Monday, September 23, 2013

Chicken Stock Ready To Go

      At this point everybody knows how much I love chicken stock. I make some with every carcass I have. In addition to using it for a plethora of soups, I also use it when making risotto, cous cous, wild rice and as a braising liquid occasionally. The tricky part is that I don't always need a quart or a gallon, like when I'm making soup. The other applications only used a little bit.
     So I freeze cubes. The average ice cube is around 2 ounces. Now whenever I make risotto I just reach into the freezer and grab a couple of cubes. They thaw in the pan and I have just the right amount that I need. Also, it's easy to add just a little more if ever needed, instead of trying to thaw or chip a piece off of a quart container.
     It only takes a few minutes but the payoff is monumental. I try to always have some in the freezer! And look at that gorgeous freezer! She's getting full alright. Now to get some proteins in there.
Happy freezing.
Simple City Sam

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pineapple Resurrected

      We didn't kill it! Yet. You all undoubtedly remember the riveting piece I wrote months ago about trying to grow a pineapple. Yeah, right. Well, we spent the next few months trying desperately to kill the poor thing, it seemed.
     Every time I came around the corner our cat, Noche, would have the leaves in his teeth, yanking it from the soil. We replanted that thing countless times. The girls were a bit over zealous in their watering schedule and appeared to be drowning it daily. In fact hubby was ready to throw it out. I can't say I blamed him. Actually, the only reason he didn't was because I asked him not to, to wait for our girls to help dispose of it so they would have a greater understanding to natural cycles. Blah, blah, blah. Our busy schedule erased the issue from our minds and we forgot about the task. As luck would have it, it's a good thing we didn't throw it out.  
     I had set the entire pot outside early this summer with the afore-mentioned intention of throwing it out. I needed to get it away from that darn cat. (Hehe, see what I did there? No? Well, my mom did, it's cool.) We let this baby enjoy the Maine summer outdoors. It got sun, rain, and (to my knowledge) no cat teeth.
     Lo and behold! New growth! Check it out. I noticed it two weeks ago while watering the nearby carrots. It became "all hands on deck" as we made sure to protect our new beauty. We have since secured it a spot in one of the sunniest rooms of the house, which is also conveniently closed and "off limits" to all pets- especially Noche. We rotate it so it can get optimal sunshine and we monitor it's water content better than we had before.
     The original parts are certainly a bit worse for the wear, but there is no mistaking that beautiful bright green new growth! I am excited and so are the girlies. We will continue to keep you posted of course.
The con continues.
Simple City Sam 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Beet Goes On

      Like anyone with a garden, the Fall for us is filled with harvesting and storing what we can from our garden for the long winter. It may sound silly but it makes me feel a little like Laura Ingles Wilder. I like that. I also generally end up getting super ambitious and driving the Hubby crazy, but I just get so excited and wrapped up in all of it that I can't help myself!
     Ok, so today was beets. I actually bought a "Bowl of Beets" from Snell Family Farm for $10 at Farmer's Market. There were 10 ENORMOUS beets in the bowl and a handful of medium sized beets and they were beautiful! I love beets. I roast them, pickle them, I ate a bowl full just after they were boiled for crying out loud.
     I am, however, the only one in the house who will enjoy them with such fervor. The others may indulge me by eating a few but I know that will be the extent of their commitment. So I only "cold pickled" two jars as opposed to actually canning a ton of them. I sliced the beets and placed them in jars. Then, to the jars I added 1/4 red wine and filled the jar the rest of the way with red wine vinegar (leaving roughly 1/2" of space). I added some fresh dill, minced garlic and raw sugar. I sealed them up and they are resting peacefully in the fridge as we speak. In a few weeks they will be divine and I will undoubtedly devour them.
     I saved out two for roasting with meals over the next few days as well. I've left them whole but if you wanted to you could peel and chop them and then store them for easy use later.
     Then we took the rest of them and set to work so that they could be frozen. The beets were tossed into boiling water (skins on)  for roughly 45 minutes to an hour. When done, a knife will easily puncture one. Then we took the skins off, which are removed easily at this point, and chopped them. We let them cool fully and packed them up into a few serving size containers. These will be pulled and prepared for family meals throughout the winter.  We also filled a 1 gallon sized freezer bag with them. This will be used for a large family gathering, probably Thanksgiving or Christmas.
     The project was easy and will give us some variety this winter while still giving us local freshness too. My standing chest freezer is growing fuller and happier by the day! Hooray!
Winter will be delicious.
Simple City Sam      

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dessert, Scavenger Style

      Well, it's the end of the week again. No more school lunches to pack for a few days. A busy, hectic, weekend is no doubt in store. It's that time of the week when we run a real solid chance of having some food go bad in the refrigerator before we can get to it. Hey, now, it happens to the best of us. We do great in not wasting food and work all week at making sure we use what we bought. I also make a huge effort during grocery shopping to not over buy. I know my family's eating habits and I know what we need to do to stay healthy. It's not easy but I balance them both, and that's the key. Nonetheless there is sometimes that one random clementine juiced in it's own rind rolling around the bottom of the fruit drawer, that sad limp celery stalk in the back of the crisper, the lonely handful of grapes on their way to making their own wine. I can't let that happen!
     If I notice a few things here and there that are straggling toward the end of the week I try desperately to take action. Last night we had a glorious fruit tart for desert. All in the name of conservation!
     We had one plum, two small peaches, 3 strawberries, and about a 1/4 cup of blueberries (which had already made their way to the freezer for longevity's sake). Hubby offered to whip up a quick pastry dough. Then I remember a random, lonely, single pre-made pie crust that my mom brought over for the last family get-together that was never used. It's just been taking up space in my freezer...sure not a ton of space but you get my drift. Plus unless I'm making pumpkin pie I'm going to need two crusts so this lil guy was never going to be used.
     We took the fruit and grilled it to really enhance the flavor. It makes the fruit super yummy! The grill adds a "rustic", earthy element to any item that I really love. Then we cut it all down to generally the same size pieces and tossed it with brown sugar, a teeny bit of cornstarch to bind and a pinch of salt to elevate the flavors. The mixture was placed in the center of the pie crust and the sides were folded up and pinched secure. We left the top open so it would cook faster, not be stretched too thin, and look cool too. With a damp hand hubby moistened the crust edges and then sprinkled a bit of raw sugar around the top. (Oh good, now there's no chance I won't eat ALL of it tonight, thanks Hubby.)
     It was popped in the oven at 375degF for 15-20 minutes. We put it in as we sat down to dinner, having made it with dinner prep, and it was perfectly cooled and ready to serve right after.  
     In the words of my youngest, "Tso, TSO yummy". What's best is that the reality is that these ingredients could have easily found their way into the trash or compost- a total waste. All it took was a teensy bit of creativity and effort and instead we had a glorious desert.
Happy Salvaging!
Simple City Sam 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Charting "Growth"

      The first day of Kindergarten has come and gone. I did well, no tears. She did amazingly! In fact it was all I could do to get her to allow us to accompany her all the way to the classroom, as opposed to leaving us outside school as she had suggested. Nonetheless she did it. We did it.
     I decided a few days ago that I needed to do something to help remember the first day of school every year! I wanted to make something special for me and her (and later her sister) to do together. So I thought about the questions that would be most changing, telling, and meaningful over the next several years of growth. I came up with three. I intend to ask her the same three questions every year and, of course, record for posterity and general overall embarrassment by her parents.
     This morning she and I sat down and went over the questions.
1. What is your favorite item? The thing you just can't do without?
2. What do you want to learn in school this year? What is your goal?
3. What's your life's ambition? What do you want to be when you grow up?
     I fully expect this to be a chore, filled with rolling eyes, in anywhere from 5-10 years from now. If that long! But I won't stop, oh no! I can't wait to see how her answers change. I can't wait to see how she reacts to her previous answers. Most of all I can't wait to see what the end of the school year brings and if she'll have mastered that hand stand!
For now we are taking it one step at a time. Mostly because that's all I can handle.
Simple City Sam