These days, with the ridiculous inflationary reality all of us are experiencing, it can become challenging to maintain your household on a sensible budget. Here at The Oasis of Four Queen Palms, we work diligently to maintain a sensible household budget, without sacrificing nutrition and quality.
A couple of weeks ago, I made a simple chicken stew comprised of inexpensive chicken thighs. One way to say money on foodstuffs is to look for near to the best buy or expiration dates. They are usually discounted by the store for faster sales. This is completely safe; just make sure you use that product the same day or the next or freeze it for a later date.
Following is my recipe for Chicken Stew in White Wine that will serve two to four people:
1 T olive oil
3 slices bacon, cut into thin, small pieces
1 small leek, sliced into thin coins
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 bottle (750ml) of white wine (can substitute chicken stock)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
Optional for garnish: chopped dill or chives
Warm the olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until the bacon has rendered some of its fat (about 2 minutes). Add the leek; sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the chicken, mushrooms, thyme, wine, and seasonings.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked – about 45 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.
Place chicken on a bed of hot, cooked flat noodles or rice. Garnish each serving with chopped fresh dill or chives.
I bought an inexpensive, on sale, white wine, so you don’t have to buy top shelf, unless you want.
From time to time, during this year, I will be sharing my tips on stretching your homemaking dollars. Sure, food and tangibles have become outrageously expensive, but with a little fortitude and imagination, you, too, can become more economically wise.
Check out my essay on Soups HERE, my Shepherd’s Pie HERE, and my Cabbage-Leek Sauté HERE.
Earlier this week, I got the inspiration to bake. The impetus was Best Friend mentioning one evening that he “sure can go for a piece of cake right now,” and that lead me to thinking, “Hey, I haven’t baked a cake since late last summer.”
I wound up baking “Two Egg Cake,” which is a no-fuss recipe for a basic white cake. I used the recipe from the 1957 edition of Cakes and Tortes by the Staff Home Economists of the Culinary Arts Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Then I whipped up a cream cheese lemon frosting with chopped walnuts from scratch. (I cannot stand ready-made frostings.)
Was I done? Well—
I went ahead and baked three batches of miniature scones (cranberry-walnut; raisin-apple; and cinnamon raison). They are packed well in the freezer, waiting to thaw on the mornings that Best Friend and I have a couple with our morning coffee either in the courtyard or at the dinette table. It is a pleasant way to gently start our day.
As I write this essay, my thoughts go to a serene life, a life without all the craziness of Go! Go! Go!, unceasing technology, and harmful egotism. As I mixed the batters, the world around me became peaceful and unhurried. As I waited for the cake and scones to bake, I hand washed the utensils and bowls and remembered how therapeutic the simple tasks of kitchen clean-up are for me. Sure, modern appliances are time savers, yet what is it that we use those extra minutes for? Check social media? Watch a mindless television program? Eat a bag of potato chips? Do nothing at all?
I cook and bake from scratch as much as possible. I find no real time saved using a box of cake mix, for example. Making a cake from scratch might use up maybe an extra four minutes than using a boxed cake mix. Cooking a meal of chicken piccata, rice, and fresh vegetables might take a little longer to make than microwaving a salty, preservative-filled TV dinner. But it is healthier to cook from scratch. And less expensive than buying prepared foods.
So what about those extra found minutes?
I ponder my thoughts. I pray. I formulate story outlines for my new books. I converse with Best Friend. I think about my day. I revel in the unhurriedness. I relax.
Would it be splendid if all parts of our lives were toned down – even just a little?
Not only would our lives be more relaxed, but life would also be healthier for us, physically, mentally, and religiously.
With the ever-rising cost of foodstuffs, using every bit of food, and wisely buying provisions, is key to maintaining the household on a sensible budget. My “waste not, want not” motto works well in this economic climate. Not only is that good to follow with everyday home resources, but it is also a practical, wise, and economical way to get the most out of food and leftovers, so why not wisely stretch meals and create light lunches, while keeping the cost of food as reasonable as possible?
One of the ways I use leftovers or portions of foods is to prepare fresh cabbage with a variety of other vegetables that sauté easily. Today, I am sharing my Cabbage-Leek Sauté recipe for two.
Take three slices of bacon and cut them into thin lardons. Sauté in a large frying pan. Then add about a third of a thinly shredded small green cabbage and one leek stalk cut into thin rounds. Stir gently. Meanwhile, slice about six button mushrooms; toss them into the pan. Add about one half cup of chicken stock (or water, if you prefer) and half a tablespoon of dried thyme. Season with black pepper and salt, if desired. Stir gently to combine. Simmer on a low flame, until the vegetables are limp, but not overcooked. Transfer to plates and serve.
So, you see, there is no need to spend a lot of money for a wholesome home cooked meal. With a little creativity, you can have nice meals that stretch your buying power.
From time to time this year, I will be sharing my tips on stretching your homemaking dollars. With a little fortitude and imagination, you can become more economically wise. Check out my essay on Soups HERE, and my Shepherd’s Pie HERE.
Today, with the ridiculous inflation we all are experiencing, using every bit of food, and wisely buying provisions, is key to maintaining the household on a sensible budget. My “waste not, want not” motto bodes well in this economic climate. Not only is that good to follow with everyday home resources, but it is also a practical, wise, and economical way to get the most out of food and leftovers, so why not wisely stretch meals and create light lunches, while keeping the cost of food as reasonable as possible?
One of the ways I use leftovers is to prepare Shepherd’s Pie, one of Best Friend’s favorite meals.
I took the leftover beef chips I had frozen last month when I made Italian beef sandwiches here at The Oasis of Four Queen Palms. Those little pieces of beef chips are good to save for Shepherd’s Pie.
While the beef was thawing out, I cut up a couple of Russet potatoes and boiled them. I mashed them well with their jackets still on and mixed in about a quarter cup of shredded Cheddar cheese.
To the thawed beef chips, I added a couple of chopped carrots, a sliced celery stalk, and a little spoonful of flour and mixed it thoroughly.
Using individual Fiesta® casserole bakers in a pretty Sunflower yellow hue, I first applied a light olive oil spray inside them before adding the beef mixture. Then I topped them off with the mashed potatoes and baked for a half hour at 350OF.
So, you see, there is no need to throw out scraps, and with a little creativity, you can have a nice hot meal that stretches your buying power.
From time to time this year, I will be sharing my tips on stretching your homemaking dollars. With a little fortitude and imagination, you can become more economically wise. Check out my essay on SOUPS HERE.
While I was growing up, my mother taught me how to cook and bake. There were many days where I enjoyed watching her make pepper steak, pierogi from scratch, and create ice cream bombé and kolacky. The same goes for my grandma – there were the holidays where my grandparents’ house smelled so very appetizing while she cooked kapusta z grochem on the stove while her delicious babka baked in the oven. I could hardly wait to sit down at the table and enjoy her tasty, traditional foods from the Old Country.
Over the years, I learned how to make all our family’s traditional foods, including my dad’s oxtail soup and its many ingredient versions, his version of Polish macaroni, his baked spaghetti, and how to grow the best backyard tomatoes. Though I follow most recipes to the letter, there is nothing wrong with improvising just to mix it up a little. Yes, I’ve had some hits and some misses doing that, and that’s the fun of learning!
I was fortunate to be able to take home economics in school, and from those lessons, I learned a few techniques that help my own kitchen creations to this day, although what I learned from my family is still tops and the best with me. Nevertheless, it all is an on-going experience that I seem to have tailored well to my own tastes.
One of the things I learned from my family is that there is so much truth and practicality with the “waste not, want not” dictum. Not only is that good to follow with everyday home resources, but it is also a practical, wise, and economical means to get the most out of food and leftovers. From scraps to the littlest bit of leftovers, I can wisely stretch meals and create light lunches, while keeping the cost of food as reasonable as possible.
These days, with the ridiculous inflationary reality we all are experiencing, using every bit of food, and wisely buying provisions, is key to maintaining the household on a sensible budget.
Preparing soups from scratch is one of those practical ways to use the scrap bones and meat from chicken, turkey, and beef.
Last Thanksgiving, we bought a whole Tom turkey here at The Oasis of Four Queen Palms. From that one bird, I was able to serve the Thanksgiving meal, set aside the legs and serve them on another day, freeze most of the remaining meat for other uses later such as turkey tetrazzini, salads, and sandwiches. There was enough of the carcass left to freeze two plastic bags’ worth – wings, ribs, various other bones, and skin. From those scraps, I was able to make two pots of soup, at two different times. Into the soup also went carrots, celery, pearled barley, and ground black pepper.
So, you see, there is no need to throw out the bones after a feast. You can use turkey, chicken, beef. They all make a good soup that could be a meal in itself, and with adding a few crackers on the side, you’re done.
From time to time, during this year, I will be sharing my tips on stretching your homemaking dollars. Sure, food and tangibles have become outrageously expensive, but with a little fortitude and imagination, you, too, can become more economically wise.
The day arrived, finally! Today, most of the country is celebrating Thanksgiving, and if you are, I wish you a wonderful and gratitude-filled day.
Best Friend and I already chose a different date to observe our annual day of thanksgiving here at The Oasis of Four Queen Palms. It was a day filled with serenity and balance, good company, excellent wine, and great food. We played old, traditional music (think Sinatra and Bennett) in the background and lit a couple of candles placed snugly in the crystal candle holders. We set the table with our Fiestaware china, in the following colors: Butterscotch, Paprika, Meadow, and Scarlet. These three warm colors and one cool evoked the beauty of the changing of the leaves that is magnificent this time of year. A bouquet of silk autumn leaves in the centerpiece brought it all together.
This year, I veered a bit from our traditional menu fare. Sent away on holiday was the usual fare we have every year and brought in for a premiere showing were several new-to-us foods. But Tom Turkey was still the star of the meal. For reference, I picked up a 15-pound bird for $23.39. that is pretty good, given we will have a lot of leftovers to freeze and bones from which to make turkey soup.
To begin, our first and second courses were a bit quirky; something one wouldn’t think of to serve on Thanksgiving. The cup of Japanese Onion Soup we both had was good, and a suitable choice since it was mostly a light broth. It was simple to make a day ahead. The Apple-Raisin-Walnut Salad with Pumpkin Bread Croutons was crisp and cold, with the fresh Orange-Ginger Dressing being the perfect accompaniment.
The Herb Roasted Tom Turkey was perfectly browned and moist. My Apple-Raisin-Walnut stuffing to go with it turned out moist and crispy, just as we like it. I forgot to buy the raisins, but that did not deter from its mission as a side dish. It still tasted good! Leave it to me to forget to buy the raisins, although my forgetting something is not unheard of.
I prepared the Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine a couple of days in advance, and that was to its advantage, since the flavors melded well. I served this delightful side dish chilled, but I imagine it would taste just as good hot, too.
The Green Bean Gremolata was a new-to-us vegetable recipe. We liked the just-kissed lemony drizzle and the few shavings of Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. For the yellow vegetable, I opted to make Cousin Stanley’s Roasted Squash, just as he made it, roasted to tenderness, and drizzled with a touch of local honey.
For our starch in the potato department, Best Friend had a twice-baked potato, and I opted for one of my own favorites – boiled sweet potatoes. It’s a treat for our dogs, too, sans the butter and pepper!
And what about dessert? This year, instead of my fresh homemade pumpkin pie, I made a small carrot cake, a favorite of Best Friend. I made this just as our own moms did – with fresh grated carrots. Heavenly!
This year’s celebration was successful, and we like the fact that we chose a non-traditional day to observe the annual Thanksgiving Holiday. As I wrote in my previous essay, WELCOME TO THE OASIS, we are not bound to have our annual Thanksgiving on the designated Federal date – every day could and should be one of thankfulness and gratitude.
I hope you had a perfectly marvelous Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it today.
When I lived in North Dakota, very close to the Canadian border, summer evenings seemed to last extraordinarily long. You see, it would be 10 p.m. and it was still light out, the stores in the little town stayed open longer; people were outside more with various activities. Yet, by 9:30 p.m., the sun would be already sinking slowly in the west. Now, where I live in a completely different part of the country, it is vastly different.
Here this time of year, at The Oasis of Four Queen Palms, by 4:30 p.m. or so, the sun gets ready to set, and within that hour, it is completely dark outside. Add a gloomy or inclement weather day to the mix, and it seems all the darker outside.
On the bright side, the early darkness does make for a nice atmosphere for dining at home – lit candles in crystal candleholders, soft music playing in the background, dim lights in the living room. Yet, when you really come down to it, early darkness is just something Best Friend and I aren’t crazy about. The day seems terribly short. But that’s what we get with the juggling of Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time, ad infinitum. I believe it’s time we cut out this nonsense and just stick to one time format or the other.
I already spent part of this weekend preparing some of the food for our Thanksgiving dinner that we will enjoy later in the week. The cranberries, mushroom gravy, stuffing, and soup were easy to prepare, and the best part is that I cut all those recipes in half. No sense in have too much left over. Doing this ahead of time is a time-saver. As a bonus, I made just enough of each to freeze for another day. The turkey is thawing. The wine is chilling. On the day of our Thanksgiving, I’ll prepare the salad, squash, green beans, and of course, Mr. Tom Turkey.
Looking ahead, I am sure our dogs will enjoy a bit of turkey and sweet potato. Mademoiselle Cat will just have to be happy with a serving of salmon. Best Friend is already commenting on how good The Oasis smells with what I prepared so far. Everybody wins in my house.
Time is what we make of it. We can say, “Oh! There just isn’t enough time.” Or, “Sorry. Can’t do it; no time.” Or we can put our noses to the grindstone and make the time. We can only seriously try our best to become more organized, embrace the positive aspects of whatever we attempt, and be glad for the outcome. Will we let time change our daily lives and give us ways to offer excuses, or will we change how we use our time wisely?
Today is a beautiful autumn day here at The Oasis of Four Queen Palms. Early this morning, I walked out to the terrace to take in the crisp air as the dawn splashed pinks and yellows across the eastern sky. My peach-colored hibiscus still has a good crop of blooms, but most of my other flowering plants are spent for the season.
The approaching Holidays means that life gets a little busier for me, and there is so much to do. Most important in my routine is the deep cleaning of the house. It’s also time to pack away the warm weather things and bring out those for fall and winter. The seasonal decorations will need to come out of storage, sorted through, and put up around the house. The writing of Christmas letters and addressing greeting cards is nigh. And then there is the preparation of menus ranging from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.
Best Friend and I decided that this year, we will observe the annual Thanksgiving celebration on a date not in concert with the Federal holiday. We picked out a day, and it will be ours to savor.
I already chose the colors of our Fiestaware china for that day: Butterscotch, Paprika, Meadow, and Scarlet. These three warm colors and one cool, evoke the beauty of the changing of the leaves that is fabulous this time of year. I plan to arrange a table centerpiece that will include a Fiestaware large disk pitcher in Scarlet, that will hold a bouquet of silk autumn leaves. Of course, lit wax candles in crystal candleholders will also make an appearance.
I believe that eating at home should be a lovely experience, and not only for the Holidays and entertaining otherwise. In fact, all year ‘round, I consistently set a pretty table with delightfully presented meals that one might only enjoy in a good restaurant. My family is important to me, and I show it as best as possible.
And that brings me back to our first celebration of the season.
Best Friend and I picked out the date for our Thanksgiving. With that set, I now have the menu decided upon. Here it is, for your wonderment:
Japanese Onion Soup
Apple Salad with Pumpkin Bread Croutons
Roasted Whole Tom Turkey
Apple-Raisin-Walnut Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine, Green Bean Gremolata, Cousin Stanley’s Roasted Squash, Boiled Sweet Potato, Twice Baked Potato, Homemade Fresh Mushroom Gravy
Homemade Carrot Cake
Mogen David wine
As elegant as this feast might be, the most important factor of the upcoming day for us will be the sincere gratitude we have in so many ways.
Welcome to my essays on life and elegant living at The Oasis at Four Queen Palms.
Upon awakening this morning, I dressed and headed to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of hot black coffee. Before I dressed and left the bedroom, my best friend hurried me to the window to witness the dawn together, where the sun was in the midst of a fiery red and orange rise above the horizon. It was a glorious morning sight, and pity that I did not have film in my camera to capture it for posterity.
A few oohs! and ahhs! were shared between us, a few words of wonderment expressed, whereupon I dressed and headed to the kitchen to make our coffees. I then went on to the terrace to drink my coffee and ponder my thoughts.
There is something to be said about the hazy, lazy days of summer, but what about life after October?
Indeed, once Halloween is over and the decorations and the masquerade costumes go back in storage here at The Oasis of Four Queen Palms, the pages on the calendar seem to invariably flip faster and faster each day. It never fails. In fact, when the calendar turned to November, I put away the few Halloween decorations I have (a ceramic haunted house my aunt and uncle gave me and a Jack O’Lantern from my other aunt). Then, as I was setting up the ancient paper turkey on my cellarette in the foyer and hung the wreath on the front door, I gave a few thoughts about Thanksgiving.
In my thinking and deep ponderings, the act of thanksgiving should be/could be a daily celebration. Sure, it is nice that we have a national holiday dedicated to it, and most working people have the day off. But does it have to be the fourth Thursday in November?
Best Friend and I discussed this very idea recently. Why couldn’t we have Thanksgiving on another day that we determine? After all, we are not going to the little shindig that our neighborhood diner is setting up (Their offering of Cheese Whiz on Ritz crackers, pressed turkey with canned cranberries and instant potatoes turns us off – and the cost per person is unreasonable for microwaved mass-produced food). No family nor friends are making the trek to holiday with anyone, either. So, we decided to forego the November 24th date this year and pick another day to have our own private thanksgiving, with our homemade foods, music of our own choice, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Indeed, this will be a different Thanksgiving holiday, one that for the first time in our lives won’t be on the Federal holiday date. It will be on our own terms.
And that brings me around to a question that a friend and fellow author asked me, paraphrased: “Does it take a recession and wild inflation for people to learn to be thankful for what they have?”
Perhaps. Perhaps it does. You see, I published a few short stories about people living during The Depression and learning what is important and what it means to be appreciative. I chose that time in history because I have a great affection for those times. Not that I was alive then, you see, but there is something about the music, the movies, the fashions, and the history that attracts me to no end. I suppose The Depression slapped a little reality into some people, and those heady days before those rough years were thought to never, ever end. Perhaps they thought prosperity and overabundance would remain forever; but who truly knows? Yet hard times did materialize, and sometimes that’s what it takes for people to realize what is truly important. It does not take a depression, recession, or impossible inflation to make a person’s life difficult, either. Circumstances vary.
And now returning to Thanksgiving 2022: Sure, we can make do with a lovely and lavish meal with enough turkey leftovers to make soup from the bones and Turkey Tetrazzini for the week, et al. Yet, the most important feature of whatever day we pick to celebrate, is but one of 364 days of thanksgiving. And that is what we will do on a day we determine to be our day of annual thanksgiving.
With the upcoming Holidays, I put my writing on pause for the next couple of weeks, which could be a good thing. I’ll have time to think about my books and the plots as I make the preparations for the upcoming observances.
I already prepared four batches of cookie dough and froze them, so they’ll be ready for a quick roll, cut, decorate, and bake for both Thanksgiving and Christmas entertainment. (Did you know that cookie dough can be frozen raw for several months before using?) Right now, I am baking my homemade pumpkin bread which will then be made into croutons for salads to be used over the next couple of weeks, including Thanksgiving dinner.
Yet, there are more tasks to accomplish: I need to finish writing out the Thanksgiving dinner menu, decide upon the Holiday décor, finish writing the Christmas letter and review my Christmas card list for this year, and so much more in the realm of secular entertainment and religious observances.
Yet, although the time might be flying, I am getting projects and tasks done. Writing itself isn’t always the mechanics of sitting down and putting pen to paper. It is an involved process, at least for me, that ideas float around my mind and marinate as I formulate plot outlines and conceive witty phrases. It was like that for me in college (for those twenty-plus page dissertations), and at work (for those technical orders and communications) – and it is always this –> take a short break, do something else, and go back to that paper or project. I haven’t had much good quality time to write lately, although I do have a slew of outlines finished. It seems that every time I sit down to work on my books, Mr. Rat Terrier needs something. No matter that Best Friend might be available to meet His Highness’ needs at the moment. Nope. It is I, and I only, who can fulfill Mr. Rat Terrier’s whims, from a doggie snack to being let out in the yard. Thank the heavens above that Miss Doxie and Mademoiselle Petite Chatte require little in the way of attention.
This introductory chapter is the first of my blog, The Oasis at Four Queen Palms. I plan to write an essay each Monday and Thursday within the realms of lifestyle and experiences. Indeed, I have been writing blogs for well over ten years now in different formats and names (and all but one is defunct), but this is the one that will settle specifically on life here at The Oasis of Four Queen Palms.
Well, time to get back to the kitchen. The pumpkin bread should be just about ready to take out of the oven.