Baby steps

Back in July I posted about these brand new feet.

First week

When I saw this photo, as much as I loved those little toes and legs, I made it my vow to FATTEN THEM UP. Here is how we have progressed so far (photo evidence was difficult as these feet move around a lot). Chunkier!

Fourteenth week

Well I just wanted to report that we are doing very well and wallowing in much much cuteness around here. =)

Buying a Whole Chicken: Better Value?

I am all about the frugality these days. More than usual. Maybe it's the cooler weather that makes me want to dig into my stores and start noshing roots and beans and slow-cooked stews. (Check out my Trying to Eat Cheap series for example--one November spent keeping close track of dinner and how much it costs.)

So here's the thing. For some reason I always believed that buying chickens whole was just a better value. You cut it up yourself, you get the added bonus of giblets and carcass to use for stock, and it's cheaper per pound than if you buy the meat pre-cut. Right? Here's a little demonstration of my thinking:

A whole chicken costs $14. (It's Murray's Chicken.)

Cut into 4 pieces, I've got 2 full legs (left) and 2 breasts with wing (right). The breast is boneless except for the half wing I left on there. I could have left the whole wing, but realized this too late. (Lesson learned: always read your Julia before making the first cut)

Bake the breasts until golden and you have dinner. Put the legs away for later. (I deboned them and made a crockpot stew.) So that's two dinners from one bird.

Here's part of that breast, with a shiitake gravy. Plus brown rice & broccoli.

BUT. I noticed something about the amount of work this takes. There's a lot of cutting, planning, freezing and remembering to do. Am I factoring in the cost of my time? Is this whole chicken costing me more like $20 once I add in all the bloody bother? Also, I am terrible at making stock. Those giblets and that carcass are not huge assets. When I got to thinking about that $14 price tag, I realized I could also get (also Murray's):

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about $8)
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about $5)

This is actually more meat, and more meat that I can use right away, than can be found on a single chicken. Obviously.

My conclusion: it doesn't make sense to buy a whole chicken if the intention is to cut it up. Buy the skinless boneless breasts or thighs and save yourself the hassle. And buy a whole chicken because you want to roast a whole, crisp, toothsome, juicy chicken. Give the bird--and yourself--that honor and respect.

Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

OK, we caved. We started making custard ice cream. We use PLENTY of egg yolks for silky smooth super creamy batches. (I was trying to go eggless over the summer, but the time came to branch out.) The first custard batch was plain chocolate, from David Lebovitz's acclaimed ice cream recipe book The Perfect Scoop.

Above is pictured our current batch from the same book--Guinness-Milk Chocolate. It is good! The first few bites tasted of both the chocolate and the stout. Then the flavors melded and became a delicious milk chocolate confection with an extra special tang.

So--thoughts on how to use egg whites? I know about egg white omelettes and angel food cake...

Weekend Herb Blogging #255

Weekend Herb Blogging is becoming quite a venerable event--almost at the 5-year mark!

This is my fourth time hosting Weekend Herb Blogging! It's a blog event founded by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and managed by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once. The idea is to blog about using an herb, fruit, vegetable, nut, seed or flower as a main/key ingredient. Each week a host puts together submissions and posts a recap. I always enjoy hosting and learning new-to-me uses of things I know well, plus some that are more unfamiliar too. Here's the roundup for this week (October 11-17). I placed descriptions below each photo.

From Germany, Reshmi Ahmed from A Feast to the Eyes and Stomach made Cheese Bread with Chives. I agree that warm and cheesy bread is such a comfort food. The ingredients seem simple, but the result is so satisfying. The added savor of chives sounds just right!

From Switzerland, Chriesi from Almond Corner made Date Ice Cream and served it with hibiscus syrup. Oh my, this ice cream looks so sweet and creamy. I hadn't realized that dates come in 4 different "ripenesses"--Chriesi describes these, with a bit of date geography too!

From Melbourne, Australia, Sue of You Can Do It... At Home! made Silverbeet Ricotta Quiche. It's springtime there and the silverbeet in Sue's garden inspired this tasty-looking light lunch. (And I want a forkful of that avocado!) I looked up silverbeet and found it's what I know as Swiss chard--yum!

Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen in New Paltz, NY made green tomato chutney, which she recommends having with Indian food or in sandwiches or wraps. The spicy sauce keeps in the fridge for about a month. It is great to know what to do with those cheerful green tomatoes just sitting on the vine not getting any redder now that October is here.

Simona of briciole made involtini di bietole/rainbow chard roll-ups. She reminds us that you don't have to discard chard stems--chop them up and add them to whatever you are making! Her filling includes barley, cheese, raisins, and carrots. Also, she includes an audio file so you can listen to her saying "involtini di bietole" (what a lovely language to listen to!).

WHB's current organizer, Haalo, made Wartime Chocolate Pudding using carrots. Wow, this is surprising but makes perfect sense. With sugar rationing during wartime, carrots were used as sweetener in a pinch (along with a bit of sugar and golden syrup in this case). The pudding gets steamed and comes out spongy, English-style. Haalo suggests serving with custard or thick cream--yes please!

Brii from Briiblog in English, living in Valsorda on Garda lake, Italy, made persimmon jam with lime and pepper. Properly ripe persimmons are key. She is quite right that it has the colors of autumn--beautiful! I would be tempted to try it on a nice thick piece of fish. Or spread on piping-hot buttered biscuits--what do you think, Brii? :)

From Toronto, Canada, Janet from the taste space made Happiness Soup. A celebration of yellow, this barley-laden soup looks like it sticks to the ribs, but with a light lemony taste. All that sunny color must brighten both the tummy and spirit at once!

Thank you bloggers for these excellent entries! Next week (October 18-24, 2010), Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Chris from Mele Cotte. Visit the Who's Hosting page for more info!

Onions in the House

Our house smells a bit... oniony. It's cuz of an old wive's tale/Internet rumor that having cut onions around will absorb germs and mold and stuff and help the humans be healthier. Even though refutes this, they also show that the rumor has been around for over 100 years. Heck, just because there are no scientific studies proving it doesn't make us afraid to try! And the onion smell actually goes away after the first few hours and then the onions just sit there working their magic. I'll get back to you in April with much excitement if none of us get sick this winter. (I'm also getting a flu shot tomorrow... just in case...)

5 Days of Dinners

I'm never going to be a super organized homemaker, like Keeper of the Home or Organizing Junkie (who does Menu Plan Mondays). For one thing, I typically work 42.5 hours a week, so "homemaking" is done in short, random bursts. But when it comes to food, I do have a modest program that works pretty well. Basically, every Saturday I try to figure out dinners Sunday through Thursday. Then I try to shop once a week, usually Sunday morning.

This has two main advantages. First, it helps me keep grocery spending down. I figure out our budget first, then make the list fit. Second, because I have a hard time coming up with meal ideas on short notice, this lets me set my course in advance--then I just follow it during the week. (Do you wonder about Friday and Saturday? I let fate dictate those days. Sometimes leftovers accumulate and need to be eaten. Or we raid the cans in the cupboard, or have breakfast-for-dinner, or MAYBE dine out once in a while.)

Here's what I'm thinking for this week, including my fascinating thought processes.

Sunday: Baked chicken with rice and broccoli. I just learned about the classical way to portion chicken into four pieces. There are two breasts with wing "drumette" attached, and two thigh & drumstick pieces. Then I bake the breasts with skin on and lots of butter. They come out super tender and yummy. I might attempt a shiitake mushroom gravy. I figure a chicken is about $13, but I'll use half on another day so it's more like $7 here. We already have brown rice at home, and got broccoli at the farmer's market yesterday.

Monday: Spaghetti with red sauce. Originally I was going to add sausage, but it's expensive and we've got plenty of cheese that can be our protein. Also I like the idea of meatless Mondays. I make my own tomato sauce and will use a scratch & dent can in the cupboard. I'll also buy some tomato paste ($2?) to make it thicker.

Tuesday: Chicken curry crockpot. I'll use the other half of the chicken. I adapt the Vij Family's Chicken Curry recipe from Eat Drink Think for crockpot use. I need to get some ginger and sour cream and maybe garam masala. I'd love to make my own Naan, maybe using Jugalbandi's recipe, but if I don't get it together I'll just make rice.

Wednesday: Hamburgers with sweet potato fries. I've still got the too-big buns from August (I froze them but am sick of them taking up so much freezer space!). I was hesitant about this meal because grass-fed ground beef (which I vowed is the only kind I'll buy) is expensive and burgers shrink up pretty small. But I really want to eat those blasted buns, so I'll splurge.

Thursday: Macrobiotic casserole. Described in my Trying to Eat Cheap series from November 2008, this healthy mix of brown rice, lentils, seaweed and root vegetables is made by my spouse, NOT ME. Hooray!

Salad People

Our preschooler has always been pretty good about eating vegetables, especially salads. But she's also going through a slight "elimination" phase. Things she used to eat and enjoy she now decides to reject--just cuz. But she still has a pretty wide range. She got a kid's cookbook for her birthday (thanks Auntie A!) that has a recipe for "Salad People" in it. I'm finding these are a reliable way to make salads more interesting/edible for her. Here's a "salad fairy" I made:

Lettuce wings, grape tomato head and arms, celery stick legs, red pepper body. Right before eating we stuck some sunflower seeds into the red pepper to make buttons. It worked! She ate everything except the fairy's left wing.

About dressing--she does like it sometimes, but she also likes to apply it herself. This can be a disaster if a large, semi-full bottle of dressing is involved. (Most gets dumped on her plate before she stops pouring.) We now give her dressing poured into a shot glass and set next to her plate. She can pour it herself, but there's not enough to cause much of a mess.

What tricks do you use to get little people to eat? I'm looking for more reasons to use my cookie cutters for example, besides polenta.