Tag Archives: Housekeeping

A Pot Luck

I like pot lucks for several reasons. They lift the burden off host(s), ensure everyone who comes will have at least one thing to eat they like, are an opportunity to show off and never leave me hungry. I like to see what people were proud to make and hear the stories behind the dishes.  I also like the pot lucks where everyone chips in on the work, offering their services and expertise;) They are generally gatherings of like minds…I just dig ’em, ok?
(duh)

So this post is going to be a pot luck of sorts. I’ve been working hard this week and have ideas and plans and well, it was my birthday for Pete’s sake! So I’m just going to throw out a few of the things that have been floating around my mind and see what you do with them. Oh, and I also wrote a post on the VikingToGo site we just launched. The Community is still a little buggy (email notifications are not going through at time of publishing) but I enjoyed writing the first blog post and I hope you will enjoy reading it. You can check it out here:

A Foodie Knows No Borders

Have I mentioned what my go-to pot luck dish is, by the way? Baked brie. Easy enough to keep puff pastry in the freezer and just buy a wheel of brie when you have an event. Wrap it in the thawed pastry, topping the cheese first with a dollop of jam. Brush with egg (less waste with Egg Beaters) and top with some nuts. I usually have shaved almonds on hand. I also like to drizzle some honey over it about halfway through the baking process. Anyway, cook it at about 350 F and/or according to the pastry directions (I’d say about 40 min.). Let it cool at least 10 minutes before cutting it…otherwise it gets crazy runny. Serve with crackers and Bob’s your uncle!

So here’s my baked brie for this week’s pot luck:

  • My family’s visit to the family farm last weekend fell on a weekend when work needed to be done for my cousin’s new blueberry endeavors. How wonderful to spend that time growing food with my family in the south Georgia sun. That and the slip and slide was also very cool:). Anyway all this had me thinking about what it means to have a Sense of Place. I think that will be my next set of musings
  • I made my first batch of laundry detergent and it’s brought my cost per load to about a cent. It took me 35 min of work and I’m sure I can do it in less time next time. I have detergent coming out of my yen yang, too! Oh and more importantly, it works – well – in my high efficiency machine. Well done, Suite101.com:

Making your own Laundry Detergent

  • I have all the ingredients I need to make my first batch of sunscreen. Keep your fingers crossed/thumbs held for me, please! I’ll let you know how it goes!
  • Have you planted everything you planned to plant this year? I still have some things that need to get in the ground…I’m getting behind…

Hope everyone has a great week! 🙂

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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?

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

Housekeeping Yoga

In the (recently released to DVD) movie “Up” we meet a talking dog named Dug:

“My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you. My master made me this collar. He is a good and smart master and he made me this collar so that I may talk –SQUIRREL!———-(he shifts his attention, pauses, then returns his attention)——–my master is good and smart.”

This became a running joke with my family at Thanksgiving. Every time someone got distracted mid-task with another task someone would call “SQUIRREL!” and we’d chuckle sympathetically. But when we returned home this past Sunday after holiday travels (tis the season!) and my housekeeping loomed in front of me, I realized that chasing squirrels does actually suit me well. I dance around the house, picking things up, carrying them to the next room where I swoop down my arm and raise my leg behind me and keep my hips balanced and ground myself as I lift the lid to the toy box and then reach forward with the other arm and stretch the other side of my body and…breathe…dropping the toy into the box…

And so I run around my house, chasing squirrels and breathing in my body and thinking and moving and doing and all is well. (Ok, sometimes all this dancing and doing leaves me with piles of clean, folded laundry that never seem to make it to the closet or bureau…but if you don’t have something you need to work on then what are you doing, right?) This is my housekeeping yoga. To me, it’s an accumulation of memories and decisions. Jess, who would perch like a flamingo by the couch in college; “Beth excercises” that I would practice in our flat in Centurion, SA, just moving my body however felt right. You just had to be there, ok? Then, my mother in law told me that my hubby’s Auntie Siena (hot mama) used to stand on her toes up, down, up in the shower to keep her calves fit. When I finally started practicing Namaste Yoga (thanks, DVR!) I started gathering some proper go-to moves and it was done, man!

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