Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey Soup

Whatever you do this Thanksgiving, do not discard your Turkey carcass!  It has so many nutrients to give you!  Once you have carved most of the meat off of your bird, just leave the hard to get pieces on the bone and stick that baby in large pot.  It's time to make some soup!  Feel free to make a smaller batch than this.  I don't do anything in small batches.  This will feed 6 people a couple times, just the way I like it.

Ingredients for the Broth:
10- 20 lb - carcass of a turkey plus any extra skin, the neck, heart, liver etc.. (even if it's already been used to make gravy, add it to your carcass).  This recipe was done using about a 14 pound turkey's carcass with about a cup of added meat.  The more bones, the more flavor!
1 or 2 - celery stalks, leaves included
1 or 2 - peeled (or washed) carrots
1 - whole onion
3 - cloves of garlic
1 - bay leaf

Tip: Whenever you use celery save the leaves in a container in the freezer and use them instead of actual celery whenever you are making a broth.

Ingredients for the Soup:
4 - cups celery diced
4 - cups carrots sliced
2 - onions chopped (about 3 cups)
1 -16 oz jar of stewed tomatoes or about 2 cups of fresh cubed tomatoes
1/4 cup Tabasco (or to taste)
4 cups of cooked rice

Ingredients for the Roux: 
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup flour

Tip: If you are dairy or gluten free either skip the roux altogether and just have a more watery soup or use an alternative fat and/or thickener.

For the Broth: 
1. Place the turkey in a large pot and fill it with enough water to cover the carcass.  Add whole celery sticks, carrots, onion, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Boil for 30 minutes or so and then simmer for several hours or even overnight on low.  Skim off the foam as it cooks. Cook for 2 hours minimum.

Tip: Add a little rice vinegar to the broth to help extract more nutrients and flavor from the bones.

Tip: Don't worry about exactly how much water to add.  If in the end you have a lot of broth and think you need to add too or reduce from the veggies or take out some broth and freeze it than do that.  It's your soup; treat it like an art not a science.  I prefer to have bites of veggies, turkey and rice in every bite.

2.  Strain the broth reserving the stock. Return it to the original or a larger pot.  Discard cooked vegetables and bay leaf.  Set turkey bones and meat aside.

For the Soup:
1.  Bring broth to a boil, add diced celery, sliced, carrots, chopped onions, salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 hr.

2.  Debone turkey reserving all bits of meat. Sneak in as much skin and other flavorful bits of turkey as you are  willing to try.  Add turkey, stewed tomatoes and Tabasco to the soup pot.

Tip: For those really opposed to spicy foods reduce the amount of Tabasco.  My kids will not eat this if I put the full amount in so I just season my personal bowl of soup as I eat it.  It really is a crucial ingredient in my opinion!

3. Add rice.

For the Roux:
1.  Melt butter.

2. Add flour whisking steadily for 3-4 minutes.

3. Slowly add 1 cup of broth from the soup stirring well.  Keep adding broth up to 3 or 4 cups as it thickens.

4. Add the roux to the soup stirring vigorously.

This soup is delicious, resourceful and nutritious! Feel free to add more turkey meat from what was carved away if you want more chunks of meat in your soup.  You could also add okra or any other of your favorite veggies.  If you are a diehard noodle fan, sub noodles for rice.  Enjoy!

Wait, one more thing...
I still don't recommend discarding your turkey bones and chunks of skin you didn't put in the soup.  This turkey still has more to give you!  Boil the bones, skin and cartilage one more time with another stalk of celery, carrot, onion and bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Simmer on low overnight to leach as much delicious and healing nutrients form the bones and cartilage.  Strain the liquid and then can or freeze the broth for future cooking and consumption.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Last of the Dahlias

Well, like usual, I did not finish everything I had hoped to this summer.  But then if I had, what in the world would I do with my time after the rain ceases and the earth warms again in the spring?  I finally cut down the last of the dahlias, trimmed the roses and stored the sun umbrella in the garage.  I think I'm finally (several weeks late) ready for fall.  Now if life could calm itself just long enough to allow for some homemade chili, crocheting and maybe.... a touch of indoor remodeling!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Kids + Chickens + Tiny Yard = Chicken Coop Fort Combo

Chicken Coop Fort
Step 1 - Planning
Step 2 - Framing
Step 3 - Burying the Posts

Here it is, still not 100% complete but if I wait for that moment I may never post pictures.  Here is my chicken coop kid's fort combo.
Though I did most of the work this summer, the idea came several years ago after we moved to our current home.  When we moved into this house which came with a miniature yard, the old chicken coop was the first thing to go.  I knew if I wanted chickens I would have to sneak them into the yard.  At first I was just going to build a long and narrow coop and put it right up against the fence but then I thought, why not combine the chicken space with kid space by building a fort on top of the coop!  So that is what I did, problem solved.
I knew I would have to actually build it when I heard my son tell one of his classmates that I was going to build him a fort.  Three years later, I am (mostly) finished.  I hope to spend some time on here going through the process of planning and building this baby for anyone who has some ideas of their own on random fort and coop type structures.  Taking it one step at a time it really was not that difficult.  Like most things, the initial intimidation factor is a million times more of a barrier than the building part. I did the entire thing myself except for the use of my husband's muscles on some of the real heavy stuff.  Can you tell I hate even admitting that? ; -)

I would like to give a shout out for those who made this possible so here goes:

I thank my husband, Jason for only freaking out minimally and infrequently, "You want to build it how high?" "You're going back to Home Depot again today?"  Thank you Jason for holding down the real fort from dawn until dusk all weekend every weekend for a while so I could get some stuff done.  Thanks for your muscles and for digging the first hole for the first post which led to the rest.  Oh, and thanks for telling people when they complement you on your fort that your wife built it.  I love you!

I thank my kids for actually thinking I was going to build this just because I said I was.  Also for eating peanut butter spoons and banana's for dinner on multiple occasions because I was working outside till dark or later.  Thank you for being the inspiration for this all! I love you to pieces!

I thank my friend Joyce who had already built her kids a fort!  She told me where I could get the 16 foot posts delivered to my home (thank you Lowes) and was a big help in giving me the courage to get those posts in the ground.  Thanks for letting me come see your fort and for being soooo awesome in general!

I thank my dad for telling me how to do it and all his invaluable help at many steps in the process.  I was going to layer a coop on top of a base and then put a fort on top of the coop.  He told me to build the entire structure along the 4x4's which would be buried in the ground and go all the way up through the layers of the coop and fort so it would be one coherent and sturdy structure.  He also sent me pictures of his fort (for the grandkids) and let me copy his stairs and gave me the idea to have a pulley attached to a bucket for the kids to play with.  He is my "go to" person even though he lives thousands of miles away. Somehow he always knows what I am talking about over the phone even though I don't know any proper construction lingo. Thanks Dad.

OK, I know I'm pushing it, it's not like I just wrote a novel, if you are still reading I'm almost finished and there are more pictures at the end.

I would like to thank my mom because when she was alive she did random things like build a wood floor out of the pieces of a gym floor she found in the shed.  She changed the brakes on an old Volkswagen bug before you could Google how to do that.  Pretty much, she did whatever the hell she wanted and I love that I am her girl!

I'm grateful to my carpenter neighbor  for shaking my structure and telling me (and my husband) that it is sturdy, for telling me I do better work than his apprentices and in general for boosting my confidence (or ego - fine line).  Thanks for the pointers and tips like how many feet down the supports should go.

Thank you my dear friends and sisters for continual feedback and encouragement!

I'm sure there are more but I think I've milked this as much as I can.  This was like my five minutes and for that I thank you readers!  I hope you enjoy the pictures and perhaps gain some inspiration for your own cool ideas that might be cooking in your head!  Just mention them out loud to your kids and it might actually happen!
Here are the stairs going up to the first level of the fort. This is the east side, you can also see the nesting boxes where I will be collecting eggs from in a matter of months and another window! 

The kids play with this pulley a lot.  It truly is convenient for getting toys and things in and out of the fort.  It is built off one of the 4X4 post on the fort's lower level.  At the end of the rope is a five gallon bucket.
We finally have a home for this bird house my daughter has had for over a year!   I just attached it to one of the 4x4 posts on the first level.   It is across from the pulley.
Top level of the fort.
This is the view from the top level of the fort.
View with the slats in the picture.  I put these boards up just as a guarantee that no crazy kid would ever try to get on the lower roof from the upper level!  Can't be too careful when it comes to kids - you never know what they might do!
Here are the chickens' stairs.  The chickens exit the coop on the west side and go into a fenced off pen.  They can also go under the coop.  Their door stays open all the time but I certainly have the option of closing it if I need them in or out for some reason.   When we finish the yard their pen will be a little larger.  We also let them out into the yard sometimes especially as evening nears since they always go back to their coop to roost at dusk.  When our yard is fenced in I will let them out for longer periods of time during the day.

The ladies- they are teens right now not fully grown. You can see a little bit of the entrance to the nesting box on the left, the droppings pits are under the roost.  The water in the picture is no longer there; their water is under the coop now.  That was just for when they first arrived in the coop and I kept them locked in it for the first few day.  Their food is suspended from the roof and hangs a couple inches from the floor.

Chicken Coop Fort
Step 1 - Planning
Step 2 - Framing
Step 3 - Burying the Posts

Friday, November 4, 2011

Home Made Laundry Detergent

This had got to be my fifth homemade recipe for laundry detergent.  What I want in a homemade laundry detergent is simple but evidently not so easy to find:

  • safe ingredients for me and the environment
  • easy to find ingredients
  • quick and easy to make
  • actually gets my laundry clean
  • lasts a long time
  • cost effective
Of the recipes I have used, one had clay powder and sodium lauryl sulfate in it which took a bit of time and money to find. I hate making trips to stores I don't frequent plus I wasn't confident using the SLS and have since learned that I do in fact want to stay away from SLS.  One recipe called for melting castile soap with some other ingredients and then when it cooled it was this disgusting mix of goop.  One didn't seem to get the clothes clean.  At one point I did find a good recipe in a magazine but then lost it and couldn't find it in the magazine archives.  Alas, I think I have finally settled on an adaptation of this simple soap from Robyn Griggs Lawrence found in Mother Earth News. Here goes:
  • Get a big tub.  I used an old tub from store bought detergent (I save things like that) which is probably close to a 4 gallon tub.  I think 2 gallons would be sufficient.   
  • Mix together:
    • 1 Box (4lb 12oz) - 20 Mule Team Borax This can be found in the detergent isle of your local grocery store. Cost: $3.49
    • 2 Boxes (4lb) - Baking Soda  Cost:$2.99 x 2 = $5.95
    • 5 Bars (5oz) - Grated Scented Castile Soap - (If you have one, use a food processor to grate.)  Hopefully found in your everyday grocery store's personal hygiene section. Depending on where you live you may have to visit a specialty nutrition store.  Cost: $4.19 X 5 = $20.95 This does go on sale and I can get it for around $3.50 if I watch the sales
  • That's it! Use 1/8 cup per load. I have a high efficiency washer and have had no problems using this soap with it.
  • I write the ingredients right on my tub so I don't have to go looking for the recipe when I need to remake it and to keep me from losing the recipe.  I don't need any reasons to put things off so cutting out the step, "find recipe," helps me.
The original recipe says this should last a family of four about a year.  It lasted my family of four about 6 months but my children are young and I am, after all, doing laundry 24/7.  My cost to make this batch was $30.42.  To be honest with you I don't know how much it would cost me to buy detergent from the store for six months.  I know it would be more than $30 and I would be exposing my family and the environment to unsafe chemicals and using a lot of extra resources for product production, packing and shipping.  Plus my clothes would smell like "laundry" and not lavender or peppermint! :)

I changed the recipe a tiny bit for simplicity so I could use for example, 1 Box - Borax which is 11 cups instead of the recipe's 12 cups - Borax.  I mean, who has time to measure Borax.  The recipe calls for 8 cups of grated castile soap. One 5oz bar is about 1 & 3/4 cups so you decide, use 4 bars or 5 - it's not worth using 3/4 of a bar.  Also I don't use the recommended 3 tablespoons of essential oil.  That much essential oil is half the cost of all the other ingredients.  Instead I simply used scented castile soap - problem solved!  If you give this a try I hope you enjoy it as much as I have and I welcome your feedback!  I get a real kick out of simple yet effective household products.