Posts Tagged ‘frugality’

We go to Croatia for about 2 weeks, once or twice a year, and that’s long enough that most things in the fridge need to get used up before we leave.
Plus, outgoing flights to Europe usually leave in the evening, just late enough that dinner once you get through security is a good idea (even though they’ll eventually pass something out on the flight.)

So I’ve gotten in the habit of making a composed salad out of whatever I can find in the fridge that needs using up.

This time, it was:
boiled beets
boiled potato
cooked peas
olives (didn’t need to be used up but were in the fridge)
and a little salt, pepper, and mayonnaise

and in separate containers
hard boiled egg (the eggs could have made it till we got back, but hardboiled eggs are very satisfying travel food)
sliced pork cutlet

I can’t remember now, writing this post just when we’ve gotten back from the trip rather than when we were rushing madly off to the airport, whether both of the potatoes and peas were leftover from some meal too, or whether I decided to use them to round out the salad. Potato always makes a composed vegetable salad work better for me, and the peas were good too, so I think my meal planning for a travel week should include purposely having some leftover potatoes and peas around. Or maybe I was just pretty smart this time too!

Smooth travel food and frugal use of leftovers. Except for the part where my backpack got some extra scrutiny because apparently dressed vegetables look too “wet” on the baggage scanner. (It’s ok to bring them, and we did get to eat them, but I should have put the containers of food through separately.)


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Last weekend, I started brining my first corned beef – my first adventure in home-cured meats. Only since I haven’t had it since I was a kid, and since it was a chance to get a hunk of meat from Chestnut farms for just a dollar, I brined a tongue tip, and not a brisket.

I had in my mind a menu of corned beef slices, pickles, and celeriac salad as a fine new year’s day meal – though I’m not entirely sure whether there’s some tradition where preserved meat is a New Year’s thing, it seemed right. (As it happened, the 5 days of brining, plus getting it into the crockpot a bit late where it needed to simmer 3 or 4 hours until past dinnertime, and to cool before slicing anyway, made it a fine January 2nd meal instead…)

Meat cured with sodium nitrite really does turn pink! I’ll spare you the less-appetizing photos of the whole thing and its spotted bumpy skin. (The spots are blacker on the inside of the skin than the outside – who knew?)

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Thanks to the encouragement of my friends here at Always Be Cooking, the 2nd half of the fresh ginger went into two projects, and for each one I got a little more out of it than the recipe said, just by thinking “am I really supposed to get rid of that now?”

Ginger beer starts off with a syrup of sugar, water, and finely grated ginger, steeped for an hour and then poured through a sieve into the bottle with yeast and water. So I sampled whether all that steeping had sucked all the flavor out of the shredded, somewhat sweet ginger – it hadn’t. I scraped that onto a piece of wax paper, sprinkled more sugar on it, rolled it flat between two layers of wax paper, and let it dry on the wax paper, and wound up with a tasty ginger candy sort of thing, lacking some texture and integrity compared to the real product.

Because I wasn’t fully invested in the ginger beer project, and wanted something that was pleasantly gingery but not knock-your-socks off, I used less ginger than the recipe called for for my first 2L test batch.

This left me with just a little bit more ginger – perhaps 2″ of thick root. Just enough for a microbatch of the other project I was hoping to try – homemade pickled ginger. Once again, the first thing to do gave me a bonus – the slivers of ginger had to be blanched for a minute or two in water. So while I proceeded with the recipe (you just dump the blanched ginger in a jar with the same volume of vinegar plus a little sweetener of your choice), I poured off the water into a mug and drank it with a little sugar and lemon.

4 gingery food items, one half a root of fresh ginger in need of using up.

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I may not have the whole farmhouse from-scratch operation running smoothly, and I may never keep chickens in the backyard, but making good use of what I have and not throwing away perfectly good food are goals I am getting better at. Here’s a snapshot of my almost-efficient fish machine at work, after 18 deliveries of whole fish since June.

This week’s whole fish was 2 small cod, and I pounced right on it for a second shot at preserving and drying my own salt cod. I’ve done a trial run once before, and now I’m looking forward to the 2nd batch being usable for Christmas Eve. So here’s what became of the fish over the next several days:

Day 1: I clean and fillet the fish, winding up with

  • fish skins (sadly, must toss, or find a friend who wants to feed their cats raw fish. My usual suspect wasn’t up to this this time, so I tossed the.)
  • fish fillets – to cook, or in this case, preserve with salt (they get coated in salt for a day and change, then rinsed and left to dry in the fridge for a week.)
  • fish spine(s) with head, tail, and plenty of meat on it, because I am not an expert at filleting
  • I reserved the scrappier bits of the fillets to make a little bit of plain fish for K, who requested that it not all be turned into bakalar (as we call salt cod in our house).

Day 2:
Make fish broth with the spines and heads. This is a quick-cooked broth – I put the fish in cold water with bay leaves, salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar, then bring slowly to a boil, let it boil 10 minutes afterwards, and turn off the heat.

After pouring off the broth, pull cooked meat off the fish carcasses into a storage container, removing small bones as I go. This week’s cooked meat mostly went into cod-salad sandwiches with melted cheese. I mix shredded cooked cod with mayonnaise, celery, seasonings; basically pretending it came out of a can of tuna and go from there. I sometimes put it into fish cakes, or freeze to use later for these purposes or add back into soup.

Also, the scrappy bits of fillets that I saved went into a small person’s serving or two of fried fish (and more than a serving of french fries to go with, for all of us!)
I’ll probably make miso soup with some of the broth. The rest is in the freezer. If there’s an Armageddon soon, we’re all covered for miso soup.

My 6+ lbs of whole cod (2 small fish worth) gave me 2.2lbs of fillets, plus a bit under a pound of cooked shredded fish meat, and about 4 quarts of fish broth. I would probably have gotten more fillets off of one large fish, but somewhat less broth.

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I’ve been making the “no-knead” bread lately, because I made it on a whim the other day and my husband waxed enthusiastic about it. Very enthusiastic. Usually, he’s quietly appreciative of my food but this time he gushed. So I’ve been making batches.

(For those not deep enough into foodie culture, “no knead bread” was the hot thing a few years ago. Jim Lahey made it popular (I don’t know if he invented it). You mix up a batter, rather that a dough, with only a bare smidge of yeast. You let it sit for 24 hours (!), punch it, let it rise for 2 hours, and then bake it in a cast-iron dutch oven that’s been preheating for an hour. You get that giant, open crumb inside that¬†artisanal¬†bakeries are so good at, not to mention a crackling crust that is simply impossible to get any other way in a home oven.)

My recipe for this calls for 3 c. of flour, 3/4 c. + 2 T. of water, 1/4 t. of salt and 1/4 t. of yeast, 1 T of vinegar, and…. 1/4 c. +2 T of beer. Here’s the thing. I don’t drink beer. (I don’t drink alcohol, period.) My husband doesn’t drink beer. So every time I make this bread, I wind up with most of a bottle of beer going flat on my counter.

Since one of the tenants of my farm wife philosophy is “waste not, want not”, this bugs the heck out of me. I’ve been hitting the cookbooks for any recipe that calls for most of a bottle of beer, but the only one I’ve found so for is a method for making roux that says you should “stir it for the length of time it takes to drink most of one bottle of beer.” That’s poetic, but not useful.

Help a sister out?

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I’ve been defrosting a chicken from Chestnut Farm – all of our meat from there comes frozen, and we defrost it when we need it. (Well, a few days ahead of when we think we’re going to need it… but sometimes this doesn’t work out as planned!) Unfortunately, this means that when it’s possible to get the bag of giblets out of the chicken, they have already been defrosted. So we need to use them or lose them – and so far I had mostly opted for lose them. One chicken liver is not really enough to make a decent amount of pate.

This time, emboldened by a recent success with a larger rabbit liver that I turned into pate, I decided it couldn’t hurt to see what I’d get out of one chicken liver if I threw in the other unidentified bits too. I sauteed them up with plenty of salt and a little oil, then sauteed half an onion, and added a bit of water to deglaze the pan. I used a little mace, a little dried orange peel, and a little garlic for seasoning while I sauteed. With the stick blender, I blended up the giblets, onion, and liquid, along with a slice of turkey sandwich meat we had in the fridge to round out the flavor. I learned the extra meat trick from my mother-in-law, who always adds cooked chicken to her chicken liver pate. I hadn’t actually cooked the chicken yet – I guess that is why today’s planning lesson is to cook the chicken first and the pate later.

The resulting pate was not as amazing as one that is largely chopped chicken livers, and I think I could actually taste the deli meat flavor coming through a bit, too, so I’d definitely wait till I’d cooked the chicken next time. Our deli meat is not so locavore as much of our food… it comes in a vacuum pack at Trader Joes and purports to be responsibly, industrially raised. There was just enough pate to spread on two sandwiches for lunch, it was simple but flavorful – a lot more flavorful than just a slice of turkey would have been! A perfectly satisfactory use of something that I hoped not to throw away, and the protein source of one more meal for two adults to boot.

I wonder if I can get the farm to provide the giblets not stuffed inside the frozen bird, though. I’d still love to make a serious chopped chicken liver pate, with more than one liver at a time, someday!

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