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So, I binged the My Magical Cottagecore Life podcast last week (yo, this podcast is excellent) and between the gooseberry episode and the one about jams, I couldn't stop thinking about this thing I used to make: blackberry chicken. It's something I used to throw down in the Time Before I Had Children, when I used to make foods because I liked them, but this one slipped out of my repertoire—and probably for no good reason except that I ran out of blackberry jam and I forgot to buy more.
First, a warning:
I am not a chef.
I'm a barely-passable home cook on most days, but I do (sometimes) find cooking cathartic, I'm an acts-of-service hearth woman who likes to put food into the people she loves, and I'd rather eat my own cooking (or my mom's cooking) over restaurant food just about any day. But I overcook things a lot. And I cut corners. And sometimes I don't bother measuring.
But I made a thing, and the family liked it.
And before you're like, "That's not enough food," stop judging me; I had just eaten an entire row of Girl Scout cookies already.
After that, I moved the chicken to a little lidded baking dish. I had a good amount of oil still in the pan, but if it had gotten too dry, I'd have just added more oil to loosen up the browning on the pan, because that's the good stuff.
I used the finest of store-brand-whatever blackberry preserves/jam/jelly, which this time happened to be seedless (which may be why the Finicky One approved) but doesn't have to be. I put some (oh, measurements—like a third of the jar—several scoops; y'all, it's jelly, you can't screw it up) into the pan drippings and smoosh-stirred it with my spatula until it was thin and sticky and it appeared that I'd committed a murder.
I spooned the blackberry-and-drippings deliciousness onto the chicken, and then slathered it around with a basting brush. It was thick, and I didn't want the sugary stuff to scorch, so I added water (how much? some. IDK, like a quarter inch in the bottom of the pan or something) and swished it around some more. That went, covered, into a 350 degree oven for however long I needed it to sit in there while I prepared the rest of the stuff we ate: carrots, cucumbers, mashed sweet potatoes, and buttered toast sticks (look, I only had two pieces of bread and there were three of us, so that was a way to make it equitable). It wound up being about 20 minutes. The chicken was already cooked, so I just wanted it to suck up some juice in its lidded dish and the blackberry glaze reduces better that way—it burns in a pan on the stove.
And then we ate it. Because that was the point. We were hungry, and that was dinner. We ate outside because Colorado was pretending it was summertime, and we wanted to pretend along before snow hit again. I look like I'd done yard work all day because, in addition to making dinner, I'd done yard work all day.
The kids asked for it again the next day. #success
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I have great affection for the spirea bush in my front yard. When I bought Greta (that's my house's name) there was nary a sprout of vegetation on the property, aside from this unruly shrubbery. I mean, I thought there was another grassy thing that I dutifully watered for months until I realized it was a plastic Ikea plant, but the spirea...the spirea has been REAL all along.
And anyway, it's springtime, and Spirea the OG (that's what I call it, because that's its name) was looking kinda scraggly, so I fired up the hedge trimmer, laid down a tarp so I wouldn't have to pick clippings out of the rocks, and I gave it a haircut. It's looking much tidier over there in its spot, supervising traffic along the side yard; but it had already started to bud out so I gathered some of the clippings, dropped them into bottles, and brought some springtime inside.
In a few weeks it'll be covered in little white flowers. I can't wait to bring those inside too.
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It was about a week ago that a mommy friend of mine posted this:
And I was like, "Yo...this search makes pretty fairyland stuff show up." Yep. And then I fell down a rabbithole of various types of -cores. Cabincore. Witchcore. Naturecore. RAVENCORE. Y'all, there's a ravencore.
"Has anyone seen Effie?"
"Nope. We've lost her forever to the internet."
Since I'm a busy mom/teacher/writer, I did the thing I do and tried to learn more by way of my ears. I popped my AirPods in and went podcast hunting. This is how I came across "My Magical Cottagecore Life." And that's what I did this week. I listened to EVERY episode—and some of them twice.
In her podcast, Kenya Coviak talks about useful plants, oft-underrated-or-forgotten foods, working creativity and beauty into her day, and making the most of what you have. I found myself leaning in and nodding with her gentle reminders to be considerate of our environment, be sensitive to cultural appropriation, and be good to yourself and your family; and she does this from her Detroit lens, acknowledging the realities of city life and the diversity and scarcity and loyalties inherent in it. She has depths of wisdom, and she quietly imparts it like a friend chatting with you over tea or while assembling a craft at the backyard picnic table. Like a real life friend, she throws the sorry-not-sorry kinds of apologies for cheesy puns and "mom jokes," which listeners can treat like a drinking game if they have no respect for their livers. She talks about her listeners like she knows us personally, loveably adding, "We're friends, right?" to each episode, which is why I think she's my best friend or sister-from-another-mister despite the fact that she's never met me.
Anyway...I loved it. Ten out of ten, would recommend.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is the Effie Cottagecore Cottage:
Damn right it is.