It’s always a surprise…

It’s always a surprise when I do something right in the kitchen.  I mean, if anyone can mess up a recipe, it’s me.  The more ingredients finely measured, the more lazy I get.  A teaspoon is a splash, a tablespoon is a bigger splash.  I laughed out loud one day reading the bag to my flour on how to appropriately measure it in a cup.  You mean you don’t just fill it?  True artists in the kitchen are having a fit right now and they are probably right to do so.  I’m just not one of them.  So when I find something that works and (gasp!) tastes good, there’s a little happy dance happening in my kitchen.

That little dance happened this morning over my crockpot chicken carcass.  I made a whole crockpot chicken last night for dinner, and boy, my house smelled amazing all day.  You can find the recipe here.  Lisa mentions how from this amazing recipe you can easily make your own chicken stock.  No offense to her, but I eyed “easy” with a sceptic’s heart.  Yeah right.  So, I hastily threw that idea out the window.  Until I saw all the bubbling juices from my whole chicken that would be wasted if I just threw it out.  Until I looked in my pantry and saw my lack of chicken stock woefully low due to an infrequent BOGO sale cycle at my grocery store.  Ok, maybe I can do this.

I glanced at Lisa’s link to make the stock, and noticed she does say you don’t need everything on the recipe list.  Well, that’s good, I don’t have it all.  So, I try it.  All night I have all the leftover chicken remains bubbling in that crockpot.  This is what I woke up to. 

I confess, my first thought was blech.  That didn’t work!  But, wanting to see it to completion, I continued with the straining process (actually easy) while the kids were doing their handwriting for the day.  This is what I got. Now, the darkness of this broth had me worried.  All my broths are well, store-bought liquids or little cubes of powder.  Real stuff has never been made by me.  I taste test.  Oh. My. Goodness. Yeah.  Even without all the celery and several herbs not frequently in my pantry, it was good.  Rich.  I’m sure the store-bought kinds with ultra low-fat/low salt is way better for you, but this stuff will kick up the flavor in anything.  I promptly froze it all to use in my up coming monthly cook day.  So thanks, Lisa, for a great recipe!  It’s on my favorites list now and I don’t need to worry so much about my lack of stock BOGOs.

I hate cooking…

Truly.  If it was up to me, half of our income would be spent on take out and restaurants.  Since that option is both unhealthy and not feasible with a young family, cooking is slowly becoming something I do. So in my ever-expanding search for quick, easy cooking, I stumbled across once a month cooking.  It appears to be pretty popular amongst large families as a time conserver.  While I don’t have a large family, my laziness and reluctance in cooking are like the 2 additional kids I don’t have.  The thing is, it works.  While I spend a good 2 days consumed with food (planning, shopping, chopping and cooking), at the end of it, I can have as many prepared main dishes as I desire.  It’s healthier because instead of buying frozen nuggets, I can bake a batch and freeze them while I’m chopping 8 onions.  I can make a 30-40 batch of pre-cooked meatballs and can control what’s in it.  But the best of it all?  I can eat it.  Many times when handling raw meat I get grossed out.  Blech.  I get all my “grossed-out” heeby-jeebies on cooking day, not eating day.

I have a handful of monthly standbys.  Meals I know my kids will eat without complaint and usually make doubles of those.  I freeze up some pre-cooked “MeMuffins” for a quick breakfast (recipe here).  I make nuggets and meatballs, flatten,bread and lightly fry some chicken for chicken parmesan, boil some to shred for tacos, chicken soup or chicken salad, and brown up some meat and onions.  Then it’s bag, tag and freeze.  It’s a crazy “on your feet” day of cooking and when your done that day you will probably want to be able to just throw in a pizza for the fam, but for the next 2-4 weeks I can rest easy that dinner is just in the freezer, chopped and completely or mostly assembled.  And that makes my daily nights of cooking…just a little less hateful.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Skillet Shepherds Pie (just need a pound of precooked, seasoned beef and onions frozen for this one)

Make ahead meatballs

Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup (freeze all chopped veggies, have some shredded chicken ready, dump in crockpot with liquids/canned corn)

Beef and Veggie Soup, Stephanie’s Goulash, BBQ Chicken (all found here)

–Have any good ones?

Training up a child in the way they should go…

As a kid, my brother and I rarely had to do any hard labor.  In fact, my only memory of chores other than keeping my room clean was helping my aunt paint her garage.  I think I lasted 30 minutes.  While my parents surely had the best intentions, as an adult it’s had some interesting repercussions.  I don’t have the confidence to fix anything.  The physical labor that home-owning requires is a daunting task (i.e painting, hanging a ceiling fan).  With John working so much out of the house, the “honey do” list has fallen to me much more than I ever thought.  Sure, he’s still out there re-screening our patio, but lawn-mowing, painting, and some minor repairs have landed in my lap this past year.  And, it usually takes a good week for me to work up my nerve to try something new when John’s not home.  Which is a good time to do it since I usually send my very proficient Mr. Fix-It into convulsions over my inept ways.  Luckily, he’s training up our kids in the way of labor, in addition to all our other training in Bible and school.  So, one day, when I’ve gathered the nerve to change out the blinds, I’ll have 3 kids helping me do it.

Day Off or Off Day?

I rarely get a chance to go away without my kids.  Coming from someone who as a high-schooler and college gal would seek out hours of alone time, this has been a major wife/mom/homeschooler adjustment.  My husband, John, has graciously taken on 2 jobs in order to keep me home with the kids.  This was not an easy or lightly taken decision, but being the primary disciple-er of my children was a call I could not escape, and believe me, I tried.  Due to my husband’s schedule and a tight budget preventing frequent babysitters, alone time is a luxury.  I usually spend the first hour of it thinking of all the errands, busy work, chores and non-fun stuff that fill my general days.  Sometimes I cave…and spend my day off (usually just a few hours) doing things that don’t rest me.  Then my day off becomes an off day.  I get grouchy and irritated because in the end, I didn’t redeem my time to allow the quietness and pursuit of simple pleasures un-interrupted rejuvenate and revive my spirit.  So, I have chosen to spend such moments at my local library.  The fun places to chill (i.e. Starbucks, Panera) are all located in hubs of shops that remind me of all my chores and errands.  Here, amongst books that are my friends, is solitude, and no temptation for either a 4$ coffee or places to shop.  What are some of your favorite day off locations?  And for the mom or dad reading, or anyone burning the candle at both ends…be encouraged to take a bit of time alone and recharge.