Sunday, January 30, 2011

Homemade Chicken Broth


Hopefully all of you have conquered your fear of raw whole chicken, giblets and all.  Now let's take that little guy and make a broth out of him.  It is smart cooking when you use one meal to make another.  You can use this broth to make soup or to use in any recipe that calls for chicken broth.  If I am not going to use this the same day I make it, I cool the broth, then freeze it into 2-4 cup servings.  Make sure to label the size of the servings and the date it was made.   

This is a delicious broth that takes a good 8 hours of simmering to perfection.  I would recommend using a crock pot.  My husband and I used to simmer the broth on the stove top overnight while we were sleeping.  I then became worried about carbon monoxide poison and becoming a victim of it.  It would be awful if we woke up one day and were dead.  So investing in a crock pot is a very good idea.  It can totally save your life.  The crock pot company should use this as their marketing slogan, for sure.  

So get out your rotting carcasses, and let's make some broth!


Homemade Chicken Broth

1 chicken carcass
9 cups water
1 large onion
1 celery stock, chopped in half
4 whole garlic cloves
1 medium carrot, chopped in half
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns                         
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder       

Throw into a pot or slow cooker, and simmer for 8 hours.  Could this be easier, or what?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Does a Simple Life Exist?


I have heard that a simpler life exists.  People who have moved to smaller towns consistently tell me that life is more simple in these places.   My question to them is always, "How is your life more simple?"  I don't understand what they are talking about.  Why would the size of a city play a part in making your life more simple?  My mind starts to wander to try and answer the question myself.  Less traffic.  Less people.  Sounds nice.  My mind continues.  Less stores.  Less selections.  Everyone is wearing the same clothing but in different sizes.  One hairdresser at the local Clip 'n' Curl.  One hairstyle.... one outdated hairstyle?  

I was in a small town recently, a little town on the way to Yosemite.  My family was sitting at the local diner enjoying our meal when my eyes were distracted by a large amount of hair sitting on the man's head who was sitting at a table on my left.  A quick glance became an impossibility due to the shock factor that I was experiencing.  It looked as if there were a fully furred cat sitting upon his head.  As he shifted his head my way, I quickly glanced away, my eyes wide.  I darted a look of shock at my husband.  He looked back at me with a questioning look, as if he was asking me, "What?"  I did the inconspicuous signal for him to look over at what I had just seen.   He turned his head to look, and he looked back at me with a "What the heck?" kind of look.  It was someone who needed to go to the Clip 'n' Curl, or maybe he just came from the Clip 'n' Curl.  What if this was normal?  What if this was considered 'cool'?

We left the restaurant, and in the car, my husband looked at me with a concerned look on his face, "Will we still be cool if we move?"  I looked back at him, with an even more concerned look on my face and answered, "Honey, what if we are not the cool ones?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Roasted Herb Chicken with Roasted Carrots and Potatoes


Do you think of yourself as a good cook?  Do others think of you as a good cook?  Well, after cooking this, people will ask you if you are a trained chef.  

If you have never worked with a whole chicken, it is about time to enter into the world of whole chickens.  They are so extremely easy and satisfying.  I make one at least once a week.  After eating all of the meat off of the bones, I use the carcass to make my own homemade chicken broth.  Never throw away a carcass.  Grab those bones out of people's hands if you have to.  After tasting homemade broth, you will see that store bought chicken broth tastes like flavored water.  

The next recipe post will be my homemade chicken broth.  So if you make this recipe before the broth recipe is posted, freeze your carcass.  

Oh, one more thing.... don't forget to remove the gizzards from the chicken.    Stomach getting queasy?  Wear a glove. 

Roasted Herb Chicken

1 (3- to 4-pound) whole frying chicken
Herb Rub for Chicken:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat oven to 375o

Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic and seasonings in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the fragrance of the seasonings can be smelled.  Remove from heat. 

Using a spoon or your fingers, separate the skin from the meat of the chicken.  Pour and spread olive oil mixture all over underneath the skin of the chicken.  Rub remaining tablespoon of olive oil on the outside of the chicken.        

Place chicken in a shallow baking dish or roasting pan, breast side up.  Insert a meat thermometer into the center of one of the inside thigh muscles.  Make sure thermometer is not touching the bone.  Roast uncovered at 375 for 1 to 1¼ hours, or until juices run clear and chicken is cooked through (180-185 F).  Use the chicken juices to pour over individual servings.

Recommended Side Dish

Roasted Carrots and Potatoes

 

1 bag (16 ounces) peeled baby carrots
3 medium sized russet potatoes, cut into quarters and then cut into 1-inch segments
2 medium sweet potato, cut into quarters and then cut into 1-inch segments
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 375o

Place carrots and potatoes in a large shallow baking dish.

Combine olive oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Drizzle mixture over carrots and potatoes.  Stir to coat. 

Bake for 1 to 1¼ hours, stirring carrots and potatoes after 30 minutes.  Carrots should be tender and potatoes should be crisp brown. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Was About to Find Out

Wake up at 5:30 or 6:00am.  Pack a lunch for my oldest.  Dress and feed 3 kids, oh and myself (if I get to it).  Late to school.  Again.  Oops, my littlest doesn't have shoes.  Again.  Drive 30 minutes to school one way, drive 20 minutes to a friend's house for a play date.  Drive 20 minutes back home, stopping at 2 grocery stores on the way.  At home, I check e-mail, make phone calls, clean up the mess from the early morning rush.  Prepare lunch.  Put two little ones down for naps.  A couple hours later, drive 30 minutes to pick up my son.  Drive 30 minutes back home, get the kids a snack, make dinner, eat, pack the kids up once again, go to Kids' Club, come home, bathe the kids, put them to bed, clean up, check e-mail again, make more phone calls, write in my blog, look at my husband (that's all I have time for), go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again.

The hustle and bustle of life in Southern California.  Fun.  Exciting.  Constant.  Anything but simple.

Is this it?  Do any of us stop and ask, "What am I doing?" and "Why am I doing it?"

It was like taking the pill from the movie Matrix.  One day my eyes popped open.  I realized, I am tired.  Not so much in a physical way, but in a mental way.  I feel there is no rest.  There is no margin.  To fight it seems to be like swimming against a strong current.  It becomes even exhausting to try.  Where do I find time to breathe?

The country.  Sweet, cool breeze.  Rolling hills, green meadows, birds chirping, the galloping feet of a horse.  Could it be an unattainable dream that I have?  The grass is always greener?  I wonder.  I have been told a simpler life is possible, but I find it unlikely to be available here. Why would it be different somewhere else?   

The doors opened in my life to allow my family to go where we want to, wherever that may be.  Sounds wonderful, but it is actually very difficult.  Most people move where a job leads them, and so decisions become narrowed down for them.  My husband transitioned into working from home.  Where do you go when there are no limitations?  Arizona?  Yosemite?  Oregon?  Nevada?  Texas?  Tennessee?  or all the way to New Zealand?  These had all been mentioned and considered to different degrees.

Is the simple life attainable?  I was about to find out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Willing to Take Big Measures

I shared with you we were willing to do anything to simplify our lives.

Did that include leaving our family and friends to move to another state where we didn't know anyone?

I have lived in the same place, never feeling the need to venture off to new exciting places. The place where I live is exciting. Target and T.J. Max are right across the street, for heaven's sake. What could be more exciting than that?


*****

The Adventure Begins...

The plane lifted above the ground, as we exited LAX. There was an aching in my heart.   What are we doing?  Are we really flying to another state to see if that is where we want to live for the next 20 years of our lives?  We want to raise our 3 kids in a better place.

Better.

What is better?  What is the best?  It is what we want for our children, of course.  But how do you know what is best?

I looked down at my hands, closed into fists on my lap.  Why am I so nervous?  I wasn't moving yet. Couldn’t this just be a romantic getaway with my husband?  Isn’t it an exciting adventure that my husband and I get to do together?   We are scouts, hand in hand, searching for a place to dig our roots into.  It sounded like an adventure, a rather fun one.  Why then was my heart palpitating?  I did just finish off a whole bar of chocolate.  I believe it was unevenly pounding before I completed the only thing that was comforting me at this time- chocolate.  But it did the opposite of comfort.  I felt like I was about to have a heart attack from stress and caffeine.

Heart palpitations were not a stranger to me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Flavorful Baked Chicken


Nothing can simplify your life more than a collection of simple recipes. Who wants to spend a plethora of time in the kitchen cooking? Not me. I want to cook something fast, easy, and delicious. Here is a flavorful way to cook chicken (hence the creative name I titled it). You can start marinating this early in the day. Then later in the day, all you need to work on is some side dishes. Enjoy!


Flavorful Baked Chicken

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon salt
6-8 Chicken legs

Combine ingredients, and marinate the chicken for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Leave chicken in the marinade, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until juices run clear.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What is a Simple Life?

What is a simple life? 

Is it moments of simplicity- sipping ice tea while swinging on a porch swing, reading a book as you are warmed by a flickering fire? Or is it living a life with margin?

Can a simple life even be possible these days? 

There are so many responsibilities, obligations, relationships, and distractions. The computer catches my attention each morning and all throughout the day. My phone continually rings; there are phone messages I need to listen to. A little jingle from my phone alerts me to a new text. I don’t know if I have A.D.D. or if my brain is just on overload from all the distractions in my life.

I long for peace, tranquility, and time, time to have margin in my life so that I am not haunted by a continual to-do list that I can never complete.

I want to have enough time to enjoy the “extras” in life. I desire, even long for a simple life, not even sure what that means, just knowing that I want it.

I am willing to make changes, big changes.

And so I am on a journey, a journey to a simple life.  I invite you to join me.