Category Archives: Family Life

Carcass 201: Stock (for real this time!)

A while back I posted about making stock. What a perfect example of misinformation! (Turns out I was actually making BROTH) That post goes to show you that anyone with a keyboard and a blog can spout off with undue authority. Myself included. A few months back I had the opportunity to film Chef Jess at The Viking Store’s instruction on how to make proper stock. So, for your viewing pleasure, I’m embedding her video below. Bon appetit!

Mean Mama

Kiddo has been wearing me out lately. If it’s not an incessant plea for attention it’s good old fashioned disobedience. I never felt “shake the baby” urges with him as an infant but I’m feeling some kick the kiddo urges something fierce now (not repeated kicking, mind you…just a solid drop kick…one that gets some distance…).

I don’t dig the rage. It does not become me. I remember telling our flatmate two days before my wedding that he’d made me so angry I wanted to pull his head down his throat and out his arse…see? That’s ugly stuff…

At church on Sunday I lost it. I picked kiddo up from the nursery after the passing of the peace so he could be with us for communion prayers. He squirmed, spoke too much and did not follow my instructions. At one point he was reaching for a hymnal on the pew in front of us and I told him not to. He began arguing with me and I got angry. I was mostly angry about arguing about something so stupid – something I didn’t really care about – simply because I’d put my foot down. But I’d put my foot down. War was waged.

At the same time, familiar, peaceful words were left unattended. I was missing the parts of my worship I know by heart; my speaking role. And in the midst of the words I love I snatched up that damn book and I pressed it into his belly. Not too hard, mind you – but I’d wanted to shove it at him.

I cried through the next hymn, my mother’s arm across my shoulders telling me it’s ok…

Then I began to reflect. I started thinking about how I have been doing things, how I might change things, how I might rustle up a happier relationship with the 3 1/2 year old I love so dearly. Here are a few samplings of those meditations…I’ll be interested in hearing your thoughts.

  1. I think stay-at-home moms generally have a better sense of routine. It is at the fiber of their very survival and most kids respond well to it. Maybe it’s not because I work…it could just be my temperment…but I wonder if I should mindfully create more structure in our time together
    1b) This idea later sabotaged me when I lost conviction on a punishment decision (withholding his bedtime story)…
  2. There’s a concept of emotional banking I’m familiar with whereas if you (for example) want to have leave to make decisions for a child without suffering him independent growth you supplement that growth with created decision opportunities: Do you want to play outside for fifteen minutes and then take a bath or do you want to go ahead and take your bath now?
  3. I was already looking for guidance before the Hymnal Incident, and our pastor was talking about Doubting Thomas. It’d take some explaining to give Mary’s sermon justice (it was very good) but the message I heard was it’s ok to have doubts: they lead to questions to meditation to growth.
    3b) This was especially comforting as I mused further and thought of how much more confident I’ve been in my parenting at other stages of kiddo’s life. I’m struggling to find my confidence on this one. It’s unsettling.
  4. I am totally getting mine. I never shut up as a kid (and rarely do now). The irony of having an incessant talker for a child is soo Alanis Morissette;)

I’ve spoken with hubby, sissy and mama about my frustrations. They brought new ideas to the table and helped me find more peace on the matter. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. What kind of parenting have you witnessed or practiced? Any guidance, reassurance or (cringe) criticisms for me?

Carcass 101: Stock (with a side of Dumplings)

I’ve always said I would have been great in a Depression. It’s a rare occasion when I allow food to hit the waste bin and more often than not it’s after several rounds at the table. I am a left-over reinventing queen. My hubby rolls his eyes at the end of nearly every family occasion as I pack leftovers and carcass(es) for the trip home. He later tolerates me as I clutter the kitchen, sometimes taking a shelf’s worth of space in the refrigerator with my various stages of stock-making. But when you see what you can get from what you might have thrown away…whew-ie! Totally worth it.

So here’s a little Carcass 101 with some pot luck tips…

1.  If you have a large carcass, sometimes it’s better to take your time processing it. There are good break opportunities in the process so if your life will be less complicated by slowing it down, put on the brakes. Knowing this has made the idea of starting stock at 2:00pm on a Sunday much less daunting.

2. Break the carcass if necessary to fit in your pot. I generally let my carcass occupy about 2/3 of the pot and fill it with about an inch or two of water. Add water throughout the process to maintain these approximate levels.

3. Throw in some seasoning (sugg. bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, etc.) and whatever veg you choose. Chef Shea Markwell (Cooking School @ The Viking Store) gave me a killer tip on stock veg: as you prepare veg for meals save peels, skins, ends – anything you would compost – then freeze them. Just bag ’em, tag ’em and put ’em on ice until you have the occasion to make stock again.

4. Heat your stock and simmer for several hours. I’ll sometimes turn off the flame for little stints in between once the pot gets good and hot (it keeps cooking, anyway); I just have a hard time justifying such long use of my stovetop.

BREAK OPPORTUNITY: Nothing wrong with letting the pot cool down a bit before sticking it in the fridge. You can pick up the process tomorrow by just heating it up again.

5. Place a large pot/bowl in your sink and set a colander in it. Pour your stock through and set aside the broth. Let everything cool.

BREAK OPPORTUNITY:  This is a great stopping point if you have room in the fridge for both the broth pot/bowl and the rest. Either way, you really should stick the broth in. If you leave it overnight the fat will congeal on top and you can skim it off before freezing.

6. Pick out the meat from the bones and skin and toss it into the ziplock (first label and date the bag) you’ll be freezing the stock in.

IF SKIMMING FAT: once it has congealed, skim the top of the broth with a large spoon and toss it in the bin (not down the sink!).

Skimming fat from stock 1Skim fat from stock 2Skim fat from broth

7. Add the broth to the meat, squishing it around so the meat is surrounded by it. Get as much air out of the bag as you’re able before closing it.

6. Freeze.

And there you have it – Carcass 101. Does anyone have anything to add to the process? What do you do?

When I made turkey stock on Sunday I also made a batch (this one not low fat:)) into Turkey and Dumplings for our supper. This was both my first and second attempt at dumplings…the second turning out better:) I’m going to include a link to the recipe here, as well as my notes.

Epicurious.com: Chicken and Dumplings
– I only used the dumpling recipe (the quick recipe in the footnotes) and the cooking instructions from this recipe, but I’m sure it’s all tasty:)
Instead of Bisquick, I used Aunt Jemima’s Whole Wheat Panacake Mix. I’ve also made a tomato pie crust with this and both turned out lovely :})

PS. While making this I also made my shampoo for the week.

Frugal Fever

Let me just start by saying this: I am not a financial expert. I have not studied the ideas or works of financial experts. I am a person in a family with a pressing need to get a grip on our finances. Two years ago, one of Dave Ramsey’s books lay on a table in my home for 3 months before I returned it to the well-meaning friend who loaned it to me…unstudied. There, disclosure done.

That said, I’ve had more occasion of late to consider frugality and I have some ideas on the subject I’d like to share.

1) Strategize.
Think about how you(r family) spends. You can start by mapping out existing expenditures; whether on a pad of paper, in a spreadsheet, or with a program. I recently identified groceries as a fatty area in my own spending and have used that knowledge to develop a

2) Plan.
Think about how you might trim that fat. I have decided I will only make one grocery trip per week. I might go longer if I get crafty, but when we’re out of milk on day 4 we’re drinking juice for days 5 through 7. It occurred to me that this might not only be a way to limit the “oh, that’s on sale and looks yummy” impulse buys but also a good way to track my spending methodologically and suss out my

3) System.
A means of maintaining and enriching the Plan. Maintenance is easy (or maybe not) in my example; I must go to the store no more than once a week. Enriching involves subscribing to and dutifully checking posts from gems like The Thrifty Mama and Money Saving Mom and utilizing the awesome tools on Publix’s website (Weekly Ad and Grocery List). I’ve also spent more

4) Time
on this than I have in the past. I browse the Publix Buy One Get One section on the website, opting for bagels instead of the bread on my list if there’s a BOGO deal on them. I open the fridge and pantry to take stock rather than just shooting from the hip in the store. I am an educated and prepared shopper. And, now that I’ve invested this time, if they’re out of stock on the deal I want to buy I’ll invest some more time to stand at the customer service desk and make sure I’ll be able to cash in on that deal the next time I’m in the store. At a certain point in time commitment decisions I start doing the math and figuring out how much an hour of my time is worth. If I spend an hour and save $5 I might opt instead to play with my family. But, when times get a little thin you have to

5) Tighten the belt.
Some efforts will be more uncomfortable than others. I recommend folks try to stay calm. Take a deep breath if you need to. Take a minute to think about all the things/people you do have in your life and how you might make a dedicated effort to spend more time with/doing those people/things (feel free to change things up with those word sets, by the way…no reason not to have fun! ;)) you love. And remember, this is not a quick fix. This is a conscious decision to

6) Change the way you consume.
You are making lifestyle choices, not going on a crash diet. Allow yourself to flex your creativity muscle, saving in ways you’d never consider.
Mantra: Reduce~Reuse~Recycle

I’ve been happy with my plan. I’m not only accomplishing what I set out to accomplish, I’m also spending less time at the grocery store:). Oh, and it occurred to me that since I’m going through all these coupons and deals anyway (plus I’m exposed to various promotions, etc. through work) I could easily tweet the really sweet deals out. To that end, I set up a Twitter account for Pot Luck Mama posts. Follow my tweets if that would be helpful to you. Of course, it’s a Pot Luck…you never know what you’re going to get…;)

I know I’m not the only one out here with frugal fever. What are y’all doing?

Date Night

Illustration by FPJC

Sonskyn and I lived in Centurion, South Africa from late 2002 to late 2004. We stayed in a two bedroom flat (with our friend, Koning) with a beautiful view of the sunset. Our place had an open door to all our friends and, seeing that most of them were back in their parents’ houses (several of us had just returned from working in Scotland together), there was a constant flow of company. Sonskyn and I are social people, so we enjoyed this.  Still, we have our ups and downs like any couple and I recall a period when I was especially hungry for romance.

I hinted at it. I threw the lack of it around like an accusation when we’d argue. I’d fantasize about all the dramatic gestures he could make for me…if he wanted to. Did he just not love me as much as I loved him? Why, though I felt with all my heart that he did, wasn’t I sated?

I was driving along the N4 from Centurion to Wonderboom one morning and just as I was cresting the hill overlooking Pretoria, a realization came to me. I still associate the idea with the view.  If I wanted romance, I should do something romantic. I shouldn’t waste my energy being frustrated with Sonskyn for not scratching my romantic itch. I should scratch it myself and show him how nice it could be in the process;). I spent the rest of the morning scheming.

First I had to kick Koning out for the night- easy enough. Then I found rose pedals at a florist, scribbled a cute little poem alluding to what was to come and had a friend come with me to drop off the car keys with my note so Sonskyn could get home. As he approached the car that evening to leave, he noticed a few stray pedals on the ground by the driver’s side…then a few more scattered on the  driver’s seat…

He came into the apartment, which was aglow with scattered candles and petals. He laughed nervously when he saw me in silk…

We had a lovely evening. We laughed, we smiled and we had a taste of romance. I was sated.

That decision and that evening changed me in a sense. The success tuned me in to a power I have – the power of free will. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, but our response to those circumstances are very much in our control. Remember, Sonskyn may not have been in the mood for romance that night. He may have come home and told me he loved me and the gesture, but just didn’t have the stuffing for a high-level emotional evening. He may not have reciprocated. His response was beyond my control. But, knowing that the gesture had never been selfless anyway, I hope I would have chosen to find happiness in the idea that he did love me and the gesture. If I forgave him for not being in the same place as me I bet he’d have appreciated it even more.

Last week a post from Annakate at La Aguacate inspired me to shake up my shopping cart with some different veggies. I picked up some fresh fish and on Monday night I cooked. I not only cooked, I glided around the kitchen, cleaning up as I went along and really enjoying the process. At some point it all just looked so beautiful that the need to be romantic took over and, on a random Monday night, Sonskyn and I had a romantic (though late:)) dinner. I saw the Pretoria skyline in my mind’s eye all the while.

1. I cleaned as I cooked so I could relax and enjoy sitting down to the meal.
2. Fresh ingredients and the A.V.C.T.. I couldn’t remember for the life of me what endives were called but they looked like they’d be tasty sauteed…
3. You see the cous cous there? Just sitting there ready for the kettle water?
4. Totally forgot to make it.
5. But that’s ok because it gave a new twist to our leftover lunches:)

  • Fresh Fish
  • Pecans
  • Shredded Parmesan
  • Cilantro – 1 bunch
  • a couple of tablespoons of flour (salt & pepper to taste)

Finely chop pecans (can use A.V.C.T.) and about 1/3 of the cilantro. Mix with Parmesan. Lightly dust fish with flour to dry and then dip into egg wash before coating with pecan mixture. Cook in pan with EVOO at medium heat. Flip when browned. Let rest on paper towel before serving on bed of cilantro.

I halved endives and sauteed them in the pan after the fish. Those, a chunk of mozzerella and a half tomato each were our sides…you could obviously do something different.

I hope my story inspires you to create a little romance for Valentine’s Day…it can mean so much more than those commercializing the holiday would lead you to believe. And, if romantic love isn’t in the cards this year, please remember that you are free to express Agápe, Philia, and/or Storge at your will. I hope your week is filled with love! 🙂

Pretoria skyline

Happy Meal for Mama :)

yellow peppers with egg-ham hash and steamed green beans

Happy meal:)

  1. It was good for us.
  2. It was made of leftovers and fridge contents.
  3. It was not holiday fare.
  4. The kiddo volunteered “Mama, this is great!
  5. I got to use my Awesome Viking Chopping Thingie [accessory to the Awesome Viking Mixer Thingie, purchased with Sonskyn’s Customer Service “atta boy” points:)].

Ingredients:

egg-ham hash: ham, spring onions, tomatoes, egg beaters and about half of a philly fat free cream cheese hunk, chopped individually with the AVCT and then mixed together. (You, of course, would resort to the ingredients you have on hand but I highly recommend Egg Beaters or some variation of the product as a staple…it’ll keep for damn ever…) You’re aiming for something along the lines of scattered and smothered (and covered would also be nice…mmm…) scrambled eggs, here.

yellow peppers: apparently they have more good stuff than the other colors but you can really use anything “stuffable” for the purpose- halved and baked at 350 F for about 15 min (you can spray with Pam to keep moist).

something green: because your plate needs some color.

note to self: I think it would have been prettier if I’d had some big, yummy red tomatoes…halved with fresh basil and (if I’d been really lucky) a hunk of mozzarella marinated in herbed oil…

anyway, Directions…:

  1. Cook the pepper halves (or other “stuffable” varieties) at 350 F (the ultimate safe temp.) until they are cooked  (if this makes you uncertain, just check that things don’t look whack every 2 min. after the first 6).
  2. Cook the egg-ham hash batter in a skillet at medium-low heat, covered. turn/stir/scramble as necessary.
  3. Cook up somethin’ green as a side.
  4. Stuff the “stuffable” and serve.

And in Conclusion…

Viking hand mixer and accessory chopper

Viking gear

Recreating leftovers is one one of the quickest (and least risky) ways to gain confidence in your culinary creativity. Give that rockin’ dish another chance to shine and freeze the overstock on your success stories!

PS. The egg-ham hash made a great breakfast this morning:)

PPS. Got a post from Money Saving Mom this morning on her Eat from the Pantry Challenge…think it falls in line with this topic so I’m including a link here so you can find out more if you’re interested.

Eat-from-the-pantry