Posts Tagged ‘Kitchen’

Food waste? Thoughts for the New Year

January 1, 2014
It's what's for dinner

It’s what’s for dinner

 

I read somewhere along the way that Americans waste approximately 40% the food they bring into their homes (I’m not sure if the statistic is true but it brought home a point).  How much to we ‘over buy’ at the grocery if we have the luxury? One of my lame-ass New Year’s Day traditions is to clean out my refrigerator.  I was shocked to see what I tossed:  odds and ends of cheeses, a few science experiments, long ago expired milk (in defense, I did buy the smallest container available for one item and I just don’t drink the stuff).  I made a quasi-resolution.  I’m going to eat what is in my freezer, pantry, fridge before heading to the farmers market.  Yes, there will be some things that I need to buy but I was stunned what I had versus what I thought I needed to go buy.  Dinner/lunch for the reset of the week is above:  a pork roast done in the crock pot with balsamic vinegar, onions and honey.  Mashed potatoes.  I do need to pick up salad stuff (but trust me when I say that will wait until the snow has past!).  Also cooked for the week ahead? A chard/corn/cheese frittata for breakfast.  And with the exception of the cheese and balsamic vinegar? All locally sourced.

 

I have no idea how long this experiment will last: fresh vegetables are hard to find in New England this time of year.  It will be an interesting, creative experiment.  If anything, it might help me learn what I actually eat versus buy because “it was a great price”.  But right now I’m mourning the mac and cheese I could have made had I only been paying attention!

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52 ideas for 2013

December 31, 2012

Some will take 5 minutes, some a few months. . . . just a list of random things I thought I’d try to do in 2013.

1) Polar Bear Plunge
2) Read 50 Shades of Gray
3) Read Team of Rivals
4) Read In the Garden of Beasts
5) Read Fall of Giants
6) Read The Great Influenza
7) Read Book #6 (Title: TBD)
8) Read Book #7 (Title: TBD)
9) Read Book #8 (Title: TBD)
10) Read Book #9 (Title: TBD)
11) Read Book #10 (Title: TBD)
12) Read Book #11 (Title TBD)
13) Read Book #12 (Title TBD)
14) Participate in the SNAP challenge (one week, $25 all 7 days)
15) Run a 5K
16) Write a letter instead of shooting a long email
17) Walk the Freedom Trail
18) Go to a Red Sox/Yankees game
19) Participate in the USPS 3K challenge
20) Unplug from social media for a week.
21) Walk, run, jog 500 miles (I mean, I’ve got a YEAR)
22) Go to Walden Pond. (Such a bad local tourist)
23) Get over my fear of needles and go to the dentist
24) Take a yoga class
25) Volunteer 50 hours
26) Go to Northern California
27) Go to New Orleans
28) Go to Puerto Rico
29) Learn to cook tamales
30) Make an intentional collage
31) Go vegetarian for a week
32) Menu plan for a week . . . and follow it!
33) Bike 1000 miles (see the I’ve got a year note)
34) Walk away from an argument
35) Work a 44 hour week
36) Make sure all that dang adult paperwork is taken care of
37) Pay off the remaining credit card debt
38) Go to the MFA once a month
39) Go to NYC just to go to MOOD!
40) Walk the Freedom Trail
41) Prehab my shoulder in an attempt to avoid surgery
42) Organize guest room
43) Organize kitchen
44) Find new homes for orphaned socks.
45) Start to learn Spanish.
46) Finish my holiday shopping by October.
47) Hollins Hanukah II
48) Journal more
49) Sending my 2012 Christmas cards by oh, St. Patrick’s Day.
50) Go fall camping
51) Take a fun class at one of the zillion extension centers
52) Try to be more zen.

It’s all about the Piecaken

November 25, 2012

Looking for a strange new challenge to go after for a Thanksgiving potluck and a few hours of conference calls to do reasearch, I found an interesting concept: the piecaken.  Apparently, this trend has come out of the missionary community: I’m not sure what to say on that one either theologically or politically so I’ll let each of my 12 readers decide independently.  What I found was a decided lack of directions except for a list of “nots” and the idea to use pre-made cakes.  Look, if I’m going to bake a pie in a cake, the pie is going to be from scratch.

The concept is pretty self-explanatory: bake a pie into a cake; a perfect dessert for Thanksgiving.  After scouring the blogs, I decided that the one aspect made-from-scratch piecaken creators all lamented was a berry pie.  After playing with flavor profiles, I decided to do a coconut pie and chocolate cake.

The coconut pie was a breeze to make: the recipe didn’t say but I poured into an unbaked pie crust.   I made the pie the day before (tip from another blog) and cooled completely.

The next day, I made the cake.  I’ve made exactly one cake from scratch so I went with the tried and true Betty Crocker cake.  The only modification I made was to swap the 1/2c oil for 1/2c of water.  I figured the oil wouldn’t be needed based on the cake recipe and would help to figure out the baking time.  I poured roughly 1/3 of the cake batter into a well greased spring form pan (10”).  And then the tricky part: transferring the pie from the pie plate to the cake.    I removed the outer edges of the crust, flipped the pie onto a cookie sheet and flipped back.

Mine broke a bit but I was able to piece back together.  Pour the remaining cake batter over the pie and cooked until knife clean (70 minutes at 350 degrees).

I let the piecaken rest overnight (I didn’t want the cake to ball up when I frosted it).  I frosted with a simple butter cream frosting.

I hauled a cake weighing more than a newborn to a foodie potluck and viola, a piecaken for the ages.

Now, on to the next culinary adventure!

Stewing Over Some Ideas

January 8, 2012

I freely admit, I have an ongoing love affair with my crock pot.  The I only have one huge thing to wash (no dishwasher here!) is a major selling factor.  It’s probably energy efficient (which makes up for my unhealthy love affair with my iPhone but that is a different tangent!).  This weekend I spent some time on the prowl at local thrift/resale/consignment shops trying to come up with some fun ideas for decorating my condo.  I know this will be an ongoing project this year … but it will be fun.  My goal is to only by the couch new (unless I can find a killer one at one of the few consignment places I found) and try to re-do the entire place for under $2,000: mostly using finds from other places and spaces.  Who knows? It will give me something to do . . .

Anyway, back to my unhealthy crock pot obsession: this week for my SOLE challenge I made some beef stew.  I have enough leftover for a few lunches which is EXACTLY what I need!

2 lb beef spare ribs

1 quart canned whole tomatoes

2 lb carrots

1/2 c dry sherry

1 c water

2T herbs de provance

Slow cooked beef stew

Slow cooked beef stew

The bread is from the Mass Local Food and was made from local ingredients as well.  Although we’ve had an insanely mild winter to date, there is still a certain amount of self-satisfaction when I open an ingredient I canned over the summer!

Best laid plans. . . .

December 12, 2011

There are a million reasons I could never be a parent.  Most of them involve my utter lack of ability to plan and execute to a “normal” level.  Take today for example.  ALL day I sat around thinking “potato soup”.  I completely obsessed about it: and came home to find out that I didn’t have any potatoes. Massive #fail!  Sigh.  Fortunately, I had some onion soup left over from when my mom visited: 100% local (except the cognac).  I mean, my mom whipped this up one afternoon when I was at work. WHO whips up onion soup? (aside from the obvious?).

Onion Soup

Oh winter soups . . . .

I was so glad to have this to come home to have as my Plan B!  I spent the weekend in Atlantic City: had a good time but realized how bland commercialized food can be.  Honestly, I found myself wondering how much junk I put into my body when traveling: I honestly would have flunked tell this salad from its companion apart.  The food wasn’t bad … it just wasn’t good.  I’ve become used to the freshness of food.  Somebody remind me of this come January when I’m looking for an avocado.

So, for the soup:

Broth based on veggies from Shared Harvest CSA and beef from 8 O’Clock Ranch.

Onions from Red Fire Farm

Cheese from Grasse River B Ranch (via 8 O’Clock Ranch).

Not local: Cognac.

 

Oh Monday. . . .

December 5, 2011

A complete and total Monday.  The good: I managed to trouble shoot an issue with my car (I know nothing about cars but understand basic circuitry and figured out the positive cable from the battery was loose causing the light to come on.  My plan was to open the hood and tighten it but hey, I don’t have the grip strength to do that so off to the mechanic I go on Wednesday. Joy.)  One of my co-workers called in sick so I tried to deal with double the normal work load while pretending that the pounding migraine might just go away before oh, Christmas.  (It did after a copious amount of caffeine infusion).

I finally received the package from Best Buy Worst Store Ever.  Still haven’t heard from them, don’t expect to but hey, my sister’s Christmas errand is complete (trust me, I’m grateful, even if it is on my kitchen table).  Today would have been the perfect day to grab takeout, hit a drive through (ok, I do admit to hitting the golden arches today during the quest for caffeine, I hadn’t had any in a few days and was suffering …. I’d say like heroin withdrawal but that might be an exaggeration: on which side, I’m not sure) or something else.  Instead I made it 2 for 2 in my I’m not buying prepared food, I’m eating only what is in my pantry/kitchen/ and as local as possible (I do have somethings that are not S.O.L.E sourced left over that I’m not going to just toss).  What can I say, I’m drawn to the Dark Days Challenge in the sense that it forces me to think in advance about what I’m going to eat and where my food came from (couple that with the fact I’m still shaking my head at McDonald’s being an Olympic sponsor for some reason) and who is ‘profiting’ from my purchases.  Hey, I’m all for people making money: I’d just prefer it to be small businesses.  Again, based on zero scientific evidence, I do have to wonder if the increase in allergies, migraines and other expensive but not deadly health conditions is related to fillers in our food (but I’m a history major with a masters in theology, I know how to ask questions …. lots of them).

Anyway, today I wanted meatballs. Not a heavy pasta dish with meatballs.  Just meatballs (don’t ask me why).  For some reason, I had taken out some sausage from 8 O’clock Ranch this morning, grabbed an onion,  opened a jar of whole tomatoes from my CSA share at Nourse Farm I canned over the summer and mixed in some dried rosemary from my mom’s garden and mixed it with some GF bread crumbs.  I wound up freezing 1/2 into a meatloaf for later this winter and cooking the rest.  I made a sauce with some Fromage Blanc from Foxboro Cheese, half and half from Shaw’s Farm and a few leafs of spinach stirred in from the Somerville Winter’s Market.

I’m sure, oh, mid-January, I’m going to be screaming for the love of an avocado but right now, my past 2 attempts have been tasty.  The 2 items out of the radius, the meat and the rosemary.  If I make this again, I’ll add a pinch of salt: it needed a bit to offset the acid.

Meatballs and Spinach

Comfort food for a Monday

Why I shop local, can and all those other things.

November 27, 2011

My friend the author of Vegaparadise, posted a link on a recent article that appeared in the Washington Post regarding the increase in of ‘urban gardening’, canning and other activities that seem to be taking hold with members of GenX and GenY . The article which you can also find floating around FB, raises a few interesting thoughts.  Are those who are participating taking a step back for “feminist ideals” (note, yes, that was a gagging sound you heard coming from me) or empowering.  Ok, how about something that isn’t a simple cliché answer.  Maybe we are the generations that aren’t interested in chasing the a 24×7 lifestyle? Maybe after a hard look at the rampant consumerism which lead to an economic collapse, we’ve decided to try to be as local as possible (let’s face it, most of us would be pretty hard pressed to live a 100% locally sourced life – especially if we take any medicine).  I’m not going to rant on the evils of processed foods (I like them … and I know they are bad for me.  Some days, really, all I want is a donut) but maybe part of the resurgence of canning/cooking/scaling down is a recognition of just trying to minimize the chaos.

Part of the “local movement” does come from my desire to support small businesses in my area. Why? It’s better for me.  Chances are a local business owner lives in the surrounding area.  Local businesses have to pay taxes to my town, county and state.  Big box retailers often receive tax abatement deals to come into a town: often with disastrous consequences for the local and state economies.  There are a series of studies that can be found here.   Maybe my decision to support local business, farmers markets and other  local initiatives is one way I can contribute back to my local economy in an easy manner.

Perhaps there is another lesson in this: maybe the GenX and GenY members, having lived through a more, more, more childhood and early adulthood started to settle down when the economy started to nosedive (pick a time), realized there was more to life than a McMansion with a pool and never thought of it is an oppressive act.  I know for me, there is a certain amount of self satisfaction in opening a jar that I canned.  I know what is in the jar.  I know the food is probably not going to be under a recall.  I know that I can pronounce every word.  When I make the decision to spend the extra $2 on fairly traded items, I know that the people involved will be compensated fairly.

Maybe for me, part of my decision to be a locavore is based on this: I can’t ship jobs out of the country.  But I can make sure that where I spend my money supports my local economy so I’m not shipping my money out-of-state or out of the country.  And another reason I like to can, for me anyway, there is something meditative about the process: about combining, mixing and creating.

But I’m 100% sure I’m not taking a step backwards for women: I’m pretty much doing it for me, for the fun and the adventure.  And it’s a small way I can help my local businesses.

Eating Local in Winter

November 19, 2011

For November . . . .

I stumbled upon the Shared Harvest CSA earlier this fall and found it to be a perfect addition to the summer canning madness (and it was madness, but I have to admit that even I find a bit of self-satisfaction with that pop of a jar I’ve canned. . . . ).  Yes, I found another slightly bat shit insane challenge to partake in (it keeps me creative in the kitchen and when you’re cooking for one …) during the winter.

Is buying 100% local the most economical: no.  Is it something I can realistically do.  No.  I’m not 100% committed to giving up citrus and avocados and those don’t grow IN New England.  Plus throw in the allergy to shellfish (only our most common protein) and a gluten-free diet, it’s not feasible.  I’m not going to rant (at least today) about the benefits of local economies, see the Occupy Wall Street stuff for that (although I could probably make a more coherent argument for the benefits of local foods, industry than some of that mess) debate.

There is a challenge floating about on the web, Dark Days of Winter Challenge, that is about one meal a week that is S.O.L.E (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical).  Will it be a challenge, yes, maybe? There are a few farmer’s markets in the winter (Wayland, Somerville, Winchester), plus the Mass Local Food Co-op.  The challenge will be finding the flavors, getting over my unrealistic fear of kale.  I’m going to try for 2 days a week for a few reasons.  First, I’m cooking for one so I don’t have to worry about kids and flavors.  Second, I did a ton of canning/freezing this summer.  Third, there is something inventive about cooking.  I cook on the fly.  While that will be possible, it will be a bit harder. And fourth, while we don’t have a long growing season here … we do have dairy.  Yup, I’ve already stalked out my local ice cream source.  Isn’t that all I really need to survive? It will be an adventure and I promise to try to post pics and recipes.

Up for tonight? Roasted potatoes, onions, carrots from the Shared Harvest CSA and round steak from my favorite place in the world, 8’Oclock Ranch  (seriously, if you are in their CSA delivery area? What are you waiting for? SIGN UP!).

And given the 3 bushels of apples?? Expect a few more canning adventure tales. . . .

Because I’m always looking for something new to drive me nuts. . . .

November 9, 2011

 

Dark Days

 

So my friend Amy over at Vegparadise found this challenge.  Since I joined her in the no grocery store challenge, she figured (correctly), I was up for the task.  Now we are up to this one: The 5th annual dark days challenge.  Ok, this one is a bit of a twist: in winter, cook one meal a week with items only grown 100-150 miles from your home.  Since I’m a pure lunatic, I’ve decided that I’m going to try for 5 days (15 meals) a week.  I’m adding one caveat: my meat and cheese will come from the fantastic 8’Oclock Ranch in upstate New York which is 300 miles from my for a few reasons: they have humanely raised, organic meats and a fantastic CSA program I’m already a member of!

Now, I did  get lucky in that I placed an order for dried beans from my current CSA from a western Massachusetts farm.  There is also a great winters farmer’s market in Somerville and a decent one in Wayland close to my place.  Finally, for staples like oh, eggs, I can rely on the Mass Food Co-op.  Still, it will be a challenge.  I mean, first, it’s New England: things like oats, rice, avocados simply don’t grow here.  Fortunately, my canning hobby addiction kicked in and I have a variety of items in jars and frozen for the winter.

For me, part of it is about supporting local farmers through the winter – but it’s more than that.  When I leave in the dark and come home in the dark, it’s easy to want to hit a drive thru and head home to curl up.  And yes, there will be pictures, it’s part of the challenge.  Have I mention yet that I created a root cellar in my storage unit? Hmmm.  What can I say? I hate the grocery store!

Some times, you have to go back to the kitchen

October 6, 2011
Pork and Spicy Peach BBQ

Pork and Spicy Peach BBQ

I’ve had a lousy week.  Sunday night, I found out a long time family friend died of lung cancer.  She had a wonderful life just a not so happy ending.  I tried to find something poignant to put on the flowers I sent to my mom but came up with “some days just suck”.  At least my mom laughed: I know her friend would have had she received the flowers.  The day of the funeral I had to deal with my condo association and their inability to follow a procedure from point a to point b thus causing me to be inconvenienced.  My mom and her friend are both retired school teachers.  The one thing that entered my mind (because I couldn’t be 1/3 of the way across the country at the funeral like I wanted to be) was “Lack of planning on your part, doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part”.  The cliché of the poster pretty much sums up how I feel about my condo mis-management firm.  Always a fire drill.

So, on this miserable rainy fall Tuesday night, I cooked.  A fresh ham (not smoked … really you could substitute a pork roast) from the fantastic 8’Oclock Ranch and some homemade peach bbq sauce that I made this summer.  The following is the recipe I used for the zesty peach bbq sauce:

6 cups finely chopped pitted peeled peaches (about 3 lb or 9 medium)
1 cup finely chopped seeded red bell pepper (about 1 large)
1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 large)
3 Tbsp finely chopped garlic (about 14 cloves)
1-1/4 cups honey
3/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 tsp dry mustard

(It’s adapted from the ball canning book:  I skipped the salt and Worcester sauce).  And I somehow used the wrong kind of hot pepper flakes so mine as an extra layer of heat (suffice to say, cayenne pepper is a tad hotter than hot pepper flakes: oops).  This makes about 4 pints.

I preheated the oven to 380.  Dumped a pint of the sauce all over the roast and cooked until done (ok, so the cooking time depends ON the weight of the roast so that you have to look up. . . .).  I served it over rice.

Finally it’s fall . . . and I get to cook.  And enjoy the rewards of my hot summer nights in the kitchen