Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Pureed, Pickled, and Stewed (Contains 3 recipes!)

Filed under: Retired - The Life & Times of a Winged Cat — folkcat at 12:35 am on Sunday, July 24, 2005

No, we didn’t have a wild night out on the town. Here are the stories:

Pureed

The Carrot Soup I reported on in the my last post spent the entire night cooking on low. Seems that carrots take a really, really long time to slow-cook to a consistency that can be pureed with a stick blender. They did, eventually, get there, however, and I whipped them into submission along with the potatoes and garlic that they were cooked with.

At that time, I added probably a cup-worth of cauliflower florets, and a couple teaspoons of dill, as well as about 4 dashes of Pete’s Red Hot Sauce. Not enough hot sauce to make a spicy dish, but enough to help bring out all of the other flavors. You wouldn’t even know it was there if I didn’t tell you.

After another hour on low, this was the result – a thick, creamy orange soup with chunks of cauliflower in it.

Lightly sweet, oh-so delicious!

Nice thing about a Carrot Potato Soup like this – you can also serve it cold. Makes a great dish for the hot weather we’ve been having. I’m pleased with how this one came out.

The recipe, scaled down to fit a single crockpot:

Garlicky Carrot and Potato Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb. carrots, cut in 1-inch chunks

1 lb. potatoes, cut in 1-inch chunks

1 bulb garlic, separated in cloves and peeled

1 cup cauliflower florets

1 tsp. dill

Hot sauce to taste

Instructions:

Place carrot chunks in bottom of crockpot. Follow with potatos and garlic. Add water until vegetables are just covered.

Cook on low until carrots are fork tender. Using a stick blender, mix entire contents of crockpot to a smooth consistency. (You can also use a food processor or conventional blender, but the stick blender is less messy.)

Add cauliflower florets, dill, and hot sauce. Cook on low one more hour.

Serve hot or cold.

Folkcat’s Tip: Sometimes an ingredient can make a huge difference in flavor without being noticeable as a flavor note itself. Case in point: the hot sauce in this recipe. Add it a dash at a time, stirring in well, and taste before and after each one. At some point, you’ll realize that the flavor jumps from so-so to pow!, yet you would never know the hot sauce was there if you hadn’t been the one to add it.

Pickled

This week at the Wilton Downtown Marketplace (our Farmer’s Market), I picked up something I wasn’t even looking for – pickling cucumbers. I have no fondness for pickles myself, but Gryphon loves them. A few years back, I used to pretty routinely make a recipe for refrigerator Bread n’ Butter pickles that we got from a book called Lean & Lucious and Meatless.

I decided it would be a nice surprise for Gryphon if he came home from work and found that I had made a batch of pickles. I knew I still had the ingredients in the house. Big problem, though – the cookbook is still packed away somewhere, inaccessible.

Well, not so big a problem. I’ve gained a lot of confidence lately in my ability to figure out or make up a recipe, or adapt one to suit my needs by studying similar ones. So I hopped off to my favorite recipe website, RecipeZaar, and hunted up refrigerator pickle recipes.

There are a few to be found there. 238 come up on the search, to be exact. So I started popping the recipes up one by one to see what they were like. I eventually found a couple that seemed similar to the recipe I used to use, and I began adapting.

Here’s what the resulting pickles look like:


Tangy Yellow Goodness

I experimented a fair bit with the recipe. None of the ones I was adapting included turmeric, and I remembered that from my original. Also, this type of pickle typically calls for a lot of sugar. I chose to substitute Splenda to create a “sugar-free” version. I also cut in half the amount of sweetener I was finding called for in the recipes, using only 2 cups of Splenda instead of 4.

In the end, the proof of my experiment is in the tasting, and Gryphon has declared these to be a winner. Sounds like I got it right on the first try! Here’s the recipe as it came out:

Folkcat’s Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients

2 lbs. pickling cucumbers
3 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups Splenda
1/8 cup kosher salt
2 tsp. whole mustard seeds
3 tsp. whole celery seeds
2 tsp. ground turmeric

Instructions

Cut the cucumbers into slices, 1/4 inch thick. Place them in a glass container, large enough to hold them all with an inch or two to spare.

In a non-reactive pot, mix the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil.

Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the cucumber slices until they are covered. If you come up a little short, you can add a little boiling water to raise the liquid level.

Cover the container, and let cool to room temperature. Place in refrigerator and keep chilled.

The flavor develops over time, but Gryphon found these perfectly tasty on the second day. These keep well, too – I’ve heard some people say that, if they don’t get eaten up, they can keep in the refrigerator for up to 9 months.

Folkcat’s Tip: You can use this same brine mixture to pickle other vegetables as well. Try peppers, sweet onions, cauliflower, carrots, green beans…the list is endless! Check out the commercial pickles available in your supermarket to get ideas.

Stewed

Friday’s grocery shopping showed that you can gain a lot in your cuisine if you’re prepared to be flexible. I’ve developed a habit of looking at what I call the “distressed produce rack” in our local Market Basket Supermarket. This is where all the produce that’s on it’s last legs is placed, usually at a 50% discount. The items are still good, though they may be a little bruised. The catch is, you want to be ready to either use them or freeze them immediately.

On Friday, I looked at the rack and realized I was seeing packages of carrots and potatoes that looked pretty good. They were each about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds. And I’d been wanting to do a nice beef stew.

The brain went into gear. I bought a green pepper and some whole, canned, peeled tomatoes. I cruised the meat counter, and realized that the pre-cubed stew beef cost $2.99 a pound, while the same cut of meat as a whole roast cost only $1.79 a pound. Guess which one I bought? Not only that, but I had the audacity to ring the butcher’s bell and ask him to cut the roast into stew cubes for me! And he did it!

I knew I was going to be improvising on this one. I didn’t bother to look up any recipes for a guide. While at the Wilton Downtown Marketplace that afternoon, I also picked up a pound of fresh-picked green beans to add to the mix.

I spent time that night preparing ingredients; cutting peppers and potatoes into chunks; slicing carrots; snapping the ends off of green beans and breaking them into three (they were long ones!). The plan was that we’d set up the crock Saturday morning and let it cook all day, ready for a late dinner around 8:30 or so.

Here’s how the stew wound up:

Thick and Beefy!

And here’s the recipe; some amounts will be approximate. I actually suffered from “eyes too big for the crock” syndrome again, and bought more than would fit in just the big one. I felt I had the right amount of beef, though, so I simply used about half of the vegetables. I’m not going to give this one in the traditional format; rather, I’ll explain how I built it.

Chunky Crockpot Beef Stew

The method I’m going to describe will work in a 6 1/2 qt. crockpot using 2 lbs. of stew beef, cut in 1-inch cubes. Other ingredients that I used include: about 1/2 lb. of carrots, cut into slices; 1/2 to 3/4 lb. potatoes, cut in 3/4 inch cubes; 1/2 lb. green beans; 1 28-oz. can of whole, peeled tomatoes in juice; 2 cups of hot water with 2 tsp. of beef soup base added to make a broth; 1 bay leaf.
How I did this: Place the vegetables in layers, starting with the carrots, followed by the potatoes and then the green beans. You want your layers about one piece of carrot (or potato or green bean) deep. Place about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of flour in a large plastic bag; add the beef cubes and shake to coat them. Spread the beef cubes out over the vegetables.
Open the can of tomatoes. Strain the juice into the crock through your fingers, catching the tomatoes as they come out of the can and crushing them in your fingers before adding them to the crock.
Use your own favorite version of 1 – 2 cups of beef broth. I use Minor’s Beef Soup Base; you could use homemade stock or canned, or even some bouillion cubes. Or simply add some hot water, counting on the other ingredients to be flavorful enough. Whichever liquid you choose, add it to the crock now. Finally, tuck in one good-sized bay leaf.
Turn the crock on low for 10 hours. After about 8 hours, check the pot and see how liquid the stew is. If it’s thinner than you like, add some brown rice. Rice will effectively soak up about the same volume of water as the quantity of rice you add. For instance, if you were to put in 1 cup of rice, you’d reduce the volume of liquid by about 1 cup. Be cautious – it’s very easy to over thicken the stew by adding too much rice, and then you start see-sawing back and forth between adding more broth, adding more rice…there isn’t room in the crock to do that!
After the full ten hours, taste the stew and consider seasoning. For today’s batch, I found I didn’t need to add anything, even salt. Season with salt, pepper, or whatever else you feel it needs to suit your own taste.
Eat with some nice, hearty bread. Enjoy!
Folkcat’s Tip: Learning how to “construct” a stew or soup in this way can help you to take advantage of unexpected specials at the supermarket. Be flexible, and you can save a lot of money while providing your family with healthy, nutritious foods. Be creative, too – instead of white potatoes, consider sweet potatoes or squash. Try zucchini or summer squash instead of green beans; consider turnips instead of carrots. Barley instead of rice would be a classic choice. Whatever choices you make, try to keep a variety of colors and textures to keep the stew interesting.
Ultimately, when you begin to understand how the ingredients in a recipe work together, that’s when you can start to make smart choices for how to change the recipe to suit your own desires or the ingredients you have on hand. Do that enough, and your friends and family will start to think you’re a kitchen wizard!

WIP: SE4 (P2)

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 11:09 pm on Saturday, July 23, 2005


Slow and Steady

Okay, maybe not so steady – but the progress on Sock Experiment 4 (Pair 2) (SE4(P2)is coming along slowly. This photo shows where it left off several days ago.

Lots of stuff is happening, but not so much of it fiber-related. Check my other blogs to see the latest news.

I promise, I won’t abandon my fiber!

Do We Have a Passion or a Disease? – Beadwork Archives

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 5:21 pm on Saturday, July 23, 2005

Do We Have a Passion or a Disease? – Beadwork Archives

I was stunned to find that Paula S. Morgan at About.com’s beadwork section mentioned this blog this week. No wonder I’m seeing a number of new faces here!

Welcome to all of you, and thanks for visiting. And thanks to you, Paula, for your kind words!

“Chantraphile – It’s a Bead Thing” designs are back up

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 4:30 pm on Saturday, July 23, 2005

I’ve put the “Chantraphile – It’s a Bead Thing” designs back up at my Cafe Press Store. It wasn’t ever that the designs were bad – it’s just that at the small thumbnail size that displays on the images in the shop, they didn’t look good. I worked around that by putting up a section header thumbnail with a solid color background, and by suggesting in the descriptions that people take a look at the enlarged images.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s been commenting about my website here! I guess the word about “chantraphile” has been spreading, and I’m tinkled pink. Thanks to all who share this site with their friends, and thanks to all who take the time to tell me they appreciate it. You’ve made my day!

Update to Cafe Press products

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 3:04 pm on Friday, July 22, 2005

I’ve decided to remove the “Chantraphile – It’s a Bead Thing” designs from the Folkcat Art store. I’m still struggling to get a design for that which not only looks good in print in front of me, but looks good on the screen. I’m having a little trouble with the word “chantraphile” frankly – it’s long, but since it’s introducing a new word to the world, I’m reluctant to break it up and put it on two lines. So finding a design that looks balanced is turning out to be difficult.

Note that the “Just Bead” and “To Bead or Not to Bead” designs are not affected by this decision. They’re still available.

I’ll be sure to announce here when “Chantraphile” is available again. Meanwhile, thanks for looking!

UPDATE – Milford Memory Box – First to Find prize is won!

Filed under: Folkcat & Gryphon's Geocaching Adventures — folkcat at 4:40 pm on Thursday, July 21, 2005

Less than 2 1/2 hours after the listing went live today, I received notice of the first find on the Milford Memory Box – hooray! Congratulations to solid-rock-seekers on taking swift action and gnabbing the Toadstool Bookshop gift certificate!

It’s sort of a special “First Find”, too – this was solid-rock-seekers 500th geocache find! Wow….Gryphon and I have only logged 10 finds so far. These folks must really spend a lot of time out there!

Now, don’t forget – just because the First Find prize is gone, doesn’t mean the fun is. Geocaches are an ongoing thing – the cache stays where it is for others to find, to share their memories, and to trade for treasures that geocachers before them have placed in the box. So come share the fun of the Milford Memory Box, won’t you?

LIVE, Thursday, July 21, 2005 – The Milford Memory Box – GCPQNY

Filed under: Folkcat & Gryphon's Geocaching Adventures — folkcat at 7:35 am on Thursday, July 21, 2005

It’s here, everyone – we have hidden our first geocache! It’s called The Milford Memory Box, and the full description as it appears at www.geocaching.com is shown below. To visit the listing at www.geocaching.com, go here.

One detail that’s not mentioned at www.geocaching.com – we were fortunate to obtain a very, very, special First to Find prize for this box! The Toadstool Bookshop in Lorden Plaza has donated a $20 gift certificate to the Milford Memory Box. Whoever gets there first, gets to keep it!

Short Description:

The cache is located at N 42° 50.182′, W 071° 39.032′. General parking can be found in the vicinity of N 42 50.128, W 071 38.979, just a short walk away. If you decide to walk around town a little, keep in mind there is a 2-hour parking limit here.

For handicapped access to the cache site without a time limit, park at N 42° 50.238′, W071° 39.067′. This is the parking lot at the local Masonic lodge, but it is also the handicapped parking for this location.

Long Description:

Imagine a walk in a peaceful wood. You stop to rest a moment, and suddenly you hear soft voices speaking to you, telling their memories. A warm feeling washes over you as you feel connected to others who have passed this way before. You begin to speak your own memory to the trees, leaving it for the next to hear.

The Milford Memory Box is a place for sharing memories. You’ll find it in a relatively unknown, but beautiful, piece of woods in a park near downtown Milford, NH. The location is also used for public concerts and, as we found today, occasionally for weddings and other special events, but the cache is well away from the open space. Still, be mindful of muggles out for a stroll.

The box is a Rubbermaid Servin’Saver Plus container. Inside you’ll find a log book and a 4×6 photo album. The collection of pictures and postcards is the point of the box, and pictures should not be removed by geocachers. Rather, please add a picture of your own to the album, if you like, and write a story on the back of the picture to share the memory with others. Don’t forget to take the time to view the memories of others – that’s part of the magic.

Memories shared could be a picture of a party, a loved one, a childhood home, a postcard of favorite teen hangout – anything that you remember, and want to tell others about. I’ve started the photo album with pictures of some scenes that I consider special. While it’s called the Milford Memory Box, the memories don’t have to be from Milford – they just have to be special to you.

With your permission, I will be sharing the memories collected through my geocaching blog, Folkcat & Gryphon’s Geocaching Adventures. Important: Please e-mail me through the geocaching website with your contact information so that I may confirm your permission to share your memories this way. For security reasons, please do not leave your contact information in the box. Occasionally, again only with your permission, we may also offer a memory to the local newspaper, the Milford Cabinet to publish in their weekly edition.

If you wish to find this cache without sharing a memory, that’s perfectly welcome. The opportunity to share in the memories others have left, as well as this lovely woods, are worth the visit. Do, please, sign the log book. And feel free to leave trinkets or Travel Bugs to pass on

Besides the photo album, I’m starting this box with the following trade items: a wind-up alien; a genuine fake emerald ring; a mama bear/baby bear pin; some pencils. Please keep your trade items small, there isn’t a lot of room here, though it could accommodate small Travel Bugs as well.

As our first cache hide, this box will always be a special memory for us. We hope it will become a part of your memories, too.

Double-Crockin’ Again! and Somethin’s Fishy in the Living Room

Filed under: Retired - The Life & Times of a Winged Cat — folkcat at 10:15 pm on Wednesday, July 20, 2005

You know how they’ll say that a person’s eyes are too big for their stomach? Well, I’m coming to the conclusion that my eyes are too big for our crockpots! Once again, I have grossly over-estimated the capacity of our 6-quart crockpot, and had to split the recipe between that and our smaller crockpot .


The Super Crock Team is at it again

The recipe this time is a variant of one I saw ages ago on a television show. It was a sort of New Age lifestyle show that didn’t last very long. One day, they suggested a simple recipe of one pound each of carrot and potato, cut up and covered with water, with 10 bulbs (yes, bulbs) of garlic, separated into cloves. Boil this on the stove until the potato and carrot are tender, then use a blender, stick blender, or food processor to create a smooth, creamy soup out of it.

Gryphon and I tried it and liked it, though the garlic flavor was a bit too much for him. But we haven’t gotten around to making it since that time, oh, about 3 or 4 years ago now. Until today.

I looked at a 3-lb. bag of carrots and said to myself, yeah, that’s the right amount for the big crock. Then we picked up 3 pounds of potatos. What I failed to do was look at the combined size of the carrot/potato pile and say Whoa! That’s too much! We could probably have done with about 2 lbs. of each instead.

Unfortunately, I still didn’t consider this issue until I had already cut up all 3 pounds of potatos. So here we go – I took about 1/3 of the potatos, and transferred them to the small crock. Then I cut up the carrots and made my best try at getting about the same split. We decided to reduce the garlic amount to one bulb only, so I broke up and peeled that, and divided it between the crocks accordingly.

I started the crocks at around 6 o’clock. Or so I thought. Turns out that the small one wasn’t plugged in. So the big crock got an hour headstart on high. I turned the big one to low for the next hour, and put the small one on high – and plugged it in! An hour later, I carefully considered how slowly the carrots would become tender, and how late this was going to be ready, and decided the better part of valor in this case meant putting both on low all night.

For seasoning, I’m planning to use dill. Pretty standard with carrots and potatos, so that’s a no-brainer. I may add a bit of hot sauce for a little kick, too. Obviously, this recipe saga isn’t over yet, so stay tuned for the results in a day or two.

In other news, it’s been a while since my betta fish, Burgundy, went on to that great fish pond in the sky. We’d been considering moving Gryphon’s betta from his bedroom (which can be pretty lonely with all the time Gryphon’s at work) to the living room, where I can wiggle my fingers at him now and then and he can keep me company. We finally did that yesterday.

It’s awfully hard to get a picture of a fish that comes out clear without using special equipment. Here’s the best one I got. Officially, this little guy’s got no name, but I am calling the folder for him in Adobe Photoshop Album “Betta Blue”.


Betta Blue looks fierce for the camera

Murder and Mushrooms in Milford

Filed under: Folkcat's Fotos — folkcat at 9:47 pm on Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Gryphon and I went for a walk last week in Emerson Park in Milford. We found very distinct evidence that there’s a bird of prey – probably a hawk – living in the vicinity.

It was sort of disturbing to walk into the otherwise pristine park and see the huge scattering of feathers on the ground.

Gryphon surveys the signs of destruction

And they were spread over a wide distance around the tree.


Scattered pigeon feathers

Most of them were separate from the others, but some were still attached as if ripped out of the bird in clumps.


But not a drop of blood

The only evidence of the perch where the hawk sat for the feast was a tiny pin feather clinging to the side of this broken-off branch above the feathers.


The site of the feast

On a lighter note, we walked into the patch of woods here and found a beautiful assortment of mushrooms growing among the groundcover. I don’t know what varieties they may be, but graphically they are lovely to look at.

For the Love of Beads…

Filed under: Beading - Confessions of a Chantraphile — folkcat at 3:52 pm on Tuesday, July 19, 2005

That’s the name of the bead section of my CafePress store. Here’s a preview of some of the designs you’ll find there. You’ll find t-shirts, mugs, and more.


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