I'm getting better at this...

I have been roasting chickens for... well, ages.  For at least 12 years, but I can't remember the first one I ever roasted.  What I do remember, though, is chicken after chicken after chicken, with moist, tender dark meat, and dry, tasteless white meat.  Even as a child, I preferred dark meat, and it hasn't changed.  But since it's more frugal, generally, to buy a whole chicken, I needed to figure out how to cook it better, but a way that is still easy and economical.  In other words, I don't truss, and I won't spread a half pound of butter on the breasts to keep them moist :)

Enter my enamelled cast iron pot.  It's a generic, cheap version, but it has very quickly become my favourite pot in the kitchen.  I first tried it for roasting a chicken a few weeks ago, and while good, the white meat was still a bit dry (note to self: that meat is still in the freezer.  Do something with it!).  So today, I tried something slightly different:  I started with the chicken breast side down, and I kept the lid on.  For one entire hour.  Then, I flipped the chicken, and cooked it at a higher temperature, just long enough to finish it off and brown the skin a bit.  
Before, seasoned with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning.

After.  Could be browned a bit more, but not bad!

The result?  Not bad at all!  The white meat is a LOT better, and while the skin isn't the crispy goodness I'm used too, that isn't a bad thing, since I'm not tempted to eat it all in one sitting :)

The best thing about this method is that the stock gets made right in the same pot.  Since I don't make gravy, I simply remove the meat I need (breasts, drumsticks, thighs and sometimes the wings), return the carcass to the pot, add an onion or two, some celery, some carrots, some peppercorns and a bay leaf or two, then cook until the carcass falls apart.  I strain out the solids (pick out any meat and discard the rest), and place the stock overnight in the fridge, skim off the fat the next day, then use half to make soup (with the meat from the carcass) and half goes into the freezer for other uses.  And all that bottom-of-the-pan goodness goes right into the stock.

And this is what makes a whole chicken an economical choice.  I will get at least 16 meals out of this one, small bird:
- 4 suppers of roast chicken
- 4 meals using reserved meat, generally the breast meat.  This can be chicken salad, quesadillas, or any other recipe that calls for cooked chicken
- at least 4 servings of soup
- at least 4 servings of another recipe that calls for stock

Even if I use all the stock for the soup, I get at least 12 serving of a meat-based meal, all for the cost of one chicken.   

No low fat cooking here!

So, time for another un-recipe.  I came down with the flu this week, and basically haven't eaten much of anything.  I woke up this morning feeling a lot better, and with an incredible craving for bacon and cheese.

Go figure.

Add to that, I've been meaning to try something like this for a while - a grated potato crust quiche thingy, that can be sliced and kept either in the fridge or freezer, and easily re-heated (or eaten cold, for that matter). I know breakfast is an important meal, but I am SO not a morning person, and am liable to grab the easiest thing around, like  a piece of pie, or even chocolate.  So, having a "healthy" option to grab in the mornings is a good thing.

I'm also tempted to try it as individual servings, using a muffin pan, but figured I'd go with cast iron for my first attempt.


1/2 a pound of bacon.  Yes, this is a lot, but this easily makes 6-8 servings.  Besides, it's bacon.
6 medium sized potatoes
1 medium sized onion
6 eggs
1 cup grated old cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 400F.
Chop the bacon into ~1" slices, and cook in a cast iron (or other heavy, not non-stick, oven-safe frying pan or skillet) until crispy-ish.  I don't like my bacon too crispy, so feel free to cook it to your taste instead of mine :)  Meanwhile, peel and grate the potatoes, and place into salted cold water to prevent browning.  Just before the bacon is done, drain the potatoes well, squeezing out excess water.  Grate the onions, and mix with the potatoes.  Remove the cooked bacon from the pan, and drain off the fat, keeping ~2 tablespoons in the pan.  Add the potato and onion mixture, spreading out into an even layer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes (note:  the potatoes were a bit chewy, so next time I will either use fewer, or bake for 5-10 minutes longer).  Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a measuring cup, and add water (or milk) to measure 2 cups final volume (note:  I only had 6 eggs, and you can easily use more, just bake for longer).  Remove the pan from the oven, and sprinkle the bacon in an even layer, followed by the cheese.  Pour the eggs over the top, return to the oven, and bake for 15 minutes, or until set.  Remove from oven, let cool for ~5 minutes, slice and serve.

The verdict:  It's good.  Not great, but good for a first attempt. I was trying to get a crispier crust, and it's flatter than I wanted, but fewer potatoes and more eggs should solve that.  The one thing that did surprise me was the cooking time.  35 minutes for what amounts to an omelette with fried potatoes is a bit much, but if it stores and re-heats well, spending 35 minutes to make a week's worth of breakfasts may be doable.  The one thing I like is that it is infinitely adaptable, according to how many potatoes, eggs, and extras you have on hand.  It's a "Clean out your fridge" recipe :)

Modifications:  I can easily see this in many different variations, depending on what is in the fridge.  Basically, whatever rocks your omelette world can be used in this recipe.  Sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese?  Sounds great!  Green peppers, mushrooms and ham?  Fantastic!  Got some greens, like spinach or Swiss chard?  Toss 'em in.  Caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese?  That sounds so good, it gives me the shivers :)  Served with a green salad, this could make a great brunch option, or even a light supper.


Dad's surgery went okay, and he's recovering well - after a few trips to the hospital to deal with some small issues.

The new tank-less water heater is hooked up, and running great!  While there is a noticeable delay in the time it takes for the hot water to get to the tap, I still think it will save money in the long run.

I got the re-assessment done today for the energy audit, and even though all the drywall isn't completed, the "air-tightness" of the house has improved by over 40%!!  WOW!

The old hot water tank should be removed by Friday, assuming nothing else goes wrong with the process (I'm currently at two phone calls and well over one hour spent on the phone to make this happen.  Seriously, Direct Energy customer service sucks).

I called the manufacturer of the taps, and explained I couldn't find the "cap" for the cold water tap.  It arrived on my doorstep, 3 days later, free of charge.  Danze, your customer service ROCKS!

Look, both caps!!  And they are even on the right taps!

The bathroom is put together finally, even though I still need to do some touch-up paint, and all the trim.  It's SO nice to have at least one room "done"!
As much as I love that cabinet from Ikea, the glass door is a little too transparent for me.  I'm thinking of lining it with some fabric, just so my soap and shampoo collection isn't on display ;)  Ooooh, I also need to replace the brown register cover with a white one!

I bought myself a "I'm tired of winter" treat:

From this artist, and it's even better in person!  Now I just have to figure out where it's going...

Katy found a new perch - she can look out over the side yard and garden from here.  I tell her she needs to start planning the garden...

And can someone, anyone please tell me WHY all the stuffed toys end up at the bottom of the stairs??

I am an Urban Homesteader

There is a brouhaha going on right now, about a certain company trademarking the terms "Urban Homestead" and "Urban Homesteading".

And the on-line community is rightly calling bullshit.

Now, let me be clear here:  I have no problem with a business protecting a trademarked name, logo, slogan, etc.  That is not what is happening here though.  The Dervaes are sending cease-and-desist letters to bloggers for daring to use those terms on their blogs.  Using a phrase in a blog post, or even in the name of a blog, especially when that blog is not commercial in nature, and pre-dates the Dervaes' trademark, is simply... well, words fail me, but it is causing a backlash that will affect the Dervaes for some time, I'm sure.

Posts for background reading:




A Facebook page was started to declare OUR ownership of those terms. 

WE, the gardeners, the chicken-keepers, the growers and harvesters, the planters, the seed-keepers, we will continue to do what we do, no matter who is trying to trademark our passion.

I am an urban homesteader.

Now, go ahead and sue me.  I double dog dare you ;)


Other blog posts along the same theme:











To the person searching for...

... 70s porn, my deepest apologies that you got this instead.


As an aside, the most common search term that brings people to this blog is some variation on "dead things found in old houses" or "things found in the attic", which makes this page the most viewed.  People are strange* :) 

*Hey!  I just blog about dead bodies in the attic and 70s porn, I don't actually go looking for them on the interwebs!!!

And now Kip is 4...

Four years ago today, Kip (and his seven brothers and sisters) was born.

Nine weeks later, he came home with me - after a four hour car ride, during which he whined.  The entire time.  Poor pup!

He grew up quickly.  Too quickly.

And he learned how to jump, and to go up and over and under.   And he even learned how to stop on the table, and not slide off the other side. 

And then we moved home, and he learned what squirrels were, and that a dog needs to be ever vigilant.

And to always look up.

He learned what a lake is, and how nice the beach is - even if he doesn't like water very much.

He is my clown, my goof, my funny funny funny dog.  He loves every one, every dog he meets, and has never had a bad day, a bad moment, a bad thought.

He is my boy, and he is four today.

[insert hysterical laughter here]

Dad came over again today, to work on the plumbing.

All we needed to do was to fix the backwards taps.

And it only took four hours...

And seriously, it was such a crappy time, I don't even want to blog about it.  We had the @*#*^ things apart, back together, apart, back together, apart...

But finally....

 LOOK!!!  OFF!!!!
AND ON!!!!!!!!!!!
 (Please imagine your friendly blogger laughing rather hysterically at this point of the day)

We also got the medicine cabinet hung - it's the FlÄren cabinet from Ikea:

I also have the large storage cabinet, which will eventually go next to the shower.  But someone has to paint the bead-board first.  Oh, yeah, that someone would be me.  Oh well, for now, it lives in the hallway.

And just because no post is complete without dogs:

Comfortable dog.

Uncomfortable dog.

Katy will sit in almost any position, especially if there is potential for belly rubs.  Kip, not so much :)

The Year of the Katy

One year.

365 days.

366 days ago, there was no Katy in the house. 

365 days ago, there was.

This was the first picture I saw of her:
(From Fred at One Bark at a Time, now at Pound Dogs)

And I figured someone would snap her right up.

Four weeks later, she was still at the shelter, so Kip and I made the drive to Toronto to get her and bring her home.

Since then, they've spent most of their time like this:
And this:
But by far, this is my favourite picture of them:
I think they like each other :)

She loves her "Grandpa":
Wants to help him with the renos:
And isn't shy about reminding him which dog he should pay attention to:

Katy has come so far in a year.

She has lost over 5 pounds. 

She is getting better coping with strangers, and her default is now to come sit by me if she is feeling stressed.  Good girl!

She knows how to sit, how to go "over" (jump over something) and how to go "hup" (jump up on something).  She sits to get her collar on and off, and for treats, even from strangers.

I can now brush her entire coat in one sitting.  And I can cut all her nails at the same time.  This, from the dog that would completely meltdown if I tried to cut two nails in the same session when I first got her.  She still doesn't like any sort of grooming, but she tolerates it, and that's all I ask from any dog. 

And best of all, she has learned to play.  She'll play with Kip, and even bring me toys once in a while.  My favourite is when she does a fly-by, and steals Kip's toy from him, and then the grand game of keep-away is on!  There is no greater satisfaction than seeing a dog that didn't know how to play, learning to.  And enjoying it :)

She is my girl, and she is a GOOD girl.

Happy Anniversary, Katydid!

Dead sexy

I groom both dogs myself, and do an okay job, if I do say so myself.  But, since it's winter and -eleventymillion degrees outside these days, I let them get a bit scruffy.

I realized today that Kip has the chest hair of a 70s porn star.
I do not.

Not that I've ever seen a 70s porn star, of course.

Or a porn star from any other decade either.

Dead sexy...
I'm ready for my close-up.... oops, wrong genre...

Sorry Katy, but you just look like Yoda.  A cute, furry little Yoda...

Hungry, I am.

Set Screwed

Thursday was pretty much my worst day EVER.  It actually started on Wednesday, the day of the blizzard-that-wasn't.  Although not as bad as predicted, it did leave us some snow, freezing rain, snow and some more freezing rain, followed by snow.  I had the day off work (yippee!), and, so as to make Thursday morning easier, went out to shovel the driveway and clear off the car after the snow stopped.  Of course, after I finished shovelling out the end of the driveway (always the worst part), the plow went by.  So I shovelled out the end of the driveway, again.  But, driveway was clear, car was chipped out of it's ice casing - all ready for Thursday morning.

We got more freezing rain overnight, so I had to chip out the car.  Again.  As I was doing that the plow went by.  Again.  So I had to shovel out the end of the driveway.  Again.  

And the car heater quit, taking the defrost with it.  I think they went to vacation somewhere warm.  Wimps.

I finally get ready to leave - and remember it's garbage day.  Go back inside, gather everything up, put it at the curb, get back in the car, and turn on the windshield wipers to clear off the bits left behind by the scraping.

Which is when the driver's side wiper flew off into the snowbank.

I seriously think I deserve a medal for not giving up, and crawling back into bed for the day.

You'd think, after a day like that, I'd know better than to do anything in the house, right?? 

I decided to install the towel bars and toilet paper holders in the bathroom - easy job, and one I've done before.  You have to screw a "bracket" into the wall first, then the visible part attaches to the bracket with a really small set screw.  The sets come with plastic anchors, and the instructions tell you which size hole to drill to install the anchors first.  

The instructions are wrong. 

I figure out what size drill I actually need, and install the hand towel ring with no further problems.  The bath towel bar is on the same wall, and I want them to be at the same height, so I measure to make sure, install the bar with no problems, and then realize I'm a 1/2" out.

No one will realize, right?  Well, except for me.  And anyone that reads this blog, then visits my house.  Or anyone that looks closely.  Or, actually, anyone who ever goes in that bathroom.

Still not getting the hint that I should stop while I'm behind ahead, I start on the toilet paper holder.  Which has a completely different bracket.  The other ones had a handy little "UP" on them, so you know which way to install them.  This one had no "UP", and instead of anchors, came with self-anchoring screws.  Phillips-head self-anchoring screws (I dare you to ask any Canadian about their thoughts on Phillips-head screws, and why the rest of the world hasn't decided to go with the MUCH superior Robertson.  Just make sure to stand back, as the rant may get a little loud).  

Now, all the other brackets were installed with the two screws side-by-side (as opposed to up-and-down), and since they are all from the same manufacturer, I installed this bracket in the same manner.  I then attached the main part, and, using the really small hex key, proceeded to turn the really small set screw.  And turned, and turned, and turned, and turned, and turned.  Until the really small set screw screwed it's way right through to the other side and fell on the floor.  Not getting the hint, I proceed to do THE EXACT SAME THING.  Oddly enough, with the EXACT SAME RESULT.  

Finally realizing the bracket is in the wrong position, I attempt to take out the Phillips-head self-anchoring screws.  That, because they are Phillips-head and cheaply made, are now stripped, and impossible to remove.  

FYI, a hammer does NOT help remove stripped screws, but a bit pf touch-up paint, and no one will realize you ever tried :)  

Dad, as per normal, came over on Friday and saved the day.

 I did manage to get the lampshades up without any further problems.  At least something went right :)

And just a few more pictures on the bathroom:

 Properly installed toilet paper holder.

I call this one "Towel bar, with schnauzer for size".
 "Mom, why are you standing in the shower fully clothed?"

"No toys, no food, I'm outta here"

And the shower.  Yes, the towel bar is across the room from the shower, but it really is the only logical place to put it, as there will be a cabinet (for storage) going on the wall beside the shower, and putting it on the same wall as the toilet paper holder would mean closing the shower door to get to the towel.  The room is small enough that this location works.

But next time?  I'm staying in bed.

4x4 potato soup

I have a confession to make:  I rarely follow recipes, especially for soup.  I just kinda make soup, and sometimes it turns out, and sometimes not :)

I did look for a recipe the first* time I made this soup, but don't bother to use it since, well, it's soup!  But this is generally how I make my potato soup - a quick, easy, filling and cheap meal and great for a warm lunch on a winter's day.

1/4 pound of bacon (or more, or less), chopped
onion, diced (about 1/2 a medium-sized onion, or more, or less)
1 large stalk of celery, diced
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups cubed potatoes
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
thyme, to taste (probably around 1/4 - 1/2 a teaspoon, I just shake from the jar)
pepper, to taste

In a heavy-bottom pot (not non-stick), cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crispy (but not too crispy, because I don't like too-crispy bacon).  Move the cooked bacon to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, and pour most of the fat into another container (discard or keep, as per your needs).  Add the onion and celery to the pot, and cook until soft, scraping up the bacony goodness from the bottom of the pot as you go along (this is why you shouldn't use non-stick - you loose all the bacony goodness from the bottom of the pot, and who wants that to happen??).  Add a bit of the stock, and scrape up whatever is still on the bottom of the pot.  By the way, I always use a wooden spoon for this.  Add the rest of the stock, the potatoes and the chili powder, thyme and pepper.  Cook (still over medium-low heat)  until the potatoes are soft.  Serve, sprinkled with the reserved bacon bits.  Makes 4 servings.

So, why 4x4?  well, it's 4 cups of stock, 4 cups of potatoes and makes 4 servings :)  It's easily scale-able, so if you have more people to feed (or are very hungry), toss in more both stock and potatoes, and some more bacon.  Have carrots?  Chop them up, and add along with the onions and celery (the classic mirepoix).

Thyme is my go-to herb, and along with celery, I find it adds a lot of flavour to almost any "liquid" dish.  The chipotle chili powder adds a touch of smokey heat, but not enough to even identify for most people.  Feel free to play around with the seasonings.  I don't add salt, since the bacon tends to be salty enough for my taste.


I love corn chowder, but I don't often cook with dairy, since I tend to freeze a lot of what I make, and dairy doesn't always freeze well.  So, this is my dairy-free version of corn chowder :)

Along with the potatoes and stock, add 1-2 cups of leftover or frozen corn (I tend to use what ever I have on hand, but make sure you reserve at least 1 cup to add later).  Cook until the potatoes are soft.  Using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor, blend the soup until smooth.  Add the rest of the corn, some finely diced jalapeno peppers, and heat through,  Again, serve sprinkled with the reserved bacon.  The potatoes thicken the soup nicely - at least for my tastes!

*after I saw the recipe, I realized I've made it for years, as the base for my corn chowder.  Duh.

I'm stronger than I thought...

... or as Dad put it, I'm not as smart as I thought ;)

Flour was on sale, so I went yesterday to pick up two for me, and one for Mom.  They came two wrapped together, so the stock guy (who amazingly found some in the back after I asked for a rain-check upon being told by the store manager that they were out... sigh) simply put a bundle of two in my cart plus one single.  I left the two in my cart through the checkout (paid for, of course!), and went to put everything in my trunk.

As I was trying to pick up the two-pack, from the bottom of the cart, and heave it into the trunk, I was regretting giving up my gym membership, since I was obviously much weaker than I thought - after all, lifting 20 pounds should be a relatively simple task, no?

Except when that 20 pounds is actually 20 KILOGRAMS.  Yeah, lugging 44 pounds of flour is a bit more challenging than 20 pounds!

So, I'm not as weak as I feared, and the flour was an even better deal!

But what the @*#& am I going to do with 44 pounds of flour?????


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