RIP BBB

Remember way back in September when I first posted about Big Batch Beef, my make-ahead secret weapon for nights when I was pressed for time?

Tonight, I used the last of in a kind of deconstructed cabbage rolls #makedo recipe.

You may recall that the batches are supposed to be used within three months. Ha!

I lost my deep freeze in the months since this last batch was made, so I am not sure how much I can store if I choose to make it again. I still advocate pre-cooking ground beef for those winter months, though. Its a budget-saver on those evenings when A&W drive-through is so tempting.

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Stuff I Don’t Throw Out

Monique’s hottest recipe is Compost Soup.

What’s Compost Soup?

StefonIt’s that thing where you take all the wilted and not-quite-fresh-anymore veggies in the fridge, chop them up and add them to whatever stock you happen to have on hand, season liberally with cumin or curry or cilantro or whatever, and blend the living daylights out of it until it is all the same colour. Sometimes delicious, always edible.

“You can really taste the compost.” -My Husband

Since I’ve had Oprah on the brain, I decided I would compile a list of some of my own favourite things. This stuff is all in my kitchen at this very moment. Don’t tell my husband, or he might try to throw it away. (jk. I think I’ve mostly worn him down.)

1. Bacon Grease

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Every time I cook bacon, I pour the fat through a strainer and into this jar. Sometimes I have two of them in the fridge if we happen to have eaten a lot of bacon.

I use it for roasting vegetables (Brussels sprouts are a particular favourite), cooking eggs, and baking bread.

We are almost out, as you can see, which means it’s time to buy more bacon.

2. Black Bananas

wpid-wp-1415581675647.jpegSometimes I buy these already bagged for baking in the store. There are usually one or two that are still edible as-is. Then I keep them till they go really dark and use them to make oatmeal breakfast cookies. I mash them up with my hands and add rolled oats, some kind of dried fruit, shredded coconut or ground flax seed, sometimes some protein powder and maybe a little cinnamon and make them into mounds, baking them for a while until I think they’ve dried out enough. Then I freeze them and take them for work breakfasts.

3. Bones and Veggie Peels

wpid-wp-1415581768345.jpegI make my own stock about once a month. I have a big Ziploc bag in the freezer where I throw all the bones from things we eat, carrot peels, onion and celery bits, and when it’s full, I dump it into my Crock Pot, cover it with water and about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and I leave it on low for about 24 hours. I don’t really like how it makes the house smell, but it’s worth it for the mineral-rich broth I get out of it. This is what the bottom shelf of my fridge looks like at any given time.

4. Half-eaten Apples

wpid-wp-1415581908875.jpegYou know when your kid comes home from school, and he’s only taken three bites out of his apple and stuck it back in his lunch box? Well, rather than stomping your feet and railing about food waste, why not just cut the brown parts off, slice up the rest of the apple and throw it in a freezer bag? Then, when it’s full, you can throw it in a casserole dish with some coconut oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon and bake it into a quite fine topping for fridge oatmeal, or even real oatmeal if you have that kind of time.

I did a batch today. Those are frozen cranberries.

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5. Coffee Grounds (New!)

Good friend of the blog Stephanie turned me on to this new trick a couple days ago and I must say I am hooked. Take your used coffee grounds and use them in the shower as a face and body scrub! The critics are raving:

“I read that it’s something strippers do to make their skin look better!” -Steph

“I feel like someone replaced all my skin with some better skin.” -Steph

“I did that coffee thing and it was bawm.” -Me

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CSA Day

Our weekly menu depends in large part on what we get in our CSA shares (Community Shared Agriculture, in case you were wondering).

Here’s this week’s:

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This is prime CSA season.

We get ours from Taproot Farms, a family-run operation not far from the city. The shares go quickly and they typically fill up before the end of the registration period. In 2013, we were lucky enough to take over a spot after registration had closed from Jarrod and Alison, a couple of cool people who moved to another province. We split our shares between our household and my mother’s, which ensures almost everything gets eaten. Only half of the food we got this week is pictured above. Mom got a whole duck!

For the first year, we got veg shares and fruit shares. If you’re already a share member, you get to pre-register for the next season, so this year we added meat shares. These generally fill up before registration is open to the public. It’s all about the meat. It’s fantastic.

I try not to purchase produce and proteins outside of what we get in our CSA shares. My monthly cost for 50 weeks of share deliveries is $125, most of my food budget. Apart from the local, seasonal produce the farm sends us, I regularly buy bananas, citrus, and avocados. Dairy and eggs are always supermarket purchases for us, and I will occasionally pick up some cheap meat. I try to buy pantry staples in bulk.

If I’m cutting out all convenience food purchases, I want to be able to keep my non-CSA grocery spend to $75 per month, or $18.75 per week. That seems unlikely. I’ve already spent $11 on groceries and it’s only Wednesday.

Could I buy cheaper food in the stores? Yes, but I think the cost:quality ratio is worth it, and it saves me gas and time since I don’t go shopping as much. And there’s no chance of an impulse magazine purchase.

 

Garden Noms

I don’t grow any of my own food. I can keep store-bought basil plants alive for a decent amount of time, but that’s really it. There is a backyard garden in my brain, but I’m not yet convinced I have the time to devote to it. We don’t get much sun. It seems like more of a challenge than I’m willing to take on right now.

Luckily, other people grow food for me. In addition to our CSA boxes (more on that later this week), sometimes I come to work to find the Produce Fairy has left me a little treat on my desk.

Today, it was this snack-sized cucumber and red bell pepper:

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It’s nice to have friends whose thumbs are so green.

Bread Update

This happened:

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They tell me my oven was too hot or my middle rack was too low. Probably both. I scraped off the burnt bottoms and have declared them edible, so they are now in my freezer.

Thanks to everyone who’s been kind enough to provide me with their favourite bread recipes. I will try them all. We don’t have a bread maker, so I’ll be mixing either by hand or in my stand mixer and baking in the oven. My mother uses her bread maker regularly, so I’ll pass those recipes along to her.

Keep that advice coming.

We Eat Meat

My rules state that I can’t buy convenience food. To me, that means I can’t bring anything home that I could have fairly easily made myself. This prohibits take-out, microwave dinners, baked goods, ice cream, and anything else I would be tempted to pick up while shopping hungry and short on time. Avoiding convenience food means having things on-hand that I can make quickly. One of my freezer staples is Big-batch Beef.

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I bought a bunch of ground beef super-cheap right before a long weekend, and I cooked it all up with onion and garlic. I like to keep the cooking seasoning a bit benign so it can be spiced up whichever way I want, depending on the meal. I cooked four packages. Normally, I would freeze it in single layers on a cookie sheet and then transfer it to bags for storage (this is really the best way). I didn’t do that this time. I’m sure it was a mistake.

We also eat pasta, so much of this frozen beef will become sauce-filler. I’ve also used it in tacos and chili. The recipe says it will keep frozen for three months, but I will probably keep it longer. I play fast and loose with the useful life of food. My Compost Soup is the stuff of legend.