Showing posts from January, 2014

One Bird, Three Ways: Part 3

We're still working on that turkey we had for Sunday dinner!
As the week goes on, the recipes using our turkey get easier — in no small part because the meat from our turkey is already fully cooked, allowing us to make quick heat-up meals out of it for the rest of the week. For example, last night's easy supper:

Enchiladas! This is a totally easy way to use any leftover meat, because all you have to do is heat them through and melt the cheese on top. Just put about 1/4 cup of shredded turkey in the center of a large tortilla and roll it up, tucking the ends under as you put it in a baking dish. Line them up, pour some salsa over top, and top with shredded cheese. Heat in a 350-degree oven until the cheese melts. Garnish with sour cream and jalapeños (or not).
That's all there is to it. You can add rice and/or beans to your meat filling if you like (or if you need to stretch it a little further). This is also a great use for the turkey's dark meat if your family isn…

Trim The Fat Tuesday: The Gym Membership

For me, this is an easy one.

Cancel the gym membership.

No skin off my nose — I hate going to the gym. Loathe it.

I used to go all the time when we lived at the Red House because we had a family membership at the Y, which was great. The kids were littler and took karate and tee ball and dance lessons there. While they were doing their things, I could squeeze in a workout with no problem. It was a totally efficient use of our time, was affordable, and had lots of nice people. And free child care.

Seriously, if you are anywhere near the Andover/North Andover YMCA, take advantage. They have some really awesome yoga instructors too (oh, I miss that!).

When we moved, we discovered that not all YM or YWCAs operate with the same pricing schedules. The one in Newburyport is much more expensive, and you get less benefit for the price, so we decided to join the local Planet Fitness instead. It's only $10 a month.

I don't have a problem at all with the gym — it's basic and clean and …

One Bird, Three Ways: Part 2

So last night, after we were done with or delicious turkey dinner, Kirk put the carcass directly into our stock pot with bunches of dried herbs (sage, savory, thyme, and rosemary), a leek, and a couple ribs of celery, then covered it all with water and let it simmer for the rest of the evening.

This, of course, is how you make turkey stock. That's really all there is to it (well, you also have to strain it into a container once it cools). If you need more details, you can read about it here.

The turkey stock was ready to go as the base for tonight's dinner, the second dish from the whole turkey we made on Sunday:

This is sopa de lima, which is a traditional turkey soup from Mexico. The literal translation from the Spanish is "lime soup," and indeed, that is its secret, awesome ingredient. This was what I had for dinner our first night in Mexico (where we enjoyed our fifteenth anniversary trip last April), and it was delicious. I've been wanting to recreate it ev…

One Bird, Three Ways: Part 1

This week we're putting into practice an old fashioned food plan. I'm pretty sure my grandmothers planned a week's worth of meals like this all the time, but nowadays we don't do it much. That's too bad, because it's a really cost-effective way to eat well, it forces some creativity, and it encourages using all of an animal rather than letting less popular cuts of meat go to waste.

I'm talking about using a whole bird over the course of the week.

We could be talking about any big cut of meat, but we're going with a turkey this time around — mostly because it's big, so we'll get a lot of meals out of it. If you only ever cook a whole bird (of any kind) on Thanksgiving, think about giving it a try on a regular old Sunday, and see how far you can stretch it for the rest of the week.

The first meal?

A classic Sunday dinner:

This is roast turkey, mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, stuffing with sage and celery, steamed green beans, and even some cranber…

2014 Seed Inventory

O frabjous day! The seeds arrived today!

And not a moment too soon — we need to get those leeks and onions started this weekend. Here's the record of the varieties (all from Johnny's Selected Seeds, as you can see) that we'll be trying out this year:
The Swingset Quadrant
Bell Peppers: Ace Potatoes: Kennebec, Red Pontiac, French Fingerling, Russian Banana, Magic Molly Okra: Clemson Spineless Leeks: King Richard and Lancelot Cabbage: Storage #4 and Red Express Roma Tomatoes: Amish Paste and Paisano Cherry Tomatoes: Sungold (from a plant) Tomatillos
The Patio Quadrant
Strawberries: Tribute, Honeoye, Seascape (from plants) Beets: Detroit Red and Chioggia Guardsmark Peas: Penelope Carrots: Laguna, Cordoba and Napoli Vine Tomatoes: Rose, Moskvich, Ukrainian Yellow Pumpkin: New England Pie and Long Pie Pole Beans: Cherokee Trail of Tears
The Driveway Quadrant
Winter Squash: Butternut JWS6823 Brussels Sprouts: Catskill Broccoli: Arcadia and Diplomat Sweet Potato: Beauregard Popcorn…

2014 Master Plan: The Driveway Quadrant

Another snow day here. Well, to be more precise, we had just a couple of inches here, but further south they had a blizzard, which was enough to get me a snow day. A snow day all to myself while Newburyport kids went to school: ahhh.
As always, a snowy day is a lovely time to dream about spring and the coming year's garden. Here is the plan for the final quadrant for 2014:

To the left, you can see the mirror image of our pole bean arbor that will span the center path. On this side we have the remaining bed filled with butternut squash instead of pumpkins, though. In the top part of the lefthand row is the corn block. In previousyears we have devoted an entire "C" to sweet corn, but have not had a level of success worth dedicating that much space to it. This year we are trying a different variety, but on a smaller scale. If we don't get some nice ears of corn this year, we may give up on growing grain in the garden at all.
Along the top row is another pea trellis, wi…

Trim The Fat Tuesday: The Entertainment Budget

Ok, so after last week's crazy, math-intensive post, I have the world's easiest fat trimming this time.

Lop $20 a pop off our entertainment withdrawals at the ATM.

Let me explain. All of our fun money for stuff like movie and theatre tickets, eating out, playing mini-golf, drinking, etc. is known in our house as "The Entertainment Money." Every two weeks on my payday, I hit the ATM and take out the allotted, previously budgeted entertainment funds as cash, put it in an envelope (for real), and that's it for that two week period. We can spend it however we want, but when it's gone, it's gone.

The cash makes it real, and is also a good way to work with the kids on making smart family decisions on how to spend it together.

But I don't think anyone will really notice if I just take out $20 less every two weeks, right? That's just one large pepperoni pizza, plus a sizable tip for delivery. We make better pizza than that anyway. So maybe we can think of…

2014 Master Plan: The Patio Quadrant

After a week of March-like temperatures, we are in the midst of a surprise snow storm that (so far) has dropped three or four inches of fluffy wet snow on us this afternoon. While it was warm, I had been thinking about these plans and looking out at the dirt, feeling ready to dig and plant … which of course it's far too early for. So back to water, and back to looking at drawings and snow instead of soil.

The patio garden gets easier to fill every year, because the strawberry bed expands every year (until it fills that whole row on the left side, anyway). The bottom row is where our roses, rhubarb, and lavender are, so there is much less planting space here.
Across the top and part of the right side are 20 staked tomato plants. These are our salsa and eating tomatoes: heirloom varieties of Rose, Moskvich, and Ukrainian Yellow. Along the top there is also a pea trellis, and sandwiched in between the trellis and the tomatoes will be a double row of carrots. The carrots will be sown…

2014 Master Plan: The Workshop Quadrant

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we worked really hard in our planning to make sure that next year's winter garden functioned better than this year's. In addition to plotting it out all in one general area, we also pushed the planting dates for most of it up to July 1. 
The reason?
Well, this season I didn't get to sow many of our fall veggies until July 15th or even August 1st because (in many cases) I had to wait for spots to open up after I could pull out spent plants. Turns out that time frame is just a bit too late for things to get up to size before we lose daylight in mid-autumn. It's not so much the cold as the number of daylight hours you get that affects your plant growth. If you can get things fairly mature before October, you are basically just storing living (but nearly dormant) food in your garden instead of storing dying food in your fridge. (For more on this, see expert winter gardener Eliot Coleman's excellent book,  The Four Season Harvest.)

Trim the Fat Tuesday: The Electricity Supply Rate

You know those annoying mailings you get telling you to check out some new electricity supplier to get a better price? And how you can lock in a low rate while your current electric company keeps operating the power lines to your house and zzzzz...

Yeah, I know. They're boring and stupid and why would anyone bother?

Because it turns out that it really is cheaper — especially for the expensive winter months — if you take the time to

Shop around for the cheapest fixed electricity supply rate offered through the electric company.

This one takes maybe an hour or so of research, but it's pretty easily done with the magic of Google. We have National Grid as our provider, so I started there to check out the available suppliers. National Grid will still send us our bill and charge us for the "delivery" via their magic wires, but we get to choose the company that supplies our energy. You can also choose a company that deals in renewable energy, too, if you want.

I was going f…

2014 Master Plan: The Swingset Quadrant

Break out the graph paper! It's that time of year again:

With all of the crazy weather we had at the end of our holiday vacation, we didn't get to our garden planning as close to the turn of the new year as we had hoped. But this past weekend we banged out the location of everything we plan to plant in 2014, and in the coming days we will add all the seed starting and planting dates to iCal to help us keep on schedule. We'll also come up with a master list of seeds and plants that we need to order (something we should get to ASAP, because our first seed starting this year is the all-time early date of January 18!).
This year we changed our process a bit to (hopefully) ensure a better crop of fall and winter veggies. In the past, we saved those for last in our plans — and this would seem to make sense, since these items are typically the last things planted in July or August. But what has happened in practice is that we end up just sticking fall veggies where ever we can f…

The Ants in Winter

We're definitely ants around here.
The Ant and the Grasshopper From ''The Æsop for Children'', by Æsop Project Gutenberg etext 19994
You know, the hardworking ones who spend their summer storing up grain for winter while the grasshopper plays and sings in the sunshine. That grasshopper always seems to be the star of the show in that fable, even though at the end he's shivering and starving and has to beg for some food that he was too lazy to put up for himself. In the illustration, the grasshopper seems far more human than the conformist ants, who literally look up to him, even though they stick to the task at hand. It's like they can't help but admire that grasshopper in spite of themselves.
In the mean, old-fashioned version of story, the ants tell the grasshopper to get lost and go dancing to keep himself warm. We're not meant to really like those ants, even though they're right.
In the newer, nicer versio…

Trim the Fat Tuesday: The Thermostat Adjustment

Week One of our New Year's resolution is here! The first step taken to save some cash in this project is pretty painless (I didn't even tell anyone I was doing it, and it's actually been this way for a month without anyone even noticing):

Lower the thermostat by 1 degree.

We already have a programmable thermostat, which we use to set the heat back by 8 degrees while we are gone during the day and 5 degrees while we are sleeping at night. I'm sure that also saves us money, but I have no idea how much, because we've always done that.

So that doesn't count — we're looking for new savings that I can actually count up and add to my mortgage payment.

A fairly quick internet search shows that the rule-of-thumb is that you can expect about 3% savings for every degree you turn down your thermostat. This is obviously affected by all kind of factors (house size, outside temperature, R-factor of your insulation, blah blah boring you can check out some charts from Michi…

Meet Marigold!

Alas! Hydie, our last betta fish, died her fishy death the week before Christmas. She was buried at sea (which she reached via the City of Newburyport's direct line).

We can't be long without one, though, so meet our new addition:

This is Marigold, named, as they always are for a flower. Specifically, the type of marigold with reddish outer petals:

Tiegan thought her (ok, his) body looked like the orange center and the tail like the outer petals. Marigold looked significantly more orange in the store, but here at home she looks more pink. Perhaps we should have named her Apple Blossom instead. Oh, well.
Anyway, in just a couple weeks it will be time to start some seeds indoors for the spring planting, and aquarium water fertilizer is extremely useful for that. Thanks, Marigold!

How To Drink Dandelion Wine, Part 4

Now that we've seen our third and second place cocktails, it's time to reveal the winer of the 2013 Iron Bartender Contest!
The winning drink managed to make our iffy, homemade dandelion wine taste splendid. Not too sweet, not too tart, it's a fruity masterpiece, and won our contest by the judges' nearly unanimous assent. Without further ado:
Ubarri Uberry Sangria
Presented by Chrisann and Carlos Ubarri
For the sangria base:
1/2 cup raspberries 1/2 cup blackberries 1/2 cup strawberries 1 lemon, thinly sliced 1 cup limoncello
For the drinks:
1 oz. sangria base 1 oz. limoncello 1 oz. dandelion wine (chilled) 1 oz. Prosecco (chilled)
1. Prepare the sangria base ahead of time by adding fruit to a pitcher. Then add enough limoncello to cover, approximately 1 cup. 
2. Chill the sangria base for at least three hours before serving.
3. To mix the drink, use the proportions of sangria base, limoncello, dandelion wine, and Prosecco listed above. Stir and garnish with…

How To Drink Dandelion Wine, Part 3

Ahem. It was brought to my attention by one of our mixologists that I messed up the reveal of our drink winners. In my last post on the subject, I mistakenly wrote that the Drink of the Lion Fairy and The Rosemaryclaire were third place drinks. 
These were, and deservedly so, our second place drinks. I made the correction as fast as I could, but if you are quick to click, you probably read my mistake. Oops and sorry. 
So today, we'll look at the actual third place cocktails. Again, we had a tie for both third and second place, so there are two more great recipes to share.
The Raspberry Beret
Presented by Meredith Moore
1/2 cup raspberries, crushed 1 cup sugar 1 cup water 3 blood oranges, freshly squeezed 1/2 cup dandelion wine
1. First, make a raspberry simple syrup by combining raspberries, sugar, and water in a saucepan and heating on low until the sugar is dissolved, stirring as necessary. Allow to cool, then strain syrup into a jar.
2. Juice the blood oranges (navel or…

Hallich Nei Yaahr!

That's "Happy New Year" in Pennsylvania Dutch, the fast-dying dialect spoken by the frugal Germanic oldsters where I grew up. The tradition, which I've written about before, is to ring in the new year with a big plate of pork and sauerkraut for good luck. Judging by my Facebook feed, I am not alone in maintaining the tradition! Here's what we ate last night:

Das ist gut! If you could use a little luck to start 2014 off right, you can't go wrong with this dish! 
On the plate:
Sauerkraut (fermented and canned — here's how)
Applesauce (also homemade and canned — more how-to)
Smothered Pork Chops (Kirk uses an excellent recipe from America's Test Kitchen, but we also modify it with whatever herbs and veg we have on hand — I believe chopped apples and some mincemeat were added to the sauce this time around. One part you should never, ever change, though, is the crumbles of bacon for garnish.)
Mashed potatoes (You don't really need a recipe for this, do…

Aerial View: January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!
Looks like Google decided to celebrate 2014 by finally taking a new satellite picture of our property. 

For years, we were stuck with a picture of the ugly old patio and stone-lined raised bed with overgrown trees and brush. And the world's nastiest thistles. Not that you can see the thistles from the moon or anything, but we know they were there.
This new and improved photo was clearly taken back in April, some time after we planted the potatoes last spring, but before we put pea trellises and potato boxes in place.
And I only know that because I use this blog to keep such good records. 
So if you're ever looking for Port Potager from outer space, this is what we look like. I bet we're the only garden that looks quite like this from way up high!