Sunday, March 5, 2017

Eat The Larder: Comeback Challenge

I have a tendency to hoard food. There's really just no getting around it. A combination of anxiety over running out and excitement over trying new things means that I overbuy, and buy things that I don't use often. This has resulted in an overflowing pantry and further anxiety. 

So every year at least once (and usually during the leaner months for hours at work), I try to challenge our household to the Eat the Larder challenge created by NW Edible Life: try to limit grocery purchases to perishables only, and eat through the non-staples and overstocked items. 

This year I'm enlisting the help of my neighbors, and putting together a couple family food boxes to gift through our Buy Nothing group. 

We are already a week into it but finally life with a baby is letting me get back to blogging, since I figured out how to make it work from my phone, except pictures. Which means I can blog while nursing!

Make sure you're connected to us on Facebook where I post snippets about, for example, how batch cook days are going! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Being Gentle: Pregnancy Edition

Being pregnant has been a roller coaster. I've been sparing you details, hence the radio silence.

One thing I struggled with early on, especially so early in recovery for a restrictive eating disorder, was eating "junk" food. It made me keenly aware how ableist and toxic our modern discussions are about food and food-health connections.

I had been struggling already to follow my doctors' orders about eating whatever sounds good, however much of it feels good, whenever I want and need to. After a decade of self-imposed eating restrictions, it was a difficult adjustment. But one I needed to start before I got pregnant. Because I was already getting better at it when I was suddenly thrust into "morning" sickness and all my careful food choices became impossible to manage.

I knew my OB was the right one for me when she said, and this IS a direct quote, "I don't care if you live on mashed potatoes and Sprite until the day the baby is born, just eat whatever you can get in your face and don't worry about it."

Meal planning? HA! I haven't been able to plan more than 30 minutes ahead, let alone hours and days ahead. It's starting to get better though, thankfully.

So the biggest adjustment has been with beverages. I LOVE plain tap water, the fetus has decided it's poison. I can do carbonated water, but if tea has no milk or sugar added to it, it gets violently rejected by the end of the cup, despite "morning" sickness being pretty much gone. It's like my body just really can't handle beverages without substance.

But on top of that, needing to drink constantly and spending the last 20 weeks in a haze, I was really struggling to drink if it involved anything more than opening a cap. We ended up buying a flat of Gatorade from Coscto, but then saving the bottles & refilling with bulk batches of the powdered stuff to save money. We're just buying fizzy water in bottles because frankly we can't keep up with stocking it from the Soda Stream, because once it's opened it's flat so quickly. I finally broke down and admitted that even having a pitcher or jug of something in the fridge is too much to handle, not least because I can only reach the top shelf of the door of the fridge right now. So we bought a flat of apple juices, and now I can refill them with juice and iced tea.

It's the environmental and financial aspects that really threw me for a loop with these single serving drinks. It feels so wasteful! The fact that we're continuing to re-use the bottles helps. Let's not get into any discussions about storage though. I haven't seen my dining room table in months.

This whole bring pregnant thing has been an adventure, and I know it will only get more interesting with parenting an infant. Let's just hope we're up to the challenge.

We're Expecting!

I haven't been posting because WE'RE HAVING A BABY! And growing a tiny human is exhausting. 

But I'm 24 weeks along now and finally starting to get some of that second trimester energy bump, so hopefully I'll have anything to write about soon. Well I do have one thing to write about, but hopefully it will be more than that! 

In the meantime, I'm basking in the pregnancy glow. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Recipe: Harvest Fruit Salad

I made a fantastic top-of-my-head Harvest Fruit Salad for thanksgiving, and everyone LOVED it. In a meal full of rich, dense, salty flavors, this salad felt like a palate-cleanser between courses. Very bright and refreshing, tart like cranberry sauce and serving a very similar purpose.

Keep in mind, this recipe is a bit of a work in progress. Besides being a dump cook, I also made a recipe twice this big for 15 people and it turned out to be way too much, though no one was upset being sent home with leftovers! Scale up at about half an apple (or pear) per person, and you should be good, even with some leftovers.

2 Honey crisp apples
2 Granny Smith apples
2 Some other kind of apples (I tried to get the ones that are pink inside but no luck; make it flavorful and visually appealing)
1 Pear
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup candied walnuts, for garnish

4-6 lemons, probably

Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 to 1/2 cup canola oil (avocado or a light olive oil would be good too, as would almond oil)
Almond extract (maybe 1/2 tsp?)
2 tsp Honey
Salt (small sprinkle)
Lemon juice reserved from the apples

1) Zest lemon, and add it plus all the dressing ingredients to a blender, minus the lemon juice. Pulse it, then let the lemon infuse while you do the rest of the salad.

2) Juice 2 lemons into a small to medium mixing bowl. Dice the apples & pear into small cubes. After each fruit, toss them with lemon juice, strain, and reserve the liquid for the next fruit. When your juice doesn't easily coat the fruit, add the juice of another lemon. Be liberal with this, you still need lemon juice leftover when you're done.

3) Toss the apples & pear with dried cranberries and almonds.

4) Add the lemon juice from washing the apples into the dressing blender, and emulsify. Adjust flavor to taste; you may need to add the juice of another lemon.

5) Toss the salad with the dressing. To serve, garnish with candied walnuts (or uncandied, for that matter) and maybe a sprig or two of mint for color.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Menu: Nov 9-15

You know how I said we'd already planned half our menu for this week? Yeah. Guess what we forgot?

Incidentally, this week was not difficult for menu planning at all, so I'm just going to save those ideas for next week. And it's an easy one too, I guess we just weren't feeling too complicated today.

What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: Steak & eggs, Breakfast hash, english muffins, oatmeal.

Lunches: Mini pizzas, leftover soup (tortellini and Tuesday's chicken), burritos, sandwiches.

Snacks: Applesauce, fruit (oranges, grapefruit, apples & nut butter).

Monday: Mr. Moon's hosting again so we're taking advantage of his meal being free! I'm kind of hoping they have a nice wine-free special because I'm getting a little worn out on ravioli. [Out]

Tuesday: Thai Chicken Soup [chicken; soup; Thai; rice cooker]

Wednesday: Spaghetti, with fresh mozzarella and homemade sauce [vegetarian; pasta; Italian]

Thursday: I got sick last week so we're trying CanapĂ© dinner again. This time featuring caprese salad and who knows what else. [small plates; date night]

Friday: I've had a craving for butternut squash so, it's Curry squash soup [vegetarian; crockpot]

Saturday: Chili & hot dogs [leftovers; freezer]

Sunday:  Hey guess what day we missed making a meal plan for? We'll do it on the fly I guess. [ ]

What's on your menu this week? Need planning ideas? I'll be linking up at, if you need other resources!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Menu: November 2-8

Why was menu planning so hard this week? We were struggling to come up with something suitable for Saturday night, but kept coming up with things that were not too difficult but a higher difficulty than we wanted for a late night dinner.

Which now that I say that, I'm thinking of making some sort of difficulty level for menu items. Fridays & Saturdays have the potential to be a late night, so we like to have dinner in the crockpot or at least fully prepped so all we have to do is heat it or even just walk in the door and eat. Monday & Tuesday nights we have to work around whatever Mr. Moon's evening schedule is, plus knowing there's an early morning ahead so we don't want to risk dinner being too late. On-Call shifts we basically treat as if he's working, as far as dinner prep goes. So besides just working with a "Weeknight vs. Weekend" kind of difficulty level, it's "I don't want this to take more than ten minutes" and "30 minute meals are okay" and "early morning/double shifts = something ridiculously easy" and "day off = something new/more complicated/ prep & cook & eat all at once" and then there's of course date-night dinners where we make something complicated and fancy.

On top of difficulty level, it was trying to keep some variety in our menu. Not having pasta, rice, or chicken two meals in a row. Not having two meals that are basically the same thing with just a different starch or a different meat, let alone in a row. So we ended up with Saturday sandwiched between chicken & rice (Fri) and beef & barely soup (Sun) and burned out on curry and a week full of soups and pasta so of course we kept coming up with things like curries, pastas, soups, or rice with chicken in them. Infuriating.

Anyway, so we have 5 of our menu items set for next week already, all but one of which are work-night dinners. And one of them is a F/S dinner so that's good. Hopefully that will make next week a little less frustrating to set up.

PS I promised to tell you how savory french toast went: It didn't lol. We bumped it for something else because plans changed and then I wasn't feeling well. Oh well!

What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: egg sandwiches, oatmeal, frozen egg burritos.

Lunches: quesadillas, grilled cheese & tomato soup, chili nachos.

Snacks: fig bars, v8, apple sauce.

Monday: Meeting Mr. Moon at work for dinner. [Out]

Tuesday: Pork Chili Nachos [Pork, leftovers]

Wednesday: Tortellini soup (seriously if this gets bumped again I'm cutting it completely) [pasta, vegetarian, soup, easy]

Thursday: Date night! CanapĂ© dinner & a movie in our "home theater" [fancy]

Friday: Chicken, broccoli & rice casserole [chicken, casserole, rice]

Saturday: Barbacoa tacos [beef, crockpot]

Sunday: Lamb & Barley soup [lamb, soup, crockpot]

What's on your menu this week? Need planning ideas? I'll be linking up at, if you need other ideas!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Menu: Oct 26 - Nov 1

Happy Halloween! My favorite day of the year, tied with my birthday. Traditionally in my family we always had chili and hot dogs in the crockpot for Halloween. When I moved out here, I missed a year doing it. I didn't need to feed a family of people at different times, or have something ready to warm us up when we got back from trick or treating. But still, I found I was kind of sad about it. So the next year, I introduced Mr. Moon to my longstanding family tradition of chili & hot dogs as Halloween dinner. And I've done it ever since.

Somehow we ended up with an easy week ahead of us, though still with plenty of home cooked meals in store. We're getting used to the new schedule, albeit with a few reservations on my part. I'm keenly aware that we're over stocked with food, and we're working together to eat through it instead of buying more, so this menu focuses a lot on Eating the Larder as it were. 

What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: Oatmeal in the rice cooker; bagels & cream cheese; eggs.

Lunches: 1 serving leftover curry paneer, 1 serving pita pizzas, tuna melts, pizzadillas.

Snacks: granola bars, power balls, fig bars, V8.

Monday: Mr. Moon has a work shift that includes a meal as part of his compensation, so I'm meeting him for dinner at his work! [Out]

Tuesday: Tortellini Soup [vegetarian; pasta; soup; comfort food; Italian; easy; crockpot]

Wednesday: Sesame noodle bowl [pasta; easy]

Thursday: Savory French Toast -- We are going to try something different! There's frozen sourdough bread we need to use up, so the batter will have some as-yet undetermined herbs and spices, then we're making hollandaise to go over it in place of the syrup. We'll let you know how it does! [vegetarian; something new; breakfast for dinner]

Friday: Broccoli Mac [vegetarian; easy]

Saturday: Happy Halloween! Chili & Hot Dogs [meat; beans; crockpot]

Sunday: Steak & potatoes [meat]

What's on your menu this week? Need planning ideas? I'll be linking up at, if you need other ideas!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cocktails: Making our own grape-free Vermouth

I have a jar collection. It's a habit that borders on hoarding, in the sense that I compulsively save them because it seems a shame to get rid of something so useful, except that I actually use and cycle through my jars doing various projects.

This is one of those projects.

Since I'm allergic to grapes, we simply omit vermouth from any cocktails that call for them. Of course, it means the cocktails are not quite right. I got a wild idea one day to figure out what it would take to make our own, and discovered... it's actually really easy. It just required a lot of small jars. Which I happened to have on hand.

A selection of vodkas steeping in assorted jars. Here: Pepper, Coffee, Orange, Cardamom.
There's plenty of recipes online, but it boils down to:

  1. Steep some flavorful things in a spirit.
  2. Carefully add the flavored spirits into some sort of dry wine, tasting as you go, until you get a flavor you like; the final result seems to be a goal of about 50/50 wine and vodka. 

Of course, it's more complicated. For dark drinks, like Manhattans, apparently you're supposed to use a dark vermouth, something I didn't even know existed. This involves steeping your flavorings in a dark spirit, such as a rum or a brandy, adding it to the wine, and adding a caramel syrup--ending up, one presumes, with a rather sweet vermouth. But something like a Martini calls for a light, comparatively-dry vermouth even if it's a sweet-light, which would be steeping the flavorings in vodka, adding to the dry white wine, and omitting the caramel syrup. Again, this is a layperson's understanding from the moderate amount of research, please do feel free to correct me.

We're going to do a light dry and a dark sweet vermouth, but still using vodka for both. The wine, due to my grape allergy, is mead. Most fruit wines would be still too sweet for the dry vermouth, but mead is available in quite dry varieties. Sake would work too, but Mr. Moon isn't terribly fond of sake, and I didn't think it would be polite to start with that right away. Though I might make a small batch with it just to experience the difference. As for dark & sweet vs. light & dry, I have a mead that's quite a bit dryer than I usually drink it for the light vermouth, and a nice rich, syrupy, deep, dark mead for the dark vermouth.

A selection of vodkas steeping in assorted jars. Here: Clove, turmeric, rosemary, hibiscus, juniper, vanilla.
I didn't follow any particular recipe. With the understanding that the end result should be somewhat medicinal in flavor, I just picked a bunch of herbs and spices and teas I had around, and went to town. I set Mr. Moon on the task of taste-testing the vermouths they serve at his work (they have 3 or 4, and at least he'll be familiar with the kind of flavor profile we're attempting to achieve). I'm not even going to remotely imply I had this much vodka just sitting around, but I didn't want to go on a huge quest for ingredients. After all, gentian root and wormwood were especially difficult, and I never did find any.

A selection of vodkas steeping in assorted jars. Here: Dill, cinnamon, chamomile, mint, oregano
In the end, I have 19 vodkas steeping with flavorings:

  • Orange
  • Coffee
  • Ginger
  • Vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Coriander
  • Cardamom
  • Pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Juniper
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Hibiscus
A selection of vodkas steeping in assorted jars. Here: lavender, basil, coriander, ginger.

As you can see, some jars are bigger than others. Pepper vodka is amazing for screwdrivers, and bloody marys of course. Lavender makes a fantastic lemonade, and I imagine the ginger will go far in all sorts of mixers. The turmeric I don't expect to have much use for beyond this project, and it's such a strong flavor I only made a little bit.

And I want to note: this stuff doesn't have to be Pinterest Pretty. I have mismatched jars with reused lids, and I'm not ashamed that my pictures won't win any awards or end up in a magazine. This stuff is fun, and I'm going to share it regardless. 

I am thinking the dry light vermouth is going to be more floral and herbal, where the sweet dark vermouth will be more spicy and rich but with a lot of herbal tones as well. Here's wishing us luck!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Menu Planning for the Rest of Us

I've discussed before what my method of menu planning is. It hasn't changed much with it just being the two of us agin, except that if we don't do it, there's no one to suffer but ourselves!

The basics boil down to:

  • Know what you have in the fridge.
  • Know what's in season/on sale.
  • Know your schedule and be reasonable about what you can accomplish.
  • Make the most of the time you spend cooking. 
With our more-limited freezer space, I find we now focus less on freezing heat & eat foods, and more on having versatile ingredients on hand to make a variety of meals fairly quickly. Instead of making a pan of broccoli mac to put right into the oven, using freezer space for noodles that could otherwise be dry storage and ingredients that can only be used for one possible meal, we have pre-roasted chicken shredded and frozen in meal-size packages just waiting to be casserole, tacos, a pre-made pasta salad for lunches, and more. We buy foods and store them with this idea in mind. 

I already find some menu items troublesome because it's so easy for the amount of food to get away from us or for the effort to do something to not seem worth it for just the two of us (like, meatballs). A friend of mine is living by herself, working and going to school, and committed to the same kinds of whole foods, conservation, self-reliance, reasonable preparedness that we strive for. In helping her brainstorm menu planning ideas, it occurred to me how different our needs are, and how that impacts things like meal choices and food prep. 

We can't plan more than a week in advance. The nature of the restaurant industry is, there's no such thing as a set schedule, or a monthly schedule. People try, but it only works in very precise situations. We're lucky if the schedule that starts on Monday comes out the Friday evening before. However, her schedule comes out a month at a time, with a week and change to spare before it starts! Plenty of time to plan ahead. 

I started looking at menu items again as one of four possibilities:
  • Cook a batch where you can freeze the leftovers in meal-sizes (such as a batch of chili; or risotto which could be used as a side for any number of proteins later, or as a vegetarian main course). 
  • Make-ahead options that can be used in part for tonight, and a few frozen to be finished later (such as serving-size lasagnas in mini casserole dishes; prep four, bake one now, freeze three for future dinners). 
  • Prep-ahead things that won't freeze, but will keep for a few days to be munched through the week (such as a lentil-kale salad that can be lunch for a couple of days or a side dish for dinner; or all the fixings for sandwiches so they can be assembled right before a work shift, on demand, etc.).
  • Cook Just Enough meals that won't really reheat well at all (such as stir fry or spaghetti--but maybe components can be part of prepping ahead, like using the same pot of water to make spaghetti for tonight, and pasta for salad for the week). 
With the ability to look a month ahead, I'd AT LEAST go as far as mapping out my month to know when I need to carve out time for food prep days (likely the last day off before a stretch of work days, especially if that includes a sleep schedule shift to accommodate) and when I need to be pulling something from the freezer to eat (work nights, project deadlines, midterms...). If each recipe serves 4-6 people and each day off work includes cooking a meal that will freeze for later meals, that's covering 3-5 future dinners in the same amount of time it takes to cook one. Even if I don't pick what menu items each of those will be until I see the ad papers with what's on sale for that week, at least it means not starting from a blank slate every single Sunday. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Updating our chore chart, and protecting Relaxation time

Our new schedule, as I mentioned a few days ago, included needed to re-arrange our chore schedule. I'm sure I could have sat down and worked it out myself, but part of being a team means it's important that we are BOTH included in the work that shapes our lives. It's important to both of us that even if we do each have skills and responsibilities consistent with traditional gender roles, we are making our choices together and mindfully. It's one thing to have me typing up our decisions that we make together and helping him stick to them; it's another thing altogether for me to make decisions for him when they primarily impact his schedule and responsibilities as if he has no information or opinion to contribute.

It was a perfect opportunity to discuss as well what parts of our current/now-previous system were in need of improvement, and what new habits or skills we want to be incorporating. For example, we've had a bad habit of going grocery shopping and leaving just enough time to get home, put away the perishables, and jet off to work or appointments or what have you. While that itself might not be entirely avoidable, being mindful to take the time to actually put the groceries away and not leave bags and piles of non-perishables in the dining room is critical. As is not buying the 5 lb bag of shredded cheese with the intention of freezing it into 1 lb bags and then leaving it in the fridge until it molds not long after getting into the second pound of cheese. We either need to spend more money by buying these items in smaller packaging, or spend more time dealing with them in an appropriate timeframe (which would of course be right after we get home from shopping if at all possible).

Part of our chore system is building in time to make sure those things are happening. Ideally, it might only take 10 minutes once a week to tidy the dining room and even dust it. However, we have some re-organization projects going on in every room of the house, and in case for example we didn't get to putting all the groceries away, the dining room is on the list twice a week for 30 minutes of attention. Should we find that after tidying, dusting, maybe even vacuuming, there is in fact nothing to organize or clean, we can at that point start looking at reducing the timer for that room. So while our system now has about 90 minutes of chores each day on top of cooking largely from scratch and the resulting dishes, that includes any and all such projects as cleaning out the storage/office, building a can caddy storage system for the pantry, or alphabetizing the wayward pile of DVDs. It's our attempt at building good habits and keeping everything in manageable chunks of time that also allow for hobbies and relaxation. Because it doesn't matter if you spent 2 hours chatting with friends and reading today if you did it standing in the kitchen/laundry room feeling like you've spent all day cleaning with no time to yourself while being nagged about how long it takes you to do simple tasks. Especially when you could have spent 2 hours playing classic video games or going to see a movie instead.

Here's hoping it works!
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