Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love & Romance on Valentine's Day....and it didn't cost a dime

Valentine's Day is one day of the year that brings out the romantic in most of us. Some people get sucked into the merchandisers' push for us to buy buy buy stuff to prove our love. But one of the most romantic evenings in my memory didn't cost a dime--just a little effort.

DH met me at the door with a lingering hug and kiss, and told me to go take a warm bubble bath. When I got out, he wrapped me in a warm towel to dry off, and handed me a favorite nighty.

He led me back to the living room, where he had gathered and lit every candle in the house. A quilt was spread on the floor, with lots of pillows. Small saucers held cheese slices, crackers, grapes, and a handful of chocolates. Two wine glasses sparkled in the candlelight.

We lay on the quilt, eating cheese and crackers, talking about special times we have shared, hugging, kissing, reliving our courtship, and talking about future plans.

The quilt was one we had used many times, lying on sunny beaches or near campfires, watching the sun on the water or the moon making shadow pictures through the trees. This night was too cold to be outside, but the candlelight was a satisfactory substitute for sun or moonlight, and the piled up pillows felt wonderfully luxurious.

The cheese was ordinary cheddar. The crackers were saltines. The candles and the wine glasses we already had. No wine, just diet coke. We're easy to please, and not burdened with "sophisticated" palates.

Nothing was purchased just for this evening, and it couldn't really have been better.

Well. I guess I wouldn't turn down a few diamonds or rubies, a mink stole, or Godiva chocolates. But only if I could still have that evening. With that man.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Chicken x 3

Now that it is just me and my darlin at home, it's not quite as vital that we pinch ever penny, but we still try to be thrifty and good stewards of God's blessings. This has been on my mind lately, and got me to thinking about some of the things I discovered as a young wife and mother, SAHM before I ever heard that term, living on my darlin's hard work.

One of my money saving measures was trying to make sure I got the most out of our food dollars, and also trying to save cooking time so that I could spend more time with our kids. Chicken was one of my favorites, because there was so much I could do with it.

First, I boiled a whole chicken. Look for the largest you can find, because the proportion of meat to bone is in your favor with the larger birds. I put the chicken in my dutch oven, added enough water to cover the chicken, put in chopped carrots and onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer until the meat starts falling off the bones. Put the chicken on a platter to drain and cool. Let the broth cool before you try to pour it up.

Bone the chicken. Put the bones back into the broth and simmer another 30 minutes to add flavor and calcium to your broth. Be sure to sieve out the bones when you pour up the broth.

Save the skin. Fry it in a hot skillet to render the fat. Use the fat for flavoring. The skin fries up very crisp, similar to pork rinds; a crunchy treat, but very rich, so be careful how much you let the little'uns eat.

Here are some of the meals you can create from chicken:
1. Dumplings with chicken.
2. rice with chicken. For a creamy casserole, add white sauce or canned mushroom/chicken/celery soup, green peas, and top with grated cheese.
3. chicken salad. Use white meat for company, dark meat for family. Add lots of chopped celery, onion, grated carrot for color, and mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.
4. chicken enchiladas. Use sour cream in the filling.
5. chicken soup. Just add noodles to the broth.
6. salad with chicken bits. Green salad with purple onion rings, cherry tomatoes, and your favorite dressing.
7. chicken spaghetti. Depending on the amount of sauce, cheese, and pasta, this can be stretched quite a bit if unexpected company arrives.
8. noodles with chicken. Buttered noodles --yum! Add a little parsley for color.
9. chicken stew. Like beef stew, but with chicken.
10. shanghai chicken--just add chinese style vegetables and chinese noodles, with rice and soy sauce.
11. chicken wontons--wrap a bit of chopped chicken, a little chopped mushroom and onion and chopped water chestnuts in wonton wraps and fry.
12. chicken rangoon--wrap a bit of chicken and a blob of cream cheese in a wonton wrapper and fry.
From one large chicken, I could make at least three of these recipes, plus having broth left over for other purposes. Freeze the broth in ice cube trays, then put the cubes in a heavy duty freezer container so that you can take out as many or as few as you need for a recipe. Since the broth is pre-seasoned, it will add great flavor to rice, noodles, potatoes, and vegetables.

If your raw chicken has liver inside of it, save the livers to make rumaki--chicken livers wrapped with bacon strips, broiled until the bacon is crisp.
Or make fried livers and gizzards with cream gravy.
Y'all will have to excuse me now; suddenly I'm starving.