January 22nd, 2009

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Crock Pot Chicken with Coriander & Thyme

That lovely meat package we bought in December included three chickens. This is what I did with one of them today:

Crock Pot Chicken with Coriander & Thyme


Ingredients:
2 cups turkey stock
1 sweet onion
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon Muntok white peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
8 oz. package of whole baby bella mushrooms
1 1/2 pounds baby potatoes


Directions:

Pour the turkey stock into a large crock pot. Turn the pot on High and put the lid on it.

Peel the onion and coarsely chop it. Put the chopped onion into the crock pot.

Into a mortar, place 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon Muntok white peppercorns, 1/8 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme. Grind with mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. (If there are giblets: remove them, rinse them, and throw them into the crock pot.) Rub about three quarters of the spice blend onto the chicken. Carefully lower the chicken into the crock pot.

Scrub the baby potatoes. Gently wash the baby bella mushrooms. Pack them into the crock pot around the chicken. Sprinkle the remaining spice blend over the vegetables. Leave the covered crock pot to cook for about two hours.

Carefully ladle some broth over the top of the chicken. Move the vegetables around so that any that were exposed will be submerged. The chicken and vegetables will exude more juices over time; if there isn’t enough, add a little bit of water.

Put the lid back on the crock pot and continue to cook for another two to three hours; time will vary depending on chicken weight and your crock pot’s power. About once an hour, move the vegetables around. The chicken will be done when its juices run clear and the meat flakes easily. Potatoes should be tender when pierced with a fork.


Notes:

If you don’t have turkey stock, use a can or two of chicken stock or chicken broth instead. I made turkey stock, and it’s wonderful, so I’m using it.

The white peppercorns are important in this recipe. You could substitute black peppercorns, but that would lose the delicate “white” flavor of the recipe – the white peppercorns blend marvelously with the coriander and thyme. Plain salt instead of sea salt would be okay, but use less; fine table salt packs more densely than coarse grains.

Baby bella mushrooms are immature portabellas, and they’re not cheap unless you get lucky and find them on sale. Plain button mushrooms would work just fine.
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Ant City Unearthed

This video reveals the enormity of an ant colony's underground structures. We have some competition as Earth's reigning civilization!

Also, the video mentions the ant colony as a "superorganism" -- it has the capacity to plan a vast, intricate structure very efficiently. That's a similar effect as Earth's biosphere sculpting circumstances to favor life: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and can do things on levels far beyond those accessible to the individual parts.
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Obama Halts Attack on Gray Wolves, Other Bush Misdeeds

Early activity by Obama and his team shows promise in cleaning up the mess left by the previous administration. Much of the last-minute damage may be undone. Earlier damage will take more effort, because it's not subject to a quick halt-and-review. President Obama (I'm not going to get tired of saying that anytime soon!) needs our support, encouragement, and thanks for his hard work. You can read his agenda here, and there's a contact page for messages.

Various activist organizations have produced a flurry of activity explaining how you can help support the President's efforts in their respective arenas. Here are some good places to check for additional ideas:
ACLU -- thank you note about closing Gitmo & ending torture
ONE -- thank you note about poverty & disease prevention
Sierra Club -- thank you notes about environment and hope
Activism.net -- pick a cause, any cause


Obama Halts Attack on Gray Wolves, Other Bush Misdeeds

Swooping into office to save the species this week, President Obama started his administration off right by immediately announcing a freeze on publication of all the Bush administration's last-minute, biodiversity-harming rules not yet put into print. This means the new administration will get a chance to review -- and hopefully trash -- bad Bush-era policy decisions, including the heinous removal of Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and Great Lakes regions. The freeze will also put stop to Bush's laughably low fuel-economy standards and a rule that would have injuriously changed the format of the endangered species list to redefine the extent of coverage provided to endangered species.

Unfortunately, President Obama's move can't undo the worst of the Bush administration's latest environmentally detrimental actions: the changes to the rules implementing the Endangered Species Act -- eviscerating our country's most important wildlife protection law -- and the relaxation of rules restricting mountaintop removal mining. Reversing those will take a little more work, but the Center for Biological Diversity will work to see it done.

Read more on Obama's freeze in the Guardian UK and learn what it could mean for wolves in the Idaho Statesman:

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2009/guardian-01-22-2009.html

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/center/articles/2009/idaho-statesman-01-21-2009.html
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How to Make a Perfect Personal Omelette

When I was younger, I used to make open-faced omelettes in a big skillet. Recently I recalled that I hadn't made omelettes in a long time, and they're good for supper too. Current household tastes are more varied, so I decided to make individual omelettes in a little skillet. The results have been most favorable. Omelette making is less of a recipe than process, with options. Here is a general description of it works.


Personal Omelette


Tools: Use a small nonstick skillet with sloped sides, and a plastic spatula with a fine edge. These make it easier to fold the omelette.

Heat: Turn the heat on so the skillet will be hot before you add the eggs. It should be hot enough that the egg mixture sizzles and starts to cook immediately, but not so hot that the egg layer promptly forms a huge bubble in the middle. On my stove, pointing the dial marker at “Low” is ideal.

Lubricant: Use about a tablespoon of ghee, also known as clarified butter, available in ethnic or international stores. It is better for you, and MUCH more heat-tolerant than ordinary butter or margarine, so it won’t burn. Ghee is a crucial ingredient in a perfect omelette – nothing else performs as well.

Eggs: In a small bowl, scramble together 1-3 eggs. Most people like a 2-egg omelette; vary according to appetite. Farm-fresh or organic eggs tend to have better color, texture, flavor, and nutrients than ordinary commercial eggs.

Milk: Add 1-3 teaspoons of milk. It makes the eggs blend better and improves flavor. Skim or other lite milk will save calories; whole milk, half-and-half, or cream make for a heavier and richer omelette. I typically use half-and-half, sparingly. Once the eggs are scrambled, mix in the milk. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. If it doesn’t spread evenly, tilt the skillet gently to fill out the circle.

Spices: Salt and pepper to taste. White pepper doesn’t make dark flecks in the eggs, if you care about that. Sage, oregano, sweet marjoram, thyme, cilantro, or parsley are also good. Add just a pinch or a spinkle of spices to the top of the egg circle.

Cheese: Any kind of cheese that melts easily will work in an omelette. Swiss, cheddar, and mozzarella are excellent. Flavored herbal cheeses are also nice. Use 1-2 singles or about 1/8 cup of shredded cheese. If you’re carving cheese off a block, make thin slices or shavings so they’ll melt. If you want chunks of cheese, cut thicker slices from a block and dice them before starting the eggs. Add the cheese when the egg layer is mostly cooked but still wet on top.

Filling: Many types of vegetables (cooked or raw) and meat work in an omelette. Peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes are good vegetables. Chicken, turkey, sausage bits, bacon bits, beef chips, diced ham, etc. are good meats. (This is a great way to use leftovers.) Slice, dice, or chop them – and heat them if they were cold -- before starting the eggs. Store filling ingredients in small bowls within reach of the skillet. Add about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of filling when the egg layer is cooked and the cheese is melting. Spread filling from the middle of the egg circle towards one edge.

Folding: With the spatula, carefully lift the empty edge of the egg circle. The underside should be light brown. Fold over the filling, press gently, and hold for a few seconds to allow the filling and cheese to meld. Turn the heat OFF. Let the omelette sit for about a minute. Check the underside; it should be a slightly deeper brown. Hold a plate close to the skillet, slide the spatula all the way under the omelette, and quickly transfer the omelette to the plate.