Saturday, April 9, 2016

Saving Five Fishy Ways...And Updates

Fish are one of Nature's best foods for you -- lots of good essential oils, not too many calories, and great-tasting.

Fish are also one of Nature's most expensive foods. So how can you afford to eat pescadorically on a budget?

*Buy on sale -- or marked down. Are you in the store for milk? Check the clearance section--it just takes a few seconds. (And while you're at it, check the meats clearance section, as well.) I've found everything from monster crab legs (at $5.95/lb!) to the Rocky Mountain favorite, trout ($1.99/lb). A large one-pound tin of crabmeat was $5.00.
     While you're at it, expand your horizons and try the lesser-priced seafood in your area. Smelt and squid were cheap in Michigan -- expensive here in Colorado. (Ironically, octopus is often more reasonable in price.) But we can find trout easily, as well as mussels and Pacific oysters, and shrimp is often on sale.
     Oriental food markets are often a better place to find reasonably-priced fish and other seafood, both fresh and frozen.

*Go to the source. The Brick grew up in North Carolina, near Camp LeJeune Air Force Base -- and close to the ocean. His mom worked for the FHA, which funded businesses, including fishing boats. Mom would go down early in the morning and buy buckets of shrimp, fresh out of the water. Yum.
    If you're living anywhere close to seaside, find out when the fishing boats come in -- and just happen to be there so you can ask. (Bring cash -- and perhaps a six-pack on your first visit. A bribe -- er, present -- never hurts.)

*Get it yourself.  The Brick caught many a blue crab off an ocean pier, using a long string and chicken necks. We didn't see such luxury on our Michigan farm, but we ate a lot of bluegill and bass fillets from nearby Camp Lake. And our cousins and uncles would often bring by large packages of salmon and smelt. (In fact, I ate so much fresh salmon as a kid that I thought of it as common as tunafish. Shrimp, on the other hand, was a delicacy.)

*Think regional.  Are you headed to the East Coast on vacation? On the 2014 summer-spent-in-a-car (or by my mom's hospital bed), I brought back a four-pack of live lobsters, after a gig teaching at Maine Quilts. (Mom and my little brother loved them.) One of the best parts was the price -- they were less than half what I would have paid at home.
     It's not just fresh fish, either. (Although you should definitely stop by the local fish market, if you're headed home shortly after, and have a way to keep it cool.) Grocery stores -- even large chains like Wal-Mart -- often stock canned soups, chowders and seafood not easily found elsewhere. These make reasonably-priced souvenirs far more welcome than another painted rock or fancy gimcrack.
     Whatever's popular -- and fresh -- in the area you're visiting -- that's what you should look for.

*Make it stretch. Buy slightly more than you need -- and use the extra for a second dish! Flaked fish is delicious in a chowder, stew or an Irish fish pie.  Even a few shrimp or a handful of crab or salmon makes a pasta dish shine. Add veggies of the season for taste and presentation. (The ones listed here take advantage of our springtime produce, but substitute what you prefer.)

 (The Frugal Way)

1 pound dry spaghetti or fettucine
1-2 cups leftover seafood, chopped fine
    (even a half-cup will do - and mix different kinds, if you like)
3 tablespoons butter   (a splash of white wine is good here, too)
2 teaspoons garlic
3 chopped green onions
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1/2 pound diagonally-sliced asparagus (looks classier this way)
1/2 cup sour cream or yogurt
1 handful chopped fresh spinach
shaved parmesan cheese (or substitute a handful of grated mozzarella)

Boil the pasta until tender; drain. Meanwhile, saute the butter, garlic, onion, mushrooms and asparagus until barely cooked. Mix into the pasta, along with sour cream and spinach. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with parmesan sprinkled over. Serves 4-5 hungry people...all with a little as a handful of seafood!

* * * * * * * * * * *
I am FINALLY feeling better. So is the Brick. We're still sleeping more than we usually do, and I need a quick nap in the afternoon to feel my best. But we're feeling better, and that's what counts.

Charley the Dog has been enjoying his springtime hobby: hunting down snakes. He slings them around his head like a lariat until they tire of his little game and refuse to 'play.' We have a family that lives down by the drainpipe -- I'm assuming that because they show up there every year. I don't mind; garter snakes are great for keeping mice and bugs down. (They also enjoy sunning themselves on the rock wall out front, freaking out my piano students on several occasions.)
     No doubt he sees himself as a hero in all this.

     The Mama is terrified of snakes, and cringes every time Charley brings her his latest 'present.' She's even threatened to stop visiting during the summer months.

The Brick is done with the Republican caucus. He was elected twice as a delegate, and has trudged off to those meetings. Today's was the last, though -- he won't be going to the national convention. (News both of us greeted with relief. Those meetings are BORING.)
     Since Daughter #1 was also a delegate -- but on the Democratic side -- it's made family discussions interesting. (More on this in coming weeks.)

The chickens are doing better -- and worse.  One of the 'cherry egger' hens developed a strange case of paralysis -- her head flopped over, as if she had a crick in her neck, and she spent much of her time in the coop, away from the others. We finally did away with her...then a second 'cherry egger' hen started cocking her head, as well.
     Was it some kind of contagious disease? Would the others start doing the same thing? What should we do?
     Acting on the possibility that this was 'wry neck' (a vitamin deficiency), the Brick began feeding our sick chickie a mixture of Vitamin E, selenium and oatmeal. He also brought her water, a large spoonful at a time, until she began to drink on her own again.
     Three days of this, and she's improved greatly -- her head is only slightly cocked. I went out to check on her this afternoon, and got fussed at: 'Where's my special food, doggone it!' So much for gratitude.
     When we got the 'cherry egger' chicks last spring, the feedstore clerk told me that they would lay better in the cold months. That hasn't happened. They seem to be more susceptible to problems. And they certainly aren't that smart. We've lost 3, so far -- one to this 'wry neck,' and another to a mystery sickness that happened while we were in Mexico. There's no doubt in my mind that had the treatment not worked, we would have lost this one, as well. (A third bird got her head stuck under the coop and choked to death. Stupid chicken.)
     The other breeds haven't been this much trouble...though the Black Australorps have a distressing tendency to be broody. (That means they tear out their breast feathers, stop eating and sit in the nesting boxes for days on end, doing nothing. Doesn't accomplish anything, either, since we don't have a rooster.)
     The rest of the chickens -- we're down to 19 or 20 now -- are in fine health, but have cut back on eating. Egg production's dropped, too. (That's the 'worse' part.) What are they up to? Well, friends, they're molting. Which means they eat, wander around and chase each other -- and accomplish very little, eggwise. Oh goody.
     I have to shovel out the coop this coming week, and sterilize it. I'm so looking forward to it...can you tell?

Get to work, Missy -- I want that coop SPOTLESS!


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