January 4, 2009

January 4, 2009

Posted in entertaining, food tagged , , , , , at 11:32 am by allisonwonder

I’m having such a hard time getting used to writing/ typing “2009” instead of “2008”. It always takes me a while to adjust- good thing I don’t write a lot of cheques…

Wehad our company over for supper last night, and (if I may say so), the food was great.  We had Greek-Style Lemon Roast Chicken (recipe courtesy of Kraft Kitchens- bless them!) with rice, spinach “salad” (OK, fresh spinach leaves with dressing, but so good) and home-made bread. It was tasty, but I was mainly pleased with the timing of everything. I never know exactly when AJ will be home from work- if he’s supposed to be done at 5:00, he could be home any time between 5 and 6:15 (and he’d better call if he’s going to be later than that!). The guys came in at 5:55, and supper was ready at 6:10- no cold food last night. Also, I managed to have everything ready at the same time, which has always been a challenge for me. Having a consistent oven makes a big difference- when you know how long the chicken’s going to take to cook, it’s a lot easier to figure out when the rice needs to go on. Hooray for properly-functioning appliances!

I DO need a meat thermometer, though- that would make things easier. I used to have one, but it didn’t last long- I don’t even know how I killed it.

OH- and I was a good girl and did whatever dishes I could while I was working, so doing the plates and pots and stuff afterward wasn’t TOO bad.I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: it’s a lot easier to get the dishes done when there’s a nice window to look out while you’re doing them, rather than a blank wall. Been there, done thet (twice, actually).

Was the house perfect? Nope. Did P. care? Definitely not.

As an afterthought, I decided to have a look at what Ms. Lillian Eichler of “The New Book of Etiquette” had to say on the subject. Apparently people didn’t have just one or two people over for meals in the ’20s or the ’30s- just dinner parties, luncheons, and tea, any of which could be formal or informal, each with its own rules. The closest thing I found was actually the “Sunday-Night Supper.”    “As a rule there is no maid service, the hostess taking this opportunity to show what she can do in the way of cooking and serving…with modern electrical appliances to help her, the hostess whould be able to entertain eight to ten friends at Sunday-night supper very easily, without scrambling from kitchen to dining room.” Lil, I don’t have ROOM for eight to ten friends, and I get to show off my cooking and serving skills (such as they may be) every damn night. At least the cooking didn’t have to be too fancy- “creamed chicken on toast is an excellent supper dish that can be prepared on a table grill… Some hostesses like to serve waffles for Sunday-night supper…”

I get the idea that maybe this book was written for a class of people I just don’t belong to- or were things just that different back then*? I certainly don’t know anyone who would consider cooking for 8-10 friends a novelty, what with the maid having the night off and all.

*Speaking of “back then,” here’s an interesting blog/ project I’ve just started reading: My Decade Year follows the adventures of a modern woman as she spends 100 days living as a ’50s housewife, 100 days in the 60s, 100 in the 70s and 65 days in the 80s.  It’s been interesting so far…

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January 1, 2009

Ikezilla Strikes Again

Posted in cleaning, daily to do lists, food at 11:57 am by allisonwonder

Is it possible for a child to be hardwired for destruction and mess-making? If so, Isaac is practically a prodigy. He likes to follow me around the house, un-tidying as he goes, unrolling the toilet paper, knocking over garbage cand, and unloading the recycling all over the kitchen floor. If there’s food left out anywhere, it’s a safe bet that he’ll not only find it, but that he’ll manage to spread it over the floor in at least a 3-foot radius all around his cute little self.

dsc07800 I can actually see me being able to stay on top of everything here if I didn’t have these little people around. Heck, I’d have more than enough time to get everything done… I’d probably even be able to cook a nice meal every night and even get the exercise I so desperately need… but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Speaking of messes, we’re getting a heck of a lot of snow dumped on us right now. This would be very exciting, I’m sure, if I liked snow, but it’s really just making me want to hibernate.

*     *     *

On to today… the house is looking good right now- we’ll see how long that lasts. I might have time to bake that banana bread.  A nap is actually higher on my list of priorities, but seems highly unlikely. I still don’t know if we’re having company for supper or not…

 

Kitchen

dishes (as needed)

sweep

wipe countertops and sink

stains, spills and smudges

 

Bathroom

wipe sink and shower after use

hang up towels

put bath toys away

wipe counter and floor as needed

 

Living Room/ Dining Room

sweep floors, spot clean messes

tidy floor and flat surfaces

take baskets to appropriate rooms

 

Bedrooms

make beds

tidy

laundry in hampers

 

Basement

tidy toys and craft area after use

litter box- quick scoop

food and water for cats

 

Other:

cook supper    (quiche)

thank-you card (see yesterday)

December 26, 2008

Holy Spending, Batman!

Posted in food, money tagged , , at 12:41 pm by allisonwonder

Can I just say, first of all, that it’s extremely difficult to make a budget when you have no idea what certain necessities (like, say, heat and light) are going to cost every month? I guess we’ll be getting those bills soon enough, but in the meantime, I’m kind of stuck.

While I’m waiting for those, I’m going through our other expenses from last month, according to our bank statement. One advantage of not having any credit cards is that everything gets paid for directly from the bank, so everything’s on the one statement. There are, of course, those pesky “GM/WD” entries- cash withdrawals from bank machines- but that’s understandable around Christmas, as having only the one statement makes secrecy difficult. Also, Tim Horton’s doesn’t take debit- Ack!

Here’s a scary figure: we spent over $1000 on food last month (mid-November to mid-December). That’s more than double our normal food budget. Now, that’s what we spent at grocery stores, and occasionally Wal-Mart; some of that might not have actually been food (we might have bought diapers at the grocery store or something like that). Also, that includes both stocking a new pantry from scratch AND a significant number of convenience/prepared food items that we needed before we had a stove or a full-sized fridge. Buuut…

It just seems like a lot. I’ve been saving receipts, so I’ll go back and have a look at what we actually bought, see what we’re spending on things (milk, for example, is horribly expensive around here). Then it’ll be time to figure out what I’m willing to do to save money on food. I’ll bake bread sometimes, and I’ll plan to cook using fewer convenience foods (not that fresh meat and produce are cheap, but it’s got to be better… right?)

If we’re trying to save money, I could probably turn the heat down a degree or two, as well… it’s not tropical in here by any means, but we’d survive if we were a bit colder. Right now, we’re just enjoying the novelty of a heating system that works well and consistently.

December 22, 2008

Bakin’ Bread- My First Attempt

Posted in food tagged , , , at 10:12 am by allisonwonder

Baking bread just seemed to make sense for me. Simon is addicted to toast with butter, and though homemade bread is a bit heavier than the store-bought kind, it’s got fewer preservatives and ingredients that I can’t pronounce, and it’s cheaper (in theory)*. Might even be something Simon could help with.

I came across this recipe on The Simple Dollar a few weeks ago, and it got me thinking about all this stuff- enough that I decided to give it a try. What follows is the ups and downs (or rising and punching-down, if you will) of my first attempt at a loaf of white bread- with pictures!

10:00 a.m.- so far, so good; yeast mixed according to directions on jar (1/4 c. water, 1 tsp. sugar, 2 3/4 tsp. yeast).

yeast 1

10:10- add flour as described in recipe… seems flaky, definitely not glommy enough, even though I only added the minimum amount of flour. Looks nothing like his picture. Re-check ingredients, but everything looks good. Guess we’ll keep going…

flaaaake

10:20- after beating the sh*t out of this lump for almost 10 minutes, the damn thing is still too hard- something is obviously wrong with the solid/liquid balance here. Another look at the directions reveals that his yeast apparently calls for 1 FULL CUP of water… that would do it. We’ll set this one aside and see if it’ll rise, but it doesn’t seem likely**.

dry

Back to the drawing board, then. If I don’t try again right away, I might not do it at all- and I’ve got a whole jar of yeast in the fridge to use up.

10:30- Attempt number two looks better so far- good and glommy after the first bit of flour is added.

better batter

10:35- more flour added, equalling 3 cups. This looks a lot more like the TSD photos.

dsc07466

10:50- bread has been kneaded for 10 minutes; it was much easier with softer dough! I had help, too…

My little helper

Time to let it rise… this means waiting for an hour. Waiting’s no fun, and Simon wants to beat up some more dough, so we start on another loaf, just for the heck of it.

No warming area on our stove, but my bedside lamp gives off a bit of heat, so I move that to the kitchen to keep the dough all toasty-like.

dsc07474 < Yeah, it says 1987. We’re warming it old-school today.

12:00- Time to punch, flatten, roll and put ‘er in the loaf pan…

dsc07475

… and wait AGAIN…

dsc07479

1:15 p.m.- into the oven she goes! Hmm… maybe I should lower that rack next time, eh?

dsc07478  <after a few minutes in the oven

1:45- BREAD! Yeah, like I’m going to wait for it to cool completely before I cut a slice for each of us…

dsc07481

Mmmmmmmmm! Bready goodness.

VERDICT: I will definitely do this again, and once I’ve mastered white bread, I’ll try some different flours. I’m not saying I’ll be able to make all of our bread, but we definitely won’t be buying as much in the future. I’m going to need to be careful about how much I eat, though. :S

 

*This does not take into account, for example, that I will eat WAY more homemade bread than store-bought.

** No rising for this bread. Rest in Pieces, un-glommy bread

December 4, 2008

YARR, This Chicken Be Salty, Says I

Posted in food tagged , , , at 3:38 pm by allisonwonder

Last night’s supper was almost completely successful. I’d been planning to make quiche, until AJ informed me that he doesn’t like quiche. I’m still going to make it another night (because Simon will actually eat “egg pie”), but I changed our plan for yesterday to baked chicken, etc.

The “etc.” would normally involve either potatoes (boiled or mashed) or rice, both of which require a stovetop, which I still don’t have. Instead, I made cornbread muffins in the toaster oven, using this recipe from Home Ec 101. The baked chicken would normally be Shake n’ Baked, but a walk down to the grocery store left us S&B-less (though I did get a nice raspberry vinegarette for the spinach salad). I coated the chicken in some flour plus whatever herbs I had in the cupboard and stuck it in the fridge while the cornbread wsas cooking.

The cornbread was good, though it got a little too brown on top. The chicken, however, met with disaster  while I was busy making the muffins. I had just finished pouring the batter into the muffin tray (since I don’t have a cake pan) when I turned around…

…and saw Simon with the fridge door open, dumping a box of table salt on the chicken. The nicely seasoned chicken breasts I’d prepared looked like the foothills of tiny ski slopes, covered in mountains of salt. “SIMON! No, no, no, no, no!” was all I could think of to say as I grabbed the chicken and tried to brush as much of the salt off as I could. Simon didn’t see anything wrong with his additional seasoning. “I help mommy koonkin’? Mommy koonkin de chinken?” he asked, all wide-eyed innocence.

It’s a damn good thing he’s cute- especially after he got up at 3:15 in the morning. AAARGH. When Andre came home, I said, “I’ve always wondered why hamsters sometimes eat their babies. Today, I think I found out the answer…”

We survived. I cooked the chicken, which ranged from “very good” (AJ’s piece) to “not worth finishing” (mine) to “Dear GOD, that’s salty!” (Simon’s un-touched meal). The cornbread was great, though, and AJ surprised me by actually eating his spinach. Hooray!

****

Good news! Sears just called, and the range is ready to be picked up. Christmas baking, here we come!

****

Today’s To Do:

-walk to post office and mail Christmas cards

-downstairs play time with boys (and try to get through some boxes while we’re down there)

-sweep and vacuum… probably several times, like most days

-menu planning for next week

-ironing

November 27, 2008

One Down, Six To Go

Posted in food tagged , , , , at 8:00 pm by allisonwonder

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been… well, shoot, I’ve never actually been to confession before, but that’s how it goes in the movies…

I’m sure most of us have been guilty at one time or another of most (if not all) of the “Seven Deadly Sins.” I’m not going to share exactly where I fall in that range these days, but I WILL confess to one that’s highly relevant to this site: gluttony. Oooh, that sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? Sad, but true- while our American neighbours are stuffing themselves silly on turkey and sweet potatoes (talk about gluttony!), I’ve been enjoying an epic feast of scallops.

Mmmmm… scallops. Sweet, tender, buttery scallops. The truly gluttonous part of tonight’s meal was that I didn’t have to share with anyone. AJ’s at work, and even if he was home, he wouldn’t have wanted them, anyway, the big crazy-head! I had a $4 package of frozen bay scallops stashed in the teeny-weenie freezer of the mini-fridge, and I broke that sucker out tonight- you know, to make more room. *ahem*

So we have the scallops, thawed in cold water. We have 4 tablespoons of melted butter, and we have a ziploc sandwich bag with 5 or 6 crushed Ritz crackers in it (not having any bread crumbs handy, I improvised). Preheat the toaster oven to 375 degrees, put the scallops in a wee baking pan, drizzle 1/2 of the butter on ’em, top with cracker crumbs and the rest of the butter, and bake for about 15 minutes.

To be quite honest, they probably didn’t even need the crumbs. Next time I might just do the butter, and then squirt some lemon juice on those suckers while they’re still hot from the oven.

Yes, I ate them all. I offered to let Simon have some, but he took one look and said, “Nooooooo!”  His loss!

I’m too full of seafoody goodness now. It’ll serve me right if I get food poisoning or something, but I will regret nothing. NOTHING!

November 26, 2008

Come inside, have a nice cuppa tea!

Posted in food tagged , , at 1:15 pm by allisonwonder

I needed a good cup of tea this morning. Not just a cup of tea- a good cup of tea. There’s a difference. If I’m out and about and I want a good one, I go to Tim Horton’s for a Steeped Tea (which I initially thought was just a marketing thing- isn’t all tea steeped?- but it really is better). Since I wasn’t going anywhere this morning, I had to make my own pot.

Here’s how I do it when I need good tea; please feel free to add your own tips in the comments!

– Start with the right pot. I like a heavy-ish ceramic pot, which holds heat nicely, but right now I’ve got a glass one. This one’s nice because it has an infuser for loose teas, but I don’t have any of those at the moment.

– The water you use is surprisingly important. It took me a few days at this house before I figured out that my tea tasted  terrible because of the tap water. It’s safe to drink, but it doesn’t taste great. I’m using filtered water now, and it’s making a huge difference. Water temperature is important, too, at both ends of the kettle. The water should be cold (or at least not hot) going into the kettle, and at a rolling boil coming out*. Why cold water? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because hot water out of the tap carries more foreign particles from the pipes… just take my word for it, OK?

– Obviously your choice of tea is very important, and totally up to you. Loose teas steep beautifully, if you have an infuser and don’t mind measuring. If I’m using tea bags (as I was this morning), it has to be Tetley Orange Pekoe for me. Don’t like Red Rose or Mother whatserface’s. That’s just personal preference. You generally get what you pay for with tea, though, and I’ve never found a good generic one.

– keep the pot warm while your tea is steeping. This is what tea cozies are for**- they’re not just for lookin’ all cute and grandma’s-kitcheny. I don’t have one, so I wrap a dish towel around the pot and drape another one over the top. This keeps the heat in the pot, soing its job, instead of escaping out into the air. Keep the pot warm after you’ve poured your first cup, too- re-heated tea isn’t good.

-Take the bags out when your tea is as strong as you like it- if you leave them in, they’ll continue steeping, and the tea will get too strong.

– as for what you put in your tea, that’s up to you. Put your milk and sugar (if that’s what you’re using) in the cup before you pour the tea; again, I have no idea why this makes a difference, but I think it does.

So there you have it- my technique for a great pot of tea. Not every pot has to be great, of course, but it sure is nice when your 3-year old has you up at 5:40 a.m…. again…

 

* This applies to black teas, like Orange Pekoe; green tea needs water that’s a little cooler, or it’ll burn and not taste as good as it should.

**as for toilet paper cozies, like the crocheted ones you can get at church bazaars… I have no idea what thet’s for, unless people are just embarrassed about the fact that they need toilet paper.