Recipe for a dreary day

There are pros and cons of working freelance; however, one of the good things about it is that you can declare a “mental health” day when needed (within reason). Since I’m having a hiatus (but expecting incoming work so I know that I can’t do it again for a while, I’ve declared today a “duvet day: a mental health day in advance.

It’s not actually raining–merely drizzling so the patter of rain on the roof is missing, but it’s a duvet day!

Duvet Day

Ingredients

Take one chilly, dreary, drizzly, or rainy day and add as needed

  • One duvet
  • One cat (or more) or dog (or more)
  • Several good books of various genres  (hardcopy or digital, or both)*
  • PocketJuice for uninterrupted reader or tablet use**
  • Music to taste

Add sporadically throughout the day as required:

  • Tea (Harney & Sons) and toast***
  • More tea or herbal tea
  • Grilled cheese sandwich with soup of choice–chicken or tomato perhaps…. (sorry, not Campbell’s)****
  • Additional warm beverage as needed
  • Popcorn  (with truffle salt)*****
  • More books, as needed
  • Good bread, cheese, fruit, and wine for supper
  • Hot chocolate  (with a dollop of Jabberwock or Krupnikas), repeat as needed

Preparation

Combine as needed in desired quantities. A son gôut!

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*J. J. Salkeld is good–Lake country, non-bloody mysteries.

** external battery pack if you’re going digital. Large, heavy (as these devices go, usually used only for travel) but supplies a day’s worth of reading and keeping up with Facebook on a tablet,

***Coffee not applicable; get-up-and-go beverage not useful; favorite tea or herbal infusion

**** Progresso Hearty Tomato is easily turned into cream of tomato with just a dollop of heavy cream as you heat, but don’t let it boil

*****from Bull City Olive Oil (yummy, especially if a little olive oil is used to pop the corn)

O¿O

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Pork confit

 

Cool weather inspires cooking! Something warm and cozy–confit as a “pantry” staple for a starting point for multiple dishes. With the weather a bit up in the air I decided to make something that would give me lots of possibilities even if Matthew decides to visit.

Confit was originally made as a method of preserving meat–often duck or goose, but it’s a method that can be applied to other meats, fish, and seafood–e.g. tuna which I love for summer salads and cold meals but it’s a great starting place for cool-weather meals too. The traditional method is to poach meat in fat (oil) at low temperatures which yields meat that is intense in flavor, and absolutely luscious in texture. If you’re wondering, it’s NOT greasy! The Science of Cooking addresses many of the questions often asked about confit.

With cool weather here I decided to opt for my favorite meat–pork–and to try a slightly different method of achieving the end results. This inspiration sprang from finding country-style spare ribs on special at my local Harris Teeter market. Since the weather wasn’t quite cool enough for me to want to have the oven on for hours, I decided to use the my multi-function pot in slow-cooking mode to make pork confit.

packaged pork from the meat counter in the supermarket

Since country-style spare ribs have a lot of fat on them I decided that I didn’t need to submerge them in oil–the fat would render from them as they cooked in the slow-cooker. From experiments when I was trying to do monk fish sous vide, I knew that the slow-cooker mode would keep the temperature at 185ºF. Most confit recipes suggest temperatures between about 190ºF and 200ºF. I thought 185ºF would be workable (especially since the confit will be refrigerated after cooking) but will be covered with the rendered pork fat.

I took my country-style spare ribs and salted them liberally over night–e.g. “dry brine”, then rinsed, and patted them dry. Because of the fattiness of this cut, I added only a couple s tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of the cooker and packed in the meat. I didn’t add seasoning other than the previous salting so I have a flavorful (but kind of “blank” canvas) to build other dishes. I set the cooker for eight hours and went on to do other things–like hive inspections.

The liquid which (intensely flavored broth/gelatin) was separated from the fat that was rendered and will ultimately make its way into soup or as “au jus” with the confit. The meat is now tucked away in the fridge sealed in the fat. Since this was originally a method of preserving meat, now with the addition of refrigeration, there is a long shelf-life if you separate the broth/gelatin liquid from the fat and then “seal” the meat in the fat. Old method, but useful in modern cooking.

This cooking method works with any meat–a favorite in this household is confit made with chicken (especially leg quarters or thighs). I think that this fall as “turkey” season rolls around I will try to find thighs to cook this way. It might improve my attitude toward turkey given the flavor and texture changes that result from the confit process.

The result? Absolutely as good as if I had done it in the oven though requiring less added fat than I would have added for that method.  Enough fat rendered to submerge the meat about three-quarters of the way up the sides. Even without additional seasonings the meat is luscious immediately after cooking–pure unadulterated pork flavor.

What’s on the menu for supper? Well, I’m thinking cabbage steak (done under the broiler) with pork confit that has been quickly reheated and browned (also under the broiler) but with the tahini sauce replaced with the juice from the confit process.

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Krups rice cooker IMG_3796

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Always Hungry? What’s in the pantry?

I don’t do meal planning well…I don’t like to do meal planning.  I’d much rather be spontaneous about my cooking and eating. Okay, I’m a picky eater–my appetite varies with the weather, the season, and even mood. While I’m managing to be moderately successful with the Always Hungry? meal plans, I really appreciate the “how to” section for each phase. It gives me much more freedom to cook what I want to eat. Even so, I’m looking forward to getting past the first two weeks of Phase 2 when I can do even more improvisation. Besides weight loss, one benefit of reading the book and starting this has been a close look in the pantry. In my pantry inventory, I found very few items that were on the discard list so doing without a lot of the prepared or processed things was not really a big issue.

I’m fortunate that from where I live it’s easy for me to stop at the grocery store on my way to and from other errands, so I tend to shop for perishable several times a week–check out the market and see what looks good: meal planning on my feet.  There is a farmers’ market close to me that is open on Wednesday evenings and one on Saturday mornings.

Many times I cook without a recipe and improvise something from what is in the house; improvisation is much easier if you have a well-stocked kitchen and pantry.My only purchase that was specific for the Always Hungry meal plan was the whey protein. That may remain in my pantry after Phase 2 is over–shakes for breakfast work well for me since I really don’t want major food first thing in the morning.  The Stahlbush Island Farms frozen berries have been a huge help with these when fresh berries aren’t of best quality.

There are a number of  things that I almost always have around.  You can find lots of lists in cookbooks for things you “should” always have on hand, but all of those lists need to be modified to suit your tastes.  If you hate anchovies, then there is not much point in having those in the pantry.  I may not want to eat them on a sandwich, but they can add a very subtle, rich background flavor to vegetables like broccoli–used in very small quantities they won’t scream “fishy” at you, and they can stand in for nam pla in providing umami.

Though I do shop for perishables frequently, I want to be able to prepare a meal even if it’s so hot that I just cannot face going outside, so I  keep a reasonably well-stocked freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. Even just from the canned (not many things) and dried goods, I could produce a meal at the drop of a hat.  Canned tomatoes in several forms–diced, whole, fire-roasted (add a little smoky flavor to a dish) and quick sauces–are such a pantry staple that they need not get more than a passing mention.  Sun-dried tomatoes, a tube of tomato paste, capers, and roasted red peppers are some other things that get frequent use.

Some of these supplies also stand in for the emergency kit in case of hurricane or ice storm that results in a power outage.  Peanut butter is a staple, but that doesn’t mean that I want to have to pull that out of the cupboard for supper–that’s snack food or for breakfast on toast, or with slices of apple or stuffed into celery ribs.

Dry pasta is a great base for improvising, so it’s good to have several different shapes around to harmonize with what is going in it or on it.  Once the package is opened,  if the unused portion is transferred to a Ball or Kerr Mason jars so that it’s tightly sealed it will keep until the next time I need this particular pasta. It will be good to add that back into my meal (in moderation, of course).

Dried lentils are another pantry staple–they don’t need soaking before cooking; it’s so easy to make a side dish or a soup using them.  There are many kinds of lentils (as there are beans) that can easily add variety to your cooking and allow improvisation.  The basic “brown” lentil can be found in most supermarkets in the section with the dried beans and rice.  My favorite is  the French Le Puy lentil which are small and hold their shape well when cooked. If you use them often, it’s worth looking for other lentils such as small black, or Spanish brown lentils.  You might have to find a “gourmet” store, but these are worth having on hand as a pantry staple. Lentils combine well with rice or other grains, and can be cooked with rice, or alone, in the rice cooker.

Although it does take a bit of pre-planning cooking your own dried beans instead of using canned ones it is worth the effort, but canned beans are still a pantry necessity. Cooking your own has the advantage of controlling the amount of salt and seasonings.  (That is not to say that I don’t have canned beans of various kinds in the pantry–I do–and I would not want to be without them.)   Some heirloom beans and/or specialty beans have such different flavors that they are worth searching out.  You can soak and cook more than you need for a single serving and freeze them with some of the cooking liquid so that you have them for quick use when you haven’t planned ahead. (One of the reasons I’ve been able to stick with the Always Hungry meals as will as I have is that legumes are part of the program.)

barley and rice

Barley (left) & arborio rice (right)

Grains are another staple in my pantry: rice, barley, quinoa, and some of the commercially available mixes that provide variety in a convenient way.  Being able to add some of these in Phase 2 is so welcome!  Since I love polenta, but corn is off limits, I’m going to try the millet “polenta”, though I don’t expect it to replace the real thing.

Basmati rice (brown or white) is a favorite for long-grain rice.  Since risotto is a great way to improvise a meal,  arborio or another short-grain rice that is suitable for making risotto is on hand too. It’s good to use in soups as well.  Barley is also a grain that to have on hand at all times–it makes a hearty soup, it can be cooked like risotto, and it makes wonderful side dish instead of rice. Depending on the season,  bulgur and couscous, both the fine and the Israeli, are also likely found lurking on my pantry shelves. Especially in the summer, with tomatoes abundant, tabbouleh is quick, healthy, and easy as a salad or a side dish. There are so many good grains that we use all too infrequently, just waiting to be added to out diet.

Though not “dry” cans of broth/stock are good to have on the pantry shelves, right along with the canned beans.  As a further backup, something like Better Than Bouillon in whatever flavor you use most often–chicken is a good compromise.

American Tuna image of canOther helpers for improvisation, include good quality canned tuna (personal preference is for oil packed) which can make a salad heartier, or be used with pasta or beans for a main course salad. Sardines make a good meal with  crackers or bread and fruit. These are good staples in the emergency food kit (which should also contain a can opener–the manual variety) as well. Salmon is part of the pantry, too, for salad or for salmon cakes.

Some other ideas for “pantry” cooking recipes inspired me to add some canned goods to my emergency stash–but that doesn’t include using cream soups and the like for “dump” cooking–that doesn’t particularly appeal to me, but having some carefully selected cans on the shelf can be useful.

There are some freezer things that I have found particularly useful while using the Always Hungry? meal plan adapted for single-serving cooking: chopped kale and spinach, chopped onions lend themselves particularly well to getting green veggies into my breakfast. Instead of the formality of making a fritatta with veggies, I find making scrambled eggs with the veggies much easier and quicker. A handful of chopped onions, a handful of frozen chopped greens quickly sautéed before adding the eggs does the job in a way that fits my morning functionality. If there are some cherry tomatoes lurking in the kitchen, those go in as well. Between supplying that quick handful, the opened bags live inside a zipper-lock freezer bag, right back in the freezer for quick access. I find that i use them so frequently that I don’t even do the vacuum seal–just pressing as much air as possible from the freezer bag will do fine since I buy the smaller bags and use them quickly. Now that I can add starchy vegetables in small quantities I’ve found that the Stahlbush Island Farms frozen butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and beets are good to have for use a handful at a time.

In anticipation of maintaining the weight loss the I have achieved so far (and hope to achieve in Phase 2) there have been two additions to the pantry–the whey protein, and chickpea flour. In addition to the recipes with the meal plan for waffles/pancakes that use chickpea flour, I’m experimenting with making my own crackers from that, rather than the usual wheat-based ones that I like to have around to go with the pickled herring or cheese. Here’s to maintaining weight loss, eating in a healthier way, and enjoying good food.

A son goût!

 

Labneh

I finally got around to making some yoghurt cheese or labneh! I don’t know why it has taken me this long to do something that simple–it’s practically effortless. After reading David Lebovitz’s post on Labneh I finally did it. Now that the weather is getting warmer I’ll be looking for lighter things to eat with fresh vegetables.

After googling “labneh recipes”, I had a plethora from which to choose. Variations include some calling for full-fat plain yoghurt, some for Greek, one for adding lemon juice, and others for herbs. All called for some salt.

Greek yoghurt cheese

Labneh

For my first trial, I used full-fat plain that was lingering in the fridge since I’ve found that I really prefer skyr (even to Greek yoghurt). I added a healthy pinch of salt, then set the yoghurt to drain for 15 hours.

Tasting the labneh I discovered that it wasn’t quite as tangy as I had hoped–I’ll try adding lemon juice next time.

I suspect that this is going to become a “fixture” in my fridge instead of the usual cream cheese. I am a fan of radishes so adding those and other vegetables to labneh sounds like a great summer treat, and I’ve many other interesting recipes for using it. Some found its way into my omelette with sautéed kale as an improvised breakfast with the Always Hungry? meal plan inside the omelette, rather than as a topping, or have berries without the skyr  or yoghurt.

It’s such fun to discover new foods!

omelette with labneh and kale

Breakfast

Nutritional information—or what passes for it—abounds on the internet and in books that you can check out from the library, or find as you pass through the checkout line at the grocery store, but it’s frustrating. It’s constantly changing. Many—really most of us—don’t have the background in physiology, medicine, or the time to do our own detailed research to assess it. You can read the books, e.g. Good Calories, Bad Calories ( (Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories 2007), Why We Get Fat ( (Taubes, Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It 2010), or The Big Fat Surprise (Teicholz 2015) which are extensively researched and well documented. But it still can be confusing, especially if you want more specific information. There’s the Paleo diet, the Atkins diet, the Mediterranean diet….and even The New Atkins for a New You (Westerman and Phinney 2010). So much information, so much controversy. . .

Then there are the things that our grandmothers told us—eat your veggies, and your fruits—but the one that I remember most is that breakfast is a must-have meal. That seems to be one of the less controversial bits of advice out there. There’s only one problem—breakfast is supposed to happen when you wake up. Now, according to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, wake up, awake or awaken, means to “stop sleeping”. The problem is that for some of us awakening is not the same as achieving a state of functioning (“performing a group of related acts and process” according to the dictionary). We awaken, and the functioning state is bestowed later–sometimes much later and only with an appropriate amount of caffeine.

Every time I have to say whether I’m a “morning person” I face a quandary—I love early mornings—the cool part of the day, with the inspiration of the sunrise. So in that sense, I’m a morning person. Add functionality to that and there is a problem. Until I’ve had my morning cafè latte or espresso function is simply out of the question. Making breakfast requires functioning—albeit minimal. I can manage the kind of functioning required to get the espresso machine to spit out the liquid caffeine portion of my latte. Actual breakfast is another issue.

Another issue for me is that first thing in the morning, even as much as I love breakfast food, I don’t want to eat. Food? Yuck! So I have my two café lattes, and by then I should be at my computer working on the current index—breakfast gets another miss.

Every New Year (and probably again this coming one) my resolutions include eating more healthily. That would include giving my body morning fuel. Every year it goes by the wayside because of non-functioning in the morning. So I’m attuned to things that will get me food with least effort in the morning. I’m willing to admit that cooking eggs seems pretty simple, but diet-wise I doubt the nutritional wisdom of bacon and eggs daily partly from the caloric point of view.

In the winter (especially if the view from the kitchen window reveals a cold, grey, damp, day) a breakfast favorite is oatmeal (don’t DO cold cereals on a taste or nutritional basis). Specifically, I want oatmeal with some tooth to it—which really eliminates the quick stuff. I want the steel-cut, slow-cooking stuff. It’s the slow-cooking part that hurts. So I’m constantly on the lookout for things that might help me keep that New Year’s resolution—and maybe even contribute to more healthy eating (and weight loss.

If you search the web, you can find numerous suggestion on how to cook steel-cut oats—some reducing the cooking time to 30 minutes. Even with that, it’s still not in my range of morning functionality—I won’t enumerate the number of ways is possible to screw up when your functioning is barely above brain-dead.

In my recent perusal of the blogs that I follow I was delighted to see a post entitled How To Make Oatmeal in Jars: One Week of Breakfast in 5 Minutes. First of all, it promised make-ahead, and then you’ve probably gathered that I’m a fan of Ball/Mason jars so I have lots of those around.

The prep is simple (see full post for discussion and details)

  • Combine 1-2/3 cups steel-cut oats with 4 cups water, ¼ teaspoon salt.
  • Bring to boil and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Put it into jars, and when it reaches room temperature, cap and refrigerate.
  • To eat, microwave 2 to 3 minutes, add whatever you wish and eat.

My only change to this is something I’ve done for a long time when I’m cooking oatmeal—substitute milk or oat milk for 3 cups of the water and divide into 7 servings since I just don’t eat that much in the morning. The three-minute boil gives chewy kernels; I actually prefer just a bit less chew, so I boil for 5 minutes.

I like to use 1/2-pint jars for this as they will sit in a coffee mug so I don’t have to handle the hot jar or put it into something else to eat–admittedly I do at times end up taking my breakfast on my “commute” into the office and eating at my desk. (I know–not a good thing to do, but it happens when deadlines are close.) Filled only to about 2/3 there’s still room to add things on top–then this recipe works for about 7 days.

Another alternative to “quicken” up the steel-cut oats is to do an overnight soak at room temperature; Maria Speck, in her book on ancient grains, suggests that this will reduce cooking time to about 7 minutes.  My issues with this are that it requires planning ahead. Once the oats are soaked, they need to be cooked. I am, admittedly, a very temperamental, picky eater: I might wake up not wanting to eat oats for breakfast. By precooking and refrigerating, I do give myself a little leeway to be picky without throwing something out.

On more relaxed mornings, I’ll make other versions of steel-cut oats. A favorite is from Alton Brown via the Food Network. Love the toasting before adding liquid. Adding the milk and buttermilk adds richness and tanginess. His point here about stirring in the dairy does make a difference. I’ll admit to not being the owner of a true Scottish-style spurtle but a Holland-style spoodle to be a bit gentler with my steel-cut oats.

Now, for breakfast. . . a drizzle of some luscious varietal honey like French lavender, tupelo, sourwood, or maybe leatherwood, or thyme, or just wildflower or clover, or orange blossom, or maybe just some butter, or possibly milk, or…it may well depend on what I see from my kitchen window!

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Grocery shopping for one

Do you think about advertising while you’re grocery shopping?  Most likely not! I know that I don’t–but I try to do “perimeter” shopping, making a foray into the center of the store only for specific items–like drain cleaner, paper towels, or dish detergent.  Where I shop, the immediate thing from the entrance is produce (with a big display of locally grown goods), which leads to the meat and fish/seafood counters; a left turn there takes me past the dairy, and refrigerated juices; another left leads me to frozen goods. If I take a right turn at the butcher/fish/seafood counter, I find myself at a counter of prepared fruits and melons (usually in big quantities that are too much for one).  Next in line is the bakery and then the delicatessen.  Continuing through those, I end up at the Asian food bar,  the rotisserie chickens and other prepared meats, and the salad bar.  My usual trek through the grocery store most often involves only a quick dash to the dairy case, then meat and deli. I don’t see a lot of processed food on this circuit. I’d never really given much thought to whether or not my shopping was being manipulated by sales-motivated display methods.  The links below contain some information about store layout and methods used to induce us to buy “stuff”–things that we did not come into the store to purchase: impulse purchases.

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links of hot Italian sausageMeat purchases are pretty easy–thanks to chops, steaks, and a butcher/fish counter that will cut to order; packages of  chicken parts, rather than whole birds, and house-made sausages that I can buy one or two at a time. Careful consideration of the dish that I want to make can allow alternative cuts of meet: beef shank instead of large chuck roast for post roast.

The real difficulties come in produce where things are sold bunched, bagged, or otherwise in quantities that don’t fit single-serving cooking. Some produce just grows in too large a quantity–heads of cauliflower, heads of cabbage or lettuce, a whole stalk of Brussels sprouts…waste just waiting to happen unless we make a serious effort to prevent it.

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One of the difficulties of cooking for one (or even two) is the produce that goes bad while waiting quietly in the refrigerator for you to do something with it.  I love peppers–and I like variety, but I simply cannot use a whole red and orange or yellow bell pepper before they begin to get a little mushy around the edges, no matter how carefully I store them.  So do I do without them?  Even  some ready-to-use packages that are available in the produce department are still more than I want. Buying more than I can use is like throwing money away–and it gets worse if you consider the amount of food waste by consumers after purchase, let alone the waste between harvest and the appearance in the supermarket.

My supermarket likely has something that will help with this dilemma:  a salad bar.

green on the salad barIf you’ve always thought of it as a place to make a salad with all sorts of veggies and trimmings, and pour salad dressing on it, top it with some croutons, and take it back to the office to eat  you need to look at the salad bar from a different perspective. Take a closer look at what’s available there to purchase by the pound–thinking about what you need for a meal, rather than making a salad.

As much as I love salads, packaged greens often go bad before I use all of them. My other objection to big prepared baby spinach on the salad bar (Harris Teeter)packages of greens is the lack of variety–I simply don’t want spinach as my greens for a whole week.  If your market has a salad bar, you can get single-servings of mesclun, spinach, and other greens from the salad bar. I can also get some that loose greens in the produce department–I’ll purchase that either place, depending on what my schedule is and how salad-crazy I am at the time. Since the salad bar usually has several kinds of greens out, I can have mixed salad greens without buying lots of each kind.

salad bar-broccoli-cauliflower IMG_6051I like cauliflower and broccoli too, but again a head of cauliflower is a bit much, so even at $3.99 a pound it is less wasteful and probably cheaper in the long run for me to buy what I need for a single meal from the salad bar–and I avoid having to do the prep myself–added benefit.

My most frequent purchase from the salad bar is bell pepper strips, for salads, and sometimes for seasonings.  If I need a lot, for example making the dandelion greens and sausages or  chicken with sweet peppers, I will either buy whole peppers, or use frozen ones since they are to be cooked.  The salad bar that I frequent usually has a variety of colors, so I can have that without red, yellow, orange, and green going bad in the fridge. (I prepared bell peppers on the salad bar (Harris Teeter)have to admit, somewhat shamefacedly, that I’m one of the people who will stand there and pick out the red, orange, and yellow and leave the green ones behind.)

I don’t buy tomatoes off the salad bar–I think that the refrigeration changes the texture of them, so I usually get grape/cherry tomatoes from the produce section. They seem to be one thing that I use easily before they get funky.

Onions and whole carrots keep well julienned carrots on the salad barenough that I buy those in the produce department most of the time and keep them in the fridge; but if I want  julienned carrots to make a quick serving for a meal or for a salad–I may just take the lazy way out and use the salad bar rather than the packaged ones in the produce department. That’s my idea of convenience food.

I don’t often by cucumbers from the salad bar since I prefer the English ones–and the salad bar usually features the American slicers so they are not worth the per pound price. Other things that may be purchased from the salad bar include sliced mushrooms, julienned radishes, or fresh mozzarella when you want just enough for one serving.

Another frustration of buying produce for one is fruit. As much as I like cantaloupe, honeydew, berries and other fruit, getting variety leads me to use the fruit side of the salad bar often. I can usually find assorted berries, mangoes, pineapple, and melons there.

Most of the items on the salad bar really aren’t that heavy–and considering that you have avoided the waste of unused produce, it seems to be a reasonable price.  Even some of the heavier items like melons, broccoli and cauliflower, are a bargain for me since it allows me to have variety in my meals and minimizes waste.

Not everything I want is on the salad bar, so the solo cook has to deal with more produce than you’re going to use quickly. What are the options?

Too much convenience?

Mueller's Pot-Sized PastaI was striding purposefully down the aisle of my local Harris Teeter when a package caught my eye–and brought me to a screeching halt–pot-sized spaghetti? This is something that you buy?  You don’t just take the regular spaghetti and break it, assuming that you’re not going to just put it into the water slowly, letting it soften until it’s all in the water?

Pot-sized angel hair?

Pot-sized thin spaghetti?

Pot-sized linguine?  Really? I was amazed, or maybe stupefied, or maybe the only thing that really covers my reaction was what I understand the British expression–gobsmacked–to mean!  Are we so far from “home cooking” that we can’t even deal with pasta unless it’s pot-sized. As you can tell this catapulted me right onto my soapbox, or maybe even onto my high horse (which every you prefer). Has having pot-sized pasta brought down the price of my plain spaghetti that’s too long to fit in the pot unless I stand there and lower it slowly into the water? Not being a marketer, or an economist, merely a consumer, I really doubt that  it has. (Besides, I think this would be too short to twirl effectively to wrap it around my fork.) Not something I’m likely to buy (even though I do sometimes buy other Mueller’s pastas.

jar of mixed rice and grainsI went past the pasta display because I was on my way to something of a convenience nature for me: one of the packages of grain mixes. Those don’t leave me gaping.  They are very useful for single-serving cooking.  My latest is an HT Traders mix of basmati brown rice, red rice, with barley and rye berries. That’s my idea of convenience–I don’t have to buy the standard package of each of those grains: that would be about 1-3/4 pounds of basmati rice, and who knows how much red rice and rye berries. I most likely would not use that mix if I had to buy each of those separately–unless I could buy each from bulk supplies.

That kind of convenience I can get my mind around. I do have packages of barley, oats, but even the dried things don’t have unlimited shelf-life. They don’t  spoil–in other words they are not perishable. If you store them carefully in glass jars with good seals, they should not get buggy, but keep them long enough and they won’t hydrate as well, taking longer to cook. For some dried goods like beans, you may get to the point where they will never soften appropriately.

Of course, there’s also the issue of storage space–for those of us without the luxury of a large pantry with miles of shelf space, but who do like variety this is a great alternative. It has another benefit: it’s compatible with the rice cooker.  I’m happy to more of the “esoteric” grains show up in my local supermarket–they are cheaper than if I were to go to a specialty shop, not to mention just closer to home.

mixed grains