cooking

Stocking a Kitchen

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For whatever reason, I can blog without guilt.

I can’t do much else without guilt right now-if I’m at home, I feel like I should be cleaning, packing, or sleeping. You’ll notice eating isn’t on that list. Ha. Ha. [Now is not the time to talk about mental health and homesteading/intensifying homesteading, but I feel an entry coming on at some point.] I can’t even unwind with a movie or a book for a few hours without feeling like I’m wasting valuable time. We went to a free Shawn Lennon concert…do you think I could relax enough to recharge? Of course not.

But blogging seems to be ‘productive’ enough to let me unwind a little and regroup without kicking the guilt into gear.

This may be a 101 entry-but there are several situations that I can think of without really trying as to why you would be looking for information on stocking a basic kitchen. Fires, fast/long moves [quickly or across country, or both], first households, natural disasters are all situations where you might find yourself suddenly having to flip a kitchen with little guidance. If this isn’t the first household you’ve set up, this will be easier, but if you’re finding yourself interested in hearthcraft and have no idea where to begin, this will hopefully be helpful.

-Buy the best you can afford, and upgrade if you can

I feel like all of my lists lately have an entry that I mentally label ‘the cloth toilet paper’ entry. It’s the point where I feel like if I’m going to get any push back, it’s going to be that entry. What I mean here is really literal-whatever your price range is, buy the best you can at that point and then upgrade from there. You can almost always upgrade [or not, if the pieces you have are completely functional and holding out fine for you]. Here’s the thing, though-I am fully aware, having lived that reality, that the dollar store is sometimes your current price point. The dollar store is actually good for starter pieces, as long as your careful with the plastics. They’re flimsy and not going to go for years-but they’re cheap and available.

-Use your thrift stores

This is a great option if you have them available. The same idea applies to garage sales, estate sales, and the like.

I have a thing for measuring spoons with molded/raised size markers. I have destroyed more than one set of measuring spoons by washing off the markers. I can eyeball sizes fairly accurately but with canning, I don’t want to risk throwing off a recipe. I have upgraded several sets of spoons with trips to the thrift stores. I have also found small pieces of cookware, and when I was first starting out after school I bought all my plates and coffee cups at the Salvation Army. You do have to be careful with pricing-thrift stores are notoriously expensive for things like canning jars where they try to charge per piece.

-Give up form for function [or save it for gifts]

I love most of the stuff in gourmet cooking shops. I love the cookware, the amazing ladles, and the coffee makers. The only thing I really have my eyes set on, truly, are good European canning jars and a coffee maker. I spent six years working as a barista, loved it, and learned the value of a truly good brewer. However, about those ladles. I have an Oneida solid metal ladle that after 8 years of my mediocre household skills is still puttering along fine. I can’t justify the price difference to upgrade a solid metal ladle to another solid ladle just because it’s shiny and pretty.

But. There is something to be said for what could be called heirloom quality tools. And knives especially are aided by a little more money being put towards the cause. If you’re the type of person who celebrates gift giving situations, ask for these tools [or gift cards towards them] as your gift. People might think it a little odd that you want a $20 ladle, but you might get it.

-Shop beyond your normal zones [or your normal stores]

Goya sells a lot of inexpensive staple cooking supplies like spices, sofrito, and beans. In fact, a great many of the food staples in my kitchen are cheaper in ‘specialty’ sections of Wegmans or specialty stores. Target and Tops both want $5 a bottle for sesame oil for drunken noodles, whereas it’s $3 a bottle at T&T Grocers up the street, who specialize in several Southeastern Asian cuisines. In fact, I get my instant coffee strips for baking and camping at T&T-they’re less than half the price for high quality instant coffee compared to mainstream American grocers.

-Buy a cookbook

The Internet is a beautiful thing, but get a solid cookbook. Just one, to start. You can flesh out your collection once you figure out what you want to be cooking [unless you already know]. I actually like the workhorse basic Betty Crocker red and white cookbook, but Cook’s Illustrated have several huge, well tested cookbooks on the market.

-What fits your style?

Do you need a waffle maker?

This has actually been a running battle in my household for years now, and with getting a much larger kitchen in the new apartment, I fear that Mid will ultimately win this war and we’ll get a waffle maker when the Christmas sales start up. So basically tomorrow in American shopping reality.

Do not buy things just because you feel like a well rounded kitchen should have one. If you don’t see yourself using it, then don’t spend the money on it. It causes clutter and eats up money. I do feel like you should have a good quality stand mixer, preferably one you can get attachments for like a Kitchenaide or similar. But I honestly can’t think of anything you need beyond that. You can live without a microwave, you don’t need a toaster oven, and I know that even my beloved coffee makers are optional.

Unless of course you actually do need those things in your household. Then get them, but ignore the waffle makers of your world.

-Multitasking items

I used my graniteware canner so infrequently as a canner and so frequently to corral kitchen cloth that during one of the waves of purges over the past two months getting ready for this move I got rid of it. I use a stockpot for most of my water bath canning. And the beauty of it is that I use the pot for more ‘normal’ pot things. Buy items that you can get more than one use out of.

-Out of the box and into the basket

One of the very, very few things I do enjoy about moving is finding the farmer’s markets and CSAs. I…have never actually subscribed to one but I like to find them and daydream. And then forget about actually signing up because I almost always find them in January when all we’re growing is lake effect snow. I do have friends however that swear by them, and for someone like me who now works Saturdays during most farmer’s markets, it might be on my to do list for next summer so I can still get my local produce without scheduling conflicts.

-Give up on matching

Pick a color. Or a color family. Or a generic print family like ‘flowers’ or ‘fruit’ or ‘flamingos’. Great. You now have your kitchen theme. My theme for the new kitchen is fall colors and harvest themes-fruit, pumpkins, golds, dusty jewel tones to pull in the colors from the living room. So now that I have a rough idea in my head I can mix and match items that I find on sale or are gifted without trying to fit things I find on sale into my kitchen without throwing off the visual of the place. You don’t need to give up personal style or your budget, you just have to be flexible with what you’re willing to work with [this is also why my Kitchenaide is egg shell white. It was less than half price because the color was discontinued.]

-Shop online

I buy my loose leaf tea in bulk via Adaigo. I know people who swear by Mountain Rose Herbs. I actually ordered both my bed and my mattress online (which I understand is not a kitchen item but you get the point). Don’t be afraid to shop online for good sales on items that you don’t need in the immediate short term. You can often get good sales on bulk items like spices, and you will most likely be able to get access to supplies you can’t get locally-I can get a lot of herbs at Penzey’s down the road, but I can’t get dried scorpion peppers or Carolina Reapers, like I can online.

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Candied Nuts

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This has been one of the hardest, most mentally challenging periods of my adult life.

I am fighting one of those battles where you finally face a choice-stop, recharge, and figure out how to be more productive or continue throwing energy at the situation until either it or you breaks. I will be moving in the near future, though it remains to be seen if it will be my choice or my landlord’s. I spend so much time cleaning and organizing and purging personal items that I have literally gotten to a point where I can’t tell if the place is actually dirty or if it’s all in my head.

Like I said. It has not been a good month.

I have finally made a decision, however. If constantly running on so few resources that I have allowed my own body to trigger my anxiety disorder is not winning the war, then I might as well pull back and start giving myself the grace that I would be giving other people in this case-that advice that if 10 is good, 100 is probably not going to fix anything either, if 10 is ten times more than what most people would be putting in anyway. I’ve been already grieving the loss of my fall since my future seems to be nothing but scrubbing floors and looking for new housing [or worse].

I found a bag of raw nuts at Target, and today is my normal day off anyway. I miss the feeling of sliding into autumn and I miss my normal excitement leading up to the season. So I made candied nuts and called it an act of self love and self care.

Candied Nuts

Note: I bought the ‘normal’ sized bag of raw Planter’s mixed nuts. This made enough sugar mixture that I probably could have used double the nuts and still have been fine. You can coat a lot of nuts with the sugar mixture as written.

At least 1 pound raw nuts

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon pumpkin spice

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

 

Preheat oven to 250

Mix dry ingredients-the sugar, spices, salt

Add nuts, egg, and water

Toss until well coated

Line a tray with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Bake an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

Let cool, and place in a jar.

 

 

In Season Produce-June

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What is in season for your particular region will vary. Check with local growth charts (or watch what is going on sale at your farmer’s markets and grocers) for particular harvest patterns.

Apricots

Beets

Blueberries

Canteloupe

Carrots (some, regional)

Cherries

Early corn (regional)

Early peas

Early stone fruits like peaches

Green beans

Hot peppers

Kiwi

Radishes

Strawberries (regional)

Yellow Squash

Lettuces-Boston, green leaf, red leaf

Green onions

Watermelon

In Western New York, produce this end of the month is still sort of slim pickings. It’ll pick up as we get closer to July. However, I did get a head of local Boston lettuce for under a dollar tonight. This is a good time of year for WNY to start centering on local and seasonal-local and seasonal is always a good idea, but unless you’re in a growing zone with a long time range, it can be difficult at best to do. This is the time to start freezing, canning, and drying for those of us with a three month growing span.

Jalapeno Mash

It actually is that shade of green

It actually is that shade of green

It’s not exactly any sort of secret that I love hot food, and I am the type of person that thinks that if 10 bottles of hot sauce are good, 25 will certainly ensure that I will never have to be without both variety and heat.

I’ve been slowly getting back into fermentation again. This is a simple enough project, that can be scaled to fit the amount of peppers you have-which means it’s a good project to have in your box for summer harvests.

This can be done with any peppers, but I used jalapeños because I found organic at a decent price.

Notes:

Doing a fermentation in this style requires the produce to stay under the water level at all times. The easiest way I’ve found to do this, for the amount of peppers I ferment at any given time, is to weigh the peppers under with a small (quarter or half pint) canning jar. Clean a wide mouth jar, at least pint size, place the peppers into the jar, cover with brine. I like to skim off as many seeds as I can but I’m not actually sure that it’s necessary. I then place the [cleaned] smaller jar, which will fit into the mouth of the larger, into the larger jar. It will push the peppers to the bottom of the jar and brine will displace around the jar and make sure they stay submerged. Do this in a sink in case it floods. If you pack loosely enough you can cover it with a lid.

jalepenos

Fermentation:

Make a brine-I used warm water and salt, at a ratio of 4 cups water to 3 tablespoons salt. Sea salt is best.

Cut the tops off the peppers and if fermenting whole cut a slit in each pepper. You can also chop or slice.

Cover with brine, and cover with a lid. See the notes regarding weights [you can see the smaller jar in the above photo]

Ferment for at least a week, or to your normal time frame for peppers

Mash:

Drain the peppers but don’t rinse

In a blender add 1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, dried turmeric (about a tablespoon), 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, and the peppers. Blend until pureed. Place in the refrigerator.

 

Medieval Chickens

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pixabay

I have a weird relationship with both time and thyme. Both disappear on me, and show up in my life in odd patterns, and as much as I love both I end up with a stockpile lost into nothingness. I own something like four packages of thyme in my kitchen somewhere.

How many did I find when I went to make this?

One. I found one. Stuck in some mail.

Don’t ask me to explain this, because I don’t have an answer.

I bake a chicken every Monday night now, at least until it gets too hot to want to run the oven that long. I throw the carcass in the freezer and make bone broth, and we eat off of the bird for a couple of days. I normally cook it plain but I found this on an ahem secret Facebook group. And I love thyme.

…So, if you posted this recipe, credit to you, you know who you are.

[Actually] Medieval Chicken

**I have been told that it actually is a medieval era recipe. The original was written for leg quarters but I roasted a whole chicken. I also didn’t measure since I sort of changed this to a rub

1 roasting chicken

Black Pepper

Paprika

Dried Garlic

Thyme

Olive oil

*Follow your favored roasting instructions, I normally go for about an hour and a half at 350 in a bag

Rub chicken with herbs and oil, and bake. It might bake up dark, and that’s fine [accurate to time period, apparently]

Bone Broth, or, Whole Use Cooking

chicken bone broth

I need seven thousand dollars worth of dental work.

That’s not exaggeration, nor is it a push for pity. I’ve known since I was a teenager that I was most likely going to lose my teeth early.

What is, though, it a very large, very expensive monkey wrench into 2016. You know, of the type where you have to tell people you owe money to that it’s going to have to be a payment plan situation as I basically have my jaw rebuilt. It has also lit a fire under me, and gotten me back into heavy homesteading (I seriously planted a sprouting onion today just to avoid having to throw it out). I was into the idea of whole use/tail to snout cooking this year anyway, but I’m really into that path now.

There’s a lot of old wives tales floating around the Internet about bone broth that actually makes it sound applicable for weak teeth as well. I can’t vouch, and if you read some sites it’s sort of the meaty equivalent of coconut oil-if it doesn’t cure you, you weren’t sick in the first place. It is however heavy on minerals and gelatin and other nice things leeched from the bones-and these are things I often find myself low on.

Long, rambling story to get to the point that I’ve been making quarts of the stuff and using it in everything from rice to soup and spiking it with hot peppers and just drinking it plain.

**You can do this with a crock pot, and a lot of people prefer it that way. My crock pot had a run in with a cast iron pan and is now a tomato planter. I have done two separate things to good results-one is to pull it off the heat, fridge it over night, and start the simmer process again in the morning. The second is just to set it on low, and let it go all night that way.

Bone Broth [Either beef or chicken]

A. If you are using beef bones, or frozen poultry carcasses, roast first at roughly 400-450 for about half an hour. You can rub with tomato paste for flavor

B. You’ll know when it’s about ‘done’ when the bones start to crumble-and they will crumble. For chicken it hits about the 20-24 hour mark

C. I roast a chicken every Monday night and throw the stripped carcass into the freezer until I run out of room. I also have bags in the freezer where I throw vegetable scraps until I make another batch

Bones, assorted sizes, some with meat still on (or not, but the meat adds flavor)

Water

Apple cider vinegar

Assorted vegetables/scraps-normally onion, celery, carrots, maybe some potato peelings

Spices-normally peppercorns, a bay leaf, thyme, parsley, whole garlic cloves, salt

 

Add the bones to a large stock pot, cover with water and a couple good glugs of apple cider vinegar [home brew is fine here, since the acidity level isn’t necessary for preservation]. Let sit about an hour to start pulling minerals from the bones

Add vegetables and seasonings

Bring to a boil for about 10 minutes, then lower and simmer about 24 hours, up to as long as 36 hours. Add water as necessary.

Strain.

Homesteading Tip-Make Your Own Coffee Bags

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Sometimes I will lay down for a nap and get to thinking about things, and really obvious ideas hit me.

I have a Keurig, that I use in the winter more than anything (with reusable filters, not the cups from the store), and a French press that I love but hate taking apart to clean (and then the grounds get everywhere). I also have a ‘normal’ pot that I don’t think I’ve used in years and keep meaning to pull out for camp.

I also have a box of fill your own tea bags that got pushed to the back of the cupboard and forgotten.

Have you ever seen those coffee bags? The ones that look like tea bags? I lived off of them in college. I actually love them, and you can dispose of them the same way you can tea bags (and I -believe- they can be composted. You might want to double check on that one though). But they’re so pricey.

If you have a box of filters and paper folding skills (I don’t) or a box of tea bags, you can make your own coffee bags. Just put  1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of coffee into the bag and tie off or staple shut. You can use a filter and then fold it into an envelope and staple that shut. You can staple twine to the bag to fish it out if you want.

You steep like a French press-almost boiling water for four and a half minutes or so, to taste.