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Cultivate Simple 57: Saving Time in the Kitchen

December 16th, 2013

MINIMIZE kitchen stuff.  It’s much more efficient to work in a space that is clutter free.  You don’t need more than one set of measuring cups or spoon, rinse out after use and put back.  Invest in a few quality items that will make cooking easier and much more enjoyable.  It’s also easier to maintain such items.  Good quality pots are easier to clean than cheap ones.
real_pumpkin_pie 7
Don’t fall for the lies, you don’t need 2 vegetables, a fruit, a grain and meat for a meal. sometimes one pot meals are easiest and healthiest!
When making biscuits, don’t roll out and cut in circles, pat into a big circle on the cookie sheet (or big cast iron pan) and cut like a pizza, or roll into balls and fit into a cast iron skillet for baking.
While you’re waiting for one thing to cook, start something else.  One day this past week I was baking something and decided I may as well cut and cook up onions for breakfasts while I was working.  Boiling a big pot of potatoes once a week is also a great idea, then you at least always have potatoes for a quick meal or to use for breakfasts.
Learn to make a few recipes that can be easily adapted to ingredients.  Master the art of making

  • Crepes: they’re so easy and can be used for main dishes when stuffed with savory ingredients or with sweet ones like fruit and whipped cream as a healthy snack.
  • Omelets: are also a good thing to master, they can be enjoyed for breakfast and dinner and can be stuffed with all the little bits of leftovers that aren’t enough for a meal.
  • Soup: is one of the best recipes to learn how to make.
  • Hash: throw everything in a skillet with different herbs.

One of the keys for this to work is to learn which herbs/spices pair best with different vegetable & meats.Double or triple every recipe, especially if it’s soup.  Freeze them in meal sized containers and you can pull them out of the fridge in the morning before you go to work for dinner that evening.  This goes for cookies and stuff as well, double the recipe and freeze half.  Or if you don’t want to eat an entire batch of cookies, freeze the cookies already cooked or the cookie dough.
Cook up a few staples at the beginning of the week.  Onions are always good to have in the fridge so you can make quick omelets.  I like to cook extra potatoes to keep them on hand.  You can use them for hash brown for breakfast or as a dinner side.  Mashed potatoes can also be made quite easily if needed as a quick side.
Learn to be creative with leftovers and learn to be creative with ingredients.  Make a pot of chili, eat chili on night, skip a night then the third night eat chili over baked potatoes with cheese on top.  You could also make chili lasagna and throw it in the freezer if you want a third meal option.
Wash dishes as you go when you have bits of time, by the time you’re done with dinner, all the prep dishes will be washed.
Maintain a well stocked pantry, have ingredients on hand all the time for quick meals.  Have a few meals that are quick and easy in your repertoire and keep those in mind for busy days.  I keep a few jars of home canned tomato soup on hand for such days.  Having a well stocked pantry will also mean that you’ll have ingredients on hand when you’re cooking.  Maintain a pantry based on your need, not what others say you should have.

Book of the Week

Oh Christmas Tree

December 15th, 2013

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!
Not only green when summer’s here
But in the coldest time of year.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are thy branches!

There’s a big storm forecasted for today, so Mr Chiots and I headed out yesterday afternoon to get our Christmas tree. Here in Maine we are lucky to have lots of balsam firs on our property. We found this perfectly imperfect beauty over the front hillside.
christmas tree 2
Christmas tree with decorations
It’s decorated with one strand of 25 big white bulbs and a few etched glass balls. It smells heavenly and we love the warm glow it casts in the living room. There’s nothing better than enjoying hot chocolate with the tree on.

Do you put up a Christmas tree? Is it a real tree or a fake tree?

Peanut Butter?

December 14th, 2013

Dexter is such a fun cat, he’s adventurous in every way, even in his diet. I know Dexter will eat just about anything I give him, our other cats are super picky. One day I was eating a spoonful of peanut butter and he decided he wanted a taste.
peanut butter cat 1
peanut butter cat 2
peanut butter cat 3
peanut butter cat 4
I didn’t let him taste it until I was just about finished, he polished off the rest on my spoon. Now, whenever he smells peanut butter he makes a pest of himself until he gets some. He’s just about as bad with pumpkin pie, which he also loves.

Do you have any pets that eat crazy things?

Friday Favorite: Fun with Pranks

December 13th, 2013

Many years ago one specific prank gift was given at Christmas, it was fake poop.  It has been showing up here and there ever since.  For a while it was lost in the bottom of a junk drawer, but it was discovered once again and has been making the rounds at my parent’s house. The kids think it’s the greatest thing ever, especially our youngest niece Katie who happens to be four.
She is happy as a clam when she gets pranked so she can prank someone else. When we were back at Thanksgiving we put it in a can of Pringles for her to find when she reached for a snack. She laughed and laughed and immediately ran upstairs to put it on uncle Brian’s pillow. Before we left the prank poop was left on the bathroom counter with all four of their toothbrushes resting on it. My mom said Katie found it and thought it was great!
This isn’t the only prank gift that’s been in the family, every year there are different prank gifts, of course they usually revolve around bathroom humor. Fun pranks like these help us from getting too serious and reminds us to keep that kid part of us alive.

Do you have any family pranks?

Snow Dogs

December 12th, 2013

Tara has been living at Chiot’s Run for almost three months now.  She came to us towards the end of September and is really settling in to her role as protector of all things living.  I find her sleeping by the ducklings sometimes and she frequently patrols the perimeter fence we have set up now.  She’s also really liking the cold weather, she finally spends her days outside without panting and searching for shade.  She was definitely made for winter!  Lucy is also a winter loving dog, she gets super excited when the snow starts to fall.  You can almost see a extra spring in her step when the weather turns cold.
Tara even has a few nicknames already, Terrible T seems to be the one she likes best, though she’s anything but terrible.  We also call her Sweet T to round it out.
Tara digging a den 1
Yesterday, Tara spent all day out and towards evening we discovered that she had started to dig herself a den.  It’s located in a small ravine between the chicken and duck coops.  You can’t tell she’s in there until she sits up and pops her head over the top of the rocks.  It’s the perfect place to be able to hear what’s going on and be close to both coops.
Tara digging a den 2
We have yet to decide on a permanent place for T, but we’re thinking this might be a good.  Perhaps a little roof over her den or just laying saplings and pine boughs might suffice.  We knew she’d eventually show us the place she wanted to claim as her own, this should work until the snow melts in spring, then she’ll have to find herself a new den.  It can be hard to have strictly outdoor animals in our society, people think they’re being abused or neglected.  Some certainly are, but there are those that are much happier being outside, Tara is one of those!  It can also be hard on us as we want to protect them and keep them safe, truth is, Tara is perfectly able to take care of herself and knows what she wants and needs.

Have you ever had outdoor animals? 



This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.