Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thrifting in my area

I love going to thrift shops and imagining the stories behind the things I hold in my hands.Damask napkins are a particular favorite.I found this set of 6 napkins for $3 .What a bargain!I can see it gently folded alongside a beautiful china table setting.Someone carefully raises it to their lips to wipe a stray drop of gravy from a bite that was just a little too big.

Of course these napkins had not even the slightest hint of a stain so,their previous owner was quite the housekeeper.Perhaps she was a genteel woman who had domestic help.
I'm also very fond of strainers .Especially when they have this red and white plastic handle.It too has been well maintained.The mesh is very fine and has no sign of wear.Maybe they ate at moms alot.This too was in the $3 lot.Very few things actually have a price.When you get to the register the clerk says "so,what do you think $3?"and I nod my head in the affirmative. Maybe she thinks that's my price range.

The clothes however is a different story.They all have price tags on them.I have decided to make an effort to dress in a less "down on the farm" manner.No offense to anyone who farms,I'm one of you. It seems that without realizing it I have made less and less of an effort to present myself as a lady. I haven't been able to go right to the dresses from the jeans but,I'm trying to ease into that range of clothing. Maybe it's just a whim?I found these 2 pant outfits that I thought would be a bit on the feminine side for my trip to one on the left was 2 separate pieces that I thought would go well together.The pants were $1.99 and the shirt which is 100%silk was 99 cents.The outfit in the wicker chair came as a suit,the top is a little short-sleeve jacket. Marked price $3.99.Not bad,I think I looked pretty spiffy in N.Y.My husband was quite pleased and that was what really mattered................said the hobbit

Friday, April 24, 2009

Please sir ,more chicken

Back from my trip and so behind in everything.There still a chill in the air so, a second soup was made This one is call Creamy mushroom and Chicken soup
This was a late contender in my little soup business and everyone raved about it. It has a surprising amount of veggies that are hardly even noticed because it's so creamy and delicious

You will need:6Tbsp butter
1 chopped onion
3Tbsp flour
6 cup chicken broth
1 lb sliced mushrooms
3/4 cup sliced celery
3/4 cup sliced carrots
2 cups quartered baby red potato
1 cup yellow squash
1 -1/2 cup frozen corn
2 tsp thyme
2 cup light cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
Now don't be afraid to substitute .Soup recipes should never be written in stone.I often cook for people who are gluten intolerant so flour as a thickener is out.In its place I use arrowroot or corn starch which would be mixed with a cold liquid and added to the finished soup.When you use flour, you should sprinkle it on the sauteed veggies allowing it to cook for about a minute or two then add your broth.
So now you add your butter to the pot saute the mushrooms and onions add the flour s&p if you are using it pour on the broth and bring this to a boil.Toss in your veggies and herbs.If you don't' like thyme you can chose rosemary or basil or even oregano. Lower your heat to simmer and wait for all those veggies to be cooked .I had an extra zucchini so that was thrown in the pot.Once your sure the carrots and potatoes are cooked stir in the cream Parmesan and the chicken.I didn't have cream and wasn't about to go to the store .I did have some half&half and some whole milk so I used that instead. This makes about 15 servings
In our family soup is always around.Even Jiggy
(the hubby) can reheat this if I'm not around. However he usually insist on waiting for me to eat with him, so, that's not the real issue for having it ready
Some of you might think I have forgotten to keep track of my spending for March. You would be correct. I totally forgot to post about it March was a little better. I spent $109.85 or 3.55 a day.Total for the year is now $286.95.This month we didn't send Jiggy to the farmers Market for shrimp and lobster.May will bring that total right up there since my meat will be included at that time.Well it's great to be back and I still have so much to tell you about my trip .Oh yeah the chicken story continues.........said the hobbit

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tale of the chicken part 2

Well,it's been a busy week and I meant to get right back to you,but,things get in the way.Here is the 2nd thing I did with that prize chicken.Yummy chicken salad.I make about 30lbs.of this every week at the Barn I know they won't mind if I give out the recipe because we love having people doing this tasty treat at home.Of course it's most important that you cook the chicken as I instructed in the previous post.Then you mix about 2 cups of mayo with a good Dijon mustard .I am guesstimating here as I have been making this in such large proportions for so long that it is hard for me to think in small increments. Then I dice about 3 stalks of celery and 1 apple cored but not peeled and about 1/2 a cup of finely diced onion.In the summer i would not think of using anything but Vidalias,however ,when not available I use what is on hand. I like to mix every ingredient as I go along to be sure that everything is well distributed.However if you want to throw everything in the pot,don't hesitate. I do get a little anal about presentation. When your food is seen by customers everyday you tend to get a little paranoid how it appears.
In the summer this salad is made at least 3 times a week and still I worry about how it looks.Go figure.Ok next is the chopped walnuts and dried cranberries.I think this makes our chicken salad a little more special.I'm not sure all I can tell you is that if we run out,grown women have been known to cry. What can I say ,we have a very pampered clientele.I put about 3 cups of chopped chicken in and we had enough for 5 generous sandwiches.

Well that's it for today .We still have enough for 2 more recipes,so,I'll be back.My husband and I are going to the big city tomorrow and I have much to do.

NY city is always an adventure for me. Maybe I'll find something wonderful to bring back to you.I know it will be great fun. See you in a few days with the latest...............said the hobbit

Friday, April 10, 2009

How far can a chicken go?

I've been asked how I can stretch my grocery dollar so far so, I thought we'd follow this chicken and see just how far it goes.This is one of my local chickens.I just took it out of the freezer to thaw since I need a good chicken broth for my soup.Today I will be making escarole soup,also known as Italian Wedding soup.As you can see locally grown chickens are very large.It's sitting on a standard size stove and practically takes up all the space.This chicken was raised to about 9mo.before slaughter.Just amazing how big they are. The meat is very tender and there is plenty of it. First step ,after thawing was to pop this chicken in a large pot with s&p.bay leaf, white wine,(1/2 cup) celery,carrots and onions.I bring this to a boil and then let it simmer for about 45min. Then I shut the heat and let it sit in the broth covered for at least another hour.

While this is happening I prepare the teeny tiny meatballs for the soup.I mix egg,milk,breadcrumbs,basil s&p,garlic Parmesan cheese and finely minced onion with ground beef. This is sauteed in olive oil and then set aside to drain while the soup is completed. I suppose you can make the meatballs any size you like as long as they fit on your soup spoon.That's a teaspoon in with the meatballs and I usually get about 60 meatballs out of a lb of ground beef. Also remember that they will get a little larger after sitting in the hot broth.

A little more oil in the soup pot and I'm ready to saute my onions .I use about 2-3 depending on the size. Then we add a minced garlic and toss in a head of chopped escarole which I stir in till wilted.

By this time the chicken has been completely cleaned to the bone and the meat has been set aside for later use. I strain the broth and pour about 6 cups into my onion/escarole mix.I let this simmer with the rind of a chunk of Parmesan.I'm fortunate to have access to this.If it's not available to you just add grated cheese before serving. It will be fine. Oh yes don't forget to put the meatballs in.I leave this on the lowest heat possible for another 20-30mins.

Then I add 1/2 cup of orzo and cook till done. If the soup appears too thick for your liking don't hesitate to add more broth. Also if you haven't any orzo on hand and no one will be checking up on you to see that you followed this recipe to a T,there is no reason that you cannot break-up any kind of pasta into bite size pieces.

So that's the story on the beginning of this chickens odyssey.Remember we haven't touched the meat yet so we have a ways to go. This soup should yield about 8-10 servings.Add a crusty bread and you have a good lunch for several days. Next stop my favorite chicken salad. I can hardly wait.............. said the hobbit

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Needles keep on knocking

Tuesday night stitching club has been pretty productive lately. After showing the girls my hand towels,some of them decided to give that a try. They whip up so quickly that this one was just about completed by my friend Betty.She was lucky enough to find what she need in her stash so this was a very cost saving project for her. We haven't had Michelle come by for about 3 weeks.Little did we know that she was knitting up a storm at home.She had several pairs of socks completed.I thought I took pictures but,when I got home they weren't on my camera. So much was going on the evening I guess I just couldn't keep things straight.I did however take a picture of the baby blanket that she completed
Isn't this the sweetest things.The blanket is sprinkled with tiny sheep. It's hard to see it clearly because the color,I think she said butter cream, is very pale and my camera is not a professional one.However it serves my purpose.Those little bumps you see are the sheep's ears. I think I just may have to try this pattern. Michelle has really been busy with those needles lately.I think she's might be getting ready to open her Etsy shop. I'll keep you posted,but,just remember you heard it here first.

Now talk about an ambitious project!!Cindy's daughter has asked for a winter hat. [I'm hoping she's talking next winter] This is the pattern she has chosen. It came in a kit so the colors were already chosen for her but check out all the changes she has to make. That's right,those are llamas on the ear flaps. I hope this girl realizes what a loving mom she has. Two weeks ago she was working on the ear flaps and now she's almost done with the hat. Many kudos to Cindy,this is a project I would not even have attempted.
However ,I have to say that Marie,smiling here,had the biggest news of all to share with us.

Unhuh she is going to have a BABY, st and we are all so excited.This will be her first and although knitting is not her thing she dutifully comes to stitch and bitch and encourages us in all our endeavors. Of course we all have agreed we will be fairy godmothers and start knitting up a storm. Her mom&dad have no grandsons so her family is rooting for a boy. At this time she chooses not to find out.I'm kind of old fashion so I think this is the right thing to do. How about you?Would you like to be kept in the dark ?There is nothing I like better than to be surprised.Hmm maybe she'll have twins! SURPRISE........said the hobbit.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Teeny tiny baby steps

Spring is that time of year when I try to tweak my current lifestyle ,without putting myself over the edge. I look for little ways to become more self-sustaining that are doable for me. This year I was hoping to add chickens to the list but,that is not going to happen. The chicken coop needs repair,new laws are being looked in to by the department of agriculture regarding the licensing of all animals, and it would require more time than I am able to commit to. However a new season has arrived and I must make decisions as to what I will do to become more self-sustaining.For years now I have been a follower of Mary Jane.

I first saw her craft books at Barnes and Noble and just loved everything she seemed to stand for.She now has a magazine and it is there that I found my

inspiration for this season. In her Feb/March issue she talks about no-knead artisan bread made from a sourdough starter. It requires 1 minute a day and 5 on baking day to complete. This is within my time zone. I think I can squeeze the 12-15 min a week it requires of me to move toward my goal.First I had to make a "mother"as it is referred to.Mother is made of 2 cups of unbleached white organic flour and 1 1/2 cup of distilled water.Note that it has to be organic and distilled otherwise it doesn't work or changes to a grey/black mess. Every morning I have to give Mother breakfast of 1/3 cup of flour and 1/4 cup water. On the 7th day mother is sleeping and does not wish to have breakfast. So you take 2 cups away to start your bread and let her sleep in for the day. To the 2 cups you add 1/2 teas of salt and 1 tbl of honey stir in 1 1/2 cups of four and let rise 4-8 hrs.I've been doing this overnight. Mix at night cover and let rise till morning. There is no rule as to how long you can let it rise.Bake (they say 400 20 min) I had to play with this my oven was better at 375 35min. They suggest using an internal thermometer looking for a temp of 195-205. I've been working on this for a few weeks and I think every try is better and better.Then you just start all over again with feeding your "mother" and baking bread on the 7th day.Need more bread just start with a larger starter and add more to it everyday. Math is pretty simple. However this will give about 2 lbs of bread and so far this is enough for us. There are variations and I'll let you know how they work out.

My next tiny step is to cut down on paper towels.Working in a commercial kitchen,one tends to misuse this item. I decided to allow myself one roll a month.Feb. was the first month. I placed my roll on the counter and took off for work.Little did I know that the vegetable broth I was thawing on the counter was open and as the day progressed more and more broth was dripping on the counter. When I got home my husband informed me that he didn't know what was happening in the kitchen but it's a good thing that the paper towels were next to the bowl.HE COULDN'T HAVE FIXED THE PROBLEM? Instead I had a roll of paper towels that looked like a prom dress. I suffered without my towels through out the month of Feb. This is what I had left for March. I think I did pretty well. I know I shouldn't be using them at all. However I'll be the first to tell you That I'm not perfect....................said the hobbit

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Keeping busy,and you?

Well things are moving along rather swiftly.I can't seem to keep track of the time.My little soup business is coming to a close for the season.Hard to believe that winter is done.I have informed all my customers that April will be the last month for soups. I have truly enjoyed this little venture and am hoping to continue in the fall. Planting season is almost here and I hope to grow as many of the vegetables as I can for the upcoming year. It was quite the learning experience. A new recipe I picked up was roasted carrot and shallot soup. It sounds so plain but,it turned out to be a favorite for many of my clients. It's very simple.I roasted carrots ,shallots and potatoes then pureed them with my veggie broth. The veggies become caramelized and add a very unique flavor.I have to say I was somewhat impressed myself.

In my knitting adventures.I'm finally back on track with my sons sweater.This is the front panel and now that I have the wool from my brothers sheep I'm hoping to complete it and add it to my Christmas stash. This picture doesn't do it justice.It looks grey but,it's really a very lovely shade of brown with some grey in it.They don't dye there wool so you can see where I changed skeins.That will just add to the family history with this present. Well the garden is beckoning to be worked on so I must be off.I think the temperature is in the 50's. I must be dreaming or maybe just wishful thinking...........said the hobbit