Saturday, October 29, 2016

Frittata weekends

Weekday mornings are rushed, like they are for most people. I get up early enough, but it never seems like I can get all the things done I need to in that hour before I leave for work. As a result, breakfast is usually a quick cereal, or an egg slapped on the griddle and then mashed between two pieces of toast or bread for a sandwich I can gobble on the way to the car.

So on Saturday and Sunday I like to take my time and enjoy. On Sundays I make pancakes, and Saturdays I make an egg dish.

The last two Saturdays I made frittata. This is like an omelet, but not folded over. It's a crustless egg dish cooked on the stove top and usually finished under the broiler. It differs from a quiche because the eggs are not baked in a pie, and it differs from scrambled because you leave the eggs alone.  As mentioned, it differs from an omelet because you don't flip it or fold it. It's open faced, as it were.

Last week was roasted peppers and Sriracha sauce frittata.

Today was a tomato, roasted scallion, and Romano cheese frittata. I was roasting some whole peppers in the oven and I threw in the scallions I had. When they came out they were so crunchy-good I decided to use a few on the frittata.

The key to frittata is to leave it alone, cook it slowly, and it's done when the top is no longer liquid. You can put it under the broiler at the end of you want, to cook the last bit of liquid and to brown the edges.

This week's frittata is thicker because above, I used only one egg, my usual method. Today I used two, because the eggs were small.

It should slide off the pan onto your plate easily. You can have any side dish with a frittata that you usually have when you eat eggs. Today I had toast. Since the oven was on I popped the buttered bread into the oven to use some of that nice heat. Remember, frugal.

It's a nice way to start your weekend off, preparing a civilized breakfast. As the frittata was cooking I went outside into the predawn to video the wayward rooster. His cockle-doodle-do-ing sometimes comes out whole and sometimes he cuts it off in what sounds like a chicken coughing fit. Today we had a nice cardinal, warblers, and the rooster waking up the day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Frugal organizing

I often write about ways to save money and time in grocery shopping and cooking. Being frugal in these tight economic times suits many people from all socio-economic levels.

There is a kind of frugality to the way we use space, too. I live in a 350 sf apartment. I like that, it is economical to heat, light, and clean. It's frugal to not use or pay for more space than we need, and we really need less than we think.

But a small living space, even with just one person living in it, can become cluttered too if we don't watch out. Add to that, there is always some unused space that can be used, if we think creatively.

In frugal living in a small space, the less cluttered you can be, the better. That means clear and clean surfaces. I don't leave lots of books and magazines and junk on top of the coffee table, dining table, or bookcase tops. The eye likes to stop when it's roaming around the room. The less it has to stop it, the more of a clean sweep the eye can do, the bigger the room will seem. For example, I use a clear cutting board so that it doesn't clutter the small kitchen counter top and make the eye stop. I keep the surfaces clean, as I mentioned, I put the books spines together evenly so that the clean lines on the bookcase look neater. Think of giving your bangs a trim. They always looks neater afterward don't they? Even a small trim.

There are spaces around your home, apartment, trailer, studio etc that you can use. Recently my one closet got pretty packed. I knew where all the things in it were, but they were hard to get to. Having things you're unable to freely and easily use is just the same as not having them at all.

I decided to empty it, sell what I haven't used lately, and re-organize the rest.

I don't have a lot of shoes, but the few I do have I don't want in a pile on the floor. I hate searching for the mate through a dark closet at the last second before I have to leave for work. I decided to get a behind-the-door shoe organizer. It was $8.00. I put my scarves in the empty pockets. They had kept falling to the floor. I continually forgot the ones I had. This way they are out in the light and I can see what I've got. The behind-the-door pocket hanging organizers are useful for the space that is out of sight but filling a previously unused spot. One caveat, make sure that you buy one whose hooks that go over the door can allow the door to close. The hooks for this one are strong enough to hold a full organizer but slim enough to allow the door to close.

There is another behind-the-door spot in my bedroom besides the bedroom closet. It's the bedroom door. I never shut it because I am the only one who lives here, lol. I bought a larger pocketed organizer for that space and use it to put in my hats, canvas bags, and purses. The hooks on this organizer ($7) are the plastic ones on the left side of the top of the door. They don't allow the door to close. So I use this organizer for the door that does not need closing. These items used to be
on the top shelf of the closet. The black bag hanging at the bottom contains other smaller canvas bags. It's light. It needed to be accessible because I use a lot of canvas bags, so I hung it by hanging in as another level to the pockets of the organizer, and I can still use the bottom pocket to hold things.

There is space between the stove and the counter in the kitchen. Hmmm, what can I do with it? It's out of sight to my eye when I look into the kitchen so using the space won't clutter up my small cooking area. I know! I'll use a strong magnet to hold a canvas bag to store my dishtowels in! I only have two drawers, and one is broken. The other holds all my knives. This is a great solution for items I use constantly in making them accessible yet hidden.

Look around your home and look for spots that if used, won't clutter the space or stop the eye from roaming.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Good Humor Man

At a Second Hand store I recently found a new book containing all the best Little Golden Books of the time past. The large book has in it my favorite story growing up, The Poky Little Puppy. I also loved The Lion's Paw, and I Can Fly. I brought the book to school and I read a story a day from it to my kindergarten group. They LOVE it. I noticed that the language is richer than many of today's stories, and the illustrations are beautiful, and being from the 1960s, so retro!

On Friday I read to them The Good Humor Man. This is a story about the ice cream truck that trundled around neighborhoods, ringing the bell or playing the happy tune, and the kids playing outside in all the yards would run to the truck and buy ice cream.

When I was growing up in the 1960-70, age 0-10, we used to visit my grandparents at their beach house on Narragansett Bay. They spent their summers at what we called The Beach House (as opposed to their regular domicile in the city of Providence). The Beach House was 3 miles from where my mother and father and sister and brother and I lived all the time. All the cousins would come for the summer with the aunts and uncles to stay the summer. My great aunt and uncle owned the house next door, and other great-aunts and uncles owned summer houses nearby. There were always cousins and second cousins and relatives around.

The beach neighborhood was filled with lots of other kids too. We were at the end of a long peninsula and there was not a lot of traffic. We would play outside all day on the water or in the water, and in the afternoon and evening on the lawn or riding our bikes all around. In those days as a kid you could roam around the neighborhood unsupervised all day long!!

In the afternoons the ice cream truck wold roll by. Our ears that could not hear our parents from three feet next to us shouting to come in and eat lunch suddenly turned dog-sensitive and we could hear the truck's bell from 2 miles away.

The moment we hear the bell and ice cream jingle song we would go instantly mad. It only cost a dime in those days to buy an ice cream.We turned into unreasoning, clambering, hysterical creatures rushing to the house begging for dimes. We thought we would absolutely die if we didn't get an ice cream. The pull of the ice cream truck was total.

We gathered at the truck knowing what we wanted to buy. The Guardian UK
Though I liked Ice Cream Sandwiches a lot I usually bought an Italian Ice. I was never a huge ice cream fan until in my 50s and even now I rarely eat it. I loved Italian ice. This a frozen not too sweet dessert made of frozen water, bits of fruit and fruit syrup. It can in a covered little cup where you peeled off the top and ate the ice with a wooden flat spoon. it was hard to eat. It was so frozen solid the best you could do is use the side of the wooden spoon to scrape the ice up. After a while it had melted a bit and you could dig the spoon into it to unearth small chunks. I loved the lemon flavor.

How wonderful we had a childhood where we roamed, played with cousins, and could run up to the ice cream man and buy a snack for a dime. My kids at school listened attentively to the story and their eyes were agleam just as if I was telling a story about a frog prince and a magic wizard from a faraway land. But to me, it was real and I lived it. Just another bit of history passing away and only known through books, and memories of old people...

Me at the club pool still not liking ice cream & choosing a Popsicle instead
Further Reading

The History of the Ice Cream Truck

Del's Frozen Lemonade

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Trip to the Sunflower Farm

My long awaited and eagerly anticipated day out at Washington Farms occurred today. I went with a friend to the famous farm which features corn maze, pig races, hayrides, kids' activities, and on the other side of the entry gate, a sunflower farm and pumpkin patch. This is the non-kids' side and it is the part we went through.

The Sunflower Farm and pumpkin patch, and shed containing jellies, honey and relishes, offers free admittance. There fields of yellow after yellow, and also colorful peonies, is a draw for many photographers. My friend likes to take photos too, and so we left early so as to arrive at their opening time and also while the sun was a bit lower.

We were fortunately spared any effects from Hurricane Andrew, thankfully, so it wasn't rainy. It was a bit breezy which was great because the day was saturated with bright sun and a hot temperature! I thought by October 8, the second week the Farm is open in the fall, that it'd be cooler. But it was OK, we only spent an hour poking around the flowers and took shots of all we wanted.

The parking lot filled up within minutes of the 10am opening but our time in the sunflowers was free from crowd and loud, as the families with children went on into the Farm area itself to enjoy the many activities that were offered over there.

The Farm had posted a short note last week advising that the traditionally lush fields of flowers was quite diminished this year, due to the drought. I'd noticed driving home on Friday that as I passed the yard on the way to my driveway that the bushes were severely drooping sadly. The drought effects are really becoming noticeable now. It was the same with the sunflowers, though many individual flowers were still available to photo (or cut if we wanted to pay $1 per stem). The ground was indeed hard and dusty and the flowers were pretty droopy.

We were happy, though, because there were still areas which were beautiful in which to poke around and bask in the beauty.

Afterward we stopped and got a couple of tacos and yakked for about an hour, then did a very few errands, and headed home. It was relaxing and perfect! A nice day out which was followed by a nap, completing my assignments for two classes I'm taking, and then playing with photos!

Here are just a few of the 75 shots I took today.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Frugal cooking: Herring

Herring is a fish. An overlooked fish in the shadow of its more glamorous neighbor, salmon, or its more utilitarian chicken of the sea neighbor, tuna.

Tuna has gotten so gross and mercury laden I decided to look for a lower mercury laden fish and lo and behold, on the bottom shelf under the tuna are herring and anchovies and kippers (which are herring anyway). I decided to try a few and though some are unappetizing, the herring in hot sauce seemed to be a happy compromise price and taste wise. Now, how to use them?

I rinse my hot sauce-soaked herring in a strainer. This removes the sauce and hotness but leaves a little tang behind. It also gets rid of the saltiness that comes with many canned items. I mix it with cream cheese and either cukes or apple. Today it was apple. Season to taste. The canned fish I'd mentioned such as anchovies, herring, mackerel, and kippers are a good alternative to tuna and are cost effective, while offering some fiber and protein.

You can use the mixture as a dip with crackers but today I used it as a spread on lightly fried bread. The local store had marked down a loaf which expired the day I bought it, and since I didn't use the bread for another two days, sometimes frying or toasting stale bread is a good way to give it new life.

By the way, I always buy any red sticker item. If it's marked down, I buy it. On Friday I emerged with three heavy bags of groceries of all dairy, fruit, and vegetables, for $16. The bread I mentioned, (it can be toasted), the mushrooms will go into a quiche, the apples were fine, the oranges will be cut up and used to infuse water, the potatoes were fine, the bananas will be made into muffins, the tomatoes were fine except for one that was a bit soft so I cooked it for dinner, and so on. With only one exception the marked down produce I buy either at the local store or Kroger has been perfectly fine, especially if I eat it or cook it within a day. The sole exception was a cellophane box of kiwis that were actually brown skinned water balloons. Oh, well, they were only $1. Take a chance, people. We mark down or throw away more good food than many poverty-stricken people see in a lifetime.

Back to herring spread on bread. I put enough oil on the bottom of the pan just to coat the pan. I used olive oil this time but any oil will suffice, depending on your own taste preferences.

It won't take long and when one side is done I flip and wait until they are golden brown.

Oops, it seems my coil has a hot spot. That, or my pan wasn't centered, as one of the slices is a lot more brown than it should be! It will still be good. Spread the herring spread on the toast and even though there is apple in the mixture I added a couple slices on the top. The cool apple contrasted with the hot sauce still lurking in the herring, and it was good.

Not wanting to waste, since this is frugal cooking after all, I sliced the rest of my small apple and used it for garnish on the side. Not all that pretty, but functional. Perish the thought I'd be garnish-less.

A hot cup of Rooibos on the side and I was good to go. I had a healthy, protein laden lunch that used a frugally priced bread in a way that didn't cost a lot, didn't take long to prepare, and was pretty tasty.

Don't be afraid to try some of those weird canned fishes you see on the store shelves. They're reasonably priced so if you don't like them or can't eat them, you won't be wasting a bunch of money. If you do like them, then bonus, you've added a protein to the rotation of recipes and saved yourself from mercury madness to boot.

Seafood selector

Tinned fish recipes

Kippers are back in favor