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My Sunday of Mass Production, With Recipe

The start of my frozen pantry

I knew that if I were going to have any chance of getting ahead of the meal planning game, I’d have to designate some time for some real meal prep. That day was Sunday.

I thought, innocently and perhaps somewhat romantically, how nice it would be to have my sweetie wake up to the aroma of coffee and fresh baked sweet rolls, to enjoy while reading the Sunday paper. Can’t buy ‘em, gotta make ‘em! Yeah, well that was a nice thought. I do know a bit about baking and I should have listened to that inner voice that was telling me the yeast wasn’t behaving like it should. I think the water was too hot and I killed it. Poor yeast, dying a slow but sweet death among the butter and sour cream. What a way to go. Needless to say – the dough never did rise enough and my cardamom buns were more like sweet, sticky hockey pucks.

Over the next eight hours – yes that’s right, eight hours – our kitchen was a food production machine. You can see from my list (below) the ambition of a true (hungry) Virgo who thrives on variety as the spice in my kitchen. From the pretty hilarious pretzel assembly line, which resembled an episode of “The Lucy Show”, to the giant caldron of boiling bones and vegetables, we were cranking out the food. Well, with not a lot to speak of that is. By the end of the day the final inventory included:

  • 2 dozen cardamom lime morning buns (aka sweet sticky hockey pucks)
  • 4 quarts of beef stock
  • 4 dozen pretzels
  • 3 single servings of pizza sauce (from scratch creating my own crushed tomatoes)
  • 6 containers of hummus (which you can freeze BTW)
  • 1 roasted turkey breast (for sandwiches)
  • Not to mention, and I will because we also made; breakfast (eggs & toast), lunch (grilled cheese sandwich), and dinner (country ribs with butternut squash, shallots and sage)

Equipment used today:

  • Mortar and pestle
  • Stock pot(s)
  • Immersion blender
  • Food processor
  • Kitchen Aid mixer
  • Baking sheet(s)
  • Silpats
  • Roasting pan
  • Microplane
  • Lemon reamer
  • Rolling Pin
  • Cooling Racks
  • Strainer
  • Large and small measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Microwave
  • One (now slightly burned) bamboo strainer
  • Mixing bowls, various sizes
  • Storage containers
  • Knives, spoons, wooden spoons, spatulas, ladle, towels etc.

Muscles sore and exhausted, the one thing I was most proud of was the pizza sauce. Yes honey, your hummus turned out to be truly amazing as well, but I want to write about the sauce. I’m here to tell you that we all very much take for granted, this miracle we call frozen pizza. I didn’t even get around to making a whole pizza – just the sauce – but I’m amazed at the amount of energy and water it takes starting from scratch.

Pizza Sauce From Scratch

4 pounds ripe tomatoes (any kind in season, if you’re lucky to have them in season)

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

6-8 leaves fresh basil (depending on your taste) finely chopped

1/3 cup olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Equipment Needed: Large stockpot, large bowl, large slotted spoon, small or medium cooking pot, small sauté pan, immersion blender – food processor – or blender.

Skip this next part if you already know how to crush tomatoes…

Take a large stockpot fill it half way up with water. Get the water to a rolling boil on the stove. In the meantime take a large bowl (at least 12” in diameter) and fill it with ice and water, creating an ice bath. Once the water boils, take a few tomatoes at a time and plunge them into the boiling water. Leave them there for 30-40 seconds, don’t go past one minute. Take the tomatoes from the boiling water with a large slotted spoon and place them into the bowl of ice water.

Now you’re ready to peel and crush the tomatoes. (So what do you do with that giant pot of water? This is what I’m talking about, the embedded energy that goes into making just the sauce. I took advantage of my pot of water and started some chicken stock from scratch. I also let the ice in the ice bath melt and filled my watering cans for my houseplants. But I digress…)

Remove the center core from each tomato and gently take off the skin. It should come off pretty easily. After all of the tomatoes are peeled, cut each one in half and carefully push your finger/thumb into the pockets of seeds to remove them. You want to get most of the seeds out, doesn’t matter if there are a few left in there. Now take what’s left of the poor tomato in your hand and crush it (squeeze the life out of it) into a small pot.

Take your pot of now crushed tomatoes and start them simmering on the stove with about a teaspoon of salt. While the tomatoes are getting up to a simmer, start your onion cooking in a small sauté pan with a little bit of olive oil. Once they are soft, add the minced garlic and a little salt. Cook for about 3 minutes longer. Now add the onion and garlic mixture to the simmering tomatoes, along with the finely chopped basil and olive oil. I also added a splash of white wine, but it’s probably not necessary. Cook this mixture on a low simmer for about 30 minutes.

Turn your tomato mixture into pizza sauce with the simple click of a button using an immersion blender (or let it cool a bit and put it into a food processor or blender). I found this made about three servings of sauce for three pizzas, depending on how large of a pizza you will make.


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12 responses

  1. Way to go Pam! Now you know how I feel every day that I cook for my clients. It will get easier and go much faster the more you do your production cooking. Congrats!

  2. I also cook ahead on Sundays and really enjoy the planning and preparation. I feel it’s something I do for myself. Started eating clean end of January and love it. As far as tomato/pizza sauce is concerned, found POMI choped tomatoes in a carton… additives, just chopped tomatoes. For one thing, it’s hard to find really nice tomatoes around here this time of year. I have a concern about BPA which they put in most cans so try to buy what I can in cartons or from Eden that sells organic and is the only food manufacturer that doesn’t have BPA in their cans. I enjoy your blog very much!

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I won’t be purchasing any commercial canned tomato products during my year long challenge… that’s mainly my point of convenience. I was lucky enough that my co-op had pretty ripe organic tomatoes in stock, but I can’t wait until summer.

  3. What a good day’s work!!! The failure of the buns notwithstanding, you accomplished a lot. Might I suggest the purchase of a food mill? It really takes care of those pesky tomato skins and seeds. I simply cut up and oven roast my tomatoes (onions, garlic, herbs, olive oil) skins and all, then run the whole mess through the medium screen of a food mill and further reduce it on the stove top. Stillmakes a mess, but to me it seems easier than peeling all those guys.

    Congratulations on the new stockpile of staples!! There is a peaceful feeling that comes with having real food in the pantry.

  4. Sorry to hear about the lime buns — they sounded SO good!

    But, I’ll bet getting all of that cooking out of the way feels gratifying. We’ve had what we call “marathon cooking weekends” during which we make up big batches of chicken stock, sauces, and sometimes pizza or pasta dough for freezing. It’s great to know you have a store of delicious, fresh food right at your fingertips.

    Now you can concentrate on enjoying your vacation!

  5. Diane Schieffer

    What a work out you two had on Sunday! It’s now time to think about enjoying your vacation but what are you going to eat? And where are you going BTW?

  6. Way to go! I use the recipes in Artisan bread in five minutes a day for all my dough needs I highly recommend them
    here’s the site

    p.s. it makes fantastic cinnamon rolls that you can freeze

  7. Just wanted to drop by and say that I really admire what you’re doing–it’s wonderful and inspiring.

    Also, I wish I still lived in Milwaukee so that I could drop by the Outpost more often!

  8. Pingback: 52 Weeks of Recipes | A Year Of Inconvenience

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