Breads, Pastry, Pasta
Sweets & Breakfast Treats
Chicken or Turkey
Vegetarian & Vegetables
Roasted Tomatoes (oven dried)
Sauces, Dressings & Condiments
Make It With Milk
Breads, Pastry, Pasta
Sweets & Breakfast Treats
Chicken or Turkey
Vegetarian & Vegetables
Roasted Tomatoes (oven dried)
Sauces, Dressings & Condiments
Make It With Milk
Let the countdown begin. When I began my year of inconvenience I thought it might be interesting if I kept track of the quantity of staples I was buying and making. Not everything mind you, but mainly the items I would have typically purchased conveniently at the supermarket (or in this case at my co-op). I’m pretty sure I missed tracking a number of items, or at least it feels that way now recalling how many weeks these items were part of my at times, frustrating routine.
Here’s a glimpse into my 52 weeks of inconvenience, primarily cooking or baking for just the two of us (although some food items became gifts, while others were served to our dinner guests. I started to provide links to the recipes below, but decided instead to develop a recipe listing in one of my future posts just to stretch this out a bit further.
|Ingredients||Made From Scratch|
|40pounds of flour(14 lbs. whole wheat flour and 26 lbs. white flour)||40 loaves of sandwich bread, 7 loaves of cinnamon raisin bread, 3 loaves banana bread, 6 Christmas Stollens, 24 hamburger buns, 24 flour tortillas, 24 popovers, 18 bagels, 12 pita breads, 12 pizza crusts, 4 batches flax seed crackers, 2 batches chocolate graham crackers, 8 crusts for chicken pot pies, and 4 pounds of pasta. Oh, and a crazy cake, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and I’m sure I missed a few other things as well. Whew!|
|52 pounds of tomatoes||144 ounces diced tomatoes, 96 ounces tomato sauce, 80 ounces pizza sauce, 54 ounces pasta sauce, 28 ounces roasted tomatoes. And I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to last.|
|8 pounds of rolled oats, 5 pounds of pecans||21 pounds of granola8 batches of granola bars (200 of 2×2 squares)The rest of the pecans were used in the Christmas Stollen|
|5 pounds Masa||7 batches (80) corn tortillas. I love making these and likely will not go back to buying them pre-made.|
|13 pounds of whole chickens and 13 pounds of turkey breast||About 4 chicken and turkey dinners as well as leftovers for sandwiches, soup, and stock.|
|448 ounces (or 56 cups) of stock||Chicken soup, veggie soup, turkey soup, lamb stew, tomatillo pork stew, chicken pot pies, dozens of rice dishes and other crock pot dishes|
|48 Tablespoons or 24 ounces Instant yeast||Sandwich bread, cinnamon raisin bread, stolen, hamburger buns, bagels, pita bread, pizza crusts.|
|52 ounces honey||Breads, 8 batches of granola bars (200 squares)|
|48 ounces maple syrup||Granola (sweetener) and pancakes. Life is so sweet.|
|10 pounds fair trade sugar||Okay that number should scare me into a five-mile hike. Yikes, that’s a lot of baking.|
|3 pounds (48 ounces) brown sugar||Granola, some breads, granola bars, cookies|
|8 pounds (256 tablespoons) unsalted butter||Wow, really? What did I make with all that butter? I only use unsalted for baking and some cooking. And I wonder why I gained 6 pounds this past year…|
|97 ounces or 12 cups of olive oil||Salad dressing, marinades, pasta sauce, and all of those made from scratch dinners.|
|20 dozen eggs (that’s 240)||Okay, if Lisa and I averaged 4 eggs/week total for breakfast that would be understandable. Many, many eggs were used in baking and pasta – and the rest made for some great breakfasts.|
My year ended on April 17, and I still have some of the tomatoes and chicken stock in my basement freezer. I remember when I was so worried about putting up enough tomatoes last summer, to last me through the winter, and much to my surprise I didn’t use them all. We’ve eaten a few meals over the past two weeks (since the year officially ended) that were part of my stocking up on frozen dinners. Things like curried chicken pot pie, turkey meatloaf, turkey noodle soup, and pork carnitas have added a bit of value to what might have otherwise been a convenience food splurge for me.
In fact, over the past two weeks not a whole lot has changed for me… uhm yet. I baked two breads, made a batch of granola, one pizza, a number of from-scratch dinners, and averaged at least 3 out of 7 lunches from scratch each week. What did change is that I purchased pasta, chips, salsa, breakfast cereal, canned beans, a few salads and one sandwich from my co-op. I have a half-gallon of milk in the refrigerator right now for making yogurt (tonight) and I also think twice before buying anything convenient, partly out of habit and partially out of guilt. Could I actually be a changed woman? Only the next 50 weeks will tell for certain.
I’ve been feeling a little guilty about my second to last week of this challenge. Not because I was cheating per se, but because I was away from home on business for almost the entire week and couldn’t do any cooking. Really Pam… guilty because you can’t cook? What has this year done to me?
I guess I wasn’t thinking too carefully about the return trip home, as my guilt turned into panic looking at the empty refrigerator and pantry. No bread, no granola, no leftovers for lunch. You see most of the time I’m away from home Lisa lives like a bachelorette and eats fish from a can, or just cooks a head of cauliflower for dinner – all the foods I don’t really like to smell in the house. Speaking of smells, when I returned home my kimchi from the week prior was fermenting away in the refrigerator but putting off what I thought was a rather unpleasant odor. In fact, as the week went by the kitchen kept getting smellier and smellier each time we opened the refrigerator door. “Good lord, we’re going to eat that stuff?” I couldn’t believe how bad it smelled. Lisa got out two plastic storage bags and double-bagged it. Well that didn’t help, in fact it was really starting to smell more and more like dead fish. Fast forward to Tuesday night and as I’m digging through the vegetable drawer I stumble upon the tiny little bowl of chopped garlic I put in the refrigerator about two weeks ago. Yes it was covered with a small piece of plastic wrap, but that didn’t stop the wretched stench from escaping it. Thank goodness it wasn’t the kimchi (that I almost threw out) because I finally had the courage to taste it and my, it is soooooo delicious.
I returned home late Friday night, thankful to sleep in my own bed again but even more thankful to leave all the conference buffet food behind. When you mainly cook everything from scratch you really begin to notice the amount of salt and fat in other foods. I came home to a weekend of get-togethers with friends and family, so my cooking from scratch jump started on Saturday preparing some rock shrimp tacos (with homemade tortillas) , pork carnitas, and guacamole for the evening food fest at my DPW gathering. The DPW’s (my four girlfriends and I are an unexpected group that stumbled upon each other from the professional world), we gather quarterly to laugh hard and often, cry mostly from laughing so hard, and to eat some really great food. For anyone who cares the DPW stands for Dirty Polish Whores and really has nothing to do with who we are (trust me), but has stuck with us over the years. Each time we get together I believe we unintentionally try to outdo each other in the food category, much to the surprise and pleasure of all of us. While my homemade corn tortillas entered into the “wow” category, Margaret’s Whoreo cookies (yes you read that right), were da bomb.
After a long and laugh-filled Saturday night, Sunday came a bit earlier than expected and a Sunday brunch invitation meant getting up earlier than my body wanted to in order to make the asparagus salad. Ah yes, it is spring and the best part of spring in my opinion are the sweet delicious stalks of asparagus. While April is a bit early here for any local crops, it is coming into our store from domestic sources which are much more delicious than from Mexico or Chile. I used a recipe from my co-op that was a great accompaniment to hot ham sandwiches at brunch, but went even better with the BBQ chicken I made for dinner. We had a rare day in spring here in Wisconsin where the temperature got way above the 60 degrees we would all settle for, so when the temperature peaks at 80 everyone in my neighborhood dusts off their grill and throws on some kind of meat. Since barbeque sauce was on my list of things to make that I had never before tried, I pulled together what was more of a marinade but it did however give the chicken both a sweet and savory flavor. As the recipe says, “deep flavor, rich tasting… fabulous with steak, chicken or pork.” The recipe said to “mop” this on at the end of the grilling process so the skin wouldn’t char, but I decided to brave it and marinade the chicken pieces in the sauce for about an hour before cooking. I made sure to keep the chicken away from the direct heat of the coals so I could continue to mop on the sauce as they cooked. While I do prefer the tomato-based barbeque sauces, this one was really rather good and since I have some left over I will be using it again.
I’m almost at the end of week 52 as I’m writing this post, and feeling a little sad that this adventure is almost over. Or is it? I mean once you start something like this does the adventure really ever end? It is food we’re talking about, and while I learned a lot about cooking from scratch over the past 52 weeks, there is still so much more to learn. So my question is, should I keep blogging? What do you think?
Coffee Bourbon BBQ Sauce (from The Gourmet Cookbook)
1 cup strong brewed coffee
½ cup bourbon
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium heat (a simmer) for about 30-45 minutes. Stir occasionally. You want the sauce to cook down to about 1 cup so the flavors can develop nicely. The sauce will be thin.
If you are cooking the meat over direct heat, the recipe says to brush on the sauce at the end of the cooking so that the sugars don’t char.
Spring Asparagus Salad (from Outpost Natural Foods Co-op)
1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari (soy sauce)
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Salt to taste
Bring a pot of lightly-salted water to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook for 1-4 minutes, until just tender but still mostly firm. Remove from the water and rinse under cold water immediately to stop the cooking.
Place the asparagus in a large bowl and drizzle the dressing over the asparagus, tossing it until it is evenly coated. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and toss again.
Chill or serve immediately.
The Day of the Dead is a holiday that will be celebrated by many people both today and tomorrow (November 1 and 2), whether they are of Mexican heritage or not. The holiday, which focuses on the gatherings of he three “F’s” – family, friends, and food – is of honor and remembrance of those who have passed on before us. The traditions include building private altars (ofrenda) to honor the deceased using sugar skulls, flowers, photos, memorabilia, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. In Spain and Mexico there are festivals and parades, which often start at the gravesite to lead the spirits back to the home to party, guiding their way by spreading flower petals along the way.
My first memory of this celebration was years ago when my friend Avie had a party to gather us together to remember a mutual friend who had recently passed away. What I had expected to be a mournful gathering turned out to be a celebration of our friend’s life, with the clear intent to not lose our any of our fond memories of him. This year we had our annual Dia de los Muertos celebration on October 31, but all of the food prep happened in week 28.
Lisa built the ofrenda in memory of her Mom, Peggy who passed away just last October, and her Dad, Teddy who died in 1994. Peggy loved to cook – I guess that’s where Lisa gets her culinary passion from – and she was also never too old to try new foods. We introduced her to her first Indian meal when she was 80 years old, about five years ago. She really loved it when we would bring her fresh fruit from Outpost, or bake something tasty that she had never tried before. Even at 85 she was still cooking for herself and her friends in the senior retirement home where she lived. The day she passed away Lisa, her sisters and I went to her Mom’s apartment to begin to deal with the details of her death, right after leaving the hospital. It was also lunchtime, so we opened the refrigerator to see if we could pull something together from its contents. There in a Tupperware container was a macaroni salad, likely made by Peggy just a few days before she had her stroke, three days before she died. We all saw it as a sign, that she didn’t want us to miss lunch just because of her. That macaroni salad will forever be in my memory as one of the most special meals I’ve eaten.
To cook for our Dia de los Muertos celebration, I was finally going to have to come to terms with the fact I needed to make corn tortillas. Remember I got the tortilla press for my birthday back in September? What kept me from trying corn totilla were all the horror stories from others – primarily the sticky dough that was very hard to handle. Even recipes I was reading talked about the importance of getting the dough just right – not too dry, not too sticky. Then along came Rick Bayless, not literally, but from his tortilla recipe, where his words of wisdom gave me the encouragement to set my hand at making tortillas. He described the dough as “looking and feeling just like cookie dough.” Since I’ve been doing a lot of baking the past six months, I now understand the importance of dough texture, and how getting it right really makes a difference in the end product. I knew I could get this dough right, and right I got it on the very first try. I used my baker’s scale to weigh out the dough pieces so I would get uniform tortillas (and get 16 pieces total). I was really proud of the end result, and my dinner guests were totally impressed with the spread we put out for them: pork carnitas, tomatillo chicken, corn and flour tortillas, corn salad with roasted poblano pepper and zucchini, drunken beans (made with beer, bacon and salsa), homemade pico de gallo and tomatillo salsa and guacamole. Oh yeah, and Lisa made some Mexican chocolate cupcakes with cinnamon butter cream frosting for dessert.
This recipe came about when I realized the day before, that I didn’t buy enough pork to serve eight hungry dinner guests. I still had some tomatillos left from the last garden harvest, and I had already purchased chicken to have on hand for some other meals this week. Little did I realize what a hit this recipe was going to be that night. I can’t wait for the leftovers!
Tomatillo Chicken Dia de los Muertos*
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 pound fresh tomatillos
3 cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, roasted
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons light sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
Start by roasting the tomatillos, garlic and jalapeno pepper. Slice the jalapeno in half and remove the seeds. Put the pepper and tomatillos on a large baking sheet and place them under your broiler, on the highest level you can get your oven rack. As the tomatillos begin to roast and burst open, turn them over until both sides are blistering. In my oven this took about 10-12 minutes.
To make a sauce, put your roasted tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno pepper, cilantro and limejuice into a food processor and process until smooth.
Heat your oven to 325°. Salt and pepper both sides of all of your chicken parts. Using a large sauté pan on your stovetop, heat up the olive oil (don’t let it smoke) and brown the chicken, about 5 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken from the sauté pan and place into a roasting pan. Now take the tomatillo sauce and use it to deglaze your sauté pan, scraping up any of the brown bits of chicken and oil. Pour the tomatillo sauce over the chicken, and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. This method will poach the chicken quite nicely.
When the chicken is done, take each piece and scrap off most of the tomatillo sauce. Using two forks, shred the chicken pieces by pulling away at the meat in the direction of the grain of the meat. When you have shredded all of the chicken, take the remaining tomatillo sauce and add the sour cream to it, stirring it in until well blended. Now add the sauce back to the chicken, stir until well combined, and it’s ready to serve in some homemade tortillas with fresh salsa. Ole!
*Adapted from the original recipe, Tomatillo Chicken, from the Rick Bayless book – “Rick & Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures”
I couldn’t resist adding this recipe too. It’s been an old standby for many years (from the 1998 Best of Gourmet Collection.) Mine was made with fresh pico de gallo, which made it even better.
Frijoles Borrachos (Drunken Beans)
1 pound dried pinto beans
1 large white onion
2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
2 fresh epazote sprigs (epazote is a pungent Mexican herb)
1 teaspoon salt
6 slices of bacon
2 cups fresh tomato salsa (pico de gallo)
¾ cup beer
Soak beans in cold water, stored in your refrigerator, for 1 day.
Drain beans and halve the onion. In a 5-quart kettle, simmer beans, onion, lard or oil, and epazote in enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Simmer until beans are almost tender, 45 – 90 minutes depending on your beans. Add salt and simmer until tender, another 15 minutes more. Drain all through a colander.
Chop the bacon and in a large heavy skillet cook it over moderate heat, stirring until browned. Add the beans, fresh salsa, beer and salt to taste and cook, stirring until most of the liquid evaporates (about 10 minutes).