Monday, December 8, 2008

Day One - Sunday

Clearly I do not have the hang of this yet. My plans for feeding ourselves seem to rely heavily on cooking all the time. Breakfast went fine, but we had plans for most of the day so baking bread didn’t exactly happen on schedule, which posed a problem for lunch. We were supposed to have grilled cheese for lunch, but the bread was not out of the oven until 4:30. Anyway, we figured it out and we’re still doing just fine.

For breakfast we had Potato Roesti with sugared, sautéed apples. It looks seriously monochromatic. I hadn’t planned on that.

The potato roesti recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated, and I don’t think they post their recipes online so I’ll be respectful and refrain from posting it here. It’s essentially a large, round hashbrown. Typically, you use butter (lots) to fry the roesti in, but I substituted some rendered bacon fat (and then we nibbled on the bacon while we were waiting for breakfast). The apples are just cooked over low in a sauté pan with a bit of water and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.

breakfast deconstructed

… and breakfast.

I started the bread for lunch last night. It’s a really amazing and totally unintimidating yeast bread . It’s Jim Lehey’s recipe which gained instant fame when published in the New York Times last year. You can find the recipe here and searching “No Knead Bread” will get you lots of great tutorials. The great thing (for me) about this recipe is that it only calls for ¼ teaspoon of yeast. The long rise time (18 hours) lets you get away with far less yeast, and therefore, the one bread I can actually bake also happens to be thrifty. Here’s what it looks like when you mix it up:

And here it is many hours later

And a few hours after that

Post piano moving (don’t ask) and pre-holiday activities we had a quick 30 minutes for lunch and no bread (see above). So we snacked on one banana each and some roasted sunflower seeds (1 tablespoon for me and 2 tablespoons for S.). It was pretty sad looking, but surprisingly satisfying. Finally home late afternoon and had a very belated “rest of lunch” which consisted of some fresh baked bread and a chunk of cheddar cheese.

Then I spent from 4:30-7:30 cooking or writing about cooking. Gah. That made me grouchy, and I even like cooking on a good day. Poor S. got the brunt of it and this wasn’t even his idea. Some friends called for a game of darts so fortunately he had a well-timed escape, and it was good for me to just slow down. We had Lentil Tacos for dinner - a fun recipe from my oldest friend H. (She’s not old, like “advanced in age” – old like I’ve known her for a long time). The tortillas were made from scratch (part of the problem in the prep time), and we also had roasted broccoli. Oh and I made a batch of rice pudding for S., because I feel bad that he’s getting drug into this disaster and thought I owed him some dessert (even the sort of yucky, low-quality kind).

The lentil recipe was significantly modified to reflect my much reduced pantry:

Lentil Taco Filling

1 ounce (slice) bacon, chopped

1/3 cup minced onions

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup dried lentils, rinsed

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced

2-1/2 cups water

½ package chicken ramen seasoning

I fried the bacon and saved the fat for the tortillas and the bacon for the lentils. The onions and garlic sautéed in the skiff of fat left in the pan with a pinch of salt. When they were translucent, the dried lentils, bacon, chili powder, cumin, and oregano go in the pot and cook just long enough to make the spices fragrant. Then goes the water and ramen seasoning (voila – lovely chicken stock! Just kidding.) That comes to a boil and then simmers for 30 minutes covered. When the lentils were tender, I simmered it uncovered for long enough to magically get rid of the extra soupy water. All done. Oh, except I have to make tortillas.


This is based on several recipes so I don’t really have an attribution to make.

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

Bacon drippings from 1 ounce (1 slice) bacon

Up to ½ cup hot water

I whisked the dry ingredients together and then made a well. Added about half the water and then the bacon fat on top. Stirred while drizzling in the extra water just until the dough starts to come together. Kneaded quickly (just 8-10 times) and divided dough into 5 servings. Ignored dough balls while they rested under a floured cloth.

Later, you just roll these little guys out and cook briefly on either side in a hot, dry skillet. You know when they’re done when they get those flour-tortilla little brown spots on them.

Oh, now I still have to make broccoli. Great. Except it’s not actually that hard. I roasted three servings of broccoli in a hot oven with a drizzle of vegetable oil, one crushed garlic clove and a sprinkle of chili flakes.

A little more prep work for the shredded lettuce and cheese and then finally, we get to eat:

The picture is my serving. S. had three tacos and there was enough lentils left over that we had seconds of those. I have to say this was pretty damn decent. I liked it a lot. I’ll even make it again when I don’t actually have to. I would have really liked it with sour cream and S. missed the salsa, but all in all – this didn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. Isn’t the vegetable serving funny? Supposedly we ate “three” servings of broccoli between us. It seemed so pathetic.

For the observant among you: No, oregano isn’t on the grocery bill. I stole it from my neighbor’s planter, which I warned you about.

Before bed, S. had some rice pudding with a sprinkle of cinnamon and I had a glass of milk. He might have just been being nice to me, but he claimed the rice pudding was really good. Neither of us went to bed hungry, but I was sick of thinking about food.

Menu for Day One

Breakfast: Potato Roesti, sautéed apples and black tea

Lunch/Snack: Banana and sunflower seeds

Late Lunch / Snack: Fresh baked bread and chunk of cheddar cheese, carrot (S. only)

Dinner: Lentil tacos with homemade tortillas, lettuce and cheddar cheese; roasted broccoli

Dessert: Rice pudding (S.) and one cup milk (A.)


Tracey said...

So... it sounds like if you actually had to survive on the average allotment for food stamps, you would have no time after cooking to devote to pursuits like, say, finding a (better) JOB. Hm, problematic indeed.

I saw a news special on "how a couple survives by spending $1 a day on food." Well, it turns out they just weren't eating ANY protein or produce. Oatmeal and polenta, that's about it. Which is kind of a useless lesson, if you ask me. Sure, you might save hundreds on food, but if you end up with a thousand dollar hospital bill for illnesses resulting from lack of nutrients.... well not really a point in that.

Your meals, however, actually look really good. And the pics too.

allisen said...

Exactly. I am really tired of cooking. I'm doing my best for the purpose of the exercise, but it seems like too much to expect of anyone. Particularly people with children.