Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursdays Thoughts

This past weekend I met a gentleman and visited with him a while.  At one point he looked at my son and said, "He really focuses on things."  Wow, someone who is practically a stranger noticed!  

Yes, my little man-cub is growing up fast.  He is intent and focused on learning what this world is all about, always seeking new information, expanding his horizons, trying new things, his physical skills increasing daily.  And you can tell he's proud of himself, as I am. 

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.  My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.  Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.  ~ Psalm 139:14-16

Friday, March 18, 2011

Simmering Stock

Last Sunday, I mentioned that I had a turkey carcass in the crockpot. I love to take pictures of everything I do, so I thought I would show you.

Normally when I make stock I add a glug or two of vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar) to the bones and let it sit for maybe an hour while I assemble the other ingredients.  I like to add a whole onion (skins, too, because they are full of the good medicinal stuff), lots of garlic, ginger if I have it, celery, and carrots.  It all depends, of course, on what I have on hand.  Sometimes I even add eggshells!  I'm sure you're wondering about that one!  The vinegar is to help draw the calcium and minerals out of the bones, to make the stock extra rich, and it will do the same with the eggshells.  Of course, it's best to use organic, free-range poultry and their eggs, but I use whatever I have on hand.

This particular turkey, however, had been mesquite-smoked for Thanksgiving, and there was a bit of meat along with the bones.  It was THE BEST-TASTING turkey I have ever had, seriously!  I decided that I wanted to make my stock without all the other flavors blended in, so I just did the turkey (with the ACV).  I cooked it all day and overnight on low in the crock.  Then I strained it into a few containers, only filling half-way, so I could put it in the freezer without breaking my containers.  Then I filled the pot with water and cooked those bones a second time all day and all night.  This is what it looked like after the second cooking.

I strained it and topped off the freezer containers, and put a little bit into a jar to compare the color to the first batch.  I don't know if you can tell, but the one on the left (the first batch) gelled up nicely in the frig.  That's what you want, by the way, chicken/turkey/beef/whatever "jello" when it's cold.

There's quite a lot of color difference, but the second time was still pretty flavorful.  I normally would throw everything out at this point, but I decided to fill it up again and cook on high for 4 hours to see what I got out of it.

You can probably tell that it isn't as rich in color, and not in taste, but it still was decent.  If I'm making soup, I typically dilute my stock with water anyway, so this batch won't need that.  I also like to use it for cooking my rice to give it a bit of flavor.

From Simply Recipes website they say this about the fat in stock:
Note about the Fat
I've seen a lot of newer cookbooks advocate the skimming of the fat from the stock. We prefer the traditional method of letting the fat settle in a layer on top of the stock as it cools. This way, the fat acts as a protective layer against bacteria, which is found in the air. The stock will last longer if you keep the fat layer on it. Just lift up the layer of fat and remove the stock when you want to use it. Every few days, bring the stock to a simmer for 10 minutes and let it cool, again with the fat forming a protective layer. Your stock can be stored in the refrigerator and used for up to a couple of weeks this way.

Next time you cook chicken, save the bones (yes, even if  you ate the meat off the chicken!) and make a pot of stock.  If you don't have many bones, start a bag/container in the freezer and when it's full you're ready to go.   Do you ever buy those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store?  (Costco has the best ones!)  I love to save all the flavored broth (that gets all gelled up in the bottom of the plastic tray, if you ever notice), the bones, and skin and make a great-tasting stock!  Let me know how yours turns out, and if you have any secret ingredients that you love to add to yours.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

I'm sitting here with my son asleep across my lap, with one hand free to reach my computer.  Sometimes I just play spider solitaire, occasionally I'll check out craigslist, and I frequently find myself at facebook, where my friends hang out. 

Today I decided to clean up my emails, eliminate some of the clutter there.  Can you believe I have over 50 custom folders in which to organize them?  Most are not used much at all, some haven't been used in years, but they are emails I want to keep, for one reason or another.  At one point in time, I was doing a good job keeping my inbox empty, but it has creeped back up to 607 emails, most read.

While deleting emails, I came across one from a blog/site to which I subscribe.  I thought the title of the post very appropriate to share here, Monk Mind: How to Increase Your Focus.  It starts out
I confess to being as prone to the distractions of the Internet as anyone else: I will start reading about something that interests me and disappear down the rabbit hole for hours (even days) at a time.
I confess that even after reading this, as I came here to write my post, I very nearly got myself distracted away from this, simply by finding the links to place here!

Now, his post is mostly about learning to focus while using the computer to get work done, but the principles carry over to other areas of life, too.  For instance, many people nowadays say that they are great at multi-tasking.  I've said the same about myself.  It is true that while preparing dinner, I can also have a sink full of dishwater to clean as I go (don't do that as often as I should, but I know how to do it), have food simmering/marinating/whatever-ing as I chop and assemble ingredients to saute or add to a dish, set the table, pay attention to where my little man is (oh, okay, fine, you can play in that drawer, there isn't anything sharp in there), and carry on a conversation.  But is that really what multi-tasking is?

I think where we (okay, where I) get into trouble is when we try to do too many things at the same time that aren't related.  Walking and talking at the same time is to be expected.  Working on a quilt while watching a movie is also doable, as long as neither one requires much focus.  I can even occasionally do things on the computer or read while nursing my son (like now; he woke up already).

However, even that doesn't work so well all the time, because he no longer lays here peacefully the whole time.  He smacks me with his hands, kicks my hand and the computer, grabs my necklace, and tries to sit up or roll over while staying attached.   Sometimes he is going to do those things no matter what I'm doing, but quite often that means I have to stop what I'm doing and simply focus on him, look him in the eye, have both hands on his little body.

Things don't always need our focused attention; people do.   I am guilty of trying to hold conversations with my husband while playing mindless games or surfing the web, and it's the conversation, the relationship, that suffers.  My husband is the most important person in the world to me, so why do I treat my time with him with less focus that I should?  That's a real question.  I don't know why I do it.  But the next time I sit down to talk to him, that is ALL I'm going to do, because he is worthy of my undivided attention (as is my son).  And that really is what I want to give him.  So that's what I will do next time; unless, of course, my little man needs his tummy filled or his diaper changed.  I can't promise I will always succeed at this, but if I can stop long enough to remind myself of my need to focus, I know I will improve in this area. 

So now I'm going to go sit on the floor with my son and play with him.  Maybe I'll put on some music and dance with him.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Makings of a Monday

Yesterday I mentioned buying cabbage to make sauerkraut.  I love homemade kraut, and it is so good for you, too!  I started by chopping one head and putting it in a bowl to pound.  I added kosher salt, too, which helps to draw the juices as well as preserve it.
 As you can see, I had a little "helper", because I was sitting on the floor within easy reach of his busy little fingers.  I used my new jar of coconut oil to pound.  After pounding off and on for an hour or more (and trying to use my leg to keep my son out of the bowl) the cabbage looked like this:
I set this aside and chopped and pounded the second cabbage.  I wasn't getting as much liquid out of the cabbage as I have in the past, so I think I may not have been using as much salt as needed.  Cabbage ferments quite nicely all on its own, but I had some whey I had saved from good plain yogurt, so I added that to the mix and blended both cabbage batches together and put it in my gallon glass jar.  Lacto-fermented foods have extra goodies for your digestive system.
Can you believe that is 2 whole heads of cabbage?!  Not much more than half a gallon.  As you can see in the next pictures, there wasn't enough liquid to cover the cabbage, which is important so it doesn't mold.  Fortunately I kept the liquid from my last batch of sauerkraut, which was made from red cabbage, so I added that to the top of the jar.

The final step is to make sure that the cabbage is covered completely with no air against it, so I put a plastic bag (well, two of the produce bags) inside and filled with water, making sure to get rid of any air bubbles I could see.  As it ferments, air bubbles will form on their own.
Isn't it pretty?  I love learning how to make yummy, healthy food for my family.  I know it's better for us than store-bought, and usually cheaper, too.

S-L-O-W Sunday

This weekend I've just felt bored, lazy, blah.  I did some housework, grocery shopping, and cooking.  I have been trying to go for a walk every day, or several times per week, but yesterday I only walked for 1 mile and nothing today (except for the grocery store).  I guess that means I need a good, long walk tomorrow.

So what did I buy today?
  • rice, lentils and black beans
  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts and a big box of Farmer John spicy sausages (already ate 2...)
  • coconut oil
  • kale, green- and red-leaf lettuce, English cucumber, tomatoes, radishes, green onions, onions, sweet potatoes, red potatoes
  • nectarines, red bosch pears
  • big jar of green olives
  • vanilla almond milk
  • 2 heads of cabbage (to make sauerkraut!)
And I am FINALLY cooking the Thanksgiving turkey carcass in the crock pot.  It smells sooooooo good.  It's been going all day, and I will keep it on low all night long as well.  I will let it cool tomorrow so I can put it in jars (I'm anticipating 2-3 quarts, b/c there are a lot of bones).  Then I will cover the bones with water and do a second batch.  I only recently started doing that.  When I think of all the broth I could have had all these years...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Focus

Okay, I didn't get a lot done today, didn't spend much time focusing on anything of particular interest.  I washed dishes, fixed three meals, took a walk, did some laundry, changed the sheets on my bed (LOVE clean sheets!), and am planning a shower before bed (because one must never ever go to bed with a dirty body on clean sheets!)  My hubby and I had a discussion about some plans, without coming to any decision.  Maybe we need to focus a little bit more on getting the information necessary to make this decision.

I did a little bit of thinking about this blog, but it wasn't very focused, more in-the-back-of-my-mind kind of thinking.  I want to make a new habit of coming here every day (or at least every other day) and posting something.  Anything. 

Today I want to share a photo of something I love to look at every day.  Something I thank God for everyday, in my heart, even when I don't say it aloud.

 Look at that!  Isn't that beautiful? 

My son knows how to focus; he gives his full attention to everything.  He uses all his senses and learns.  He sees, smells, touches, tastes, and hears.  And he remembers.  What I love best is when we are gazing into each others' eyes, focused on each other, loving each other.  Yes, he is a baby, but I know he loves and adores me, as do I him.  In those moments, nothing else matters.  Of course, those moments pass all too swiftly because there are so many things he wants to do, he can't sit around all day just looking at his Mommy. 

And that is okay.  Because I know he will want me again soon enough.  I love how he now comes to get me when he's hungry or tired or wet.  I still have to figure out what exactly he needs, I have to focus on him and not the distractions around me, and he is so happy when I pick him up and take care of him.  And I truly am happy, too.  <3

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Finding My Focus

Dear Diary,

No wait, this isn't my private journal!  (I don't even have one of those)  But this is where I will share my life and my journey towards finding my focus.

My life revolves around my wonderful husband (who also happens to be my best friend), and our son (who is the cutest little boy in the whole world!)  I want to be the best wife and mommy I can be, but sometimes I lose my focus.  Well, maybe not so much lose it as ignore it.  And not that I ever ignore the fact that I'm a wife or mom, I just don't always make the wisest choices on how to be the best I can be.  I suppose that makes me normal, but why be normal?

My life also revolves around being a Christian.  Or rather, it should.  But I tend to lose my focus there a lot.  Not that I ever forget that I'm Saved by Grace and Jesus Loves Me (this I know...), because believe me, I know Who Holds the Future and He gives me the Peace that passeth all understanding no matter what I'm going through.  Not that I don't ever get stressed and start to worry, because I do, but I am learning to be content.  Notice I said learning.  I'm not there yet.  I sometimes find days go by (sometimes lots of days...) where I have done nothing to strengthen my faith, I haven't renewed my mind with the Word of God.  I am not focused on the things of God.

I know this may sound like an odd way to find my focus, by starting a blog, but I felt inspired to give it a try.  I don't have a focus for what I will write about and share from my heart, and I imagine it will end up being somewhat random at times, because, well, I am not focused, (have I used that word enough yet?) but I'm pretty sure it won't be too boring.

I will end tonight's post with part of a song by my favorite singer/artist, Sara Groves:
I'm not trying to judge you. That's not my job. I am just a seeker too, in search of God.  Somewhere somehow this subject became taboo. I have no other way to communicate to you. This is all that I am. This is all that I have.

I would like to share with you what makes me complete. I don't claim to have found the Truth, but I know it has found me. The only thing that isn't meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the way he set me free. This is all that I have. This is all that I am.