Monthly Archives: March 2013

Pecking Away . . .

I worked on the living room and bathroom yesterday. There’s more floor space available in the living room than there was, although it’s hardly glamorous or somewhere you could invite guests. I found a way to use the folding footstool with the house plants, which made a few things easier regarding the plants, but also made it harder to get into the storage trunk where I have soil, pots, & seeds. It’s nearly time to start the lettuce and other plants for the vegetable garden, yeah!

This morning I cleaned the other 1/2 of the bathroom counter I hadn’t yesterday and swept the entry & staircase. After that,  I processed the asparagus I’d bought which absolutely had to happen today or the stuff wouldn’t be worth keeping. The pan is cooling before I put it in the freezer. We’ll have asparagus soup again tonight, made from the broth (result of blanching the soon-to-be frozen veggies) the bottoms, and the better parts of the about 10 spears I couldn’t snap the bottoms off easily. The soup will have a lot of fiber and I’ll probably fish out the really tough pieces before making the soup, they’ll still be white/pinkish, even with some cooking.

Today’s lunch is left over onion soup (we had soup & salad for dinner last night) and probably hummus sandwiches.  Tonight we’ll have the asparagus soup and I think chicken or pork (something). I have no idea what? Maybe with rice pilaf? [I woke up this morning thinking about rice pilaf with fruit & nuts.]

NOTE: One of my friends once told me that she tried making soup from the asparagus bottoms and it was so fibrous she just tossed it. Until tonight that had never happened to me. But I probably won’t do soup from the bottoms again. I may save them in the freezer and add a few to soup made with a bunch of asparagus otherwise, but not from the most woody stuff. I couldn’t finish it — sigh — and I LOVE cream of asparagus soup, darn it!

Last night was *wonderful*! I slept all night and went right to sleep — a rarity for me (or anyone with PTSD). A good nights’ sleep is something to be cherished!
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Feb. Numbers Met — New Target!

I couldn’t get the target modified when I tried last time, which is why I hadn’t done this earlier. Anyway, I’ve now met February’s goals, so this is the altered target for that.

I’ll post a new tally sometime tonight or tomorrow!

2013 target smaller Mar 17

March Sales

MARCH NONFOOD SALES

March is one of those transition months. Winter goods will be replaced, if they haven’t been already, with incoming spring merchandise. Accordingly, the last of the winter stuff is usually on sale. Look for bargains on ice skates, etc.

There are also the beginning of the spring sales: garden supplies, spring clothing, laundry equipment can frequently be found on sale along with many small appliances too: curlers, shavers & hair dryers. Finally look for bargain luggage & shoes!

MARCH MONEY-SAVING TIPS

I tend to buy “gourmet” foods on sale and put them aside. I can’t afford to pay the premium prices the markets want for them otherwise. I buy asparagus when it appears cheaply, the beginning of the month. March is usually the last month for a while you’ll find bulb fennel on sale too. I saute fennel with mushrooms (also on sale in March) and serve it as a side dish. If you love mushrooms, make duxelles and put a pint or quart jar in your fridge. (I usually use up a pint, but quarts don’t work so well for us.) Use the duxelles in omlettes, stews, soups. The cooked mushrooms last longer than the wonderful (but fragile) fresh ones do!

MARCH FOOD SALES

Last of the winter stored apples are on sale this month. If you make apple butter or can apples, it might be a good time to get some? (My apple butter supply tends to be gone by the end of March.) Artichokes, avocadoes and grapefruit should still be on sale. The very first springtime veggies also appear: asparagus, edible podded peas, mushrooms, rhubarb, along with chicken, large eggs.

Asparagus Soup

Used up the end of the first container of asparagus last night, making cream of asparagus soup. The labels on the package said that I’d frozen the two batches in March & April last year. There’s one more batch in the freezer from April (I think?).

Again, I didn’t use a recipe. I sauteed 1/2 large shallot diced, cut the tops off all the asparagus, then cut the rest of the spears (except 6) into thick slices. When the shallot was transluscent, I added the asparagus slices and stirred them around a while. Added 3C hot water, enough soup base to season and let the stuff simmer. (If you’re not using soup base, use 3C hot chicken stock.)  In the meantime, I cut the last 6 spears into thick slices. I put my stick blender into the pot and buzzed the stuff for all it was worth and cooked it a bit more. Decided it might be too much fiber and poured the soup through a large hole sieve. Not enough body to the broth, alas. Added the last slices and tasted, needed the fiber, so it all went back in.

When I thought the slices were nearly done, I brought it back to a simmer, added the tips, turned off the burner then stirred in the cream. We had soup, salad, & toast for dinner. Nothing is left in the pan and the oldest pan of asparagus is gone. NOW I can freeze more!

The best, cheapest thing I found for freezing food in season is a small aluminum casserole pan that comes with an aluminum lid you crimp around the edges. They were cheap* last year at Stop & Shop, I can wash & use them over, they have square corners* and can be stacked*. Not perfect, I’d have liked containers about 1/2 – 3/4 this size, but I’ve managed.

To freeze asparagus: I clean it, take the woody bottoms off, cut to size if needed then blanch by dipping it into just-boiling water. The storage pan is filled in two layers with a sheet of waxpaper top/middle/bottom. The pan holds 2-3 layers, about 2 bunches.

*This was a requirement!

Pretty Scary (at least if you’re me)

I’ve spent all day working on the living room. I can see my living room emerging from the chaos. On the one hand, I’m fine with it and EAGER to see what it will be? I feel like a sculptor whittling away all the excess stuff to get at the heart of it.

On the other hand? I figure somewhere I am just freaking out, and I haven’t found it yet. Very disconcerting — waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The car is FULL of stuff to take to the antique booth at the fairground. All kinds o’ stuff, kitchen bits, decorative bits, useful thises and thats. All were in the living room between booths, hadn’t been taken yet, or something. Now they’re in the car to go AWAY!

I’m excited, I’m scared what the outcome will be and frankly there’s also a piece going, “It’s about TIME!”

Weird to be me I guess, but that’s hardly new either!

Winter Garden and the Living Room

One corner of our living room has an old trunk in it. Next to the trunk are two small tables. There’s a wire mesh basket on the trunk, and in it is stored various plant-related supplies: potting soil,, used soil, pots, and seeds. Atop of the trunk is a commercial ice water container (like used in restaurants) and various potted plants. This is my winter garden. The stevia survived, barely, the maidenhair fern has pulled through, the onions died, the potatoes are sprouting, and the two vases of daffs have put up dark green leaves.

Today I cleaned that corner of the living room. I pulled out the coffee table (it had been under the barristers’ bookcase) moved the two small tables and the trunk down into the corner. Got into the trunk, pulled out the rest of the daff bulbs and the seeds and planted all the sprouting bulbs. Only lost one! [I’d expected that most of the unplanted bulbs would be dead, but they weren’t 😀 .]

This is the opposite wall from all the bookcase crates. There’s some bookcase boxes against this wall too, but they’ve been there for some time. They’re behind the new graphics table against the wall and as I uncovered things today it became obvious that they’re not full — that will change!

In the past two days I’ve unpacked two boxes of books, mostly into the living room. These are books to be sold, but that doesn’t matter, they can’t sell  in boxes. I don’t remember what I have or where it is, so it won’t be sold. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

While cleaning out the corner, I found a piece of stereo equipment I need to ask DH if we’re keeping or selling and the two pieces of cash register drawers I intend to use as shadow boxes. I know where they’ll go eventually too. But it’s part of the back wall stuff and I haven’t gotten there yet. There’s a loom to move (full size, folding) amongst other things before I get there.

The biggest problem is likely to be the flat file. The flat file is steel, it’s big, and right now it’s in the wrong place in the middle of the room. DH & I were talking about what has to happen next and the flat file was part of the discussion. We have a plan to move it, but even with rollers, etc. it’s NOT going to be easy.

Our living room is roughly U shaped. One wall is done. The parallel wall was started today. The back wall pretty much has to be tackled before the rest of it can get finished. The flat file is in the middle of the U.

Definite progress, but it’s still a mess, full of boxes and asst. stuff — although less than first thing this morning!

Using What’s in the Freezer and Disasters

It actually isn’t a total disaster, but . . . there were certainly disasterous moments! Because it’s early spring, asparagus is CHEAP (< $2/lb here). Time to GET some and freeze it. Except, I’ve still got 2 containers of it in the freezer.

Soooooooooo, plan B. Make my spring risotto (ham & asparagus) tonight and asparagus soup sometime this week. That should empty the 2 containers and I’ll then buy some and freeze a new stock. Great idea, yes?

I pull the 1st container out of the freezer, except it ISN’T asparagus, it’s eggplant. Okay put it back. I’d used up one of the containers of asparagus? Cool, I won’t have to make soup. Pull out the 2nd container — which is also eggplant. Sigh.

Okay. I search through the freezer until I find the asparagus, which I do, 2 trays of it.  And now of course, I have to put all of the other food back and since that’s true, I decide to label the shelves and be ORGANIZED!

Uh, no. The freezer tape won’t stick to the edge of the shelves, only the glass, where it’s covered up by the food; labeling it there is pretty stupid. So I put the labels on the freezer wall. That works — grin!

I weed out a few items I have no idea what they are or why I have them and smugly decide I’m smart to make the risotto, there are 4 packages of ham, 2 pkgs of bacon and 4 packages of sausage, as well as the two trays of asparagus.

Get one pkg of small ham slices out. (sized to go in sandwiches). Thaw it partially in microwave, cut it into bits, turn to stir the risotto, turn back to get the ham, knock the plate just wrong, and BOOM! The broken plate and cut up ham are now on the kitchen floor.

Okay, okay, this was half  the package. I stir the risotto, turn it down, then sweep up the pieces of dinner plate and/or ham I’d probably step on while cooking, wash my hands and get the other 1/2 of the package. My arm, the one with the on-again off-again nerve problem? Well, it decides my hand isn’t going to hold onto anything right now and BOOM! the other half of the ham winds up on the floor too.

I pick it up, toss it in the trash, scream for DH (with a few other well thought out words reflecting my Anglo-Saxon heritage while I wash my hands again) and get a large ham slice from the freezer. With DH’s help, 1/2 of that was cut into bits, the 1/2 we didn’t use is in the fridge, the floor got swept properly, and dinner got finished.

I don’t actually follow a recipe for the risotto any more. The amounts below, except the rice and broth vary. These are approximations — change the amounts to suit your taste.

1 small sweet onion, chopped; 1/2 ham slice, diced (precooked); 1 bunch asparagus, bottoms removed (tossed or frozen, not used in this recipe), tops removed, stems chopped, 1C rice suitable for risotto, 1 quart hot broth* (I use soup base, chicken mostly with a little turkey to add depth), about 2T olive oil, fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Heat olive oil, add chopped onion, saute. Add rice, stir until just starting to turn lightly golden, do NOT brown entirely. When rice is lightly golden brown, add 1C broth (beware of steam burns!). Stirring continuously, cook on low to medium, until there’s just a little broth not cooked into the rice, then add another cup. Repeat this process two more times once more. Add cut up asparagus stems and ham cubes. Cook a bit, add the last cup of the broth, cook it down to be a bit wetter than the previous occasions, add the asparagus tips. When the tips are dark green, pull off of the burner, it’s done!

Serve with salt, pepper, and fresh grated parmesan to taste. Taste it first, the broth and ham both add salt and so you may not need as much as you’d think!

Because of the protein, starch, green vegetables in this dish, we eat it as a one-pot meal. That is, we eat this for dinner and that’s it, except for whatever we’re drinking, usually water. These amounts will make two adult meal portions, and you’ll have enough leftovers for at least one person’s lunch.

*I use a 2 quart Pyrex measuring cup to make this and heat the water/soup base in the microwave for about 3-4 minutes before I add it the first time. The broth supposedly needs to stay hot between being added to the rice, and since I have a tabletop microwave, all I have to do is after I get the broth in the rice for this batch (happens in 4 batches) is put the measuring cup back in the micro and start it for 1 min or less.