A Diary of Gathered Fragments: Every Bit Counts

I'm going to change this up ever so slightly.  In the past I've been planning meals and then I'd think of the Gathered Fragments that I ought to use and then I'd alter meal plans to try and incorporate those or forget all over again.  A whole lotta planning was going on without a whole lotta execution.  

This week I'm NOT planning meals, exactly.  I'm going to look each day, see what I have on hand and plan that day's menu according to what we have, incorporating those items that really need to be used up sooner rather than later.

Anything with an asterisk * beside it is a fragment that I'm trying to use rather than lose.

So this is what I'm going to do this week.  I'm going to tell you what I did each day, starting with today (Monday) and more or less keep a diary of my week of meals and fragments.  

Here's what we did this weekend: 

Saturday: I got up early and put a whole chicken in to roast early.  It was done by 9:15 a.m.  We had roast chicken legs and tomato sandwiches for lunch.  For supper we each had a chicken sandwich from one of the thighs (this was one of those HUGE Never Any roasters from Aldi).

Sunday: I made eggs and cheese grits and toast for our breakfast.  The grits used up the last of a block of Pepper Jack cheese*.  The Pepper Jack cheese was a good addition.  Although it was just an ounce or so the flavor infused the grits all the way through and really satisfied the taste buds despite the small amount of cheese.  

John wanted chili dogs so we had them for lunch and they were really good.  Good enough that he asked why I don't stock a small supply of canned chili for emergency meals of chili dogs.  

For supper, I took the last three Yukon Gold potatoes* from the cupboard and found them covered with eyes.  I cut those portions away and sliced 1 1/2 for  supper.   I diced the other 1 1/2, covered with water and will save those for sometime later in this week.  I halved one of the Beef Smoked Sausages we bought (7 ounces) and sliced that, diced onion and chopped some of the cooked green beans* I'd made earlier last week.  I sliced up the second half of the tomato* from our sandwiches yesterday.   This was a delicious one dish supper, very comfort food-ish which suited the stormy weather that had come in for the evening.

By the way, I have the potato peels scabbing over on the kitchen counter.  It is my plan to plant and see if we get a fall harvest of potatoes from the numerous eyes on them.

Monday:  I bought peaches on Saturday.  John immediately ignored the two perfectly ripe peaches in the fruit bowl and insisted on eating a 'fresh' peach.  It was so crispy and dry that it was like eating an apple, but he simply does not understand 'ripe'.   I took the two now wrinkly but perfectly ripe peaches* from the fruit bowl and put them into pancakes this morning.  I used the last of a boxed pancake mix* to make the pancakes.  I cooked the last five slices of the turkey bacon* to go with the pancakes.

While out of the porch feeding the cat, I noted that several branches had been knocked off the Christmas Cactuses.  I brought them in and put them in water to try and root them.  I don't NEED more Christmas Cactus, but I surely did enjoy the long blooming time this past winter and maybe I'll just expand my pleasure.

I put bread on in the bread machine right away this morning.   Thinking of bagels,  but decided to make English muffins instead.  I used my favorite oldest cookbook, The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook and used the recipe they had in the bread section.  Instead of scalding milk, I used some warmed yogurt whey that Bess gave me.  I mixed up my dough and it was fully risen about the same time the bread got ready to go into the loaf pan for it's next rising.

These muffins were cut with a big jar lid.  The recipe recommended a 4 inch cutter.  Y'all...that is one BIG English muffin.  I'll use something smaller to cut them next time!  I found the muffins I attempted to cook on my Cast Iron griddle burned even with lower heat than the other pan which is a Cooks heavy stainless steel 12" skillet.  I scrapped cooking on Cast Iron and just used the Cooks skillet for the rest.  I didn't get the 12 the recipe said I'd get. I ended up with 9 minus the most badly burned one (which we used as our taste tester). We'll have one each in the morning for breakfast and then the rest will go into the freezer for future meals.

For lunch, I took the three hot dogs* left in the packet from last week, plus the one remaining cooked one*.  I reheated those in the water I was boiling to make Kraft mac n cheese.   We got three boxes yesterday thinking Caleb would enjoy the mac 'n' cheese.  He had a diced hot dog, mac 'n' cheese, half a ripe sliced avocado* and a container of mandarin oranges.  He ate every bite!  John and I used three of the last four hot dog buns to make hot dogs and ate the rest of the mac 'n' cheese.

After Caleb went down for his nap, I rummaged in the fridge and brought out the chicken from Saturday (plus two breast halves I'd baked Friday at noon before John arrived home with the yummy pizza).

I thinly sliced the tenderloin for Caleb and set that aside in a jar for his supper.  Then I diced about two cups of chicken* thigh and one of those breast halves.  I mixed the chopped meat with 2 ounces of green chilies* that I'd found in the 'use it' basket in the fridge, grated the hard dry aged Gouda* that John felt was too sharp to eat, 1 cup of expired but still good sour cream* and some garlic and onion powders.   This evening I opened a small can of Verde Enchilada sauce and after pouring about 1/3 into the chicken mixture, I filled 7 corn tortillas* with chicken filling, poured over the rest of the can, and topped with more grated Gouda and mozzarella cheeses.

I pulled out the last of the English cucumber* and discovered that the tip had started to decay but the rest of it was still crisp and good. I sliced that and made a green salad.  I found a piece of a jar of Ranch dressing I'd made and we hadn't yet used up.  I set those aside for salad for tonight.  

I shucked the two ears of corn we bought on Saturday and after rinsing them off, put them in the vegetable saver box to cook as a side tonight.

For Caleb's supper, he had a fruit sauce packet, thinly sliced chicken, some Strawberry Banana Puff things (baby snack food) and a pumpkin and spice grain bar.  He ate like a champ.  He might not feel well but it hasn't affected his appetite in the least.

I set aside ten of the corn tortillas to use for something else (I sort of have an idea) and then I took what was left (about six) and cut those into 12ths and baked them for 15 minutes at 400F.  Caleb and I snacked on chips and guacamole as an afternoon snack.

Tuesday:  We had breakfast sandwiches on English Muffins and I have to say they are quite good.  Definitely going to make them smaller next time.  As well, it's a good reminder that just because one recipe doesn't suit me doesn't mean no recipe for that item will suit me.  I might try others in future but I have to say, there's really little reason to move on from this one recipe.

After breakfast, I started to plan our lunch and dinner.  I cut up one chicken breast* and used up the last of a bit of homemade BBQ sauce* .  Originally I'd thought I'd make sandwiches but then I remembered the good sized portion of potato salad in the fridge that we needed to eat.  That made a very good side to our BBQ Chicken.

Caleb ate another of the tubes of yogurt* that I'd frozen some time ago.  He apparently likes the cold yogurt on his gums.

While Caleb was napping I started a Mississippi Roast in the slow cooker.  I had a jar of Pepperoncini juices (and a few peppers but not many)* that I had saved for just this dish.  I didn't use a full packet of Ranch dressing either.  I much prefer to use just a few spoons of the mix and since I had a smaller roast, just 1/2 stick of butter.

Halved the recipe on the back of a partial bag of chocolate chips* from the freezer to make a small batch of chocolate chip cookies. I followed Rhonda's example of making smaller cookies and got 36 cookies from that half recipe.

I also cooked up the last of the mushrooms.  They were just this side of not being worth salvaging but I rinsed them well and found they were firm yet.  I made up the sauce for Spaghetti ala Diable.   I did add a small zucchini to the sauce.  It extends the mixture nicely and zucchini is so bland it takes on whatever flavors it's cooked with.

Here's where I'll add a frugal note.  I've grown accustomed in the past few years to using portabella mushrooms, which are not the least expensive ones to use,  but a 4 ounce can from Aldi is about 49c and not a bad purchase overall.  In future, if I need this dish to be more frugal, I'll use one or even two cans of mushrooms rather than a punnet of Portabellas.  I noted tonight, since I'd pieced out my portabellas with a can of mushrooms that in this dish, I do not mind the texture of canned mushrooms at all.

Wednesday:  I found those last biscuits* and toasted those this morning.  Glad I'd put them in the fridge.  There was really just enough for one, but John, who'd assured me the night before that he meant to work and wouldn't be eating breakfast before hand, decided that after all he really should eat.  So I split the portion and we each had a smaller breakfast to begin our day.

I made chicken salad from half a chicken breast*.  Enough for both John and I to have a sandwich and leftovers as well, likely enough to do two more sandwiches.  

I put celery in the chicken salad.  I went into the crisper drawer and there was a round object in the drawer with the celery.  I thought it was a cabbage but then remembered I didn't have cabbage.  I pulled it out and unwrapped it. It was the last of a head of Iceberg lettuce*.  That became tonight's salad.  I was glad I found that lettuce!

I added the root end of celery and the trimmed pieces from the top sections to my vegetable broth bag in the freezer.    Skin from the whole chicken breast went into the broth bag.  

The remaining breast meat will be used in one of two ways on Friday.  I have two recipes in mind.  We'll see which one wins that day.

The Spaghetti ala Diable for tonight's meal went into u two smaller loaf pans.  That is more than enough for the two of us (indeed, even for three full servings as Caleb ate half a portion and we've a half portion leftover).  I put the second pan into the freezer for a future easy to make meal. 

I found three peaches in the fruit bowl that were just beginning to look wrinkled.  John won't eat them at that stage unless I give them a makeover.  I made a fruit Crisp with the three peaches, 1 cup of blueberries that were lonely in the freezer.  I used the last half cup of some quick oats* that was rattling around in the cupboard.  

I had some homemade French dressing* that was really tart.  I added a bit more sugar to it and then some mayonnaise.  That made it far more palatable.  I recalled at supper tonight that somewhere in my recipe file I actually have a tried and true French dressing and next time I'll be sure to use that one instead of looking one up online 

Thursday:  I had washed the romaine the other day and found both heads were starting to break down.  I cut away the bad portions and wrapped the lettuce in cotton towels.  I should have done this sooner.  I cut up some to use on our tacos for supper.  The taco shells* were my fragment, a half box of shells from a previous meal.  I put them in a plastic zippered bag and that keeps them fresh.

Last night, as I was sitting here I suddenly realized that buried in my fridge was a half gallon of milk that I hadn't touched in a week.  I got up to check it and sure enough it had started to turn sour.  It will not be wasted.  I'll use if for something...but doggone it, I feel like one step forward two steps back.

Used another cup of yogurt whey*, this time to make our bread for Shabbat.  I felt it would be far easier to get that done tonight while the weather is fairly cool and Caleb isn't coming around a hot stove.  He didn't burn himself but he did touch the stove in a spot that gets warm enough to make him snatch his fingers back.  No crying though and no blistered fingertips but I decided then and there no more hot ovens while baby boy is running about.

Thursday:  I was determined to make a dint in the sour milk today.  I was reading back over last August and I had the same issue and I mentioned making a lovely little spice cake called Old Lady Cake.  I searched in my oldest and best loved cookbook, The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook and found the recipe in the 'Leftovers' section as one of the possible uses for sour milk.   I don't even remember eating this cake last year but I did make note that it was very tender and fell into pieces when I took it from the pan to cool.  This time I'm letting it cool in the pan longer.  We don't need a cake right now, so I plan to put this one in the freezer.

For breakfast I cut up the last three peaches* from last weekend's produce purchase.  Caleb and I had some with our cereal.  The rest I chopped and put in the freezer.  I didn't get quite a quart but it's enough to make a cobbler at some time in the future.  

Realized that the bread I made on Monday was slightly dry and getting crumbly.  I was looking up a possible recipe to make with the last of the chicken I roasted on Sunday and discovered a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens for a Chicken Strata.  Strata is not something many people eat these days except as 'Breakfast Casserole' or French Toast casserole, but apparently this dish has been around and adapted over many many years.  There are even recipes for it in my oldest cookbook which was first published in the 1920's.

Chicken Strata for the win today, using both the bread and subbing in sour milk* for the more typical fresh.  My milk is only just turning sour, not clabbered so I wasn't too worried about using it in my strata.   I'm rather looking forward to this recipe which I've never made before.  The strata is assembled and resting in the fridge.  Just before putting it in the oven, I am supposed to top it with a can of condensed mushroom soup and some buttered bread and bake, then top with cheddar and bake until it melts.

Lunch today was some 5 Bean soup I apparently put in the freezer in February.  I thawed it and reheated it.   We had some chicken salad from the other day, John ate his as a sandwich, I just ate mine as it was.  

I still have sour milk to use and think I'll likely make some biscuits this evening or over the weekend ahead.  I can always put those in the freezer as I find them handy to have on hand.

And that's my Gathered Week this week...You can see we've eaten well even though I never planned a meal at all at the beginning of the week.  This is working so well for me just now that I am going to continue on with it.

(C) Terri Cheney