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52 Things I Learned In One Year – Part 2 of 3

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Ah, what was I thinking when I came up with the notion of writing about 52 lessons learned? One lesson per week of my challenge – that should be a piece of cake. Okay then maybe I just have a bad old case of writers block. I’ve challenged myself to write up my second list of 15-20 lessons over the past three weeks and I’ve come up dry. Getting out of the routine of cooking and blogging was not at all difficult to do. Even though I’m not filling my time with meal preparation like I was this time last year, my time is plenty full with large work projects, summer gardening, and all the great weather activities I feel I may have missed last year.

But when push came to shove, there really were more lessons there than I originally may have imagined. So on with the countdown…

37 – Planning meals around seasonal ingredients is a great way to be a bit more creative with what goes on the dinner table. While we had many a meal composed of the typical “protein, starch, and vegetable” – there were some terrific moments of creativity using seasonal vegetables. Check out the spring asparagus salad (if it’s not too late in your region) or plan for this corn salsa.

36 – Processing your own tomatoes into something like sauce can be economical. I learned that while it takes a heck of a lot of tomatoes to get to the end product, the end product was generally a better value than the price I would pay off the shelf. By the way, I used 52 pounds last year to yield 144 ounces of diced tomatoes, 96 ounces of tomato sauce, 80 ounces of pizza sauce, 54 ounces of pasta sauce, and 28 ounces of roasted tomatoes. Check out the post, 52 weeks by the numbers.

35 – Roma tomatoes make the best sauce and give the best yield. I was a bit fooled by the notion that any tomato is a good tomato to process. I was wrong. The Roma’s make all the difference in the world.

34 – I won’t again be fooled into thinking I can “thicken” a pasta sauce by blending up the tomatoes with an immersion blender. Good sauce takes time on the stove. Plan for long cooking time, 4-6 hours not only helps thicken the sauce but it really brings out the flavor.

33 – I swore that after this year, I would never again purchase granola. It’s been eleven weeks since I ended my year, and I have made about six pounds of granola during that time. Keeping true to this lesson, it’s so easy to do yourself and the benefits are that I control the flavor, the sweetness, and the amount of pecans I want in every bite! I will start a batch at 6:30 in the morning, and it’s ready to eat by 7:15.

32 – Homemade bagels are not all that easy to make, they take a bit of time to make, and the flavor is, well OUTSTANDING! Don’t be scared by the bagel is the lesson learned. Also eat them quickly, they really are the best the day you make ‘em.

31 – I figured out my slow cooker isn’t just for dinner. We made “Crock Pot oatmeal” which fills the house with a wonderful aroma, not to mention is ready when you get out of bed. And then there is Crock Pot yogurt, which is not only so simple it’s also a great value. Strain some yogurt in cheesecloth to make Greek yogurt, and you’ve saved even more money.

30 – Bison is better than beef. Don’t get me wrong, I l-o-v-e beef of many cuts and eat it often. However when I want to cut down on the fat and calories without losing any flavor, then bison is a surprisingly great choice.

29 – One can make cinnamon rolls without yeast. While they taste a bit more “biscuity” than yeasty, once you pour on the glaze it hardly makes a difference.

28 – I won’t go back to eating frozen pizza. Okay, I did break that promise this week as we were leaving our friend’s house after helping her move and it was already 7:30 pm and we hadn’t had dinner. A frozen pizza was easy, and quite honestly pretty tasteless by comparison. I won’t go back to eating frozen pizza!

27 – I now understand what little Miss Muffet was thinking, don’t discard the whey! I still regret making the first batch of cheese and tossing all of that whey goodness down the drain. Now I use it in place of milk when baking and it really does add some great flavor.

There you have it, and I have only 27 more lessons learned to write!

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52+ Weeks of Recipes

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Breads, Pastry, Pasta

Bagels

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread

Cornmeal Crackers

Corn Tortillas

Croutons

Egg Noodles

Eggless Pasta

Flax Crackers

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Pie Crust (Curried Chicken Pot Pie)

Pizza Crust

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

Sweets & Breakfast Treats

Christmas Stollen

Chocolate Graham Crackers

Cinnamon Rolls Quick & Easy

Granola Number Five

Granola Bars

Whole Grain Pancakes

Beef

Bison Chili

Bison Stroganoff

chipotle meatloaf

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Lasagna

Pork

Frijoles Borrachos

Pork Carnitas

Posole

Tomatillo Pork Stew

Chicken or Turkey

Curried Chicken Pot Pie

Curried Turkey (or lamb) With Autumn Vegetables

Mediterranean Chicken with Potatoes

Tomatillo Chicken Dia de los Muertos

Vegetarian & Vegetables

Anasazi Bean Burgers

Corn Salsa

Rainbow Chard With White Beans

Refrigerator Kimchi

Roasted Tomatoes (oven dried)

Spring Asparagus Salad

Sushi

Super Lentil Dal

Sauces, Dressings & Condiments

Bechamel Sauce

Balsamic Salad Dressing

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing

Coffee Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Marinara Sauce

Mustard

Pizza Sauce

Tomato Sauce

Tomatillo Salsa

Vita’s Pasta Sauce

Make It With Milk

Crock Pot Yogurt

Meyer Lemon Cheese

Week 44 – T-minus 8 Weeks And Counting

My year of inconvenience is slowly but steadily coming to an end. I mention slowly because this past week was particularly slow going. Work was packed with more meetings than usual, and my free time was spent either shoveling snow or working on a painting/remodel project at home. So meals this week were rather haphazard at best. Fortunately I had my reserve of frozen meals to get us through most of the week. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about.

Lisa – “What’s for dinner?

Me – “I dunno, how about this container marked ‘chicken verde’ does that sound good?”

Lisa – “Sure I’d love to have Mexican food tonight.”

Me – “uhm… this looks like chicken in here but I don’t see any ‘verde’ to speak of. I think it is Indian flavored chicken something that we made awhile ago.”

Lisa – “I don’t care as long as I don’t have to cook it.”

And so it went. We didn’t starve nor did we eat particularly well. I’d say I actually had two high points in the week, which to me are kind of like the yin and yang of food cravings.

The Yin: Sitting in meetings all week in our office conference room, I happened to chose the side of the table directly across from a group of photos we had up to assist with ideas for a store remodel. One picture in particular, demonstrating “unique and abundant” was a display case of large, beautifully crafted pretzels from my trip to Switzerland in 2009. Wow, did I crave pretzels all week long! So, high point number one which met my salty food craving, was to visit the Old German Beer Hall after work on Friday with friends…where they have delicious Hofbrau beer AND delicious GIANT soft pretzels. While I know I can make these myself and in fact making pretzels is great fun, I admit it was even more fun to have someone else make it for me.

The Yang: This can best be described as an unreasonable but growing desire for cinnamon rolls. For those who know me know that I really don’t eat cinnamon rolls as I generally prefer the salty to the sweet. But I just couldn’t shake this craving no matter how hard I tried. And for the sake of trying something new each week for the rest of my year, I’ve never before tried making cinnamon rolls. The problem I have with the idea of making them from scratch is the time vs. eating factor. Using yeast (as one should) it takes at least 3 hours from start to finish, which means if I want one fresh in the morning with my coffee I’m getting up at 5am on a weekend. Forget that! Then I stumbled across this recipe that PROMISED to be just as good as the yeast version without the yeast and without the wait. I’m sorry I don’t remember where the recipe is from but trust me, it satisfied the craving particularly well.

No Yeast, No Kidding Cinnamon Rolls

For the dough:

2 ¾ cup white flour (plus extra for dusting the counter)

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 ¼ teaspoon baking power

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cup buttermilk

6 tablespoons melted butter

 

For the filling:

2 tablespoons melted butter

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

 

For the glaze:

2 tablespoons water

¾ to 1 cup powdered sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Don’t wait like I did, because this recipe comes together very quickly.

Mix together the dry ingredients of the filling (the sugar and cinnamon) in a small bowl so you have it ready when you need it.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients for the dough (the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Add the butter and buttermilk and mix gently. At this point the dough will come together very sticky, but don’t worry. Spoon it on top of a heavily floured counter and sprinkle a bit more flour on top so you can mix it.

Flour your hands as well and gently knead the dough, adding more flour if necessary, kneading until the dough is both manageable and fairly smooth.

With a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately ½ inch thick. The rectangle I rolled was about 14 inches in length.

Spread the melted butter over the dough and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. There may seem like a lot but use it all.

Roll the dough lengthwise, somewhat tightly, and cut the dough into rolls that are about 2 inches thick.

Place the rolls into a lightly greased pan (I used an 8”x8” pan). I started with one roll in the center and built the others around it. They will puff up when they bake and fill in the empty space in the pan.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the edges have turned a golden brown.

While the buns are baking, mix together your glaze and pour onto the rolls while they are still warm.

Yum – yes yum. While these are a bit more like biscuits than true cinnamon rolls, I was not at all disappointed and hope you aren’t either.