Thursday, February 25, 2010

Spice Rack Part One

This is my spice rack. It is a seltzer bottle holder tipped over onto its side.
I really like it, and I've been trying to sort out to get all the same bottles to fit inside.

The silver capped ones come from Whole Foods, and while I like it, it looks very.... something. Like something lots of other people might have. And while I think mass-produced items are awesome, I didn't want them for my spice jars.

Oh and also I could not afford 40 jars at the Whole Foods price. $80. Gulp!

So I bought a whole bunch (40) plain glass jars with white caps at China Fair and personalized them. They're the ones in the right hand compartments. They were .69 cents each. Not too bad.

I took an old cookbook and cut out the index pages (because I can't actually defile the cookbook part). Then I made a few pages of spice labels on pretty blue paper (blue is always fashionable!) and pasted a round cut from the index to the jar lid. Then I affixed the spice name and sprayed the whole gamilla with polycrylic. I LOVE polycrylic in satin finish, I might need to have that taken away from me before things get out of hand.

Here is how it all came together:

As soon as I get all the tops done and fitted into the rack I will post another picture. But from right now I am pretty pleased with how they are turning out.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Well you know, it IS still winter...

Snowfall in February is a lot less intimidating than a snowfall in November but it makes up for it by being more depressing.

This long slow crawl t'ward green is not helped out by the white fluffy stuff. I am ready for spring, dammit!

Yes, yes, I know, I know. Just wait until the summer when I complain about the heat and the humidity.

And if THIS post sounds alot like an earlier post, it's because pretty much I do the same thing every time it snows: come home, dry off, get warm, make shepherds pie, complain about the weather, blog, make some hot chocolate, hop into my fleecy bed, read, and fall asleep. So it stands to reason that I am going to start repeating myself at some point.

Wait, what?

Oh yeah, shepherds pie.

I call it that, but really my way is any kind of ground - pork, beef, lamb, turkey, textured vegetable protein - which I saute together with garlic, onions, peas, corn, carrots, a little broth/plain water to moisten, some tomato paste, season with Worcestershire sauce, salt/pepper, top with mashed potato (sweet potato, pureed cauliflower also work) and bake in a 375 degree oven until bubbling hot, ~35 to 40 minutes or so.

Tonight I made some with ground turkey and topped it with mashed sweet potato. Personally I think I prefer it made with turkey over beef. It took no time at all to get it together and into the oven - while it baked, I changed out of my soggy clothes (it was a slushy walk home!), dried my hair, and got on my fuzzy socks. There is no reason not to make this every night, especially if you bake a few potatoes early in the week and have them on hand.

I am pretty sure I could eat this meal every night. Until the green gets here anyway.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February Food

I am not going to lie, February is one tough cookie of a month.

Winter seems to have already gone on forever with seemingly no end in sight, and frankly March is just going to be more of the same.

I go to bed chilly, wake up chilly, the sun is bright and cold, I've ceased to care that I look like a molten chocolate cake on legs in my coat and hat as long as I am warmish, and then there is the nagging thought that snow can blast in on us at anytime. Woof.

You have to be prepared for anything in February, and you have to be prepared to tough it out until April. Maybe May.

My coping skills include a deliciously easy shepherds pie and a hearty cranberry-carrot cake. Anything that involves turning on the oven for a while.

Shepherd's pie made in the perfect pot. It makes just enough for dinner and lunch the next day.

Cranberry-carrot cake I usually make in a loaf pan unless I need it for a birthday cake. Or sometimes I make muffins. This is the only "cake" recipe I have that can be used as a loaf, round, or muffin without adjustment.

Even if you think you don't like carrot cake, you would like this cake.

I cannot wait until the salad days of summer. Although probably then I will moan about how it is too hot to can.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Canning Soul

I haven't been doing a whole lot of blogging lately. Sorry, my bad.

Even though I have been cooking for survival lately - mostly to feed myself nightly - canning and other sorts of food preservation methods haven't been far from my mind.

I would like to get to a point where I make all the food I eat. Not knowing where my food comes from is something that is often on my mind, and not always in a positive way. Mostly I try to block out the truth, which frankly is not a terrific solution.

When I start thinking like this is when I start trawling the home canning and urban homesteading sites for inspiration. Right now my house is on its ear, but at some point it will be put back together again and then watch out because I will be a canning machine!!

In the meantime, to tide me over, I made home canned chicken soup. Let me just also say that I did a whole bunch of canning in the fall, and with the exception of the jam, I have eaten up almost everything, which is why I continue to can stuff.

So yes, home canned chicken. This was sort of a practice run. Which sounds far more dangerous than it actually was.

One suggestion was to put all the raw ingredients in the jars, including the chicken, fill with hot water, then process in the pressure canner for the appropriate time & pressure.

Which I will try one day, but I wanted something different for today. I wanted a chickeny chicken soup. A rich golden broth with chunks of chicken and veg that had a very chickeny taste to it. Not some pale chickenish water in a can.

Rich. Golden. Chicken.

I started by browning a small whole chicken in a stock pot. I added a couple of cut up carrots and onions, some whole peeled garlic, a few herbs, a couple of peppercorns, some stalks of celery, and cooked that up a little bit until nice and slick and browned. Then I added water until the chicken was covered and floating about just under the surface.

This simmered on the stove for about an hour and a half. Then I turned off the heat, let it cool, separated the stock from the chicken and veg, and put everything in the fridge until the next morning.

The next day I skimmed the clear chicken fat off the stock and picked the meat off the bird. Then I heated up a few spoonfuls of golden chicken fat and sauteed the chicken carcass in that. And boy did that ever smell delicious! After that cooked up a bit I added the stock to cover everything and let that simmer for a bit before straining out all the bones, chicken bits, and the little odds of peppercorn and thyme.

While the strained stock was simmering gently, I readied the jars.

I chopped up a few raw carrots, a couple of stalks of celery, and the cooked chicken I'd picked off the carcass and added it to the jars.

Then I ladled in the hot stock.

I wiped the lids, capped them with hot lids, screwed on the bands, and then put them in the canner.

Here is where things went wrong: I cooked them at 15 pounds of pressure for 75 minutes, but really I could have used less pressure. So while these will be perfectly safe to eat, they might be overcooked a little.

Eh well. Next time I will be sure to double check the weighted gauge twice!

The end result: rich, golden, chicken soup!

Typically I won't eat meat in a can, but since I put it there, I think this time I will.