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Folkcat in the Kitchen

Folkcat Cooks! Original recipes, culinary experiments, and almost every post with a useful Folkcat's Tip. I've been having a grand time adapting existing recipes and creating entire new ones lately - read along and try some of them for yourself!

Monday, June 05, 2006

This Blog Will Vanish

All the posts from this blog are being imported into my new, all-inclusive blog, Crafting Jen. If you'd like to continue following my adventures in life and crafting, please bookmark the new site.

I will leave this blog in place for a couple of weeks, then it will be deleted to help clear my slate.

Thanks for sharing the ride

Friday, September 23, 2005

Retired Blog

As of September 23, 2005, this blog has officially been retired. The archives will be maintained for any who wish to browse them, but there will be no new posts.

My adventures continue, however, and you can keep reading them at my new blog, I Knit Around.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you'll stay with me on the next leg of my journey.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's About Time

As of tomorrow, this blog and four others will be retired. They will be replaced with my new blog, I Knit Around, to which I have been cross-posting this week.

The blogs that are retiring are:
I have found that under my current reality, I want a single blog that presents an integrated view of these aspects of my life, since any given day may see several of these subjects mixed together.

If you are a regular reader of any of these five blogs, please join me at the new site. It will contain all the topics you've been reading about until now, only they will be presented in context as a part of my whole life, not just one aspect. The URL to bookmark is:
http://www.folkcatart.com/knitaround
Three other blogs will remain separate. They are:
The first of these is my beading blog, and that subject still has enough life of its own to merit a dedicated blog. The last two aren't entirely used as blogs - they are more like project-specific databases. And so they stay as well.

At some point, I'll be changing my homepage as well. It has served as a central hub for all my blogs, and obviously that purpose changes somewhat now. I will likely be using a blog format there, with links on the sidebar and current news and updates listed in the posts.

My thanks to all of you (it's what, at least three, right?) who have been reading my oft-times odd posts. I enjoy what blogging does as it helps me examine my life and strive to find better focus and understanding.

Friday, September 02, 2005

All I Can Think About Today

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Give what you can, how you can.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Generic Soup Results; and What to Do With Unexpected Bounty

When last I wrote, I was mid-way through cooking a batch of soup I called Generic Crocking. Generic because, I was cooking without a recipe, really. The main method was to hunt through the freezer for potential ingredients and toss them into the crockpot using my layered approach to ingredient proportions.

As we left the soup, I was waiting until the last hour of cooking to check the flavor for any final spice additions, and to decide if I was adding a pasta or rice. The verdict was - the flavor was still thin (you may recall, I had deliberately made the base broth weak to allow the flavors of the ingredients a chance to do their thing), and, while it would be unusual for a soup as chunky as this is, I decided it would be a great chicken noodle soup. As to additional spices - I decided it didn't need any. There was enough salt from the soup base, and the flavor, while without subtle nuances, was good, basic chicken. Nothing wrong with that.

I added in another tablespoon of Minor's Chicken Base, and I grabbed a small handful of angel hair pasta and broke it in two. Stirring both into the soup, I left it for another hour on high.
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Ultra Chunky Chicken Noodle - Yum!

Gryphon had a bowl when he came home from work that night, and declared it a success. I tasted it during cooking, of course, and I'm pleased with the results.

I haven't done any exciting cooking since then, but I will probably be pickling again tomorrow. We had an unexpected bounty from a friend's neighbor's garden, and as it happens, Gryphon's running low on the batch of pickles I made him last time. The collection of veggies we've been gifted includes a nice bowl full of green (and other) beans with edible pods, and a pile of the oddest-looking vegetables I've seen in a while - lemon cucumbers.

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Two Kinds of Beans

The other items I'll be adding into the pickle include a couple of peppers, some broccoli, and a couple of zucchini.
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Lemon Cucumbers

Gryphon has been enjoying the pickles I made him a great deal, and I was worried with our tight budget that I wouldn't be able to make him another batch. Now, he'll be all set for at least a few weeks more!

Folkcat's Tip: It's the rare vegetable gardener who has developed the skill to grow only just the vegetables they will use with no extras. If you have a garden, please consider if any of your friends, neighbors, or family members are having a tough time. Offering up surplus produce doesn't feel so much like charity to the recipient - in fact, you can often make it seem they're doing you a huge favor by keeping good food from going to waste!

I encourage you to look around and see if there's anyone in need who could genuinely benefit from your own garden's bounty. In the event you don't have someone close who could use the help, please do check into your local food bank. They're usually more than happy to supplement their offerings with garden goods from locals.

I'd like here to offer my sincere thanks to the friend who gifted us these vegetables. They are a huge help in a time when we're struggling to get by. Hers is an act that truly has made a difference.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Generic Crocking

I've been off of serious cooking for a few weeks while we work through a backlog of frozen tubs of soup that I made in my initial burst of activity. That backstock is getting low, though, so today it was time to tackle another soup.

Not having a specific plan in mind, I went through the freezer to see what I could turn up to make soup from.
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Possible Candidates

Clockwise from top left, we have a bag of chopped celery; a tub of diced potatoes; a bag of cauliflower florets; sliced carrots, and a tub of frozen shredded chicken.

Looks good to me, though I did decide to leave out the cauliflower. There's enough white stuff going on here with the chicken and the potato. I started building the soup by what I'm calling the Layer Method.

The theory of the Layer Method is that, if building a recipe in a crockpot, a single layer of any main ingredient is about the right amount. I built my beef stew on that theory, and it came out darned good - and just about the right balance of vegetables to beef.

As it happens, each of the containers above - the carrots, celery, chicken, and potatoes - made up about one layer in the crockpot.
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Layer One - sliced carrots
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Layer Two - diced potatoes
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Layer Three - chopped celery
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Layer Four - Frozen Chicken Brick

Okay, that last isn't really a layer. But the chicken shreds had frozen solid in a lump. I took care of that handily, though, by using 8 cups of hot water and about a tablespoon of Minor's Chicken Soup Base to create a weak broth, and pouring it over the frozen block of chicken.

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Ready to Crock - Basic Chicken Soup

I made the broth weak (about half strength) because my experience cooking with it is showing that it brings an unexpected amount of flavor to the finished product. Other ingredients bring their own essence into the mix, too, and if you make the broth base too strong, you may wind up with an overwhelming flavor.

I started this at about 4 p.m. I set the crock on high for 6 hours, knowing that the ingredients were starting frozen, and it would take the crock some time to overcome that low temperature. After about two hours, I checked the soup, and found it warming nicely. I then added about 1/8 cup of Just Tomatoes Dry Green Onions to the soup, since there was no oniony note yet.

At the moment, it's been cooking for about 3 1/2 hours on high. I'll be checking this again in another hour or two, and making a decision about further spices then. I'll also consider at that time if I want to add some noodles or rice to this, or if I think the potatoes are enough of a starch component.

Folkcat's Tip: Cooking for a household of only two people can be difficult at times. Buying produce forces you into quantities that may be far more than the pair of you can consume. I've developed a habit of using the part of the produce that I need for the current recipe, and then cutting up the rest and freezing it. Label the packages well, indicating what amount of produce they contain, and put a date on the package.

Freezing lets us take advantage of unexpected specials, too. One day at the supermarket, the distressed vegetables rack had 5 lb. bags of organic carrots for about $1 each. That's a drop-dead price even for non-organic! I knew we could never use them in any rational amount of time, but we bought a bag anyhow. We promptly prepared the carrots and sliced them, then froze them in five portions. Each bag is as if we'd bought a pound of carrots to use, and we got a bargain we may never duplicate again.

Dehydrated vegetables is another way to cope with produce quantities for a small household. I love adding green onions to a recipe, but buying a bunch forces me into using green onions in everything for several days! Companies like Just Tomatoes, however, have produced marvelous dry produce that re-hydrates so well, you almost can't tell it isn't fresh. The Green Onions I used in this soup are from a tub of dehydrated green onions - we keep them in the cupboard at room temperature, and we always have them ready to add flavor to anything. Yes, dehydrated product costs more per pound - but remember, most of the weight of the fresh is water. And having to throw out spoiled produce is very expensive.

I love this sort of seat-of-the-pants cooking. Once upon a time, this was the way most cooking in the world was done - you scrounged around to find what you could and put it together the best you knew how. It's one thing to cook from a recipe and try to achieve a specific goal. It's quite another to understand how the ingredients work, how the cooking process works, and to be able to put those together to create something new every time you enter the kitchen.

This is what makes it so much fun!

I'll report soon about the results of this soup. Meanwhile, why not scrounge around your own kitchen and see what you can throw together? You just might surprise yourself!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Food Nostalgia - Roman Meal Bread

The recent debacle that calls itself our household budget has forced me, in many cases, to purchase less expensive foods than usual. Take bread, for instance.

I've gotten used to buying Pepperidge Farm, Arnold, or other premium-type breads at a cost of nearly $3 per loaf. The reason for the choice was simple - they tasted better, they gave a larger slice of bread, and they had a variety of interesting combinations of grains, like Honey Bran, Crunchy Oat or Twelve Grain.

Under the current emergency budget, however, that's too much for a single loaf of bread. So I've had to go back to more, um....basic choices.

Like house brand wheat bread. We're not talking the house brand equivalent of the premium brands I mention above - we're talking about something with a texture little better than Wonder Bread, but brown instead of white. A loaf of the house brand wheat bread can cost as little as $1.19, depending on where you shop. *sigh* It's only one of many food choices that I've had to change because of the budget.

It's gotten me thinking about why I prefer certain breads, though. And remembering one that I used to like a lot, but can't find around here (or in Syracuse, either) at all.

Anyone remember Roman Meal Bread? Okay, the link is to the Honey Wheat variety, but the company is the same, with the Roman Legionnaire proudly standing in the red and gold circle on the end of the package.

When I was growing up, Roman Meal was only available in one variety - a light brown bread that tasted heavenly to me. I used to take a slice of this stuff and spread it ever so thinly with butter - just enough to impart the butter flavor and a touch of slickness to the surface, not enough to overwhelm the bread - and I'd eat it just that way. I even had books that I liked to re-read that I called "Roman Meal Bread-and-Butter" books. Things like the Little House on the Prairie series, or The Boxcar Children, or Five Little Peppers.

Notice that these are all books about children working hard to help their families get by, one way or another. I think the Roman Meal bread-and-butter connection had to do with the sense of scraping by on simple foods. Something about eating that bread with that little bit of butter helped enhance the feeling of the books.

Somewhere through the years, I stopped buying Roman Meal bread. I'm not sure why - maybe it was that, as I moved out on my own, it became hard for me as a single person to eat a whole loaf of bread before it went bad on me. Whatever the reason, I went looking around for it a few years ago, here in New Hampshire where I live now, and couldn't find it anywhere.

That didn't entirely surprise me - I had already learned that many food items I took for granted in Syracuse were either unheard of or complete novelties here. Such as cheese curds, those misshapen lumps of cheesy goodness that squeak between your teeth when you bite them. They're a popular and commonly available treat in Syracuse that can be found in any dairy case in any supermarket. Here in New Hampshire, you might as well be looking for Bigfoot.

So it didn't startle me a bit not to find Roman Meal Bread in New Hampshire, not a bit. What did startle me was when, the next time we visited Syracuse, I looked for it in the supermarkets there. In places where I'd always bought it.

It wasn't anywhere. Not at all. I began to wonder if the company had disappeared completely, or if it had gone back to being a regional specialty in whatever its home region happened to be.

I have to confess that I let the matter rest there - until I got thinking about it for this post. That's when I realized that it wouldn't do not to find out what I could about the disappearance of Roman Meal. So I searched on the web, and turned up the company home page.

Hallelujah! The bread still exists. The company is based out of Tacoma, Washington, which puts them pretty far away. They report that they have " grown to partner with more than 90 bakeries in the United States and abroad. These partners bake and distribute quality Roman Meal breads locally, assuring you of the freshest possible product. "

They offer a zip code search to identify the closest source for Roman Meal bread in your neighborhood. The news isn't very good for me - both my home zip and my parents' in Syracuse indicate a bakery in Baltimore, Maryland as the closest one. That must be what happened to it in Syracuse - whatever the local bakery was, they themselves went away or stopped baking for Roman Meal.

For those with money to burn, you can order the round-top variety of the Roman Meal bread. But it costs over $12 for two loaves. Not quite within our budget right now, I'm afraid.

Still, it's good to know that Roman Meal is still out there, somewhere. It makes me feel a little hope that I can once again curl up with a few slices, lightly buttered, and read about Ma and Pa and Carrie and Mary and Half-Pint, and how they moved from the Big Woods to the Prairie.