Homesteading In The Pacific Northwest

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Freezer to Crockpot Chile Verde with Pork

Here are our ingredients:
1 package pre-browned pork cubes
1 container frozen Salsa Verde
1 cup chicken stock
 long grain white rice
tomatoes and avocados
flour tortillas

Pork, Salsa Verde and chicken stock into the crockpot ... cover ... cook on high for 6 hours ...

... I gave it a stir after about 3 hours ... made a double batch of rice so I have extra for Thursday, sliced up a couple of tomatoes and avocados and nuked some flour tortillas...

Dinner is served!


Monday, May 28, 2012

"Do Aheads" and Chile Verde

This week my "foraging" resulted in a couple of pork shoulder roasts and a lot of vegetables from my friends at S&S Produce.  My menu for the week looks like this:

Sunday: Chef's Choice
Monday: Chef's Choice
Tuesday:   Freezer to Crockpot Chile Verde with Pork
Wednesday: Chef's Choice
Thursday: Freezer To Crockpot Chicken Adobo
Friday: Baked Halibut
Saturday: Chef's Choice

My "Do Aheads" for this week are a batch of Salsa Verde ....

6 pasilla chile peppers
3 cloves garlic
1 pound tomatillos (update: when I made a second batch of this I used more tomatillos; about 20 ... I think it came out better :)
2 onions, sliced
1/2 tsp each of ground coriander and cumin
1 pint chicken stock (homemade)
handful of cilantro
olive oil

I roasted the peppers, tomatillos and garlic under a broiler and then put the peppers in a paper bag to steam for a while.  This makes it easy to remove the skins ...

... and seeds ...

While the peppers where steaming I cooked the sliced onions in a little olive oil in a large Dutch oven until they softened up a bit.  I added the tomatillos, peppers, garlic, cumin, coriander, cilantro and chicken stock to the pot and let it simmer on low heat for about an hour.

I let the mixture cool and then transferred it in batches to a blender ...

... and pulsed on low to end up with a thick puree ....

... which I divided up into freezer containers (please don't try to can this one ... it doesn't have enough acid and adding vinegar or lemon juice ruins the flavor).

My next "Do Ahead" was cutting up a pork shoulder roast ...

... browning it in batches ...

...and packaging it up in serving size portions to be frozen.

Now just one more "Do Ahead" ... a compound butter for the Friday night halibut.


1 cup Panko bread crumbs (One of the few processed foods I am still using.)
2 cups soft butter (I have switched to butter from pastured, grass fed cows)
A handful of parsley
4 cloves garlic
Lemon zest (oops ... camera shy : )

I love this inexpensive little gadget for getting the skins off of garlic cloves!  

The parsley and garlic cloves take a spin in my mini food processor ...

... and then into a bowl with the butter, panko a little lemon zest.  All was stirred together and formed into a log ...

... which was refrigerated until hard and then popped into a storage bag and then into the freezer ..

Ta Dah!  That's it for this week's prep work.

Coming up next: Freezer to Crockpot Chile Verde with Pork


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Common Cents ... Freezer to Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore

Before we get started on our Chicken Cacciatore I'd like to talk about "Kitchen Gadgets" (don't worry ... we have plenty of time; wait until you see how quickly this all comes together : )
First I need to confess that I LOVE kitchen gadgets.  I'm working hard right now on NOT buying one of those cute mini pie makers.  What we need to realize that while there are a lot of gadgets we might WANT ... there are some gadgets that we really NEED ... and one of those is a crockpot (slow cooker).  Fortunately they are not too expensive and are also easily found at garage sales and flea markets.  Many of the recipes I'm going to be giving you will make use of a crockpot ... so I hope you will consider getting one if don't already have one.

Let's get started!

These were our original ingredients ...

Chicken thighs, mushrooms, basil (we will talk soon on how to easily grow a selection of fresh herbs yourself), garlic, Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce (you can use your favorite prepared sauce if you don't have a homemade one; one quart jar will make enough sauce for six servings.  Since there are only two of us in my home I will have leftovers : ) The capers, Kalamata olives and anchovies are part of a traditional Putanesca style sauce and are optional.  I used the olives and capers in mine (the anchovies are just too salty for me.)

Now here's where doing the advance prep pays off!  I went to the the freezer and took out a package of pre-browned chicken thighs and three frozen mushroom blobs and put them in the crockpot.  I added a teaspoonful of the capers and then sliced up the pitted Kalamata olives (you can find these in most market's deli section.  They may look expensive but you only need a few of them and the flavor they add to the sauce is wonderful). Into the pot they went with two cloves chopped up garlic, a handful of chopped basil and about a quarter cup of red wine (optional).

Then I added the quart of tomato sauce, stirred it around a bit and put the cover on.  We'll let it cook for four to six hours on high or six to eight hours on low.  

At dinner time we'll make a green salad, cook the pasta as directed on the package, drain it and serve the Chicken Cacciatore with a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese.  

Ta Dah!

Coming up soon ... what are we going to do with the rest of the chicken thighs in the freezer?  How about some Chicken Adobo?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Common Cents ... Prep Day and One Pot Roast Chicken

Saturday was spent foraging (shopping) and Sunday was Prep Day!

First I had to get Sunday's dinner into the oven.  I really do love these 
Ranger chickens! Look how big and plump it is.

One whole chicken
One head of garlic
One lemon, quartered
Red potatoes (2 small potatoes per serving)
Carrots (2 or three per serving)
Onions (one half onion per serving)
Olive oil
Fresh herbs (parsley and rosemary)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

All you need to do to prep the chicken is take it out of the bag, remove the little bag of gizzards from inside the chicken (I save these for my dogs) and remove the pads of fat that are usually found just inside the cavity (we don't need that extra fat in our pot).  Rinse out the chicken cavity with water, place the chicken in a Dutch oven and pat it dry with paper towels.

Put the lemon quarters, whole head of garlic and a handful of fresh herbs into the chicken cavity.   Rub a little olive oil on the outside of the chicken and then wash your hands with hot water and soap as well as any countertop or utensils that touched the chicken (this is VERY important when handling raw chicken).  Put the pot in the preheated oven for 30 minutes (cooking the chicken at high heat for the first 30 minutes will give a wonderful brown, crispy skin).

Now we have 30 minutes to prep the vegetables for the roast chicken dinner and get started on prepping the rest of our "Do Aheads".  Cut the red potatoes into quarters .  Peel the carrots and cut into large chunks (2 or 3 carrots per serving).  Remove the outer skin and quarter the onions.  Remember to save carrot tops and onion tops and skins for your "Making A Stock" freezer bag.

After 30 minutes turn the oven down to 325 degrees, add the vegetables to the pot with the chicken and let it roast for another hour and half to two hours, depending on the size of the chicken.  A  thermometer inserted in meaty part of thigh should register 170 degrees and the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a fork.  Now here's the fancy part.  Remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a serving platter breast side down so that the juices will run towards the breast meat and keep it moist.  Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and let it rest for 30 minutes.  Remove the vegetables from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a serving bowl, cover and keep warm in the oven until time to serve.  After 30 minutes turn the chicken breast side up, cut into serving pieces and serve with the vegetables.  (Hint: if there are only two of you for dinner serve the legs and thighs and save the breast meat for chicken sandwiches later in the week).

Now lets get on to our "Do Ahead" preps for this week (of course we will have been doing this while our chicken was roasting).

Wash the mushrooms and allow to dry (I ended up with cremini mushrooms; they were the same price and I like them better).

 Slice the mushrooms and saute in a little olive oil.   

Divide the mushrooms between the cups of a muffin pan and then put the pan in the freezer.

When the mushrooms are frozen ...

... pop them out of the cups,  place in a labeled freezer bag and return to the freezer.

Wipe out the pan that you sauteed the mushrooms in, add a little more olive oil , brown the chicken thighs in batches ...

... and set aside to cool.  Once the thighs have cooled package them for freezing according to the number you will be serving ... I put two thighs per pack to serve myself and Mike.

Label the packages and put them in the freezer...

Ta Dah!
That's it!  We're done!  Now we have one really good meal in the oven and the makings for four more in the freezer.  We need to give ourselves a pat on the back :)

Tomorrow: Freezer to Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Common Cents: Cooking for a Sustainable Lifestyle

Here it is, as promised.  Our goal is to have a pantry/freezer stocked with frugal, healthy meals using as few “processed foods” as possible. As we start this experiment (and I will be learning right along with you … and hopefully taking off a few pounds in the process!) I will try to give you two or three new recipes a week. Some will include prepping and preserving for future “Do Ahead” meals while others will be “Dinner Tonight” meals. So let's get started!

Thursday: Plan!
Gas is expensive! What you might save shopping from store to store for the best deals you can lose in the amount of gas used driving around (not to mention the loss of your valuable time!). Study the grocery ads carefully a decide on one, maybe two stores that have the bets bargains on things that your family likes to eat and make a meal plan around those items. Don’t forget to think ahead for freezer meals/do aheads or long term storage if you find a really great bargain. And forget about coupons! They are invariable for low nutrition packaged foods that you are better off without!

These are ads from my local QFC for May 16 - 22. They have local, free range chicken on sale for 25% off ... and it's all of that brand chicken including whole chickens, packages of thighs and skinless breasts.  I'm going to stock up! (I have plenty of freezer space ... we'll talk about that soon). That's an OK price on the rockfish so I'll buy enough for one meal.  And I'm almost out of mushroom blobs so I'll buy a couple of pounds of them.

Of course your ads may be different so you will have to plan accordingly.  For instance, if you don't see a good buy on chicken go ahead and plan you meals for this week as you normally would.  When chicken is on sale refer back to this week's meal plan.

Now it's time to make a meal plan based on the ads.

Sunday:  Roast Chicken
Monday: Chef’s Choice
Tuesday: Chef’s Choice
Wednesday: Chicken Cacciatore 
Thursday: Chef’s Choice
Friday: Baked Rockfish 
Saturday: Chef's Choice

So this week my shopping list will include:
Whole chickens: 1
Chicken thighs: 4 (a total of 16 thighs; one thigh per serving)
Rockfish: three quarters of a pound (Yes! Only three quarters of a pound! The recommended serving size of fish is three ounces ... so we need twelve ounces to feed four people. One of the most important things I hope we will learn is proper serving sizes and that if we are going to "super size" any portion of our meals it will be the vegetable serving!)
Mushrooms: 2 pounds
Lemons: 3
Carrots: 1 bag (organic)
Asparagus: 1 pound (Yay! My friends at S&S Produce have this for $1.99 a pound!)

From my pantry or garden (add to your shopping list if you don’t have these on hand)
Salad greens
Kalamata olives, capers, anchovy fillets (these are optional; I like a Putanesca style sauce)
Parmesan Cheese
Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce (homemade; substitute your favorite prepared sauce if needed)
Fresh parsley, basil and rosemary
Olive oil
Panko bread crumbs

Now the planning stage is over.  Next we need to forage (shop).  Pick a time that works for you, but you will be in and out faster if you shop at odd hours … late evening on Friday or very early on Saturday usually work for me.

Sunday is Prep Day. We prep food for our "Do Ahead" meals and also getting some advance prep done on our "Dinner Tonight" meals.   I plan on being in the kitchen for a while that day so I plan Sunday night dinner to be something that pretty much cooks itself (ie. Roast Chicken).  This is also a good night to plan on treating yourself and going out for dinner :)

Well, there it is.  I hope I've managed to get my concept across and that you will follow along as I work on filling my pantry and freezer with easy, healthy meals for my self and my husband.

Tomorrow the Roast Chicken and the prep for our first "Do Ahead" meal, Freezer to Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Kitchen Gardening In Containers

I consider myself lucky that I now have the room to grow my kitchen garden in raised beds and a greenhouse ...

... but I didn't always have this luxury.  I spent most of my life living in apartments or condos, yet I always managed to have a small garden on a deck or balcony or even a sunny window.  I still enjoy gardening in containers, especially when I can combine function with beauty.  One thing I have never been able to do without is a way of having fresh herbs for cooking ...

... this is the container that I have planted on my deck, close to the kitchen for convenient harvesting.  I have parsley, thyme and rosemary (the herbs I use the most often) interplanted with some flowering annuals to make a pretty display.

Salad greens are another must!  I enjoy searching out unusual containers.  Here I have planted a salad garden ...

... in an old wok :)

It's also easy to add some tomatoes for the upcoming salads.  Tomatoes are perfect for container gardening.  This is my first try with Micro Tom ... growing in a basket and already beginning to blossom!  Look how small the plants are yet they will hopefully give me a big harvest one day soon ...

A simple bowl becomes a pretty display and home to some cilantro that will be added to salsas later in the season ...

I used a diamond core bit and a drill press to make holes for drainage in the bottom of the bowl (oh the joys of being married to a tool connoisseur :)  I couldn't drill holes in the wok so I added a layer of styrofoam packing peanuts to the bottom before adding the potting soil to allow for a bit of drainage.

Here a selection of basil grows in a vintage packing crate ...

I am growing leeks in another packing crate ...

... as they get bigger I will pull some for use in summer soups and let the rest mature through the fall and winter ... and they will get big!  This is one that I have left unharvested from last years crop; I wanted to see how big it could actually get growing in a box ... as you can see, the answer to that question is "pretty darn big!" ...

Wine barrels make great container gardens!  Here are two planted with potatoes and another crate that I painted a pretty blue ... I'm still waiting for inspiration as to what to plant in it.

Wine barrels full of soil and plants are very heavy.  When using them on an apartment balcony it is a good idea to decrease the weight by filling them one third full with styrofoam packing peanuts and then adding soil and your plants.

And then there is the ultimate "garden container" ... they come in all shapes and sizes and many of the smaller versions will fit on a balcony or porch.  I have to admit that I am in love with mine ...