Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A family catch phrase and cheap chicken!

I love stumbling upon writing inspirations.  Even a little thing like a comment from someone I've never met on a blog I've only recently started stalking  following, can be the catalyst for inspiration.

When my brothers and I were younger, we were not the wealthiest family on the block, not even close.  We weren't poor per say, but we weren't given everything we wanted whenever we wanted. Instead of Atari (yes, I'm THAT old) we got the off brand for Christmas, though it did come with some games I think we actually had the Donkey Kong or maybe it was called Donkey King, but at that age I had NO idea what the real one looked like. My brothers and I couldn't wait to be older and have jobs, so we could buy the things we really wanted.

I was about 5 or 6 years old when my older brother, D, was in the Phoenix Boys Choir.  It was quite the coveted position apparently, especially the mustard colored jacket. Oh that thing was ugly with a capital UG, but it was important to my brother.  Other than the exorbitant fees for the privilege of being in the PBC, the Choir would also go on a world-wide tour during the summer.  Again, I was pretty young at the time and don't remember how much it cost my parents, nor exactly how long the tour lasted, but I do remember the yard sales to pay for it and where in lies the family catch phrase: De-rust it, paint it and sell it!

A little back story, my dad was a "collector," ok, reality, now would be termed as a hoarder.  It started in the garage, moved to the family room - turned dad's "office", later to the back yard, and further down the line to the rental property (old family farm land, sold off during the years to the present size of 2 1/2 acres).  As a kid, it wasn't that noticeable, my mom kept it contained to only certain areas of the house, thankfully the rest of the house was normal and clean.  As a teenager, when  it finally started spreading to the backyard, it was embarrassing. I rarely had people over with the only exceptions being close friends, egad, the idea of a party was mortifying!!!

At the time of said yard sales, the hoarding was still relegated to the garage and his office.  All of us in the family contributed, we cleaned out our rooms and closets, my dad found all sorts of things to sell.  He was always the salesman, as long as I can remember he was always selling something, farm tools, insurance, vacuums and later on specialty car parts.  The yard sales were right up his alley.  After a few yard sales, we were still short on the money needed for my brother's trip.  We were running out of things to sell and time. So in comes the family catch phrase: de-rust it, paint it and sell it! My poor brothers spent many a weekend and week night fixing things up to sell, even after the trip was paid for and even if we weren't actually selling anything. Not surprisingly, today its the family joke, heck, my husband uses the phrase although my dad died a year before we met.  Getting rid of all of my dad's "collection" after he died is a whole other story!

Of all the things I've learned from my parents I think frugality has been the most useful, especially in today's economy and back I was really broke, after I had my eldest daughter, when I was feeding myself, her dad and Lauren on $25 a week!  When grocery shopping, I look for the best deals for the limited amount of money I have to spend. Whole chickens are our friends, especially when they are on sale!!! I've never been really good at roasting chickens.  I'm always fearful of under cooking them, so they have turned out dry, but thoroughly cooked.  Instead, following my mother's example, I would usually boil them.  My hubby isn't a fan, but hey, you get two things for the price of one; cooked chicken to use in a variety of dishes and chicken stock, bonus!!! Yes I know, in order to get a really good stock, one should boil the heck out of the chicken and the bones. then the chicken is pretty worthless at that point, but if you take the chicken out, de-bone it, then add the bones back in to the stock, you'll get a beautiful stock and some pretty tasty chicken to boot! Yeah there have been plenty of times where I missed that all important step of removing the chicken meat, but it was thoroughly cooked! =)

We received an older rotisserie from my mom a while back, yes one of those Ron Popeil Rotisseries.  Its pretty cool, we haven't done a whole lot in it, because its tucked away in the cabinet, so I tend to forget about it and its a monster! We have limited space on our counter top as it is, that thing takes up a lot of space! A couple of  weeks ago I pulled out a whole chicken out of the deep freeze, apparently we've been collecting them.  I've been picking up at least one or two, if they are one sale. Since the deep freeze is in another building on the property I forget to look to see what we have before I buy more.  Needless to say, we aren't going to starve anytime soon as long as we have electricity! After about three days of thawing, it was finally ready for the rotisserie.  Didn't do a darn thing to the chicken, beyond taking out the innards and rinsing it off. Stuck it on the pointy things (not a clue what those are called), slid it into the rotisserie and cranked it up.  A half hour to 45 minutes later (didn't keep track), perfection! At this particular meal, I was only feeding hubby, myself and Miss J. My step kids were at their mom's.  We were able to eat off that chicken for several meals.

I actually braved baking a chicken the other day and shockingly (to me) it turned out pretty well. Again, I didn't do much to it:  salt,  pepper, a little lemon pepper, dried rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder and 3 or 4 tablespoons of olive oil, inside the cavity and out.  Plopped it into a casserole dish that it barely fit in, breast up, 350* F for about 45 minutes. A meat thermometer is a beautiful thing! 175* - 8* in the thickest part of the thigh (try not to hit the bone) and the juices run clear. Take it out of the oven, let rest for 10 minutes (for the juices to redistribute and it continues cooking - it really does make a difference). Cut up and serve.  If you don't know how to cut up a chicken, there are some wonderful tutorials online.

Up Next: What to do with the left over chicken!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Makin' changes...

I've determined my blog is a little on the boring side...needs some might be a good idea, hell, even a new format, ack perhaps a few more tabs!!! So while I muddle my way through this, please bare with me.  Hubby is out of town (he's my technical genius) and I have NO idea what I am doing. Seriously - NO idea....

Apparently, the writing bug has bitten and my fresh brewed iced tea

Iced Tea conjures different visions not only in the States, but around the world. No, not the rapper, he's cool and all....

 (get Tea/T...yeah?  *crickets*   sigh, my hubby is the one full of puny goodness; me, not so much)

I'm sure most countries who have been touched historically by the English Empire or further in history with the various Asian empires, have tea as part of their cultural heritage; the variants abound. Whether it is methods, breeds of tea or even if the tea leaf is even utilized, the same occurs in the States.  Throw in the question of temperature served, hot or cold, the possibilities are endless.  Southern Sweet Tea has become a very popular drink as of late, my personal preferences move toward my drink of choice not rotting out my teeth at the first sip, but that's me.  I also don't drink soda, so that should tell ya, yes I am that kind of person. I do however drink iced tea, and a whole lot of it. No kidding, a lot! Anywhere from a gallon to two a day and have been for a very long time.  My dad would get so upset with us (specifically me) for drinking all of "his" ice tea. At the time, I would scoff at it being "his," but now I get it...I rarely share "my" tea!

As a result, I am wickedly picky about my tea, ok... yes.... I know, its more like anal retentive. It can't be too sugary or not sugary enough and it MUST be brewed on the stove. There is a method of sun brewing tea, especially here in Arizona, otherwise known as Arizona Tea (not to be confused with the bottled tea company).  A couple of tea bags, usually a black/orange pekoe, a gallon size bottle/jug with a lid, fill the bottle with water, put in the tea bags in the water, seal the bottle with the lid and set out side in the sun for a few hours.  For some, this is the best kind of tea, personally I think it tastes sour and no amount of sugar or ice can mask it.   If we go out to eat or stopping by a fast food place for a drink, I normally order the tea, shocking, I know. This is where my home version differs from restaurant. I never order the sweetened tea, because its usually way to sweet and even then I rarely add sugar to it and no lemon!  Usually after the first sip I can tell if the tea has been sitting around for a while, if its actually fresh brewed or from concentrate, or if its been a while since the restaurant has cleaned the container.  Thankfully the popularity of iced tea has grown over the years in the southwest and its pretty rare that I get a bad glass of tea.

If my "picky-ness" over tea hasn't convinced you I love iced tea, maybe this will: one of my most treasured childhood taste memories and one I can relive almost everyday during the hot Arizona summer months is the taste of still warm sweetened tea mixing with the melting ice after a long day at the public pool. It is the most wonderful taste sensation and would immediately calm my tummy down from all of the inadvertent swallowing of chlorinated water.

Iced Tea

  • 2 family size tea bags or 4 individual tea bags (black/ orange pekoe)
  • water 
  • approx 140 grams of sugar, adjust to your own taste, this is just under a cup of sugar, but a little more than 3/4 cup.  
  • 3 quart sauce pot
  • gallon size pitcher
Fill sauce pot full of water, drop ice tea bags in the water.  If they have the strings, either wrap them around the handle or cut them off. If there is a little metal clip, don't take it off, it won't hurt anything and it may cause the loose tea to come out of the bag.  If you have wrapped the strings around the handle, use caution as the paper might catch on fire from the heat of the stove - yeah I've done that a few hundred times :).  Set the pot of water and tea bags of the stove and turn the heat up to high.  When the tea comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let the tea bags steep in the hot water for about 15 minutes.  While you are waiting for the tea to steep and cool down.  Put the sugar into the pitcher.  I normally use plastic, if you use glass I would wait for the hot tea to cool down a bit more.  After the tea has steeped and cooled some, take the tea bags out of the water - I usually carefully squeeze the tea bags to extract all of the lovely goodness from the bags - either use the tea bags in compost or throw away.  CAREFULLY pour the hot tea into the pitcher and stir to dissolve the sugar. Then fill the pot with cool water and fill the pitcher to make a gallon.  Stir again to distribute the sugar, cover and cool.

This is where I will fill a large cup of ice and pour the warm tea over the ice, listen for the musical crackling and popping of the ice and drink down the magically warm and cold liquid that has not yet completely mixed.  In one sip you have both warm tea and cold melting ice, its so very lovely!!!!