In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Most of my readers are foot fetishists.

I'm pretty certain. I'm pleased -- whatever gets you here, and hopefully you are interested enough to stay and learn how to make stock or not get fired or whatever. But week after week, my stats tell me that my most read post is  How To Walk Around In High Heels All Day and you got here by doing a google image search of high heels.

There was a time when my second top search was "Nate Berkus Bare Feet"... This one's for you! Thanks for reading! Happy new year!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

3 Practical New Years Resolutions I'm Finding Easy to Keep (to varying degrees)

Inspired a little by Martha, a little by Bon Appetit magazine, and a lot by Joel Salatin, my favorite farmer who preaches long and strong about capturing fertility instead of throwing it out (I speak here of kitchen scraps, that can be chicken food, or compost, or or or): I have begun


Rachel Ray can have her garbage bowl. I for one am throwing all my veggie scraps from meals I make at home into a plastic bag with a sliding zipper thing (it closes securely) and stashing them in the freezer. Onion tops, bits of garlic, carrot stems, herbs from a package unused and drying out. When I have a bag full, I put them in a stock pot with water, throw in a few extra whatevers I've got threatening to go bad in the crisper, and I boil. In a few hours: 2 quarts free veggie stock. I am doing the same with chicken bits -- wings, trimmings whatever. Say hello to my little friend: 

The beautiful thing about those zipper enclosures is you can keep adding to the bag. And then reuse the bag for your next stock, yay. You can do this while you are at work if you have a slow cooker.

No waste, no guilt for not composting (I don't have the space in my yard but I have a very active contingent of possums and raccoons who would LOVE me if I tried) but delicious free stock. Then you do like the chefs say: freeze it in another freezer bag flat, then "file it" in the freezer. 
This sounds very straight forward. It's not. The bags freeze to other things in the freezer and they get a little misshapen, but still so worth it when risotto time comes around. It always comes around. 

Speaking of did I tell you my butternut squash risotto technique that has everyone just passing out from how good it is? The secret: roast and puree your squash flesh, then make risotto as you would normally (hot stock, wine, arborio rice, probably some sauteed shallots to start). At the last minute, stir in the puree and a little bit of heavy cream. Lots of Parmesan (freshly grated, please, not that crap in a box). On top, garnish with fried sage leaves (heat some olive oil, toss in the leaves, when they get crispy -- one or two minutes -- fish them out , park them on a napkin or paper bag, and salt them with coarse sea salt. Put the rest of the sage in the freezer bag with your butternut squash trimmings. Be sure your risotto is swishy rather than gummy. I think people think it should be thick enough to stand a spoon in, but it shouldn't. It should swish about like a little minx after your man.

Risotto brings us to
RESOLUTION 2: Buy Only Whole Chickens. 

I think you are probably aware of my problem with industrialized chickens. Tortured in life, killed cruelly, they taste terrible and are basically heartbreak on a drumstick. I like my chickens happy, fat, pecking about in green fields, able to stretch their wings, then blammo. Quick dignified death at the hands of the folks who raised em, and to my plate or freezer the next day.

I get squeamish in grocery stores around the bloated white chicken carcasses that are sold for $1.79 a pound -- life should cost more than that. I want my chickens a little skinny and yellow (from eating lots of grass and bugs). And I want them whole. Whole means stock. It means ethically sourced wings (don't get me started about the massacres that happen to bring you a plate of hot wings. Lord). It means chicken thighs for a stew, chicken breasts for a saute, and fried drumsticks because yum. And then of coruse all that stock. And then  you use that in the risotto. Perfect circle. 

RESOLUTION 3: This has only tangentially to do with food but still. It makes cooking easier. 

Clean out and organize your pantry. I did mine color coded so it's like I'm shopping in Williams-Sonoma when I go to set the table. Mason jars for dry goods to keep the icky moths out. I also organized the fridge and tonight I am doing the freezer. The trick: break it up into small bits and commit just an hour (or 15 minutes, or whatever) to it. It work and makes life nice. I find myself opening the fridge and pantry simply to admire them.