Category Archives: Food

More Work: Tues & Weds

More was done on the roof and new patio on both Tuesday and Wednesday. This makes doing extensive things in the house awkward, but not impossible.

Tuesday:

I bought a bookcase last Friday. It’s shallow (12″) but long (48″) and wonderfully, it has 5 cubbies, 3 of which fit my notebook boxes. Hurrah!

Because of the new bookcase, yesterday I cleared and cleaned most of the space between the jelly cabinet and the end of the stairs, along the stair rail wall. (It’s cutaway to let heat from the woodstove migrate upstairs in winter.)  Anyway, I removed the 3 bookcase boxes from that wall, cleaned things, sorted the books, etc. into “outs” and “keeps” and put the new bookcase into place along that wall with the only one bookcase box and the short bookcase box on top (it had been on top of 2 larger bookcase boxes). The decorative stuff and the CDs and field guides which live in the short bookcase box have been replaced. I need to refill the bookcase with “keeps” from the sort and box up the “outs” so that they can be further sorted into “try to sell” and “donations.”

The donations get donated ASAP, the others will be put up for sale for a limited time. If they sell? Great! If not? They become donations. I am only keeping expensive or signed books these days for possible future sale. Regular books < $20 aren’t worth my time any more. . . .

Anyway, that’s the next step for the house culling.

Otherwise I have to remove everything from the new cap for those drawer units so DH can make a riser to go under it and the top drawers will move again. Then the top will be replaced, and the bookcase will be empty! The milk crates will be put to use in my office and the bookcase will (hopefully) be put into the attic fairly quickly. (If you’re keeping count, the bookcase will be the 3rd piece (the others are one bookcase box from the living room and the trunk) waiting to go into the attic.

Clearing out the attic has become a priority! So I will work on it and my office a bit more today.

This morning I worked on the compost heaps. I need to distribute the compost from the old heap into the vegetable garden and EMPTY the bin. I have 3 pallets made into a U shape which form the original bin. After way too long, I now have two more pallets to add, so  it will be W shape instead! I need to buy the pieces I use to anchor the pallets. I don’t have any just now. When I get the second leg added, the structure will be complete. There’s a “yard” attached too, for a leaf pile. Right now, that is holding the 2nd (current) compost heap and the leaf pile is a mess piled up on the side. I want to make this a LOT neater!

I used the wood ash pile up this morning too. Then used a layer off the old compost pile. The effort to make the new pile, use up the old pile, and neaten up the leaf pile(s) is going to take time and a few sessions of working on it.

It just started to rain here, again, so it’s possible that no more work will be possible until tomorrow. If it dries out? Great! If not, well, tomorrow I guess.

What I really, really wanted to do late this morning on the attic effort was haul everything from the “island” in the middle of the attic out onto the lawn so that it could be sorted into culls and keeps. The culls could either go to the storage, the dump (Weds.) or antique store.

Sigh. I do not have a “good” Plan B. It’s approx. 11:30, I guess Plan B is to have an early lunch and then examine the stuff in the attic and see what I can do otherwise.

Wednesday:

They brought the posts over which will support the new piece of the roof, this is going to be real sometime soon — or so it appears!

Aside from that I spent a lot of Wednesday processing the end of last week’s produce so that the new batch I’ll get tomorrow will go into a mostly cleared out fridge.

Did 3 loads of laundry, the laundry is finally starting to get caught up. Hurrah!

Did 3 loads of dishes too, and DH did some. If I wasn’t chopping, etc. food thru the day the kitchen would be clean, but it isn’t, because things get used as fast as other pieces get washed and put away. Oh well.

Did a dump run this afternoon. DH and I did another this evening. The sheets got changed on the bed. Fourth load of wash in the machine, 3rd load in the dryer.

Lots of work getting done around here. I think I should get another job, I might be less busy!

The Road Goes Ever On. . .

Okay. Today we did the “great fridge move” and pulled the 2nd cabinet out of the kitchen to go to the antique store.

Right this instant, it’s a disaster down there. The fridge part of the big fridge has been cleaned, but not the inside of the door, the freezer section or the outside. The little fridge has been cleaned, relocated, and refilled. The outside of it could use cleaning too, but that’s it. The freezer has had a layer of frost removed from it (I use an ice scraper, the stuff is really soft).

The cabinet is in the middle of the room. The area where it stood has been swept and has been partially refilled with asst. other stuff.

As I said, the kitchen is a disaster. The sink is full of the dishes which haven’t been washed as well as various containers holding “science experiment” foods and containers of food which just need to be pitched and the containers washed.

Clearing the kitchen counters alone is about an hour’s work. That plus the rest: removing things from my car, putting the cabinet/top IN the car along with whatever else I can fit will take some time and effort. I would dearly love to be nearly done for today, but I’m not!

We’re doing some kind of “instant” dinner. Maybe more of the breakfast burritos we bought for flea market mornings (The market opens at 6 a.m. I’m not cooking breakfast at 5 in the morning!)

J

Today

DH is working on upgrading the electrical system on his motorcycle. He helped me with some of the leaf moving (rake, then relocate). Later today, we’re off to the storage to work on that.

There are probably more books here ready to be gotten rid of. I gave one  to a neighbor. Have another to ask a second neighbor about and the yard is tidier than it was. All good.

The fertilizer I used up (we’d had it for 2 years, why?) was rained on for the next two days. A lot of it went into the bulb beds, and the daffs. and other bulbs are shooting up green sprouts all over the place. Partly because it’s time, but partly because they got fertilized just as they were starting their spring push. The rain was a blessing for them.

So we need to buy more mulch for the bulb bed to keep out the weeds (grass), but the bulbs should spread out quite a bit this year because of the timely fertilizer and rain.

I’ve been working on the spring/summer food/garden plans,  Between the farm we belong to and the garden I grow (sometimes, didn’t last year) we are usually drowning in green stuff by June. I want a better plan for what comes in/when and what I intend to do with it this year! I’m about 25% done with this piece. Finished the initial data gather yesterday. Pulling it together.  There are 2 or so more data gathering steps before I can make an actual plan, but it should get there.

Off to the storage — ho!!!!

J

We took a file box full of books and a few besides to the market which has the book bin. Gone! I have gone through one box since we got home and have started the 2nd. There’s about 10 more books in a bag to be donated, wherever it is we go next that will take them.

Zero Waste?

We have always recycled. That is for nearly 40 years now. Before you get on me about recycling and its virtues: in college my husband (then roommate) and I recycled our glass bottles at our college’s glass blowing program, had the local boy scouts cued in that whenever they had a paper drive we’d contribute, etc. Later we drove to the base recycling, because it was the only one available to us, it wasn’t the town’s dump. So, okay? I believe in recycling and have always practiced it, for for 39+ years now.

So, zero waste as a concept isn’t new to me. The “movement” I see is new. I agree with it, but I think the ludicrous “posts” I see of a family of 4 having only a quart jar of waste a year to be a cheat. Why? Because if you read these blogs, etc. a lot of what you see is what you’d expect: use vinegar, home-made cleaners, permanent cleaning tools rather than paper towels, etc. But you also see things like the cheat (well, I consider it a cheat) I found which turned me off of all such blogs.

The cheat? The person bought a pair of shoes and left the shoe box with the store. That ISN’T zero waste, it’s just being nasty, giving someone else your garbage. You might just as easily take all your other waste in a plastic bag and stuff it in a municipal trash can.

recycling process

Yes, there are things you can do to lower your waste. You can deliberately find a use for something you might otherwise discard. You can buy big packages of supplies (food and otherwise) and make smaller, more convenient collections of those things yourself (preferably in something other than disposable bags). You can use rags instead of paper towels. You can not buy things with pieces which are trashed every time they’re used. You can pay attention to what you buy and what winds up in the trash. How many bags of garbage does your household generate? Can you do better? (We use 1 a week, plus recycling.)

You can also save money and avoid a huge amount of waste if you just use more of your food. Or learn how to cook, right? Prefab food generates container and packaging you don’t have if you cook yourself. Think about it: when I buy a package of ground meat at my local green market, it’s wrapped in 2 pieces of paper. [I admit, if I’d remembered, I could take a lidded, freezer-safe container with me and use that. I didn’t last time, hopefully I will next time.] Anyway, because we make our own bread, the packaging for us to get hamburgers on the table is the wrapping around the meat. Everything else comes in a big package (like a head of lettuce or bottle of catsup) and is used multiple times. Contrast that with the paper napkins, wrappers, receipt, salt, pepper, catsup packets and bag which make up a bag of 2 hamburgers from your local Mac’s. Is it cheaper? No. Is it faster? Well, my local Mac’s is 25+ minutes away, so yes it is.

food waste

But don’t tell me you’re zero waste and go to a store, buy a pair of shoes and leave the packaging. Get your shoes repaired rather than buying a new pair. Buy a used pair? Donate TWO pairs to a charity when you buy that new pair? Try making it a policy to have minimal shoes. For me that’s 5 pairs: daily shoes, snow boots, fancy shoes, sandals, house shoes. My fancy shoes, if I have them, (I don’t at the moment.) are usually either solid white or black. My daily shoes are shoes I wear when I’m going out, they tend to be walking shoes. The house shoes are slippers or slip ons I use in the house, sometimes I use socks. Honestly? If I wasn’t in a snowy climate, I could manage without the boots and could use the sandals as house shoes and for the fancy shoes too, I have previously. That would leave me with daily shoes and sandals.

For restaurant take out, you can do what a friend of mine has done for decades: put a picnic basket in your car with real plates, cloth napkins, food containers, etc. in it and ask the restaurant to package your food that way. Some fast foods may not be able to cope with that, but some can. Pay attention, do what you can, and keep looking for new ways to lower your impact on the world.

I’m not zero waste, but I admit what I do and don’t foist my garbage off on others as if that somehow makes it “vanish.” It doesn’t. The idea that the things we discard don’t count or will vanish is a lot of the reason we got where we are. So, don’t tell me you’re zero waste and foist your garbage off on someone else. If it comes with the goods you buy, it’s yours. Deal (and be honest).

Revised To Do List 3/6

to do list 1

Keep using pantry goods. Empty the freezer before June 1. Should be as empty as is practical to make it!

Finish the doormat.

Box up the rest of the stuff for the flea market in April

Finish getting the tax info to the tax person before the appt.

Get ahold of my student and tell her when I’m available this week.

Get at least one piece of one item off of the long-term list!

Needs to be Home Made, Again

We bought a package of croissants Sunday. They were terrible. As DH said, “Never even smelled butter.” Obviously no butter in them, and lousy chemically after-taste. This is the reason we don’t get donuts at the big chain, in every town, donut shop, ick. The refrigerated/partial prefab croissants aren’t too bad, they at least have masked the chemical taste or actually use enough butter that you can pretend it’s not “imitation” food.

I have recipes of course. And I usually have all the ingredients. So it’s just the doing. One more thing to add to the list of things we need to make here.

bakery

You’d think to read this that we’re total food snobs.

In some ways I guess I am? My Dad grew up eating au cuisine food, although to hear him tell it he didn’t realize that until he was an adult. When I grew up we ate really well, if not fancy.

When things got tough (and they did) we ate out less and ate more pot roast which then became other things. But the meat was decent, because he wouldn’t eat anything else. In those days, meat was still the centerpiece of the meal.

Like most people in the US I think, I’d forgotten what beef tasted like, really. We had an occasion to buy some fancy prepackaged ground beef, not the supermarket grind, and it was yummy, like the stuff I’d grown up with, and unlike McD’s where the meat is just a platform to pile other foods, with no taste of its own.

So I decided I should buy only the fancy stuff. That was a few years ago. And slowly, over that time, we keep learning that the stuff at the supermarket is tasteless (or tastes bad). Like the “ministeaks” last month or the corn tortillas last week and the croissants last weekend.

I didn’t set out to be a gourmet cook, a food snob or a DIY cook. I’m getting there because I can’t afford good restaurant or supermarket food, and the cheaper foods mostly taste bad.

It’s like Christmas cookies. We got a batch last year which had obviously been made with cheap margarine, flour, sugar and “stuff” (sprinkles and chocolate chips.) I swear the chips were scented? Anyway, all of it was so bad, we both tried one cookie and the rest wound up in the trash. Another plate was given to a mutual friend who said they arrived burnt. Why would you do that??? For heaven’s sake folks, if you’re going to make something as a gift, make one thing, well, and spend the money or don’t do it at all. Also, don’t give away things you wouldn’t want to eat yourself!

Honestly. I think people in this country’s taste buds are so inured to lousy food they think that anything that slightly resembles traditional foods is okay. I’d rather someone just said “Happy (whatever)” and that’s it. Really! Food doesn’t have to be made of premium ingredients to taste good, but these days apparently, if you make it as cheaply as you can, it’s possible to ruin vanilla wafers, sweet pickles, tortillas, ground beef, croissants, and no doubt a lot of other things.

So, on my list to master this year: pie crust, croissants, tortillas. DH is working on crackers. On my list to make again (or keep making): apricot jam, marmalade, bread & butter pickles, apple butter. I need to learn how to can, so the stuff I make will last longer. Every jar of food I make winds up in the fridge, as it’s put into sterile jars, but not canned.

I’m grateful I work from home so I can do things like start a pot of marmalade simmering.

What do you make rather than buy?

J

Four Leg Quarters — 13 portions

I have never knowingly bought (or eaten) the major brand of chicken. Battery-raised chicken somehow has never appealed. I’m sure I’ve eaten plenty of it and probably bought some which were sold without the brand name on it too, but I’ve tried!

A month or so ago, I got a package of “ministeaks” at our local market, on sale. When cooked up, these things cupped? Okay, I figured that was just the part of the cow, the way they were cut.

But they tasted “odd” too. Not like nearly-going-bad beef, like something else. We both tried the “steaks,” then I pitched all of it. I’d read things about meat purveyors “jigsawing” steaks together with “meat glue.” (See link.) I never thought I’d suspect our local chain supermarket of such a thing. I do now.

My gut reaction was simple. I want better food than this. The way to do that is to find it elsewhere, so I did. We went to the local tiny “health food market” and bought 1 lb of ground beef (about $9) and 4 leg quarters (about $15).

The ground beef we had hamburgers from one night (2 servings), then meat loaf, 2x (4 servings). That makes 1 serving about $1.50. Not great, but I can live with it.

The leg quarters? The first thing I did was to disjoint them into drumsticks and thighs. The drumsticks became broth/meat in a chicken soup (4 servings). I froze the thighs. A while later I cooked 2 of the thighs in a chicken stew (3 servings). The last 2 thighs were used in a chicken and barley dish (2 servings). The remains of the chicken stew, the bones, and the meat left on the thighs became chicken soup (4 servings). That makes my expensive chicken @ $15 about $1.15 a meal, per person.

So, my “expensive” meats weren’t so expensive. If you buy a pound of ground beef and make 4 patties and the burgers are dinner, these days at the cheapest, it’s $5/lb, or $1.25 a serving. My beef dishes cost about .25 per serving more than that, but the chicken was .10 a serving cheaper.

In general, meat prices from lowest to highest usually are:

chicken < pork < beef < veal

chicken pig cow.jpeg

Although not on that list, if chicken and turkey are the same price and are whole birds, turkey is almost always a better deal. Why? Because there’s more meat on a whole turkey per pound than there is on a whole chicken.

Yes, this and other “odd” food facts are mine. Blame it on of one of my weirder hobbies: I read about wholesale prices, retail prices, supply and demand, etc. for food and food industries. I read old publications (some very old) and newer ones too. I find them interesting! YMMV.

J