Thursday, January 22, 2015

Personal Pantry Challenge Lessons Part 1 (and an update on the Wee Clothing Experiment)

So, I've been doing a Personal Pantry Challenge.   By "personal" I just mean that I'm going it alone, not competing against anyone.

A "Pantry Challenge" is an attempt to eat what one has on hand.  Some people do NO supplementing from the grocery store.  Some people go ahead and buy fresh fruit and vegetables, or meat.  Some people eat lunch out or otherwise eat some meals/snacks elsewhere.  Some people go for extreme orthodoxy and eat ONLY WHAT IS ON HAND. 

Here's what I have been doing.

After coming back from a vacation with friends (Hi guys!), I felt a bit bloated from so much good food, and coffee and other treats.  So, I figured it would be a good time to take on a simpler eating plan for a bit.  Let things settle, you know? 

First I took an informal inventory.  I looked through the cupboards, on the shelf of home canned goods, in the fridge and in the freezer.  I had much food.  Some dehydrated, some dry goods, some home canned, a bit of store canned, some home ferments, plenty of condiments and spices, coffee, tea, and so on.  I didn't have much meat, no eggs, and no fresh fruit or vegetables.

It looked like I could do 2 weeks without much suffering if I added a bit of fresh. I could live for a couple of boring and very high fiber months if I really needed to but this is not a mission from god.

I decided on a grocery list of a dozen local pastured eggs, some greens, 2or 3 onions, and a week's worth of apples.  At the store I found that local pastured eggs were out of stock so I went with organic eggs, as large as I could get.

That was on January 6th. I managed to get out of the store with just what was on the list...and some extra rolls of toilet paper because I hadn't checked my stock on that and didn't want to have to run into a food store while not buying food.  I knew I'd get antsy to shop a bit.

As I type it is January 18th. (Probably won't get this posted for a few days though).

So far so good!  I ran out of fresh veg yesterday.  I went ahead and used up the last 1/4 of an onion and the last few carrots in a lunch frittata.  It was nice!  Overall I've eaten well and actually had some trouble keeping the calories down to a reasonable level as I ran out of fresh fruit and vegetables in the past few days.   I remembered that I had clover, alfalfa and broccoli seeds for sprouting and got a couple of jars of those going.  The first half of a batch of sprouts went on the frittata yesterday and the crunch was nice.  I'll be making a salad of them tomorrow.

I also remembered my lentils.  I had a jar of black beluga lentils for a year.  I didn't know what to do with them.  As I got ran low on other things I checked the internet and decided to do lentils and grain.  I cooked the lentils just in water and made more than needed for the recipe.  Extras went into the freezer in small containers and a few in the freezer soup container.  More on that in a moment.

The only grain I had other than flour, having eaten the last of the quinoa already, was what I thought was bulgur.  Turned out it was just cracked wheat.  I cooked it as though it was bulgur and it got a tad mushy...but was still delicious on the lentils!  I mixed the lentils into it, threw on a mixed southwestern spice that an aunt had sent me and it was delicious!  The black lentils stayed lentil shape rather than getting mushy.  True even when reheated after freezing.

I cooked up my last meat 2 days ago...a pound of local sage pork sausage.  Yum.  I had it with tomato sauce (made from home canned tomatoes, home dehydrated tomatoes, garlic from my garden, some onion, and various spices).  I had no pasta and no flour that would work for noodles (I wasn't willing to try 100% whole wheat noodles and risk wasting flour and an egg), but I did have a GIANT daikon radish that has been in the fridge since mid October.  It was growing new leaves so I figured it was not rotten.  I had checked the internet and saw that I could just blanch strips of it to use as "vegetable spaghetti" so I tried that.  It worked fine!  I used a vegie peeler to make strips, peeling away the outer skin first and using the inner bits as spaghetti.  It was good.  And super filling...and high fiber.  This has been a gassy experiment overall.

The last couple of days have featured freezer soup supplemented with dehydrated vegies.  For those not in the know, freezer soup is concocted of the remains of whatever you've eaten in the past while.  You keep a container in the freezer, I used a bowl with tin foil cover this time, and put in the little bits and bobs and ends you have left when cooking other things. I had a bit of unclarified, slightly fatty, duck stock.  On that was some bits of bok choy that didn't fit in the pan when I was making a stir fry a while back.  And the remains of the stir fry.  A few of those lentils.  The end of an onion that I didn't feel was worth chopping into an omelet or anything and yet was about to go bad so I chopped it into the freezer soup rather than throw it out. I saw some carrots in there too.  I threw in a spoonful of the sausage because sausage is always good.  When it was soup day, I fried some garlic (because a bit of fried garlic or onion or both really helps a soup), emptied the freezer soup container into the pan, added water to thin out the fatty stock quite a bit.  Then added some dehydrated mushrooms, tomatoes, and a bunch of herbs until it smelled good. It was really delicious and I ate on it for 3 meals.  I had a few corn/whole-wheat/coconut flour muffins (using up the dregs of flour around the place) which were dry and unappealing as muffins, but quite good dipped in soup.

There have been a few more creative cooking successes, and a few failures (coconut oil, honey and cocoa do NOT make good truffles no matter how pretty the picture in the magazine looks...and that was the actual would be a decent ganache though...) but we'll leave those for another post.

The PPC (personal pantry challenge) has thus far yielded quite a few good lessons that I want to remember so I'm putting them here:

1) Putting left over soup in pint jars makes packing lunch in the morning much easier, faster, and more likely to happen.

2) Muffins are handy and cheap, but lots of calories.

3) Chia pudding!  I'd forgotten how much I like this.

4) Freezer soup is good and worth the effort.

5) Onions are crucial (the next few days will be less tasty without fresh onions).

6) Sprouts make good fresh food in the winter (and are cheap).

7) Lentils with cracked wheat is an excellent dish!

8) Lentils!  In general these are cheap and quick and when dry have an essentially infinite shelf life.  I may make "sloppy lentils" (like sloppy joes) if today's 100% rye bread works out.

9) Keeping things visible is a good option for me.  I had forgotten things in the cupboards, but knew what was on the open shelves.  Since I keep almost everything in a glass jar or metal tin (take that mice and bugs!) I may just go with open shelves in my imaginary future cabin.

10) Condiments, sauces, spices, herbs, and the like alleviate boredom.  A bit of lemon juice or nice vinegar added to the bowl will cure almost any bland soup.  A bit of kim chi really helps the scrambled eggs and in a pinch makes a salad dressing.

There are many more lessons but we'll stop there for now.

Clothing Experiment Update:  I'm still doing it and STILL no one at work has noticed.

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