Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fried chicken!

I love good fried chicken.  Who doesn't?  A couple of years ago, my son came home with a recipe for fried chicken from his high school teacher.  She had made it for the kids as part of a class project and they raved about it.  My fried chicken has always been kind of mediocre, so I asked for the recipe.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon (yes tablespoon!) salt
any other seasonings you like 
2 large eggs
a little milk
Large frying pan (I prefer cast iron)
About 1" deep vegetable oil in pan

Turn the heat under the pan to medium high to get the oil good and hot.

In one bowl, combine the flour, salt and whatever seasonings you like.  In a second bowl, beat the eggs and add a little milk to make it liquid-y.  Take a piece of raw chicken and dip it into the flour mixture.  Then dip the floured piece into the egg mixture.  Then dip into the floured mixture again. Then put the chicken piece into the hot oil.  Repeat for remaining pieces but don't crowd the pan too much (4 to 5 pieces per average size frying pan).  Once the chicken is all in the oil, turn the heat down to medium.  (Safety note:  throw away or compost any remaining egg and flour mixture.)

Let the chicken fry in the oil for a few minutes and then use tongs to turn the pieces over.  Keep turning the chicken every few minutes as it cooks to get an even browning on each piece.  If chicken starts to get too dark before its done, turn the heat down more.

Let chicken continue to cook for about 20 to 25 minutes.  Check a piece to make sure it is cooked all the way through before taking all of the pieces out.  I do this by taking a piece out and actually cutting it with a knife to check.  Some say to just pierce the chicken and if the juices run clear, it's done, but I have not found this to be a reliable way to check, so I just make a cut into the largest piece to see if it looks done. 

When the pieces are done, use tongs to remove from the hot oil and plate on a plate with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.  Serve with rice or potatoes, salad, and of course, sweetened iced tea and call everyone to dinner!  My husband, who is not a big fan of chicken, absolutely loves this meal!

In addition to being a family favorite, this is a very budget friendly meal, especially if you get the chicken on sale.  I personally like the convenience of the pre-packaged drumsticks and thigh cutlets for making fried chicken, but you could get a whole chicken and cut it up if you're so inclined.

Bon appetit!

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Menu making for stress relief

"Just for today, I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision. "

I'm a menu maker.  I have been one for quite a few years.  It helps me to plan my grocery shopping trip and reduces my stress during the week about what to fix for dinner.  Home economists have recommended making menus for decades because it tends to prevent the "let's just eat out" tendencies and helps to keep food budgets under control.

When my husband and I  married I had two teens and he did, too.  Suddenly my life was much busier with day to day things and believe me, having four teenagers at once will keep you busy!  Add into that a full time work schedule and a husband who likes to eat out for any possible reason, and believe me you will need a plan!

At first I continued my habit of making a weekly menu.  But it seemed like the weeks went by so fast I was making menus all the time.  Fortunately I had saved several of my menus in a drawer and decided to make a menu for TWO MONTHS at a time.  That's right.  Two months.  

Here's how I did it.  I took those weekly menus that I had been saving for a few months and put them into a calendar format, choosing menus from the ones I already had.  I tried to keep them interesting (not always successful) and sometimes they were pretty redundant, but at least I had a plan.  I created the menus on my computer and saved them in a folder on my desk top.  When the two months were about up, I created another two months worth of menus, because tastes tend to change with the seasons.  I've been doing this for a couple of years now and have a collection of menus that span over two years.  Here's my most recent one:

As you can see, this is not gourmet fare.  It is also not set in stone.  Sometimes I switch things around because suddenly it's not going to be possible to make chicken and dumplings and it's going to be a grilled cheese and tomato soup night.  The point is to have some kind of plan.  You also will notice that every Tuesday at our house is "skip" and Fridays are "leftovers".  This has kind of evolved over the years.  My husband and I started having date night on Tuesdays and the kids can cook for themselves whatever they like (they were all in their late teens when we started this).  Fridays have evolved into leftover nights because usually it's just hubby and me for dinner since everyone else in the house has plans.  We often eat whatever is leftover or go out for a quick bite.  Yes, we still eat out too much (at least I think so) but we do it a lot less then we would if there was no menu.

I definitely encourage giving a menu plan a try, even if you start out with just a one week at a time menu.  Don't worry about getting it "perfect" and don't worry about whether you'll stick to it exactly.  You won't.  If you don't know where to begin, start by asking everyone in the house (including yourself) what their favorite meal is.  Look at the ads in the paper to see if there's something in there that catches your eye.  The point is to just START.  Once you get going, it's really not hard at all!

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bumbershoot: Things I learned

Well, the Bumbershoot event is over and while I didn't make thousands of dollars, I did have a nice time and got some good exposure. 

Logistically speaking, things went amazingly well.  We went over and set up the booth on Friday, the day before the Festival started.  It took us longer to get to Seattle Center than it did to set up, thanks to very heavy traffic.  I took two of my kids with me to set up and we were done in less than 90 minutes. 

The next day was the first day of the event and I was nervous!  I picked up Judy, who I hired to help me and we were on our way.  Getting down there was smooth sailing at 8:30 am on a Saturday morning and we got in and set up pretty quickly.

The first day I was still trying to figure out how to display things and the wind was blowing pretty good, so things looked a bit messier than I wanted.  One thing I did the first day that I did NOT repeat was putting candy all over the table:

Initially this seemed like a cute idea, but it became clear as the day wore on that this was a mistake.  The little kids would see the candy, start whining to get some, and the parents would drag the kids away from the table.  I think I actually lost a sale because a mom who was looking at some bracelets got fed up with her kid picking up the candy so she left.  I decided later that evening not to do that and it worked out MUCH better!

So, how were sales?  Well, the first day was really depressing.  I think we had four sales total all day (thank you to the customer from Chicago who made a very large purchase!)  The next two days went better.  The second day we had 20+ sales the third day we had about 25 sales.  I got a lot of compliments on the items, and from looking at my photos I can see that improvements need to be made in displays (which I think I did get better at on days 2 and 3).  I talked with several vendors who said that sales were down from years prior for them, so at least I wasn't the only one with low sales.

The people I hired to help me were fantastic.  They all showed up on time, worked hard, were customer friendly, and reliable.  I don't think one dollar was misplaced or lost.  I definitely recommend interviewing and checking references if you hire people you don't know because it definitely worked out well for me.

I'll write more about specifics later, but I'll end this post with this photo of some cute young men who offered free services at Bumbershoot: