Sunday, October 25, 2009

Free Chicken from KFC on Oct. 26...But Do You Really Want It?

You probably remember that not long ago, KFC offered a coupon for a free grilled chicken meal that Oprah promoted. And then KFC ran out of chicken. People who held the coupons but didn't get the chicken meal were promised rainchecks.

Well, in a recent Associated Press article posted on Yahoo News, KFC has a new offer, no coupon needed: one piece of grilled chicken for each customer tomorrow (Monday), October 26. According to the article, "KFC executives are pinning hopes on grilled chicken to build stronger U.S. sales by winning over health-conscious consumers turned off by the chain's fried offerings."

So...if I am reading the subtext of that statement correctly, KFC is implying that its grilled chicken is healthy? I could tell you what I think of that implication, but I think it better if you arrive at that decision for yourself. In fact, you can get the information from the KFC Web site's Nutrition tab. Under Nutrition Guides, click on the link for the KFC Ingredient Statement.

For simplicity's sake, I've copy and pasted the ingredients from that KFC Ingredient Statement below for the grilled chicken--but you are welcome to verify the information. Here is the list:

KFC® Grilled Chicken
Fresh Chicken Marinated With: Salt, Sodium Phosphate, and Monosodium Glutamate. Seasoned With: Maltodextrin, Salt, Bleached Wheat Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Monosodium Glutamate, Secret Kentucky Grilled Chicken Spices, Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Garlic Powder, Soy Sauce (Soybean, Wheat, Salt), Chicken Fat, Chicken Broth, Autolyzed Yeast, Beef Powder, Rendered Beef Fat, Extractives of Turmeric, Dehydrated Carrot, Onion Powder, and Not More Than 2% Each of Calcium Silicate and Silicon Dioxide Added As Anticaking Agents.

I don't know about you, but I generally don't marinate my chicken in sodium phosphate and monosodium glutamate. Oh, and then season it with monosodium glutamate, chicken fat, rendered beef fat, and anticaking agents. Yum.

You go get your free, healthy, grilled chicken if you want. I think I'll just cook and eat one of my frozen free-range chickens without MSG and anticaking agents.

Loading the Freezer

I spent some time in the kitchen today doing a bit of rearranging. I put all the jars and bags of frozen food into the chest freezer, leaving mostly meat and some other odds and ends in the fridge freezer. It took 3 pictures of the freezer to get in all that I have preserved this summer. Keep in mind that I've already supplied several friends with food from the freezer and have used some of the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes now to cook with.

On the left, you'll see the bottom area of jars are stacked about two deep; the tray to the right of it slides over the top.

In the second picture, you see the more recent foods preserved (I want to make sure I eat the oldest first, moving to the most recent last). Some of the jars are stacked 4 high. I couldn't stack all of them that high, because in some of the smaller jars, I didn't leave enough head space, which caused the metal lids to puff up. When I use those jars, I'll toss the old lid and use some of the Ball plastic lids I picked up at Rural King.

Next to the jars, you'll see I have some of the shredded zucchini. I still have a LOT of bags of zuke shred, slices, and chopped pieces for winter soups and breads. Oh, yeah--and you'll see some chapati (whole wheat) flour I bought at the Indian grocery store. Reasonably priced and much healthier than white flour.

The last picture shows the freezer section that contains more chopped zucchini, the 5 lbs. of onion I chopped earlier in the summer (I've used a bit of that already, too), several bags full of 1/2-cup packs of chopped green, yellow, red, orange, and gypsy peppers, a pack of sauteed button mushrooms and a pack of sauteed portobello mushrooms. I picked up a couple of packages of oyster mushrooms on manager's special yesterday that I need to sautee and add to these.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with this summer's preservation efforts. We won't have enough food to keep us through the winter, but we'll certainly have enough to supplement what we have to buy at the store. Cooking is much easier, too, when you don't have to take the time to saute mushrooms or chop onions--just open a bag and dump them in!

Next year, I need to get more organized about preserving. That will give me something to blog about this winter: changes I'm going to make to simplify or make more efficient the food preservation process.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Bug Yeller

I know she looks sweet, but she is really quite fierce. Well, not fierce, exactly. Her name is Davita, but she goes by various other names that may not be repeated here. She can be quite loving, but what gets her into trouble is chewing on anything that looks like a string. That includes string, iPod earphones, electrical cords, fringe, sweat pants ties, shoestrings, yarn, and more.

Her role in our little homestead is to yell at bugs. She doesn't really catch them, although if they are slow enough and within reach, she might eat one occasionally. Mostly, she just yells at them in this strange, chatty, broken squeak.

The problem is this: the bugs don't listen.

We still have some flying gnats, although I've trapped and drowned most of them with my apple cider vinegar trap. I expect they'll be gone soon. But now, of course, we have the Asian ladybeetles attempting to invade. In fact, our sliding glass door strip is littered with their dead bodies.

I'm still nursing my pepper plants along in what's left of the garden. Each has at least one pepper growing on it, and a couple of them are soooooo close to being large enough to pick! I've had the kitty litter buckets off of them for the last few days, and as long as the temperatures stay in the 40s-60s range day and night, I'll let them breathe. I'm watching carefully for any impending frosts, and will probably simply cut my losses and pick the peppers before then.

Tonight I chopped up 12 peppers--9 green and 3 gypsy peppers--from last weekend's farmer's market. They're in the small freezer in 1/2-cup packs, and tomorrow I'll put the bags in a larger Ziploc in the chest freezer. I also purchased several herbs at this weekend's farmer's market: parsley, sage, rosemary, and lavender (nobody had thyme, so I can't sing the song). The sage is spinning in the dehydrator as I write this; tomorrow, in will go the lavender. I don't like to dehydrate more than one herb at a time; I want to concentrate their oils and scents rather than mix them. I am, however, looking forward to trying some recipes with lavender, perhaps even some lavender sweet tea. Mmmm.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Of Geese and Gardens

It is always a sad day for me when I see geese migrating. I know what that means...winter is on its way.

While I am happy to be slowing down on the food preservation (and will be happier still when I get rid of the last of the gnats that are plaguing our kitchen right now), it's sad to see the garden lose its foliage and color. In fact, that's one of the things I dislike so much about fall and winter; once the leaves are done turning, the sky and land turn gray and seem to stay sunless and gray until mid-March.

I put up 5 1/2 pints of tomato sauce tonight, the last batch of tomato anything I'll be freezing for the season. I did cut the heads off the sunflowers and will try hanging them in the garage to dry, but it may have been a bit too early to cut them. I didn't have much of a choice, since we have had dire frost warnings lately.

The only item left in the garden that's producing at this point are my pepper plants. I covered five of them with kitty litter buckets to protect them from the frost and left two exposed. I was so tired by the time I got the five buckets out and cut off the sunflower heads (it was 41 degrees and I had a raging head cold), that I gave up on the other two plants. I feel bad about that, but a person can only do so much. I peeked under one bucket yesterday, and the little peppers seem to still be growing. We'll see, I suppose. One pepper: that's all I ask. Give me one pepper from my plants this year!
Yesterday, hubby and I did a bit of garden work. He mowed the yard and bagged it, dumping the mowed grass and leaves into the garden for winter mulch. He also took down the garden fence and pulled up the fence stakes.

My work took place in the garden itself. I pulled up all the tomato plant stakes and separated out the good stakes from the bad stakes. Bad stakes went into the burn pile; good stakes went into the garage for next year. Bamboo stakes I will never use again--I nearly put my eye out on one of them when I was harvesting tomatoes about a month ago. Plus they don't bear weight very well: they bend. The green bread ties (well, they aren't really bread ties; they're much longer. But they look like bread ties) are NOT going to be used next year--they cut into the tomato plants as the tomato plants grow and have to be pulled off the stakes at the end of the year. I'll have to try something softer, more pliable, that can simply be allowed to stay in the garden to become compost at the end of the year.

I used the compost from the compost bin and the still-rotting fruits and veggies in the bin to layer over part of the garden. Then, newspaper shred over that, and the grass and leaf clippings on top of that. Some of the garden still isn't covered, but I have more time to do that before winter sets in. If, that is, we get one more good mowing day in at least. I still have to take down the okra stalks, too.

I definitely need to pay a lot more attention to my compost bin this year. I basically ignored it this year and didn't get the amount of compost out of it that I should have and could have. I'll make a checklist over the winter based on my blog entries of things I want to do differently for next year's garden.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Slice 'Em and Dice 'Em...But Then What?

Yesterday I hit the farmer's market. I had planned to purchase more pork and chicken from my favorite meat vendors, but Twin Oak Meats and TJ's Free-Range Poultry weren't there. (The other meat vendors who were, unfortunately, finish their cows on corn. No. No. No.) They're excused, though, because it was a crappy day--rain off and on, chilly, and overcast. Not many customers were there, either. I was feeling better (had a fever all day Friday from some unknown bug) and decided to brave the weather anyway.

So I bought some lovely peppers from Blue Schoolhouse Farm and some tomatoes to supplement my recent meager harvest. I bought the tomatoes from O'Rourke Family Farms, and they have some lovely Valencia tomatoes--the big orange ones in the picture. They are almost Beefsteak-like in their meatiness and juiciness, but a bit sweeter and maybe even less acidic. At least it seems so to my lay palate.

One of the things I love about the farmer's market is the friendliness and generosity of the farmers. Often you can get a deal without even asking for it! Buy enough, and they'll often throw in some slightly damaged or overripe goods that are still perfectly fine. In this case, Mr. O'Rourke (I'm making assumptions here) threw in some tomatoes that had spilled on the ground, keeping him from selling those to a customer. I wash my tomatoes anyway before processing, so it was no biggie to me. Thank you, O'Rourke Family Farms!

Now here's the problem: what do I make with all these tomatoes? I skinned and diced them this evening and put them in the refrigerator until tomorrow. I've ruled out salsa--I already have more than I can probably eat over the winter. The plum tomatoes I'm saving to add to others I harvest from my garden (no frost yet) or buy at farmer's market; I'll turn those into tomato paste. I don't use tomato paste very often at all, so I don't think I'll need a lot. The rest of the tomatoes will either become chili sauce (although again, I think I have more than I can eat), tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, or perhaps both. I do know I won't have many more tomatoes from the garden for a batch of anything, and there are few tomatoes at farmer's market since tomato season is essentially over.

But maybe I should turn the diced tomatoes into something else. Any suggestions? I'm new at this food preservation thing, so I'm open to advice from you more experienced gardeners.

Oh, and by the way, the 9-grain bread turned out really well. I love breadmakers!

Attack of the Killer Wasp Babies

I've mentioned hornworms before and provided pictures, but those hornworms were healthy (until I picked them off and threw them into the sun for the birds, stomped them, hit them with a dropped rock, or placed them in a spiderweb). I haven't seen any healthy hornworms in the garden for a little while, and the picture at left provides some evidence for why that may be so.

This hornworm is dead. See the little white things hanging all over its body? Those are the parasitic wasp eggs I have mentioned. You can't tell from this picture, but these eggs were actually wriggling when I took this shot. See the brown marks all over the hornworm? Those are where other egg sacs were attached; then the wasp babies actually hatched and breakfasted upon Mr. Hornworm.

When you see a hornworm with wasp egg sacs, you are supposed to leave it, so I did. Feed on, little babies!

Warm Applesauce for a Chilly Day

Thankfully, the cloud cover once again kept the temperature from going low enough to frost. But it has been chilly and rainy off and on today, a dreary fall day.

Which made it a good day to take the Gala and Golden Supreme apples I got from Country Mist Orchard and turn them into applesauce. I started the endeavor a bit late, and finished up about midnight.

I made two batches: one with the Gala apples, using brown sugar; the other with the Golden Supreme, using granulated sugar. They both have a very nice flavor, with the Golden Supreme being slightly sweeter, yet mild. I made triple batches of the recipe for each of the two varieties, and ended up with 4 1/2 pints of each sauce. The recipe comes from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. I leave the skins on my apples for extra fiber and leave the apples somewhat chunky. I don't care for the completely smooth applesauce; it reminds me too much of baby food.


4 med. apples
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. packed brown sugar or 1/3 to 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Heat apples and water to boiling over medium heat; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally to break up apples, until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling; boil and stir one minute. About 3 cups.

In addition to the two batches of applesauce, I sliced up most of the recently picked okra and started the dehydrator. By tomorrow, I'll have lots of dehydrated okra slices for soups and stews this winter. I already have half a jar full (shown on top of the dehydrator). And no, I don't run my dehydrator with the jar sitting on top.

I'm also baking a loaf of 9-grain bread, which should be done by 2 a.m., about the time hubby gets home from his rock band gig. The kitchen is fully of that wonderful yeasty bread smell right now and is making me quite hungry!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Last Harvest of the Season?

It is supposed to get down to 35 degrees tonight, which is very close to frost temperatures. If it frosts, my garden is finished, so even though I didn't feel well, I got outside this evening and harvested what I could.

My tomato plants have just about stopped producing altogether, and the little bit of color you see in the picture at left comprises the remains of tomatoes that worms, grasshoppers, and other vegetarians have left me.

Still, I managed a small harvest today: 2 Best Boy, 1 Genovese Costoluto, 10 plum, 1 yellow, 3 purple, 2 Orange Banana, 1 Beefsteak (albeit with some flesh wounds from some critter), 2 Brandywine, 101 Sun Sugar, and 6 Sungold Select. The tomatoes are scarred, eaten on here and there and, in some cases, really picked a bit too soon. I'll need to place them in the windowsill to ripen, but I thought it best to bring in any that had the potential to ripen so they weren't wasted by frost.

In addition to the tomatoes, I ended up with 2 green onions (I planted these very late as seed, and although I planted an entire row, the cucumbers choked them out and only two survived), 11 okra, and a last handful of green beans.

What saddens me the most about this harvest being potentially the final harvest of the year is the fact that my pepper plants are just starting to produce peppers. I have baby peppers on each plant, some larger than others, and would like to see a few of them grow into a more edible size. Even if we don't get a frost tonight, I fear that a frost is just around the corner. I mean, look at this little guy, trying so hard to grow! But you can see that the plant itself, while green, is showing some signs of disease, probably brought on by the overabundance of chilly rains lately.

Also, I'm sad that I won't get any sunflower seeds. The heads are heavy with seeds, but the seeds won't have a chance to finish and their shells harden before a frost comes along. I was really looking forward to roasting those seeds for winter consumption.