Serious Yum (or, Why Duck Fat Should Rival Gold in Price Per Pound)

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Hello Bloggy friends,

 

I’m going to show you how to cook a duck. ¬†But more importantly, I’m going to share why you should cook a duck. ūüėÄ

 

Ready for the serious, honest to goodness reason you should cook duck?  Despite it being fiddly, and apart from it being actually quite delicious?

 

(drumroll please… )

 

Duck fat.

 

Yes! ¬†Duck fat. ¬†Forget about nasty connotations the word “fat” has in health circles: ¬†if this stuff clogs your arteries, it’s worth it. ūüėõ

 

Here we go:

 

 

Buy a duck. ¬†This one came with all the innards removed (which may ¬†disappoint if you hanker after duck liver p√Ęt√©, but .. I don’t.)

 

Rinse under water and pat dry with paper towel. So far it’s pretty simple, and just like cooking chicken. ¬†But wait – it gets fiddly about now.

 

 

Tie the legs as you would with any large fowl, and tuck the wings under in that pretending to be a policeman apprehending a baddie style. ¬†You know the sort of fold I mean? ¬†You swivel the wings and tuck them under the bird so they don’t burn. ¬†Pop your duck on a rack.

Then take a sharp knife, and carefully, OH so carefully, score the skin and fat of the duck in a diamond pattern. ¬†The “careful” bit is all about not cutting through to the meat. ¬†You don’t want a dry, old duck, and if you puncture the meat, that’s what will happen. ¬†Yet, you do want to give the duck fat every opportunity to run out, and the skin to crisp. ¬†So slice as deeply as you dare, but desist before striking the flesh.

Here’s a little more of the fiddly: the duck needs to cook for longer than a chicken to allow it time to drain away almost all the fat. ¬†What’s more, you have to flip that bird every thirty minutes, and poke and prod it at each turn. ¬†Most of the recipes I looked at state that ducks take up to three hours in the oven. ¬†I imagine there wouldn’t have been much of mine left to speak of if I’d done that, and it took closer to 1 hour 45 mins in total cooking time, though with the fiddling with flipping and such, the procedure took close to three and a half hours from start to finish.

 

Here’s a pic at the first flip. ¬†Take a pointy knife, or a sharp toothpick, and prick the skin between your scoring. ¬†This allows the release of even more of the duck fat. ¬†Then flip the bird over, and put her back in the oven.

If roasting in a shallow dish, you may want to collect the fat at each flip, so reducing the risk of a spill (and a burn!) by trying to collect it all at the end from a loaded dish.

Here’s the second flip stage – not. looking. so. yummy. ¬†But it gets prettier. ūüėČ

Again, prod that bird. Collect the fat.

 

At this stage, if you want to glaze your duck, gather:

1/4 cup honey
1/4 molasses
3 Tbls. orange juice
1 Tbls. soy sauce

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer.  Stir continuously until it becomes thick and syrupy.  You know this promises something good.

When your duck is pretty much cooked and no more fat is falling, drain all the fat from the pan and reserve.  Brush with glaze.

You’re almost there. ¬†Pop her back in the oven for just 15 mins, then it’s rest for 15 mins (for both of you!), then… carve! ¬†Seriously, by the time you’ve finished botherating with that duck, you will barely be interested in eating it. It’s good, yes, it does taste fine, but I doubt not that it is more fun for everyone else to eat, because after all that fussing, I’m cross at the duck.

 

Forgiveness, however, comes in the form of .. duck fat. ¬†ūüėÄ

 

Pre-heat your pan for roast veggies.  Toss in some duck fat, and it smells glorious from the moment it makes contact.  Want to see?

 

It’s not just that they are golden and crunchy. ¬†It’s not just the soft creamy centres. ¬†It’s the flavour. ¬†Schmack! ¬†I forgive the duck! ¬†The potatoes are worth the duck.

And that’s it, bloggy friends. ¬†How to blow hours of your precious reading time cooking, to get glorious potatoes. ¬†Or of course you can purchase a tub of duck fat from IGA. ¬†(But where’s the adventure in that? ¬†ūüėČ ¬†)

 

 

 

 

 

Eat Your Greens (and Ice-cream)

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Hello bloggy friends,

I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen. ¬†Want to see? ūüėÄ

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Dip is an easy way to eat a lot of raw  vegetables.  And while creamy dips have their place, I prefer mine fresh and clean tasting.
So… here it is:

Baby Spinach and Cashew dip.

 

Wash and dry 180 grams of baby spinach (that convenient amount is the weight of a bag of baby spinach you can purchase in the fresh produce section, pre-packed.)
I grabbed a tiny handful of new basil leaves from the pot by the back door – but if you don’t have any, don’t fret.
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup roasted cashews
one clove of garlic

Drop it all on a large cutting board, and chop.
When it’s fine enough to cling together, scrape it into a bowl, add the juice of half a lemon,
and enough olive oil to make a moist dip consistency.
Salt and pepper to taste, and … pop that dip in the fridge, put the oven on, and hunt out the wraps/flat bread that have sat, ignored, in the cupboard for (shhh…. ) far too long.
Line a large tray with baking paper.

Place the wrap on the tray, brush or spray with olive oil (or coconut, or palm fruit, or whatever takes your fancy), grind a little salt over, slice into good, dipping sized pieces, and bake until brown and crisp. ¬†A few carrot straws, some slices of cucumber, ¬†crunchy flat bread thingos, and homemade spinach dip… it’s yummy stuff, folks.

And for afters? ¬†(Because, you need afters, after a …snack? ¬†Yes, sometimes you do ūüėõ )

Ice Cream

This is so easy to make, and is highly customisable (I’m sure that’s a word).

 

My Mama makes it with crushed maltesers, or (my favourite) crushed violet crumble mixed through, as a slice, and gives it a base and lid of malt biscuits.  Our farmer friend recently used the same recipe with frozen, whipped bananas Рvery nice!  So I had to try it.  Ready for this deeply complex recipe?  Here we go:

Whip 600 mls of cream

Fold in 1 tin sweetened condensed milk

Add your favourite fruit/chocolate/nuts

Spread into a dish, and freeze.

Too easy!! ¬†ūüėÄ

I chose to go with the whipped banana and blueberries, with blueberries to garnish, but the options are endless; honey and macadamias, smashed up (your fav choc bar here), mango, plain vanilla… ¬†I’m not such a sweet tooth, so I added another 200mls of whipped cream to the same amount of condensed milk. ¬†It’s a quick, fun thing to make with the little people of the house, and although it is not as fluffy as regular ice-cream, it was well received here.

 

Lastly, and this has nothing to do with food, but I just want to show you… aren’t these pretty?

 

 

Children’s Present Ideas – Free or Frugal

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Today I received a lovely email from a lady who plans to use my¬†Kool-Aid play dough recipe to make gifts for her children. Christmas can be a tough time of year financially if you are providing for a family. ¬†Whether it’s frugal gifts ideas, or things to keep the children occupied with over the holiday period, I hope you find something useful here.
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Here’s an¬†Australian play dough recipe (for those of us who don’t normally have access to Kool-Aid ūüôā ) ¬†You can make this before hand, or give the ingredients and recipe and let the children help. ¬†It¬†can be made in several different colours and stored in ziplock bags or wide mouth plastic jars or containers. ¬†Add a plastic knife, some cookie cutters, toothpicks, scoops from the washing powder or infant formula, or anything else that will add value to the play experience. ¬†If you have an empty box from refillable baby wipes, it makes a good home for the play dough accessories as the lid is easy for children to manage.
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You can also make your own packet mixes for baking РMake up the dry part of a cake, biscuits, or scones; type out the recipe; attach a photo of the finished product on the front of the ziplock bag;  and the child who gets to unwrap that present also gets to BAKE it.
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Collect a heap of fabric scraps (ask family members who sew for their off cuts of fabrics and trims, or cut up old clothes that are no longer needed and harvest the material and the buttons) and give each child a little packet with a needle, some thread, and a few spare buttons, and let them sew whatever they like – or borrow a child’s craft book from the library and copy a pattern, or download a craft pattern or simple doll’s dress pattern.
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Gather the ingredients for a ¬†science experiment – there’s heaps of little experiments like this crystal snowflake that are fun, but the ingredients are quite inexpensive.

crystal snowflake from Anne Helmenstine

For the little ones, a ¬†plastic egg carton or an ice-cube tray, with bottles of food colouring and an eye dropper will give a pre-schooler hours of fun. (just add water.. ūüôā )
For the more adventurous, purchase some off cuts and seconds from the timber yard and try…
bird nesting box (if you research which birds live in your area, there are often plans to suit specific bird varieties)
a timber boat (or make a whole fleet!)
from Kids Konstruction Korner
Or collect odds from around the house,  and try this one from Martha Stewart:
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There are many paper projects for both boys and girls available ¬†as free downloads from the internet. ¬†You have to watch that the printing costs don’t get out of hand if you find a big project, though.
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A paper boat from the Toy Maker :
Pinwheels are great fun:
The Toymaker has heaps of cute, cute, cute paper toys to download, not the least of which is this pinwheel using a clever paperclip and buttons design.
Super cute design from Marilyn Scott-Waters
Another I couldn’t go past was this adorable bug box. ¬†How tempting to print and make this to gift a packet of seeds for an aspiring gardener.
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Flower seeds, or vegetable seeds, or herb seeds in such a dear little box would have to move you to run out and garden. ¬†If you don’t have pots spare, the bottom half of a milk carton or 2 litre drink container with holes punched in the bottom would do the trick.
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For the arty, Google your child’s favourite animal with “+ colouring page” and print out some pictures for them to colour, or browse the many free colouring page sites. There are some incredibly detailed pictures available, including famous art works made into colour pages. ¬†Several sites also have paper dolls for download.
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Put all the ingredients for these paper bag puppets from Martha Stewart’s craft pages into a bag, and print out pics of what they will look like with the instructions:
Older children may like to make a castle;
For girls, save little boxes from matches, jewellery, medicine, etc, as well as all sorts of plastic packaging, and off cuts of pretty paper and fabric, put them in a large plastic storer,  and let the children use them make their own dolls house from a large cardboard box, or a small book-case.
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Download some audiobooks from Librivox (it’s free) on to CD’s ¬†for car listening or bed time. ¬†Google the cover art of the book and print out for your CD cover.
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Books..
Check ebay, the book Depository, your local thrift store for cheap books.  Keep an eye on your local library for sales of excess stock.  Some books are still like new, but even some of the beat up ones can be treasures if you choose your author carefully.
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This paper whistle would make cool stocking stuffer fun (you can use a coloured paper instead of plain to make it more festive).
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You can make your own word search with your child’s favourite bands, animals,¬†friends names, family members (this is also good fun to do for each member of the family to personalise home-made crackers)
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Home made fudge/caramel wrapped in cellophane are delicious stocking fillers (pop in just before the event if you have ants!)  as is homemade popcorn with icing sugar or caramel popcorn in little zip lock bags.
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If you have older boys you may consider a sleep-under-the-stars camp out. ¬†Wrap up a tin of baked beans, or spam, or some other grossly yukky traditional camp food, and let it be known that it goes with a trip to somewhere out of town to sleep out and cook rough. ¬†(Of course, December in Australia that would be a breeze, but if you’re on the other side of the world, I guess that could be a bit brisk!) Hand reels could work the same way for a fishing trip if you have a lake or river near by.
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Happy holidays, folks!

What’s Cookin’?

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domestic bliss

Tell me honestly, does the thought of preparing meat and three veg strike fear into your very heart?

Yes?

Then you qualify to keep reading.¬† If not, I’m afraid you’ll have to shoo. That’s right: shoo! We are about to discuss some secret, serious, slack homemakers business.

Are you sure you’re not a perfectly capable, cooking dinner every night type of reader?¬† There is a danger you will be tempted to feel smug after reading, and as the character of my readers is paramount in my mind, I’d spare you that downfall.¬† So this is your last chance to scat.

O.K.  Unless of woman-kind I alone have ever struggled with the life sentence (pardon!) privilege of cooking sensible meals every single everlasting day of the week, we should be left with those of you who are, for whatever reason, be that illness, lack of skill or knowledge,  or  simply the propensity for reading too long in a day, failing to cook dinner as regularly as you need to.

My initial remedy for meal preparation aversion is not cheap.¬† This is no time to be budget conscious, and it may well cost you similarly to the round of take-aways and resturant dinners you rely on now.¬† Budget conscious comes later (if it needs to), but for now the primary goal is to establish a habit of daily preparation.¬† To that end, I offer you the “L plates” of meal planning.

When you advance there will be many factors to consider in planning a menu: for now the prime criteria is to make it as simple as possible while you establish a routine of meal preparation.  This may take two weeks to a month, depending on your dedication and circumstances (sickness and general trauma can delay progress!)

First, decide what you can make.¬† I’ve put together a MEAL PLANNER Beginnings *pdf that requires minimal preparation and leaves the least possible dishes to wash afterward.¬† You may want to tweak it in the event you don’t eat some of the food listed, but the idea is to be simple and realistic: you are trying to establish a habit, and this needs all the ingenuity you possess to pull it off.

* The recipe for Monday night’s dinner in the menu planner can be found here: https://beyondbluestockings.wordpress.com/2007/11/11/emergency-dinners/

The tuna can also be substituted with beef or chicken: I know that sounds weird, but I promise I have tried it all three ways, and it really does work with all three, and extends your choices!

If you are part way on the road already, you may want to browse the “emergency dinners” category to the right, or google simple meals and start planning your own menu according to tastes.

Cook like a busy person.¬† Remember how your mother and your home ec teacher taught that every vegetable needs it’s own saucepan?¬† And how there was a mountain of washing up at the end?

What were they thinking??? ūüėĮ

pots and pans

Take one large saucepan, half fill with water and add chat potatoes (you know the tiny ones you don’t have to peel? Because the point is…you don’t have to peel them, and it’s easy to guess how many each person will eat.) About five minutes before they are ready, dump in some mixed frozen veggies. Yes, in the same saucepan – forget home ec.¬† I actually find this easier than microwaving veggies, but¬† if you prefer to microwave, go at it.¬† On another night, use frozen corn cobs instead of the potatoes, and add the other veggies at the same time.

For variety, an alternative is to buy large, washed potatoes.¬† Again, you are not going to peel them: just wrap in alfoil and put them in the oven about an hour before you want to eat.¬† Don’t worry about pre-heating the oven and coming back to put them in – all in one action, put the oven on and toss the potatoes in.¬† Again, serve with some frozen greens – or not.¬† (You don’t want to shock your system. ūüėČ )

This will not be the most exciting few weeks of eating you’ve ever done, but if you stick at it, it will soon become less of an insurmountable task, and you will have the momentum of routine to stir you on to greater culinary heights.

Print out your menu and place it somewhere unforgettable.¬† If you are a morning person, (or if a new baby is the reason you find yourself not managing dinner any more) use the morning to half fill your saucepan with water and place it on the stove ready to go, or¬† wrap your potatoes in foil if that’s on tonight’s menu.¬† You will love yourself later and reinforce your commitment to actually go through with it come evening.

Decide on a time you are going to start dinner, and barring a natural disaster, stick to that time.  Ask your mother or someone to phone and hold you accountable if you need to.  Be sure to make a shopping list reflecting your menu Рfailure to have ingredients to hand  is to sabotage your plan.

In my dreams..

Preparing dinner every night may not ever make your heart sing, but if you can stick with it long enough, neither will it seem the insurmountable task it presently appears while driving past the pizza shop.¬† You may even grow to enjoy it: it’s not likely, but stranger things have happened, and certainly you will be healthier.

Happy cookin’ folks, and stay tuned for the “P Plates” of¬† meal planning, coming soon. You’ll be inspired ūüėȬ†¬† (Or, confound it,¬† if you’re one of those sneaky Martha Stewart types and you didn’t shoo when you were supposed to, you can marvel anew at how the other half live ūüėõ )

Creamy Veal in a Hurry

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veal, cream and seeded mustard

Can emergency dinners be so yummy that you plan to have emergencies?¬† Sure! ūüėÄ

While you may not have all the ingredients on hand for this one in a genuine emergency, if you are heading to the shop for ingredients and have no clue what to make, this is fast, (ridiculously fast!) and delicious.

If you prefer fresh vegetables over frozen; chat potatoes, corn on the cob or a bag of washed salad as a side are no-preparation options.

For the veal and sauce you need:

  • Veal steaks
  • Olive oil (or whatever oil you cook with normally)
  • 1 cup (250ml) of cream (don’t get low fat: this is no time to think of your arteries)
  • 3 teaspoons of seeded mustard (or to taste)

Here are the so too fast and easy directions:

  1. Heat a little oil in a heavy based frying pan to a high heat, and cook one side of the veal . I normally reduce the heat and put a timer on for three minutes because I don’t have a multi-tasking bone in my body, but cook yours to your preference.¬† While it’s cooking, randomly flick a few teaspoons of seeded mustard over your veal.
  2. Turn the meat over, cook for further three minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat, pour in cream and stir around the pan to blend the flavours.¬†¬†¬† (The heat from the pan will warm the cream sufficiently, there is no need to “cook” it.¬† Cream that has boiled will separate and look nasty.)

That’s it!¬† Serve with vegetables or a side salad.

This week, spend too much time reading, at the park, out for a walk, or whatever it is you love most, and try this one out.

A Secret, O.F.Walton, and a Timely Reminder About Things I’m Inclined To Forget

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A very dear friend, Amy, shared a little secret recently that gave me pause for thought.¬† It was not long before I left for holidays (a time notorious for allowing a person to think about the deeper issues of life) that this matter was bought to my attention.¬† It was the answer to one of life’s great questions: but¬† I’ll let you wander over to Amy’s blog to discover for yourself just what that secret was – but folks…it was disturbing!

my little corner, o.f.waltonAnother Amy, Mrs O.F.Walton, back in 1872 wrote “My Little Corner”, which¬† I was pre-reading¬† for my daughter while I was away.¬† ¬† I have read many of her writings, and all previously have been about children, for children.¬† Imagine my surprise when the narrator of the story, also the protagonist, was a married woman with children.¬† The story was a vehicle, if you will, for the writer to share her thoughts on being a wife, mother, and Christian with her readers in a fictional setting.

In the beginning of the story the narrator tells how she fell into poor habits of wasting time gossiping with neighbours, to the neglect of her children, husband and house work.¬† She is brought to a place of reform after her neglect of her duty results in a very tragic loss.¬† While the story at that point was a little dramatic, and I am not in the habit of neglecting my children’s physical safety, none the less it caused me to ask myself if I am doing my best for my family?

I am prone to wasting time doing things.  None of the activities are of themselves evil, be it reading, playing on my computer, taking photographs, exercising, selling books, or even the (shocking but true) occasional bouts of domesticity that result in the family living in fear of messing up my clean house.  But at these times I am absent.

I need to find joy in making my activities more serving oriented, and¬† I need to be more emotionally available.¬† This is my new “home from holidays” challenge!

While I was away, my friend from India sent me a song to listen to. I don’t have the skill to upload just the song, so I will share the youtube version with you.¬† The man is actually singing about his father, but the question “is there someone you are loving while taking for granted?” begs asking.¬† I think I love my whole world in that manner.¬† It’s not that I have the emotional energy to love everyone as though it may be my last day with them (that’s fatiguing just to think of!) but, I could stand to be more thoughtful, gentle, and to make more of an effort to express my love for those I love!

I’ll leave you with this offering from the 70’s…

More Cool Free Stuff

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Grow your own crystals ebook sounds too much fun to pass up! 
Check out these free resources at Homeschool Freebie of the Day

Monday, March 3rd: GROW YOUR OWN CRYSTALS! (PDF ebook)

All sorts of fascinating activities and experiments for making
your own crystals, including the classic Magic Salt Crystal Garden,
Cool Cave Stalagtites, Creeping Crystals and more!

Tuesday, March 4th: MOMMA'S SAVING GRACE HOMESCHOOL PLANNER (PDF)

Extremely useful planner for busy hs moms, from Melissa Ringstaff
of AVirtuousWoman.org. Lots of great organizing helps. Normally
a $8.95 download, but not today!

Wednesday, March 5th: PEN PALS AS A HOBBY (PDF ebook)

In this brand new ebook written by a lady who once had 160 active
penpals (!), you'll learn all about this fascinating and educational
hobby: how to find pen pals, how to write letters, how to make it
a learning experience, and much more.

Thursday, March 6th: FAR ABOVE RUBIES High School Study sampler (PDF)

"Far Above Rubies" is a Christian, self-directed High School
Unit Study curriculum for young ladies. Today's resource is this
extensive 74 page sampler of the four year curriculum, including
a COMPLETE unit study. Check it out!

Friday, March 7th: THREE SCIENCE EXPERIMENT MINI-BOOKS!

Ready for even MORE hands-on science activities? Sure you are!
Well, we've got THREE great mini-books for you today!
Make an Ocean in a Bottle, Play with a Cartesian Diver...
and build the most incredible Tornado Simulator EVER!

You can get all of these on their respective days at
www.HomeschoolFreebieOfTheDay.com

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