Monthly Archives: November 2012

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I am already boiling my organic, free range turkey into some organic, free range turkey stock! I wish everyone a pot full of gratitude and plenty on this and all days!

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Taking Stock

It’s almost Thanksgiving!

I go on and out on Thanksgiving as a holiday. I have had good years, bad years, ho-hum years, and in-between years.

The best years are those when the food, the company, and the spirit of gratefulness infuse each other to create the most memorable leftovers.

This year is a banner year, as it is the first time I will be cooking, and hosting, the holiday. I am pretty excited, to say the least. My husband is a fantastic cook, and a Roast Turkey Whisperer, and I think that together, we are a possible tag team of Thanksgiving Champions.

Most thanksgiving dishes are pretty basic. There really isn’t a huge leap from the first foods I made for my daughter and the majority of traditional thanksgiving sides. This is why, I believe, it is important to buy great quality ingredients, watch your seasonings, and cook everything carefully.

Therefore, I made my own vat of Chicken Stock. As a base for casserole, gravy, and stuffing. And turkey basting. I want a liquid that is delicious, not that tastes like salty can/MSG in a cube.

Chicken stock- any meat-based stock, really- is not rocket science to make. Cookbooks give recipes that are often somewhat complicated. When I read them in my head, I hear a firm, headmistress type voice imploring me to wrap my bouquet garni in cheesecloth.

People, the pioneers made stock. Cavemen made stock. If it was so complicated, man never would have invented soup. It’s basically savory meat tea.

That being said, there are several very important pieces that need to be included in stock-making:

1. A good amount of bones and skin from your chicken. I most often use the entirety of a chicken carcass, but you can save up bits of drumsticks, or bone-in breast. Leftover meat is important as well, but I would think you would eat most of the meat you would cook.

2. A combination of carrots, celery, and onions. Use at least 1 whole carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 1/2 an onion. I usually use a lot more. Other vegetables can be included; there are a few absolute no-nos unless you are looking for a specific flavor in your stock. The stay-away list include anything from the cabbage family, lettuce, asparagus, and peppers. When I know I am making stock, I start a freezer bag for the odds and ends of veggies. Since you do not eat the veggies, you can save whatever. This past time I used collard green stems I had saved.

3. A ton of herbs, both dried and/or fesh. I usually use a ton of Italian seasoning and lots of peppercorns-like 1/4 cup of whole peppercorns. Since this was my Thanksgiving stock, I used a whole container of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage, the one they sell as “poultry herbs.” Mmmmm.

4. More or less garlic. I usually use 1/2 of a bulb. If you don’t like garlic, you can leave it out.

Take your chicken carcass and bones, veggies, herbs, and put them in a large pot. I actually own a stock potbut you don’t need one. The only thing I recommend is not using a cast iron pot. It gives the stock an iron-y taste. Though if you are anemic, this may work for you. Fill the pot with water to just cover the ingredients. You don’t want a few bits of stuff in a huge pot of water; you want a high concentration of stuff to water. Bring the stock to a boil, then turn it down to barely a simmer. The way I describe the simmer-state is that there should be a blip bubble, as if someone was scuba diving beneath the surface of your stock pot.

Then…you wait. Let it cook forever. At least three hours. I try to go four to six.

Do not do this in your crock pot. I beg you. The water needs to slowly evaporate and concentrate the flavor.
Or, if you do, don’t tell me.

And taste it as you go along.Take out spoonfuls and look at the color. As it will not be salty, it may taste bland in comparison to your normal soup base.

When it feels done, looks done, and tastes done, find a bowl to contain the liquid, and pour the contents of the pot through a colander. I usually let it cool a bit first, so I reduce my chances of scalding myself should I spill.

I promise you people will notice a difference.

I am sorry there is no picture. I don’t have the skills to take a picture of a bowl of murky liquid.
But the deliciousness will waft through your home, and you will be so glad you made this. I promise!

Guilt Free Saturday-Sleep

First of all, I feel proud that it is Saturday, and I am writing this post “on time.”

This Guilt-Free Saturday, I would like to talk about sleep-or lack of it. As in, your child’s sleep is the priority, the curfew, the dictator, in so many ways, while yours is…hmmm. See, I can’t think of a witty comparison because I am currently running on four-ish broken hours of sleep.
That being said, where am I going with this?

Let’s start with some irreverent humor about kids and sleeping. Do you know this book?

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If not, you should check it out here.
If this doesn’t offend you, you should then proceed to watch Samuel L. Jackson actually read the book out loud.

Sleep, I feel, is the first measuring rod of how “good” of a parent you are- and how “good” of a baby you have. The first thing you are asked is, “Are they sleeping through the night?” if you can say yes…it’s like the first gold star.

But the issue is murky, quirky, and full of pitfalls the deeper you go into it. Where does your baby sleep? With you? Near you? Safely ensconced in a crib? You don’t nurse her to sleep, do you? You answer every cry, right? You better be teaching your baby to self-soothe…and on, and on, and on. And for every scenario, there is an expert, a book, a bounce, a blanket, and someone telling you that what you did/are doing/want to do is wrong, or damaging, or spoiling your baby, or turning him or her into an unattached psychopath. And you? You just, at the end of the day, I bet, just want your kid to go the f*ck to sleep. I know I do. In fact, after last night’s two hour midnight “chat” session, I would add that I just want her to STAY asleep.

Quite frankly, I have had enough of the sleep wars. I really do suffer from baby sleep guilt. As opposed to my first two Guilt Free Saturday posts, which were sort of mom power liberation essays, I am here to confess that I feel sleep guilt with my child no matter what I do.
This is why:
1. She is, and has always been, a heavy sleeper on a regular schedule. And I take advantage of that for my own gain (i.e. the night we put her to sleep in her carseat at a loud chain steakhouse).
2. I don’t co-sleep. But I want to. And sometimes I do.
3. Sometimes I let her cry herself to sleep when it’s naptime. Just writing that makes me want to apologize and explain myself (I call this Dr.Sears-specific guilt).
4. I am pretty rigorous with her bedtime routine. This means sometimes she doesn’t see her dad at night due to his work schedule. Which makes both of them sad.

It’s like no matter what I do, I can’t win.

And my child IS a good sleeper! I shouldn’t feel guilty at all.

But yet I do.
And resentful; because when she does have a rough night (teething, cold, night terror), or when she is going through one of her “up with the chickens” phases, she takes a two hour nap after a leisurely morning.

I, (and her dad- I don’t fight my sleep wars alone, thank goodness) on the other hand, go to work. And do chores. And make her food. And, you know, do other parental and grown up things. I go through the day thinking, “where is MY two hour nap?”

Not that I ever take one. I am not a napper. Nor am I a good sleeper.

I refer to coffee as my “life elixir.”

I am encouraging you, on this Guilt-Free Saturday, to give yourself a break about whatever you do-or don’t do-to get your baby-and yourself-to sleep.

In other words, give the sleep guilt a rest.

What a Crock-Colcannon Soup

I had a lot of potatoes.

And I promised to learn more about crock pot cooking.

Actually, that isn’t true. I promised to learn about HEALTHY crock pot cooking.

This soup is not healthy. At all. In fact, I would categorize it in the “food that kills” category.
I had good intentions. I initially had chosen a Cooking Light potato soup recipe, intended for the crock pot.

But then, it snowed.

You can’t make brothy, healthy soup when it SNOWS. I mean, seriously. Especially if it snows so much you have a Snow Day (which are way better when you are an adult, btw). You need food that will stick to your ribs. Food that they might serve at, say, the Chatterbox Cafe in Lake Woebegone.
I decided to make a thick, creamy potato soup. Something I imagine has roots in a Midwestern Housewife’s kitchen.

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Colcannon is an Irish dish that is basically mashed potatoes with a frightening amount of butter and cream, mixed with kale. Whoever invented it obviously subscribes to my theory that adding kale to anything makes it a health food. This soup, which I based off an Internet creamy potato soup recipe, is basically a liquid version of this dish.

To be honest, it wasn’t the best soup I have ever had. It was a little too…white. Also, I think that using commercial cream of whatever soup to make yet more soup puts flavor at a disadvantage. Next time, I am making cream of chicken soup with this recipe

With that disclaimer, I give you…Soup That Kills!

Crockpot Colcannon Soup

5 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small onion (or equivalent) finely chopped
1/2 bunch of kale
2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup
2 cups of whole milk
1 cup of sour cream
1 stick of butter, cut into hunks
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste (confession-after looking at the sodium on the soup label I added no salt)

But everything except the sour cream and kale in the crockpot. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for six hours. Regardless, when the soup has about 45 minutes to go, stir in the sour cream and kale.
If you like, fry some bacon and crumble it on top. Everything is better with bacon!

Guilt Free Saturday: Outsourcing

First of all, I would like to acknowledge that it is Monday, and I know that. I could pretend this post got lost in the Internet, but I won’t. Besides, that only works these days with the 50 and above crowd, most of the time.
That being said, Guilt Free Saturday is more of a state of mind, anyway.
With this in mind, I would like to share this cartoon with you, which one of my friends posted on Facebook:

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Whenever anyone used to ask me, “Wow, how do you do it all?” I had an answer I used for the past year or so that usually gives the complimenter pause (because in the world of working moms, looking like you are doing it all is the goal, and acknowledgement of that, a compliment): “Badly.”

Believe me, not too many people know how to respond to that one.

More than anything, it was a reflection on how I was feeling. Which, incase the answer wasn’t obvious, was, in fact, pretty bad, most of the time. I hadn’t lost my baby weight, my tiny house was in shambles most of the time, and I felt terrible for leaving my baby while I went to work-and terrible on the days I was grateful to leave her to go to work.

Eventually, something had to give. I began to realize one of what I like to call The Big Mommy Secrets; are you ready for this? When you become a mom, you don’t change. You just are you with a baby. Any changes thereafter come as a necessity and having a child you care about as a motivator.

I am a terrible homemaker. And not just when it comes to housework; I don’t decorate either. I am happy with a mattress on the floor and a few piles of books. I hate cleaning, laundry, and DIY projects. I can’t sew. I am not a weekend warrior. Cooking, in fact, is my only real homemaking skill. I like any home project that involves giving things away so I never have to wash them again. That is about it.

Yet, this voice in my head believed that once I became a mother, not only would I want to do these things, I would like to do these things. That my sweet baby would make me into a Stepford wife.

Well, here is what happened. Not only did I not become a Stepford wife, I realized that I was using my baby to have fun making by MORE MESSES. I mean, seriously. I love throwing toys everywhere. And splashing in the tub. And undoing entire rolls of toilet paper. That is how I roll!

Finally, a Wise Woman revealed the answer to this sticky issue. How does one balance misery (and, let’s be honest, somewhat selfish homemaking tendencies) with the needs of one’s family? How do you use free time as family time, and not “let’s scrub the bathroom” time?

Outsourcing, my friends. Outsourcing. There is an entire service economy out there to be had for the taking, and before you think to yourself, “that’s too expensive,” I am here to tell you that it’s not. There are people willing to clean your house, do your laundry, deliver groceries, deliver meals, walk your dog, and play with your children so you can do something else. There are professional services, teenagers looking for a few extra bucks, and individuals looking to trade and barter services.

What stops most women from taking advantage of these isn’t money. It’s guilt. The voice in your head that tells you you should be bringing home the bacon, frying it, and then washing the pan. Now, when someone says to me, “how do you do it all?” I smile and say, “Outsourcing.” There is still the same pause after this response. But these days, I don’t focus on bringing home the bacon, frying it, and washing the pan; I just enjoy myself some delicious, crispy bacon.

Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin…Muffin

Of all pumpkin delights, pumpkin muffins are truly my favorite. They walk the delicate line between sweet and savory, with all delicious sugariness one expects of a muffin; yet, their resolute brown color and spicy substantialness give me the feeling that I am eating something to squelch my hunger pangs. After I have a pumpkin muffin and some coffee, I feel I can go, like, plow the fields with Pa all day.

And yet, with great pumpkin power comes great pumpkin responsibility. So many pumpkin muffins are lacking-too few spices, leading to a flat, dull flavor. Or too many bells and whistles, leading to a mooshy, smooshy, icing and crumble topping sugar explosion.

This Recipe was suggested to me and upon looking over the ingredient list, I felt sure they would deliver.

Now, baking and I are often a tragic match. I have oppositional defiant disorder when it comes to baking recipes. When I don’t have an ingredient, or enough of an ingredient, I substitute with wild abandon. This often does not go well. Thus, my use of organic baby food pumpkin and canned pumpkin as a substitute for the fresh pumpkin the recipe calls for.

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Wow, love my to be composted pile in the background there. That is some sexy food photography.

But I digress! Back to the muffins!

Also, I had no allspice. So I left it out.
Despite these substitutions, looky here….

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Epic muffin greatness! And they taste as good as they look.

Next time I make them I am going to include the allspice and make this cream cheese icing to drizzle across the top.

One more note: this made enough batter for 12 muffins and a mini loaf pan of pumpkin bread.

I truly believe if Linus had these, the great pumpkin would have landed.

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I ate this!

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to escape with my love for a little R&R-and some EPIC eats. What is vacation without some culinary indulgence?

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Delicious Pizza cooked in a wood fired oven at The Flatbread Company. (A great recommendation from a friend!)

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French fries fried in DUCK FAT from Duckfat. We also ate churros fried in duck fat with a salted duck fat caramel and a spicy chocolate sauce that was actually hot.

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And Moxie. We were in Maine, after all.

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While on the way home, we had to eat some seafood. For me, this was a jumbo lobster roll from Bob’s Clam Hut.
At this point, it was good we were on our way home, because our bellies ached.

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But what’s a little fried food every now again? And where around here can I get myself some delicious, organic, duck fat…