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Apple pie bourbon

If you love bourbon and you love spiked apple cider, this is the recipe for you. Ingredients: 3 small Granny Smith apples, cored and sliced 2 sticks of cinnamon 1 tsp whole cloves 1/2 tsp whole allspice 1 vanilla bean, split (next time, I will […]

Getting your grocery budget set and organized

As I posted a little while ago, one of my 2018 goals is to start digging myself out of the financial hole I’ve created over the past few months. One of the ways I am going to do this is to create a firm grocery […]

2018 goals

I’ve been a stress/anxiety/mild depression fueled monster lately. I’m trying to dig myself out of the very deep hole I’ve put myself in. I’ve been stress eating, stress spending, blowing off a lot of responsibilities, and now it’s all coming back to kick me in the ass. I’ve been thinking about how miserable I am and what I can do to change it, and this is just a list of things that are pretty natural solutions to me. Well, no one particular item is a solution, but once they all Voltron together, I will be unstoppable.

1. Clean my house and keep it clean. Thanks to how stressful and busy my job is from Thanksgiving to Christmas, my house has turned into a complete shitshow. Like most people, I prefer to concentrate on getting my house top to bottom clean and then maintain it from there.
2. Get in control of my finances. Some things that will be changed are the following: cutting out beer for the time being (at $10-$14 a six pack, that quickly eats into my spending money every week), cutting way back on my grocery budget every week (by looking at bank and credit card statements, I estimate that I have been spending around $60 a week on groceries), using coupons/rebate apps more often (at one time, I bought nothing unless it was on sale/I had a coupon/there was an Ibotta rebate [preferably all three]), stop paying for things I’m not really using, and become more discerning about how I spend my money (I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff, especially clothing, in the past year).
3. In line with both of the above items: declutter like it’s going out of style. I’m starting to feel choked by stuff, and I hate it. My personal goal is to make at least one donation trip per month to my local thrift store. I’m also toying with listing items on both Poshmark and Etsy to help with this, as well as items #2 and #4 which is…..
4. ….to make a concrete plan to move across the country. Philly is slowly killing me every day. We’re an angry, unhappy people, probably because we’ve got high unemployment and high poverty rates here.
5. Stop stress eating and get more active. I need to find healthier ways to deal with my stress than shoveling as much as junk food as I can down my throat.
6. Find a second job (or replace my current full time job). Not only do I need way more money coming in, but I’ve stared at my resume for hours and know that I need to better develop my skillset if I want to move to Denver and not be trapped in customer service. It’s a rough career path. You often get treated like crap (either by coworkers/bosses or by customers or YES), it’s stressful, it’s low paying for a heavy workload, and even managers often wind up spending 10+ hours on their feet. I come home from work and my body is killing me. I don’t have the energy to do anything after work, and both my social and love lives have been dead for several years.
7. Embrace positivity. Ugh. I feel so corny saying this, but I do need to change my mindset. Too often, I’m a ball of complaints. I look at my Facebook account, and I see sad sack status after sad sack status. I think about my conversations at work, and realize it’s about 80% complaints or gossiping. My conversations with my roommate are typically some variation of complaints, self-loathing, or discussions about cats. I can feel it wearing on me.

When I did my own personal reflecting about 2017, I was happy that I really found some insight on some situations that had been bothering me. A breakup from 2011 had always been nagging at me, because it took me way longer to get over that ex than I thought it would. Once I really started to devote some time thinking about it and working through a lot of the things that bugged me about the relationship and how it ended, I no longer feel that punch in the gut if I’m reminded of his presence. It occurred to me that I felt really duped in the relationship and with things he told me while we were living together, and while those feelings were valid, it was well past the point of addressing them, accepting them, and moving on. I finally made my peace. It took so long because I mourned and then tried to just shove it all down (which I rationally knew would never work, but you know, I told myself I was fine). I took glee in finding out that his life was going worse than mine, which is always a good sign that I’m not over it. Now, I truly couldn’t care less about what’s going on with him. If he has a great life, good for him. If he has a crappy life, well, he’s got plenty of people to give him emotional support and advice.

I also never fully mourned and got over the demise of my friendship with my former best friend. While I do admit to occasionally worrying about him, I’ve finally accepted that I can’t do anything to help him. I know that I can’t maintain any sort of contact with him unless he gets into recovery, which includes making amends to me. I also know that he will probably never do that and I know that will be resentful and angry if he contacts me without even attempting to make things right. My choices are limited to either hold onto the anger I have had towards him due to poor decisions he made while drinking and using drugs or accept it and move on. I am forcing myself to do the latter, because I’m getting too old to waste my time and energy on the situation. Maybe things would be different if I had any interest in rekindling a friendship with him, but I know that I’ve been burned by him too many times. I would accept a sincere apology from him, but that would be it. The most emotional attachment I can have is hoping he’s doing well and nothing more.

Another really good thing that happened this year is I got the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends from LiveJournal. I don’t have much of a social life anymore, and just being able to reach out to people who I agree with on a lot of things and who reassure me when I feel like everything is in my life is garbage has meant so much to me. I used to be a wide open book with people because I figured that if people were going to gossip about me and try to use personal things against me, I’d take the power away from them and just air all my dirty laundry myself. I’ve learned the error in those ways, but now I’ve gone back to the other, totally locked down extreme. It’s nice to have people who you enjoy your outrage and macabre humor (and vice versa).

In one year, I’m hoping that I can look back on this blog post and laugh at how cautiously optimistic I was because my life is in such an amazing place. I have no delusions that I will change everything in my life in 2018, but I feel like these goals — or resolutions, if you must! — are basically a personal rube goldberg machine. I look at how intertwined they are and how, if I make minimal changes and do very little work, I can set myself up for an amazing life.

Now let’s see if I burn out on all this by February 3rd!

Merry Christmas to me?

This year has been a doozy. I feel like I’ve been saying things like that for the past four or five years. Most of the time, I honestly feel trapped. The main culprit is my job. Well, not just my specific job (as in, why […]

Leftover prime rib ragu

Every year, my dad makes a gigantic prime rib for our family Christmas party. Because it’s so huge and my mom doesn’t like leftovers, I wind up taking some home with me. I always repurpose my prime rib, because let’s be real: I’m never going […]

Making turkey (or chicken) stock

I love making my own chicken (or, in this case, turkey) stock.

1. It’s so freakin’ easy. If you have your ingredients, a stock pot, water, and a chilly day, you have everything you need.
2. It’s so easily customizable. Play around with flavor profiles to come up with your own personalized stock recipe.
3. Homemade stock is so much better than store bought. Don’t get me wrong, store bought stock has the advantage of convenience, but it doesn’t taste like much of anything.
4. It’s just foolish to not get every penny you can out of every grocery trip.

To get started with stock, you need a few major components: a carcass (including giblets and any excess skin you may have trimmed off the raw bird’s cavity), vegetables/fresh herbs, spices, and water.

Carcass: I typically use a chicken or turkey that I have roasted (or grilled) myself. Right away, I set up a gallon freezer bag. Then, I remove the giblets from both the cavity of the bird and the packaging (they’re usually in a plastic or paper bag within the cavity), and toss it all into the freezer bag. If I am spatchcocking the bird, I toss the backbone in as well. If there is any extra skin around the cavity, I’ll often trim it off and — you guessed it — toss it into the bag, as well. When I grill a whole chicken, I typically trim off the wingtips and throw them in as well. After the cooked bird has been picked over, I can usually get that right into the bag. If it’s a little too big, it’s barely any effort to cut the carcass up a bit to make it fit.

On the rare occasion that I am using a rotisserie chicken, I typically wait until I have some extra bones to throw in. Sometimes, the price on bone-in chicken thighs or breasts are too good to pass up, so I’ll buy them and (badly) butcher them when I just want boneless thighs or breasts. I toss the bones in a bag and have something to add a little extra to a future stock.

I read online that turkey liver will make your stock bitter; despite the fact that I typically throw all of the giblets (as well as any extraneous chicken skin from the cavity) into my chicken stock, it scared me off. Hey, I almost never make turkey. I didn’t want to screw up my turkey noodle soup! I fried them in a little butter, minced them finely, and gave them to my and my roommates’ cats. (Most of them gave me sad eyes when they received that on Thanksgiving night instead of the finest of ground up animal bits. Yeah, kitties, you’re so terribly abused.)

Vegetables and fresh herbs: Throughout the year, I will keep a freezer bag in my chest freezer to keep all my vegetable trimmings. Everything you put in there should be clean and not spoiled. I stick to carrots (and their peels/ends), onions (and by that, I include scallions that are still good but have seen better days, leek tops, onion skins, etc.), garlic, mushroom stems (don’t knock it, it makes everything more delicious), and celery (including the leaves). When I have parmesan rinds, I toss them in as well. I have successfully tossed in lemons and oranges; when I have already grilled them or used them under the skin, I’ll add them in as well. As far as fresh herbs go, I usually just stick to parsley and thyme.

You might see some lists titled “never ever put [X] in the freezer!” And yes, celery is typically on there. But here’s the deal…it’s on there as a warning that thawed celery will not retain the crunchy and fresh properties it has when it’s fresh. We don’t care about that if we’re going to simmer everything down! So, if you’re like me, and often buy celery with the best of intentions but never use it before it starts looking sad, trim it and toss it into your freezer scrap bags.

Spices: I like to stick with a mix of whole allspice, whole cloves, whole peppercorns, bay leaves, whole star anise, and salt (unless I’ve brined the bird..I can always add some later if it tastes undersalted).

So, with all that talking done… Here we go.

Ingredients (these are very loose directions):
1 turkey (or chicken) carcass and giblets (excluding the liver)
Roughly 1 whole onion (skin and all), cut in half
Roughly 3 medium carrots (skin and all), roughly broken up (use your hands!)
Roughly 3-4 ribs of celery, roughly broken up
6-10 mushroom stems
(If using a scrap bag, just eyeball it!)
Half a bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, stems and all
Half a bunch of fresh thyme, stems and all
About 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, whole
4-6 pieces of whole allspice
6-10 whole cloves (I love cloves in my poultry stock!)
2 pieces of star anise
2 bay leaves
1-2 tablespoons of Kosher salt (note — I will not be using salt in my stock because I brined my turkey and I don’t want to risk oversalting it)

1. Take out your big stock pot (mine is 2 gallons, but if I had a 4 or 6 gallon stock pot, I’d use that and load it up) and throw everything in.

2. Cover everything with water. Since my stock stuff is usually frozen, I don’t worry too much if it crests the surface. Once it’s thawed, it will all settle down.

3. Bring pot to a boil and cut the heat way down. Let it simmer for hours. (Literally, my stock usually simmers for about 6 hours or so.) If the water level starts getting low, add more water.

4. Once the stock has simmered for hours, kill the heat and carefully strain everything out. Once I’ve fished out as much of the big bones and vegetable pieces as I can see, I then carefully ladle it into a cheesecloth lined fine mesh strained so I can get super clear broth. Pack it into your favorite storage containers, allow to cool, then either put it in your fridge or freeze it! (Keep in mind that you can’t pack your stock up to the very top because water expands when frozen. I usually leave about .5″-1″ head room in my containers when I freeze them.)

I’ve left chicken stock in my chest freezer for 6 months or so with no ill effects whatsoever. I like to use chicken stock for pretty much anything! This time of year, I like making noodle soups with fresh Udon noodles, bok choy, thinly sliced shiitakes, and shredded carrots from my local Asian market. When I’m planning on doing that, I’ll also add a nice sized chunk of ginger and some dried chiles to my stock.

Once my turkey stock is completed, I’ll add some veggies (I usually go with something like the Trader Joe’s Organic Foursome), leftover turkey, a little fresh parsley, and egg noodles.

I’m not a fan of cooking my egg noodles in the soup or even packing the egg noodles in the soup. I usually cook what I need for a couple days, and then ladle the hot soup over the noodles. I just think that egg noodles suck up all the broth too easily, leaving you with overcooked, mushy noodles. Nobody wants that! I will add grains like farro, barely, or even rice directly to my soup because the softer texture doesn’t bug me as much.

There you have it! I typically get about a gallon of stock out of this (very loose) recipe, which holds me for a little while with soups, stuffings, risottos, grains, and deglazing. It might seem like a lot of time and effort, but it’s 100% worth it.

Turkey pot pie (repurposing Thanksgiving leftovers)

This is a recipe for remaking Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s very flexible, just put whatever you want in it! If you hate mushrooms, put corn in. If you really love mushrooms, double them and cut back on some of your other version. If you think it […]