Since I cook from scratch, people automatically ask about the time it takes. But what I do requires some equipment that you may not yet have in your own home.
I buy oils, grains, beans, yeast, dried fruit, pasta, and many other items in bulk. That means that I scoop them out of a large store bin into a bottle, jar or bag, before I buy it. Some people use the plastic bags the co-op provides for that purpose, and at home, some keep their dry goods in that same plastic bag. I have learned not to do that.
Our last apartment had an uninsulated pantry, designed with a little space between the boards to allow for air circulation. I think it was designed for cool storage, though in the summer (in the Mission District) it was a heater.
That apartment was teeny. Once I placed a plastic bag of whole wheat flour into that storage space until I could use it. Of course, a little mouse made his way into that cupboard from the outside and chewed a hole into that bag. Not only that, he made himself a little bed in that bag and lived there. It was probably the best house he ever had. He could sleep in a protected spot, and if he ever got hungry, he could just turn his head and have a nice, wholesome snack.
Now I use canning jars in 1-cup, 1-quart and 2-quart sizes. They aren't too expensive, the glass is non-reactive, and I can see what's in each one. And I like the way they look.
I used to freeze my stock in canning jars, but I had a few incidents where (I believe) the jar lid sealed, causing the jar to break when the liquid inside expanded as it froze. For a while I tried Meg Hourihan's method of portioning stock into ziplock bags before freezing, but I found the bags to be a little harder to clean than I liked. (You may not be surprised to learn that I re-use my bags until they develop holes or the fastener no longer works.)
I have a yogurt maker that I got for Christmas one year. I don't think they make my model anymore, but this basic one is pretty close. Or, Fiasco Farms has a number of suggestions for incubating yogurt without a commercial yogurt maker.
I'm not usually enthusiastic about single-use items (my yogurt maker excepted). I got a new food processor specifically so that I can chop vegetables and knead bread. As it turns out, I use it almost exclusively for the second purpose. It's rarely worth the trouble to set up and then clean the whole unit just to chop a few things. Only if I'm doubling or tripling a batch of something that requires chopping a lot of vegetables do I even think of using a food processor to do it.
I recently bought King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking. For making the best bread they recommend, in this order, a bread-making machine, a standing mixer with a dough hook, and a food processor.
In thinking about how to fit my way of cooking into a more typical 9-5 lifestyle, I've come to realize that a bread maker could be one of the most practical items a home could have. It may do only one thing, but it does it extremely well, there are dozens of reliable, from scratch recipes available, and it can be set to have bread ready when you want it. If you eat a lot of toast or sandwiches—or just like bread with every meal—I think a bread maker would be an excellent investment.
Finally, Jesse uses this lunch container every day: the Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless-Steel lined Lunch Jar. It's terrific and big fun, and would be ideal for a Japanese-style lunch that centered around soup and rice. Unfortunately, as much as I love this box, the American-style Bento Box Jennifer McCann uses for her son's Vegan lunches would offer me more flexibility. (She also sometimes uses this 2-Tier Stainless Steel Food Carrier. Think about what you like to eat and choose accordingly.)
By the way, if you like this blog you will love hers.
The weather has turned cool again, and the Weather Underground (I pronounce it "Voon-der-ground", for its URL) tells me it will be so for the remainder of the week. I put the flannel sheets back on the bed.
I have muesli & yogurt for breakfast. Lunch is leftover Barley Soup, a salad, and an orange. Jesse has a snack of peanuts and saves his salad for tomorrow.
Tonight for dinner, I make an improvisational version of Black Bean Chilaquiles from The Greens Cookbook. I will use some of the leftover Lentil Chili—you could use any highly spiced bean mixture, I think—the leftover salsa, the rest of the asparagus, and 5 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese.
Spread a little of the leftover salsa on the bottom of a baking dish and then tear 8 corn tortillas in half. Cover the bottom with the tortillas, placing the straight torn edge against the side of the dish for good coverage. Layer leftover Lentil Chili, about half of the remaining salsa, half of the asparagus (chopped), and half of the cheese. Repeat, ending with the cheese. Cover and place in the oven for 40 minutes.
I don't fry the tortillas as her recipe and many others require. Dishes that are layered onto crispy things can be annoying, messy. With soft tortillas, this dish is like Mexican lasagne. I open a bottle of beer for Jesse, and a new bottle of 2-Buck Chuck's for me, and serve all of it with a salad.
Sunday total: $5.91. Remaining weekly allowance: $55.59.
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