Monthly Archives: January 2012

To freeze or not to freeze?

I am making very good work of my freezer resolution.  Especially considering I have been gone for five days of the month so far (and am now on a plane to LA and will be gone for another five).

Here are the highlights:

* Beef Bourguignon out of frozen sirloin

* Frozen Wild Caught Salmon used to make whole wheat pasta with blue cheese and salmon

* Mystery food discovered to be leftover stew … Still delicious!

* 1/2 of leftover taco meat used, along with defrosted cheese

You get the picture.

As it turns out using the food from my freezer hasn’t been that difficult.  I tend to make soups and stews and freeze extra portions.  I just have to remember to use them.  I buy seafood and meats from local farmers and freeze them for future use.  What has been more interesting, to be honest, has been learning about why I tend to have an overstocked freezer to begin with.

Here I thought I had discarded my over-planner habits and my tendency to want everything just right, you know, IN CASE. But apparently my habit of planning and preparing has never gone away where food is concerned.  It’s true that I don’t plan a week of meals at a time any more, but I sill buy way too much food than I need  in any given week.  While I have gotten much better about not wasting it, the end result is that a lot of it ends up in my freezer.

Fantasies about being able to whip together a four course dinner party from my pantry keep me over-stocked in everything from artichoke hearts to chicken broth, and I have a hard time justifying the abundance.  I am single.  I often cook for friends, but do I really need to have 12 four-cup containers of broth on hand for  entertaining emergencies?  I don’t think so.

So in addition to eatiNg from  my freezer, I’ve been trying to eat from my refrigerator.  You now, eat the two grapefruit I have before I buy another one.  Sounds simple, right?

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One in, One out.

So far, my attempts to eat through my freezer and pantry have been met with mixed success.

I mean, I’ve eaten quite a bit of food out of my freezer.  But then I make something with it and have leftovers and more food goes back IN to my freezer.

That was not really the idea.

In an attempt to stop this pattern, I have NOT frozen the leftovers from a batch of Beef Bourguignon that I made earlier this week.

I made the Beef Bourguignon with a large piece of beef (locally raised, grass-fed, hormone-free of course) that I had in my freezer.  GOOD.

One recipe of Beef Bourguignon makes enough to serve a single girl for about eight days.  BAD.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Beef Bourguignon.  It is one of my favorite foods ever and I make it really well (if I do say so myself).  That being said, I think there is a limit to how many times I can eat Beef Bourguignon in a row.  I’ve now had it four times AND shared it with friends.  I still have some left.  I want to eat it.  Just not today.  And probably not tomorrow.

But if I don’t eat it today or tomorrow, I should probably freeze it.  Because throwing out perfectly good Beef Bourguignon is wrong.

So it will go back in to my freezer.

Harumph.

 

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Wisdom from Walden

The view from Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were
anybody else whom I knew as well.”

From Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

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January 2012: It’s RESOLUTION time.

I have decided that my JANUARY RESOLUTION will be to cook foods from my pantry – especially my freezer.

I want to empty the pantry – to rid myself of things I haven’t used for a long time, and to focus on stocking a pantry with the items I really do use all the time.

You see, my basement freezer died at the end of the summer. It was a SAD, SAD day. It happened at the best possible time of year, since the freezing season hadn’t really begun and I had used most of the stash I had built up for the winter before. Still, I lost some spring vegetables, a lot of home-made broth, and (sniff, sniff), my share of a Tamworth pig from Owens Farm. Ever since this terrible, horrible, no-good day, I have been trying to decide if I should buy a new freezer.

I have a normal fridge/freezer in my kitchen, and the freezer side seems to be filled with food I never use. Shouldn’t I empty this freezer out before I determine if I need more space? Shouldn’t I purge myself of three year old Gogurt that I bought to have on hand for a dinner party which included small children? Shouldn’t I either eat, or pitch, the leftover taco meat from Thanksgiving weekend 2010? Yes, yes I should.

So this is my plan – I’m going to EMPTY the freezer and my pantry so that I can then clean out my cupboards and basement food storage. There really is no reason for me to have a case of tomato paste in my house. Truly, there isn’t.

I come by this problem honestly. My grandmother, Phyllis, lived through the depression and was a big fan of bargains and saving. When she moved out of her home in Ambler, PA we had to clean out her basement, which included her pantry. I am not kidding when I say that we found caned food that had dried out.

Canned beans, which rattled. RATTLED.

There was a station wagon (a gigantic Chevy Caprice Station Wagon) full of paper towels, napkins, and toilet paper which had probably been purchased (on sale, of course) in the 1970s. I think I finished using those napkins about three years ago. There was WWII ration sugar that was over forty years old (hard as a rock). Seriously. (Do I need to mention that my mother has used this sugar? She pounded it out with a hammer.)

I can still picture my brother’s face when he started to clean out my grandmother’s freezer as it defrosted. This freezer was full of meat that had spoiled WHILE IT WAS FROZEN. My brother was brave and strong and a VERY GOOD GRANDSON for cleaning out that freezer.

So I worry, a bit, that I might have some hoarding genes in me.

In my early adulthood, when I was newly married and interested in being PERFECT, I always wanted to have a full pantry of anything we might possibly need. A smart, college-educated, liberated and LIBERAL woman I still thought that my husband should never find himself without toothpaste, or toilet paper, or, well, capers. You know, just in case there was a caper emergency.

Now that I am a real grown-up, divorced, single, happy, and, um – SANE, I am content to have a small pantry of basics that I use regularly and know that I can easily run to the store for anything I really need. I live in America, after all. So I can buy raspberries from Chile in February if I want to.

Since it’s time to shed the past and become a person who doesn’t have five shelves of canned goods and dried food waiting FOR YEARS to be used, I’m going to do this. I’m going to use up what I have (and try very hard not to waste anything) and then start fresh, with a SMALL and PRACTICAL pantry of foods I use every week. And that’s it. No more hoarding. No more taking care of a husband I don’t have any more (who, incidentally, never asked me to take care of him in this way). And no more three-year old Gogurts.

No one should eat those things anyway.

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Happy New Year!

I admit that I’m a little smug about resolutions now. As I read the Facebook posts and e-mails about 2012 resolutions I catch myself thinking, “Oh yea? How about making 12 resolutions? Then I’ll be impressed.”

It may not surprise you that I have a bunch of possible resolutions in mind for 2012. The conference room of Shelbies in my head has been having a three-day retreat to consider the options and make some final decisions.

Just a few of the early contenders are

  • 10,000 steps a day December
  • Scanning September
  • Organizing October
  • Nothing New November
  • No Meat May
  • Canning August

Some favorites from 2011 will likely be revisited, with some extra twists. I’m currently planning No Alcohol for February again, for example, but this year I will invent new Virgin Cocktails each week.

Who knows what shenanigans are in store? I certainly don’t.

What I do know is that somehow, this process of making resolutions and blogging is helping me to live a more present life, and to have more fun with every day challenges and the small but meaningful goals I have for myself. I find humor in my failures as much as I find delight in my successes. And I also now have great dinner party conversation available to me at any time.

So, now’s your chance. What monthly resolutions do YOU think 2012 should include for me?

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