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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cheap and GOOD casserole.

so back to eating...
     We can still get cheap food IF you watch for it! case in point....   When I go to the grocery I watch for the expiration dates.  I stop back by on that date and get great deals like this...  Now please note, I did not always have the ability to be driving by a grocery store each day... but I drive past two on my way to the barn at least twice a day.  So it pays off to watch the dates and stop back by early on that date.

As you can see I got 5lbs of chicken thighs for less than three dollars.  I took them directly home and dropped them in a pot of water.   

This is where I don't understand what the big deal is... I still had chicken left over in the freezer from the pot pie day and had it in the fridge defrosting so this goes directly into the freezer with no questions.

But from the pot with all my herbs, I don't salt or pepper the chicken at this stage because I never know what I am going to use it for AND salt can make things more dry coming out of the freezer.

You can see the rosemary, thyme and I put some dry sage in it because dry is all I have (but I dried it from the garden... it hangs on the rack in my dinning room) during the winter.

Yes it is greasy on top but that is easily solved!!!! besides you want all the flavor you can get from your money.

After everything has cooked till it is falling off the bone... drain as much of the juice as you can, if for no other reason than to just get it out of your way!

I use my trusty old strainer to get out all the bits and pieces... but make sure you are not throwing away any meat at this point! 

Look at this beautiful  tasty Juice, better than any can, carton, concentrate you will ever purchase!  And that alone just saved you money for chicken stock!

Yes it still has the grease on it for now... but we will get to that!

Just cover this stock, get it out of the way, and put it in your fridge so we can get ALL that fat off later.

We still have the chicken, herbs and what knots in the pot to take care of ...
Pour the remaining contents of the pot into a bowl WITH a strainer...

Yes it looks strange, but as much as Money is something I save so is Time... so I left all the bones, the fat, and the herbs in there and this is where we take the time to seperate it all.

Note... the strainer... is there due to more glorious juices to be saved, as well as tiny pieces of meat that will have fallen off the bone while in the pot.

While this picture looks groose you will see I have seperated the bone, cartlidge, and fat from the tender meat, I have my bags ready and labeled to speed up the process.

More Chicken Stock below all the meat is normal... just put it in the fridge with the other...

I Lay all my zip lock bags as thin as I can EXCEPT my chicken stock!  I lay most thin so they thaw out more quickly and evenly.  I keep the stocks thick so they fit into my stock pots when I throw a chunk of "ice" frozen stock into the pot.  Otherwise laid thin like the meat,  they are too wide at the top and I loose some of my juices as they melt.   I just have to plan ahead.

 This is one of those dishes you just watch the sales...
You will need Chicken about 1 1/2 cups. .... I have a bag defrosted from earlier save.
You need a can of mushroom soup...    I am not promoting any specific brands... what ever you like or your own in concentrate form if you like.
Sour Cream... about 10oz ... use your can of soup as the measuring cup if you need.
Mexican Melting cheese.  You will need at least 10oz ...
One 4 oz can of green chilies... for mild, you can add other chilies if you like it hottier.... But this needs to be your base.
Corn Tortillas from the fridge section.  not fried...

 Line the bottom of your pan with Tortillas...

 Line the Tortillas with Mexican Melting Cheese... use all 10 oz  or more... if you want.

 Cut up your cup and a half of chicken and line it over the cheese and Tortillas...

 Take your Sour Cream... Your Can of soup and the Chilies and mix them together...  

Put TWO THIRDS of your mixture over the chicken...
Add another layer of Tortillas over the mixture...

Top with the rest of your mixture... and put it into the oven at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes depending on how brown you want the top to be....

We both ate before I remembered to take the picture... ha ha ha...

OK Now... that Chicken Broth...
Leave it in the fridge over night... and this is what you will get.
   The FAT will have seperated and is now easy to skim off.

Nasty looking but ... look at that broth underneath...


I got enough chicken for three casseroles
and enough broth for at least three things.  Saving me at least 20 dollars over time! 

It is worth planning all this out!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pot Pie... Easy, medium, and Scratch!

For those of your who know me I am a "foodie" I love good food, I love strange food, I will try anything once.   My love for food is NOT understood by the love of my life... He eats to survive not for the experience. so... I cook several things in stages... and in degrees of complication.

Chicken Pot Pie is one of his favorite things.  Something I like / will eat if done from scratch.

Here is my pot pie story...
1.   Chicken...    I only use about one cup of cut up meat
2.   veggies...     any of your choice I use about one cup of cut up veggies
3.   base...         you can use a can of cream of mushroom soup or make your own base however difficult you want to get.... I do both depending on time, money, and flavor...
4.   Crust...       you can use what ever you like... Dad like Puff Pastery, Jerry like regular old crust (boxed/or frozen pilbury or miss smith) or I like gluten free for me...

I am cheap!  I only purchase whole chickens, or thighs because they regularly go on sale.  DARK meat as much as people say they don't like it ... is the BEST to use in a receipt because it have more "chicken" flavor.   

1. Boil what ever chicken you purchased...
        Why do I purchase only whole?  Because I use it for everything I make for the next month!  Sound crazy?  Well get this... One Whole chicken cost less than 10 dollars.  For $10.00 I get enough meat for this pot pie, a mexican chicken enchallada casserolle, chicken parmazan pasta.  I get three bags of chicken broth to freeze for rice, pasta, or soups.  Tell me how far your perfect boneless, skinless chicken cost, and how many meals do you get out of it?  

2. Veggies...
     I grow carrots every season I can, so if the ground is not frozen I go dig up a few for this... as of late it has been frozen...
     I keep CHEAP frozen veggies in the freezer... a cheap store brand, I pull them out once a day for the birds to have a hot meal... instead I use a cup of them for this when I need to.   You can also get canned veggies if you like but ... a. they have salt, ... b. they are mushy already! so I like to stay away from them and I have other uses for my large cheap frozen bag. 
     Other wise I have only the cheap stuff when in season from the veg. section of the grocery.  Corn on the cob (I put ENTIRE cobs silks and all in the freezer, you can only do this IF YOU GROW IT), carrots (from the garden), celery, onions (usually from the garden), one piece of garlic head ( from the garden IF I have any left over... I use garlic a lot!)  if they are all fresh, what ever you have, what ever you like or don't like is perfect.. BUT as my sister and brother in law do NOT like celery, onions or anything else green these FRESH things put sugar into the mix that needs to be replaced.  so ... take a hint of sugar, a pinch too samll to measure and put it into your veggies you do like...

If Frozen veggies, barely cook them per directions... just a little under so not to over cook them for the pie, which will warm through more as we go along....
If Fresh veggies, just barely cook them till warm through so to release their natural sugars... so slighly limp, have beautiful bright colors or onions go almost see through....

IF you do not use FRESH HERBS as I did above in step ONE... this is where you would add your store baught poultry seasoning mix... no more than a teaspoon at best!  mix it in your cooked veggies before the base is added...

3.  BASE...
     Easy is just use a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of cream of chicken soup or even a can of cream of potato soup which ever you like.

     Hard,  make a base from rue with butter and cream. it is really easy to do once you get the hang of it! easy. cheaper than a can of soup, and used for so much it is not funny!

4.  CRUST...
     Easy is just get a roll of crust (pillsbury) from the buscut section of the store.  Put one in the bottom of your pan and cook per directions...
     Fancy... is a box of puff pastery doe... also place one sheet in bottom of pan and cook per instructions...
     Home made ... make your favorite doe and cook bottom crust
     Gluten Free... the trick to your basic doe is to use LARD not butter but Crisco etc... this is the only way I get it flaky... also cook bottom as normal.

Make sure what ever crust you use.. poke holes in the bottom so it will not bubble up on you. 

    While your crust is cooking ... mix cooked meat, cooked veggies and base into a sauce pan and heat all three together till warm.   IF it is too thick... thin out with Heavy Cream/ or milk of your choice just remember the less fat the more runny it will be in the end... becareful not to add too much at a time/ I add only a table spoon or so at a time.

     When bottom crust is done... pour your mixture into the crust... level it off... and put the other crust on top / bake per directions on the back.   Poke holes in the top as your mixture should be pastey... bubbly and will omit air.

Good luck and have fun with it!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

appointments and weather.

While today is Saturday, it is anther cold, wet, and snowy day.

Yesterday took the life out of me! We all know I do some pretty stupid thing, I like pushing my limits, and not following anyone else's out line of what life should be....

In all my thoughts I never wanted yesterday to end the way it did.

Morning was normal... chores etc..

I had a 1:30 appt with the Ferrier BUT the ice is still so bad at the barn you still can't get to the barn safely. So I called my guy and asked him if he minded coming to my house and I would transport the horses to him. No problem!
Most of the time my Ferrier has his apprentice with him so life is easy.... Of course this time he was alone.

Neither of us was really pressed for time, I made coffee to keep us as warm as we could be working outside in the weather. The weather of course changed for the worse as we were mid stream on the first horse.

SweetPea requires rail shoes! Stacy makes them by hand making sure they fit ever so perfectly. She also requires extra support on her frog due to the severe turning of her coffin bone. Her feet are getting better but it will be a long time before she is a happy barefoot horse again.

So while one horse (Navarre) was tied up to the close line, like a dog on a high attaching dog run.... SweetPea was standing there perfectly barely tied to an old rose bush, while Stacy turned on the gas stove, shaped the shoes by hand, throwing sparks with the grinder for perfection and also the cutting of the rubber insert supports. She was a good little girl yesterday... then the weather changed and she started to shake so we had to blanket her again... She only gets a rain coat, as I hate blanketing horses... unless you share residence with them it causes several more trips to the barn. It's to hot, it's too cold it never stops once you blanket them for warmth. 

The surprise of the day was hauling both of the horses BACK up the mountain, where I truly can't even yet put it into words.  Except I almost did NOT make it up the mountain and I was more scared than I have EVER been in my adult life. 
Hauling horses is never really a big deal but the roads were ice as I got higher up the mountain and all of a sudden with the wheels going as fast as they could I was going backwards with a trailer full of horses.  Not just backwards, but on a curvy mountian road with no guard rails, no places to pull over no ditches half the time just trees to keep you from FALLING off a cliff.  CRAP I still can't describe it... I got home, I could hardly breath, and while I normally have low to normal blood pressure... I had the headache of a life time last night.
We got at least an inch in no time, I couldn't make it up the road today... so it was another day of walking... extra hay, extra oil in the feed and breaking ice in water containers.   Just another day in what should be the south. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

If it is not one thing it is another.

First of all it is VERY late for me to going to the barn.  I am not normally this bad when it comes to getting out into the cold for the horses... BUT today the wind is so bad the house has lost all its heat, it is a mere 55 in the house!!! I am dreading getting out into what ever is outside making it this bad inside.

Wind Gust up to 60 mph is the issue today.  I am putting on more layers, taking a cup of coffee with me and hoping I don't get wind burn on my face!  We don't normally purchase clothing for this type of weather this far south!  But here goes...  I can only try....

Monday, February 8, 2010

Still bad weather.

Still bad weather, Still ice... a tree finally fell on the back of the barn, which is not as bad as most in the community, but it is a drain for most of the water coming off the mountain and all water off the roof.  Roof will need to be worked on, and new gutters up, but life goes on.

My real issue of the day is HP .... a company I will NEVER recommend to anyone else.!!!!! to put it as nicely as I can.

My other issue is I am running out of feed at the barn, While I can drive to the house I have to walk under and over things from all the ice, while walking on ice up hill to the barn.  I don't see myself carring a 50 pound bag with no safety if I fall.  not to mention the walk up is leaning to the gorge that is a good 200 foot drop into the creek at the bottom.

What to do ? 
Any Suggestions?

OK.. now it's later in the day... I am on my way to get 300 lbs of feed like I normally do.  I'll put it in the basement two bags to a metal trash can.  I'll take their food in my backpack each time I go.  !!!!

Here is what I have done with my day... I am making my back side larger, thanks to Nannies perfect castiron skillet and a hungary husband.  Home made Chicken Pot Pie.    Oh Yea! 
 I've only made this for a few people but they all seem to like it.  If you want to know more about it let me know... I make several versions of this!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

All talk.. now pictures..till now... Here is our latest ice storm

My walk up the mountain this morning was a little heavier.  I decided if I put the camera in its carrying case along with a zip lock in my purse I might be able to get the camera up the mountain safely in case I fell or if it started to rain again.

My drive was short as the war zone was worse today than yesterday.  Today I ran into 8 trucks, all double cabs full with men to cut the trees off the lines, road, and try to get the electricity back on for Sugar Hollow Road.

Yesterdays post was a statue at the barn... well here is what she looks like today!!!!
If you are not sure, scroll down at look at the last post... it is a little different.
Navarre was a little happier to see me than I thought he would be...  He chased me around wanting to sniff the camera.  But unlike most horses... He has a Mustache that would ruin the lens...
SweetPea was a alert due to all the ice falling from the trees not to mention the TREES themselves falling...  as I sat at the barn yesterday I saw one small tree fall into the turn around up to the barn.  This shot of SweetPea is not fuzzy... it is freezing FOG!  crazy but actually very dangerous situation.  I have to say living here is different from anyother place I have lived.  I am starting to understand why the history of this area is rough and tough.  You really do have to survive.  AS I took the pictures below... the sound of chainsaws in the background, with occassional crashing of limbs, cracking ice falling from trees.  Big trucks working on trees, lines and road... when it all quieted down you could hear the hummmmm of the generators from people with out fireplaces in the area. 
Like I said yesterday ... everything is beautiful but has its issues.  Here are some snap shots of what is going on ... Skampers... the cat, wanted attention as did the horses... Rarely do they sniff at each other... they normally chase me around wanting to be loved on.  Navarre follows me like a great dane, while SweetPea watches what I am doing and as soon as I stand still for a minute walks over to me and sniffs at my shoulder for attention.  So this was a rare shot!
Paper Birch I had to duck under, leaning over the drive up to the barn.  They are beautiful how they line the drive on the right hand side...not to mention they are the only "guard rail" from you going into the ravine.

Bamboo heavy with ice on the ground.

The horses water/ and useless heater! (no electricity) I skimmed off as much of the slush as I could, and left them with as much water as possible. But I am sure I will need to go back several times today to do the same OR break open the ice so they can drink.

While life is harder... Joe/ Steve and I are lucker than most... while they have no electricity in their house/green-house, and I have none at the barn... NOTHING is DAMAGED... so we are better off than most....

You have to know... while this is only the garage... what you have to understand is this HOUSE is still damaged on the inside from the last ice storm...  AND...  This is/was their guest house...  while the damage looks like nothing... You have to understand this is two saved 1700's log cabins put together.. so the LOGS are solid trees, that while saved ??? the structure ... The structure moved a good 6 inches AWAY from the fireplace, down the mountain...   I am sure quoted from Mr. George... "we will need a crain this time, there is nothing left to tie off onto"  This family has had some really bad luck lately... but again they are NOT the only ones with damage, there are more.  The road is blocked from other fallen trees and life is a little harder for most of the road.

Hope your day is better.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snow, Ice, Rain, Sleet...will it ever stop?

It's barely 3pm and I need to be heading out to the barn, as again our weather stops me from driving to the barn. 

Sleet started late last night, and while it has let up every once in a while it is in no way going away or melting when the heavens send down rain, it merely makes it that much more slick.

I have to admit dressing for the weather is my hardest task... a rain coat that is truly water proof is out of the question as you get too hot walking up the mountain, unless I were to wear nothing but the wicking under layer.  But the cold requires me to wear more as I get to the barn, wait on water, or sweep I get cold.  So layers and layers go on and off throughout the walk. 

Today the bamboo is on the ground, the berch trees are arched down to the ground and getting around them to get to the barn was next to impossible.

Everything here sparkels... glimmers... and looks like the twilight movie version of vampire skin.  
The mountain laurel curles tighter as I increase in altitude up the mountain.  At first they are just open ice covered leaves, they eventually curle tighter than a cuban cigar and are perfectly vertical with gravity.  It is amazing how different the world looks under ice, snow or even rain. 

In the last two months we have experienced it all, rain, sleet, ice, snow each with its own beauty, but each with its own hazards. 

But life with animals never stops, farms are still buzzing with tractors loaded with hay, trucks with chains, and all wheel drive cars as it takes twice as much to feed an animal in this weather, both financially and physically. 

I drive my truck as far as it will go, then I walk... so as I am out of shape, the walk up the mountain takes me at least an hour so ... On foot I go.... hoping to talk to someone later... as this weather is not expected to leave till tomorrow. 

Hope all is well where you are!

Up to 3 1/2 inches of ICE ... so skating in the truck I go.... I hope to be back by dark.... Amber.