Food By Mom -- Hot 'n' Sour Soup

I *love* hot and sour soup, though I must say that most of the time when we get it as take-out, I add more hot and more sour. But I love it anyway. And for the last week or so I have had it in my head that I must make a big pot of it. 

Now, I confess that when my children were growing up, I didn't make this. And why would I when we had the most excellent Hu Shang restaurant just down the street? But now the Hu Shang is a thing of the past, gone since the owner was deported, and sadly the midcoast simply does not have a good or even fair Chinese restaurant. Which means a hot 'n' sour soup craving mom has to make it herself.

This recipe is cobbled together from a lot of different sources and is faithful to none of them. For starters, neither my husband nor I is particularly enamored of tofu. So no tofu in ours. And just as there are no great Chinese restaurants here on the coast, we have no Asian market either so I am using fresh rather than dried mushrooms. I have a package of lily buds, but I think it is around 15 years old so I'm not using them either. And I don't like bamboo shoots either so they won't be in my recipe. Therefore, it would be folly to think of this as an authentic hot 'n' sour soup. Think of it more as Hot 'n' Sour Soup in the style of a WASP in midcoast Maine.

After the storm

Well, we ended up with around 10" of snow and then we got rain for a while, so what was light fluffy snow became a lot heavier. 

I was walking through the dining room when I saw these amazing colors just as the sun was setting. The blues and pinks and soft purples took my breath away.


So while I was at the window, I thought I might show you the progress of my amaryllises(is that right for the plural?). Something happened to two of my bulbs from last year and they died. The third one has a bulblet coming along. So I ordered 3 new bulbs and potted them a week ago. Here they come --


Those of you who came here via Ravelry for Poppy's Flower, thank you! I have been amazed to see how many people seem to have found it, as I only mentioned it here. I am looking forward to seeing finished ones by other knitters.

Did I tell you it's cold?

We have now had 9 nights of temperatures well below 0F. The pipes to the sink in the bathroom keep freezing and then thawing during the day -- thankfully without any breaks in the pipes yet. And, well, it is just cold.

This morning with the sea smoke and ice on the bay, it looked like a Monet painting with the soft pastels --



Tomorrow we are expecting a snow storm and 10-15 inches of new snow on top of the 20 or so already on the ground. The good news in that is that it won't be quite so cold.

Several of you emailed me thanking me for the Poppy's Flower pattern. I'm really glad you like it. I thought it might be a good idea if I gave you some of the particulars of the pattern --

SIZE: 8 in wide by 48 in long 


500 yds cobweb or  lace weight yarn 

Beads: 250 seed beads -- 11/0 for cobweb weight yarn, 8/0 for lace weight. 

Size 2.25-3.5mm  needles -- needle size is very much a matter of personal preference 


8 stitches = 1 inch 

The amount of yarn is an approximation so don't hate me if you use  less.

A little bit of this...

Odds and ends today --

Poppy's Flower scarf pattern will is now available for download -- see link under Patterns on the right. Here she is --


I like that it is a bit of a variation on Dayflowers but more architectural.

Last night we had friends over for a small dinner party. I made coq au vin because it seemed just the right thing for a cold winter night. And it turned out well. But you know, I think I will not be buying chicken in the supermarket any longer -- because I remember chicken having a much deeper flavor than I have been finding in what I buy at Hannaford's. Buying locally raised organic chicken will cost more, but flavor is too important to give up. We have been moving more and more toward being locavores and this will be the next step.

We are in another deep cold snap. This morning when I cut up, it was around -18F -- that's air temperature, not wind chill. Pretty soon the lilac outside my window filled up with the several variety of finches who frequent our feeders. They seemed to be eating the hoarfrost which had formed overnight -- we had great billows of sea smoke. And they were all puffed up against the fierce cold, like this goldfinch --

Food By Mom -- Fish Chowder

This week the recipe isn't from me, but from my daughter Courtney. So I suppose the title should read Food By Mom's Daughter. Now when she was a teenager, Courtney gave no sign that she would become a great cook. I couldn't get her to agree to cook a meal but I hoped that when she was on her own, her interest would grow. And indeed it has and she is now a superb cook -- does a mother proud, I say!

Courtney’s New England Fish Chowder


6 oz good quality bacon

1 tablespoon butter 

4 tablespoons flour

2 medium onions, cut into 3/4-inch dice 

6 to 8 sprigs fresh summer savory or thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 tablespoon); or 1 tsp. dried thyme 

2 dried bay leaves 

2 pounds all-purpose potatoes such as Yukon gold, peeled and diced

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or fish stock if you prefer.)

1 cup clam juice

Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper 

2-3 pounds skinless haddock or cod fillets (as thick as you can get them), pin bones removed; cut into large chunks

This Big Day

We went to a brunch to watch the inauguration. It was at the home of one of the local Democrats -- a huge house, easily triple the size of ours, right on the water on the other side of the bay. Must have been 45 people present. In the Belfast tradition, it was potluck of course and the table was groaning with food. Most of the people there were from away (meaning not from Maine), most over 50.  

I learned something about myself while I sat there. I learned that I seem to have lost my willingness to hate.  

I heard around me snarky comments about the Bush family and then as the Bushes left, some really hateful wishes for them. And I almost started crying. Because moments before these same people applauded Obama's calls for leaving that kind of divisiveness behind. And I realized they believed that meant Republicans should change but that it was perfectly all right to wish terrible things for them.  

I am a deeply partisan Democrat. I have never voted for a Republican. It is unlikely that I ever will. I can't think of any policy of Bush's that I agreed with. But I don't wish him a terrible death. I don't relish dancing on his grave. I don't hate the man. I detest his policies and politics but somehow I have changed and I can feel for the person --the man leaving in ignominious defeat and failure, still the ne'er do well son. I don't need for him to have insight to feel compassion for the man, even while opposing with all of my being what he has stood for and done.  

Winter beauty

Yesterday at the height of the storm, people started coming out to play -- because that's how it is here. We have cold snowy winters so we make the best of it. I was delighted to see this family -- and their little dog on the hill in front of our house. The snow was deeper than the dog was tall. He bounded up and down back and forth between the adults and the child, wagging his tail and full of delight.


The snow ended this morning -- all of a sudden it just stopped and within minutes the clouds were gone and the sun was out.



The water that I look out on every day is Belfast Bay. It opens out into Penobscot Bay just a little bit to the right of these pictures and thence opens out into the Atlantic. The Bay is quite sheltered; we do not get big waves except in unusually fierce storms. At the top of the bay, not quite a mile to the left of the picture, is where the Passagassawakeag River empties into the Bay. So what we see is a mix of fresh and salt water. It takes many days of very very cold weather to freeze the Bay. Today there is ice --


 The cold gives me lots of time to work on this -- Poppy's Flower


Food By Mom -- Molasses Crinkles

It's snowing today and finally not quite so cold. I had a long and wonderful telephone conversation with my daughter earlier today and that led me to thinking about things my mother cooked. I don't have many of her recipes but I do have this one, written in her handwriting. She used to make these and I loved them. My grandmother made a molasses sugar cookie -- I'll have to find the recipe for them. But for today, Molasses Crinkles:

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda 

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger 

¾ teaspoon ground cloves 

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

12 tablespoons (1½ stick) butter, softened

½ cup dark brown sugar, packed 

½ cup granulated sugar, plus ⅓ cup for rolling cookies

1 large egg 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅓ cup unsulphured molasses

1. Adjust racks to upper- and lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together in medium bowl; set aside. 

2.Cream butter, brown sugar, and ½ cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape sides of bowl with rubber spatula. 


The ferocious cold that has gripped the midwest has moved into New England. When I got up this morning, it was -21F here. We made it all the way up to 7F but it's damned cold! But like many things, this terrible frigid air also brings with it some great beauty.

Like the arctic sea smoke this morning --


and the thick hoarfrost that coated the trees and shrubs here by the water --


This afternoon, when the sun has warmed the air enough to clear the sea smoke away, we could see the ice that formed on the bay. 


Spike wants you to know that even indoor cats need a blanket when it's this cold --


I decided to name the new pattern Poppy's Flower Scarf. It will be available for download sometime this weekend. Stay Tuned!

To charge or not to charge

This weekend I worked more on Eve II and I started a little scarf for a friend who lives in Australia. And I got to thinking about this whole pattern thing. When I did Medea, I made the investment in KnitVisualizer because I wanted to be able to make good charts. And KV does that so it is well worth the price. But it does cost more than I usually spend on a piece of software. So, when I finished Medea and released the pattern, I charged for it, as a way of paying for the software cost. And I sold enough to do that.

Now there are designers, like Susan Pandorf and Anne Hanson who design as their work. They are far more prolific than I will ever be and their patterns are deservedly popular. I will never be in that league, as a designer or in volume.

So I have been thinking about making my patterns free in the future. I create them for fun. I don't do many and never will. And somehow giving them away has just started to feel better to me. I will be leaving the charge on Medea because that's only fair to the people who bought it. But any more that I do will be free.

Full Moon Over Belfast

I love trying to get good pictures of the full moon rising and this time I am really pleased.



Food by Mom via Neal

It's really cold today -- an ideal day for good homemade soup. Now I am unusually fortunate because my husband cooked professionally for many years and soup is one of his favorite things to make. So tonight he made us potato cheese soup. It isn't easy to get him to spell out a recipe but here we go --

4 C water

Potatoes -- 2 C. finely chopped, 3 C chunks

1/2 onion, finely chopped

finely chopped garlic

1/4 pound bacon, chopped

10 oz. sharp cheddar, grated

2 C cream

4 T. butter




pinch of thyme

dash of Worcestershire sauce

Bring water to a boil and add finely chopped potatoes. While potatoes are boiling, saute bacon. When bacon is about half cooked, add onions to pan and cook bacon and onion until bacon is crisp. Pour bacon, onions and fat from pan and remaining chunky potatoes into pot with water and the cooked potatoes. Add salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, paprika. Continue cooking for around 15 minutes or until chunks of potato are soft. Then down heat to simmer. Add cream, cheese, Worcestershire sauce. Simmer until ready to serve.

Thinking isn't the same as doing

You know how sometimes you have days when you think about what you want to write but somehow you just don't get around to writing it? Well, I have been having that kind of week. And it finally registered with me that thinking about writing just isn't the same as actually doing it.

I think that having finished my photo project has left me a little bit at 6's and 7's in a way I wouldn't have expected. Taking that time every morning to *see* set a tone to my day that has been missing while I struggle to find what I want to take its place. But I started reminding myself that I don't have to have a project in order to take some time each morning and just look outside and see. 

We had some snow and sleet yesterday through the night into this morning. Not a lot, just enough to fill in the bare patches from our warm spell a week or so ago. So everything looks clean and white again today. Here's how it looks from y window right now --


There are loons and eider ducks down there on the water feeding today.

Food by Mom -- Meatloaf

My mother used to make terrific meatloaf. Meatloaf and a baked potato -- yummy meal ! I didn't realize until I was married that she probably got it from the Quaker oatmeal box who knows when ( says it dates to 1891!). I make it the way I saw her do it so many times.

Preheat oven: 350°F


1-1.5 lbs ground beef -- I generally use ground chuck *

1 large onion, chopped fairly finely

garlic, finely chopped -- I use 2 cloves

1/2 C. catsup

3/4 C oatmeal -- I use Quaker Oats

1 egg, beaten lightly



Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together thoroughly. Place in loaf pan and shape into loaf. Spread catsup or chili sauce over top. Bake for 1 hour.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes before slicing. 

Leftovers make great sandwiches!

*meat that is too lean will taste okay but not hold together as well. My daughter uses ground turkey and she says the same -- it tends to be crumbly.

The New begins with the old

Although my hands are itching to start something new -- I have this gorgeous cone of canary yellow cashmere that I plan to make a scarf for my daughter from, just as an example. But I am going to take myself back to a couple of older projects and get them finished.

Remember this --


Eve's Temptation, Take 2? I know the pattern works so now to finish the first half so you all can see it. Then I can make the pattern available. Here's a detail from it:


So I have picked her up again and have been working on her.

And her sister -- Eve's Temptation, Take 1? I just have to rework a bit of the tree and it will be all set also. That shouldn't take more than a couple of days so by this time next week I think I can get it done.

And I have been working on the lace and rib cardigan too :


It has been strange these last couple of days to get up and not take my daily photo. I thought for a while of continuing it but decided to keep it within the bounds I set at its conception -- one year and one year only. I can play with the images and do things with them for as long as I like, but it seems important to stay within the boundary I set. 

© Cheryl Fuller, 2007. All  rights reserved.