Tag Archives: using what you have

Pantry Soups & Other Ideas

This was started in February, just so you know!

Twice now I’ve made what I call “Yellow Hand Soup.” The first time it was mostly carrots with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion. This time it was mostly sweet potatoes with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion, no carrots at all.

The first time we had it with grated cheese. This time we had it with carmelized pecans.

Both times I cooked the squash in the micro then scooped the cooked flesh into the pot with stock, the onion and other vegetables.

The first time I had a new bag of carrots from the CSA to deal with and a bag full in the fridge. This time, I’m in the same boat, but with sweet potatoes, which we use much less often. Both times, the idea was to use what we have the most of, before it goes bad.

As a part of the food planning for this spring, I’ve also been researching how long various veggies last. The idea is that I’ll arrange menus to use up the most fragile foods first. I don’t have anything really fragile still in stock, but I will next spring!

There’s a buzzfeed list of how to store your foods, and how long. You can find it here. I don’t agree with all their times, but if you get your food from a market in a city, they’re probably right. I don’t, I get much of our food fresh from the farms where they’re raised, so no time is spent in warehouses, on market loading docks, or in walk-ins.

YMMV!

It’s another way to cut down that 40% we all supposedly waste, right? Use the foods which will go bad the fastest before the others.

Other Stored Food Meal Ideas:

Things we eat regularly from canned foods:

  • corn cheese soup (creamed corn, some onion, cheddar cheese, s & p)
  • bean soup. (rinsed beans, onion, mush with food processor or fork, add seasoning, onion, bacon or sausage if you have it)
  • fried rice: rice, LO meat, onion, other fresh or frozen veggies, as available.

From fresh foods:

  • ____soup (some veggie, appropriate stock, onion, celery. Can be curried, creamed, or just veggie or you can add meat and make beef vegetable soup, etc.) Or, you can make it stew by adding cream sauce, or making gravy instead of stock.
  • ____ stir fry (usually baby spinach, onion, maybe LO meat
  • meatloaf (ground beef, onion, seasoning) or meat balls (same) or hamburgers. If meatballs, can be with pasta or served in Albondigas soup.
  • chicken ______ , recently I’ve made creamed chicken with dumplings, curried chicken, fried chicken, lemon chicken with rice, chicken salad.

From frozen foods:

  • Sausage soup (frozen sausage, onion, frozen greens).

I rarely use recipes. Do you have standards you make with whatever you have to hand? I’d be interested to know what food you make! Because I don’t follow recipes, the quality does vary, it’s almost never horrible, but sometimes it isn’t as good as it could be.

 

 

Advertisements

Rainy Day “Almost Instant” Chicken Soup

It was pouring earlier today. Not a day I want to drive to a farm or go pick my own at the farm either, — so no farm today.

That’s a  problem only because I was planning dinner from the farm, as I usually do the days I go. Digging through the freezer, I found a package of chicken bones, $4.33 worth at $2.75 a pound. That’s approx 1.57 lbs of bones and meat. There were 3 backs in the package.

So I started a pot of water boiling and plop in the brick of frozen chicken. Skim the worst of it off in a few minutes. Separate the pieces when I can. Keep simmering. After an hour, I’m pretty sure the meat is cooked, I pull the first back from the pot. Cut off the tail, fat and skin and then scrape the remaining  meat off.

I use a tool for this I’ve never seen/heard anyone else talk about for this purpose. I use a pickle fork, like this one:

pickle forkj

The little barbs on the end make shredding the small bits of meat as I scrape it from the bone really easy. That means I don’t have to CHOP the meat. Most of it is so small I’d have to do that minimally anyway, but the pickle fork pretty much guarantees that I don’t need to.

I’ve done two of the backs (the 3rd is cooling while I write this) and I have a cereal bowl of chicken shreds, ready to go back into the soup with carrots, celery, onion, potato, and more seasoning. Pretty much just before I serve it, I’ll add some chopped red pepper and peas. (I put some rosemary and peppercorns in the water with the chicken.)

I expect I’ll need to add some better than bullion (demiglace) to actually have flavorful stock, I don’t have time to simmer this down, skim it, chill it, remove the fat, season it and then make soup. If I was making rich stock, I should have at least put the bones back in! I’m not for two reasons: I skimmed the marrow out earlier and I don’t have time to chill it to remove excess fat. I did skim off most of the excess fat too.

This isn’t really instant soup. It will have cooked 3- 3.5 hours by the time we eat dinner. However, compared to traditional from scratch, home-made stock with fresh veggies added? Yep, it qualifies as “almost instant”!

Yield: 10C broth (NOT stock!) and 2C meat shreds, about .36 a cup (10 c broth + 2c meat = 12C, $4.33/12 = approx .36 a cup. Does not include fuel, other veggies, herbs, water, demiglace, Our typical serving is 1.5C (the size of our soup crocks). If you figure everything else costs 3x the amount of the broth/chicken, then it’s .36  + .18 +1.62. Or, it’s $2.16 a serving. Certainly cheaper than any organic broth, meat, veggie combination you can buy!)

Soup!

Okay, we’re sick, both of us. I have these packages of chicken “soup bones” I buy from the co-op we belong to, so I decided to make chicken soup from scratch.

The package was 3 carcasses, cost $1.59/lb for natural chicken, not quite $5, or maybe just $5 when you add in sales tax. The package was 2.91 lbs.

I regret that I put the scale in lbs and oz instead of grams, now. This was much more difficult than it would have been!

However,

  • carcass 1 = 8.25 oz wasted bones
  • carcass 2 = 8.78 oz wasted bones
  • carcass 3 = 8.25 oz wasted bones.
  • I skimmed the broth twice. 1.25 oz and .75 oz or 2 oz scum.

In general you’d think there was 1.5 lbs of bones, right? It actually was 1 lb, 9.28 oz. (These are wet from having been boiled too. I have no idea how much weight was added by the water.)

The usable meat is 6.25 oz. And I’ll have about a gallon of soup when I’m done. The soup cost approx. $5, plus fuel, veggies, and seasoners. A gallon of no salt, natural chicken broth online (without shipping or tax) is $6.98. So, I think that the cost of shipping and the other ingredients mean that mine will be cheaper, because for about the same amount of $ I get broth and nothing else (less shipping) if I buy it mail order say. But you know? I really have no idea. It’s real close, either way.

All that said, there’s no heavy metals (like BPAs) leached into my broth from the can, although I guess they could from the plastic the chicken was wrapped in, if I was stupid enough to heat it in the plastic!

Also, I can season it as I like, not salt free or overly salty, which seem to be the only options with canned broth.

I really don’t know. I haven’t used canned broth for years. I use demiglace, something I first learned about from Williams Sonoma, although who the heck can afford to buy their food there? I sure can’t make soup with something which costs $10-$30 a jar! I use Better Than Bullion, although these days I see other products in my supermarket’s soup aisle, since I like what I use I haven’t tried others. I might –sometime, maybe.

Did you know that soup was possibly the first “fast food?” There was a form of soup made oh long ago by boiling and boiling and boiling soup down to make “pocket soup.” A traveller could take the pocket soup, add it to water and have yummy broth. (Wiki article here.)

I have to go check on the soup. It has chicken, onions, celery, parsnip and carrots in it. I need to add tomato (if we have any) and some chopped greens which will go in not long before it’s served. And, if I could taste anything, I might add some herbs. The house should smell like chicken. DH tells me it does —  I can’t tell!

I will probably add herbs anyway. But cooking without smell and taste is not easy!

 

Redesigning the Living Room, etc.

Larger table from hall has become a couch table, behind the couch and under the window. This plus end tables I think eliminates the need for a coffee table!

The coffee table, accordingly, is going back to the attic.

The smaller hall table has replaced the two bookcases in the entry, with the shoe rack beneath, but in a more appropriate location.

One bookcase from the entry has gone into the hall. The other needs to go to the attic or my office.

The basket end tables have been moved to the couch sides.

_______

Everything above has been done. What hasn’t been done is below.

The club chairs in the hearth area will be turned 90 degrees to the woodstove, we’ll see how that works, or if it doesn’t. The small library catalog will become a table between the two chairs. I need to get a piece of glass cut for its top, but that’s it.

Long term: I will paint most if not all of the bookcase boxes which are staying in the room and the baseboards.  The cases not being painted will be moved into my office. From my office, the counter will be moved into the kitchen where the marble table currently sits, after that’s taken to the antique store to sell.

We’re still moving the clear spot around, like one of those puzzles, but the clear spot is significantly larger than it used to be!

 

Why You’ll (Maybe) Hear G & S at My House

I have an itunes recording of “When the Foeman Bares His Steel” from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance on my computer. I will set the controls to repeat it as a loop. When I’m alone (and only then) I will turn the volume up and

—-GO!—–

I clean house to it. I love that piece because, musically, it is the internal dialog that all of us go through when we face something difficult.

There are three main groups singing: the policemen and their sergeant (who’ve been tasked with going after pirates), the girls (daughters of the major general) and the major general.

The Police: “When the foeman bares his steel, we uncomfortable feel. . .”

When facing anything scary, we’re uncomfortable.

“…we find the wisest thing is to slap our chests and sing tar-an-tara!”

We do what we we have to, to get ourselves psyched to do whatever it is.

“…when your heart is in your boots, there’s nothing brings it ’round like the trumpet’s martial sound, like the trumpet’s marital sound. . . tarantara, tarantara, tarantara.”

We play inspirational music, read things, go to places, whatever works, to goad ourselves forward, right?

The girls: “Go, ye heroes, go to glory,though you die in combat gory, ye shall live in song and story. Go to immortality!”

Don’t we all tell ourselves we’re doomed to fail? But if nothing else, someone might just notice how hard we tried?

The sergeant: “Though to us it’s evident, these intentions are well meant, such expressions don’t appear, calculated men to cheer. But it’s very evident these intentions are well meant.”

Our internal reasoning.

The girls: “Go to glory and the grave! For your foes are fierce and ruthless, false, unmerciful, and truthless; young and tender, old and toothless,all in vain their mercy crave.”

You’re going to fail. You can’t do this. How many times have we told ourselves that? (Too many to count, if you’re me.)

policeman pirates of penzance

Lastly, there is the internal dialog steeling yourself to actually DO the thing:

General: “Away, away!

Police: “Yes, yes, we go!”

General: These pirates slay!”

Police: “Tarantara!”

The General: “Then do not stay.”

Police: “Tarantara!”

General: “Then why this delay?”

Police: “All right we go.”

Girls: “Yes, forward on the foe.”

Police: “Yes, forward on the foe. ”

General: “Yes, but you don’t go!”

Police: “Yes, forward on the foe.”

Girls: “At last they go.”

Police: “We go, we go.”

Girls: “At last they go, at last they go!”

Police: “We go. We go.”

Girls: “At last they really, really go!

Police: “We go, we go, we go!”

Maslow, needs/wants, & stuff

I spent this morning thinking about human history, stuff, wants/needs and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s bottom layer is what we all have to have to live, the basics, food, warmth, shelter, breathing, excrement, etc. Our amoeba-like layer.

The 2nd layer (safety), the 3rd (love/belonging), the 4th (esteem) and the 5th (self-actualization) all contain elements that somehow I missed/didn’t get. If I believe, and I do, that the only piece in the game you control is yourself, then what are the pieces of Maslow that I can’t control?

Layer 2: resources/family
Layer 3: friendship, family, sexual intimacy (entire layer)
Layer 4: respect by others

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a triangle from Wiki Commons

Surprise, surprise! These are where I’ve always had issues.

How does this relate to stuff? I realized that a lot of my stuff is either to hide that I’m not self-actualized, remove me from my “now” to rest, or an attempt to become self-actualized via stuff. I’ve spent a lot of time/effort/$ trying to pull myself up through those layers, frequently by acquiring “stuff” to either make me feel like I was at the top layer or I thought the stuff would get me there

In our caveman days, in fact for a lot of human history, we were focused on fulfilling that bottom layer, and counted ourselves lucky if we could. What would a caveman do with an Ipad? Nothing. He couldn’t eat it, it wouldn’t communicate anything to him and he couldn’t use it to kill something to eat or another male to get their female. To him it would just be a weird rock.

Human culture is built upon people inventing stuff they convinced others they “needed” in order to live. If I apply Maslow to the piece of stuff like an Ipad, it could change how I perceive stuff perhaps? I’m a member of the baby boomers, born in the middle 50s. We were culturally taught we needed bigger, better, newer, smarter and MORE stuff. But do we? Do I?

The reason this came up is because I’ve been thinking I might buy a Silhouette Cameo machine. I’m torn. What I could do with it is wonderful, yes, but I haven’t actually managed to make any money on my cards/tags, etc, yet. So is this a $300 a leap of faith into my new career or yet another thing that I think I “need” I really don’t? Would it actually make the creative urge to make cards/posters into products faster? Better? Or would it become yet another piece of unused stuff?

One of my long-term projects, including a book, is a kitchen organization system. I have the book designed, I have a lot of data. I have a lot of recipes. I’ve designed the system three times! I have a library card catalog and cards, have a Rolodex file and cards, and have a data base. But I still don’t have that kitchen organization system.

Couldn’t one of our old computers become my kitchen computer? What I want doesn’t require instant throughput, Windows, the internet or anything fancy. I realized that because what I see in my mind’s eye is a flat panel monitor on the kitchen table I’ve held out thinking I “need” a modern computer using a flat panel. I don’t.

The card catalog is being used for kitchen storage, so it’s useful, but the rest of it (catalog cards, Rolodex file, Rolodex cards) is simply being stored. And, I have a typewriter. I could just type the Rolodex or library cards, I don’t need a modern computer for the kitchen files at all. In some ways, yes, it would help, but I don’t “need” it.

Typing the data into a modern computer is as much work as typing it onto a card using a typewriter. The only real difference is that I can make a template, reuse some words, etc. But even that doesn’t require a newer computer, I could use the older ones we already own.

I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll buy the Silhouette nor what I’ll do for the kitchen organization. But they’re on a single continuum now, and before I would have seen them as unrelated.

I suppose that’s progress of a sort? Changing my thinking is almost always the first step in changing my behavior.

J