Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 4

This week didn’t hold as much progress as last week on the challenge. We were out of town for Thanksgiving and had a few days where we ate meals elsewhere – at friends’ houses, etc. But I’m happy with the things we did use – and we didn’t add anything!

One evening for dinner, we cooked up the Ohio City Pasta – I believe we had red pepper and some sort of basil/spinach mix. It tasted great mixed (especially with a glass of leftover wine from Friendsgiving!).

ohio city pasta collage

We also needed another quick dinner one night, so we baked one of the frozen Pizza Joes pizzas. Pizza Joes is a local chain that’s centered around the area where I grew up, and I love them. My favorite pizza place ever. So when Mark travels to one particular site for work, he ends up near one of their locations and he will sometimes pick up half baked pizzas that we finish off in the oven. Much better than fully cooked pizza that’s frozen after the fact. We had the veggie ranch one.

pizza joes collage
We also gave a jar of the Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly to a friend who was visiting to try, so that took one of the jars in the pantry. Though I’m less worried about using those up now that I know of a great marinade recipe.

So after week 4, here’s where we stand. Going to kick it up a notch this week.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2) (1)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar (1) (.5) 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza (half bag)
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (3) (2) (1) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls (8) (4)
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries (1) (.5)
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza (half bag)
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) (.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dried cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers (2) (1) Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas (2) (1) Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings (half bag) Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

 

 

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 3

This week we chipped away at more items from the pantry and freezer, making more progress than I anticipated. We were able in some cases to strategically use recipes for the things we wanted to eat that included some ingredients we already had. Which I guess is exactly the way you do this!

I made a delicious winter squash chowder with some butternut and acorn squash and kale from our CSA, and I toasted up the one remaining ciabatta roll for us to split as a side to dip. It actually went really well with the chowder!

winter squash chowder

When I posted last week that I was having trouble finding ways to use hot pepper jelly, Penn’s Corner tweeted me this link to a recipe for Spicy Pepper Jelly Marinated Pork Tenderloin. So I made that, with some roasted turnips and brussels sprouts and some bagged stuffing  from the pantry as a side. I highly recommend the marinade if you like spicy, flavorful marinades.

stuffing and pepper jelly collage

Friday night, I roasted two heads of garlic and took the leeks from the CSA and the bacon from the freezer and made toppings for Mark’s sourdough pizza crust. (He’s the pizza guy in the house.) Delicious, but let’s just say that using two heads of garlic as sauce, where we each virtually ate a whole head of garlic, was a bit….much.

bacon and leek pizza

One night we had burgers and fries, so we used up half of the kaiser rolls and half of the bag of fries.

fries and buns

Sunday night we had our annual Friendsgiving dinner with our best friends. Instead of a turkey, which we will all be eating this week, we decided to make prime rib. Mark did the prime rib, and chose a recipe that required roasting some other meat with it – so we used an oxtail, a beef shank and beef soup bones.

I did the dessert, and sort of lost my mind. I decided to make pumpkin brownies, which used up half of the unsweetened chocolate bar. And that’s when I jumped off the deep end and decided to make 3 homemade ice creams from the Jeni’s cookbook: salty caramel, maple with buttered nuts, and sweet potato with toasted marshmallow. And then make them into terrines. But I forgot that a mini loaf pan might be “mini” when it comes to breads, but when it comes to ice cream, it’s a LOT. And so it looked kind of like a giant brick on the plate. But it was delicious – just ridiculous.

We were so hungry I didn’t take much time to take good photos, but it was all great.

friendsgiving

So here’s where I stand now after three weeks. Made a lot of progress this week, for sure!

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar (1) (.5) 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza (half bag)
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (3) (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls (8) (4)
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries (1) (.5)
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza (half bag)
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) (.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dried cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers (2) (1) Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas (2) (1) Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings (half bag) Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

 

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 2

This week was a bit crazy when it came to meal planning, since we had to do a lot of unexpected changes at the last minute. Mark’s aunt passed away, and we had some out of town days and some takeout days. But life is always throwing you something unexpected, so we rolled with it and still managed to get a few items checked off the pantry/freezer list.

One day last week, I took the leftover corn and poblano chowder as my lunch one day. And I remembered why it is that we bothered to save it. It’s delicious.

corn and poblano chowder

 

One night we had a quick taco dinner, and instead of opening a jar of our homemade canned salsa, we tried out the jar of hot salsa we had picked up at a Farm to Table event a very long time ago. Delicious, with a hint of peaches.

hot salsa collage

Before we left for Cleveland, we were exhausted from running around all day and neither of us really wanted to cook. So we ate a ton of appetizers, including gyoza, green scallion pancakes and some samosas. Mark made fried rice from some leftover Chipotle rice and we made a dipping sauce from mirin, soy sauce and sesame oil. My phone photo doesn’t make it look too appetizing, but it was. Especially because it just took a few minutes to make. Which is exactly why we bought that stuff in the first place. I didn’t quite use up all the gyoza in the bags, but we’re getting close.

asian appetizers collage

Last but not least, Mark made his grandma’s cheesecake to take to Cleveland to share with family, since it was one of his aunt’s favorite. We used graham crackers from the pantry for the crust.

grandma's cheesecake collage

So at the end of week 2, here’s where we stand.

Here’s where I stand now with pantry and freezer items. I can’t wait to see more of these crossed off.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza (half bag)
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza (half bag)
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dried cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers (2) (1) Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas (2) (1) Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings (half bag) Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

 

Read more on the Pantry/Freezer Challenge

Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge – Week 1

Yesterday I fessed up to the crazy amount of excess food we have stored in our pantry and freezers and created my own Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge.

I didn’t waste a lot of time, deciding to ride the wave of motivation and start using up some items this past weekend.

On Sunday, we made waffles using the frozen homemade whole grain pancake mix. This mix actually comes in handy when you need a quick, weekend breakfast. But our problem is that we let the mix sit there unused because we rarely take the time to eat pancakes. This weekend, we decided to test the mix as a waffle instead of a pancake. (Finding that it works just great if you add slightly more mix to make the batter thicker.)

I opened a pack of frozen blueberries and we put half in the batter for the waffles and I put the other half in yogurt.

blueberry waffle collage

For dinner on Sunday, I was going to be home long enough that I could make something that took a few hours to cook, so I took two of the three packages of ox tail that we had and the two cans of whole tomatoes in the pantry (leftover from when we didn’t have any more of our home preserved ones last season) and a bunch of CSA items and made Braised Oxtail over Rigatoni from Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen.

braised oxtail collage

So that put a miniscule dent in the pantry and freezer stash. But that’s how I’m going to chip away at the excess!

Here’s where I stand now with pantry and freezer items. I can’t wait to see more of these crossed off.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dreid cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) (2) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix (4) (3)
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio City pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) (1)
Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

Introducing the Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge

Have you ever tried to put away groceries and realized you have no idea why there’s no room for anything in your pantry or your freezer? Or opened the cupboard to stare at a bunch of food and say “there’s nothing in here to eat!”

I’m ashamed to say that this happens to me a lot. For all that I write about how we use our CSA items (and we do), I too am guilty of the over-full pantry and freezer. We make a concerted effort to eat leftovers, and we rarely throw food out anymore. But part of that is because we have created a hoard in the freezer(s) and pantry.

I think it comes from a good place – the mentality of trying not to waste and to preserve and save food that’s perfectly good to eat. We’re good at eating up fresh food in the house because we know we’re racing the clock. But if it’s frozen or shelf stable? We’re actually pretty bad at that.

So I was thinking. Why not put it out in the open and make myself accountable to use this excess that I’ve accumulated? And the idea of the Pantry/Freezer Clean Out Challenge was born.

I went through my pantry, main freezer and chest freezers to determine what needed to be “cleaned out.” The things that have been sitting around for awhile, waiting for a use. I didn’t include things like baking items, spices, oils or staples that we use frequently, because they rotate in and out of the pantry on a regular basis. For cuts of meat that we use frequently (such as ground beef, steaks or venison), I left them off the list. Some freezer items were left off too, if they are used regularly – like homemade chicken broth or nuts.

I snapped some photos, but I’m embarrassed to say this is only part of it.

freezer items

pantry collage

The whole list is daunting. And it’s really embarrassing.

Brown rice 2 portions beef stew Pizza Joes pizzas (2)
Dark chocolate bar (56% cocoa) 1 portion corn and poblano chowder Cortland apples
Dark chocolate bar (75% cocoa) 1 portion mushroom bolognese Swiss chard
Unsweetened chocolate bar 1 portion venison chili Thai veggie gyoza
Penn’s Corner hot pepper jelly (2) 2 portions stroganoff Kaiser rolls
Penn’s Corner strawberry jelly 5 portions bolognese sauce Alexia french fries
Penn’s Corner dilly beans (2) Hog jowl bacon Pork gyoza
Evaporated milk Slab bacon Coconut chicken tenders
Bag sundried tomatoes Hot dogs Venison jerky
Stuffing mix (1.5) Hot sausage patties Roasted hot peppers
Honey buffalo sauce Venison sausage Roasted sweet peppers
Dreid cherries with pits Hamburger patties Raspberries
CRO Bloody Mary Mix Pork shoulder Ripe bananas (1 million)
Chuck’s Hot Salsa Blueberries (3) Frozen basil
Cinnamon applesauce Strawberries Apple cider
Pearl couscous Cranberries Pierogies
Maifun rice sticks Corn (2)
Rice Ramen Peas Grape juice
Orzo Macadamia nuts Homemade whole grain pancake mix
Braised eel Spinach and ricotta pierogies Fresh tomato sauce (2)
Coconut milk Harvest bread Roasting chickens
Whole tomatoes (2) Hot dog buns Chicken wings
Red enchilada sauce French bread Lamb chops
Whole canned jalapenos Ciabatta roll Ground lamb
Butter crackers Cheese tortellini Duck legs and thighs
Graham crackers Pizza crust Ham shank
Black turtle beans Ohio CIty pasta Kale sausage
Dried chick peas Pitas Pork neckbones
Dried kidney beans Puff pastry sheet Pork liver
Arborio rice Bear claw Pork heart
Partial dark chocolate bar (70%) cocoa PB donut Ham hock bones
Beef marrow bones Rhubarb thumbprint cookies Pork breakfast sausage
Beef neckbones Potato and pea samosas Country style pork ribs
Beef round steak Pork and vegetable dumplings Chorizo
Beef soup bones Naan Puddin’
Catfish Green onion pancakes Beef heart
Beef hot dogs Oxtail (3) Beef mock tender
Beef shank Beef shank Beef cross cut roast
Beef stew meat Beef liver

So there it is. Each week, I’m going to show you what we’ve “cleaned out” from the pantry and freezer, with the goal being to use several things each week. It will take us awhile to work through the excess, but I have a few goals for this personal challenge:

  • Room in my pantry for things we use, so that nothing takes unnecessary space or gets wasted
  • New recipes that push me out of my comfort zone (what the heck is a beef mock tender?)
  • A new appreciation for eating food that we have instead of just food that we want

I’ll report back on Mondays to talk about what we used during the week. (Though since I got this idea on Saturday, I’ve already used several things, which I’ll talk about tomorrow.) I’ll also post photos on Instagram (@nextgenhouse) under the hashtag #cleanoutchallenge.

Do you have a freezer or pantry that’s overflowing? Join me and clean it out!

make it yourself: baked garlic croutons

I’ve mentioned in my CSA posts before that we eat salads on the regular. At least once a week we have salad night – and typically it’s one of Mark’s prep/cook nights. But last night he was otherwise occupied with 5 million errands, so I hopped in. I knew we needed more croutons and had him give me a quick phone tutorial on how he makes our homemade ones.

Making your own croutons is actually super easy. They were actually finished by the time I had all of the other vegetables prepped! Here’s the basics of how Mark makes ours. (See the end of the post for an actual recipe.)

This week I used some leftover sourdough bread that Mark had made. When we have loaves of bread, we put the leftover slices we might not use in the freezer right away before they mold or get super hard. Sometimes we have enough for croutons right away, other times we stock pile until we have a few more slices.


Microwave the bread for a bit to make it easy to cube.


Cube it up and throw it on a baking sheet to toast for 10-15 minutes.


When the bread is toasted, toss it in melted butter, garlic powder and salt. (Though really you could use other seasonings if you were interested.)


Return to the cookie sheet and bake for another 15-20 minutes, stirring at 5 minute intervals. After you’re done baking, let them cool and then chow down!


Croutons are super simple to make and help you waste less bread. We are typically a sourdough house, but you could make the croutons out of other types of bread, or mix and match. They also can save you money, since just a few slices of bread makes enough croutons for at least 6 servings (and I admittedly go heavy-handed on the croutons since they’re so delicious).

Make it Yourself: Baked garlic croutons
Makes 4-6 servings

~6 slices of bread (can be frozen or just stale) 
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
Garlic powder and salt to taste

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • If bread is frozen, microwave for 15 seconds to soften enough to cut easily.
  • Cube bread into desired pieces. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Bake until bread is toasted, 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove and toss in a large mixing bowl with melted butter and garlic powder and salt to taste. (Go ahead and taste them – they might be a bit chewy at this stage, but you’ll know if you got the seasoning right.)
  • Return to baking sheet and bake for another 15-20 minutes, stirring at 5 minute intervals until crunchy and golden brown.
  • Let them cool and eat them by the handful. I mean, put them on a salad, like a classy, civilized person.
Note: This is a recipe that isn’t an exact science. You might like to use more or less butter depending on how much bread you have or what type it is. This is more about the method than the specifics.



make it yourself: morning glory muffins

I’ve been interested in getting back into baking more regularly. I used to bake constantly, but as I’ve tried to stay away from excess sugar, it’s become harder to justify making cake after cupcake after cookie. So I’ve turned to our King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book for some healthier alternatives. 

This weekend I tried morning glory muffins – made from whole wheat flour and a melange of other healthy ingredients. More than I’ve ever tried to pack in a muffin before, certainly!


The dry ingredients are just whole wheat flour and some brown sugar, plus the usual leaveners and salt, and ginger and cinnamon for spice.


The most time consuming part of this – even more than the baking itself – was grating 2 cups worth of carrots and a cup of apple (I used braeburns from our CSA). The chickens were pretty happy with the carrot shavings and apple peels!


Added to the carrots and apples (plus some raisins which were soaking in hot water, but were gross looking from the murky water and thus not really picture-worthy), were walnuts, coconut and sunflower seeds.


Wet ingredients were canola oil, orange juice, vanilla and eggs. No butter, which helps keep the calories and fat down, too.

The batter was quite thick and chunky. It definitely wasn’t an airy muffin, since it was hand mixed and less air was worked into the batter.


The cookbook said this made 12 muffins, but I’m thinking they meant the large muffins, because it made 24 standard size, coming in around 176 calories each, with a lot of fiber, protein and fruits and veggies. 


These are great breakfast muffins, because they are hearty enough to keep you full for longer than a typical sugar packed muffin would. And probably would make good snack muffins as well, since they aren’t going to give you a sugar rush in the afternoon.


If you’re interested in baking with flours other than regular refined all-purpose flour, definitely check out this book. Every recipe I’ve made in this cookbook has tasted good, and it helps you remember that whole wheat doesn’t have to taste like cardboard! I plan on trying out some whole wheat honey biscuits next – they are calling me!


I wasn’t paid or perked by King Arthur Flour to say good things about their cookbook. They have no idea who I am. And the link for the cookbook was for your convenience, not an Amazon affiliate link. Full disclosure.

Real Life CSA: week 12, produce

Back with the CSA after a week off, and we’ve got two new items as well as an explosion of tomatoes. 


Celery is a new crop for Kretschmann’s this year, and this is our first taste. I’m seeing ants on a log in my future. That or part of a mirepoix. Both ends of the culinary classy spectrum, there.

The potatoes and thyme look so good next to each other, they’ll probably end up that way in a dish.

I am never sad to see lettuce in our CSA. Their lettuce varieties are so flavorful, and in a house that eats salads every week, we always appreciate them. So much better than salad in a bag!

Loving all of the tomatoes we got this week. I have plans for fresh salsa this weekend, with all of our hot peppers from our own garden coming in. 

If you follow me on Instagram/Twitter (@nextgenhouse), you might have seen me declare refrigerator pickles a raging success. I opened the first jar last night and I was thrilled with the results – crispy and salty and full of dill flavor. The only pickles I like are homemade, so these are a huge treat for me.

 
Might have to try some bread and butter pickles next. And next year? I’m going to try full canning of pickles again, now that I think I’ve mastered the process (pickle crisper + correct cucumbers for pickling = yum).

make it yourself: kale chips

When you first encounter kale in a CSA box or in the grocery store, you think – oh yes! Kale! That leafy green everyone says is the ultimate health food! But what do I do with it? A simple saute in olive oil doesn’t do it for me – too bitter. I like it in stews or braises where it’s cooked low and slow. But what about in the summer when it’s too hot to make a thick stew? How about kale chips?

Sure. Last year I attempted kale chips and had disastrous results. They had a burnt and bitter taste, like they were the scrapings off someone’s dirty grill. But this weekend, faced with two bunches of kale that was starting to wilt and zero inspiration for use of it in a meal, I decided to try again.

Enter Martha Stewart and the advice of the Everyday Food blog. I decided to try the Sriracha version, since we’re big fans of the rooster sauce in this house. 

First you cut the stems out of the kale, rinse and spin the water off.


The only toppings are coarse salt, olive oil and a bit of Sriracha.


Mix it all up (and put it in a bright pink bowl).
 

Bake low and slow, watching the “chips” closely to make sure they don’t burn. The recipe above calls for 300 degrees, but because our ovens tends to be on the hot side, I bumped it down to 275.

I stirred every five minutes or so. Once the smaller pieces and the edges were crisp, those pieces were removed and the rest went back in the oven to crisp up.


They ended up being delicious! I want to try some of the other flavor combinations suggested in that recipe with the next kale we get, now that I have a better method for baking them.

Before you store them, don’t be afraid to let them “breathe.” Mine turned slightly soggy after a night in an air-tight container for some reason. I think they needed more time to fully dry out than I gave them. But I’d definitely consider this a make your own snack food success!

make it yourself: soft pretzel rolls

I sort of have an obsession with soft pretzel rolls. Growing up my family would often eat soft pretzels as a snack, and having always been someone who liked salty foods more than sweet, pretzels are a favorite of mine. Whole Foods’ Bakery carries soft pretzel rolls and I usually have at least one weekly. Also, they’ve become my favorite pre-race/run carb. So I got to thinking – I should really make these myself.

Having the day off of work on July 4, I decided to have a go at a recipe I found online. I have always used this recipe for soft pretzel bites, and thought I’d give a different one a try that was specifically for rolls, in case the ratios needed to be different for rolls.


The rolls are just bread flour, yeast, water, sugar and salt. The oil is used to line the bowl where the dough rises, and the baking soda is for the boiling bath that the rolls get before baking. 


First, get the water up to temp and add yeast. Pro tip. USE NEW YEAST. I used not quite expired but relatively old yeast. Why? Because I was too lazy to change out of my pajamas and leave the house. USE NEW YEAST.

Prepare the dry ingredients – bread flour, sugar and salt. 

Add dry ingredients to the stand mixer and mix using the dough hook attachment.

About 6 minutes later, you have this monstrosity. So far, so good, right?

Pull the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl, lightly rolling the ball so the oil coats the dough.

Cover and let it sit for 30-35 minutes. Theoretically, it should double in size. If you use old yeast, it gets bigger, but doesn’t impress anyone. (USE NEW YEAST.)

After your dough rises (or fails to rise, as the case may be), cut it into pieces and shape them into oblong rolls. Put them on a tray to rise (or fail to rise) again.

Meanwhile, get water boiling and add baking soda.

Drop the rolls in a few at a time and let them boil on both sides. Pull from the water and salt, putting them back on the tray to bake. At this point you should have 8 misshapen rolls on your tray. The yeast gave me one last gasp in the hot water before dying, so these plumped up to at least resemble rolls. If you are me, salt generously. 

Bake em for awhile, and they start to at least look like pretzels, lazy yeast and all.

Thankfully they taste okay and the inside texture is decent too and not like hockey pucks. So it seems that you CAN make pretzel rolls with lazy yeast, but I sure wouldn’t if/when I make these again. They might even make interesting buns for burgers!