to assemble your team and determine your starting lineup. I like to put everything that I might want to use out on a counter. Even if I don’t use everything, seeing what’s available is inspiring in a way. Here are the basics, but you can select more depending on where your inspiration leads you.

Into the Dutch oven add these seven essential players:

Cooked chicken

1 can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (very important, especially for these beans)

2 cups mild salsa (or medium to hot, depending on your taste)

1 cup favorite barbecue sauce

1 cup reserved chicken broth from cooked chicken

Carefully mix all of the ingredients together so that the beans don’t get mashed, adding more chicken broth if needed but keeping in mind that more liquid will probably be created while this is cooking in the oven.

Cover and bake for 1 hour, checking on it about every 20 minutes and giving it a gentle stir. At the end of the hour, everything should have melded together well. Although canned beans are fully cooked, this hour in the oven helps improve their flavor and texture. Cooking in the oven rather than on the stovetop also help this dish from becoming too “mushy.”

When you are ready to serve, top with these last two essential players to round out your team:

Freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Generous dollop of sour cream

This is great with fresh baked cornbread slathered with butter or even just some corn chips. There are lots of other things that would be great to top off this winning team, like some sliced sweet peppers from the garden!

These photographs were take during the World Series 2013.

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Fall Fireworks in the Garden

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Fall is just about my favorite time of year in the garden. There are great colors and a definite change in how the air feels and smells. Butterfly Flower (Asclepias tuberosa) has bright orange blossoms in the summer and these incredible seed pods in the fall, very much like fireworks.

The blossoms really do attract butterflies and bees as well which are good pollinators to have around the garden. These plants were grown from seed back in the spring of 2008 and have done very well since then. This is the most seeds that they have ever produced for me.

I will try starting some more from these seeds when spring comes around next year, just around the time that baseball season starts back up again with real fireworks and all the other things that make for a really special evening out. Until then, it’s time to plan and wait.

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These photographs were taken October 2013.

Renovating Small Spaces

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If this space was in a comedy film, it would have to be a Three Stooges film. You can almost hear doors slamming and heads bumping together. Bing, bang boing! Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck! Although funny to think about, not so funny to live in. Good design is a genuine necessity.

I have done considerable thinking lately about renovating a small space. For a space as small as a closet, a space that actually once was a closet, this should be a rather easy task. But it isn’t. Hopefully I’m not making this more difficult than it truly needs to be.

When I built my pantry where there had been no pantry, only an enclosed back porch, everything seemed so much easier. This linen closet has been different because the space has been there all along even though it has gone through several major changes from its humble beginning as a bedroom clothes closet.

Dividing the space, building walls, and making the pantry functional progressed logically from start to finish. The linen closet is different. It’s not as private as a pantry. Not everyone is going to get something from the pantry, but almost everyone will need to use the bathroom!

Getting the most possible from a small space is key, as is avoiding a cluttered appearance. When a bedroom closet, this space was only open to the bedroom; as a linen closet, this space will be open to both the bedroom and bathroom. Both need more thoughtfully planned storage space.

When the bedroom closet had been turned into a hallway many years ago, a closet had been built in one corner of the bedroom, cutting down on floor space and giving the room an awkwardly unplanned feeling. That is definitely a project in itself and a post for another day.

So this is the “before” view and some thoughts before beginning to really tackle this space. Although I’m generally unsure of what the end result will be, I have a few rough sketches to guide me along while following “what feels right'” which is perhaps the key to small spaces.

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These photographs were taken October 2013. You can see some work that has already been done where the doorway that was created when the closet was turned into a hallway. There is also a rather large cut out that was used when the overhead lights for house were rewired. (This will be kept as a much smaller access panel for any future electrical needs.) Here is my post about the beadboard pantry that was built about two years ago.