Thursday, May 27, 2010

Armed with riding boots and spicy soup

The torrents of rain continue. But it is no matter because my riding boots and I are armed with a trench coat and a piping hot bowl of spicy chipotle chicken soup. We, my boots and I, are counting down the hours until it is finally the weekend, a four day weekend no less. In 5 hours freedom is mine. I shall return to my cozy house, a roaring fire, and a sweet husband. I shall make flamenco eggs. I shall enjoy their silky texture along side spicy chorizo and rich garlicky tomatoes. It shall be divine.

This weekend I am relishing in the fact that nothing is planned. Mr. P and I will go on a bike ride. I will attempt to finish organizing the office. We may start weeding our new massive yard. I may attempt homemade granola as seen in this months Bon Appetit via Molly Wizenberg. We may do some U-pick strawberry picking, which might tempt me to try my hands at a gluten free cobbler of sorts. We shall see.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oh Spring...where are you?

While parts of the country are dealing with 90 degree temperatures, here in the Pacific Northwest Spring seems to have lost its way. The past week and a half have seen rain, rain and more rain paired with temperatures in the high 50's. Sunday night it reached a low of 36 degrees. We should be enjoying warm evenings on our new front porch, digging up our garden beds, grilling and digging shorts out of hiding. Instead we have donned wool sweaters, made lots of soup and huddled in front of the wood stove drinking tea.

Despite a long day and torrents of rain there was a taste of spring awaiting me in our kitchen last night. Jessica prepared Spring Risotto with Peas and zucchini and it was delicious! It was the perfect touch of spring for Oregon's rainy may days. Warm and cozy as the best risotto is, it was full of bright spring flavors and rich with homemade chicken stock. Paired with a salad it was the perfect, simply spring dinner both nourishing and yummy.

*photo from Martha Stewart Everyday food, found here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday Dinner

I love the tradition of Sunday Dinner. It is something I want to do more often. In lieu of lunch and dinner a traditional comforting Sunday dinner at 2, 3 or 4pm. One my favorite menus for such as occasion is roast chicken. Such was the plan for this Sunday. After a crazy Friday and Saturday of graduation preparations and celebrations Jessica and I decided a nice roasted chicken and some roasted root veggies would be just the thing. There was just one little hitch...

In the true spirit of both adventure and economy we decided to buy some frying roosters from The Schack Family Farm. We love the Schack family. We buy our milk and eggs from the farm along with the Wilson's (our new housemates) and the James. Each family takes turns going out to pick up milk and eggs and deliver them, providing all of us with fresh raw milk. On a recent trip to the farm Jessica and I were chatting with Brian Schack as he milked and he told us he was selling rooster fryers for 5 dollars each. He would kill them and we just needed to pluck and clean them. However he said we could come to the farm and he would teach us how to do it and let us do it there. Jessica and I eagerly agreed and made plans to come the Sunday after graduation. Need I point out what a deal this is. Five dollars a piece for an organic free range chicken. Better yet a chicken which we know was raised humanely, cleanly, and safely.

So yesterday after church we all changed into work clothes and goulashes and headed to the farm. We had originally planned to only get 2 roosters, one for our Sunday dinner and one to freeze. However once we realized how much work was involved we decided to up our order to 6. Brian caught the first couple of roosters and killed them. Then Mr. James and Mr. P took over catching and killing roosters. Once the rooster was caught, hung, killed and bled. It was plunged into boiling water for 15 seconds. This made it easier to remove the feathers. Then the feathers were plucked and the rooster was cleaned. It was a lot of work but it got easier the more we did. Brian was so nice and patiently explained, showed and re-explained cleaning out the chickens. He spent his whole Sunday afternoon teaching us and helping us. After 4 hours we returned home with our milk, eggs, and 6 roosters, along with a pile of chicken feet, livers, giblets and hearts. After all that work we were determined to use every piece of those roosters we could.

And so Sunday night we sat around a hot fire eating roasted chicken while broth simmered away in the kitchen. It was a delicious albeit a very late Sunday dinner.

*we will use the feet for making broth. The livers will make pate and the giblets and hearts can be ground up into sausage along with some dark meat and spices in the food processor.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


There have been so many changes recently for the Potters. Not only did we move into a house with the Wilson's but Mr. P graduates law school this weekend. We are both so excited for the end of law school. What is most exciting is the change this will bring for us. We met and began dating in college. Mr. P proposed a month after graduation and started law school a month later. We got married the summer after 1L year. Up until this point our lives together have been very involved in school. There has always been homework, studying, papers, school loans and so on. In the near future Chris will still have to study for the bar exam which he takes late in July. After his exam we are going on a trip to South America and when we come home it will be a huge adjustment for him. We will be in whole new waters. Like most graduating law students this year Mr. P doesn't have a job lined up. But unlike most, he has a plan. He is thinking about starting his own immigration firm. There is a huge need for immigration lawyers, especially where we live. It is obviously somewhat of a risk to go into your own practice, especially fresh out of school. However we both feel strongly now is the time to take risks like this. While hundreds of law school graduates in Oregon will be flooding the already over saturated job market looking for that stable pay check Mr. P will be building something for our future. I am so proud of my husband and I look forward to a weekend of celebrating him and his hard work and accomplishments.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Change of Address

The move is over and we survived. Moving two household into one is a sight to behold. Our kitchen and dining room was a terrifying mountain of boxes. However, it is starting to come together. My hope is that things are pretty much arranged by Friday night when Mr. P's family comes in to town for graduation.

So far our new living arrangements have been truly delightful. The work, stress and exhaustion is shared, which makes it somehow less daunting, as is the excitement and joy. Our new house is truly beautiful. There are trees all around it. Four or five different flowers are in bloom just waiting to make beautiful table bouquets. And there is such a peace in looking out the kitchen window to a lawn and trees rather than a parking lot with cars. I am overwhelmed with how beautiful Oregon is in the spring.

Mr. P and Mr. Wilson have been busying themselves with household projects as Mrs. Wilson and I have bustled about organizing the kitchen, decorating our bathroom and cooking. My book shelf is stained and ready to be put up and Adirondack chairs are being assembled for the front porch. I will try to share pictures next week.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This time tomorrow...

This time tomorrow I will be leaving work for what is promised to be a great but exhausting weekend. Not only is Mr. P finishing law school and celebrating, but we are moving into our dear house, competing in Beans and Weenies 2010, throwing a good bye dinner for good friends and managing to be at church on time Sunday morning. It is one of those weeks where you simply can't wait for the other side. Last night as Jessica helped me pack my kitchen, and Mr. P did some reading and planning for our garden, we continually reminded ourselves that this time next week we will all be in our new home.

As we get closer to moving we all are becoming more excited for our house and our new living arrangements. Mr. P talks about the garden more and more while Jessica and I have spent hours discussing food, cleaning schedules, arrangement of furniture and how to track down an antique liqueur cabinet. I think Jessica summed it up best in her blog post, Embarking.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cheap Eats Part 3-Greens

Another wonderfully delicious, yet cheap, food is greens. Greens remain one of the cheapest fresh vegetables throughout the year. This is because they have three growing seasons, early spring, mid summer and winter. I was at our local farmers market this past weekend and the greens were by far the cheapest fresh vegetables. Greens are also yummy and super healthy. They are what my Mom calls a super food. Here are some of my favorite ways to eat them:

Southern Style Collard Greens

1 ham hock
2 bunches collard greens
4 dried cayenne or other red chilies
salt and pepper
hot sauce to taste

Bring ham hock, chilies and lots of water to boil. Cook 30 minutes. Add chopped greens, some salt and cook 2 hours. Season to taste with hot sauce.

Garlicky Spinach

3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
2 bunches fresh spinach (or other quick cooking greens)
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in pan. Add garlic and cook till just beginning to brown. Add spinach and some salt and pepper. Cook just until wilted.

Spicy Mustard Greens

2 bunches mustard greens
2 cloves garlic sliced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat oil and saute garlic and pepper flakes. When garlic starts to brown add greens and cook until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Cumin Spiced Kale (adapted from Moosewood low-fat favorites)

1/2 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
4 tomatoes chopped, or one can of tomatoes diced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 large bunch of kale
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat oil in skillet. Saute onion 5 minutes. Add garlic saute another minute. Meanwhile wash and chop kale. Add cumin and cayenne to skillet. Cook one minute. Add kale and tomatoes. Cover and cook 15 minutes until Kale is tender.

Greens are also great additions to soups, lentils, curries and stir Fry's. They are very rich in nutrients, especially iron. Perhaps best of all, most cook in a matter of minutes, making them the perfect side dish for any weeknight meal!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cheap Eats Part 2- The Whole Chicken

Today we are continuing on with cheap yet delicious food ideas for all of us who are fabulous yet broke. Last time we discussed eggs in all their glory. You might also check out this post on beans and this yummy beef soup recipe which are all budget friendly as well.

Like most American families we eat a lot of chicken. However unlike many we do not buy boneless skinless chicken breast. Here is my money saving tip for the day: DO NOT BUY BONELESS SKINLESS CHICKEN BREAST. I know, I know, it is so much easier and more convenient. But hear me out. Each week when I go to the market I buy a whole chicken or two. When I get home from the market I cut the chicken up into pieces, legs, thighs, breasts. I take off all the skin and remove the breast bone (This depends on my menu for the week. For some recipes I keep the bone on). Then I freeze the pieces for weeknight dinners and make stock out of the back bone and wings. Thus one chicken bought for 4-6 dollars, depending, makes us 2-3 dinners and at least two pints of homemade chicken stock. Whereas 4-6 dollars worth of boneless skinless chicken breast might have bought us 2 dinners--maybe.

At first it was a little tricky to learn to cut up the chicken. My Mom had to come and help. Then she had to help over the phone and finally after a few rounds I got it down. Now my chicken process takes me 15-2o minutes from when I walk in the front door form the market to when I have broth simmering, chicken cut up in the freezer and the counter clean and disinfected. This 20 minutes is what you pay up $2 more a pound for at the grocery store.

To Cut up a chicken (I apologize for the lack of pictures. My camera is broken.)

*I am the first to admit this is gross project especially when you get started. The first 5-8 times I did this I whined and squealed about how gross it was the whole time. It gets easier I promise. You must focus on the satisfaction you get from being an economical wife.

1 whole chicken
1 large plastic cutting board
1 good sharp sturdy knife
3 quart size freezer bags
1 large stock pot
disinfectant, I use 409 kitchen cleaner

Take chicken out of bag wash with cold water. Look for any straggling feathers and pull out. Reach inside cavity and remove kidney, giblets, liver and neck (this might not all be there) put these into stock pot if you want. I usually put the neck into pot but discard kidney, liver and giblets. Place chicken on cutting board. First you want to cut off wings and place these in stock pot. Grab wing and feel along until you find the joint. Pull wing away from chicken by joint and cut in between ball of joint. It may sound weird but when you are actually holding the chicken it will make sense. If all else fails yank and you can pull joint out of socket. Cutting up a chicken is all about learning where the joints are and how they work. It took me a good deal of yanking at first. Then turn chicken so breast side is down. Find the thigh joint. This is where the thigh separates from the body. It helps to pull on the joint until you can feel it moving and then wedge your knife into the joint to separate. Once you have the thigh and leg off you can pull of the skin and then separate into leg and thigh pieces. I place both legs and thighs into one freezer bag for one dinner. That was the hardest part I promise. Now stand the chicken cavity up and cut directly down the rib cage separating the back bone from the breast bone. Place back into stock pot. Pull skin off breast bone and turn over so bone is up. Directly in center of breast bone is a dark red area. You want to place sharp point of knife directly in the center of that area then pound hard on knife with other hand to crack the breast bone. Once cracked you can cut it in half. Cut chicken off bone if desired. I freeze breasts each in separate freezer bag because one breast can easily feed two people. Label freezer bags and place in freezer. Place stock pot on stove. Wash knife and cutting board. Now disinfect the entire area. I find chicken bits and juices splatter and a good disinfecting of the entire surface area is necessary. Now you have cut up a chicken. Don't you feel accomplished?

Homemade Chicken stock

Chicken back and wings, or a whole chicken, or carcase of a roast chicken, or chicken feet
2 stalks celery
2 carrots scrubbed
1 onion, optional
4 dried red chilies
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic
whole peppercorns or lots of cracked pepper
1-2 TB salt
Fresh or dried herbs of any kind, I just use whatever I have on hand

Place all in stock pot. Don't worry too much about chopping. I usually break carrots in half and cut onion into 1/4ths. I leave garlic in skins. Fill pot with water. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and simmer 4 hours. Let cool. Strain. Place into containers to freeze. Keeps in fridge for a week and in freezer for months. I usually freeze in 1, 2 and 3 cup measurements. This makes it easier to pull out for a recipe. If stock gels that is a good sign and you should be proud.

*You can make stock out of the whole chicken. I find this wasteful unless I am going to stop and remove the meat from the chicken. Stock made from the back, wings and other various chicken parts is just as good as using the meat. Actually the best stock is from chicken feet. The only time I use a whole chicken in stock is if I'm making chicken soup. To do that place whole washed chicken in pot, don't forget to clean out cavity. Add celery, carrot, chilies, rosemary, garlic and bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, simmer 45 minutes. After 45 minutes remove chicken and place on plate. Let cool. While it cools strain stock. Dice 2 carrots, 2 celery, bell pepper, fresh rosemary and add to strained broth. Simmer 20 minutes while chicken cools. When chicken cool pull off meat and add to broth. Bring to boil and either add noodles or cooked rice. Season to taste. This makes a ton of soup.

Now my friends. Go forth and buy a whole chicken. It will be fun I promise.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Front Porch

I have news!

And no Mom, I am not pregnant.

We are moving into a house with our friends, The Wilson's!

Last Monday, a week ago, we were all talking about how much we wanted to live in a house have gardens and how we can't afford to buy them. Then Jessica suggested we just all rent a house together. At first I thought she was plum crazy but the more we all thought about it the more all realized it was a brilliant idea. The scary part was that we were supposed to sign our renewed lease that Friday. If we didn't sign it our rent would go up a lot. So we had to make a decision quickly and without first finding a house. After a lot of discussion, thinking and praying we all decided to do it and we put in our 30 days notice to our apartment. Then Saturday we went and looked at the first house. I should stop and say I was terrified we wouldn't find a good house in our budget. What we were hoping to find is not frequently found at the price we could pay. I knew it was a bit of a long shot. However, the first house we looked at was perfect. Actually beyond perfect, so much better than I ever dreamed we would be able to afford. We turned in an application right then and there and now it's official we are moving into a house! I am so excited I haven't lived in a house since I moved out of my parents house.

The house is in a nice quite older neighborhood with beautiful mature trees. It has a HUGE yard. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, living room, family room, kitchen and dining room. It was built in the 40s and has original refinished hard wood floors and both a fire place and wood stove. The best part is we will all be paying less rent than we are paying now! Yay!!!!