Easy Chicken Adobo

adoboLast night I made chicken adobo for the first time. It was great, and easy peasy to make. In fact, it’s so easy to make, I made it (or at least prepared it) while I was also making applesauce. (Note: This is not recommended unless you are a very focused cook. More than once onion, garlic, and ginger almost went into the applesauce.)

Here’s what you need (and the amounts I used):

4 chicken drumsticks (1.5 lbs.)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 medium-small onion, sliced
3 large cloves garlic (crushed/chopped)
black peppercorns (I used 13)
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp thinly sliced ginger (with skins on—hurrah!)

Put the chicken in a roomy pot or dutch oven. In a bowl mix together all the other ingredients. Pour the mixture over the chicken and marinate (covered) for 1-3 hours (in the fridge). Note: Thighs are more traditional, but I had drumsticks. Also note: I used a hunk of ginger root about the size of two of my thumbs (which are average size). I did not actually measure the sliced ginger, but it seemed like about two tablespoons. Further note: White vinegar will also work.

Heat on stovetop over high heat until it comes to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for an hour or so, stirring and turning chicken over occasionally. This is usually served over rice, but I served it over orzo (which worked very well and also made for good leftovers today).

I reviewed several recipes before I came up with this one (which is a combination of at least three plus my own preferences). Cooking times varied from about half an hour to an hour and a half. One said this is a very forgiving recipe, and can hardly be overcooked. That was comforting (most particularly when I started over after cooking for 20 minutes when I decided my pot was too small).

Use a decent-sized pot. One of the recipes I consulted suggested using a small pot, which I did. Big mistake. It was very hard to move the chicken around in such tight quarters—things kept falling out, and the chicken on top didn’t appear to be cooking at all. So after about 25 minutes I switched to a larger pot and started over. It was much easier.

A couple of other things I learned while cooking: Most of the recipes I consulted required less liquid than I used. In fact, the amount above was recommended for 4-5 pounds of chicken in one recipe. This is something you can play around with according to your preferences.

Next time I will grate the ginger instead of slicing it. My slices were not thin enough and every once in awhile I’d run across a massive piece of ginger. I love ginger, but I still think grated would work better to distribute it more evenly. Also, a larger onion. And perhaps just a tad more garlic. Oh, and next time I will at least double the amount of chicken. There weren’t nearly enough leftovers!

Cleaning and Books

cleaningI haven’t been writing as much this month because November is housecleaning month. So far I have cleaned the living room and half the dining room. This could tell you:

a.  How dirty my house is
b.  How thoroughly I’m cleaning
c.  How many bookshelves are in each room
d.  How many reading breaks I take while cleaning

Note: Not all of the above are true. But the bookshelves . . . . the bookshelves are a distinct distraction in cleaning. I decided when I started that book culling was a separate project from cleaning, because otherwise it would take closer to a year to clean than a month. Nonetheless, I found myself on the very first day taking half an hour just to reorganize my Murakami books. (And then for gender equity, I also reorganized my Carole Maso books.)

While it was probably the least productive thing I did all day, it was also the most thoroughly enjoyable (at least in the context of the cleaning project).

Truth be told, housecleaning isn’t the only thing keeping me from writing. We have squirrels in our walls. The last time I sat down at the computer to write, they were scritching behind a light switch three feet away. It drove me nuts. I pounded on the wall to no effect. I envisioned the house burning down from an electrical fire. The next day I sawed a big limb off our crabapple tree with the help of our neighbor. I had seen the squirrels using this as a launching pad to the roof of the house, and hoped to close down this freeway. Needless to say, they found a detour the same day. Damn and double damn!

So we called our favorite squirrel removal guy (yes, we’ve had this problemsquirrel before; no, they aren’t getting in the same way). So I’ve been spending some time walking the traps. So far we’ve caught eight squirrels! Now instead of worrying about the house burning down, I daydream about squirrel stew and squirrel caps, and a squirrel-tail duster (which seems like it would be particularly effective on radiators).

The eighth squirrel was caught this morning, and so far I have not heard any jumping on the roof. Even better, no scritching in the walls.

Earlier today I dusted the poetry bookcase in the dining room. I was amazed at how much dust had accumulated behind those books. It was almost frightening.

bookshelfAnd then I dusted the other bookcase, which is a mix: one shelf of sustainability books, one shelf of books about Islam, one shelf of Europa editions, and one shelf of miscellaneous (an Einstein biography, a graphic nonfiction book, two fiction trilogies, a book about Auden’s poetry, a book about trends in debt, a couple more biographies, and a few odd singleton fiction books). This bookcase I did take time to cull, as it is such a motley collection, and I found a good 20 books to get rid of.

Sixth Chamber, here I come! (After I mop the floor.)

Climate Hope

I’ve made good progress on Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, closing in on the last 100 pages. I have learned some amazing things:

  • In 2013, the oil and gas industry spent nearly $400,000 a day lobbying Congress and government officials. Yes, that is $400,000 a DAY. Just in the United States.
  • Agroecology, a farming method using sustainable methods coupled with modern science and local knowledge, produces more per acre than industrial farming while limiting use of expensive products such as chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and patented seeds. Not only are these methods better for the soil, they sequester carbon in the soil, avoid fossil-fuel based fertilizers, and tend to use less carbon for transportation to market (primarily because they are often local or regional).
  • Most fracking operations are exempt from regulations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. (This is referred to as the Halliburton Loophole.) But fracking has been found to put drinking water—including aquifers—at risk. An Alberta study found that methane concentrations were six times higher in water wells within a kilometer of a fracked gas well. Some people can start their tap water on fire!

flaming water 2

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has joined a lawsuit opposing fracking-related activities near his Texas home. Even the perpetrators know it’s not a good thing to have in your backyard. Much better that it’s someone else’s backyard. But that’s the problem with the growth in exploring, fracking, and extracting: It’s closer to pretty much everyone’s backyard. Even CEOs with $5 million homes. But in a way, that’s also the good news. It’s no longer hidden in remote areas or “sacrifice zones.”

As these extreme forms of oil and gas extraction expand, so does the pushback from local communities.

  • In Greece, they are fighting a plan to cut down old-growth forest and reengineer the local water system (yikes!) in order to build a huge open-pit gold and copper mine, along with a processing plant and a large underground mine.
  • Pungesti, a farming community in Romania, built a protest camp in response to the country’s first shale gas exploration well.
  • In New Brunswick, Canada, they are opposing seismic testing ahead of a possible fracking operation.
  • Numerous protests and blockades have arisen in the rural U.K., often blocking access to fracking sites. (About half of the land in Great Britain is under consideration for fracking.)
  • Herders in Mongolia are protesting plans to increase open-pit coal mining.
  • In New South Wales, Australia, opposition to increased coal mining continues to grow.

There have been victories! When the natural gas industry tried fracking around Ithaca, New York, they faced formidable opposition including researchers at Ithaca-based Cornell University. The research conducted not only kept fracking out of Ithaca but contributed to more than 150 fracking bans and moratoriums across the state of New York.

After efforts to open the South of France to fracking, France became the first country to adopt a nationwide fracking ban.

It’s enough to give one hope.

woman with featherIt didn’t surprise me to learn that women are playing a prominent role in these protests. In New Brunswick, the image of a Mi’kmaq mother, kneeling in the middle of a road before a line of riot police, holding up a single eagle feather, was seen around the world.

And it isn’t just blockades and protests that are cropping up. There is a growing campaign calling for a worldwide ban on offshore drilling in the Arctic region as well as the Amazon. There is also a push for a global moratorium on tar sands extraction anywhere in the world.

Divestment is another strategy that is growing some decent legs.

Under increasing pressure, the World Bank (as well as several other large international funders that Klein doesn’t name) has announced that they will no longer offer financing to coal projects (“except in exceptional circumstances,” which sounds like a major loophole to me).

Young people have been particularly involved in the divestment movement, most especially at colleges and universities. Their rationale: These are the institutions entrusted to prepare them for their future, and it is the height of hypocrisy for those same institutions to profit from an industry that is basically destroying their future. The movement is growing. Within six months of its launch (toward the end of 2012), there were divestment campaigns on more than 300 campuses, and more than 100 cities, states, and religious institutions. More and more, these organizations are announcing they will divest their endowments of fossil fuel stocks and bonds.

More hope.

There is much more to do (and nearly 100 pages more to read in the book), but I no longer feel so lonely on this issue. And I know there are things I can do. Like contact my alma mater and ask them to divest. Ditto some of our local foundations. Next steps.

October Reprise

October is one of my favorite months, both for its beauty and its unpredictability. We had a wonderful mild October this year, the perfect fall. This included quite a bit of reading time on the front porch (which doesn’t happen every October!). I read 17 books—a lot of poetry (8), quite a bit of nonfiction (6), and 3 fiction (one of which was a graphic novel).

REadingThe reading theme for October was foreign country and most of the books I read related to the theme. I visited Chile, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Korea, Mexico, Austria, Japan, Vietnam, Canada, Russia, Egypt, and France.

I blogged in October about the scary creepy but excellent book by Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl. My other favorite books of the month were poetry—Songs of the Kisaeng (which I have also already written about), and One Hundred More Poems From the Japanese (primarily tanka), translated by Kenneth Rexroth.

Tanka is a poetry form similar to haiku, but five lines instead of three, with syllables of 5-7-5-7-7. Here is an example, by Saigyō:Japanese

      My heart emptied,
      All pity quiet,
      Still I am moved, as
      A snipe rises and flies away
      In the autumn dusk.

It is difficult enough to translate poetry, so it is not unusual to depart from the syllable format. Tanka is a beautiful form, one of my favorites. I occasionally use tanka instead of haiku in my haiku project (when I have so much to say that three lines won’t suffice).

I’ve also continued the Obama postcard project. I have now sent him 20 postcards! Occasionally I can craft what I want to say into a haiku or tanka. Those are particularly fun. Also in the writing world, I’ve written (drafted) one additional villanelle and a few pretty crappy free form poems.

I also did a bit with my medicinal herbs in October. I’m infusing two different kinds of lavender in olive oil (separate jars); I finally got around to making a new batch of rosemary-chamomile salve (my best and favorite salve—good for arthritis, especially at the base of the thumb—and it smells lovely). And since I used up all my oil in the salve, I put up a new batch of rosemary-chamomile oil which will be ready to decant in a few weeks. My beautiful sister-in-law actually requested this salve for her Christmas gift this year. You can’t imagine how good that made me feel! I also did a bit of fall harvesting: hops, sage, rosemary, and mullein. They are now dried and put away for winter experimentation.

Along with the herbs I’ve done a little more cooking. Nothing fancy, but it’s nice getting back in the kitchen. I’ve already made three batches of applesauce and still have nearly two pecks of apples in the fridge. I never realized how much I like applesauce until I made this lumpy applesauce with the skins on. Yum.

wood duckOctober was also lots of walking and biking. On one walk along the river I saw a scad of wood ducks (there must have been nearly 100) walking through the woods. Seeing all those ducks walking through the woods was so strange! Another interesting bird encounter occurred when I was riding bike: A bald eagle swooped just over my head—it couldn’t have been more than six feet above me. Beautiful!

October also included visits to several apple orchards, the lock and dam, the Twin Cities BookPollinators Festival (I held myself to three books, including this most fascinating book about pollinators, Pollinators of Native Plants—a bit like a field guide but so much more), yard work, and random walking through crunchy leaves. With such a long and beautiful October, winter seems like it will be a snap this year!