Yarn basket and pin cushion

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

on procrastination, and chicken stock

we're not as good at this blogging thing as we'd like to be. (and by we, i mean me, Ethel) .......

it is what it is. lately, all i want to do is listen to this band and learn a new way to tie scarves. i'm wearing lots of scarves lately, as it's finally crisp and cool here in the midwest. . . and scarves are a mild, inexpensive habit to acquire. i'm ok with it.

i digress.

in our last post, we learned of Agnes foray into poultry preparation (again, i say, well done!) --- and i promised a recipe for stock. here it is (and oh, so simple........)

initially i was going to roast a chicken and then use merely the skin and bones (don't be squeamish, there's tons of flavor left in those bits) for this preparation, but i accidentally undercooked my bird and realized it far too late. . . . so instead of eating a roast chicken AND making stock, i just re-cooked the bird as i made the stock. making sense? not to me either. truthfully i was pretty bummed out, but i wasn't about to risk salmonella just for the satisfaction of a juicy, roast chicken sandwich. sigh. i'm getting off track .

take a bowl of chicken scraps (bones, skin, questionable dark meat you don't enjoy, what have you ---- about 4 cups or so) and bring to a simmer in a pot with about 12 cups of water. throw in an onion, rough chopped, garlic, a stalk of celery, and seasonings, (i just used LOTS of salt and cracked pepper). allow this boney soup to simmer away for at LEAST 2 hours and skim away anything funky that rises to the top. there will be scum, and you should prepare yourself for that. after at least 2 hours (preferably longer) turn off the heat and allow your liquid to cool to a temperature that won't scald you should you spill it on yourself when you try and pour it through a strainer. (and i don't use a strainer- because i don't have one- just a spaghetti colander with smallish holes) ...... this will give you a cloudy, homespun looking stock with tiny bits of chicken still clinging to hope. i like this. if you want a clearer, more brothy substance, just pour it through a cheesecloth. if you own cheesecloth, you're a step ahead of me.

this recipe should make about 2 quarts of stock ---- which you will then CHILL thoroughly-  and remove the layer of delicious yellow chicken fat off the top. in theory, it will lift off in a nice solidified piece, but it may not. (and if a few bits aren't retrieved, and somehow (gasp) make it into whatever you prepare ---- i promise, it will only be that much more delicious. if i wasn't concerned with the state of my arteries, i would cook with chicken fat (AKA schmaltz ) every day for the rest of my life. it's THAT good.

that's it. now you have stock.

if you don't have enough scraps, or you want to make more than 2 quarts (which i recommend as it's the same amount of work) then save all those bits in a freezer bag until you have plenty.

from my decidedly non-kosher, but Jewish-cuisine-loving kitchen nonetheless,


ps ---
use more salt than you would think. probably a tablespoon. poorly salted stock tastes like dirty dishwater. (you think i'm kidding........)

pss- this freezes BEAUTIFULLY. i made a HUGE batch of stock last year (yes, last YEAR) and used my last quart a few days ago, to no ill effect.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Recession Era Cooking

Recession Era Cooking. yes, that's something i made up. no, we're not technically in a recession.... but for all intents and purposes, we might as well be. i remember a couple of years ago when (economically) things were just starting to get sort of bad, and we all got a handy little check in the mail from the government. it seems to me that things are worse now, and i would like another. (just putting that out there so Big Brother can pass it on to the man in charge)

i digress.

as an honorary (if not authentic) old lady, i like to think of myself as fairly thrifty and economical. thanks to my mother, who let me start making messes in the kitchen when i was just a small girl, i learned lots of ideas for making cheap, hearty, filling meals that don't break the bank. sometimes making inexpensive, healthy food is a challenge, but it's completely doable, and so satisfying.

(and i must say, i'm BEYOND proud of Agnes for her foray into poultry preparation. i lived with her for a year and a half, and i can honestly say i saw her handle raw meat maybe twice. kudos, A!)

i'm putting together a little post of menu ideas for "The Poor Pantry" --- but for now i'll leave you with one of my favorite breakfasts, for those mornings when both time and money are scarce.

this is KIND of derived from a migasy sort of idea, and kind of like a quesadilla, and basically just delicious and easy.

in a skillet, melt a teaspoon of butter (you could use olive oil if you wanted)
once the fat is hot, lay in a corn tortilla
sprinkle the top with grated cheese (though truthfully, when i am REALLY broke i skip this)
let the tortilla warm through (about one minute)
then pour a beaten egg over top. sprinkle with salt and pepper (or whatever seasonings you fancy)
allow the egg to almost set, then lay another corn tortilla over top.

flip the whole thing over and let it get brown and crispy.

i cut this into wedges and eat it along a steaming hot cup of coffee, or when i'm in a hurry i just let it cool a bit, roll the whole thing up burrito style and eat it in the car.

it's full of protein, fiber (corn tortillas are actually good for you) and pretty tasty too. i think the cost per serving ends up around fifty cents (though my math skills are sorely lacking)

from my (slightly) impoverished pantry to yours -
Agnes! don't you DARE throw away those chicken bones! i'll be back next time with a recipe for stock!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


 I am extremely grossed out by raw meat. I hate it. Unless it's on some fresh sushi, I want nothing to do with it. That said, I baked a chicken yesterday. And not only did I bake it, I had my hands all over it. My BARE hands. Ew! But I find myself in the tightest financial situation I have ever been, and decided that whole chickens are more cost-effective than boneless, skinless breasts. I still hate raw meat, and am paranoid about salmonella. I washed my hands at least 5 times during the process. Not kidding.
 I looked up in "The Joy of Cooking" (which always just makes me think of "The Joy of Sex" but that's another story) about cooking whole poultry, and read the basic recipe. One method was to preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and then lower it to 350 immediately after putting the bird in. So that's what I did. But first I cut some nice slices off the lemon that gave up its zest for the ugly cookies (bless it) and stuck them under the skin. I sprinkled the cavity and with salt and pepper, quartered an onion and the rest of the lemon and stuffed them into the poor chicken, along with 2 bay leaves. Then I rubbed the outside of the chicken with olive oil and salt and pepper, and some tarragon as an afterthought. I didn't truss it because I didn't feel like it, and didn't have any cooking string. (Can't waste good yarn, either!)
 I was a good girl and basted it every 20-30 minutes while it was cooking, and tented some foil over it to prevent over-browning. Now, "The Joy of Cooking" said to allow about 20 minutes per lb, but after an hour and a half, my not-quite-4-lbs bird registered at only 164.2 on the meat thermometer. (It's supposed to be 165-170.) I decided it was close enough and cut off a wing for Henry, since he had to leave for class soon anyway. But when I cut into the white meat, it looked questionable, so I put it back into the oven for about 20 more minutes. I may have slightly overcooked it that time, but in my opinion, it's better to have slightly overcooked meat than food poisoning. It was still pretty good, and that's coming from a girl who hates eating meat off the bone and doesn't much like skin.
I always feel awkward about my sign-off, so that's why I usually just don't have one. I'm not as witty as Ethel. So, Bye!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Marcel (and chili)

i've been avoiding the internet phenomenon known as "Marcel The Shell With Shoes On" for a very long time. sometimes, i act like a hipster. . . you know, too cool to like the things that everyone else does....
but after reading an article in Bust about Jenny Slate i decided to check it out. (go here to watch it, if you're like me, and have been snarkily avoiding the most adorable thing in the universe) .......

aaaaand now i've watched it maybe TEN times. ridiculous. super cute. big time suck. who cares.

the aforementioned has very little to do with this next part, in which i tell you that right now i'm making chili. hold on to your seat because i also photographed this chili. . . . and in doing so realized that very steamy things don't photograph well. (i think more accurately, i am just NOT ANY GOOD at photography- but i am laying all the blame on the steam for this one) ...

i'm not going to give you my chili recipe (because i'm not using one) my chili comes out differently (yet similar) every time i make it. today i just browned some ground beef with onions and peppers and threw in tomatoes and seasonings and am hoping for the best. i rarely use recipes for soups/stews/chili, what-have-you, bceause i feel like they just get in the way. there's not much room for error when you only put delicious things in a pot and simmer the heck out of it all day. we'll see. it's for food day at work tomorrow, and i don't necessarily work with the most discerning palates. i think it'll be fine.

enjoy your tuesday. mine is shaping up to be spicy and delicious.

from my messy kitchen to yours,

this was my cornmeal creation from last week. agnes and i should have an ugly cookie showdown.

Monday, October 3, 2011

You're never fully clean unless you're ZEST-fully clean!

 Tonight I hosted a knitting group at my house. Naturally, I had to bake some goodies for everyone, so I decided to try Ethel's lemon cornmeal things. My brother sent me the awesome microplane zester that I wanted, and it was begging to be used.
fresh out of the oven

I did pretty much the same thing she did, except my cornmeal was stale, so I used polenta, which is grittier, and just threw in the zest of the whole lemon. I was out of parchment, so I just used non-stick spray. Other than that, same. 
 I thought they had a fruit-loop type taste to them, and they were not beautiful, but Henry said they were a winner.

 Here are my new toys from my brother. A microplane, some nice measuring spoons (all the measurements had washed off my old ones, and then I melted one by letting it get too close to the flame on my stove) and a julienne cutter. I still need to find an excuse to julienne something. :-)

I think the group went well. There were 3 girls including me who were knitting with actual needles, 3 who were using knitting looms (NOT going to say anything!), 1 who was crocheting, and a boy who wanted to learn. I was excited about my new student! We didn't have much time once we actually got started with the lesson, because it was getting close to Daisy's bedtime, but he got the hang of casting on, and then knit one row. It wasn't perfect, but he did it. I was proud. I hope he sticks with it!

Friday, September 30, 2011

On becoming one's mother

 Over the last several years the gifts that I have asked for at gift-receiving occasions have become progressively more and more lame. I never understood why mom would ask for boring things such as, say, a new toaster for her anniversary. Well, now I get it. This coconut bundt cake is proof. As I mentioned before, I had a birthday not too long ago. Well, I asked for a bundt pan and some new house shoes. (Can you say mom?) Henry felt guilty giving me such a stereotypical housewife thing for my birthday, but I told him I really wanted it. He also got me some nice soft slippers that go with my plush bathrobe I got for Mother's Day to "soften the blow." I know it's lame, but I already made 2 cakes in it. The other one was a kosher honey cake. I was afraid the combination of flavors would be weird, but it was pretty tasty. But that's beside the point. Sure, I would love a trip to a day spa, or gorgeous new clothes, or something else that is luxurious and extravagant, but I'm a practical person with a limited budget, so I ask for the practical things I want, but wouldn't normally just go out and buy, and I love them. Even my electric toothbrush I got for Christmas. (I know!)
P.S. I just found out about the New York Sheep and Wool Festival and it's official: I need to move to a colder climate where such epic things take place. Where knitters abound! Or I just need to make a road trip to Rhinebeck, NY. (Even the Yarn Harlot is going!)

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


i love to bake, but i don't enjoy fussy, time consuming recipes that focus too much on aesthetics. of course, i don't want the food i spend time and money on to look unappealing, but really, in the scheme of things, it gets eaten whether it's pretty or not.

---- which brings me to today's (actually, yesterdays) recipe. i was laying about the house, feeling lazy and hungry and picked up this months Martha Stewart Living. i won't deny: i LOVE that magazine. it makes me wish i was far richer and could afford all the beautiful linens and table settings--- but even in my current financially challenged state, i always find the recipes to be affordable and delicious. (well, mostly affordable. i make substitutions on the spendy things, as you'll see . . . )

these cookies were delicious. just slightly sweet, with a nice crunchiness perfect for dipping in coffee or tea (or cider!). i'm going to make them again with different flavorings and see what combinations i can come up with. this is the recipe, directly from the Martha Stewart Website (with my substitutions in parentheses). this recipe came together in about 15 minutes and i couldn't be more pleased with it.

side note: use a good cornmeal here, as the flavor does come through quite strongly. also, i recommend sifting your cornmeal to avoid finding a weevil and having the toss the whole batch, buy new cornmeal, and start over. that MIGHT have happened.

happy baking!

ps- this time i did take pictures.... but they turned out terribly sepia colored. i'll get this food photography down eventually. . . . .

Lemon Cornmeal Sheet Cookie
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup fine ground yellow cornmeal

  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds (i omitted this and added 1 tsp vanilla for flavor)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • Coarse salt (i used regular table salt and it was fine)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg white, lightly beaten for egg wash

  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds

  • Directions
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, anise seeds, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
    2. Beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in whole egg and zest. Reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture.
    3. Press dough into an even 1/4-inch thickness on a parchmentlined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash; sprinkle with almonds and remaining tablespoon sugar. Bake until golden, 22 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Break into pieces.