Tag Archives: food

Self-Cleaning Cooking. Is It Possible?

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

I’m beginning to think this is a pipe dream.

Even something as basic as sauteeing 1/2 an onion gets involved:

  1. Storage it came from +1 locale
  2. Cutting board +1 thing to wash
  3. Knife + 1 thing to wash
  4. Storage for remaining onion +1 locale
  5. Pan  +1 to wash
  6. Cooking tool +1 to wash
  7. Butter storage +1 locale
  8. Butter knife +1 to wash
  9. Stove to cook it on +1 locale

Potentially there 4 areas (onion storage, unused onion storage, butter storage, stove) which could need to be cleaned, 2 food remainders to deal with (the other 1/2 the onion and the rest of the butter which also might need additional packaging), and 5 items to clean (cutting board, knife, pan, cooking tool, butter knife).

From a TWO INGREDIENT cooking task, there’s potentially 11 items or locations to deal with! No wonder the kitchen is always trashed after cooking a meal!!!

My only “hope” is that if I do my 5:1 item swap, this would involve cleaning or putting away 20 items.

Honestly? I wouldn’t have expected this kind of ratio, that it takes about 5 areas or cooking tools to deal with a single ingredient.

I’m sure this doesn’t hold true through a complex recipe, (You would use the same knife to chop things, for example.)

I tried to do a count like this for the simple recipe I made for dinner last night, 8 ingredients. It kept getting longer, more complicated and then I’d see something I’d missed, and it got longer and more complex. After 3 drafts, I decided to do the simplest recipe I could think of. This one.

There are variables:

  • Was the tool already in use and re-used without washing? Certainly this could be true for the stove, cutting board,  & knife, if not the bread board, butter dish and butter knife.
  • Is the potential cleaning something done as a part of the kitchen’s clean up, rather than because of this recipe? Possibly so for the onion’s original storage locale or the storage for the 1/2 an onion, although maybe not for the storage it is put into?

I am working on a way to chart this stuff so it’s easier. In the meantime, I have relaxed. I am overwhelmed for a good reason, this is confusing as all get out and much more complicated than I ever would have figured!

stack of dirty pots & pans

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Making Dinner, Meal Planning, Clean as you Go Cooking,Cookbooks & Other Fantasies

I haven’t been “Mrs. Domestic” for the past few weeks, yes? When I am, I know what dinner will be by around noon most days. Today? At 5:00 I asked DH if he was getting hungry? His answer was “Yes.” so I had to figure something out.

My friend Linda came by to loan me a book earlier today, Yes, that Linda, the one who reads and comments here a lot. We had tea, but my kitchen was a disaster.

DH & I were working on other things last night, our regular Monday routine’s been blown, and I just didn’t feel like doing anything after I put the food away yesterday.

I washed a load of dishes when I got up this morning, but there was still a backlog which needed to be dealt with.

Into this chaos comes Linda. Do I think she thought less of me? No. But long-run, I had an experience I rarely have, I was embarrassed after she left. Three loads of dishes later, I had to make dinner.

So, at 5:00 p.m., I’m thinking: Hm. Nothing planned. Nothing thawed. No prefab food. What will I make?

Ended up thawing 1 lb of chicken thighs, oven fried them, same way I do to make lemon fried chicken, without the lemon sauce. Cooked sweet potatoes with onion, ginger, and dried, sweet cranberries. Added chopped pecans and bacon bits (from the freezer) just before we ate. DH made peas. It was yummy! We’ll have the left overs tomorrow for lunch or dinner.

Tell me again why I need menu planning?

Was this frugal? Probably not. Maybe I need menu planning  so I can cook frugally?

At this point, the only reason I’d really consider taking the time and effort would be if menu planning meant I could finish dinner and have little or no mess to deal with from the prep. The only way I know to do that consistently is to use prefab foods, and I won’t.

Menu planning is pushed as a way to plan your grocery shopping. I have certain items I stock my kitchen/pantry with and cook from what I have. I rarely use recipes, except as guide lines. [I looked at the oven fried chicken recipe for how much oil it specified and used less. I looked up a Morrocan recipe for sweet potato salad for how many raisins, sweet potatoes, onion, and ginger they used. Used the same amount of sweet potatoes and dried cranberries, the quantity of water to soak the berries in and how long. Otherwise? Nope.]

I suppose cooking (or trying to) since about 1967 when I took Home Ec, that the meals I’ve made good and bad have given me a certain expertise. I’m not a pro by any stretch, but after 50 years I guess I can wing it successfully (sometimes).

So, if someone has a book where the meal planning = a nearly clean kitchen when the food is served? Please let me know! I would sure love to have it! I bought a Irma Rombauer book thinking that’s what it was. This one:

Streamlined Cooking, published in 1939. I went to a lot of trouble to acquire a copy. I thought my troubles were over! But neither the listing where I’d first found out about it nor the book dealer who sold it to me used the full title:

Streamlined Cooking: new and delightful recipes for canned, packaged and frosted foods and rapid recipes for fresh foods 

I’m not a fan of many prefab foods, canned, packaged, or frosted. The rapid recipes are all right and I use the book for that. And to remind myself that all the years in the book business do not guarantee that I know wtf I’m doing when I get a used book!

There is another “streamlined cooking” book I may buy at some point, authored by a woman who wrote a book I own, about using a freezer efficiently.

That book has actual techniques in it to help save you time and effort, but it’s also obvious that the book was solicited by the manufacturers of various and sundry kitchen gadgets, or her column (if she had one?) was subsidized by them, as the book has unabashedly about 10 pages of reviewed kitchen gadgets, most of which you can’t find now.  And the book recommends products I’d love to find, but can’t. She recommends a farm which mail ordered bulk frozen sugared fruit, but they don’t exist now. She recommends various packaging materials I can’t find.

I also can’t find a copy of her hints/tips cookbook to look at, first. After the Rombauer experience, I’m loathe to buy this one sight unseen.

The best I’ve found is MegaCooking by Jill Bond, it’s a book for cooking in bulk for the freezer. Wonderful book, has lots of useful ideas about how to save time, energy and money in the kitchen, but not self-cleaning cooking — and that’s what I’m after.

I’ve always loved a good fantasy!

images

The image isn’t mine, but it made me laugh out loud. I got it via Google Images.

Drowning in Food

This is the mid to end of summer glut: peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, kale, greens, onions, carrots, etc. all at once.

I got up at 5 a.m. to start dealing with my overflowing counter. In the past 4 hours I’ve roasted red peppers and chopped some for the freezer, dried a little, set aside tomatoes for salad/fresh use, made roasted tomato sauce, put the latest batch of potatoes away, etc.

veggies

I have a flea market tomorrow, so need to pack the car for that, involves a trip to the storage during the day (no access at night to the new space), my tables and most of the flea market merchandise is in storage, although of course I have some here. I have other steps to do for this as well, before 5 this evening.

If it wasn’t raining, again, I’d be outside as well today, putting Rustoleum on the wrought iron tables which we’ve stored for the past few years. We intend to use them on the porch. Great, but they’ve gotten rusty and so need to be wire brushed and then painted beforehand. Without the rain, I could do some or all of that or painting clapboards when I got to where I wanted to pitch tomatoes across the room rather than deal with them. (It happens. Not that I pitch them — but that I get where I want to!)

So — I’ve been up about 4 hours, had 1 cup of coffee and dealt with 10 lbs of food or more. How’s your day going???

J

Today

DH is working on upgrading the electrical system on his motorcycle. He helped me with some of the leaf moving (rake, then relocate). Later today, we’re off to the storage to work on that.

There are probably more books here ready to be gotten rid of. I gave one  to a neighbor. Have another to ask a second neighbor about and the yard is tidier than it was. All good.

The fertilizer I used up (we’d had it for 2 years, why?) was rained on for the next two days. A lot of it went into the bulb beds, and the daffs. and other bulbs are shooting up green sprouts all over the place. Partly because it’s time, but partly because they got fertilized just as they were starting their spring push. The rain was a blessing for them.

So we need to buy more mulch for the bulb bed to keep out the weeds (grass), but the bulbs should spread out quite a bit this year because of the timely fertilizer and rain.

I’ve been working on the spring/summer food/garden plans,  Between the farm we belong to and the garden I grow (sometimes, didn’t last year) we are usually drowning in green stuff by June. I want a better plan for what comes in/when and what I intend to do with it this year! I’m about 25% done with this piece. Finished the initial data gather yesterday. Pulling it together.  There are 2 or so more data gathering steps before I can make an actual plan, but it should get there.

Off to the storage — ho!!!!

J

We took a file box full of books and a few besides to the market which has the book bin. Gone! I have gone through one box since we got home and have started the 2nd. There’s about 10 more books in a bag to be donated, wherever it is we go next that will take them.

New Practices

I’ve been much better lately about using up our stored foods. I changed a few things and that has made all the difference.

  1. Rather than simply looking where I always have for food to cook, I make myself dig through the dark corners of the freezer or pantry before I start cooking. Frequently, I’ll find something which alters my proposed menu.
  2. I am trying really hard not to have leftovers, so I am actively working at using them  the following day if we aren’t using them outright for lunch.

Last night’s dinner, for example, was canned baked beans, with additions. The additions were smoked pork neck (needed to be cooked) and onion. There’s about 1/2C left. Also, after I cut the pieces off to add to the beans I still had a larger bony hunk, which I boiled.

I’d forgotten about that bit of broth and boiled meat but when I dug into the pantry  this morning and found a lima bean and barley soup mix, I decided to make it for dinner (it had been on the bargain shelf at the market).

When I got to the kitchen,  I realized I had a pan of cooked, smoked pork and broth to use up too. So, I did the obvious. I used the broth (and the meat) with the soup mix. The seasoning packet is separate, and I may or not use it — depends on the flavor about 1/2 way, in 45 minutes or so.

Previously, I might or might not have used the soup mix (I gave away a bunch of these last year) and/or the broth (I made and tossed TWO batches of turkey broth in November). I am working hard at changing how I deal with food and wasting as little as possible. Getting better!

Is DIY worth it? A Slightly Different Way to Decide

For example, take bread. Probably the cheapest way get a year’s worth of bread would be to grow your own grain, grind it into flour, use a DIY sourdough starter and then make bread as needed. Of course, if you live in a city apartment, that alternative is just nonsense. If you’re working 3 part-time jobs to make ends meet, it’s also nonsense.

Frequently, you’re trading your time and efforts for money. To decide if it’s worth doing something like baking your own bread you can go one of two directions. You can price it out by ingredients, or you can decide the effort is worthwhile based on the other factors: the time and effort to avoid DIY.

To compare store bread,  in my area  to making my own:

I based it on what I’d make if I made bread as an unskilled job.  (I’m not a professional baker.) If  I make $10/hour and baking bread takes 3 hours a week, that’s approx. $30/week.  (Yes, it ignores the fact that you don’t spend all 3 hours making bread, I know and doesn’t talk about the fact that the recipe I use make 2 loaves at once.)

In our neighborhood, a loaf of the bread we like is about $5, we use an average of 2 loaves a week, or $10. Bread takes 3 hours start to finish for 2 loaves here, or $30 of my time. On the face of it, it would  seem to be cheaper to buy it than make it. ($10 for store bought as opposed to $30 for DIY.)

There are the other factors: we’re about 11.5 miles from the closest supermarket. At $3/gallon for gas, that’s about another $5.50 in gas, for two round trips.* That makes our weekly total,  about $35.50 (baking time + gasoline). Also, that 11.5 miles takes about 1/2 an hour to drive each way, so that’s another $10 in time spent, per trip.

So you have DIY= (time without fuel for baking or materials=) $30
Buying from a store $20 (driving time x 2) + $5.50 (gas) + $10 for the bread.=$35.50

For us, it’s cheaper to make our own bread using time and fuel as well as the final product to compare. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary!

What prompted this blog was the many price comparisons based only on ingredients for  DIY vs. store bought. The best approach would be to include all of the above factors AND all the ingredients and fuel to bake bread. However, that would include things I do not know, how much fuel my stove (propane) uses in an hour of baking time, for example.

If you use a partial DIY alternative, like buying frozen bread dough, you can cut the time factor down for DIY to simply the hour and a half to let the bread rise and then bake it.

So  a partial  DIY= (time without fuel or materials=) $15 Which is of course cheaper still!

And no, I do not have a price handy for frozen bread dough. I’ll have to look the next time I go to the market! Bread dough is usually sold in 3 or 4 packs.

So would it be cheaper to bake your own bread or not? You decide!
*I don’t know about you, but I almost never actually buy 2 loaves of bread at a time, so we end up making two trips a week. If you eliminate the 2nd trip, making bread at home or buying it at the market are almost equal. You know yourself best!

Whaling Away on the Food Notebook

for various reasons.

  • It’s one of the most universal of the projects I have to ready for sale.
  • It’s spring and so I’m thinking about growing food, saving $ on food, preserving food, etc.
  • I found recently an entire resource for data I hadn’t before (it didn’t exist) and so I’m adding that data.
  • I’m tired of “playing” with this and want it in a usable form!

Also, I’ve been sheeting receipts and going through boxes of papers. I did that for a while yesterday and tossed the obvious stuff (bill envelopes, manuals for things we no longer own, etc.) consolidated 2 bins into 1. One less box in the living room. Yay!

Two days ago I happened to have the time and was near the car wash with the free vac, so I vacuumed part of the car. It isn’t clean mind you, but it IS cleaner!

Today? I have the usual variety of tasks: Get the 2′ pile, books mostly, off my desk and DEALT with, change the sheets on the bed. Do a few more loads of laundry, raking and yard clean up (will be ongoing for at least another month, I can’t do this in a marathon, but I can peck away at it for a LONG time). And, finally, start the cleaning job in the bedroom required for the furniture move.

Of course, there’s always the shoulds too: get rid of another pile of books in the living room, clean the cat box, get all the dishes washed,  etc.– the usual never-ending on-going chores, with the seasonal additions of yard clean up, vegetable seeding, and car cleaning.

It’s spring, life goes on!

J