Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dogs and Boys

As I mentioned on my earlier post, we have 3 dogs now. The first two, Reina and Bisou are both females. Female dogs - in general - have a tendency to be more of a one person dog, and that has really been the case with my two girls. They play fetch with the boys, and like to wrestle around some with them, but generally, you'll find them by my side.

Now, my mom has brought Chance the Sheltie down to stay with us. He's just awesome, and has fallen in love with my oldest son David. I'm so happy about it. Chance is a bit of an old man, going on 8 years now. I bought him with my grandfather, back in the days long ago when I lived with my grandfolks. Grandpa Bill and Chance (or Champ, as he was called back then) were a pair, and my grandmother and Chance were both devastated when Grandpa died 3 years ago. Grandma and Chance couldn't stay alone, so they both went off to live with my dad. Unfortunately, it wasn't a very happy time for Chance - they had a bunch of other dogs that treated him mean, and some of the people living there didn't treat him too well either.

Well, it was only about a year and a half later that my grandmother followed my grandfather, and poor old Chance was left alone in a family of strangers. My mom caught one look of him when we all came down for my grandmother's funeral, and it just about broke her heart - his hair had been cut down to about 1 inch long, he was very overweight, and covered with flea bite dermatitis. So, my mom told my dad, 'Gee, you've got so many dogs... would you like me to take him off your hands for you?' She took him back to Gainesville (Florida) with her, and that's where he's spent the last two years. She renamed him, from Champ to Chance - a new start, and a new opportunity at a good life.

This past June, she came down with my nephew, Nick, to stay for a few months, and decided to bring Chance down to stay with me. It's taken most of the 3 months for the 2 brats (Reina and Bisou, not the boys!!) to accept having this new dog in the house, but things are going pretty well now. And the best part is, he and my 12 year old David have taken to each other the way a boy and a dog should. Chance follows him around, plays chase in the yard, and sleeps at the foot of his bed at night. David is so thrilled to have a dog that loves him.
Win win and win for everybody.
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Friday, August 28, 2009

Being Poor Sucks. Discuss Amongst Yourselves.

I'm really tired of being poor. We're trying everything we can to dig out of it, though! I'm publishing more articles all the time, and Johnny's doing everything he can to get more work. Things won't be so bad once I get my house rental back on track. I've gone almost 2 years without making anything on it - every time one thing gets paid off, something else comes up. The only thing left to go wrong is the roof, but I think that's still got a few years left on it. Knock on wood!

Anyone with more advice on making money on the internet, I'm all ears. I'm trying to get more people reading this blog, and reading my articles, and I've also done some freelance writing that helped some. I know I need to get a real blog on my own site started, Blogger's great, but it's not really enough for what I want to do. I'd like to have a site where I can do a lot more travel Peru type articles, and sell some Peruvian jewelry. Maybe put some affiliate ads on there, and try to get some money rolling in! The kids need to eat, y'all.

Speaking of eating, we had grilled chorizos, rice and black eyed peas today. Super yummy.

Black eyed peas -
Chop up an onion, very fine. Get your stock pot out and put enough oil in the bottom to start sauteing your onions. As they cook, drop in a bay leaf, some basil(tsp) and garlic(another tspof the powder, or a minced clove). Let it all simmer together a couple minutes, then drop in two Maggi Bacon bouillon cubes. (Chicken or beef will do if you don't have bacon, but tsk, tsk) Add a couple tablespoons of water, and stir it all together with a wooden spoon until it's all dissolved. Dump in 500 gms of black-eyed peas and 3 liters of water (16 ozs of beans, 3 quarts of water). Cover and bring to a boil, then cut it down to simmer... Let it cook about 3 hours, checking that the water doesn't get too low - add a little more if you need to. THEN - add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste, stir it in and THEN taste - maybe you'll need more salt. And some black pepper.

Vegetarians can use vegetable bouillon cubes in place of meaty ones.

Serve with alongside meat and rice, and optionally top it with some chopped raw onion or Louisiana hot sauce. Or if you're my mom... ketchup. Anyway you like, it's good - Eat it up!
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seco de Pollo - Peruvian Chicken Stew

Peruvian Chicken soupImage by AIBakker via Flickr

Like a lot of people, we've been having to pull our belts tight lately. And eating cheap means eating a lot of chicken. I mentioned in the last post that I can usually get three meals out of one chicken. The first meal is usually something that uses chicken parts - typically the legs and thighs. Today, I cooked one of those meals, a delicious Peruvian dish called seco de pollo. "Seco" literally means 'dry', and signifies a stew, as opposed to 'aguadito' (meaning watery) for soup (that's aguadito in the picture).

I start with a whole chicken, which I wash thoroughly, pat dry with paper towels, then cut up into parts. I cut up into quarters, then separate the legs from the thighs, and use those 4 pieces for this meal. Finely chop up an onion. Take a bunch of fresh cilantro and stick it in the blender with enough chicken broth to make it paste-y, maybe 1/4 to a half a cup. Clean the cilantro first - make sure it doesn't have any large stems or icky pieces in it. I don't know if it's available in the US, but here in Peru you can buy cilantro in a jar, already pureed. If you can find it - maybe try a Latin market? - that takes some of the work and clean up out of the recipe.

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat a little oil, then drop the chicken in to brown. You don't want to cook it through, just lightly brown it on both sides. While the chicken is browning, I get my peas ready - a large handful of pods. By the time I'm done cutting up the carrots, the chicken should be done browning. Take the chicken out, set it to the side, and put the onion in the pot. Add in a couple or three cloves worth of minced garlic, and if you want, some aji amarillo, and saute it all together for a couple minutes. Aji amarillo is a Peruvian chili pepper, which you should be able to find at the Latin market - if not, use a little finely minced jalepeno or similar pepper.

When the onions start to turn translucent, add in the cilantro mix and about 4 cups of chicken stock. Add in the peas and carrots. Peel 4 medium to large potatoes, cut into quarters and add them to the stew. Put the chicken parts back in, and cover and let it cook until all the vegetables are soft and the chicken is cooked through.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with a big pile of white rice.

Sit back and enjoy the compliments. ;)
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Friday, August 21, 2009

Making Chicken Soup

rosół z kuryImage via Wikipedia

Last night, I made chicken soup for dinner. When it's just the four of us, I can get 3 meals out of a good sized chicken. The first night, I'll use the legs (for the boys) and thighs (for the grownups!) in something that calls for parts - fried, or in Peruvian chicken stew. Or, I'll roast the whole thing and just eat the leg quarters the first night. Moving on, I separate the wings from the breast, leaving a good amount of meat at the joint of the wing. I'll use the breast for something that calls for cut up or shredded chicken. Aji de gallina or maybe a stir-fry. Finally, I'll use the wings, feet, neck and liver to make soup.

Yeah, you heard me. Feet.

Don't you judge me!

So - long intro later, with my mom and Nicky visiting, I can only get 2 nights out of a chicken. We had fried chicken Wednesday night, and last night I made chicken soup. This is how I did it.

I had a half breast and a wing left over from frying, plus the feet and neck. I put all of that in my stock pot with a whole onion and a whole carrot and a 4 finger pinch of salt. (That's where you use your thumb and and three fingers to grab salt out of the bag - it's about a tablespoon in my case) Covered it with water, and brought it to a boil, then let it simmer for about an hour.

Once the chicken was done, I ran it through a strainer into my OTHER stock pot. You can use a large bowl or whatever you've got - the point is to get the stock clear and clean. I don't like little bits of unknown chicken parts and skin and stuff floating in my soup. Toss out the onion, cut up the carrot. Put your broth back on the stove. Now at this part, I do what some people might consider cheating - I toss in a couple of bouillon cubes. I like my soup really chicken-y. I also added about a teaspoon of poultry seasoning(I used a spicy one), 2 minced garlic cloves and a bay leaf.

This is when I added another chopped up raw carrot to the broth and let it start cooking. Save the already cooked carrot to drop in at the end - you don't want it over cooked. I also cut up a couple potatoes in bite size pieces and put that in. While the veggies are cooking, I worked on getting all the meat off the chicken carcass. I set the feet aside -- if you cook them too long, they start falling apart, and I know not everyone wants pieces of chicken feet in their soup. But my boys love them, so I saved it aside for them. Dump the meat into the soup. Let the veggies cook for about 20 minutes, and then add the other cooked carrot from earlier AND about 150 grams of spaghetti. Well, that's what I usually add - last night I used up a pack of alphabet noodles that I had hanging around. Let it cook until the noodles are soft, then give it a taste. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Since my mom's here, we've started taking the dogs for a walk every day when the boy's leave for school. Now that we're living in this nice new neighborhood, I can take them out without being threatened by a bunch of strays. So, here we are, me with Reina and Bisou, and my mom walking Chance. Oh, the stares we get! Poor Reina.. no one pays much attention to her - but people are nuts about Bisou and Chance. Bisou of course, just so tiny and dainty; and then Chance, with his gorgeous coat and the elegant way of walking. People yell out 'Lassie! Es Lassie!!' when we pass. He really does look like a very short Lassie.

In other news, I've been publishing as fast as I can on AC, and doing some work for Expat Peru. I suddenly went from having no job, to having more work than I can do in a day! But all this writing is good for me.. and it brought me back to my blog, right?

If you get the time, check out my newest post on AC - it's about the newest items available in Pet Society - the big craze on Facebook.
Facebook Pet Society - New Items
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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Recent Article

I've started doing some writing over at Associated Content, and thought it might be a groovy idea to link my articles there with my shtuff over here on the blog. I know! There hasn't been anything new on the blog in months - I'm a very bad person, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if no one was paying attention anymore. But I'm really going to work on changing that, so I hope maybe one or two of you have stuck around to call back the rest. ;)

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