Monday, January 25, 2021

Short Post, Must Read Book


The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly completely captivated me! 

Multi-layered books can sometimes be too confusing to bother with but Kelly handles it expertly.

Three women, three time periods, one garden in England. It ticked off so many of my boxes.  

I had forgotten that I had pre-ordered this book so can't remember who recommended it. I'm opening up comments on this post so that you can tell me if it was you, or if you've read it or want to read it. 

Not every book is for every reader, but that being said, don't miss this one if you love novels centered around gardens. I know I've read a few great ones like that in the past but cannot remember the names now. Perhaps you can?


 Julia Kelly's The Last Garden in England is sitting on my wannabe plant table. My firstborn gave me the orchid four years ago and it's kept company by three jars of paperwhites that replaced the first group that bloomed for Christmas. It's my first year to plant them on top of broken pieces of clay pots instead of river rock or gravel and I love the look of it. No gin or vodka for mine as that seems to turn the roots ugly. 

There you are, a short post from me! I could have left off all the last lines about my plants too but old habits die hard, as Benjamin Franklin said. I just looked that up. 


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Taking Stock and Chicken Stock


After being unable to navigate the new PicMonkey photo editor that began January first, I kept putting off my first 2021 post here at the Window.

Instead I jumped into 2021 wanting to pack away all my Christmas stuff, strange for me, and even stranger, I had a huge desire to declutter and simplify. After leaving behind and getting rid of so much stuff when we moved to Florida in 2016 and then back again nine months later, I think I was too shell-shocked to let go of anything more.

But I woke up January 2, 2021 ready for change and started in my kitchen, filling boxes of stuff to give away or donate. And then just as I was thinking about posting again, on January 6th I watched television in horror as our beloved Capitol Building was invaded and police attacked. The thought of more that could have happened has given me nightmares.  After what our country has been through lately, anything as trivial as blogging fled my mind.

I admit here that this has hit me hard. I haven't been able to keep from watching hour after hour of the news this past week. I hope that those responsible for what happened will be brought to justice, the violence in our country stopped, and that a peaceful inauguration will take place on Wednesday.

I finally felt drawn back to the blogging world and yesterday figured out the BeFunky photo editing that blog friends told me about. Actually I just put myself in the site's automatic editing hand for now until I have time and patience to try out doing it manually. And what important subject do I tackle for my first blog post here of 2021? 

The subject of chicken stock, what else?

While I've made my own chicken stock for years because it's so much richer and better than store-bought stock, I first began making it many years ago simply because we were broke, work dried up in our family business during the first Gulf war. I began saving all chicken bone scraps in the freezer for that purpose, something I don't remember even my frugal mother doing. 

I still do that even though I now keep organic chicken bone broth sold at Costco in my pantry too for backup as cooking for two just doesn't often produce the amount of carcass and bones needed for a large pot of stock.

Our New Year's Day roast chicken produced enough scraps and bones and drippings for two large jars of stock and the small jar shown below. See how rich it looks!

I used it this week to cook a bag of the fresh purple hull peas we froze last summer, using saffron in it to make my favorite peas.

Now I know that the Barefoot Contessa's recipe for roasted chicken is popular, but I remain faithful to Pat Conroy's recipe in his The Pat Conroy Cookbook.


Basically, his recipe says to first heat 1/2 stick unsalted butter and 1/4 cup olive oil together till foamy, about 3 minutes. Then you fill cavity of bird with 1 peeled shallot, 2 garlic cloves peeled and mashed, sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary, and a teaspoon of black peppercorns.

Then rub the chicken with 1/2 lemon and put it into cavity. Put other lemon half in pan along with extra cloves of garlic. Then baste bird with the butter/olive oil mix.

Dust with paprika, salt and freshly ground pepper and add bacon strips over top of chicken.

Roast at 375 degrees F. for 1 hour or more, wiggling legs, checking for temperature of 170 degrees F. in thigh.

Don't do as I did on New Year's Day! Don't forget about the chicken! 

 I have to say that it was delicious anyway, especially after dabbing on Conroy's Grainy Mustard Sauce that goes with the chicken. 

You combine 1/2 cup dry Vermouth (I don't keep Vermouth so substitute dry Sherry) with 1 cup chicken stock in saucepan over moderately high heat till reduced by half.

Whisk in 1/4 cup grainy Dijon mustard and reduce the heat, simmering until slightly thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon (cold weather got mine so I used a teaspoon of dried tarragon) and 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme (I keep a pot of this going in my kitchen window year round), add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

It's excellent sauce!

 With the chicken, New Year's Day tradition called for Gourmet magazine's collard greens in my largest pot.

Which wilts down a lot but still makes a mess of greens.

And black-eyed peas, soaked the night before, and some of my hot hot hot sauce on both the peas and greens.

For a starchy side I fixed Lee Bailey's orzo with onions sautéed in butter and oil-cured black olives.


By the way, the chicken stock this all begins with depends on what's in my produce bin but mostly contains the chicken carcass and bones and drippings along with onions and garlic, washed but not peeled, celery stalks, and a few carrots wshed and cut, and fresh herbs (I save herb stems in the freezer for this too), plus a tablespoon of herbs de Provence, 4 bay leaves, a dozen whole cloves, and 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce, and water to cover (I use distilled water for the clearest broth!). The herbs should have gone underneath the chicken carcass but I forgot.

 And never stir the stock! But do skim off the scum.

And that gives you some mighty fine broth!

I feel kind of foolish posting a recipe like this since most of you already have your favorite stock recipes. It's kind of like all the young YouTubers who do beautiful vlogs teaching how to do the simplest recipes you'd think everyone already knows. But even so, I love watching their channels and they do often teach this old dog some new tricks and inspire me with their enthusiasm and beautiful work. I admit that I've become a huge YouTube fan of so many of these young women. 

But I do wish they wouldn't twist their biscuit cutter when making biscuits, a big no-no, and that they wouldn't use a garlic press without first cutting out the germ inside. Even when it hasn't turned green it still has an objectionable taste and chefs from the 1960s taught me better than that.

But do I ever leave negative comments on those subjects for them? Not on your life! It amazes me that people do that. I cannot understand the thumbs down clicks on vlogs either. I mean, why not just unsubscribe if you don't like their channel? At least these people are brave enough to have their own channels, so more power to them.

Sorry for my first and probably only rant of 2021. I wanted to start this year off feeling washed clean.

But my rant is meant to be in support of anyone with the gumption to vlog about their personal home life without other women putting them down. 

Please excuse the length of this post! I'll work on my others being shorter, most of the time. And anyhow, you always have the option to exit. Which reminds me that I want to thank you for still visiting here. 

You're so very nice to still do that! 

I see a red light telling me my laptop is about to go dead so am publishing this without proofreading. I'll probably catch mistakes in the next few days and fix them. What, doesn't everyone correct their posts days after they're published?