Strawberry Fields Forever

Now you are probably humming that famous song from the Beatles, right? Sorry about that. The girls and I went Strawberry picking last week. We left early before the heat of the day. It was a perfect day for picking. Beautiful, blue, bright, sunny skies. There was a touch of a breeze to keep the bugs at bay. There were lots and lots of berries!

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We went to a farm in Whitefield, Maine that is organic. Strawberries are one of those fruits that is on the list of foods you should really try and eat without pesticides. Luckily there are a few good farms in Maine that are growing organic strawberries. Apples are also on that list but are a lot harder to find in organic ‘pick your own’ form.

Anyway, back to the strawberries.

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Isn’t that a beauty! And boy did they taste good. There were so many strawberries we didn’t really have to move along the row much. Just sit and pick.

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Of course you have to eat a few while you pick.

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It was a nice morning and I was very thankful to have the girls help me. This week they go to camp so I will go myself and I know it will take me a lot longer.

I froze most of this batch. I love having strawberries all year long. We use them in smoothies and pies but the girls will just eat a bowl of them straight out of the freezer. I cut off the tops, cut the berry in half unless it is really small and place it on a cookie sheet. When the sheet is full I put it in the freezer overnight. The next day I scoop the frozen berries into a freezer bag. Dip the bag in a big bowl or sink full of water to get all the air out and zip lock it closed. Then put the bag in the freezer. The reason I do it this way is that the berries freeze independently and they don’t freeze in a big lump. It is so much easier to open a bag and take a few out without having to separate them all from each other. Strawberries any time you need them!

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Picking your own fruit and freezing it is a real money saver. Frozen bags of fruit in a grocery store are about three times as much as what I can do for myself. Plus I am getting exercise, fresh air and making memories at the same time. So go find yourself some strawberries. And don’t forget to eat some too!

Happy Picking. ūüôā

 

 

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What’s for Dinner – Menu & Recipe

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Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter as I did. Both my older boys came home for the weekend so the dinner table was full again. It was loud and fun with music, conversation, and lots of eating. We all got outside for a while on Sunday as it was a beautiful day.

We all hear that question, ‘What’s for dinner, or what’s for supper’. I even get ‘What are you making for breakfast today?’ I don’t plan out the breakfast menu. When I wake up I decide what we are having. It depends on our schedule, what time it is when I make my way downstairs and what time my husband leaves. Anyway this post and every Monday’s post is about dinner, or supper as some of us call it. Every Monday I will post a menu for the up coming week. I love getting meal ideas from other people and I hope that my menu may help someone. I also will post about a meal that was successful and offer a recipe. We all love recipe’s!

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We had a turkey dinner for Easter this year. I served all the fixings that would normally go with a turkey dinner. My husband always does a dry brine on the turkey and it is so very good. It locks the juices and flavor right in.

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Yummy broiled potatoes (both sweet and some russets) were a hit. I love adding a vidalia onion to the potatoes.

I had to change my menu around a bit last week, since we decided to have our big meal on Saturday instead of Sunday. My sons needed to leave Sunday to go back home to get ready for work and I didn’t want to stress with a big meal. On Sunday after a big breakfast we had egg salad sandwiches (use up all those hard boiled eggs!) for dinner and snacked off and on.

On Friday I made chicken enchiladas. Those are always a hit. I thought you may want the recipe. It is very easy and super yummy!

Chicken Enchiladas:

Package of 10 large tortillas

2 TBSP oil or butter

8oz cream cheese

1 large onion

Can of black olives

1/2 cup of salsa

2 to 3 cups of cooked, shredded chicken

1 TBSP cumin

1 TBSP garlic powder

1 TBSP chili powder

salt to taste

2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

One can of enchilada sauce. (We use mild and it has a bit of a kick, but if you like it hotter look for the hot!)

Cook onions in oil, add cream cheese and stir until melted. Add chopped olives and spices. Add salsa and chicken. Stir to incorporate. Add chicken and stir until chicken is covered in creamy sauce. Take off heat. Take about 1/4 cup of mixture and put inside tortilla. Roll to wrap and place in a greased glass dish that has edges. When the pan is filled pour the enchilada sauce over and top with a little more cheddar cheese if you like. Since the mixture is hot these won’t take long to cook. Cook in oven at 350 degrees until bubbly. If there happens to be leftovers these will reheat very nicely.

Here is my dinner menu for this week.

Monday: Salmon, basmati rice, and broiled brussel sprouts

Tuesday: Open faced turkey sandwiches with whole wheat bread and broccoli

Wednesday: Stir Fry with pasta

Thursday: Hamburgers on the Grill French fries and fried zucchini

Friday: Baked chicken parts with brown rice and green beans

Saturday: Beef roast, potatoes and carrots and cauliflower

Sunday: Spaghetti and sauce and crusty bread

Enjoy your week! If you have any meal ideas let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Menu Board & Recipes

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Mmmmm Fried Chicken! This is a favorite here in this house. It is relatively easy too. Here is the recipe:

Parts of chicken (I use legs and thighs)

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt

1 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup corn meal (adds crunch)

1 TBSP paprika

1 TBSP garlic powder

2 tsp salt

2 tsp pepper

1 tsp thyme

Enough oil or shortening to fill a skillet up about an inch high

Soak chicken in yogurt for several hours

When ready to fry chicken mix dry ingredients in a paper or plastic bag (without holes)

Start to heat up oil in a frying pan or skillet. Don’t let it get too hot though. If it starts to smoke take it off and let it cool a bit.

Take chicken out of yogurt and shake off excess yogurt. Place a few pieces of chicken in the bag of spices and shake to cover chicken. Place the chicken in heated pan of oil. Fry at medium heat for 10 minutes or so on each side.

Serve with sides of your choice.

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Another favorite this week was home made spaghetti sauce and garlic bread sticks.

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Lots of carbs I know but also lots of taste. It is okay to load up on the carbs sometimes! Right?

Here is my recipe for Garlic Breadsticks

Use any pizza or bread dough that you enjoy. You could even get some of the frozen dough that they sell in the store.

After the first rise separate the dough into 16 balls. Shape into logs about the same size and put on a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment paper. Cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. You could spritz the logs with water at this point too, but you don’t have to.

Melt some butter while the bread sticks are cooking.

When they are done pull out from oven and brush breadsticks with butter and sprinkle salt and garlic powder over the tops. Then return to the oven and broil on low for a few minutes keeping your eye on them so they don’t burn.

Serve with pasta and sauce.

Here is the menu for this week:

Monday: Pork chops, mashed potatoes and broiled carrots

Tuesday: Home made chicken nuggets and salad

Wednesday: Shrimp and asparagus over angel hair pasta

Thursday: Squash & Zucchini broiled with soy sauce over rice noodles served with pot stickers.

Friday: Chicken Enchiladas

Saturday: Baked salmon with home made french fries and broccoli

Sunday: Baked Turkey and fixings with birthday cake

Yes there is a turkey in the menu. I have had it in the freezer for a while now and I want to cook it up before it gets too warm to do it. Since Easter is this weekend and it is my oldest sons birthday I thought it was the perfect thing.

Enjoy your week!

 

 

 

Beef Stew & On the Menu Board

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Beef Stew can be hard to get right. I remember some of my stews early in my marriage and motherhood that had to be choked down. That is if it could be chewed at all. It is pretty easy to ruin stew beef. I finally have it down to a science now and thought I would share my recipe.

2 lb stew beef

7 to 8 med. sized carrots cut in chunks

4 yellow potatoes cut in chunks

2 stalks of celery sliced

1 sweet potato or 1/2 butternut squash cut in chunks

large onion cut in strips

3 garlic cloves chopped

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup red wine (optional)

thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper

3 Tbsp oil

4 Tbsp butter

With a dutch oven or other pot with a tight fitting top pour oil onto bottom and heat on med. heat. Add stew beef and sear all sides and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When cooked on all sides add flour and stir around. Add water up to about 2 inches of the edge of pan. ¬†You need enough water, but you don’t want it to seep out and onto your stove. Cover with top of pot and cook on medium low heat for a few hours. You don’t want the water to boil hard. Just a simmer. The key here is to cook the beef slow. That is what makes it tender and tasty! You can check it every so often. You don’t want it to be too done, because then it looses its taste and texture.

When the meat is pretty tender turn off the heat and set the pot aside. In another pan add butter and melt. Add onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, celery, squash and saute until the veggies are tender but not too soft. They will cook a little more after you add them to the beef. Add everything to the stew pot where your meat is and stir around.  Add a little more salt and pepper and any herbs you choose. You could add the wine now if you wanted. If you need to add a little bit more water or broth now is the time for that too. Heat until it boils softly then turn it off and put on cover until ready to serve. This stew is best with a fresh loaf of bread or biscuits.

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I was a little more careful in my planning this week so I didn’t have too many of one type of meal. Towards the end of last week I did have a few comments about yet another stew or soup! Of course that didn’t stop anyone from eating it. They wouldn’t dare! Here is my menu for this week. You will notice that I only go to Thursday this week. We are heading out of state for a few days. I don’t know what is on the menu for Friday thru Sunday but I am hoping it will be good!

Monday: Steak, bean and cheese quesadillas

Tuesday: Fried chicken, baked potatoes, and salad

Wednesday: Grilled Tilapia, brown rice and broccoli

Thursday: Spaghetti and sauce with garlic bread sticks

Have a tasty week!

 

Sunday Dinner & On the Menu Board

We try and have ‘Sunday’ dinner every week. It is a tradition that many families have. The dinner is not really that much more special as far as the food goes but it is the way it is presented. It is Sunday. Many Sunday’s we have more of us at the table. It is special.

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This Sunday we had a roast chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots and gravy. We lit the candles and dug in.

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I always get a wing. I love them.

On Friday we had a big Lasagna and chocolate cake. We celebrated my husbands birthday. That also was special.

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And of course, chocolate cake. With M&M’s, one of his favorite candies.

I didn’t get a chance to snap that picture before people dug in. I got the recipe from¬†Add a Pinch. ¬†We made frosting from a recipe I found¬†here. I have to say it was one of the best chocolate cakes I have made. Actually the girls helped me so that could have been the reason.

This week on the menu board:

Monday: Clam Chowder with crusty bread

Tuesday: Chicken soup (from the Sunday chicken)

Wednesday: Chili from the freezer corn muffins

Thursday: Beef Stew

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Chicken ala King

Sunday: Pork Roast, sweet potatoes and onion and green salad

Have a tasty week!

On the Menu Board

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Here is our menu for the week:

Monday: Tacos – (Yes this was on last week’s menu. The girls went on an overnight and my husband and I went out!)

Tuesday: Salmon, rice, broccoli & cauliflower

Wednesday: Sausage, cabbage, potatoes, onions and peppers

Thursday: Squash soup and bread

Friday: Lasagna and Birthday cake!

Saturday: Beans and dogs and a veggie

Sunday: Baked whole chicken with mashed potatoes and carrots.

 

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Last Week¬†the chili and corn bread were a big hit. I got the corn bread recipe off of the¬†Food Network¬†site. It is the Pioneer Woman’s recipe. It was the best cornbread I ever made. The chili recipe is my own. I literally just throw a bunch of ingredients in a crock pot and let it cook. So easy! So tasty!

I do use dry beans, but cook them ahead of time. You can use canned beans. I use black and red, but any favorite bean would be fine. I try and watch my salt intake and I feel the canned beans have a lot of extra salt.

Chili in the Crock pot

2 qt mixed beans (black, red, pinto, black eyed…)

2 onions

2 peppers

1 lb hamburg (I have also used chicken) fried in skillet with a bit of oil

1 qt stewed tomatoes

2 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp tumeric

1 tsp pepper

Add everything in a crock pot. Put on high for one hour then turn to low for 5 to 6 hours. Serve with cornbread, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

Do you put up a menu at your house? Do you struggle to find meal ideas every week? I know I do. I thought I would share my ideas and if you feel like it you could share yours. Comment below and leave a link to your menu for the week.

Enjoy your week!

 

 

 

 

 

On the Menu Board

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Although I am no chef I do love to cook. ¬†I am the main cook for my big family and they love to eat. Luckily they usually like to eat what I make. On Sunday afternoon I set aside time to create a menu for the week. It isn’t because I am super organized. The main reason I post a menu on the bulletin board is that I get tired of telling each person what is for supper. Seems like they still ask but now I just point to the board. Have you ever told someone what is for supper then ten minutes later someone else asks and you answer “You just asked that!” and the person says “No I didn’t that was so and so” ? I forget who asks me and I get a little tired of answering five or six times.

 

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Another reason I post it is that my husband is great at remembering to take out anything from the fridge that needs to thaw. I am not great at remembering to do that. Before we head up to bed he will look at the menu and take out the hamburg or chicken or whatever needs to thaw for supper the next day.

 

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It can be a challenge to come up with meals because I love a little variety. I don’t like having the same thing week after week. Plus I want the meals to be healthy. Most of our meals are made from scratch so it takes a little extra planning. I think it would be helpful to have different meal ideas to pick from every week. I hope that if you make a weekly menu (and you read this blog) you would be willing to share yours. I am making Monday my menu sharing day.

 

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Here is my menu for this week.

Monday: Chili with cornbread

Tuesday: Steak Fahitas

Wednesday: Teriyaki chicken on the grill with asparagus and brown rice

Thursday: Goulash (American Chop Suey)

Friday: Pork tenderloin with sweet potatoes and onions and carrots and applesauce

Saturday: Tacos

Sunday: Beef Roast with roasted potatoes and broccoli and cauliflower and rolls

 

A Meal that worked really well and everyone loved last week was Thai Noodles and Stir Fry Veggies.

Here is the recipe:

Thai Noodles

Various stir fry veggies, like Bok Choy, onions, pea pods, garlic, carrots, broccoli…..

1/4 to 1/2 cup Soy sauce

2 Tbsp of Thai paste (mild)

1 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp oil

First thing soak the noodles in hot water.

Cut up veggies and start cooking the hardest vegetables first in a wok or deep pot. In my mix it was the carrots. Then add the next vegetable that takes longest to cook. Keep adding until all veggies are in. Mix up the soy sauce, Thai paste, honey and oil. Add to the veggies. Cook for a bit longer and transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Add some soy sauce and oil to wok and put in the Thai noodles. Stir and cook until soft. It shouldn’t take long if you soaked them. You can either add the veggies at this point and serve or you can put noodles on each plate and then add the veggies. Serve with extra soy sauce and a little hot sauce for those who like it a bit more spicy.

I think it would be fun to share your menu for the week. Tell about a meal from the previous week that worked really well and why. Maybe even share a recipe. Does that sound fun? Until I have added the Linky Party link I would love for you to leave a comment with a link to your blog post with your menu. Thanks!

If you see a meal in my menu that you would like the recipe for let me know. Enjoy your week!

German Puff Pancake Recipe

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A German Pancake is one of my families favorite breakfast choices. Actually they like almost all the breakfasts I make, except some don’t like oatmeal. Oh well, sometimes it has to be oatmeal. A German pancake is not only very tasty it is fun to bake. It is so cool to open up the oven when the timer goes off and see how big it has puffed!

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You really need to try this recipe. If you have kids they will love seeing the puff but they will also love to eat it. It is light, a little crunchy on top, mildly sweet, and although it has lots of eggs it doesn’t taste as eggy as a custard, not that there is anything wrong with that!

We serve a German Puff Pancake with a variety of toppings. You really could do anything you want. We usually have powdered sugar, maple sugar, lemon juice, applesauce and sometimes a fruit sauce. I don’t really like the powdered sugar idea but my husband and children do. Of course you pick and choose. You wouldn’t want sugar and maple syrup. That may be a bit too sweet. I prefer the lemon juice and applesauce on mine.

The recipe is very easy. You just put everything in a bowl, mix it up and pour into a buttered hot cast iron fry pan. Here is the recipe:

German Puff Pancake

10 eggs

1 1/2 cups of whole milk

1 1/2 cups of BREAD flour. It has to be bread flour for the PUFF!

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

1/2 tsp of nutmeg

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

Toppings of your choice such as the ones I mentioned.

Place a ¬†12 inch cast iron fry pan in an oven. Set the oven on 450 degrees. After it preheats add stick of butter. Mix up all ingredients in a bowl. Use a bowl with a pour spout if you have one. When butter has melted quickly pour mixture into the pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. It will be very puffy on the sides but the middle will look like it hasn’t cooked all the way. Don’t worry, usually it has. Place on a hot pad on your kitchen table, cut into slices and dig in!

Let me know how your family liked the PUFF!

 

 

How to Hard ‘Boil’ Fresh Eggs

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Fresh eggs. Let us clarify the definition of ‘Fresh’. There is fresh from the nest. I have actually stepped into the chicken house mid lay before. As soon as the egg dropped I grabbed it. That is about as fresh as you can get. There is also fresh as in a few days old up to a week old.

Many of the grocery stores sell ‘fresh’ eggs and they could be 2 to 3 weeks old. They are still good to eat, but the word fresh means something different to someone who raises chickens.

Having fresh eggs is a wonderful thing. I can tell the difference in my eggs and a store egg. The yolk color in my eggs is much deeper and the white is stronger and holds up in a pan better. I love my fresh eggs.

What I don’t like is trying to make deviled eggs or hard boiled eggs with my day or two old eggs. It just doesn’t work. When you go to peel it half the white comes off with the shell. It can be awful.

Here is the trick:

Put a dozen or so fresh eggs in a marked container and leave for a few days.

When ready to make hard boiled eggs get a pot ready with a little water and a steamer basket in it. Place eggs inside the steamer basket. With cover off, heat until the water boils. It won’t take long so watch it.

Cover pot and put your timer on 20 minutes.

Uncover, drain hot water, fill pot with cold water. Let cool a bit and Peel!

That is it. That is the big secret. It works for me every time.

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Look at that egg that has all it’s white intact!

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Look at the salted egg. Doesn’t it look great?

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Here is the yolk. My daughter doesn’t like to eat the yolk in a hard ‘steamed’ egg. Can you believe that? Don’t worry, it didn’t get wasted.

Now you can have a ‘fresh’ hard boiled egg.

My Friends the Crock-pot and Freezer

Eat healthy, save money and make it quick! Easy, right? Not always, but I have a secret. With a crock pot and a freezer you can do all three. You are probably wondering right now how a crock pot, which is a SLOOOW cooker could be quick. With a small amount of planning ahead you can create quick, healthy meals to store away in your freezer for just those times that you need a quick easy meal. I do it all the time.

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I have a really big crock pot. You don’t necessarily need a big one. You could use two or three small ones. I often see small crock pots at Goodwill that are very cheap. The main idea here is to make enough for a meal and then some. The ‘and then some’ is going in the freezer for another day. Depending on how much more you make you could have yourself a healthy lunch or another supper. When you have a large family and you love to craft you need to have these little secrets to save yourself time. I also prepare foods in this manner that I don’t want to buy, for instance I don’t want to buy canned beans. They cost much more than the dried beans in a bag and they are loaded with extra salt. ¬†There are studies out there about the lining of the cans too, but that is a whole other can of worms. I did not just write that, did I?

When I go grocery shopping I have a little rule I run over in my head. If I can make it, don’t buy it. This rule has saved us so much money on our grocery bill. It is also the best way to eat whole foods without the preservatives, chemicals, extra salt, and all that sugar! When you make it yourself you have all the control which is what I like. I won’t buy broth. I can make it myself. I won’t buy canned prepared soups. I can make them myself. Okay, you get it.

Here is a small list of things I make in my crock pot to put in the freezer.

Baked Beans

Chicken noodle soup

Black bean soup

Pea soup

Spaghetti Sauce

Pulled pork

Squash soup

Beef Stew

Chicken Marsala

Chili

Broth

 

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Above is a small collection of what I have waiting in my freezer. I have more in my deep freeze in the basement. Just make much more than a meal and put the rest away. When freezing, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you are using jars, as I do, do not fill to the top and do not cover until the contents are frozen. As you probably know things expand when they freeze. Plastic is an option if you cool the food completely before you pour it into the containers. Again, do not cover until frozen. Another tip when making soups is do not add any pasta until you are re-heating for your meal. I have made this mistake and the pasta gets gooey and overcooked.

If you have kids and they do activities or you work all day and get home tired or you just want more time to enjoy your day and night with your family try making a meal ‘and then some’ with your crock pot.The only thing you will have to do is remember to take out the jars in the morning. Put the jars in a pot with warm water and in a few hours you will have a meal. ¬†I would love to share all my recipes with you and will, but not all in one post. For now, I will tell you how I make broth.

Ingredients:

A whole chicken, or two or three beef soup bones that have lots of meat on them. I get my beef by the half cow and I always get several soup bones. If you don’t have a half a cow in your freezer you could probably ask your local butcher or maybe even ask at the meat counter at the grocery store.

Water

Salt, pepper, herbs or spices to your liking.

Directions:

Throw everything in the crock pot. Turn on low and let it sit over night. Be prepared to be very hungry in the middle of the night because the most amazing smell will wake you.

Remove meat and bones. Use the meat for a variety of things. My favorite is beef or chicken pot pie. Yum!

Using a strainer, take ladle full amounts of broth and transfer to glass jars. If you want to use plastic you can transfer hot broth into a bowl and wait for it to cool. Using the strainer gives you a clear broth that if free of all the skin and small pieces from the meat. A clear broth is nice for things like making a white sauce for seafood.

Put in freezer uncovered. After it freezes put covers on and you are done!

The cast iron pot and bread maker are two more friends I have. I’ll introduce you to them another day.