Monday, October 19, 2009

Day Eighteen

What a mess. This is the last day of our trip, and the drive back to L.A. It's a disaster of rule breaking. I don't even have the energy to discuss it. Here is a rundown to the best of my memory.

Breakfast: 2 Pillsbury Biscuits, with butter. 1 piece of bacon, 1 piece of breakfast sausage, coffee.

Snacks: Raw Almonds & Dried White Peaches

Lunch: 6" Quiznos Turkey Club on wheat bread, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, turkey, cheddar cheese, bacon. Iced Tea.

Dinner: Bean soup with leftover biscuit from breakfast and 1/2 piece of fig pizza left over from Saturday nights dinner.

Ugh, traveling is hard.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day Seventeen

I started out today with a resolve to do better and try harder, despite being away from home. I started out well, but I found it very difficult to keep it up when I'm not in my kitchen. Also it is my eleven-year wedding anniversary, so a little celebratory rule breaking is in order.

Breakfast: Giant Red Grapes and Mini green grapes.
Jalapeno, Cheddar Biscuit from Farmer's Market. I didn't make these, but I bought them from the woman who made them from scratch, which, I think, is the next best thing.

Lunch: Tomato Salad (Red, Green and Yellow Heirloom tomatoes, Green Bell Pepper, Feta Ingredients: Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Cheese Cultures, Enzymes, Natamycin (Natural Mold Inhibitor) , Kalamata Olives Ingredients: Tree Ripened Olives, Water, Distilled and Red Wine Vinegar, Salt, Olive Oil, Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Salt, Pepper) The tomatoes and green pepper were from the beautiful Noe Valley Farmer's Market, and they were so flavorful and delicious. The rest of the ingredients were from my brother-in-law's kitchen.

1 Pumpkin Ale

Since we had a late dinner reservation we went to a Mexican Restaurant called Pappalote for mid-meal around 3pm. We were going to bring food back to the house, but I ended up hooking up with my friend ES there, so I had a Chili Verde Quesadilla and a Negro Modela there.

Dinner is a whole chapter of it's own. We went to a restaurant called Starberry. I highly recommend a visit if you are in the Bay Area. They use local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and everything was really delicious and reasonably priced. There were seven of us, and we ordered a bunch of stuff and shared everything. It felt like an amazing endless feast.

mini corn dogs with spicy mustard & house made ketchup
split pea soup, house smoked ham hock & grilled toast
warm olive tapenade, chili oil & grilled flat bread
marinated japanese cucumber, summer tomato, raw milk feta & black olives
local corn with mascarpone & garlic
Pizza with fresh figs, blue cheese, & wild arugula
roasted porchetta, salsa verde & salsa calabria, market greens
One and a half Dark Blonde Ales

We ordered one of each of the desserts here.
Secret Breakfast Ice Cream (Jim Beam & Corn Flakes)

We walked to the restaurant and planned to take a cab home, but after the delicious porchetta (a giant round of pork surrounded by about an inch of fat.) I decided walking the 20 minutes home would be a good step in preventing a heart attack.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day Sixteen

We are still in San Francisco, and staying at my husband's brother's house. Shockingly, in this household of two working parents of two children ages 3 and 5, they aren't preparing all the food from scratch. Here is where the hospitality clause is invoked. That being said, today hasn't been too bad. I have tried to make up for yesterday without making myself a terrible guest.

For Breakfast I had coffee and an egg scramble with potato, tomato, thyme, salt and pepper. A little later I had some grapes.

We went out for Lunch, I had a Nicoise Salad. It was comprised of lettuce, tuna, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, onion, olives, and potatoes. I'm sure there was a dressing and some spices, etc. But it couldn't have been too much because it was exceptionally bland.

Dinner: Ok, I didn't prepare any of this food, but I think the proprietors of Flour + Water are kindred spirits. They make their pasta every day, make their own salumi and butcher their own meat and use the animals in their entirety. I ordered the seared pork chop with pumpkin, vin santo apples & brussel sprout leaves. I'm pretty sure this is the best pork chop I have ever had, and I am a bit of a pork chop connoisseur. It was so juicy, tender, meaty and delicious. I also had bites of my dining companion's orders, which included: roasted butternut squash soup with pancetta, brown butter glazed quince & apple ; pappardelle with braised pork shoulder & rabe
leaves and wood oven roasted brussel sprouts with capers & lemon

I think this is a pretty good day for vacation. I'm trying, really I am.

Day Fifteen - Wheels come off the wagon.

Yesterday was a shameful breakdown of the whole system. I am embarrassed to even write about it. But I am committed to honestly reporting on the project, so I am compelled to tell you about my failures as well as successes.

We drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco yesterday. We left the house about 9am, after a perfectly legal breakfast of buttermilk pancakes. We brought a thermos of coffee, a container of water, a package of dried peaches, a bag of raw almonds, one ripe banana and three leftover pancakes. These provisions got us about 3 hours into the journey. It is our tradition to stop at In n Out burger in Kettleman City on drives to San Francisco. I'm sure this could have been avoided with a little smart planning on my part by packing some more filling homemade food, but the previous day was rather busy, with the squash blossom harvest, Baby J not taking a nap, packing for San Francisco, and generally being disorganized. So my grand plans of a wholesome roadside picnic were dashed. So the In n Out tradition was continued. (Road trips are the only time I eat there, for the record) In an nod to the project, I got my Double Double wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun, forgoing that multitude of ingredients. However, I canceled out that virtue by splitting an order of fries with DR. But we didn't get a drink, as a soda fountain lemonade's ingredient list probably can't be justified.

I would love to say that this cheeseburger escapade was my only transgression of the day. But it just gets worse. Once we arrived, we went to the Ferry Building to meet my brother and sister-in-law who were in town for a seminar. We were starving and it was a beautiful day so we sat outside at a little Mexican spot and had a Dos Eqques Amber and quacamole with chips. I felt particularly bad about the beer, since I made such a big deal about it in the beginning, and it wasn't necessary. But I'm on vacation... Later we went to Tommy's Mexican restaurant, which is famous for their margarita's, so.... I also had a tamale, and split nachos with everyone. After dinner we went to my brother's hotel and had a glass of wine.

Over dinner my sister in law told us that the Act of Contrition has recently been updated, as my nephew had to memorize it at school. I also discovered that I am a little rusty on the originial, so I hope the need to do a perfect Act of Contrition doesn't come up soon. But I do firmly resolve, with the help of thy readership, to confess my sins, to do penance and and amend my eating. Amen.

Day Fourteen & Squash Blossoms

Breakfast: Polenta, fried with onions and an egg, overeasy.

Lunch: The last of the tabouleh and grapes.

Snacks: A handful of peanuts (Now they are gone), part of a piece of Irish Brown Bread. (I think it's gone bad.) A glass of Just Cranberry Juice Ingreidents: Filtered Water and Cranberry Juice Concentrate

Appetizer: I harvested the last of the bounty of the Summer planting from my community garden. I had one pumpkin, a couple of squash and a bunch of new squash blossoms because of the rain. I was sad to pull everything out, but it is time to move into fall. Also, I was excited to try cooking the squash blossoms, as I have never cooked flowers before. EM, who is my gardening partner came over after we spent a couple of therapeutic hours amending and tilling our soil (hacking at it with a hoe, and tossing dried blood and compost everywhere) for the next planting this weekend. We brought the blossoms home, cleaned them, stuffed them with the Queso Blanco cheese that I made a couple days ago, mixed with grated Goat's Milk Cheddar that I had lying around and chopped basil from my the plant on my porch, dredged them in egg and flour and fried them in oil. They were delicious. My brother MW said that he was going to brag about them to George at work who is always talking about the good food he is eating.

After the squash blossoms we had some Quinoa with onion, red pepper, tomato and chicken. Since that was not quite filling enough and we felt wasteful not putting the huge amount of oil used in frying the blossoms, DR fried up the leftover polenta, some onions and red peppers that were about to go bad. It made for a pretty tasty little meal. For dessert we finally finished the Chocolate Chip Cookies that have been plagueing me since the project began, thanks to EM & MW for their help.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day Thirteen

For breakfast, I had the last of the granola I made on Saturday with some milk.

For lunch, Jan Smelk and I polished off the chili from Sunday with some of the polenta. Then around 5pm we ate some of the chicken we roasted with a glass of Viogner and some Irish Brown Bread.

As a kind of dinner around 8pm I had some of the leftover tabuleh and some grapes. Later on I ate one of the never ending chocolate chip cookies.

After roasting the chicken and the sauce, and the rich stock and everything, I made another chicken stock. This time I used the chicken carcass, and all the leftover vegetables that we had simmered for the chicken sauce, as well as the bag of vegetable clippings I had been collecting in the freezer. We browned the carcass with some oil and the simmered veggies before adding the water and the clippings. I filled the 8qt stock pot with water and let it simmer for four hours. Once strained I had about 16 cups of stock, most of which I put in the freezer for future use.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trussing and Carving

Greetings!!! It's Jan Smelk here, doing a guest spot here on the old Some Assembly Blog! I'm stopping in to cover the two things I learned today...trussing a chicken and carving a chicken. Oh yeah, I also learned something else: that Julia Childs loves her some butter.

Ok, to truss a chicken for roasting, one must find a huge mattress needle. Now, in a quick Google search these things are impossible to find. Some bizarre company in New Jersey has them for sale but I cannot for the life of me find a price. Anywho, we used a regular big needle and it was not big enough. But the basic idea is to keep the chicken as contained as possible to keep in the moisture. So you need to sew a loop through the bottom end of the bird, tying the drumstick ends together and closing the hole. Not too hard. Then, you need the BIG needle. The next string should go all the way through the body behind the drumsticks and catch both wings and any extra neck skin, closing the top opening. This is much more difficult. Making sure you have both portions of the wings sewn in was my problem, but I think if i had a big needle I could have done it. With the small needle I could only catch the surface skin on the bottom of Mr. Poultry, not go entirely through the whole carcass, so my tie was much looser. This explanation is in desperate need of a diagram, so I refer you to Julia's in her book. Or trash the needle idea and do it this much easier way:
^^^^Hey CCA! We need to Google more often! DUH!

Because, thanks to Google, I got to watch my new friend, Scott Hargrove from Denver who makes little youtube videos about cooking, carve a chicken correctly. He taught me to use a carving knife, not a chef's knife and to start at the drumsticks. Take off those guys with the thighs, aiming the knife for the joint. The wings are next and that joint is a little deeper. The breasts should be started at the top of bird and curved against the ribs and down. My buddy Scott can tell you even better:

Thanks for allowing me to participate, Ms. Blatty, and I hope I can blog with you again!

Julia Child's Roast Chicken

This recipe was definitely tastier than the previous one I tried, but it alsorequires a much higher level of concentration, which is a commodity in short supply when you have a ten-month old child. But fortunately for me, I imported a slave for this event. My friend Jan Smelk expressed interest in spending her day off toiling in my kitchen, and I am not one to say no to an offer of someone doing work for my benefit. Even the bottle of wine I opened to keep her on task was one she had brought over on a previous visit, so this worked out great for me. We started under the guise of working together, but Baby J and I conspired that he would start to fuss, or get into something dangerous whenever there was actually work to be done. So basically I stood around holding the baby and chatting, while Jan made the chicken.

This was probably for the best, because I found Ms. Childs' recipe unbelievably confusing. We eventually made our way through it, or Jan did at any rate, and we have tried to outline it here in language that is more clear. If you are more mentally capable than me, you might be able to go straight to "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" but otherwise, here is what we did.

Roast Chicken
1 3-5 pound chicken
1 medium carrot
1 small onion
butter, butter, butter

Preheat the oven to 425ºF
Slice a carrot and an onion and place in bottom of roasting pan.
Rinse the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels.
Coat the cavity of the chicken with salt and butter.
Place the chicken on the roasting rack in the pan and rub with butter all over.
Truss the chicken. (See guest post from Jan Smelk on this.)
In a separate bowl combine 1 Tbsp oil and 2 Tbsp melted butter for basting.
Place roasting pan in oven with chicken breast side up for 5 minutes.
Then, turn chicken onto it's left side and brown for 5 minutes.
Then, turn chicken onto it's right side and brown for 5 minutes.
At each turn baste the chicken with oil and butter mixture.
Keeping the chicken on it's right side, turn oven down to 350ºF.
Add a pinch of salt.
Baste every ten minutes.
After thirty minutes at 350ºF, turn the chicken to the left side.
Add a pinch of salt.
Continue basting every eight minutes. (When you run out of oil/butter mix you can use the juices in the pan to baste)
After 16 minutes, turn the chicken to breast side up for the rest of the hour.
Add a pinch of salt.

Check the temperature of the chicken with an instant read meat thermometer. It should be 180º-190º depending on how well done you like your chicken. (We forgot to do this.)

If you are like Jan, and like a crispy skin, turn the heat back up to 425º and cook until it looks good. (In our case about 15 minutes keeping in mind that everything I cook takes twice as long as it says.) Julia Childs encourages "rapid basting" which stressed us out considerably. I'm sure we would have bitterly disappointed her with the rate of our basting, and that might account for the fact that our chicken was a little under done even with the additional time. However, our chicken was still chickeny deliciousness.

Once out of the oven, the chicken needs to rest for 5-10 minutes so the juices can reabsorb into the flesh. This is the perfect time to make a sauce.

Put the roasting pan that has the cooked carrot and onion in chicken drippings on the stovetop, adding a chopped shallot and a cup of chicken stock. Scrape up all the goodness in the pan and heat until liquid reduces to a half a cup. Strain and add a tablespoon of butter. This is your chicken gravy. You can also use this over a baked potato.

Chicken Stock
We made the chicken stock used in the sauce in between bastings of the chicken.
Brown the gizzard, neck and organs in a sauce pan with oil, a carrot and an onion. After a few minutes, add two cups of chicken broth, or stock if you have it and enough water to cover everything by a half inch. Add a pinch of thyme and a bay leaf. Let simmer for an hour and a half.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tabouleh Salad

This very simple and tasty recipe is from the "Milagro Allegro Community Garden Cookbook", which is my community garden in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Garden founder, Nicole Gatto submitted this recipe.

1/2 cup bulgar wheat
3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup onions, chopped
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. salt
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil

Cover the bulgar wheat with warm water in a bowl and let it soak for about 10 minutes until it is soft. Drain the water and press the wheat into a sieve until it is dry.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the wheat with the rest of the ingredients and serve.

I found it a little too oily, even just using 1/4 cup olive oil, so I added an additional cup of wheat.
Also, I did not have any parsley, so I substituted cilantro, which might be a high crime, but I thought it turned out well.

Queso Blanco

I am currently on the maiden cheese making voyage. EM found this recipe that is supposed to be ridiculously easy for "Queso Blanco", which is a Mexican soft cheese. I cut the recipe in half, because I thought a gallon of a cheese I wasn't sure I was going to like might be overkill. Anyway, it is looking like I am going to have about 2.5 cups of cheese, and about a quart and a half of wasted milk. The cheese is hanging in cheese cloth right now, dripping whey into a bowl. But there is also a huge amount of milk that I ended up with after putting the milk in the cheese cloth in the colander. I covered the bowl that it's in with a towel and set it aside, I am hoping it's going to turn into yogurt, or cottage cheese or at least the whey will separate out. Does anyone have any idea what I can do with this milk. It seems a shame to waste it.

1 Gallon Whole Milk
1/4 Cup White Vinegar**
  1. Heat milk to 180 F (82 C) stirring constantly. Be careful not to burn the milk.
  2. While mixing with a whisk, slowly add the white vinegar. You will notice the milk begins to curdle. (I don't know if you are supposed to keep this on the heat or not... does anyone know?)
  3. Keep stirring for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Line a colander with a fine cheesecloth.
  5. Pour the curdled milk through the colander.
  6. Allow the curds to cool for about 20 minutes.
  7. Tie the four corners of the cheese cloth together and hang it to drain for about 5 - 7 hours (until it stops dripping).
  8. The solidified cheese can be broken apart and salted to taste or kept unsalted.
This cheese venture did not turn out very well. After letting it hang for 5 hours Monday night, I put the cheese cloth bag in a sieve over a bowl in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning I hung it back up where it continued to drip for about five more hours. When I finally opened it up, there was a cheese like substance clinging to the cheese cloth, but inside was mostly still milk. I scraped the cheesy part out into the milky part in a container and mixed it all together. It was sort of like a very bland, very milky cottage cheese. So I added some sea salt. Then it was a very salty, very milky cottage cheese. So I've let it sit in the fridge overnight again in hopes the saltiness will mellow out and it will be edible.

I few of the things I think I did wrong. I believe that once the milk reaches 185º you should remove it from the heat, add the vinegar and leave it alone to curdle for 15 minutes. I don't think the cheese can curdle if you are stirring it constantly, so next time I am going to try that.

Day Twelve

I finished off the homemade yogurt already! We only made about a quart and I had to split it with EM, so it wasn't all that much. Baby J had some for his breakfast this morning, and the report from his dad is that he liked it very much, gobbled it up with some banana. And he still appeared healthy as he went to bed tonight, twelve hours later, so that's a good sign. I had the last of it for breakfast with the homemade granola. I think I will attempt to make another batch, even though I don't have a double boiler. I'll let you know how it goes.

For Lunch I had the rest of the Tuna Pasta Salad from yesterday.

Snacks: Part of a banana that I was feeding to Baby J, two bites of a the last chocolate chip cookie from the Great Dane Bakery. DR ate the rest of it. (But we still have four of those blasted cookies from the grocery store bakery!) One slice of Irish Brown Bread with Butter.

Dinner: A cup of leftover Chili from last night and a bowl of Tabouleh (I will post the recipe).

Dessert: I broke down and ate one of the Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches, so here's the long list, Ingredients: Skim Milk, Wafer (Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Caramel Color, Dextrose, Palm Oil, Corn Flour, Cocoa, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Baking Soda, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin), Sugar, Corn Syrup, Polydextrous, Cream, Whey Protein, Inulin (Dietary Fiber), Stabilizer (Microcrystalline Cellulose, Cellulose Gum, Mono and Diglycerides, Locust Bean Gum, Calcium Sulfate, Polysorbate 80, Carrageenan) Natural Flavor, Vitamin A Palminate. I think this is the worst ingredient list I've come across yet. I can't believe it's the first time High Fructose Corn Syrup has come up.

Family Favorite Chili

This recipe is from the "Betty Crocker Slow Cooker Cookbook". This recipe asks for canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans, all of which I had on hand. However, these were the last cans of tomatoes and tomato sauce, so if I am going to make this again, I will have to can my own tomatoes, or dice and puree them myself. The beans could be purchased dry and soaked overnight.

2 lbs. Ground Beef
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes Ingredients: Tomato Puree, Tomatoes, Salt, Basil, Citric Acid
1 can (15 0z.) tomato sauce Ingredients: Tomato Puree, Salt, Citric Acid
2 tablespoons chili powder Ingredients:Chili Pepper, Cumin, Oregano, Salt, Silicon Dioxide (added to make free flowing) and Garlic.
1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can (15 oz.) kindney or pinto beans, rinsed and drained. Ingredients: Prepared White Kidney Beans, Water, Salt and Calcium Chloride to maintain firmness.

1. Brown beef in a 12" skillet, stirring occaisionally. Drain fat when done.
2. Mix browned beef and remaining ingredients except beans in 3-6 quart slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on low heat setting 6-8 hours (or high heat setting 3-4 hours) or until onion is tender.
4. Stir in beans. Cover and cook on high heat setting 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened.

We served this over wedges of polenta and it was delish!

Basic Italian Polenta

This recipe was on the back of the package of Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits. My husband made the polenta. I had never heard of polenta until I met him, twelve years ago. He was eating it all the time then because he wasn't eating red meat. I thought this was incredibly sophisticated. Although I convinced him to abandon the red meat moratorium, he has continued to make delicious polenta recipes.

6 cups water
1 tsp. salt
2 cups corn grits (coarsely ground bits of degerminated corn)
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup grated cheese. (Parmesan, Romano, Fontina, Monterey Jack or White Cheddar)

In a large, deep pan over high heat bring water and salt to a boil. Gradually stir in corn grits. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking until mixture is very thick (about 30 minutes); use long handled spoon because mixture pops and bubbles and can burn. Stir in butter, and more salt if you wish. Oil a deep, medium sized bowl, spoon polenta into bowl and let set for 10 minutes. Invert onto a flat plate, mixture will unmold and hold it's shape. Cut polenta into thick slices and serve hot. Top with sauce and freshly grated cheese. Serves 6-8

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day Eleven

Breakfast: Yogurt, Granola, Honeydew Melon

Lunch: Tuna Pasta Salad. Onions, Carrots, Red Bell Peppers, Trader Joe's Penne Rigate Ingredients: Durum Wheat Semolina, Niacin, Iron Lactate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Salt & Pepper, Chicken of the Sea Chunk Light Tuna in Water Ingredients: Tuna, Water, Vegetable Broth (Contains Soy), Salt., Mustard and Mayo. This was the last of the mayo, one more convenience down! You may have noticed that I mentioned before that pasta had only one ingredient. This particular brand seems to have been enriched with a bunch of vitamins. So far I haven't bought any pasta, it's all been in the pantry at my house, but I have realized that it is important to check the ingredients because they are not all the same.

Snacks: Piece of Middle Eastern Flat Bread with Laughing Cow Cheese Ingredients: [Light Cheddar, Cheddar, Swiss and Semisoft Cheeses (Cultures Milk and Skim Milk, Salt, Enzymes)], Whey, Cream, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Salt and Apple Butter. Piece of Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Dinner: Chili (Will post recipe) with onions and Goats Milk Cheddar Cheese Ingredients: Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Polenta (Will Post Recipe) and green beans. 1 Chocolate Chip Cookie from the Great Dane Bakery. My mother-in-law brought these cookies over on Thursday. She was not yet aware of this project, and grandmother's can't be held responsible for these kinds of things anyway. I resisted eating any of these cookies until now, and the one I ate was broken. I don't know what the ingredients are, but since they are from an independent bakery I am believing it is along the lines of flour, sugar, butter, baking soda and powder, a little salt, and chocolate chips. 2 Glasses of Wine.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


This seems like a long, involved process, but it's actually really easy. In a nut shell, you are heating milk, then adding yogurt, covering it. Setting it aside for 7 hours, then pouring it into a container and chilling overnight. So don't be scared of this long recipe, after the first time it will be really simple.

Ingredients and Equipment

1 Half gallon of milk
2-3 Tbs of plain yogurt (as a starter)
1 8-10 Qt stock pot and 1 4-5 Qt pot with lid or a double boiler
1 Metal or plastic spoon
1 instant read thermometer (With a range of at least 100°-185°F)
1 Heating pad or Hotplate

•Place larger pot in sink. Place smaller pot inside of it.
•Fill larger pot until water line goes about half way up the side of smaller pot. The smaller pot is going to want to float. Hold it down while filling larger pot with water. (If you are using a double boiler just fill the bottom pan)

•Have your milk and 2-3 Tbs of yogurt out at room temperature throughout the following steps.

Sterilize Equipment
•Place your thermometer and spoon in the large pot of water
•Place smaller pot upside down over larger pot
•Heat water until boiling
•Once a boil is reached, use oven mitts to remove hot items, and dry with paper toweling.
•With a set of tongs, quickly sterilize the smaller pot lid by dipping in boiling water.

Boiling Milk
•Place the smaller pot into the larger pot of boiling water.
•Carefully pour milk into the smaller pot. (Check to see that water level in larger pot and milk level in smaller pot are about the same. Too much water, and the pot will float, too little water, and the milk won't heat evenly.)
•Clip your thermometer to the rim of the smaller pot
•Heat to 185°F (If you do not have a thermometer, this is the temperature at which milk begins to froth, like in a latte.)
•Stir frequently

•While you are waiting for the milk to reach 185°F, fill your sink about 1/4 of the way with cold water and add some ice.

•Once the milk has reached 185º, remove from heat and transfer the pot to the cold water bath to cool it to 110°F (The temperature at which yogurt cultures reproduce themselves.) You can wait for the milk to cool on its own, but this is much faster.
Stir occasionally

Pitch Your Yogurt
Pitch simply means to add, and comes from the world of brewing. Brewers pitch yeast to make alcohol, you'll pitch yogurt to make more yogurt!

•Pour your 2-3 Tbs of yogurt into your 110°F milk
•Stir milk well to distribute yogurt.
•Cover with lid.
•Set heating pad to medium and place on a cutting board.
•Place pot of pitched milk on top of heating pad.
•Cover with a dish towel
•Wait seven hours

Yogurt is created using "helpful" bacteria (usually lactobacillus bulgaricus or streptococcus
thermophilus, or both), which cause the milk to ferment. When added to milk at 110°F, they consume the sugar found in milk, called lactose. As a result, the milk thickens or curdles, and lactic acid is produced as a byproduct. The lactic acid gives yogurt its "tangy" taste, and preserves the milk from spoiling. The longer your yogurt sits, the thicker it will get and the more tangy it will become. Make your first batch at exactly seven hours, and then adjust according to your taste preferences.

Now that you have patiently waited seven hours, it is time to see what you have made.
•Remove from heating pad and uncover yogurt. You will notice a pungent, cheesy odor, and maybe even some greenish liquid on top.
•Use a spatula to see that milk has curdled.
•Stir vigorously to mix curds in with liquid.
•Carefully pour yogurt into container.
•Cover with tight fitting lid.

You may notice that your yogurt is much thinner than typical store bought yogurt. Store bought yogurts typically use pectin and other thickeners, to make them seem creamier. And, your yogurt is not yet in its finished state.

Chill Overnight
Rigorous stirring and then chilling will cause the bacteria in yogurt to stop consuming lactose and producing lactic acid. Place yogurt in the coldest part of your refrigerator (the back). Wait overnight

•Your refrigerated yogurt will be much thicker now. Kept refrigerated, it will last 2 to 3 weeks.
•Your yogurt has no sugar added at all. Mix with fresh fruit, honey, granola, jellies & jams, or however you currently enjoy yogurt.
•Be sure to reserve 2-3 Tbs of your yogurt for you next batch!

Buttermilk Pancakes

This recipe is from My husband is the pancake maker, so I can't make any ammendments or comments on this recipe. All I can do is say that these are delicious.

The Wets
1.5 cups (350ml) buttermilk
1 egg
3 Tablespoons (50g) melted butter - use microwave
2 Teaspoons (10ml) Vanilla (add 1 more for kids!)

The Drys
1 cup (125g) white flour
3 Tbsp (40g) sugar
1/2 tsp (3g) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2g) baking powder
1/2 tsp (4g) salt

Put the wet and dry ingredients into separate bowls. Whisk each one lightly. Add roughly half of the dry mix into the wet and whisk smooth, not too long. Add the remainder of the dry mix and barely whisk together. Make sure all of the flour is mixed in. You don't want to beat this too much as it strengthens the gluten in the flour and makes the pancakes tougher. Don't worry, you can't screw this up; just don't put it in an electric mixer and let it run forever.... If possible, let the batter rest for a few minutes to allow the baking soda and baking powder to perform their magic. This will make for airier pancakes.

NOTE: The batter should be fairly thick, not runny. The perfect batter should pour onto the fry pan and not move much; it should only require a few taps of the measuring cup to spread it out. A few UK readers have commented that they get runny batters and this is most likely due to thin buttermilk. If this happens don't worry, just add a bit more flour, a few tablespoons at a time until it thickens up.

This recipe will make about 8 pancakes and can be easily doubled.

Cooking the pancakes

A simple non-stick fry pan is all you need. Heavier is better as it spreads the heat, prevents burning, and browns the pancakes nicely. Heat the pan on the lowest setting on your stove top as it is easy to burn pancakes. If you have an electric skillet, set it to 325°F. By the way, don't try to make it work with a scratched 20 year old camping pan. This has to be a good quality non-stick surface to work well.

TRICK: Usually, it helps to put a few drops of oil on the fry pan and rub it around with a paper towel. Even with a non-stick surface, it helps the batter release easier.

Drop a 1/4 cup scoop of batter onto the pan. You might need to spread it around just a bit if the batter is extra thick. You should hear a *slight* sizzle when you pour the batter; if it sizzles loudly, or worse, big bubbles form as you pour, the heat is way too high, turn it down.

The most important point is to cook these pancakes slowly. Too fast and you'll burn them, or worse yet, you'll have pancakes with gooey liquid centers. A good rule of thumb is 90-120 seconds per side. If they burn before that, your pan is still too hot. If things are at the right temperature, you'll know it is time to flip, without timing, by the small bubbles forming at the top of the pancake. When it is covered in small holes, the edge of pancake will start to look dry. This is the time to flip.

It is a good idea to get good at 'peeking' under the edge of the pancake with the flipper. This gives you a good idea of how quickly the bottom is browning. Still a bit yellow? Keep it on for a few more seconds. Browning too fast? Flip it and turn down the heat.

Flipping takes a few tries to get the hang of it. If you've got a good thick batter, there will still be plenty of 'goo' there in the center. When you flip, you've got to do it quickly so it doesn't sploosh across the pan. It might take you a few tries at first but it isn't hard, just do it fairly quickly. This is REALLY fun to do with your younger kids, just start off with scant cups of batter to make them even smaller and easier to flip.

The first pancake usually has 'white spots' on the first side, which I think is the result of the oil I spread on the pan. However, after the first one, the following pancakes will have much more uniform color and pattern.

If you want 6 bigger pancakes, use a 1/3 cup instead of 1/4 cup. They are harder to flip so make sure you're comfortable with the smaller ones.

Day Ten

Breakfast: Buttermilk Pancakes, Veggie Sausage Patty (the last of this)

Lunch: I went to a baby shower at a restaurant called Citizen Smith. (Which is cute because the baby's last name will be Smith.) I had a delicious roasted tomato soup, and a pecan crusted chicken salad and an iced tea.

Snacks: DR was eating some gumbo with brown rice, and a piece of Irish Brown Bread with butter. I had a bit of this. Cantaloupe and some figs. A little bit of yogurt and granola that I made today. I will post the yogurt recipe next. I made it with my friend EM. It was fun and really easy. Like a science project.

Dinner: The last of the Pumpkin Chowder, a slice of Irish Brown Bread with butter and a salad of lettuce, apple, red onion, yellow tomato, avocado and green bell pepper with Champagne Pear Vinaigrette dressing. Ingredients: Water, Pear Puree (Pears, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid) Pear Concentrate, Pear Essence, Gorgonzola Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Cheese Cultures, Enzymes, Cellulose [Anti-Caking Agent] Natamycin [Preservative]) Champagne Vinegar (Champagne Wine Vinegar, Sulfites), Canola Oil, Brown Sugar, Salt, Chives, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Natamycin. A Glass of Zinfandel

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day Nine

Breakfast: Coffee, Granola Cereal with Organic Whole Milk.

Lunch: Bean Soup

Snacks: Peanuts and Figs

Dinner: Pumpkin Chowder with Irish Brown Bread and salad (tomatoes, red pepper, avocado, arugula, Bernstein's Restaurant Recipe Italian Dressing).

See, this is easy. Today I only heated food up.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

This is really simple, and most of you probably learned how to make this in girl scouts or something when you were a kid. But I had never really known how to make them good, and these turned out well, so I thought I'd share. This recipe is from

  • Pumpkin seeds, cleaned and rinsed
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


1 Preheat oven to 400°F.

2 In a small saucepan, add the seeds to water, about 2 cups of water to every half cup of seeds. Add a half tablespoon of salt for every cup of water (more if you like your seeds saltier). Bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.

3 Spread about a tablespoon of olive oil over the bottom of a roasting pan. Spread the seeds out over the roasting pan, all in one layer. Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, 10-20 minutes. When browned to your satisfaction, remove from the oven and let the pan cool on a rack. Let the seeds cool all the way down before eating. Either crack to remove the inner seed (a lot of work and in my opinion, unnecessary) or eat whole.

Curry Powder

Making this would have seemed impossible to me a week ago. So I was planning to make the pumpkin chowder and I had everything in the recipe on hand except curry powder. My husband was out doing some errands, so I asked him to pick some up at the store for me. Being a good participant in this game he called me from the store to tell me that curry powder had many ingredients. This hadn't really occurred to me. Of course there isn't a curry plant that gets ground up and put into jars, but on pain of death I would not have been able to tell you what went into making curry, and I would definitely have assumed it would be a bunch of exotic spices that I hadn't even heard of. But as he listed ingredients from the back of the jar I realized that we had almost everything here. So in order to get some proportions, I did a search of Homemade Curry Powder and found a few different recipes. Below is what I ended up doing. It is mostly based on the recipe at, but I made some substitions with ingredients from other recipes for ingredients I didn't have.

3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika

2 tsp Ground cumin

2 tsp Ground fennel seed

2 tsp Ground fenugreek

2 tsp Ground red pepper

1 tablespoon Ground coriander

1 tablespoon Ground tumeric

1/2 tsp Ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground cloves

I had to get my mortar and pestel out for the fennel seeds, cloves and coriander, as I only had them whole, so my curry powder is not entirely a powder, it's a little more "rustic". And the most fun element is the fenugreek. This is an herb I had never heard of until my son was born 10 months ago. It is used to aid in milk production in nursing mothers. I happened to have some in capsule form from my early nursing days. So I pulled apart a few capsules and poured the powder into the mix. I thought this was particularly clever.

I think this curry turned out great, and I have about a half cup left, so I am excited to find another use for it.

Pumpkin Chowder

This recipe is from the website This is a pretty simple soup, other than the peeling and chopping of the pumpkin, potatoes and onions being a little time consuming. The flavors are very autumnal, and it went great with the fresh Irish Brown Bread. I recommend it for a cozy meal on a cool fall evening.


1/2 pound Thick-cut bacon, diced

2 cups Chopped onion

2 teaspoons Curry powder

2 tablespoons Flour

1 pound Pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 Large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

4 cups Chicken stock

1 cup Half and half (or milk)

Kosher salt and ground pepper

Garnish: Toasted pumpkin seeds / chopped green onion


Put the bacon in a large soup pot over low heat and cook gently until it releases its fat, about 5 minutes.

Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

Add the flour and the curry powder, stirring until the onions and bacon are coated.

Add the pumpkin, potatoes and stock. Increase the heat to medium-low and cook until the pumpkin and potato are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the half and half and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until heated through. Do not allow to boil. Serve the soup in warm bowls, garnished with pumpkin seeds and a little green onion.


I don't have any bacon, so I used the last two Hot Links Sausages instead. They were a very tasty substitution.

I grew the pumpkin in my community garden. The potatoes are from Figueroa Produce.

It took far longer for pumpkin and potatoes to soften, more like 30-40 minutes. As I have said before, things taking much longer to cook is a common problem for me, and therefore might be entirely my fault. If I figure out what it is, I will surely let you know.

This next note is my highest point of pride so far.... I made my own Curry Powder. I will post the recipe next.

The chicken stock is what I made a couple days ago.

I used organic whole milk instead of half and half.

Day Eight

We are now into Week Two! I am happy to report that I am still feeling motivated and not burnt out on the project. In fact, I think it is already getting easier. As I make things for the second or third time I become less dependent on the recipe, and I'm beginning to make connections between how certain things are made, which makes the process easier. I've also made some mistakes that have taught me valuable lessons. I know I haven't ventured into any of the really difficult territory yet. While I think I can make it through the month without making cheese or sausage, I'm not interested in living a life without those luxuries, so I hope to be up to the challenge of making them. We still have a significant supply of contraband food, so that no one is going to starve around here if I get too overwhelmed. But my pantry and fridge are looking different in just a week's time. There are far fewer packages from the store, and far more tupperware containers of food I have made. I have to say, it's a pretty good feeling.

Breakfast: 1 piece of Kirkland All Natural Multi-Grain 100% Whole Grain Bread Toast with Butter.

Elevensies: (This is the hobbit meal eaten around 11am) Half a chicken salad sandwich on the same bread.

Late Lunch: A bowl of bean soup. A few figs.

Dinner: Pumpkin Chowder (I will post the recipe) and Irish Brown Bread (The recipe from last week, I made a fresh loaf)

Later: I had Book Club, and many delicious foods were served. I had some spinach salad with dried cranberries, avocado and those crispy things that go on salads, and I'm not sure what the dressing was. It was really good. Also, a fruit salad of golden raspberries, stawberries and grapes. I also had two homemade cookies. One toffee and one chocolate chip. I'm sure there were some ingredients in there that are out of bounds, but the intention was right. I did not have any of the pasta dish or the bruschetta. I had two glasses of Cabernet.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chicken Stock

This is the idea that got me started on this nonsense to begin with. About a month ago I was cutting up some vegetables to make something that I don't remember, and I was thinking about how much I detritus I produce in the process of cooking vegetables. One wants to feel virtuous when cooking with fresh produce, but here I am tossing out handfuls of potato skins, carrot shavings, onion skins, parsley stems, etc. I know that all of this can be composted, and I do make an effort to do that. But I felt like in the Depression, or on the Frontier people knew how to make use of this so-called waste and I wanted to know that too. It turns out that plenty of real modern day people already have that knowledge and all a girl has to do is utilize a little piece of twenty-first Century magic called "Google" to learn the secrets too. But sometimes it takes a little extra push to actually make something happen.

So my internet search on how to make chicken stock netted me a wide range of options, from boiling multiple whole chickens and pounds of fresh vegetables (which I'm sure gets you a really rich and amazing stock) to doing entirely with scraps, (which is what I opted for.)

Since I knew for about a week that I was going to do this after I roasted a chicken I began collecting scraps in a ziploc bag that I kept in my freezer, everytime I chopped up an onion, or peeled a carrot, or a potato I put the scraps into this bag. After we roasted the chicken and pulled all the meat off that we were going to eat, I put the remaining carcass and skin in another bag in the freezer. When I was ready I put the bones and skin in a large stock pot and covered it with cold water Then added about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and brought it to a boil, then immediately lowered it to a simmer and let simmer uncovered for four hours. After about an hour I added the bag of vegetables (use whatever you think would be good in a stock. Not all vegetable are right for this. Carrots, potatoes, onions, parsley, celery, garlic and a little bell pepper are what I used.)
After four hours I strained it and had about 5 and half cups of stock. I'll let you know how it tasted when I have the opportunity to use it.

My favorite part of this particular recipe is that it is essentially free. I made it entirely with food parts that I would otherwise have thrown away. And chicken stock is something that is called for in so many recipes. It was an item I tried to always have on hand in the past, so it is exciting to know how easy it is to make from scratch. And for an added bonus, my house smelled wonderfully chickeny and homey the whole time it was cooking.

Day Seven

Today the meals aren't exactly categorized. For some reason I had a hard time fitting eating in, so it's a little erratic. This is unusual for me, as you may have guessed, eating is generally a top priority... Anyway, I had a two, maybe three cups of coffee in the morning, then at about 10am I ate two slices of honey dew melon from the Farm Share and two pieces of the cinnamon raisin bread with butter. The bread was actually not too hard, which was a relief. I would have preferred a springy, yeasty piece of toast, but you make do with what you have.

Around 3:30pm I had the remaining rice salad from Monday. I was incredibly hungry at this point, and that salad, though very tasty, for some reason does not fill me up at all. So at about 4:30 DR made Chicken Salad with the leftovers from the Roast Chicken, red grapes from the farmer's market, Trader Joe's Real Mayonaise Ingredients: Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Whole Eggs, Apple Cider Vinegar, Egg Yolks, Water, Salt, Spices, Lemon Juice Concentrate and Naturally Preferred Organic Stoneground Mustard from Figueroa Produce Ingredients: Organic Grain Vinegar, Water, Organic Mustard Seed, Salt, Organic Spices. I am looking forward to making my own mayo, but a little intimidated by making mustard. Luckily we have three different kinds in the fridge. We ate this on Kirkland All Natural Multigrain 100% Whole Grain Bread from Costco. Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Whole Grain Mix (Wheat, Oats, Barley, Bulgar Wheat, Cornmeal) Wheat Gluten, Brown Sugar, Sugar, Contains 2% or less of the following: Sunflower Seeds, Inulin, Sugarcane Fiber, Calcium Sulfate (Source of Calcium) Sea Salt, Soybean Oil, Yeast, Corn Starch, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Vinegar, Cultured Corn Syrup Solids, Wheat Bran, Soy Lecithin, Guar Gum, Ferrous Fumarate (Source of Iron).

I also had two black mission figs from the farmer's market.

Dinner was more of a real meal. We had the leftover arugula/tomato salad from Monday. It was a little wet, so I drained it in the strainer for a few minutes, then added more arugula and three more tomatoes and tossed it with the Bernstein's Restaurant Recipe Italian Dressing. I will be sad when that is gone, even though it's full of xanthum gum and potassium sorbate and and everything. I do love it. The main course was Couscous (which is just organic durum semolina) with yellow onion, from the farmer's market, and crookneck squash from my community garden. I used butter and water in cooking the couscous, and olive oil, salt & pepper in cooking the vegetables.

There is a chance I will have some sort of dessert this evening. DR had one of those Skinny Cow Ice Cream sandwiches that he bought right before this started, and then informed me that I did not want to eat one when he looked at the length of the ingredient list. And I agree, I am too tired to type that up. So I might just have a few more figs.

Roast Chicken and Potatoes

This is adapted from a recipe in Tyler Florence's cookbook Dinner at My Place. The recipe is for a rotisserie chicken, but it has ammendments for just roasting it if you don't have a rotisserie, which I don't. So I'm not including the rotisserie directions. If you have one, you will have to look it up for yourself. This is the third time I have made this chicken. The first time, I flipped the chicken halfway through. Don't do this. It dries it out terribly. The second time it took three hours to cook, and I have no idea why, except that this type of thing happens to me all the time. I have an oven thermometer, because I thought my oven was always under temperature, but it is not. We ate it at about 10:30pm, but it was good. The third and most recent time it cooked up just fine in 1 hour 45 minutes, so who knows.

This is a pretty simple and straightforward recipe that doesn't require a bunch of crazy ingredients, and can be be made without a ton of planning, and trips to multiple grocery stores. But I think there are more amazing roast chicken recipes out there. I will probably make this again when I don't want to put a lot of effort in, but next I'm looking for something more adventurous. Suggestions welcome.

Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Bay Leaves
1 Five pound chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Meyer lemon, halved
1 garlic head, cut through the equator horizontally
4-5 fresh bay leaves
1/2 bunch fresh thyme sprigs (about 8)
Extra-Virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Rinse Chicken with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Season the cavity well with kosher salt and pepper. Stuff cavity with lemon, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. Tie bird with kitchen twine. Rub outside with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the chicken in a roasting pan on top of the Lemon Roasted Potatoes. (See Recipe below) Roast in oven for 1 hour 30 minutes or until juices run clear. (180ºF) (possibly three hours)

Lemon Roasted Potatoes
2 pounds fingerling potatoes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1-2 Meyer Lemons cut into quarters
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash Potatoes and cut lengthwise. Toss potatoes with oil. Toss with rosemary, thyme and lemon wedges in a roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Then roast under the chicken in roasting pan for 1 hour 30 minutes, or however long it takes.

Chicken - Coastal Range Organic Chicken from Costco
Kosher Salt & Pepper - Had around the house
Meyer Lemon - I got a bag of lemons at Trader Joe's. I don't know if they were Meyers or not.
Garlic Head - Figueroa Produce
Bay Leaves - It says fresh, but I used the dried ones I had.
Thyme - It says fresh, but again, I used the dried thyme that I had.
Olive Oil - Costco
Potatoes - It calls for fingerling, but this time I used small yellow potatoes and they were great.
Rosemary - Fresh from the plant on my steps.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Simple Bread

This is my sister K.K.'s recipe. I have reprinted it here as she gave it to me. Things did not go exactly as it says. See my notes at the end.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 packet of yeast
1 ½ tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 ½ cups flour
Optional: You can add-
· raisins and cinnamon,
· walnuts and orange flavored craisins (I might also try adding some orange zest to give some extra zing),
· basil and garlic cloves,
· or just some honey to give it a little bit of sweetness

1. In a 5-quart bowl, mix the yeast, water and salt. Add all the flour and any other optional items, then use a wooden spoon to mix until all ingredients are uniformly moist. This will produce a loose and very wet dough.

2. Knead the dough for aprox. 5 min

3. Place the kneaded dough in an oiled bowl and cover, allowing the dough to rise for at least 2 hours, but not longer then 5 hours.

4. After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered (not completely airtight) and refrigerated up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.

5. Uncover the dough and sprinkle the surface with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough (serrated knives are best). Store the remaining dough in the bowl and refrigerate for baking at another time.

6. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick. Create a smooth ball of dough by gently pulling the sides down around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. While shaping, most of the dusting flour will fall off. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. Shaping the loaf this way should take no more than 1 minute.

7. Place the dough on a lightly floured pan. Allow the loaf to rest for about 40 minutes. It does not need to be covered.

8. Preheat oven to 450 F and while the oven is preheating place a broiler pan on a rack below where you will place the bread or on the floor of the oven.

9. When the dough has rested for 40 minutes, dust the top liberally with flour, then use a serrated knife to slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top.

10. Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door.

11. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack.

Apparently the "lukewarm water" part is very important. I think the water I used was more on the" luke" side, and apparently yeast leans more to the "warm" part. So it didn't activate. I'm not sure if this is because of the yeast situation, but my dough was never wet and loose. It was dry and compact as soon as I got all the flour in. I don't understand this part, but maybe the yeast causes the water to expand or something. Anyway, that was my first tip off that something was wrong, but I forged ahead and set the kneaded dough aside in the oiled bowl. At two hours it had not risen at all, so i turned it over, convinced that that the other side was less floury and dry and was sure to rise. At five hours I believed that it was starting to feel a little springy and perhaps had risen a bit, but since the instructions warn against more than five hours of rising I didn't want to risk further catastrophe, so I put the dough in the fridge. Since I had waited an extra three hours for it not to rise, I missed my window to bake the bread yesterday. So I left it in the fridge overnight in hopes that a miraculous transformation would happen. But I was met today with a large, hard, dry block of dough. My choices were to throw it out and waste all the effort and supplies, or keep the faith and follow instructions 5-11. It was a little absurd, but I made the grapefruit sized dough ball and set it aside to rest, and (I hoped) to spread out and fill the pan. (I didn't use any extra flour because it wasn't sticky at all.) After forty minutes, a grapefruit sized dough ball was sitting in a pan. I pounded it out to the edges of the small cake pan, added a little more dough from the fridge to fill it out and baked it for thirty-five minutes. The result is a thin, dense bread. It's not terrible though. I had two little pieces when it was fresh from the oven, so it wasn't hard. But DR gave a piece to Baby J a few hours later and said it worked great as a teething biscuit. So it probably wants to be heated up and eaten with coffee or tea. It's kind of like a biscotti. But there is another huge block of this dough in the fridge that still needs to be baked. It will be a lot of unleavened bread to eat, would you like to come for tea and toast?

Day Six

Breakfast: Granola Cereal with Rice Milk, Cantaloupe and Coffee.
Lunch: Left over Rice Salad from last night.

Snacks: Cinnamon Raisin Bread that I made. (There is a bit of a story with this. I will relay it when I post the recipe.)
Trader Joe's Middle Eastern Flat Bread Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin, Asorbic Acid [Vitamin C as Dough Conditioner], Reduced Iron Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folic Acid) Water, Soybean Oil, Yeast, Powdered Milk, Salt, Sugar, Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Corn Starch and Monocalcium Phosphate), Enzymes with Organic Sugar-Free Apple Butter that my friend's J&K gave us as a gift.
Two strawberries

Dinner: Green beans sautéed in olive oil with tomatoes, Hot Links Sausage, green bell peppers, onions and Salsa. A glass of the Synergy wine I opened last night.

Dessert: Bananas & Strawberries with Rum-Raisin Mascarpone on a cookie.
I made the Rum-Raisin Mascarpone for a dinner party last week to go with a rice pudding. It is raisins, sugar, rum, lemon juice, mascarpone cheese (I don't have the packaging for this anymore, but I looked up a recipe on line: heavy cream, tartaric acid, confectioner's sugar) heavy cream.

Cantaloupe: Trader Joes
Coffee: Seattle Mountain Coffee from Costco
Green Beans: Tierra Miguel Farm Share
Olive Oil: Costco
Tomatoes: Tierra Miguel Farm Share
Green Bell Peppers: Highland Park Farmer's Market
Onion: Highland Park Farmer's Market

DR used up the last of our Strawberry jam today. It feels at times like we are running through supplies at a rapid clip and it's going to be all scratch ingredients really soon, and at the same time it feels like we have tons of contraband left in the house. Part of me wants to ration it out so we always have quick and filling food available in a crisis of hunger and laziness, and part of me wishes it were all gone so there were no crutches left. For instance, there are three boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in our pantry. They have been there for many months. I know I am under no obligation to eat them now, but I can't help feeling that they are standing in the way of my purging of all things processed, but by leaving them there I am feel like I am sending the message to anyone who looks in my pantry that I am a mac & cheese eating hypocrite. Maybe I am.

Day Five

Breakfast: Granola Cereal with Rice Milk

Lunch: Roast Chicken with potatoes (I will post the recipe.) and a salad of Heirloom Tomatoes, Arugula, Red Bell Pepper and Avocado with Bernstein's Restaurant Recipe Italian Dressing Ingredients: Water, Soybean and/or Canola Oil, Vinegar, Romano Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes) Salt, Sugar, Contains 2% or less of Garlic Powder, Dehydrated Barley Malt Extract, Parmesan Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes) Spices, Citric Acid, Hydrolyzed Soy and Corn Protein, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (Preservatives) Anchovy Extract, Flavorings, Xanthum Gum, Paprika, Lactic Acid, Caramel Color, Onion Powder.
The Tomatoes and Arugula are from our Farm Share. We got a huge gross of ripe tomatoes, so I need to put them in everything for the next few days. They are really flavorful and juicy, and red, yellow and green so they are a gorgeous addition to anything. Well, maybe not anything. Like granola and tomatoes might be gross. The avocado is from Trader Joe's. It's a Chilean avocado. I think the California Season might be over, but I have determined that the Chilean ones are nowhere near as good, and might not be worth it at all. (Yes, California Avocado Council - you are right, they are better) I'm going to have to scour the Farmer's Markets, because life without avocados is pretty bleak. The red pepper is from CostCo, the same as used in previous meals.

Dinner: Rice Salad with tomatoes, red bell pepper, avocado, shrimp, lemon juice, olive oil, Kosher Salt, Kalamata Olives (These are from my local grocery, Figueroa Produce and they have no ingredients listed, but it's probably salt and vinegar.) and Feta Cheese Ingredients: Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Cheese Cultures, Microbial and Animal Enzymes, Potato Starch.

I also had another one of those evil chocolate chip cookies. My friend EM did me a favor and ate one too, so there are now only five left. Hopefully we will be free from their clutches soon. And a glass of Novella Synergy Wine from Trader Joe's.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo

I first made this last Sunday before the project started, but I made it again on Friday night after dinner because we still had all the ingredients and froze it for future use. This recipe is from Epicurious by Chef Bruce Mattel, The Culinary Institute of America

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 small onion minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 small green pepper minced (about 1/2 cup) I used a red bell pepper b/c that what I had.
2 stalks celery minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 quart chicken stock (I used a boullion cube and a quart of water, since I didn't have chicken stock, but I plan to make some as soon as I roast a chicken)
2 bay leaves
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into 1/2" dice
1/4 pound Hot Links Sausage, cut into 1/2" thick rounds
1/2 pound okra*, trimmed and cut into 1/2" thick rounds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups cooked white rice

Hot Pepper Sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula Hot Sauce Ingredients: Water, Peppers (Arbol and Piquin), Salt, Vinegar, Spices and Xanthum Gum
Filé Powder

In a 4-quart heavy stock pot over moderately high heat, heat oil. Reduce heat to moderately low nad whisk in flout. Cook, stirring frequently with wooden spoon or heatproof silicone spatula, until mixture becomes dark brown and has intensely nutty aroma. This could take anywhere from 10-45 minutes. The longer you go, the darker and richer your roux will be.

Stir in onion, pepper, celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in stock. Raise heat to moderate and bring to simmer, then reduce heat to moderately low and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened, 15-20 minutes.

Add bay leaves, shrimp, sausage and okra* and simmer, uncovered until okra is tender, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and stir in salt, cayenne and black pepper.

*We didn't have any of cayenne pepper, and the three stores withing walking distance of my house didn't either, so we substituted Franks Hot Sauce. Ingredients: Aged Cayenne Red Peppers, Vinegar, Water, Salt and Garlic Powder
**I learned after making this, that you should fry the okra before using in the gumbo to get the slime off. This is pretty simple and can be done a head of time and frozen. Just heat some oil, cut up to the okra and fry it in the oil until it seems like the slime is gone. You can see the slime.

BTW - This is my first attempt at Gumbo. If you are experienced with this, I would love to hear your advice to make it better. That goes for any recipes posted here.

Bean Soup

This recipe is adapted from the one that is on the back of the Bean Soup Mix.

Bob's Red Mill 13 Bean Soup Mix
(Navy, Black, Red, Pinto, Baby Limas, Large Limas, Garbanzo, Great Northern, Kidney Beans, Black-Eyed, Yellow, Split, Green Split Peas and Lentils)
1 White Onion
28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
(Tomato Puree, Tomatoes, Salt, Basil, Citric Acid)
1 Ham hock (I used 3 Hot Links Sausages cut into small pieces instead)
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 cloves garlic minced
salt & pepper

Rinse beans and soak overnight. In the morning drain, rinse and bring 3 qts of water to a boil with the beans and the sausage. Reduce heat and simmer for 3-3 1/2 hours. Add onion, crushed tomatoes, chili powder, garlic and salt and pepper. Simmer another 30 minutes.

This makes a lot of soup. We froze half of it, and the other half we will eat over the next few days. If you leave it on the stove for a while, it will thicken up, so you may have to add water to it when you reheat it later.

Day Four

Breakfast: Cantaloupe and some of the Granola that I made with Rice Milk that was in the fridge. Ingredients: Filtered Water, Organic Brown Rice (partially milled) Organic Expeller Pressed Safflower Oil and or Sunflower Oil and/or Canola Oil, Tricalcium Phosphate, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamine D2, Vitamin B12

I made a Bean Soup with a thirteen bean mix from Bob's Red Mill Natural foods. The beans had to soak overnight, which I did Friday night, and started to make this soup on Saturday, but because of things going on in my house and plans to go to the Oktoberfest, I did not finish making the soup until today. We had a small bowl of soup before going to a friend's house for a BBQ.

At our friend's house I invoke the rule of not being a jerk and snubbing hospitality. I tried to stick to the simplest and purest servings. I did have two small pieces of Italian Sausage on a toothpick. (You've found me out, sausage is my achilles heel. I need to learn how to make it so the shame spiral can come to an end). I also had skirt steak and tomato salad with onions and a lettuce salad. An ill-timed bloody nose on the part of a party guest distracted me from taking note of the exact ingredients of the salad, but I know there were croutons. I did not have any chips, ice cream or cake. That must count for something.

At home again I had another bowl of the bean soup and one of the Chocolate Chip Cookies mentioned on Day One. Someone needs to eat them.

Day Three

I am discovering the difficulty of the weekend, and social engagements with this project.

We started off with Buttermilk Pancakes, from scratch. My husband, DR made them, so I am not absolutely sure about the ingredients, but I think it was Buttermilk, Butter, All-Purpose Flour Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Malted Barley Flour, Niacin (A B Vitamin) Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1) Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) Folic Acid (A B Vitamins), Eggs, Sugar, Baking Powder Ingredients: Corn Starch, Bicarbonate of Soda, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Acid Phosphate of Calcium, Baking Soda, Salt. These were possibly the best pancakes I've ever had. At least the best I've had at home, really fluffy and buttery tasting. Baby J ate a whole one himself, and probably would have eaten more if there had been more. These will make a reappearance on the menu for sure. I am going to scout the natural foods markets for a buttermilk and all-purpose flower that don't have all the "enrichments", but I am pretty sure I am not going to attempt to make Baking Powder from scratch until I have more definitive proof that the Apocalypse is nigh, so hopefully this can lasts the month.
In addition to the pancakes we had coffee and Morning Star Farms Vegetarian Sausage Patties. (As I'm sure you've already surmised, we are not vegetarians, we just like these) Of course whenever one thing is imitating another thing the component parts list is going to get long. Go to the bathroom, get a drink, put the laundry in the dryer before you read this one, it's gonna take a while. Ingredients: Textured Vegetable Protein (Wheat Gluten, Soy Protein Concentrate, Soy Protein Isolate, Water for Hydration) Egg Whites, Corn Oil, Sodium Caseinate, Modified Tapioca Starch, Contains 2% or less of Lactose, Soybean Oil, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (Wheat Gluten, Corn Gluten, Soy Protein) Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Spice, Natural and Artifical Flavors, Sodium Phosphates (Tripolyphosphates, Tetrapyrophosphate, Hexametaphosphate, Monophosphate), Salt, Disodium Inosinate, Caramel Color, Cellulose Gum, Whey Powder, Modified Corn Starch, Maltodextrin, Potassium Chloride, Dextrose, Onion Powder, Disodium Guanylate, Vitamins and Minerals (Niacinide Iron [Ferrous Sulfate], Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1] Pyridoxine Hydrochloride [Vitamin B6], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2] Vitamin B12) Succinic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Lactic Acid, Brewers Yeast, Torula Yeast, Soy Lecithin.
There are very few words on that list that I recognize as food. The description says "Savory, sizzling veggie patties seasoned with herbs and spices". I expected to have a list of vegetables, herbs and spices and a few binding agents. This list has multiple brackets within the parantheses, and I am going to have to look up about 80% of these words. I think I will have to revisit this at another time.

For lunch I made a stir-fry of green beans from our CSA, the Salsa that was used in the burgers, a red bell pepper from CostCo and Hot Link Sausage from CostCo. Ingredients: Beef, Water, Salt, Dextrose, Spices, Paprika, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Phosphate, Natural Flavoring, Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Nitrite in Natural Pork Casing. The Cajun beef sausage sounds more natural and healthy than the chemistry experiment that is the veggie sausage, interesting.

Now is the part of Saturday where I have to confess to knowingly and willfully violating the rules. I attended the Montrose Oktoberfest Celebration where I consumed a Widmere Hefeweizen, a Bratwurst, Potato Salad, Rye Bread and Sauerkraut, as well as some cinnamon & sugar almonds. I don't have ingredient lists, but I am positive they all have more than one. I don't have the hospitality excuse, no one would have been offended if I had declined any of these things. But what's the point of going to Oktoberfest if you don't eat sausage and drink beer? I apologize if your faith in me is shaken. I will try to do better.

Later in the evening while playing cards I consumed some of the Mediterranean Medley of Dried Fruit purchased on the eve of the project, as well as some salted peanuts. I drank a glass of wine, and a vodka and cranberry juice (just cranberry and water - not cocktail) with a splash of Lemonade Ingredients: Filtered Water, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Organic Lemon Juice from Concentrate, Organic Lemon Juice, Organic Lemon Flavor. What is "organic lemon flavor", and if it isn't really from a lemon, how is it organic? Anyway, we finished off the bottle of vodka that has been in our freezer for about three years, as well as a bottle of bitters, a bottle of Jameison's, and Knob Creek. So the booze reserves are getting low... but the lone beer is still standing. (I want to make clear that the bitters, Jamie and Knob Creek were killed in the making of three drinks - none of which I drank. We didn't consume four whole bottles of liquor after the Oktoberfest.)

Irish Brown Bread

This recipe is from This is a no rise bread, so it is very dense, more like a cake. This is a bread you would have with a stew or something like that. It is not a sandwich bread.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
2 teaspsoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups well shaken buttermilk

Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 400ºF. Butter a 9"x2" round cake pan.

Whisk together flours, wheat germ, salt, sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a large bowl until well combined. Blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Make a well in the center and add buttermilk, stirring until a dough forms. Gently knead on a floured surface, adding just enough more flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Transfer dough to cake pan and flatten to fill pan. With a sharp knife, cut an X (1/2" deep) across top of dough (5" long). Bake until loaf is lightly browned and sounds hollow when bottom is tapped, 30-40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool, right side up, about 1 hour.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day Two

Let's see, yesterday started with steel cut oatmeal with banana and cinnamon. Lunch was left over pasta with pesto sauce and salad from the night before. I finished off that Organic Ranch Dressing, so one crutch is gone.

I made a loaf of Irish Brown Bread. This is about the easiest thing ever, no yeast, no rising. It took about 10 minutes. I'll post the recipe next. I had a slice of that with butter for a snack.

I did run into a challenge in that I went to a birthday party at the Yam Queen's house. She was serving a slew of Cajun delights. I think I did pretty well in this instance, I had a couple carrots and a small bowl of red beans and rice that she said was made from scratch. I realized on the drive home that the sausage in the red beans would not qualify, but this brings me to my point. I think exceptions need to be made to avoid rudeness in the face of hospitality. This challenge is for me and my cooking and shopping. I didn't buy the food being served there, and I am not trying to sentence myself to a life where I don't eat any food prepared by others, or where I go to people's homes and turn my nose up at food they are serving because it doesn't fit my arbitrary set of rules. I declined a warm cornbread muffin because it was made from a mix, and I didn't have any cheese and crackers, or chips and salsa. I feel it would have been bad manners for me not to eat the red beans and rice, and offending my friends isn't part of this project... oh, I also had a glass of champagne and a glass of rosé, but we've already decided that wine is acceptable.

When I got home I had a small bowl of Granola and milk.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day One

The eating portion of Day One is coming to an end (hopefully). Let's see if I can remember everything I had.

I started off with part of a banana, what was left from the part of banana that went into Baby J's oatmeal with cinnamon. Then for real breakfast, I had the Granola that I made last night with a little organic whole milk. (2% & Non-fat milk have other ingredients besides milk) It was pretty delicious if I do say so.

For lunch I had a leftover hamburger from last night's dinner. It was wonderfully tasty. My husband made them. He started with Organic ground beef from Cost-Co, which is completely acceptable. He added some salsa (also from Cost-Co), which was already in the house. Ingredients: Tomatoes, onions, green-peppers, jalapenos, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice, salt, dehydrated celery, cane sugar, fresh garlic, spices and citric acid. Although, this is a pretty clean list, once this 48 oz jar is gone, we will have to make it ourselves. (However, since we don't have any chips, and I have no idea how to make chips, I have a feeling this salsa isn't going too fast.)
He also used Organic Bread Crumbs from Trader Joe's. Ingredients: Organic wheat flout, organic evaportated cane juice, sea salt, asorbic acid. Then I added to the problem, by putting a slice of cheddar cheese on the burger. This block of cheese has been in the fridge for a while, and I no longer have the packaging, so I don't know the ingredients, but I'm sure it's more than one. Alas, it's almost gone...sigh. I also had a slice of onion and some avocado on the burger. No bun. On the side I had a medley of steamed veggies (Broccoli from TJ, Squash I grew in my community garden and carrots from my Farm Share).

Snacks - Another two bananas shared with Baby J. and a handful of peanuts (salted!).

For dinner we had pasta with pesto sauce. I would have said that eating pasta was just to get it out of the house early, but it turns out that there is only one ingredient: Organic durum wheat semolina, so this is a totally legal food in this project. I was completely surprised by that. (However, it feels like a cheat, and I might still try to learn to make my own pasta.) Anyway, the pesto sauce was left over from a lasagna I made last week. I made the pesto from scratch using basil we grew on our front steps. There was goat cheese in it, so that part couldn't be repeated unless I got a hold of some goat's milk. We also had a salad of tatsoi lettuce, avocado and red bell peppers. We used Trader Joe's Organic Ranch Dressing, ingredients: (all organic except the xantham gum): Fresh Cultured Buttermilk, Vegenaise (Soybean Oil, Water, Brown Rice Syrup, Apple Cider Vinegar, Soy Protein, Sea Salt, Mustart Flour, Lemon Juice Concentrate) Vinegar, Sea Salt, Garlic, Xantham Gum, Onion, Spices, Natural Flavor, Black Pepper, Chives. I'm pretty sure that writing out all of these ingredients will encourage me not to eat things with long lists attached. We finished off a loaf of French Bread left over from Sunday dinner. My brother brought it over, so I don't know the ingredients, but it was probably flour, water, salt and maybe some xanthum gum for good measure. We added butter, garlic salt, onion salt and parmesan, all things we had laying around.

For dessert we each had one of the cookies from the package my mother-in-law gave us to take home from her house on Saturday. Chocolate Chip Cookies from the Ralph's baker. What was I thinking? There are about a dozen cookies in this package. It's going to either take us all month to eat these, or one crazy binge. I don't know which is worse.
Ingredients: Enriched flour (Niacin, Reduced Iron Thiaminmomitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid) Sugar, Vegetable Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil) Chocolate Chips (Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoabutter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor) Eggs, Molasses Contains 2% or less of leavening, Sodium Bicarbonate, sodium aluminium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate) salt, natural and artifical flavors, nonfat milk.

After writing that list I'm pretty sure I know which is worse. typing words like sodium aluminium phosphate really brings home the fact that so much of what we buy to put in our bodies is not food at all, and we really have no idea what it is. I think it is actually better for me to start this project still eating processed foods that are in my home, rather than just going cold turkey. This forces me to face the reality of what I really buy and really eat, not just my idealized version of myself.