Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Freezer Pantry Challenge- the early days

So, my introductory post was yesterday but I had conducted my inventory and wrote it on Sunday. Today I am bringing things up to date with my progress for meals for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

When I did inventory we had 1/2 a gallon of milk, no flour, no brown sugar and no half and half. So I did spend about $10 because they are some key ingredients for things I want to make coming weeks. (Plus, we always need to have milk to drink)

Sunday I barbecued chicken that my older daughter has declared a favorite of hers. It's basted with a simple balsamic vinegar glaze. We also had brown rice, canned green beans (the only version my kids eat) and sliced one of the heirloom tomatoes from our CSA that I drizzled with extra balsamic glaze. Here's the recipe for the chicken.

Grilled Chicken with Balsamic Glaze
4 Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless) or whatever chicken portion you prefer
Salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons honey
¼ c. balsamic vinegar
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper to preferred taste.
Prepare grill and be sure grates are oiled.
Heat the honey in a small sauce pan over medium heat until it becomes thin. Add balsamic vinegar and let boil and reduce for 3-5 minutes. Be careful, it can splatter while boiling; keep a close eye on it. Remove from heat.
Place chicken on hot grill, grill for about 4 minutes until grill marks have formed, and then flip over. Baste with glaze and grill for another 4 minutes. Flip over and baste again, the flip one more time and apply more glaze. Be sure they are cooked through, then remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes.

On Monday I channeled my inner Southern self. (I have lived in CA all my life) and grilled bone-in pork chops that I basted with orange apricot preserves toward the end of cooking. I also had the craving for deep fried zucchini. I mixed an egg with milk to dip the slices in first. Then I made up a flour and cornmeal coating that included garlic powder and some seasoning salt. I was lazy and did not pull out my fryer and just used a regular frying pan. I also intended to fix a salad but instead just left the meal at the pork chop and zucchini. The zucchini was great. But isn't everything fried great?

Fried Zucchini

On Tuesday I decided to make use of a whole roasted chicken in the freezer and although its August and still rather hot here, I made chicken soup. Again feeling a bit Southern I decided to make dumplings for the soup. I've made them before but I was disappointed with how they turned out. One dumpling was fluffy inside the others were solid. I could swear it's the same recipe I used last time (from The Joy of Cooking) however I am now convinced that last time I must have used Bisquick and the recipe from the package. I am also sure that the texture of the dough and how it came together was wrong and I had a feeling it was when I was making it. I am pretty sure it was operator error. But it was easy enough to just scoop them out when I was saving the leftovers. A waste, which I hate, but at least it didn't spoil the rest of the dish. This soup was simple, I sauteed one of my many onions (which I'm saving to make French onion soup) and a couple of carrots with celery salt (because I don't have fresh celery) and the whole chicken. Then I add some water, to not quite cover the chicken and cooked it all down. The chicken was from Costco and so the skin provided a lot of flavor. Cooking it down to reduce the liquid also concentrated the flavor. I pulled out all the bones and then added more water, turned up the heat to bring it up to a boil and added a bunch of Trader Joe's frozen green beans. In the back of my head I was sort of keeping this more stew-like than a brothy soup. But when it was time to eat I mixed the dumplings and decided to add about 2 cups of chicken broth to have enough liquid to cook them.
Dumpling disappointment aside, the soup is pretty tasty. I like making it because I can multi-task while it simmers, and using a store-bought roasted chicken cuts corners on seasoning. I will still make my usual homemade chicken soup which is a longer labor of love (and a recipe I have started to write out and will post someday soon) but this made enough for me to pack a generous portion for my husband's lunch as well as a little serving for my toddler to have a preschool and there is still some more for about 2 more servings.

For Wednesday, I'm making beef tacos. I've always got tortillas and I happen to have quite a few avocados that I bought over a week ago for a party and when it came time to make guacamole they were still hard as rocks. My mistake for putting them in the fridge after just one day on the counter, I love that the fridge can extend the life of avocados, but sometimes there's an art to timing them to ripen when you need. So I put several out the other day, they are now perfectly ripe and back in the fridge ready to become delicious guacamole.

More on that tomorrow...

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