Making Things From Scratch – A Work In (Constant) Progress

We are babysitting the pet cockatiel of one of my wife’s other partners. We are also babysitting her car. How conveeeeeeeeenient, as the saying goes.
To that end, we made a trip to a grocery store yesterday evening and dropped over $75, more than 1/5 of which was spent on a big bag of walnut halves (which should do us for a year, even if they were grown in California), and another 1/5 of which was literally spent on flour. Just flour. I now have a 10kg bag of all-purpose polished (white) wheat flour sitting in a plastic storage bin in my kitchen (well, most of it is sitting in there – some of it has been moved to the flour canister in the cupboard, and some of it will, in a few minutes, be moved to a batch of bread dough. The Plan, on that score, is to do another single loaf of bread (or maybe two, if I can get the ratios right) plus a dozen rolls for nibbling with chilies and similar over the course of the week. I’ll make cookies this evening – probably a variation on the peanutbutter kitchen sink cookies I made on Friday night, since those went over well – and maybe some other snacky thing (cranberry-cornmeal muffins?) if I’m feeling ambitious.
I’m trying to get back into the swing of things. Making the bread as-needed, rather than relying on the convenience store ($3.25 for a single loaf isn’t that unusual around here, so we’re not talking Food Desert prices, but it’s a bit ridiculous to buy the stuff when I know I’ve got the time and the skills to make something sturdier, tastier, and more flavourful for $1 or less per loaf). I put a bag of bones into the slow-cooker yesterday, along with water, a single whole mushroom, and a few different herbs, and this morning I decanted just shy of 8 cups of stock[1]. I’ve got a couple of cups of lard (and various other “pork dripping” stuff – like bacon fat and sausage grease) melting very, very slowly on the “keep warm” setting in the slow-cooker right now. I may not quite be at the point where I know what to do with tripe and tongue (and don’t pull a face at the thought of (knowingly[2]) eating them… I mean, really… I eat the rest… still: squeemish, of all the silly things), but I don’t want to waste what I do have on hand. (Besides, so much of a cheap cut of pork is fat and bone. Best to use it all, kiddies). The rendered lard’ll go into a silicone muffin tray (set on top of a metal cookie sheet) and I’ll let it all solidify in the fridge before transferring it to a bag or a box in the deep freeze and using it up, one puck at a time, in mirpoix and veggie-fried rice and similar.
Right now, I’m trying to use up the veggies in the fridge (in spite of yesterday having picked up a bag of not-even-slightly-local granny smiths – at my wife’s request – plus a pound of pre-sliced mushrooms and a big red cabbage, both from much closer to home), and generally give the thing a good clean before I buy up 20lbs of Product Of Canada root veggies & McIntosh apples next time I’m in the Glebe.
Anyway. I need to get that bread started, so I’m going to leave you with my (theoretical – it could change at any time) menu “plan” for this week’s dinners. Be inspired. Scoff. Do as you will.
Dinner tonight: Leftover three-bean chili from the weekend, served with home-made buns.
Tuesday: Apple-red-wine sausages + rotini + frozen broccoli + alfredo sauce… (most likely)
Wednesday: White beans fried with onion, ruby chard stems (diced & frozen last fall), the non-local baby bok choi I bought last week, and maybe some shredded carrot or diced winter squash, served over brown rice (I have so much brown rice, it’s a bit ridiculous… I don’t even LIKE brown rice).
Thursday: Red cabbage[3], black beans, onions, and apples “hot salad” with red quinoa and some kind of creamy dressing (probably yoghurt and mustard, because who are we kidding? This is me we’re talking about here).
Friday: Some kind of animal- probably another Turkey breast – roasted over a heap of veggies (in this case, that means red cabbage, onions, carrots, and potatoes, though I’d love to have some beets to throw in there as well) and possibly served on a bed of mixed pot barley and black lentils[4].
Saturday and Sunday are, usually, comfort-food and/or junk-food nights around here. So we’ll have steamed dumplings from a freezer-package, grilled cheese sandwiches + tomato soup-from-a-tin, fried eggs on toast, or some other thing that quick and easy to deal with.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] I saved the big bones, I admit, even though I’ve got something like three other bags of them in the freezer already. My plan is to use them, plus a ribcage, a glug of red wine vinegar, some chard stems, a lot of bay leaves, and some onion skins, and see if I can’t make a second batch in a week or so – I figure, if we’re eating more beans-and-grains based dishes, I’m going to go through stock a whole lot faster, and I’ll be accumulating bones a bit more slowly, so… Waste not want not, and all that jazz.
[2] Okay, so here’s a thing. Someone posted a picture on Facebook detailing what went into the average hotdog. And it was all the “waste” bits – eyelids, tails, entrails, organs, snouts, you know the drill. And all I could think was “Dude, I eat half that stuff on purpose. Oxtail Soup is a thing. So’re liver pate and steak-and-kidney pie. Don’t be such a prude.
And yet, I also get that my eating those things on purpose, knowing what I’m picking up from the butcher-case at the grocery store, isn’t the same as “I can afford these, and I just won’t think about what’s in them” or “Hotdogs! Made from 100% beef!” and glossing over which parts of the actual beeves are going into them. Know what you’re getting into (and what’s getting into you) and all that. Pink Slime is gross, as far as I understand it, because people have been walking through it as much as because it’s made from all the Random Bits that don’t make it into the cellophane packaging. But I’ve made thrice-boiled-chicken-and-duck sandwiches using the boiled-white meat from making stock without totally denuding the bones first, minced up and combined with mayo and chopped onion and grainy mutard and… they’ve been good.
[3] Which, if I’m VERY clever, I’ll dice and then boil, hard but briefly, so that I can save the water and, with the addition of a salt-water mordent (and maybe some cream-of-tartar, since I’ve got some in the cupboard), use it to experiment with home-dying a white cotton tank-top I picked up for just such an experiment. Wish me luck on that one. O.O
[4] I think that’s my favourite “bulk up the non-meat protein” dish, right now. They cook in the same amount of time, are visually interesting (in so far as beans-and-grains are visually interesting on their own), and are chewy enough that it doesn’t feel like you’re eating baby food or something when you chew it.


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