Domesticity Nouveau

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In the Kitchen

The kitchen is the center of my home... it is the heart of our dwelling. I think this is why I enjoy spending so much time creating there. Today I made bread for the week, 100 meatballs (which end up being about 30 cents per serving), farmer's cheese and roasted garlic. It sounds like a lot, but the bread took 5 minutes (click the link above to learn how, it is uber easy!). 30 minutes making meatballs which will create 10 dinners in total. The garlic took less than a minute to prepare and then just had to sit in the oven for an hour. And the cheese just took some time to heat the milk & drain the curds, not a lot of attention other than that. I maybe spent an hour total in actively working in the kitchen, besides that, I just had to wait for things to cook or drain and that freed up time to do other tasks.

You might ask yourself why I just don't buy bread and cheese and frozen meatballs and a jar of roasted garlic.... well, for three reasons: First, I know what is going into my food and it isn't full of preservatives. Second, I'm cheap, or more tactfully put, frugal. For an hour of work, I probably saved $35-$40, not a bad salary in my book! Third, I LOVE good, simple food, but object to the outrageous prices for something labeled 'gourmet'.

If you are curious, here are the recipes:

Roasted Garlic -
Heat oven to 250 degrees. Separate cloves from the main garlic bulb, but leave paper on. Cut off the root end of the cloves. Place cloves on a piece of foil, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and mix to coat. Close up foil to make a packet and place in the oven for about an hour.

Farmer's Cheese-
2 quarts whole milk
2 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice

Heat milk to 180 degrees, slowly over low heat, stirring ocassionally to prevent from sticking to bottom or skin forming on surface (this takes about an hour or so). Remove from heat, stir in buttermik, then vinegar. Stir gently until you start to see the curds and whey form. Let sit 10 minutes. Pour through a sieve lined with several layers of cheese cloth. Tie corners of cheese cloth together, and hang cheese somewhere it can drain for an hour or so.

I season mine and can't tell the difference from the really expensive alouette cheese spread. It's hard to say how much of the seasoning to use because each batch of cheese produces slightly different amounts. I would start with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 2 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp oregano. Usually, I just pull out a few tablespoons at a time and sprinkle the seasonings straight from the jar, but the above measurements will lightly season one whole batch.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
This is a great book to order, but you can get the basic recipe here. And yes, it is REALLY simple!!!

3 slices bread or 2 english muffins (gluten free works too!), pulsed in food processor to course crumbs
6 Tbsp milk
Mix together in large bowl of stand mixer and let rest.

1 small onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic pressed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Over medium heat in non stick pan, sweat onions and garlic until soft. Let cool slightly and add to:

1 pound ground beef
1 pound italian sausage
1/2 package frozen spinach
1 egg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
Add everything to mixer bowl with bread-milk mixture. Beat at medium speed for 1-2 minutes until combined. Form into 1/2 oz balls and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. I bake mine on a broiler pan so the grease can drain. Makes about 100 meatballs, 5 per serving.

Monday, March 2, 2009

aaaaaah, shopping....

Today was spent shopping... not in that way in which you throw caution to the wind and max all the credit cards, but in the fashion that requires concentration and math in order to maximize every dollar. Yeah, I know... math....

I have come to realize that the wise woman counts her pennies and frugally spends them. There is something to be said about the satisfaction of finding a fantastic deal and capitalizing on it! I have found a key to success in watching the budget is stocking up. This requires really knowing the price of items at the various stores in the area. To this effort, I have started a very nerdy spreadsheet in which I enter the cost of items from the receipts I have as souvenirs of my adventures in retail land.

Buying in bulk is a HUGE savings!!! But not always. It is important to analyze the cost per unit/ounce/pound/item. This is often on the price sticker posted on the shelf, but sometimes it isn't. My Dad used to make me do the math in my head when I was a kid ( I credit this, and cribbage, to my success in mental math Olympics... yep, 100% nerd I am!). Buying in bulk, and I don't mean the overpriced costco-sized supply amount, almost always saves money.

Bulk herbs and spices are the best example of saving money by buying bulk. A single jar of a spice can run between $3-$6. The same amount of herb that fills the jar is only pennies, yes, pennies!!! Today, for a jar worth of spice, I paid:
$.06 for dill
$.33 for cilantro
$.51 for minced dried onion
$.25 for parsley
$.28 for thyme
$.23 for garlic powder
$.46 for paprika
$1.03 for poppy seeds
Considering that I already had the used spice jars to refill, I think I saved at least $25, and added a lot of flavor!!!

Yes, it did take me a mere five minutes to fill the baggies with spices, and a few more seconds at checkout as the checker punched in the codes, but it really equated to a savings of $25 an hour... not a bad salary in my opinion!... oh, alright, I had to spend 5 minutes filling the jars, but still, I'm clocking in under 15 minutes. So... if I use those math skills, this could equate to $100 an hour for buying and storing my bulk herbs and spices! I love being nerdy!