Hobbies are what make life interesting. I collect them like some people collect stamps. Or Pokemon. Music is a way of life for me, but if all I ever did was music I’d have very little to sing about before I started singing about singing and became all self-referential and silly. My favorite super villain Solarbird the Lightbringer of Crime and the Forces of Evil is a huge DIY (Do it Yourself) geek and has been posting awesome posts about building home studios and modding or building equipment. You should go check her blog out over at http://crimeandtheforcesofevil.com/. This has inspired me to post about some of the things I care about!
This time of year one of my favorite hobbies is cooking. It’s fun, especially when I get to share with someone else, usually tasty, and (all important in this economy) usually cheaper than buying premade meals. Having been a broke college student who lived off of nearly nothing but ramen noodles for a year when I was young and foolish (something I do not recommend) I have come to appreciate some foods I used to turn my nose up as a child.
Take stew for example. Hated it as a kid, one of my favorite (and cheapest dishes now). There is no one true way to make a stew, and its rarely the same twice. At base, a good stew consists of a broth of some kind (water will do if nothing else is on hand) and vegetables. A really good stew usually has some sort of spice, and meat and grains (rice or barley are my favorites) are optional.
Stews by nature are thick. This is something you can achieve by adding flour, chopping potatoes fine and cooking them until they fall apart, adding grains, or a trick I was recently introduced to: taking dried mushrooms and crushing them into a powder to use as thickener. Filling AND tasty.
Garlic and onions are usually cheap and add a lot of your basic flavor. Mushrooms are a flavor enhancer, so the powdered mushroom trick is great for a flavor boost. Carrots though can be overpowering in flavor, so I like to half cook or steam them separately and add them in near the end if I’m using them.
Some of my favorite stew spices are salt, pepper, cayenne, Italian seasoning, and (this may surprise some of you) a little cinnamon. I also like to add a little sesame oil at the end, after its done cooking.
Fun tricks if you’re up to a bit more work: brown the grains in a pan before adding them with a mixture of butter or oil and some of the spices you want. Do the same with the meat. I find that more flavor absorbs into them that way.
Got several friends and all of you are broke? Hold a stone soup party. Invite everyone to come over and bring one ingredient, a single stalk of celery is plenty if that’s all they have. Get a nice smooth stone and boil it clean then drop it in the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients as your friends show up and when its done… you’ll have had a lovely time with your friends and family and there will be enough to feed all of you. It’s a special kind of magic and the kind of magic that inspires music as one of my favorite Heather Dale songs shows.
What kind of stone soup would we make together? I’ll bring the powdered mushrooms and a bit of barley!
Oh, and that stone? Whoever gets it in their bowl gets to play host next time. ^_^