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Going Small(er)

Filtering by Tag: Kitchen

Strange Traditions

Marc Scattergood

Ok, maybe it's not strange, but it has always been funny to me. I have no idea why, but as long as I can remember growing up, we always had a big pot of New England Clam Chowder around the holidays. As far back as my memory goes, I can recall my mom in the kitchen in our 1905 rambler style house in rural Tillamook county every holiday, a big pot on the stove, and the smells of bacon, onions, clams, and cream all coming together to make what would stay a life long favorite winter comfort food for me. In particular, it always happened around the holidays. No idea why. It just did.

The tradition, at least in our household, goes on - even if my much loved mom is not here to enjoy it with us.

It doesn't much feel like winter in West Los Angeles county, though it almost feels like early fall finally. But hot or cold, rainy, snowy, or sunny, it's that time of year.

What does this have to do with going smaller? Well, nothing really, other than having some good soup recipes just means when you want something warm, comforting, and delicious, you don't need to order out to get it.

Clam Chowder Recipe

Got this recipe from my mom, not sure where she got it from. I cleaned up the instructions, and added a few of my own tweaks. On the seasoning, play with it. Add more or less. I often will add a bit of cayenne pepper as well during the boiling stage for extra bite.

On clams: I've tried to make this with fresh clams a few times. While it can add a really nice extra complexity to the flavor, it is a very subtle change, and a LOT of extra work, especially if you have to shell the clams yourself. If you buy really high quality canned or prepared clams from your seafood market, it tastes great - and will probably have less sand then if you buy unshelled.

Ingredients:

  • 2 dozen large clams (or 3 7oz minced clams)
  • 1/2 Pound Bacon
  • 2 cups clam juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 medium sized onions (peeled and chopped)
  • 4 large potatoes, chopped (peeled if you want)
  • I frequently add fresh celery, and this year, I also added a few fresh leeks to the pot. Add them at the same time you add the potatoes.
  • Bay Leaf
  • Savory Seasoning to taste
  • 1 tsp. finely ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt (to taste - can take 3 or 4 tsp)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups cream (heavy or regular)
  • 1 to 1.5 tsp xantham gum for thickening (flour or cornstarch are fine if you don't have a reason to avoid them)

Chop up the bacon as fine as you want it, and in a soup pot, render the bacon until crisp. Keep 1/3 cup of rendered fat in the same pot, save the rest for breakfast cooking or whatever. You can remove the bacon or leave it in the pot, depending on how crisp you want it. In the pot, cook the onions until soft.

Add the potatoes, water, clam juice, bay leaf, savory, white pepper, and salt. You can optionally add the bacon back in at this stage.  You can also optionally add the clams here, depending on how well cooked you like them. Bring the liquid to a full boil, and then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

If you haven't yet, add the bacon and the clams to the pot, add the milk and cream, and then add your thickening agent very slowly, the whole time bringing the entire pot up to serving temperature of 170 degrees.  You can also add 3 tbsp of butter at this stage for added creaminess. Do not allow the chowder to boil, as it can scald the creams and ruin the flavor.

To serve, add finely chopped parsley and/or paprika.

Chowder will keep in the fridge for roughly a week, or freeze for up to two months.

Spring Forward, Empty Cupboards

Marc Scattergood

Downsizing always seem to have stages. The excitement stage, or “Wow, think of all the awesome things we’re going to get to do in the new place!” The depression phase, e.g., “Oh my god, we have so much crap, why why why??!!!!”

And then there’s the inevitable, “We have what?” phase.

It was the start of Daylight Savings time this past weekend. Parents with younger children know what a delight the biannual time change always is. And it's not exactly pleasant for the rest of us. Coffee sales must see a serious spike. In addition to moving our clocks forward one hour, and fervently hoping our child will sleep a little later Sunday, we went through our medicine cabinets, and our kitchen. The medicine cabinet thing is something I picked up during my time working for an online pharmacy—it’s important to get rid of expired medication, since old medicine may not work as well, or at all. It’s equally important to dispose of it properly, which does not include flushing it down your toilet.

This bag is only so small because we had already done a major culling a few months prior.

This bag is only so small because we had already done a major culling a few months prior.

We love cooking, and one of us has a Penzeys addiction, so I’m sure we had a vague idea there would be some stuff we should put in our yard waste bin. That, however, did not take into account:

  • The “make our own chocolate dipped strawberries at home” phase
  • The “make candy at home” phase
  • The “bake with alternative flours” phase
  • The “spending way too much money at Penzeys” phase
  • The “I like to make cupcakes, let’s do nifty decorations” phase
  • The “alternative sweeteners” phase

Some of this is stuff we can give away on our favorite Facebook group, the Buy Nothing project. People regularly give away canned goods, half of a buy one get one, even leftovers. The “spending way too much money at Penzeys” items will go there.

Marc: I DO NOT HAVE A PENZEYS PROBLEM. (Every plastic bag you can see in this is a bag of spice, chocolate, etc, from Penzeys)

Marc: I DO NOT HAVE A PENZEYS PROBLEM. (Every plastic bag you can see in this is a bag of spice, chocolate, etc, from Penzeys)

Some of it, however, is just too old. We are fortunate we are in a position where we can afford to experiment with different ingredients, that our budget is not so tight that we must watch every dime spent. And so, this is where we will repeat: when it’s that time of year you need to change your clocks, you should check your smoke detectors, clean out your medicine cabinet, and make sure you don’t have a bag of stale flour, or a box of (now powdery) chocolate chips from 2010.

Not too bad for a kitchen with two cooks who love to experiment with everything, but.. yuck! What you can't read: "Best if used by: Mar 2010" for the flour. And given most flour sits on shelves for a good six months before you buy it, extra gross. 

Not too bad for a kitchen with two cooks who love to experiment with everything, but.. yuck! What you can't read: "Best if used by: Mar 2010" for the flour. And given most flour sits on shelves for a good six months before you buy it, extra gross. 

It took us three trips to our yard waste bin to dump all of old ingredients. It was a little sad to see; many baking experiments never carried to fruition, items lost or simply abandoned after one try. There are tangible benefits, though. It will make us more conscientious going forward, about what we chose to spend money on—important given we will most certainly have less storage space. For the short-term, we have more cabinet space, and less clean-up to do if downsizing gets to the wire. And the sanity those things bring is pretty priceless.

What are some of your annual traditions for spring cleaning, general clutter reduction, or sanity benefiting whirlwind reorganizations of your home?