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Week 4 - Saturday - This Time with Theming

Whole Grain PancakesI've been avoiding this breakfast, mainly because of the accounting I fear it will require, but this morning I cave in: I make pancakes with the Whole Grain Pancake Mix I put together before I started this project.

The pancake mix is from King Arthur, of course—go to Recipes - Pancakes & Waffles - Homemade Whole Grain Pancake Mix. When I cost it all out, I discover that it's surprisingly affordable: $0.41 for a cup of the mix, plus an egg, some yogurt, and milk. The mix contains lots of oats, which creates a satisfying, chewy texture that I really like. Cooking it couldn't be easier: combine the pancake mix, an egg, and buttermilk (or yogurt and milk, which is what I use), let it sit for 15 minutes, and then cook the cakes. I omit the orange juice, because I rarely have any around.

It should take only 3-4 minutes on the first side, and 1-2 minutes on the other, but it takes an inordinate time to cook the last few pancakes. I discover at the end of the process that I had the heat on very low—the first one browned so much I turned the heat down, and I guess the heat in the pan diminished so slowly I didn't realize it until I got to the last one.

This is a superior pancake. We have it with butter, warmed maple syrup, (about 15 seconds in the microwave for a shot-glass full, but keep an eye on it! When if starts to boil, it will boil over in an instant) and a grapefruit.

By mid-afternoon, we're a little hungry again, so we split the very last piece of Hot Fudge Pudding Cake and some peanuts. What a delicious combination (and this cake is very good straight out of the refrigerator, by the way).

When you live by the menu plan, as I do, changing a meal creates a cascading effect: planned leftovers must be made in order to be used later. Tonight I need to revise my plan again, but it's for the best: the basil is just about done for, despite standing in water on the counter. I still don't understand its demise.

I decide on a bean dish I had planned for next week: a simple preparation from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Beans with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. She starts by cooking the beans with aromatics—in her case, 2 bay leaves, a small onion, parsley, garlic, and olive oil. I follow her directions, but next time I'll use just the bay leaves, parsley, and garlic

Next, you chop a large shallot, a garlic clove, and parsley, pour 3 TB of olive oil over all of it, and gently mix with the hot beans.

I decide to use the (now pathetic) basil in a dish from Passionate Vegetarian: Lemon-Basil Rice Pilaf with White Wine. It's also as simple as can be: converted white rice cooked in lemon juice and zest, white wine, and vegetable stock, with chopped fresh basil mixed in at the end.

As I add the rice to the pot of lemon and stock (two muffin-tin-cups-worth, pulled from the freezer) it suddenly occurs to me: these two dishes are going to look very much alike, white flecked with green.

This is the height of elegance. At least, it would be if I lived at the turn of the 19th century. In Perfection Salad, Laura Shapiro describes the Class of 1887 commencement ceremony at the Boston Cooking School:

The ceremonies...were held in the school's largest lecture hall, draped for the occasion in green and white, the school colors. The same color scheme was carried out in the refreshments, which included green-and-white olive sandwiches, green-and-white frosted cakes, and green-and-white bonbons. [...]
The pinnacle of decorative cooking was the wholly color-coordinated meal, built around the careful selection of flowers, table decorations, and menu items. Cooking school students were taught to assemble color-coordinated breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners, not only for formal gatherings, but in honor of Valentine's Day (red and white), St. Patrick's Day (green and white), Princeton commencement (orange and black) or Harvard (crimson).

According to Ms. Shapiro, color coordinated meals became all the vogue, and menus were featured in food magazines.

Green and white was a frequent combination, since it could be carried out without too much destruction to the food, and Mrs. Lincoln once shared with her readers the description of a green-and-white luncheon created by a subscriber. Grapefruit, lightly covered with white frosting and pistachio nuts opened the meal; cream of pea soup with whipped cream followed; and the main course was boiled chicken with banana sauce, accompanied by macaroni, creamed spinach, potato balls, and parsley. Green-and-white ices and cakes completed the picture.

Isn't that wild? My meal is just 110 years too late.

I plate the beans and rice. It is indeed green and white. I'm forced to add a few carrot sticks just for a little color. After we photograph it, Jesse suggests that the red tablecloth might have mitigated the color scheme a bit. But we want to eat before it all gets cold, so we leave the tablecloth as it is and sit down to dinner.

These are both new recipes, and so we don't know what to expect. The rice is almost inedible. The lemon I used was a large one, and perhaps I should have know it would overpower the entire dish with a bittery lemon flavor—you can't taste the basil at all. But the last time I made something with the zest and juice of one lemon (a small one) I couldn't really taste it enough, so at the time, this seemed like the right thing to do. I'll make this recipe again before passing judgment on it, but I think I might omit the lemon from the cooking liquid and add it at the end, to taste—that would give me greater control.

The beans are delicious. The raw shallot adds a very nice crunch to the soft beans; I think next time I make this, I'll omit the garlic. especially if I've cooked the beans with garlic already. This makes a nice main course, it would make a nice side for, say, a steak, and I think it would be perfect chilled or at room temperature for a bean salad. A keeper.

Saturday total includes a bunch of parsley ($0.99).

Saturday total: $8.26. Remaining weekly allowance: $15.90.

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» How did it begin?
» Week 1: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $3.20
» Week 2: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $13.34
» Week 3: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $7.15
» Week 4: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday | Photos | Summary: Under budget - $6.41
» Week 5: Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday | Photos

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other food projects

Food is a Munition of War: living for one month on UK WWII rations

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