Thursday, 12 July 2012

Eating Through the Pantry – III

This has not been the best week. David had a deadline, which basically means any semblance of order in the place falls to me because he spends all his waking hours in his office, working. I, however, have been suffering from a feeling of general unwellness/exhaustion, thanks to being 9 months pregnant, and the meal plan I made for this week was a little too ambitious for our schedules. We've stuck to it, because that's the food that was in the house, but it's meant a week of late suppers and 'wasted' evenings (I can never do anything useful until I've had dinner)... such is life! I'm particularly grateful that I have Friday off this week, as I'm definitely in need of a three-day weekend in which to rest and relax.

This week’s challenge ingredients: a Schwartz packet of spices with a recipe for beef & beer stew on the back and around 60g of semolina:

Do I even need to tell you that trying to use up 60g of semolina is a challenge? It’s not enough for bread, but it’s too much to use as a dusting on pizza bases. That I managed to work it into a recipe is surely deserving of some sort of award! I’ve also included in the 'challenge' some muffins which I made entirely from odds and ends in the kitchen.

Saturday & Sunday: Oatmeal, Yogurt, & Walnut muffins; Grapes

I made these as part of my attempt to find a filling, nutritious muffin recipe. Mum said I’d be wise to make batches of muffins and freeze them once I start breastfeeding, so that I can have a really nutritious snack without having to do any work (she recommended bran muffins with a piece of cheese). I have a giant sack of oatmeal in the pantry and I do find that I feel better overall when I have porridge for breakfast. At the moment I can easily make instant porridge at work, but we don’t have a microwave at home and so I’m trying out oatmeal muffins.

They got a little scorched because I was distracted by reading and not paying attention to the clock or the smells coming from the kitchen...
Verdict: Really good, although a little bit on the sweet side so I’m going to work at cutting down on that, probably by using honey or brown sugar for the next batch. I threw in the tail end of a bag of walnuts and dusted the tops with nutmeg. They’re not too cakey and they have a good oatmeal flavor. And, I think they’d be really excellent with some fruit spread or jam!

Tuesday: Beef & Beer Stew with Dumplings, baguette, corn on the cob

These spice + recipe packets are a gimmick that Schwartz Spices are trying out. We bought a couple for David to make, but then life got super busy and he never got around to this last one (which was the most labour intensive). Also, it's pretty sad that it's cool enough to cook stew and be able to eat it in July... more torrential downpours/flood warnings today!

Verdict: David really enjoyed this, but I thought it was just so-so (which was the same feeling I had about the other pack we bought). My own Guinness stew recipe is much better, as are David's mum's dumplings which we make when we have her stew (hers is also delicious and loaded with sweet potatoes and squash and all those yummy things). I thought the dumplings were too soft, and the herb flavour was really overpowering. Needless to say, I won't be buying these Schwartz packs again. The other problem with them, aside from not really liking the flavours of the ones I've tried, is that they are a damned nuisance to use. It looks like the spice containers should open easily, but they don't, which takes up more time then it would to just hunt in my cupboard for the spices. Although you'd think they would be pre-measured, they're not necessarily (for this recipe it was OK but for others I had to waste time measuring them). I guess they're an alright bridge between packet/sauce-bottle 'cooking' and real cooking, but it doesn't save any time and the recipe isn't any easier than any other stew recipe. I was disappointed enough with the product that I actually wrote to the company (via an e-form) to give my feedback.

Wednesday: Prosciutto, Mozzarella, & Basil Stromboli; Tomato & Cucumber Salad

I tried to roll it up. Then it looked like a murdered slug. If there's a next time, I'm getting David to do it.
Finish product, however--delicious! And much less resembling something pallid and bleeding.

Verdict: The salad was pretty good--I couldn't get mustard oil so I just used olive oil and some wholegrain mustard I had in the fridge. The cayenne pepper was a nice surprise. It wasn't too overpowering but it gave the salad a good kick. It's not the best tomato salad recipe out there, but it is something really different from the norm. As for the stromboli, this has been the bane of my existence this week. David and I have both failed to find time to make the dough (considering that making the dough consists of plunking everything into the bread machine and selecting the 'dough' setting should give you an idea of how bad this week has been) so this meal kept getting pushed until later and later, when it couldn't get pushed any more. I really hate working with dough and this dough is really sticky, so it didn't come out looking as nice as it should've. In fact it wasn't until I woke up in the middle of the night that I realised I'd rolled it up the hard way. And, since I was meeting a friend for coffee tonight, I had to make it the night before and then cook it when I came home--after being stored in the fridge overnight the dough collapsed and the tomato juices made things a bit liquidey. But the good news is that it tasted delicious! I won't likely make it again, as it wasn't something I enjoyed doing, but I can highly recommend it. We followed the instructions with the recipe and dunked our pieces of bread in balsamic vinegar & olive oil. It's very tasty and the crust comes out absolutely lovely. 

I should also note that we are absolutely spoiled in the UK with the various food subsidies, so making stromboli was actually quite inexpensive even with the proscuitto and fresh mozzarella that the recipe calls for. I can get a ball of fresh mozza for 44p (about $0.66). Olive oil isn't too pricey either, and proscuitto is quite popular so it's easy to get cheap cuts of it sold pre-packed by the stores.

 We managed to stay on budget this week, and I even managed to sneak on a baby-sized fitted sheet. So that was good news. But I'm certainly glad the long part of the week is over and that I've planned easier meals for next week...


  1. Yummy! Nicole just brought my attention to this website: I haven't used it yet, but it looks useful!

  2. That does look useful! Epicurious has a similar feature if you use their 'advanced' setting, but not quite as good for pre-made stuff you'd just have laying around. I'll have to give it a shot :)