Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chowder Love

Are you sad, lonely, depressed? Are you terribly unlovable?  Luckily for you - you happened across this post.  I have the cure for that.  I am quite comfortable diagnosing you with a tendency toward looking for love in all the wrong spices (yep, I went there).  The pot of deliciousness you will have as a result of using this recipe will make anyone (who is not lactose intolerant) love you (or they're stupid and don't deserve your love).

As the youngest of five, having grown up in a family where dinner was the meal preceded by my sister Faith, and I banging our spoons on our glasses and shrieking "Ding-a-ling-ding-ding time for DINNER" at the top of our lungs.  The food was never anything fancy - stews, meatloaf, quiche, hotdogs and beans, boiled dinners (we are true New Englanders at heart); more often than not the vegetables were canned (50/50 home grown and canned or grocery store stuff), and what could be, was purchased in bulk.

One of my FAVORITE meals growing up was fish chowder, and a few years ago, I realized I'd never made it for my daughter.  I emailed Mom and Faith, and both were surprised that I would ask - because chowder is so EASY.  Regardless of the easiness, neither was able to provide me with a workable recipe.

I did some googling, and all the recipes I found were baffling, and didn't sound remotely like the stuff we ate growing up.  The worst was when I came across recipes for Manhattan chowder which is RED (FYI - chowder should be a creamy color with little spots of golden buttery goodness on top).

Luckily, I found a publication at work - Recipe Ideas for Thrifty Families - I got the printed copy - but if you click on that link - you get the whole thing as a PDF for free.  The recipes are all good new england stuff - simple and delicious - and, yes, thrifty :)

Page 15 has the fish chowder recipe I used.  The first couple of times, I used that recipe exactly, but since it has evolved into my own recipe, which I will try to get down right for you:

  • 1 - Medium Onion
  • 2 tbsp - Butter 
  • 4-5 decent size (a fist?) good potatoes - I prefer Yukon Gold, but you can go with whatever you want
  • 1 lb fish (I go to the grocery store and get "chowder mix" - which usually includes only haddock, but sometimes there's some salmon in there too) - you can use more fish if you want.  The original recipe calls for Cod or something like that - but if you ask me it's nowhere near as good
  • 4 cups water 
  • 2 12 oz cans of evaporated milk - the original recipe calls for 2 cups of water, and fresh milk - but  chowder is WAY better if you use the evaporated stuff - much creamier
  • 1 can of corn - anything other than creamed corn - I like the niblets
  • Salt - a pinch, and then a decent amount to taste when it's finished
  • Pepper - to taste
  • Mince up your onions teeny tiny, and throw them in a saute pan with your butter until they reach that gorgeous translucent stage - you will most likely start drooling before they hit perfection.  
  • Peel your potatoes and cut them into bite size pieces - 3/4 inch cube-ish - you can leave the skin on - but keep in mind that, unless your potatoes are organic, they do generally retain a lot of the toxins from any pesticides in their skin
  • Throw the potatoes & butter/onion mix in to a decent size pot with the water, and a pinch of salt (a pinch of salt is literally that - stick your fingers in and pull out a pinch - otherwise, maybe 1/4 tsp?  Not much - just enough to get it boiling faster) - sometimes I'll pop just a few small bits of fish in the water when I first mix it all together, I have no idea if it makes any difference to the recipe - but probably no more than an ounce of the smaller bits of fish
  • Bring the mixture to a boil - and simmer on medium/low for about 15 minutes
  • Throw in the can of corn (be sure to include the water from the can)
  • While this mix simmers together, cut your fish up into 1-inch-ish size pieces - Be sure to scrape off any pesky skin that might be stuck to it, and keep your eyes/fingers on the alert for any bones that might be hiding
  • Check that your potatoes are cooked all the way through (super easy to check - pull the biggest piece of potato you see out with a spoon, then poke it with a fork, if the fork slides right through it - the potatoes are fully cooked.  If needed, repeat until you are positive they're all cooked through, and you've got a good idea of how delicious they will be.  This is a good chance to add a bit more salt, if you're of a mind to - it all depends on taste.
  • When the potatoes are cooked through - throw all of your fish in - bring it back up to a boil, and cook on medium for about five minutes - your fish is done when it's gone from a semi-transparent gross raw look to a beautiful solid fully cooked look.  If you aren't sure what I mean - google it. The fish will also turn flaky when it's cooked, so try whomping some of it with a fork in the pot.
  • When the fish is finished, throw in your cans of evaporated milk, and that's it! 
Your chowder is going to be okay; chowder is always fine the day you make it.  I suggest having fresh biscuits or rolls (with real butter) with it.  I PROMISE  you that it will be better the next day (unless you forget to put it in the fridge, then avoid it). The flavors will mingle, and your tongue and stomach will be so very happy.

Some other things you can do:
  • Add carrots
  • Leave out the fish and just have corn chowder (which is one of the best last minute meals a parent can have in their arsenal
  • Add clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, lobster, etc. pretty much any seafood will be a great addition to this.
The next time I make chowder I'll try to get a picture of the perfect onions, and when fish is cooked to add to this, so you don't have to resort to googling.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Luggage Has Arrived!

I created a Facebook page for the January 12 - 15, 2013 Marlboro Chill Off the Grid Winners - and have been reading, with plenty of excitement, about other travelers receiving their luggage.  

Despite my characteristic desire to be surprised with gifts and things, as soon as I found out about the trip, I started googling what "gifts" I would be receiving, so I knew it was VERY likely that we would get luggage.  The mystery, of course, was what that luggage would look like!

I was really surprised when the box arrived today at work, because the woman I spoke to at Marlboro had said it would be sent to my house.  It appears that our box has been through some times; it received a second set of tape at some point between Southaven, MS and here.  Don't tell my sister, but she's getting the bag that has a couple of little mud splotches on it.

When the box arrived, I was PRETTY sure it was the luggage, even though, as I said, I wasn't expecting it to come to me at work.  Because I win a lot of things (see my Incredibly Lucky 2012), I wasn't 100%.

Here is what arrived:

I'm impressed with my restraint - taking a picture before opening it!!

Inside the box was our luggage - two rolling "Vertex" Duffels, and two baseball caps.  

Sadly, I generally do NOT look very nice in hats, but, am totally excited about wearing this one when we're at the airport (specifically our Chicago to Bozeman flight, which will have a number of other travelers on it!!).

Here I am, rocking my hat (which, thankfully doesn't scream Marlboro - which would be okay, but not as classy looking):

Yes - that is a paisley shirt - that's how I roll
I'm not sure if I'll have time to blog anymore about my pre-trip excitement before it's actually Trip time!!!  We leave at 5:39 am on Saturday, and then arrive in Bozeman a little after 2:00 pm.  I can PROMISE that I will post PLENTY of pictures when I return!

To read all posts related to this win - go to my Marlboro Ranch Page!

Ticket Time!

I have been neglectful of the world wide everyone with my Marlboro Ranch Trip updates!!!

Back on Wednesday, January 2nd, I received our Airline tickets, in addition to information on what we need to bring, a $25 Visa card for myself, and for my sister, for us to check our luggage (which you can read all about in my next post).

Our Information was in these cool little folders

The letter was filled with great info on what to bring, as well as contact info for the ranch.  In the ticket folders are little handouts for folks back home - emergency contact info for us at the Ranch.

The most FUN thing (yes, I know, the plane tickets are super fun, and definitely added an element of reality to this dreamlike vacation) was the "Activity Confirmation." If you read my post "Paperwork II: The Fun Stuff" then you saw the form we got to fill out rating our preference for different activity choices.  The Activity Confirmation has our schedule of activities for days 2 & 3 of our trip!  Check it out!

I used my incredible office skills to remove our last names

I'm beyond thrilled at the Zip Line Adventure, and the Dog Sledding.  I am really interested in the Archery Adventure, and I'm actually kind of glad we got wait listed for the snowmobile; I was nervous that the posture you maintain on a snowmobile might not be beneficial for someone who had spinal surgery less than six months ago.  

All in all - this is, as usual, a total win!! 

Luggage arrived today, but I decided to make that a separate post!

To read all posts related to this win - go to my Marlboro Ranch Page!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Incredibly Lucky 2012

2012 has really been a banner year for me.  Outside of all the amazing things I've won (over $15,000 worth of prizes), I had back surgery back in July, and feel better than I have since my mid-twenties.

I would say that on the average evening, I spend about 2 - 3 hours entering sweepstakes while I watch movies or TV (technically, I guess I'm pretty much listening to the shows, since I am looking at the laptop screen).  I enter on blogs, facebook, instant wins, some twitter giveaways, etc.  I use the tool Roboform (it's an add-on for Chrome and Firefox that remembers all my passwords, and enters my info into a page, so I don't have to type it out every time).

There's a program out there called Sweepstakes Ninja that just enters contests for you, but to me, that's cheating, and I would think it would be against the rules of pretty much every giveaway out there.

But, you're probably more interested in hearing what I actually won!! The two biggest deals to me were the trips - way back in January, I won a trip through TNT - round trip to Huntington Beach, California - and back this fall, I found out about my BIGGEST win yet - a trip to the Marlboro ranch.  My goal for next year is to win either a large cash prize, or a new car.  I suppose that's my new year's resolution :)

Jessy's 2012 Wins:
90210 Season 4 – DVD
Ace Bottle Opener
Blog Prize Pack
Amazon Gift Cards – Total of $210
AMC Movie Tickets & Drinks – 2
Custom Lambskin Journal
Aveda Relief Kit (both full and travel sizes)
Avengers Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack
$25 GC to Babeland
Babycakes Cookbook
Meat Thermometer
One Year of Better Homes & Gardens Magazine
Betty Crocker Muffin Mixes, Apron, and Other Goodies
Bible Verses Book
Bluapple – Fridge freshener
Blue Wooden Bead Bracelet
Body by Vi Products
Thirty-One Bag
Mark by Avon Skincare Set
Another Book
Bresh Toothbrushes
Cassandra Clare collection of books
ChuChi Night Light/Toy
Coconut Oil for Pets
Copy Kids DVD
Country Bob’s All Purpose Sauce
$18 of Walmart Coupons
Crochet Patterns
Custom nail Solutions
Custom Apron
Daris Howard Book
Death of a Schoolgirl Book
Digital Precision Bathroom Scale
Fit Moms for Life Book
Doubletree Cookies
Ear Buds
Election Night Party Kit
$5 ELF Gift Card
ET Blu-Ray & DVD Combo
Eyebrow Brush
Facial Cloths
$15 Family Dollar GC
Book – First Grave on the Right
Set of 10 Flirt Cosmetics Lip Glosses
Food Should Taste Good Chips
Fredrick’s of Hollywood items
Book – Gabriel’s Woman
Garnier Product Collection (21 full size products – ARV $224)
Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Book
GoGoSqueez Treats & Perfume/Lotion items
Greenleaf Potpourri
Haywire Signed Poster
iPad Speaker Dock
Hope Springs Prize Pack
10 New Horror DVDs
House at the End of the Street signed poster, and other movie items
$25 HSN Gift Card
Huggable Curious George
Hunger Games DVD
iPod Shuffle
$25 iTunes GC
JCP Gift Certificates - $315 Total
Jessica Inclan Book
Chinese Jewelry
Yoga Mat Bag
Gourmet Chocolates
K2 Book from
2 Festival passes to KahBang
2 Karen Kane Scarves
2 Bottles of Krill Oil Pills
Little Tikes & MGA Prize Pack
Lovable Labels Camp Pack
Artisan Coffee Beans
Lysse Leggings
Marlboro Ranch Trip (leaving in 10 Days!!)
$50 Mastercard GC
Meaningful Jewelry Bracelet
2 Mirabella Lip Glosses
Mondelo Blank Canvas Custom Sneakers
Monkey Balm
$13 Movie Cash
Ski Passes
My memories Suite Software
Natural House Cleaners
Natural Insect Repellant
Nature-Cide Inside Spray
New Era Cap
Several Blog Gift Packs
Northface Boots – my Choice
Ottlite Table Lamp
$200 Lingerie
Pantene Whip Hair Product
Custom Made Photo Nightlight
Pillowtex Triple Core Pillow
Pledge Multi Surface Wipes
$10 Plum District GC
Premium Mod Strap
FitBit Fitness Tracker
CD & DVD Set
Queen of America Book
Ratchet Set
Redbox Movie Code
Autographed book – Revolution of Evelyn Serrano
2 – Rubbermaid Hidden Recycler
Samsun Focus S Smart Phone – Pro – 1 Year
Schlage Home Security Kit
Penguin 8 Best Sellers
$100 ShanaLogic Gift Card
ShaToBu Shaper – 2 Aprons, 2 Glovettes, and Oven Mitt Set
Sing4 – The Hits Edition for Wii
Sinky, Trashy, Flush – 2 month supply
$200 GC
Snapsac Super Tote
Snow White & the Huntsman DVD/Blu Ray
$100 Prepaid Visa
Sportline Pulse Monitor
St. Ives Body Lotion – 8 large bottles
Stila Lip Trio
The Big Year DVD
The Gaia Wars & Battle for Cascadia – Autographed books
The Joy of Melt and Pour Soap Crafting ebook
The New Fox Tuesday Prizes
Partyworks Complete Party Pack
They Stood Alone – autographed book
$50 Thirty-One GC
Thirty-One Duffel
Time Dog Subscription
Tortillas to the Rescue Cookbook
Treasure Me Paperback
All Expenses Paid trip to Huntington Beach, CA
We Bought a Zoo DVD
$15 Wendy’s GC
Werewolf Blu Ray
Woozie Wine Accessories
$25 Christmas Tree Shop GC
Yankee Candle Full Size
Yes to Carrots Color Balm
Yonanas Maker & $52 free Bananas Coupons
Zuvo Water Filter
Faber Watercolors
2 - 20 oz Coca Cola Products
2 - Movie Passes
Chicago Christmas CD
Lady Antebellum Christmas CD
German Facial Products