Monday, April 29, 2013

Homemade Pantry: Pancakes

I was wrong Thursday when I said chicken stock was my first foray into making things from scratch.  I have always made pancakes from scratch.  I don't think that people who buy pancake mix realize there are only seven ingredients in pancake mix, and if you have even a minimally stocked pantry/fridge, you likely already have the ingredients.

Seriously: it is flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, milk, eggs and butter.  I like to add cinnamon and vanilla as well as fruit, but those are optional.

I use the this old Joy of Cooking cookbook for the recipe.  This was my mom's, she used it the whole time I was growing up.  You can see the pancake page is well used.

(some sort of math I or my sister did as kids in the margin).

Making pancakes is something I associate with my dad.  We used to make them together on Sunday mornings.  I remember measuring everything out and how we would double everything but the sugar.  I would argue that the sugar should be doubled too, to stay authentic, but he didn't buy it.  I now put in half the sugar called for as well.  It is a good memory.  Going to the gym every Saturday morning for several hours to lift weights and play basketball from age 8-16 (I rebelled at 16) is less of a good memory.  That was a chore.  He was disappointed I wasn't going to be a basketball star, I was happy to have my weekend mornings back.  My sister was a basketball star and ended up being a basketball coach, so at least one of us made him happy.

We made pancakes when he visited for Easter.

Kinsey got a scratch after breakfast.  He was happy.

(that's his happy face).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Homemade Pantry: Chicken Stock

Chicken stock was the first thing I started making at home instead of buying.  It is super easy and uses what would otherwise go to waste.  It makes rice and risotto so much better.  That is a win-win-win in my book.

We keep this ziplock bag in the freezer and throw vegetable scraps and chicken bones in it as we go.  Once we need stock it just all goes into our "superpot."  The superpot is a combo slow cooker/rice cooker/pressure cooker.  It even has a brown setting so you can brown meat right in it before slow cooking.

We use it several times a week.

Anyway, I just throw the veggies and chicken bones into the pot with some salt, pepper and bay leaves.  Then I pressure cook it for 30 minutes (slow cooking would also work).

Once the time is up I strain it through a cheese cloth lined  colander into our quart sized measuring cup.

I usually get about 4 quarts out of the batch.  I stick most of it in the freezer and then use it as we need it.

See, easy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cheap vs. Thrifty: Avoiding Food Waste

On any given day our fridge looks like this:

And this is the day after a (Kevin) grocery shop.

We rarely throw away food because it went bad.  I  always feel bad when I do, especially meat.*  The average family throws away 40% of their food ($2275/year).  We are way below that average -- some other family is throwing away A LOT of food!

I don't always feel like making what we have.

(pasta again?!?)

But we're thrifty, so I do.  We do one shop a week and make do (and the weeks Kevin does the shopping tend to be pretty lean).  We'll also often do "eat the cupboard" weeks, where we only pick up essentials (milk, fruit, veggies) and use up what we already have.  It has led to some creative combinations.  Baked beans, even rinsed off shouldn't be added to pasta.  On the other hand, basil pesto and coconut milk - delicious!

I noticed this vintage poster while internet cruising a bit ago.  Seems like good rules to live by.

Some of our vegetable scraps go into making chicken stock but one of my goals this summer is to figure out a composting system so we can recycle more/send less to the landfill.  Stay tuned for updates!

*As a former vegetarian, I feel very strongly that we not waste those lives.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Garden plans (and a "before")

Now that spring has finally sprung (hopefully? finger crossed!) we're turning our attention to the outside.  The house has a side yard for the dogs and a courtyard.  We see lots of bbqs in our future.  Both are a bit overgrown right now and we've got our work cut out for us.

(those roses and I are not friends.  I've already shed quite a bit of blood b/c of those suckers.)

 We are making progress, bit by bit.

Roxy and Kinsey were happy to hang out outside while I worked.

I can see the potential, it is going to be great.  It has me dreaming about a veggie garden.  We don't have a lot of space or a lot of sun, so we'll need to be creative.  Some inspiration I've found:

from here

Window Boxes

Both from here

This area of the courtyard gets lots of sun, so may be our best bet.  I'm imagining a raised bed, and maybe even a pallet garden attached to the wall.

I was also thinking about the front yard - it gets good light, but neighbors have warned me that people will steal the pots/pick the veggies.  City living does have its drawbacks.

I guess some of the neighbors were annoyed that the previous owners left the lattice white when they redid the porch.  Because white wasn't available in the 1880s, obviously.  We live in a historic neighborhood and I guess some of our neighbors are pretty serious about it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Odds and Ends

Last week was a rough one for us, we were both pretty sick.  Kevin managed to work through feeling badly and took up the bathroom floor (before and after pics coming soon).  I took down the wallpaper before succumbing, but once I did I was down for the count.  You don't find me working through being sick, you find me mewing and whining on the couch with tea. 

A few things we've been up to that don't merit a post on their own:

My black thumb strikes again.  Kevin's grandma gave us this plant.  We were planning on putting it outside once the weather broke, but it didn't survive us.

You know you drink a lot of boxed wine when you know that there is still a glass in there even after it seems empty.  You have to pull the bag from the box.  (Bota Box is actually pretty good.  I call it eco-wine to avoid the boxed wine stigma).

Kevin got this rug with our credit card points and I love it! I think it is going to pull the rooms together perfectly.

Kevin's parents generously gave us their oriental rug.  I love it, it was like it was meant for our library.

Pippa and Roxy love it too.

And some new books.

We are looking forward to our Montana trip in September.  We are planning to hike and camp and catch up with friends we see far too infrequently.  I've tried one recipe so far from the Indian Slow Cooker.  I didn't read the part where the author said she likes things spicy so feel free to lighten up on the spices.  I also confused red cayenne pepper with red chile powder.  Since I'd never made Indian before I followed the recipe to the T and it was HOT.  I could barely eat it - it was almost too hot for Kevin.  It was good apart from the spiciness so I think I'll try again (with just a bit of cayenne pepper though, not a tablespoon).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Basement find: MacKenzie-Childs

While rooting around the basement (looking for some wallpaper scraps to take into the paint store) I found some MacKenzie-Childs tiles.  I didn't find the wallpaper (I ended up taking a picture and bringing in my camera) but finding the M-C nestled among other tiles made it a very good day.

We're going to use them as trivets.

(excuse the wrinkled table cloth - I don't iron linens).

Here they are full of food from a potluck we recently hosted:

MacKenzie-Childs is a local artisan studio/farm with a pretty distinctive look.  We have been given a few pieces (as wedding and house warming gifts).

I'm just thrilled to add to our collection. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

DIY: Stenciled Nightstand

My first attempt at a DIY project was a stenciled nightstand. I followed these instructions from this blog I like.  Anything that has "good enough" in the title is something I feel confident in tackling. I got the nightstand from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore (one of my new favorite places) for $25.

I kind of liked it as is and was a little reluctant to risk messing it up but I figured for $25 (plus about $9 for supplies), I'd give it a go.  Worst case scenario it is terrible and I put it on the curb.  At least a good charity profited from it.

I used primer because I found it in the basement (the "good enough" method says it is not necessary).  I also found the white and purple paint down there too.  I was going to sand it down a bit (also not in the GE method) but was so excited to get started that I forgot.  We'll see if I regret it.

What I did regret (and a Learn From My Mistakes tip) was that a single sheet as a dropcloth does not cut it.  The primer went right through that sucker and onto our beautiful hardwood floors.  I was really upset when I figured that out*.

After a Google search I tried rubbing alcohol (I also found positive feedback about Goof-Off but I figured I should start with what we already had on hand).  With a lot of patience and scrubbing the primer came off.  Whew!

I soldiered on and moved onto the white paint coat with a plastic liner AND cardboard under the table.  I was also more mindful of drips.

Of course I had my usual fan club watching everything I did:

I ended up needing to do three coats of the white paint.

Different day, same audience.

DIY Stenciled Nightstand
DIY stenciled nightstand

I used a large paint brush to stencil the left side and a small one on the right.  I liked the right better.

Ready for guests!
Good thing too, because my sister was coming a few days later.  I put some books I've read recently and some candy I know she likes on the new nightstand.

DIY Stenciled nightstand

*Kevin's reaction when I sheepishly told him what I'd done was to reassure me not to worry about it.  He said they make stuff to fix that and worst case scenario we'd refinish the floors.  He makes it really easy to live with him.