How to: Make Chicken Stock

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Hey guys!

I wanted to do a quick post about how I make my chicken stock for zero dollars! This sounds crazy, I know, but I take rotisserie chicken carcasses from family members and friends, herbs from mine and my mum’s herb gardens, the ends of my veggies (I freeze them when I chop them up) and regular pantry staples. Even if you don’t have access to free chicken carcasses or herbs, keep in mind that chicken carcasses are food waste you’d throw out otherwise. A rotisserie chicken is often cheaper than a roaster chicken! Not only do you get 4 meals (or so) from it, you can make stock which can be the base of other meals as well.

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I like to make my stock in my crock pot. I love that I can turn it on and (mostly) forget about it. I put it on high for 4-6 hours after I get home from work, using a thawed chicken carcass (usually I pop them in the freezer until I’m ready to make stock) in my 6 quart slow cooker from Hamilton Beach. I add thyme, sage, bay leaf, salt, red peppers, whole peppercorns, garlic, rosemary and carrots, asparagus ends, leeks, and onions. Once it has cooked for 4-6 hours and tastes great, to save space I try to reduce the stock by half. This takes time but is worth it if you don’t have a ton of freezer room.

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Once you have reduced your stock, you’ll want to cool it down quite quickly to get it into the fridge. I usually start by half filling my sink with water and a whole tray of ice, then setting the pot in there. I think you’ll be surprised how fast the ice melts! I then drain the water and refill the sink repeatedly until the sink water no longer rapidly rises in temperature, the side of the pot is cool to the touch and the stock isn’t steaming. Then, ladle it into freezer safe containers and pop them into the fridge without their lids on for a couple of hours or overnight. Once they’re fridge cold, pop the lids on an put them in the freezer until you need some stock!

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I hope this gives you an idea of how to make easy chicken stock for very little money! Save those chicken carcasses and veggie bits and you are well on your way.

 

Have a great day!

How-to: Keep your house cool

I live in a three story townhouse, and my bed is on the third floor. Sometimes, it can get so, so hot and I’m tempted to turn tail and hide at my parent’s place, where I not only sleep in the cool basement but also they have air conditioning!

While that compulsion isn’t so bad on the weekends when I don’t have to get too much done, during the week that means I have to get up about 30 minutes earlier and spend time packing work clothes/makeup to get ready in the morning, as well as drive into my house on the highway to tuck my car into the garage before walking to the bus station. It’s a lot of variables to add to an already hectic average work day, so I really try to keep my house cool to avoid doing that, as much as I love midweek visits to my parent’s place!

I know what you’re thinking, buy a portable air conditioner unit or a window version. I hear you. As someone who owns their home and pays whatever the utilities bills are, I investigated some of the options and couldn’t justify the cost of purchasing the unit ($500+ for a space of my size), creating a venting option, the energy to run it and then a reserve fund for if the self-evaporation function on it fails and there is a water leak in my home. Plus, as Consumerist and Consumer Report would imply, the efficacy of the portable units isn’t really worth the cost either.

For window air conditioner units, the argument was immediately stopped by a ban on them by the community guidelines in my area. However, they have a much higher incidence of mold than any other type of air conditioner, which can be damaging to respiratory health. If secured improperly, they can also be a safety and security concern.

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So, I took some hints and tricks from family and friends and have a system that gets my main floor to 17 degrees every night and around 20 degrees upstairs- perfectly reasonable living temperatures, potentially even too cool for some people! Here are my tips:

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Keep your lights and appliances off until it cools down

This one seems like a no-brainer, but also make sure that your blinds are of the blackout version in bedrooms and high-sun areas. Sure, my plain white vinyl blind isn’t the prettiest in my bedroom, but it keeps the sun out and that keeps my house cool. Airy curtain sheers are not doing you any favors, no matter how pretty they may be.

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A lot of different types of lights kick off ambient heat that can make your home even hotter. For this reason, I keep my main floor lights off until I need to have them on- sometimes that means I need to turn on a lamp for task lighting, but it’s a lot less than lighting the whole place up like a landing strip. Similarly, 25+degree heat may not be the best time to be baking a chicken in your oven. These are great days to use a crock pot, or your microwave to heat up a premade meal from the freezer. Better yet, try this no-cook meal I talked about recently. Once it’s cool outside and you have your windows open, do what you like (within reason).

Broke Girl Air Conditioning

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No, I am not implying you sit around and sweat it out until the sun goes down or outside gets cooler then inside. Although if you want to make yourself an iced drink and pretend it’s Mexico, I am with you. You can do things to prepare your house to clear the hot air out faster, though! I start with freezing trays of ice and pyrex dishes of water the night before. Then, on my main floor I turn on my giant turbo fan and aim it right on the ice! The effect of this is like dropping an ice cube in your drink- it cools the ambient temperature of your drink (or whatever room you’re in) and the heat rises. The same happens in your house! You’re just forcing it a bit. It is also nice to sit in front of the cool wind it provides. Beyonce hair alllllll night. This helps me be able to sit and watch TV, prep dinner, work on my computer without sweating to death. I’m Canadian… for the most part we’re optimized for cold, not heat up here in the GWN.

Once it is cooler outside than inside, take your fan or fans upstairs to the highest floor of your home or position them by your best windows for breeziness if you live on one level. Open up those windows and turn the fans on high. So long as your house is hotter than outside, there should be a natural effect where the hot air wants to rise, which means it needs to go outside! The fans will help push it out more expediently.

 

And of course, when all else fails, put some ice packs in your bed and tough it out! We only get hot weather every so often up here so it’s worth it to be good natured about it.

 

 

How To: Plant Your Own Flower Pots

 

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Hey!

Today I wanted to talk about something I do pretty much every year with my mum- custom flower pots. While my mum probably could afford to purchase pre-made planters and pots of flowers, she makes her own each year and says that the best way to save money on having a nice yard is to take the time to learn how to do it yourself. The type-A’s amoungst us will also appreciate that these are 100% customizable to your own color and varietal preference. So lets get started!
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When you’re within a day or two of having time to plant, get to the local greenhouse or big box store and start looking at plants. As you are looking, keep in mind where you’re wanting to put these plants- if they’re going in a shady area, find some that are shade lovers by reading the tags inserted in the pots. Also consider the physical height and sprawl of your plants- if you have a tall center plant, consider surrounding it with some medium height plants as well as some trailing plants for the most visual interest. Once you’ve picked out your plants, grab some potting soil and you’re good to head home!
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Your first step is to find a container that is the appropriate size for what you’d like to put in it, and fill it with potting soil. If you have a truly enormous pot because you’re wanting to create visual height, filling the entire pot with soil isn’t necessary. Fill the bottom half of the pot with empty water bottles (caps on, uncrushed) and/or a smaller pot turned upside down, then lay down a layer of newsprint (about 3 pages thick). Pour your dirt on top of that and you’ll have a much lighter pot, and you won’t waste dirt. As you fill your pots, no matter what you want to lightly press down your dirt. If you don’t, once you water the plants the dirt will settle and your plants will be too far down in the pot.
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As you’re filling that pot up with soil, keep in mind what you’d like to eventually plant in there – leave enough space that you can set the root system of the plant in there and then fill around it with additional dirt. Set your center plant first, then set your other plants around it. The root systems of these plants actually like being lightly broken up, as the pots they’re in often have them root bound waiting for sale. Once you’ve placed your plants (don’t worry if they’re not standing up straight), you can start filling in the dirt around them to stabilize them in place!
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You will continue filling up your pots with dirt until everything is stable, and all of the root systems are fully covered. Lightly press down the soil around your plants to make sure they aren’t going to settle the first time you water them. Watering them lightly to welcome them into their new home is coincidentally the last step!
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I know that making your own planters and pots can seem intimidating, but as you can see it’s actually pretty easy for those inclined to get a bit dirty and save a few bucks! Once you’ve purchased your pots, the cost will be significantly less year over year compared to purchasing pre-made options.
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What is your favorite flower to plant at home?