Tuesday, October 16, 2012

slow cooker pumkin chicken chili

Pumpkin chicken chili

This chili is such a surprise. As I was putting the ingredients into my slow cooker, I knew I should be grossed out by the combination of flavors. Instead, I was rewarded with a tasty dish and an apartment that smelled like Fall always should.

Inspired by these recipes from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice and A Beautiful Mess.

1 can (14 ounce) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 ounce) pumpkin puree
1 cup chicken broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 packet mild chili seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 dashes of cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts or cutlets, skin and visible fat removed
1 can (14 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained  
Note: I made this recipe in a 2-quart slow cooker. 
I dislike chunky cooked tomatoes, so I pulsed the diced tomatoes in my Magic Bullet for a couple of seconds first. Add tomatoes, chicken broth and pumpkin to the slow cooker. Whisk until well combined. Add garlic, chili seasoning, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir once again. Add chicken and chickpeas. Cook 4-5 hours on high or 6-8 on low.

I added whole wheat pearl couscous before cozying up with a bowl and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Vote 2012 - Election Pinning


I guess you could say I'm political. I'm not obsessive to the point of only reading, talking and breathing politics. Oh, you don't know those people? Avoid DC if you don't want to. Still, I was raised to give a damn and to get as involved as possible. I read candidate biographies, study up on the issues I care about, try to track positions from a variety of sources and talk a lot of smack just for fun. I've even volunteered and worked for candidates at different points in my life.

Anyway, I've been struggling with how to express myself this election. Over the last few (er..12) years, I slide into cynicism now and then. This election cycle I've finally found myself getting pissed again, needing to speak out. To fulfill this need, I've come up with a couple of fun* ways to get political on here between now and November 6.

First up is a pinboard I created to help me work through what I'm looking for in a candidate. I've included a few above, but you can check all my pins here.  Given that Pinterest is such a visual tool, I don't really feel it's an ideal forum for issues or advocacy (others would disagree). I had a hard time finding good photos of issues that weren't protected. I finally found my footing when I began to stumble across typography and quotes.

Sources: big oil/coal, visionary, education, poor

*I'd rather save my impassioned rants for issues, legislation, etc.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nonfiction Reading List

I love Amy's idea of creating your own self-paced history course. Nonfiction was my jam while I worked part-time at the bookstore, but lately, I've been all about fiction. Her list got me thinking about some of the titles that I've been considering and ways I can round out my to-read list.

I think I may have to pick up Midnight Rising in anticipation of the upcoming movie, Lincoln!
  • Midnight Rising by Tony Horowitz - Lincoln, the John Brown raid in Harper's Ferry and the Civil War!
  • 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart - I love everything I heard about this book last year on Slate. The Civil War as imagined through the day to day lives of the average person. Storytelling at its best.
  • Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America by Cameron McWhirter
  • Salem Possessed: Social Origins of Witchcraft by Paul Boyer - I have an odd fascination with witchcraft from an historical and alchemical perspective.
  • Annals of the Former World by John McPhee - The river and geology geek in me has been wanting to read this for years!
  • Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 by Taylor Branch
  • Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965 by Taylor Branch
  • At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968 by Taylor Branch

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

My story as told by water, part II

early Serena

I don't recall being aware of how incredibly hot Texas was until high school. It's as if someone flipped a switch, and I suddenly realized how much I despised sweating or the way in which my hair would cling to my face. Still, memories of swimming pools and summers spent in the water have been a part of my story since my beginning.

Summer after summer being driven to lessons at the San Angelo Municipal Pool, a cool Pueblo-style building built during the '30s by the WPA. It's where I learned all those fancy strokes and eventually took the lifesaving course where you learn to take off your jeans and turn them into a flotation device.  All the while my grandma watched from stadium-like steps along the side.

I remember my eyes, red from heavy doses of chlorine, and how I wore that embarrassing nose clip to keep from inhaling water. Quickstepping across the sizzling concrete trying to avoid scraping up the bottoms of my feet. I know they made it rough to prevent slipping, but wasn't it painful?!

The just-for-fun swimming trips were always to Brown's Pool. It was on "our" side of town and right next door to a trailer park. The dressing rooms were grungy, but they had the best tubes for floating and a high dive. Note my graceful diving skills in the photo above.

There was the above-ground pool we had in the back yard with the deck built by my grandpa (see backwards swan dive above) and afternoons spent floating on my back, looking up at the clouds. A couple of summers even involved competitive swim club at a local high school. As I grew up, there were pool parties at my friend Cindy's and perhaps a bit more self consciousness at the thought of putting on a swimsuit and actually getting in the water.

A part of me will always associate summer with concrete and chlorine.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Search for Stars Hollow: Hagerstown, MD

Not to knock on the fine folks of Hagerstown, but we should probably get something straight right up front. Hagerstown is no Stars Hollow.

Still, even if it's not my mythical Shangri-La, Hagerstown has some good things going for it. Hands down, best reason to visit Hagerstown is for the antique malls.


Clustered right down historic Route 40 are three solid places. Antique Crossroads is my favorite. While there are certainly some overpriced booths inside this massive building, they are definitely in the minority. You're almost guaranteed to find some great pyrex, mid-century tins and cake carriers, blue ball jars for $2/piece, and so much more. You just have to know which booths to visit. On a recent visit, I walked away from an amazing unicycle and the above dresser.

If you make it through Antique Crossroads and still have energy left, you can head to either Beaver Creek Antiques and A & J Antiques to continue shopping. If you head into downtown Hagerstown, you can get your craft on at the Potomac Bead Company or find a show to watch at The Maryland Theater (though I can't say I saw anything that piqued my interest).

Hempen Hill BBQ

One of my better finds on a recent trip was Hempen Hill BBQ. The venue is fun, waitstaff friendly and the food was fantastic!

lunch and dinner
They give you enough food for leftovers. And, yes, please forgive the lighting.

Even better is the fact that they have a great selection of vegan and vegetarian fare. As someone who inadvertently begins to crave barbecue when hanging out with vegan friends, this place is downright miraculous. Do yourself a favor and get the smoked mac and cheese.

After you've had a good meal, go for a stroll through some of the Civil War battlefields near Antietam or rent a canoe and paddle down the river.