Tuesday, 8 January
When we were cleaning out my father-in-laws apartment, I brought all the food that was fit to eat to my house. I just put his freezer stuff into my deep freeze without writing down what it was. Even though I had a pretty good inventory of the contents prior to adding his food, I sometimes find a surprise. And that's what happened over the weekend. In a box of freezer waffles, I found a small stack of pancakes and a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit. This morning, I toasted the biscuit and ate it for my breakfast with a mandarin orange. I didn't even bother to take a picture of my breakfast. Probably doesn't constitute “cooking”, but it does meet my goals of eating all my meals at home and drawing from food on hand.
As is typical for lunches, this was a simple menu with very little prep required. We had ham and cheese sandwiches with fresh grapes. I added a small dish of sliced cucumbers topped with balsamic dressing. Steven passed on the cucumbers. For supper, I went all out when it came to cooking. Our main dish was deconstructed egg rolls, based on the recipe for Instant Pot Egg Roll Bowls which I found online. Instead of ground meat, I shredded the extra chicken breast that I had steamed last night. And, I substituted fresh cabbage, carrot, and onion for the bag of pre-shredded cole slaw mix. It came out yummy and Steven says he wouldn't mind a repeat of this some time. I served it with a simple fried rice.
For this month's #pantrychallenge, of course my breakfast biscuit came from the freezer, as did the chicken in the egg roll. I used ½ cup of frozen mixed vegetables in the fried rice which was made from left-over rice. The egg roll dish used up the last of a head of cabbage which was bought before Christmas.
Wednesday, 9 January
Things at work have started picking up. That plus the time it takes to prepare a meal means that I'm not reading nearly as much as I regularly would. In the past, I would use the time riding to and from the restaurant to read a chapter or two. But since we're not eating out, I don't have that opportunity to read. So yesterday evening, instead of working on blog posts, I simply grabbed my Kindle and turned myself over to solving a mystery with Constable Evans in Llanfair, Wales.
No breakfast. I simply couldn't be bothered to eat anything when I first got up, and by the time I was thinking about eating, it was too close to lunch time. For lunch, I made mini pizzas using English muffins as the crust. I simmered left-over spaghetti sauce until it was extremely thick, then spread it on the English muffin halves and topped with pepperoni and shredded Mozzarella cheese. I made a simple salad with green leaf lettuce and sliced cucumber topped with ranch dressing. I'm still on task with my #cook90 challenge, with the exception of skipping breakfast most of the time.
Supper tonight was a simple beef “stew” made with potato, carrots, onion, and celery from this week's Bountiful Baskets distribution. After peeling and dicing the vegetables, I cut up some leftover slices of roast beef and combined everything in the Instant Pot with about one cup of beef broth. After ten minutes under pressure, I opened the Instant Pot and thickened the sauce with a corn starch slurry. Served the stew with corn kernels, some rolls also from the freezer, and fresh sliced tomatoes.
When it comes to the #pantrychallenge, lunch mostly finished off the box of English muffins that has been living in my refrigerator for a month or so. And, making pizza kept me from having to throw out ½ of a jar of spaghetti sauce left over from an earlier meal. The cheese was an unopened package that I had bought before Thanksgiving. The beef for tonight's supper came from two leftover slices of roast beef that I had stored in the freezer. And the Hawaiian rolls were leftover from Thanksgiving. I took four of them out of the freezer and left four for another meal.
I opened every post with the #cook90 hashtag, so I thought I'd change things up today. I sure hope that eating up left-overs counts as eating from the pantry. At least I avoided adding more food to the freezer. Other than the left-overs, food coming from the pantry were some frozen chicken breasts and a box of Girl Scout cookies.
In spite of the fact that I'm still not eating breakfast most days, I am meeting my goal/challenge of eating all meals at home instead of going out.
For lunch, I warmed the left-over bow tie pasta dish, toasted some sour dough bread (and topped mine with guacamole), and sliced up a navel orange. At supper time, I pulled three chicken breasts from the freezer and tossed them into a pot of seasoned water to poach. Put one of the breasts away in the fridge to use in stir fry tomorrow night, and sliced the two remaining breasts and browned them in the skillet. Served the chicken with left-over green beans, cornbread dressing, and mashed acorn squash. For dessert, I opened a box of Girl Scout Shortbread cookies and served them with fresh fruit—grapes for Steven and a pear for me.
Although I had intended to cook eggs for breakfast today, instead, I stayed in the bed reading. So my first meal of the day was lunch. Having made a huge bowl of chicken salad earlier in the week, we needed to finish it off. (I really hate having to throw away uneaten/spoiled food.) Our lunches were simple: chicken salad sandwiches, fresh grapes, and mandarin oranges. When I eat in the cafeteria at a customer location, my “go-to” lunch is a chicken salad sandwich or wrap with nothing more than mayonnaise and tomatoes. And that's what I fixed for myself today.
Although I had planned to cook a big pot of Leek-y Potato soup, I realized that I needed to NOT cook something new but eat some of the dishes sitting in the freezer. So, I grabbed a container labeled “Zuppa Toscano” and a loaf of sour dough bread. Well, the Zuppa Toscano wasn't—it was instead Turkey Congee. That just goes to show that I should have been more diligent to label the food at the time I put it into the freezer and not rely on recognizing what it is later. I warmed the entire loaf of sour dough bread in the oven, then sliced it and created cheesy bread to go with the congee. The Asians have it right—congee is definitely comfort food. Wish I knew what recipe I had used when I originally cooked it.
Yep, the two items I took from the freezer—the congee and sour dough bread—were all that I drew from deep storage. I take that back. I had also taken the beef ribs from our Christmas Day standing rib roast and run them through the Instant Pot for a couple of hours with lots of water, making some beef broth/stock. I had thought to use it to make soup, but since I decided not to make soup, I'll have to freeze it for later on. And, it is unfortunate, but I'm going to have to go to the grocery in the next couple of days since we're almost out of bread and I have no flour or yeast to bake my own. There are a couple of other small items I'm thinking of such as tomato paste that would make it a lot easier to make good use of stuff that's in the freezer. (Really? Since when don't I have a can or two of tomato paste on hand?)
I had to get up and out early this morning to go pick up produce from the Bountiful Baskets Co-op. I live about ½ hour from the pick-up location, so I was out of the house shortly before 8 am. See my earlier post for the details of what was in my share. By the time I got back home, I was ready to eat breakfast, so I broke out a cup of strawberry yogurt. It wasn't much, but it was better than skipping breakfast again.
I did much better at lunch time. Steven had gone to the grocery and brought home a package of beef frankfurters. So, I broke open the package and opened a can of our favorite Armour Chili with Beans. Warmed the franks and chili in the same pan. While that was cooking, I made a salad with the last of the lettuce and ½ of a tomato. Topped it with ranch dressing and served the whole thing with a tall glass of iced tea.
Supper was a simple pasta dish made with bow tie pasta, broccoli, baby carrots, chicken breast, chicken broth, and a “can” of homemade condensed cream of chicken soup. Topped it off with ½ a cup of shredded cheddar and put it into the oven until it was bubbling. Sliced some cucumber and grabbed some celery sticks and topped them with a little bit of ranch dressing.
Well, today's meals were a mixture of what had been on hand before 1 January and newly purchased food. My breakfast was a carton of yogurt from the half dozen in the fridge. Lunch's chili was a can that has been in the pantry for a couple of months and the lettuce and tomatoes from the fridge. One thing that there's quite a bit of in the pantry is pasta, so I'm going to have to come up with several ways to eat this down. I took a chicken breast from the freezer and simmered it in the other half of the chicken broth that I used two nights ago to make the cornbread dressing. I used half of a bag of frozen broccoli and the last of the baby carrots from the fridge in addition to one of the cans of condensed chicken soup that I had made around Christmas. The cucumber and celery were the remnants of a shopping trip between Christmas and New Year's Day, but as you may have noticed, I got more of both in my Bountiful Baskets share this week.
Today was pick-up day for my order from Bountiful Baskets Co-op. The directors like to say that we're not buying from the co-op, but that we're “contributing” to a consolidated order for produce and then receiving a share from the order. Whatever! This week I requested a conventional basket which is expected to be 12 or so different items, half fruit and half veggies. My contribution for one share (aka one “basket”) is $18.00 and the value of the produce usually comes up to $25.00 or more when priced at the local grocery stores. I also requested a Stew Pack which cost only $12.80 and was expected to contain the usual items you'd use in a big pot of soup—or two—or three.
Note that I don't know in advance what is going to be in the basket or how much. That's part of the fun. When something interesting shows up, I get to research how to use it and what dishes can be made.
Look at all that yummy goodness in the conventional basket. There's so much fruit there; more than two senior citizens can consume in a week or even two. And, given that I already have a full fruit drawer due to hubby bringing home a huge bag of mandarin oranges, I simply don't have room to store it. So, I'm going to be sharing with my daughter and perhaps a friend.
There were eleven bananas. Eleven! We already had three on hand, so thet's more than we can use before they're too ripe. After Jaime takes what she wants, I'll wait for them to get overripe so I can make banana bread. Hubby likes it and it will make for good breakfasts. Whattever doesn't go into banana bread can be tossed into the freezer for later use in banana bread or muffins. And, I guess they could go into smoothies, though we rarely drink smoothies.
The rest of the fruit consisted of seven small navel oranges, seven small apples (probably Gala), two grapefruit, a pineapple, and eight lemons. I guess I'm going to have to juice the lemons and freeze the juice.
And now we come to the veggies. Four small sweet potatoes will show up in meals either baked or as fries. Three tomatoes and four cucumbers will make for very tasty salads over the next week. The onions (three of them) are always good to have on hand. I'm also glad to get a large bunch of kale since I love it a lot—not raw or in salads, but steamed, sauteed, and in soups. And the “interesting” veggie this week was jicama. We often have veggies with ranch dip or hummus, though it's usually just carrots and celery. I'll add jicama strips and enjoy every bite. And, researching jicama online, I find that it works well in stir-fry. Given the ½ head of cabbage sitting in the veggie drawer, I'm thinking about a lovely stir-fry for supper tomorrow.
The stew pack contained a single onion, four potatoes, a pound of carrots, and a head of celery. All ingredients that I expected, though not necessarily in the amounts I hoped for. Also in the pack were three large leeks, a bunch of kale, a bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley, and small packages of fresh thyme and bay leaves.
Leeks! What a surprise. I'm anticipating making a pot of Leek-y Potato Soup. I could have hoped for more potatoes, but when I run out, they are easy to get and inexpensive to boot. Potatoes plus kale leads me to think about a knock-off of the Olive Garden Zuppa Toscano. Of course, that's not terribly different from potato soup with leeks, so maybe not. Carrots, potatoes, celery, onion, and parsley would go well with some hamburger and tomatoes and maybe some other veggies from the freezer to make a hearty vegetable soup. Time will tell...
Again, I skipped breakfast. At this rate, #cook90 (eating 90 meals at home) is going to end in mid-February or I'm going to have to rename it #cook65 if I want to finish by the end of January.
Lunch was very low key. I warmed up a frozen burrito and a couple of frozen taquitos and ate them with the last of a bottle of salsa. I had to redeem myself at supper. I cooked bratwurst with onions in 1/2 a bottle of beer. Served with rice, left-over green beans, and sauerkraut. For dessert, we ate applesauce—mine was topped with a dash of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. (Yes, pumpkin pie spice.)
Although I have a pretty good inventory of the freezers, I still haven't taken one of the pantries themselves. That's on the “to-do” list for the weekend. In the meantime, here are pictures of the two pantries.
The photo on the left is the small pantry in my kitchen. We keep stuff here that is needed almost every day such as cereals and snacks. The bottom shelf (which isn't in the photo) holds all the boxes of plastic wrap, baggies, foil, and parchment paper.
On the right is the big pantry next to the garage entrance. It's deep storage for non-perishables canned items, crackers, pasta, and boxed mixes. We also keep the kitchen “supplies” here such as paper towels and trash bags. The rest of the space holds excess plastic and glass storage containers, pitchers, and a couple of bottles of wine. Down on the floor on the far right are the remnants of the Y2K emergency foods gifted us by friends.
When Steven's father died this fall, we emptied his freezer and pantry, bringing everything that was useful over to our house. I drew from this food for lunch and supper today. I ate the last of the freezer burritos and taquitos for my lunch. And supper made use of one beer and the applesauce from his apartment.
Also, so far this challenge, I've had to dispose of two things: a can of tuna whose “best by:” date was back in 2014 and ½ a bottle of olive oil that just tasted a bit off. I think I'm going to toss some frozen turkey thigh meat whose age I don't really know.
I'm back to my more usual pattern of skipping breakfast. I simply do not get up early enough to fix something to eat, and if I took the time to eat breakfast, I would be eating so late that I'd have to push lunch back much too late. However, even though I didn't eat breakfast and Steven had to fend for himself, I did fix a nice lunch for both of us. We didn't eat the same thing, but it was a good lunch any way. Steven had a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with chips and a mandarin orange. My lunch was a toasted cheese spread sandwich, green salad with tomatoes and almonds, and green grapes.
For supper, I warmed up some turkey drumstick meat to go with cornbread dressing, green beans, and left-over veggies from New Year's Day—mustard greens and field peas.
No particular pantry items used for lunch. I made the cheese spread earlier this week from pantry items and the almonds in my salad have been in my refrigerator since we moved all the food from my father-in-law's house. For supper, I had pulled a container of turkey drumstick meat and one of chicken broth from the freezer. The cornbread dressing was made with Hatch chili cornbread left over from New Year's Day (can you say “#nextover”?) and the thawed broth. As I mentioned above, I warmed up the vegetables left over from New Year's Day.