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It's February now, and I've moved to phase two of the Pantry Project which is about not buying  anything that won't be used within a week or two.  I'm not always successful at that, but I'm getting better at saying, "No, I don't need those things.  I have plenty of other stuff to use up first." which really is the point.

I managed (finally) to get my kitchen rearranged, no small feat, let me tell you since while it looks as if I have ample cabinet space, the truth is that one is virtually inaccessible without a step ladder and grabby stick and two more have lost a substantial amount of space to the duct from the range hood/microwave.  Why they didn't run it straight up through the top of the cabinets and then out is beyond me, but then this house is a study in bizarre choices and awkward construction.  The housemate and I refer to it as "a benevolent Hill House." Yet another cabinet is ginormous, but most of the space is inaccessible because the door is located at the far end.  (I use it for baking sheets and rarely used small appliances.)

The Pantry Project

In any event, I did want to share an end-of-project photo to prove that I actually did finish.  To the left is my pantry.  It's all open and I'd prefer if it had doors, but I can't afford that right now.  Maybe one day I'll learn how to make doors, or be able to afford to have them made (It'd probably be a custom job since the niche was constructed for me when we re-did the back exit.)  I love having all the packaged food here because that's my kitchen desk to the right, and while I sit there, I can look at the shelves and think about what I might fix for any given meal.

Everything that doesn't go in the fridge or the seasoning cabinet is here.  As you see, there's a LOT of stuff, though two of the six shelves hold mostly baking items which I consider to be (in general) a bit different from cans of soup and boxes of pasta.  Kitty food also takes up a big chunk of space.

Since I've started baking two or three loaves of bread a week, I'm going through flour and yeast at a good clip, also dry milk, honey and millet.  I'm also using up the mixes I've had in my cabinets for way too long.  So far I've made Bob's Red Mill rye bread (a clear winner; soft crumb, slightly sweet, good sandwich bread) King Arthur Flour sweet almond bread (dry and surprisingly not as tasty as I'd have hoped) and one other KAF bread mix which I can't recall, in part because it ended up being a complete failure.  I also made gingerbread and chocolate cake, and I'm finally down to two mixes: One more chocolate cake and a KAF brioche mix.

I made a curry the other night from a mix I got through the Amazon Vine program (Briefly, if you're a member, they send you free stuff, you evaluate it and write a review.)  It wasn't great, it wasn't bad, but I used it to get rid of one package of ground beef that had been sitting around here for way too long.   If you're sharp-eyed, you'll see that I have about five or six more boxes of Indian food mixes sitting on the shelf.

Tonight's supper will be saffron risotto and chard with ginger.  If I can arse myself to fix some lentils to go with them that'll be great, otherwise I'll just let it go.  What I really want is an Italian beef sandwich from Marco's.

 

 
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Nothing says holiday magic like a giant burning down your house.There's always a lot going on these days.  This morning I found out about Get Your Words Out and went to sign on only to find that it's closed to new members.  Okay I get that; it's about what you write in a year.  But if I make my goal, say, 100k words in however much is left of the year then it's a goal, right?  It's not a contest, but a way of pushing myself to be productive on a month-to-month basis.  Anyway, I decided that I didn't matter if membership was closed.  I set a goal of 150k for 2012, and I'll be tracking it on the new spreadsheet I created earlier.  

 

Why only 150k?  Well, a couple of reasons:  First, I've already made it my goal to do a short story a month.  If I do that, I'll probably do 150k pretty handily and yeah, I should push myself more, but the thing is, I have other projects that I'm working on.  I have to revise the sequel to Suffer the Little Children and see if I can find a home for it.  (Depending on how long I think it's going to take, I may send it to the same place I'm sending the Scrooge book.  More I will not say about that right now.  I don't feel like jinxing myself.)  In any event, I don't want to be unrealistic about what I can and can't do.  I want to do NaNoWriMo this year, do it properly in spite of the editing job which really slams me in November, and if I do, that's a third of my goal right there.  If I do, if I manage it.

 

So after I did some paperwork, I girded my loins and went out to the kitchen to do some more cleaning.  I have the remains of a rotisserie chicken in a pot of stock that I have to dismember as soon as it's cool, and a quart of yogurt in the oven.  It has about an hour to go before I need to take it out and strain it.  But I also really, really needed to do a load of dishes, so I finally cleaned out the fridge.  That's when it occurred to me that I was doing all this on the last day of the month, and I thought: How perfect.  I couldn't join Get Your Words Out, but I can have a get it out day anyway.

 

I'm declaring that the last day of each month is going to be my Get It Out Day.  What that means: I clean out anything that's been in the fridge too long.  I put away any story that's been kicking my butt for too long.  I stop reading any book that has been dragging on for too long.  I make sure my kitchen is clean, I make sure all my garbage is out, I get the last words of the month written, the last story of the month finished, and anything that's finished and hasn't been earmarked for something special gets sent to a publisher.  Eventually I'll reach the point where I can make sure that by the end of the month I have all the chores finished for at least that day.  Maybe.  I'm not going to kill myself doing this.  That's not what Get It Out Day should mean for me.  It should mean doing things that really need doing.  Getting rid of stuff that's been around for too long.  Lightening the load, not making it heavier.

 

Get It Out Day can be a lot of things.  Today I very nearly started a fight with an idiot on a local forum.  He deserved a slap-down, but my snark got axed by one of the moderators.  I gave her grief for it and asked what I could say that wouldn't get pulled, and she advised me to let it go.  I didn't like the idea.  I wanted to get it out, get it off my chest, give the moron what he had coming to him and not let him think he won a point on me.  Man I hate that.  I hate that in myself I hate it in other people, that inability to let things go, to let others think that maybe they're right when I know they're not. (Or think they're not anyway, which amounts to the same thing, doesn't it?  Yeah, you know it does.)  When I see other people doing it, I roll my eyes and think "What the HELL is wrong with you, just let it go! Stop being so tiresome."  I'm actually thinking that Get It Out Day is a good time to sit back and force yourself to get rid of the resentment that's built up in the last month.  Refuse to engage in arguments no matter how righteous they seem.  They rarely are.  I need to Get It Out of my system.  I need to Let It Go.

 

Maybe Get It Out Day will prove to  be a good day to pay bills.  I scheduled payments today to pay off my Christmas debt.  It felt good even though it left me that much poorer.  The money was spent anyway, who am I kidding.  I need to stop thinking that I have what I don't have.  I need to Get It Out and Let It Go. And right now I feel like I want to scream into a pillow because this is freakin' scary.

 

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Macaroni and cheese in a white bowl.

The process is starting to get interesting because I'm almost out of the things I eat rather habitually (V8, Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup, packaged mac and cheese, tuna) and am now having to force myself to take a good look at what's in the cabinets and ask myself, "What can I do with this that will be tasty and  economical?"  In other words, what can I fix that I will actually eat?

Over the weekend, I used up two pounds of oxtails I'd had in the freezer downstairs.  I'd never cooked them before, but I had  a recipe from one of the cookbooks I got at Christmas, so I ordered the fresh ingredients that I needed -- leeks, carrots; I had the garlic from what we grew over the summer -- and asked Glinda to bring home a bottle of red wine for the wine reduction that was the basis of the braise.

The result was very nice.  Oxtails are very fatty, and even after trimming them I ended up scooping quite a bit of fat out of the pot that had been refrigerated overnight.  Even then, the sauce was over-rich, in my opinion, and a little went a very long way for both Glinda and myself.  Jim liked them, so he got all the leftovers to take home.  I also made a loaf of semolina-cheese bread from a mix I'd bought a while ago from King Arthur Flour.  The bread was also a little over-the-top in terms of flavor and while I enjoyed the meal, it wasn't one I'll ever duplicate.  However I did manage to use up frozen meat and a baking mix, so it was a good end to week two of eating from the pantry.

Week three begins with my decision to use all the powdered milk I have stored in the freezer before I buy any more.  I saved an Oberweis glass bottle and mixed up half a gallon of milk this morning. I had to use the blender because dry milk tends to be lumpy, which is just a nasty surprise when you're drinking it.  This is going to take me a while, but it'll save me quite a bit of money which is all to the good.  While I pay off my Christmas debts, I really want to cut my grocery budget to the bone.  Tonight I'll be making a pan of gingerbread and mac and cheese.  Yes, Glinda will be buying a package of that today on the way home from work.  There is a reason; we'll be watching the last ep of season 2 Sherlock, and we both felt the need for comfort food.  Still, packaged mac and cheese is cheap; it's not going to dent the budget too dramatically.

US Meat Consumption

Today is also Meatless Monday.  For those of you who don't know, there's a movement to eliminate meat from American diets for one day a week.  I know some of you are probably recoiling in horror right now, and okay fine, nobody is going to force you to give up you moo or oink at every meal habit.  But though I like meat -- yes, I genuinely enjoy much of it -- I'm concerned about various aspects of meat-eating and would like to cut my consumption.  It's nice to have one day where you know you're just not going to indulge.  The Pantry Project is fantastic for Meatless Mondays because so much of what's stored is vegetarian or vegan.  I even unearthed a can of vegetarian baked beans this morning.  I'd forgotten I had them, and was ridiculously excited to see them sitting there.

Yet another advantage that I'm discovering as I pursue this resolution (One which I may extend to two months, with a bit of alteration.) is that I'm learning what works and what doesn't.  I'm paying more attention to what I like, what's easy to make, what's more economical.  I'm eating smaller portions because I'm more aware of what each one is costing me.  You don't notice stuff like that as much when you've got a pantry filled with food.  Say what you will about stockpiling food when it goes on sale, the effect can be just the opposite of what you intend.  It can encourage us to waste food because there's so much left, and it can encourage us to eat larger portions for the same reason.  YMMV.  I'm starting to know where my head is at, and what I need to do about it.

My goal is to at least open and use everything that's sitting in my fridge, cupboards or freezer.  I don't have to like it; I should make an honest effort to finish it, but if I don't I'll know I don't need to buy it again.  I'll know what I should have on hand and what I shouldn't bother with.  I'll be able to plan my cooking more efficiently, and cut down on waste.  Who doesn't want to do that?

And then, once I've got those cabinets cleared out, there's going to be what my mother called a "Grand clearing up spell." They're going to get cleaned, things too old to eat will be tossed, and the storage will be rearranged. so it makes more sense.

The thing I'm happiest about?  I'm proving to myself that I'm not too old to change the way I live.  Go me!

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Tracy Rowan

August 2013

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