Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wrapping Up Month One - What's in Your Fridge? New Recipes; and Other Comments

This is what I have prepped/left over for the final day of month 1 - Top shelf: fruit salad (pineapple, mango, kiwi and blueberries), and sweet potato & kale hash (4 small plates which I will heat in the oven and top each with a fried egg). Bottom shelf: 2 pieces jerk cod (marinating to bake tomorrow) which will be served with pineapple mango salsa (middle container), chopped salad consisting of lettuce, carrots, green onion, kale and broccoli (right) and a bag of rainbow carrots (peaking out in the back).  There is nothing left in the drawers which my family calls "rotters" and just some condiments and beverages in the door.

New recipes for the month: fish baked with pineapple, coconut oil, salt and pepper (salmon & Mahi Mahi), jerk cod with pineapple mango salsa, and sweet potato & kale hash.

This was a short month but could possibly be the most costly. I'm on a fitness plan and trying to find the right balance of food so I'm not hungry. I splurged this month on prepared kale chips, protein powder, and other things. I have a new strategy/shopping list for month 2 so I expect that my budgeting will improve with a plan.  Do I at least get the clean fridge award??

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Turkey Marshmallows Part 2

For all of you who have been following along since season 2, I attempted previously to make marshmallows from gelatin stock from a turkey.  After cooking the worthless bits of a turkey carcass down I was rewarded with about 10 fl oz of turkey gelatin.  I decided to try again.

The first time I attempted this I failed to whisk enough to make marshmallows properly.  Someone, probably Sarah Lohman asked me, 'Why didn't you use an electric mixer?'  Uh, yeah.  So you can see where this is headed.

Once again I strained the gelatin to get all the meaty bits out.  Then I added twice the volume of gelatin in cups of sugar (2-1/4 cups of sugar to 1-1/8 cups gelatin.)

Stirring constantly I brought the temperature up to 138 degrees.  I went just a little over (the thermometer hit 140) and I could see the contents getting white and frothy.  I dumped the gela-sugar into my mixing bowl, which was resting in an ice bath.  I started mixing...

And kept mixing...

and kept mixing...

 Finally, it turned white and started to firm up.  When I thought it was about done I set a timer for 4 more minutes and kept mixing it.  The substance it created was a lot like marshmallow fluff, and probably is in fact marshmallow fluff.  I tasted some off the spatula and it taste like marshmallows and turkey.  Weird.  I put it in a greased and sugared pan I will post the final results in the comments section.

How Its Going

I have rethought my approach to the challenge.  I decided to not fret about how much I've spend, and instead focus on budgeting to the end to meet the goal.  We have a solid stock of food already prepared, so now money is just spent to fill in missing items for the week.  I've re-set my weeks so that Thursday is my new Monday - the challenge ends on a Wednesday so I've budgeted out weekly what we can spend.  We get $11.63 every week, and there are now 9 more weeks to go.

I over-spent by about 40 cents 2 weeks ago, this past week I was under by 3 cents.  I've always been very good at forcing myself into a budget, I had a lot of credit card debt at one time and managet to pay it, my house, and my car all off.  I suppose this is part of the reason I am successful at seelf-employment, my ability to really buckle down when I need to.

At family dinner on Thursday I realized that I may be a rarity in this ability.  Although I don't for a moment believe I should be the winner of this challenge, the possibility exists that I might actually win.  Everyone else at family dinner indicated that they had a pile of unsorted reciepts, and they were afraid to tally them all up.  

Hey, family!  Knowledge is empowerment!  Find out where you stand and make a plan moving forward!

We had a pot luck dinner.  I brought chicken soup.  I don't mind tooting my own horn, it was delicious.  I am amazed at how easy some things are to cook, once you get the hang of them.  To make the soup I used the stripped bones from a 5lb bag of drumsticks I dismantled.  I broke the bones, added an onion and covered them with water.  Into the crock pot for 8hrs on low, and the stock was ready.  It is so hearty that it will solifiy into gravy in the refridgerator.  I picked the bits of meat left on the bones and set them aside, then cooked and cut up a potato and some carrots in the microwave. The meat bits and vegetables were added to the stock. Every time I make pierogies there is some dough left over, and I roll this dough out on my Pasta Queen into noodles.  I added some home-made noodles and my dinner contribution cost literally pennies.

We had a bit of trade after dinner  I took maybe 10 or 12 dozen pierogies with me, and shared them with Therese and the Jacksons.  Kathy brought me 6 cans of peeled tomatoes and some frozen herbs in olive oil, and Therese gave me the turkey carcass, less the breast meat.   The turkey borke down into; 22oz cooked meat, 5oz skin, 16oz bone for soup (made roughly a quart of soup stock), and a pile of scraps.  The scraps consisted of everything that wasn't meat or large bones. I covered them in water and put on a back burner of the stove and let them simmer while I made pierogies on Saturday. I expected to cook a lot of fat off of them.  After some hours of simmering I drained the liquid and discarded the rest.  I was surprised that there was maybe a tablespoon of fat and the rest was gelatin (about 10 fl oz.)  I'll post the story of the gelatin stock shortly.  Back to family dinner, I took some unwanted leftovers home as well  There were some mixed fresh vegetables and a small container of parmesan cheese.  Therese had gotten some free produce and shared with me some white sweet potatoes and apples.

Saturday I ended up cooking all day, though I did not set out to do so at the beginning of the day.  I stripped the turkey carcass apart and made soup stock out of the turkey bones.  As mentioned above the erroneous bits were cooked down into gelatin and fat.  I also made pierogies to replenish my stores.  I only made a half-batch of filling (2-1/2lbs of potatoes to 1/2lb cheese).  I was in an...experimental mood.  I made some alternate fillings for pierogies.  First I came up with the 'turkey dinner' pierogi, filled with potatoes and cheese, turkey, and a small slice of bagel to simulate stuffing.  They are fantastic topped with gravy.  The second I made using the white sweet potatoes.  I don't like sweet potatoes.  Jessica does so I thought I'd make a trial batch.  I tasted one and it was, well, like eating a sweet potato.  Jessica was indifferent to them, they were in need of something.  After I made the rest of the potato and cheese pierogies I had a lot of dough left, so I made a second trial.  I added cinnamon to the sweet potato, and added some sugar to the sour cream.  As I've said, I don't like sweet potatoes, but these were delicious.  Our friend Jeff would disagree, but that is because Jeff hates freedom and everything else delicious.  Jessica siad they should be fried.  I have plans for the future to do just that.  I also baked a few to see how they would come out.  I think this dough might make acceptable pizza rolls, we'll see.

The Baking Will Continue Until Morale Improves

I just thought that was a funny title.  I've been making cookies lately.  They are way simple.  Sugar and margarine, plus an egg, mixed together.  When that's done, force a bunch of flour into it.  Add, whatever, bake at 375 for 7-9mins.  I've made peanut butter, chocolate chip, and the ultimate combo, 'You got peanut butter in my chocolate chip' cookies.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Stretching Out Meals for the Week

As part of my meal preparation yesterday, I was able to stretch out 1 serving into 3-4 by adding ingredients that I had in the fridge/pantry (these have been weighed and will be added into my total expenses).

The first meal was baked oatmeal. I started with just under 2/3 cup of oatmeal, about 1 serving, and stretched it out to 3 - 1 1/4 cup servings. I remembered a recipe that I previously made from the Eat for Health book by Dr. Fuhrman. I started by putting the oatmeal in an 8x8 baking dish with a cup of water and 3 dates. I sprinkled a little coriander on top and baked at 350 degrees until the water was absorbed (approximately 30 min.). I chopped up 1 1/2 bananas and grated 3 apples in the blender and sprinkled them with cinnamon. I added the fruit with a little more water and baked until the fruit was soft. Once done, I sprinkled the top with  1 1/2 TBS ground flax.  This recipe is very versatile and will work well with many other combinations of dried, frozen or fresh fruit as well as nuts, seeds and nut butters.

The second meal was pumpkin curry with lentils. I started with one serving of frozen pumpkin curry (prepared by Kathy) and turned it into 4 - 1 cup servings each served over 1/2 cup rice. I cooked 1 cup of lentils until they were soft. When the lentils were finished, I drained the excess water and added 2 chopped roma tomatoes, raisins and curry powder and cooked it until the tomatoes were soft. I added the thawed pumpkin curry and cooked it for a few more minutes and then topped it with chopped green onions. This is another recipe that can have many variations by adding other vegetables or beans, although its not very common to have a extra package of pumpkin curry in the freezer (except if you're the Jacksons with 20+).

Day 10, we still won't win.

Despite individual meal cost being low, our food bills continue to rise.  Unexpected Birthday expenses this week totalled $50, bringing our running total to $174.30, nearly 2 months of our initial budget in just 10 days.

I've made some pretty successful dishes this week.  I've gotten used to pulling chicken legs apart to remove

all the tendons, and have made chicken parm (pictured), pretzel crusted chicken, chicken and dumplings, bbq ribs, pizza, and lots of pierogies.  I saved all the bones and leftover bits from the chicken legs I used, 6 of them made a very good quart of chicken noodle soup.  All of the meals have been satisfying, nay, downright normal.  It is nice to enjoy meals made of ingredients you can recognize, no trisodium megaphosphate or whatever else you see on the side of boxes.

I can't say I really miss any foods.  Cooking does take up a good deal of time but the crockpot and items prepared last sunday do help to keep cooking times minimal.

The sandwich to the left shows the return of an old challenge favorite - Apocalyps Bacon.  I call this sandiwch the ABLT.  This incarnation is chicken skin, stripped from the legs I prepared earler in the week, fried crisp in a pan.  The tomatoes on the ABLT (and the chick parm for that matter) are runted leftovers from my mom's garden.  I gathered them the last day before she went on vacation, which was 3 days before the first killer frost.  I've kept them in the garage and then the back hall when the garage got too cold, letting them slowly ripen.  I'm amazed that I still have a few good ones left!

There has only been one real failure so far (aside from our balooned expenses.)  I tried to make beef barley soup from what was left in the crockpot when I made ribs last week, and I added too much barley.  The barley doesn't have a great consistency either.  It is just sitting in the refrigerator now, thouch I can't quite bring myself to throw it out.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An exercise in mindfullness and organization

Lets be clear. My reason for agreeing to participate in this challenge is not to experience the past but to live mindfully in the present. I believe that I have already been doing this for the past several months, mainly starting when I decided to move to a new apartment. My goal was to use most of the excess stores that I had including beans (all kinds - split peas, lentils, black eyed peas, chickpeas, etc.), rice, nuts, frozen foods, etc before I moved... I also wanted to be less wasteful because I found myself discarding pounds of produce simply because I was not very organized. 

Since moving, I have had very little waste - just the occasional bad recipe that even a dog won't eat. I generally buy what I need and use it up. If I have a couple ingredients that I think would work well together, I do an Internet search for a recipe. For example, I had left over carrots and garlic so I found a recipe for roasted carrot and garlic soup which turned out great! 

I enjoy being creative in the kitchen and experimenting with unique recipes. Remember the sprouted wheat berry flat bread and the zupa orgokowa (sour pickle soup)? These challenges have really expanded my culinary horizons.

Will I win by saving the most money? No way! Will I personally win by continuing to be mindful and embarking on culinary adventures? Absolutely!!

Monday, February 3, 2014

super cook sunday

saturday we hosed our monthly gaming group, so i invited everyone in the group to come eat on us.  there is one thing we are ahead on in this challenge, and that is hosting credits. we had 8 people show up at 2pm, and 4 more later in the evening.

though are per meal cost has been low since the challenge start, actual expenses continue to rack up. a trip to the store cost another 31.27, though many of the items were beverages for hosting.  i cant remember if i made 4 or 5 pizzas, but i can tell you we used nearly a full 5lb bag of flour and 25oz of cheese in the process, along with toppings.

sunday came and i cooked, all day. i made 1.5lbs of potatoes into chis, fried in some bacon fat i had saved. i then made 24 dozen pierogis, and bbq beef ribs for dinner. the leftover dough from the pierogies was rolled out into noodles. welcome back pasta queen.

i put the ribs in the slow cooker with half an onion and some leftover mushrooms from pizza day, along with a cup of water. 6 hours later i put them on the foreman grill with some barbeque sauce. they literally fell off the bone. i saved what was left in the c
rock pot to make soup out of later.

tonights dinner was chicken and dumplings. when you make pierogies there are casualties whose filling pokets break in the water. i took about a dozen of those and chopped them up for the dumplings. i tore 2 chicken legs apart to remove the bone, skin, and all the tendons. i found it came apart easiest when pulled apart by hand. i floured and pan fried them, added the dumplings and a bit of water. i let them simmer for a few minutes and then added a country gravy packet i found in the cupboard. it turned out pretty good. ill substitute flour and pepper next time i make it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Market Day Proposal

I would like to propose a "Market Day" for our next family dinner which will be held on Thursday, Febuary 20.  My inventory is listed in the previous blog.  I am happy to trade or share.  (I have 26 containers of applesauce.)  LOL    Our dinner on that day will be a pot luck.  I will be roasting one of the turkeys as my contribution.

Challenge Stores

Today, I took inventory of my challenge stores.  I have two small freezers full of food I have either grown in my garden or received via the local food distribution channels.  The two turkeys and fresh sweet potatoes were purchased with a gift card I received from work over the holidays.  Listed below are the preserved food, the food leftover from the previous challenge and a list of purchases I've made to begin the challenge along with my 5 pounds free supplies.  I've decided to use up what little I have in the refrigerator from pre-challenge and I am taking 1 pound of my free food to use various items such as a few slices of bread, 4 slices of turkey, and a few slices of cheese.  I know I will probably spend more than I have listed here.  However, if I don't spend any more money than I already have, I will be eating for 18 cents per day.  My goal is to eat for less than 50 cents per day.  Here is my beginning challenge list:

ITEM Quan State Location Cost
     Beans (Green) 3 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Beans (Green) 1 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Beans (Loobie) 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Beans (Wax) 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Beets 7 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Beets 6 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Broccoli Stems 3 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Cabbage (Shredded) 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Cabbage (Whole) 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Carrots 10 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Carrots 4 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Carrots (Whole 5 lb) 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Chives (Chopped in Roll) 1 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Chives (Chopped in Roll) 2 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Corn 4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Eggplant 4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Pickles 7 CANNED Basement $0.00
     Spaghetti Squash 4 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Spaghetti Squash 4 FRESH Basement $0.00
     Sweet Potatoes 11 FRESH Kitchen $0.00
     Tomatoes (Canned) 9 CANNED Basement $0.00
     Tomatoes (Skinned Whole) 4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Tomatoes (Skinned Whole) 4 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Turnip Cubes 2 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Zucchini (Breaded Slices) 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Zucchini (Stuffed) 2 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Zucchini (Shredded) 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Grape Juice 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Grape Juice 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Grapes 5 FROZEN Basement $2.50
     Peach Pie 1 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Peaches 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Pear Jelly 3 CANNED Basement $0.00
     Pears 7 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Strawberries 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Pear Sauce 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
    Cinnamon Applesauce 6 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Blackberry Applesauce 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Apple/Pear Sauce 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Plain Applesauce 1 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Plain Applesauce 8 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Apple/Pear Sauce 5 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Carrot/Ginger Soup 2 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Lrg Roasted Veg Soup 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Roasted Veg 3 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Roasted Veg Soup 4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Turnip/leek Soup 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Turnip/leek Soup 4 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     Turnip/leek Soup 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Zucchini Soup 5 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Zucchini Soup 7 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Banana Bread (2 slice pckg) 3 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Bread & Butter Pickles 7 CANNED Basement $0.00
     Sage/Mint Tea  4 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Sunflower Heads 6 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Sweet Potato Pancakes 2 FROZEN Basement $0.00
     Sweet Potato Pancakes 3 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Turkey 2 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Whole Zucchini Bread 1 FROZEN Garage $0.00
     Barley 4 DRY Basement $0.00
     Farina (20 oz) 2 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Cornmeal (1 lb) 4 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Bran (1 lb) 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Chicory 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     Dry Garden Herbs 5 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     1 Pound Butter 1 FROZEN Kitchen $0.00
     1 Pound Coffee 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     1/2 Pound Veg Soup Paste 1 CANNED  Kitchen $0.00
     1 Pound Leftovers  1 Refrigerator Kitchen $0.00
     1 Pound Oil 1 CANNED  Kitchen $0.00
     1/4 Pound Salt & Spices 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
     1/4 Pound Brown Sugar 1 DRY Kitchen $0.00
PURCHASES as of Feb. 1
     1 Doz Eggs 1 FRESH Kitchen $2.97
     1 Large Package Oatmeal 1 DRY Kitchen $2.49
     5 Pounds Potatoes 1 FRESH Kitchen $2.50
     1 Bag Bananas 1 FRESH Kitchen $0.99
     Coffee Creamer 1 FRESH Kitchen $2.99
     1/2 lb sugar @ 1.98 5 lbs 1 DRY Kitchen $0.20
     2 lb flour @ 2.49 5 lbs 1 DRY Kitchen $1.49