August 11th, 2011

Shifts and Chicken & Peach Salad

Grilled marinated chicken, sliced peaches and cucumbers, and baby spinach

Deliciously bittersweet, like life.

Last night was the first shift toward autumn.  I felt it silently creep over us in our sleep, that certain type of cold that means the season is changing.  I wouldn’t have expected it for a couple more weeks so I did not notice it other than to pull the blanket over myself in the early morning.  But when I got up, got ready, and walked out the door to go to my third chiropractor appointment this week, I noticed the change in the sky, in the whisper of the trees, and the charge of the air.

The promise of Autumn.

Yesterday we had a gorgeous day with *gasp*natural light filtering through my windows! Plus, I was feeling better.  Not great, but well enough to go back to work for the first time in a week, if only for half a day.  So I did.  And I baked muffins and took photos.  And then I made a chicken & peach salad and took more photos.  It is the salad I present to you today.

I had about as much light as my floor lamp gives me, but it was natural and pretty.  It’s sad that the most natural light I can muster in my kitchen still keeps my shutter speed at 1/20th of a second (dismally slow, in case you’re not photographically-minded), so bear with me that the photos aren’t exactly stunning.  But I’m happy with them, and in love with this salad.

Grilled chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and thyme.  Sliced white peaches and cucumbers.  Baby spinach.  White wine vinaigrette with lavender and thyme.  All of these things combine to create a refreshing salad that makes a nice light dinner with some crusty bread, or turn your lunch into a sweet and happy interlude.

I overfilled my bowl

Just look at that NON YELLOW lighting!

The night I made this for dinner, Tuesday, also brought a shift in my perspective.  One of my mottos is that everything is about perspective, and I’ve been trying to get a grasp on mine, to find a new one.  I’ve alluded to it here and I will continue to do so as it is not something I can discuss publicly, but those on my (very private, as locked up and hidden as possible) facebook know about much of it.  We’ve been going through a lot of stress lately involving doctors, courts, money, and jobs.  Not all rolled into one problem, which just makes it that much more stressful.  It’s a bunch of things.  And Tuesday night brought the beginnings of the change in perspective I’ve been needing. I  was grateful for that.  Maybe, if I can really grasp it, things will start to fall into place.

Shifts in ideas.  Shifts in nature.  Shifts in healing.  They’re everywhere.  Embrace them.

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June 2nd, 2010

Frugal Cooking: Chicken Stock

Chicken stock ingredients.

Frozen ingredients: chicken bones, vegetable "castoffs," and cold filtered water

Ok, it’s confession time.  I’m sort of a miser.  Although I love to buy gifts for people on the very rare occasion that I can afford to, I can’t stand to spend money on myself.  “Oh crap, I’m almost out of shampoo…how long can I go if I only wash my hair every other day?” or “Hmm, my closet is looking pretty bare…I guess I’ll wear Brian’s shirts more often…”  Yes, I’m really that bad.

As much as I loathe shopping for clothes or anything else I need (did I just hand over my woman card by denying any joy in clothes shopping??), I actually enjoy grocery shopping.  I still insist on spending as little money as possible, and keeping Brian and myself well-fed on a tight budget has become a sort of game to me.  I make a weekly menu & shopping list based on what’s on sale this week and what I already have in my freezer.  And my freezer is usually stocked with ground beef, chicken parts, some sort of fish, vegetables, and stock.  Currently I have duck, vegetable, and chicken stocks in my freezer.

The stock is key, you see.  Making my own stock makes me feel a little smug.  Unlike most recipes that use a whole chicken and a bunch of fresh vegetables, I use only scraps, saving double the money.  Why double? Well I’m saving once by not buying stock in the first place, and saving again by not buying anything to make the stock.  SCORE! I feel like a total domestic badass.  What I do is whenever we eat chicken and have bones leftover, we throw them into a plastic container, and throw that into the back of the freezer.  And we keep adding to it as we have bones until it’s full.  And whenever I use vegetables, I wash them well and peel them, then put the peels in another plastic container which has a VIP spot in the freezer door so I can pull it out quickly and add to it.

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September 23rd, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin & Tomato Soup, and a decision

Roasted Pumpkin & Tomato Soup

Roasted Pumpkin & Tomato Soup

I made the soup pictured above Sunday before work.  It took some time, mainly because it requires you to peel and slice a small pumpkin, and the one we had was a bit hard.  I made Brian take care of that (and the onions) while I did everything else.  It was definitely worth both our efforts though!

It’s a great early-autumn dish, using the last vestiges of summer tomatoes with the newly-appearing pumpkins at the farmer’s markets.  It’s also very hearty and filling, especially with the homemade Buttermilk Honey Wheat Bread pictured next to it.  And the color is gorgeous! We were surprised by the flavor, expecting it to be very pumpkin-y, but it turned out really savory and delicious.  There’s just the right amount of garlic, with the salt, pepper, and onions rounding out the slightly sweet pumpkin and acidic tomatoes.

The recipe came from a thin book called, Let’s Cook Soups, by Carole Clements.  At first glance it doesn’t seem like much, but when you start thumbing through the recipes, you find some very colorful soups including this one, Fresh Tomato Soup, Spinach Soup, Golden Vegetable Soup with Green Lentils, and many more.  It also has the classics: Beef and Vegetable Soup, French Onion Soup (made the real way, not just with beef broth), Minestrone, etc.  Each recipe includes a gorgeous photo of the finished product, along with two or three “step” photos.  Another bonus: ingredients and temperatures are given in different values.  For instance, this soup calls for “900g/2lb peeled pumpkin sliced 2cm/3/4 inch thick.”  WOW!

Overall, I love this book and although this was my first recipe from it, I’m planning on trying them all.  “Roasted Garlic and Potato” is actually on my menu for later this week, and I can’t wait! In the mean time, I really hope you try this recipe, because even if it takes a bit of preparation, it’s super easy (other than the fact that our pumpkin was rather stubborn).  You can also substitute butternut or acorn squash for the pumpkin, for more ease, or if pumpkin isn’t really to your taste.

I’ll post the recipe after the cut, but first! I have made a very big decision.  The other day I was thinking about the things I want in life, and realized that I’m not on the track to get them.  I’m 24, still don’t have my bachelor’s degree (although I really have been trying hard for that, but things keep getting in the way), and I’m working as a restaurant hostess.  This is not where I want to be in life, and it is not helping me get where I want.  I’m on a fast track to nowhere.  I can’t keep waiting for things to fall into place; I need to do it myself.  I hate my job, mostly because it sucks up my time when I could be working on the things that really matter to me, and focusing on getting a good design job.  I need to redo my resume and portfolio, and start marketing myself, but I never have time to around work and taking care of the house.  So I’m going to quit my job! It sounds irresponsible, quitting and being unemployed because I don’t like what I’m doing with my life, but it’s what I need to do to have the time to…do what I need to do.  Brian and I talked about it, and he’s encouraging me in it.  I need to focus on what’s important for my future, and working where I am is truly holding me back.  So I’m going to quit soon, although I haven’t decided yet when, and I’ll do whatever odd jobs I can to make some money while situating myself for a career in design.  Wish me luck!

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