What do chicken stock, WWI spies and a place to hang your hat have in common? They’re all part of filling long winter days. But, hey, it’s officially spring on the calendar, so pour a cup of coffee or make a cup of tea and see what I’ve been up to lately.
Books to beat the cold
When we landed here in Ohio, I found two bookclubs! Rather than play favorites, I jumped into both. One is composed of residents in my over-55 community and the other is more well-established and draws its members from the senior community in New Albany. My husband thinks I may have bit off more than I can chew keeping up with two different book clubs, but both groups are reading such great material, it’s been worth the effort. And sometimes their interests collide:tast fall both clubs read Lessons in Chemistry, a bonus discussion for me.
Last week the New Albany group discussed The Lilac Girls. It’s been a book club favorite since its release a few years ago. I started it sometime back, then put it down. I’m so glad I had an incentive to get back to it. This is a powerful — sometimes gritty — true story of women spies in WWI. Sadly, it’s one of those chapters left out of most history books, but still so important to ur understanding of history. The books ahead are certainly promising: Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout in April and The Mosquito Bowl by Buzz Bissinger in May. My other book group will be discussing Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver at the end of the month. I read it and loved it, so I’m really looking forward to that too.
(If you’re new here or if you haven’t been a regular visitor, learn more about my recent reads here, here, and here.)
Making stock to fit the pot
If you have cooked any Ina Garten recipes, you know that if it calls for stock Ina always recommends homemade. Several years ago when I was trying to replicate a roasted squash soup, I decided to take Ina’s advice and make my own stock. It turns out that stock is pretty easy to make and really handy to have in the freezer. (By the way, I refer to it as stock because I use bones, but it may be just broth.)
I don’t have a huge stock pot; I use a multi-pot from Williams Sonoma and it holds eight quarts,. Frankly I’ve adapted the Barefoot Contessa recipe to fit my pot. I save and freeze the leftover bones or carcass from bone-in breasts or broasted chickens. (We eat a lot of chicken!) I just throw them into a plastic bag in the freezer until I’m ready to cook. To make the stock I start with the bones from the freezer, than add 3 or 4 carrots, halved with the ends trimmed, three or four stalks of celery trimmed the same way (the leafy heart of the celery is also a nice addition), then a parsnip with the ends trimmed like the carrots, a medium to large onion, unpeeled and halved, a head of unpeeled garlic cut crosswise, several sprigs each of fresh parsley, dill and thyme, and about a tablespoon of whole pepper corns and another tablespoon of kosher salt. (I try not to overdo the salt & pepper, since the broth will get seasoned again when it’s used in a recipe).
And that’s it, that’s what fits in my pot. If I don’t have enough bones I will add some uncooked chicken thighs, but then I discard the meat with the bones, because to me it’s really overcooked. Finally I add 4 to 6 quarts of water, really what my pot can hold, and bring it all to a boil before reducing it to simmer for a few hours. Wen it’s done, I take the pot off the heat and use tongs to transfer the solids to a colander set in a large bowl to drain. With the solids out of the way, I use a fine sieve to strain the broth into freezer containers.
This is so easy. It takes me about 10 minutes to assemble and after two hours of simmering another 20 minutes to strain and package for freezing. I feel totally virtuous when I have all this broth tucked away in the freezer. My daughter-in-law capitalized on that when she bought me these silicone “soup cubes.” Each cube holds a cup of stock, perfect for portioning smaller amounts for recipes. I freeze the stock in the silicone cubes, then pop the frozen stock cubes into a plastic bag to keep in the freezer.
Look what’s new at the Reset
One of my new neighbors asked one day if I was about “done ” here at the Reset. After all, we hung pictures, even painted a wall and installed all that trim. She doesn’t know me at all yet or she would know I never stop tweaking.
And, okay, it would be fine to stop there, but we haven’t. In fact, we recently finished two additional projects that we both thought added a lot to the house. First, this mudroom space inside the garage door was begging for some storage for hats and scarves, a place to put packages, and so much more. Plus, it’s open to the entry and the library. It needed a “look” instead of looking like an afterthought.
The solution: My husband added headboard against the wall and built a fairly simple bench and we love the result! This “built-in” was a builder option that was not added to our spec house. I know I could have ordered a piece of furniture to do the same thing, but this was pretty straightforward, and I’m sure it was much less expensive for the same look.
A custom closet has long been on my wish list (I think this is true for a lot of us), so when I realized we had received a substantial discount from The Container Store as part of a welcome packet from the builder, lights started going off in my head. Our master closet is pretty generous, but the interior was just a single shelf and clothes rod — a total of 19 feet — running around the closet perimeter. As my daughter said, “a lot of wasted space.”
So, we measured the space and talked to the closet designers at The Container Store, and in fact went back and forth with them a few times tweaking the plan. They were terrific.. We eventually landed on a really workable design, but then kind of sat on the plan. We were caught up in other, more pressing projects, and, frankly, even with the coupon it was still pricey. Then came an even better sale. So, yes, we did it, installing it ourselves. Here’s a quick look at how that turned out. We love it! Our clothes are neatly stored, the floor is clear (my goal!) and we have storage space to to spare! I’ll share more details on this in a later post too, since we learned a few important points in doing this.
Thanks for reading to the end of this meandering post. Waiting for spring to finally arrive is always a challenge for me. I’m always pushing the calendar. How about you? I’d love to hear how you are waiting on spring.
Thank you so much for stopping by. See you again soon!