Saturday, October 31, 2015

A colorful Halloween curry …

As many of you are well aware, we enjoy finding opportunities to create cooking traditions around various holidays or even events in general. Through the years, we have come to create some traditions around Halloween. The recipe I am sharing in this post is one we have more or less created on our own using a few assorted recipes as a bit of a starting point. We like it, most of all, because it tastes good. We have also found it a great recipe for this time of year because it is warm, filling, and features some great fall colors that add to the spirit of the season.
For a little background on curry …
Curry is a cuisine that originated in India. The term, curry, refers to a dish that is prepared using a number of characteristic herbs and spices such as coriander, turmeric, cumin, and chilis. Curry dishes can be "wet," meaning that they are covered in sauce, or "dry," meaning that the liquid has evaporated and the remaining meat or vegetables are coated with the spice mixture. Today, curry dishes are part of the cuisine across many of the southeast Asian countries, each with its own distinct style. The following picture shows a number of Indian vegetable curry dishes.
Curry powder itself seems to have appeared around the 18th century. It is proposed to have been generated by Indian merchants to sell to members of the British government and military. Although curry powders can vary somewhat based on region, most contain a mixture of coriander, turmeric, cumin, and chilis. The turmeric is what gives the curry its characteristic yellow color.
Given that curries can vary based on geographic region, consider this curry to be in the tradition of the Intermountain West of the United States. As I have said, we do like it, and I hope you will too. Here is how we put it together.

4 tbsp butter or margarine
One large onion
3/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken broth
Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1.5 - 2  tbsp)
2 cups cream
2 tbsp curry powder (we like the Hot Madras powder)
1 green bell pepper
4 or 5 potatoes
1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Cooked jasmine rice

1. Melt the butter over medium heat. Chop the onion and saute until the onions are soft and golden. The below picture gives you an idea as to how coarsely I chop the onion.
2. While the onion is cooking, go ahead and get the chicken started. I typically cut it up into about 1 inch chunks and cook it up in a pan on the stove. I add a little water and a tablespoon of oil, cover the pan with a lid and let the chicken cook until done. Once it is cooked, just turn off the heat and let it sit until you are ready to add it (and the resulting broth) to the curry mixture.
3. Once the onions are nice and soft, stir in the flour until well mixed. 
4. Slowly stir in the chicken broth and lemon juice so that the flour is dissolved into the liquid.
5. Stir in the cream and curry powder.
6. Now it's time to cut up the vegetables. Here is a picture of the carrots and the bell pepper so that you can see how coarsely I cut them up. My advice is to add the carrots first and let them cook a while before adding the bell pepper and potatoes. The carrots take longer to cook, and the potatoes require less time to cook so this is how I try to have everything cooked up nice at the same time. Once I stir in the carrots, I make a judgement as to whether the amount looks right to me. For this batch of curry, I ended up adding additional carrots. On a side note, I had plenty of carrots in the garden, many of which were a bit small so this was an easy opportunity to use a bunch of them.
7. Once the carrots are about halfway cooked, stir in the bell pepper and potatoes. Slowly simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. We love the taste of potatoes that have soaked up the flavor of the curry powder. Yum!
8. Stir in the chicken and the broth you created in the process of cooking it.
9. Heat through and serve over steamed jasmine rice.

Here is a picture of the curry cooking on the stove. We like that this recipe makes a batch that will give us leftovers for a couple of days.
Wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween with very few tricks and lots of good treats.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Primitive Piecing … part 2

Since I posted part 1 a few weeks ago, it seems only fitting that part 2 should follow. As you may recall, at the close of the last post, I had created some rows of pieced blocks and a center. The center included three pieces of homespun that had been sewn together.
The next step was to begin work on the "picture" that would emerge on this center. This meant the addition of three pumpkins, each in a different pattern of orange fabric. I used a turned edge, or needle turn, appliqué technique to secure them to the background. Alternatively, I could have used a fusible technique and machine stitched around the edges. Given the primitive style for this piece, I felt that the turned edge technique would be more consistent with the look I was trying to achieve - more about the turned edge technique later in this post.
Now it's time to add the lower border. What do you think?
Next, I cut out the cat and stitched him on the "ledge" sitting in front of the pumpkins. The wool stars actually weren't added until the very end, but I had forgotten to take a picture of just the cat in front of the pumpkins. I used a turned edge appliqué technique with the cat as well.
Next came the task of creating one final border. This vertical border includes five turned edge appliqué stars. I will just say that working with pieces such as these stars can be quite daunting and is not for the faint of heart. These stars feature some very tight angles that can be difficult to navigate. I will attempt to illustrate in the next few pictures.
This picture shows step 1. The white line indicates the actual finished shape of the star. The task at hand is to turn the edges under and to stitch the star to the background fabric. You can also see the short appliqué pins in the picture. I like this shorter length as it helps avoid getting stuck multiple times while working on a small piece. At the same time, they are somewhat heavy and will easily leave holes and snags in very fine fabric. For pieces such as this one, they do just fine.
This next picture features a star that is in process. You can get the idea as to how the edges are turned and the need to clip some of the fabric to allow the concave angles to turn under as they should. The points are where things get tricky. As you turn the fabric under, you also need to manipulate it such that it tucks under at the point. With these narrow angles, that is no easy task. While the top point of this star turned out pretty good, you can see that the two side points are somewhat rounded and the one on the left sort of swings upward. Let's just say that I am still very much in the process of developing my skills.
Here are some pictures of a completed star block as well as the vertical row to be attached to the left side of the quilt. You can see that, in some of the blocks, the right point ended a little close to the edge and got a bit "chopped off" once it was sewn to the quilt.

The final step in completing this quilt will be to get it quilted and bound. I'm actually thinking that I am going to be brave enough to attempt the machine quilting on my own using the walking foot for my machine (perhaps my adventures in machine quilting will be a future post). 
As I look over some of the challenges and my perceived inadequacies in completing this piece, I am also reminded that, in life, I am inadequate in my own strength. At the same time, I can be confident in the One who has made me adequate. My adequacy is not based in the accuracy of the angles on my star points or whether the points escaped being chopped off by the seam allowance. My adequacy is based solely on what Jesus has done for me. 
The verses that I am sharing are ones that were included in a Student Week talk by during the summer of 1988. They continue to to shape my perspective today:
Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6.