Sunday, April 28, 2013

Freezer-Pantry Clean Out Week II

Last week I spent $40-ish on groceries without a plan. This week I spent a little less than $50 WITH a plan, which is kind of going against the grain, so to speak, because while I used to menu plan like a boss, I've gotten pretty lazy about it lately. And by "lately," I mean the last eight years. Whatever. All that fancy Zero Waste readin' I'm doing suggests that menus are the way to go to eliminate food waste. I think another might be not to hoard.

I am a food hoarder, I won't lie. Well, something goes on sale and I'm all like, buy all the things! I also tend to put away a lot of food each summer, which in theory is awesome, but in practice it doesn't always get used (looking at you, quart of rhubarb).

I am trying to mend my ways. I bought one gallon of milk, one package of lunchmeat, two loaves of bread. And do you know what I learned? Buying multiples of those things is not hoarding because if you don't, you wake up Friday morning trying to figure out what to feed everyone for breakfast, let alone pack for lunch.

Good to know.

Freezer items: An inherited ham hock from Easter, chopped Walla Walla Sweets, homemade chicken broth, butter
Pantry items: Bulk split peas, bulk cornmeal from who knows when, local honey, chocolate chips I found pushed to the back
Meal: Split pea soup and cornbread*, home canned peaches, peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips**

A couple weeks ago I sent out a plea on Facebook: What the heck do you do with a ham hock? Oh, sure, I could have Googled it, but that's a lot of work. My friend Julie came through with this suggestion:

Bag of split peas, chicken stock, onion, garlic and ham bone in the crock pot all day. Homemade cornbread when you get home.

Except for the split peas, which I have never willingly purchased in my life, I had all this in the freezer. I also found some cooked taco meat from April 2012 (into the garbage disposal THAT went) and another quart of homemade chicken broth I suspect is from 2011 (such a waste). P.S. I almost donated my crock pot to the church's annual June rummage sale a couple of years ago. I am so glad I did not.

Uh, this was insanely delish. Well, ham, you know.

*Cornbread: This is close to my recipe, except mine just calls for 3/4 cup cornmeal. There was a time in the '00s that I made this every single week. I can't tell you how many times I forgot the baking powder and salt. Hint: A LOT. Also: Honey and cornbread? Yes, please.

**Cookie Recipe Note: For the love of God, do not use margarine in your cooking. Or anywhere. It's basically plastic. I don't even want to think about what shortening is...

Freezer items: Pork chops, walnuts
Refrigerator items: Salad! With feta! And homemade salad dressing!
Pantry items: Quinoa, dried cranberries
Meal: Pan roasted pork chops, quinoa with walnuts and cranberries, leftover split pea soup, salad, will someone please finish the peaches already?

I did not plan on this being a two-nighter, but you know what? Miracles.

Fun fact: We usually buy half a hog from our nephew every summer after the 4H auction at the fair. Last year we bought the entire hog, which, in case you were wondering, is a lot. This little piggy (whose name I forget, sorry, that feels ungrateful somehow) led a very happy life out in the country surrounded by alpacas. True story. Also, he's delicious.

My favorite way to cook pork chops is to do this whole pan roasting ordeal I learned from the Martha Stewart Cooking School cookbook, and I feel like that technique alone is worth the cost of the thing. We also enjoy this dry rub recipe from Everyday Food that we put on everything, meat and vegetable alike. (Um, except I can't find the variation we use... essentially, no cayenne, half the oregano and thyme, the other half with marjoram and basil. Oh, and less salt.)

I've never made quinoa before, but Martha came through again. I felt it had a rather... muddy taste... so I added more salt (kind of shocking, I know) and some dried cranberries and walnuts. And I was like, well, this is going to fly like a lead balloon, but you know what? Everyone ate it like it actually tasted good. Oh, except next time the girls don't want cranberries. (I thought that was the best part, but whatevs.) Eric was all, it's a superfood! Which is how I got my own portion down. I kept expecting to turn into an Avenger, but unfortunately that didn't happen. Maybe next time. (Insert sarcastic "yay" here.)

Oh, and P.S. This is my salad dressing recipe. I can share it because I invented it my own damn self and I don't care who copies it: 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, a squirt of honey, a squirt of good ol' yellow mustard (but Dijon is lovelier), salt and pepper to taste. Shake that up in a jar. The honey makes it thicker, which I appreciate. P.P.S. I'm afraid to Google those ingredients just in case someone else also came up with it but is more territorial than I am.

Freezer items: Pinto beans, spinach/cilantro/green onion mix, corn tortillas, raspberries
Refrigerator items: Cheese, blankety-blank peaches
Pantry items: Canned tomatoes, spices
Meal: Mexican-style Lasagna, fruit

I don't even have the words to tell you how sick I am of pork. Bring on the veggies. This Mexican-style Lasagna come from, where else?, Everyday Food. It is delicious. I make it constantly. Last summer I even made a few jars of the filling to shortcut the process a bit later on. I thought I'd used it all, but this is what happens when you clean out your freezer.

I'm at another end-of-the-week-side dish gulf, but that's why God gave us raspberries and peaches, I guess. It's not glamourous in any possible way, but you do get fed.

P.S. Friday I made chocolate chip cookies again. That finished off the rest of the chocolate chips, and I even got to open a new package of walnuts. I think I'm down to like four of those now. Also, I'm premenstrual. I NEED CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES.

We went to Stayton to visit Eric's sister and brother-in-law, and also to hang out with nephew Kelly and go to some brew fest. I don't know, this is what happens when you hang around homebrewers a lot. I just smile and nod and try to find the coffee. Um, so I didn't have to come up with any kind of meal plan. You know what? I'm okay with that somehow. (Ha.)

In conclusion, these past two weeks have been pretty awesome. I've managed to get rid of quite a bit of food. No one starved (except for Friday morning, but that was my fault for not getting enough milk), and I'm not sure anyone really even noticed I was cleaning the freezer et al the hell out, aside from Eric, whom I like to bore with all the minute details of my life.

It looks like I'm down to mostly fruit in the freezer now (well, and pork), so I guess instead of Freezer-Pantry Clean Out Week III we'll have Will Trisha Ever Learn To Make a Proper Pie Week. Answer: No. Crusts confound me. I don't know, I just don't get it.

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