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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snowy Morn in Pokeberry

Well by golly there's a real inch or two of snow here in Charlotte. Its actually the packy sort of snow you could make snowballs from. Maybe even a snowman. You don't see that around here much, in fact this is the most snow I've seen since I moved here.

Hubby cleaned his car off with my kitchen broom--its been so long--we don't know where those car scraping things are at.

I'm planning to work tonight, although I am a bit concerned about some of my job--I don't think I can do much bending or stooping--luckily its a short evening shift and we aren't usually too busy--especially with this snow--I think it will be ok. I'll just have to admit my little 'problem' and take it a bit more easily than I usually do.

The new house is coming along well. Hubby expects that tonight he will finally finish the plumbing and be ready for the rough-in inspection. He almost had all the electric and plumbing done yesterday but he ran out of pipe. He just has to do 2 small connections and then he can call the inspector. :) If the inspection goes well we can start insulating.

Anyhow its a good day for soup I think. I made all that chicken sausage Saturday and today is the day it really must get itself into the freezer. I plan to pack it all up in meal size portions this morning and freeze it--except enough for my soup.

I will brown a little chicken sausage while also sauteing chopped carrot, celery and shallots or onion and bell pepper--mainly all things I have leftover anyhow in the fridge. Then I'm going to put what's left of the spaghetti sauce I used yesterday on our pizza plus some chicken stock in the pot and add some tomatoes, a little spinach and maybe some garbanzo beans. Fresh and Dry herbs will go in as well. I'm thinking I'll use some of my fresh sage and a wee tad of rosemary. I'll bring that all to a boil then let it simmer until I have to get going to work. Hubby should be home for dinner about the time I leave so he can put it all away later. At the end of cooking time I think I'll add some tiny pasta if there is something appropriate in the pantry--like an orzo type thing. While the soup is simmering my bread maker will also be making dough for a nice Italian or french loaf. If I time this right my bread can be baking while I am napping.

The finished soup should taste like a combination of wedding soup and minestrone. Yum!

Tomorrow I plan to make tacos and freeze in lunch containers any leftover soup. Tacos at our house is a bit of a production so I don't usually make it on days I work--I'm off tomorrow. I like to make homemade salsa, chips and Spanish rice with my tacos. I hope to make another soup on Thursday--this one will use some of the leftovers from taco night --salsa, black beans, canned corn.. it will be a southwestern flavored soup. There will still be leftover tacos too--so Hubby and #2 Son can eat that as well as soup.

I used to only make about one pot of soup in a week, but I'm stepping that up now because I am finding that it is a great way to use leftovers, goes with anything and is very good for us. Its a great way to get extra veggies in you for instance.

Days when I work in the evening are usually good for soup making. I like to chop things up in the morning and then let them simmer while I get ready for work. My routine usually includes about a 40 minute nap before I go since I am an early riser and that helps me feel fresher for work--that 40 minutes is perfect for many of my bread recipes and bread goes with soup very nicely. I sit back in my recliner usually and set a timer so I won't oversleep. Just about 40 minutes seems to work pretty well for me. Then I can just take the bread out of the oven and go off to my job at the library.

Hubby likes to cook too, so some days he is in control of the kitchen. Especially if I work all day as I usually do on either Friday or Saturday. I never do the dishes or cook on those days. I know Hubby works 8 hours every day--but I do most of the household chores and shopping etc around here, so it evens out fine--we're happy with our ways. He is more used to an 8 hour day too--so its not a big deal for him to cook when he gets home sometimes, whereas when I work 8, I'm pooped.

Husbands can be interesting in the kitchen. I remember when he was out of work for a long time-- he is an engineer guy--so it was interesting. I was working full time and one day I came home and he had re-engineered my kitchen to his liking. Some of his changes made sense and I have since adopted them. For instance we now keep all our herbs and spices near the stove and our little collection of cast iron pans sit on a wood board next to the stove with a big lid over them so he never has to look for them. There's nothing worse than a big Norwegian digging around in the cupboards! Engineer guys look at EVERYTHING with an eye toward efficiency. One nice thing about that is that Hubby intends to design our new kitchen cupboards so that there is a pull out of some sort for all my small appliances. Now I'm not sure how our budget and his ideas will jive, but I imagine he will figure something out.

I worked on organizing my seeds yesterday. The binder worked really well. Its not all finished but its well on the way. I love being able to turn pages in the 3 ring binder and find out at a glance how much I have of what. I found that I must want marjoram and thyme--as I've managed to buy 2 packs of seeds for them recently. That's another good reason to get better organized with my seeds--to avoid over and under buying.

I did make some little paper seed packets using the pattern from WinterSown.org I did not however print them out. Instead I just folded a piece of paper in half twice, traced a printed out seed packet on it and then cut out four seed packs at once. I like to be efficient too. ;) They are blank but I just wrote what I wanted on them. Any kind of paper could be used to make a seed packet--even old envelopes. This is therefore I nice little 'green' idea.


For my purposes I only need a little info written on my seed packs--I write the name of the seed and what year the seeds were grown--the older they get the more 'iffy' germination becomes. I also jot down which season they grow best in. Here in the Carolina's we can grow things almost all year--if they are the right things planted at the right time. (although... looking out at the snow today, I'm kind of glad I haven't started much yet this year) We have warm seasons and cool seasons. Some plants can grow through all our seasons, some need to be grown in summer and some in fall. That info is useful to me, I know many of the seeds now well enough, but not all. I didn't know for instance that I could get 2 crops of fennel by the end of summer if I wanted to. I don't need to know so much about spacing and all that because I've been gardening a long time and I have my own sense of that sort of thing. I like the tiny packets--they will work well for seed trades too, generally I do those by mail when I do them, a small packet won't cost so much to mail.

The little homemade seed packets fit perfectly in baseball card holders in my binder. Full packs of seeds in store packets I put in photo sleeves in my binder. They are bigger. This was a great way to use up that binder that I don't need for my coupons anymore.

At this time my coupon collection is just a big stack of inserts divided by name and date. This is working great. I don't cut near as many coupons as I used to and I almost always use the ones I do cut. Using Grocery Game or Coupon Mom it is a very simple thing to know exactly which insert I need to look in to find a coupon.

Lately I do more and more cooking from scratch. It just seems to be working that way.I've been especially interested in using leftovers and even in planning to cook with leftovers. I have been developing a few repertoires of favorite meals that I can 'morph' into different meals the next day or two. I'm also just so fond of some of my own cooking that I buy less of the convenient foods that you get the most coupons for. One thing is soup. I will still pick up some soups-if the price is right-Progresso is usually pretty good, but I won't just buy any soup no matter how cheap it is. My homemade soup frozen in small containers is perfect 'fast food'. I love taking that to work on the weekend, adding a leftover side dish or salad and some fruit.

I still use coupons for all sorts of things--like I still only pay about $2.99 for hair color and I never pay for toothpaste--but when it comes to cooking I think I am using less coupons than I used to.

That brings me to another topic Fast Food is almost non-existent in our home anymore. We don't eat out that much--unless we go someplace nice for a special time with family. Even then we usually do that when we are travelling--as when family comes here, we usually cook for them.

Am I unpatriotic for not blowing money that way? I wonder. I guess I'm not stimulating the fast food economy--but I can choose to stimulate in other places by spending a little extra on occasion for things that will last.

This weekend, I bought a new pot. Spent some $$ I didn't need to. Aldi has these enamelled cast-iron pots. I saw three that I'd love to have--but succumbed to the temptation to at least get one. I got a nice bright red dutch oven made of cast iron with matching lid, all lined with white enamel. It was $29. That's alot less than these usually go for, and Aldi being a discount store--I'm a little leery that I did the right thing here--but I did it. I've always wanted one of those, in fact I'm going to use it for my soup today.

While I was ogling my pot a man next to me was feeling the pillows. He bought some. He told me he buys them there every year. They had great prices I will give him that. Foam neck pillows were $9 and quilt tops were $7. Well-- I dunno--that may end up tempting me too. I know I can't get those prices most places and this guy has vouched for them.

We shall see..

The thing is though--ONE order of pizza delivery or ONE family meal at someplace like Hardees or Wendy's or whatever--would cost what my new pot cost, or enough pillows for my king size bed.

That is why cooking matters!

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