Almost Back

Friday, January 25, 2013

I’ve had two projects that have been taking up most of my time plus a bunch of end-of-year/start-of-year Scrap Exchange bookkeeping that needs to be done. (I am no longer the Treasurer at The Scrap Exchange but now am on staff as finance manager. Out of the frying pan and into the fire? We’ll see.)

I took a break from the “How to Shop” series because I figured no one wants to read about how to save on groceries in the middle of December. I was planning on picking up where I left off in January when people are paying attention to things like that again, and that is still the plan, but it’s gotten a bit delayed.

In the meantime, I hope everyone is honing their skills thinking about what they can make with what they have on hand so that nothing goes to waste, and figuring out what kind of shopping pattern will work best with their lifestyle. Part III (and beyond) coming soon. Or soon-ish, at least.

I will also share with you two things I’ve been enjoying this winter as I work on my “eating down the fridge” project, which I have come to think of as the March to a Clean Pantry and March to an Empty Freezer.

I have been eating millet for breakfast, and it’s cheap and very delicious. It has a better texture than oatmeal, not mushy and slimy. (I like oatmeal, and I personally don’t have a problem with the texture, but I know some people do.) And it cooks faster than steel-cut oats, which I like a lot and are not particularly mushy or slimy but take forever to cook.

The cooking time for millet  is between that of old-fashioned oats and steel-cut oats. It’s long enough for me to do the dishes and clean up the kitchen while it cooks, but not so long that I need a snack to tide me over until my breakfast is ready. I’ve been mixing in pantry and freezer odds and ends including

  • hazelnuts
  • slivered almonds
  • sunflower seeds
  • dried coconut flakes
  • dried apricots
  • dried sweetened cranberries
  • dried cherries

The nuts and sunflower seeds I chop and toast in a dry skillet until fragrant and just turning brown. I also toast the coconut. And chop whatever feels like it needs to be smaller, for instance, apricots. But mostly I just toss things in.

I think my favorite was toasted hazelnuts with dried apricots, but the slivered almonds were  also very good. And the sunflower seeds and coconut and cranberries too.

Okay, they were all good.

For one serving, I boil 3/4 cup water and add 1/4 cup millet. For the mix-ins, I think I put in around 2 tablespoons (or more or less depending on what I have and how I feel). If I’m hungry I also have a soft-boiled egg and a piece of fruit (orange or grapefruit or apple slices) or maybe just the fruit.

Whole grain, hot and filling, very cheap. Can’t beat it.

I’ve also been making cold-brewed coffee.

I’m not much of a coffee drinker so making an actual pot of coffee is way too much work for me, but I like iced coffee sometimes and also I like to mix a little bit of coffee in with a cup of hot chocolate.  Sort of like a mocha latte but with much less coffee, I like just a hint.

My friend Cathy makes cold-brewed coffee concentrate that she keeps in the fridge and mixes with milk for iced coffee. She drinks a normal American amount of coffee, so she makes it using a pound of coffee at a time. We made it once when she was visiting and it was good but it was way too much for me. I froze it, but it was even too much for that. Then over the summer I found a link to a mini-version of the recipe — 1/3 cup of coffee grounds combined with 1-1/2 cups of water, to make two normal-person serving (or four or five my-size servings). And I brought some coffee home from my grandmother’s in September when we cleaned out her kitchen. So I was all set.

You combine the water and coffee grounds in jar and stir up and let sit overnight, then strain through a coffee filter to eliminate the grounds, and keep in the fridge.

Then I make a hot drink with about 4 or 5 ounces of milk (I use whole milk because I think skim milk looks and tastes like dirty dishwater, but you should use whatever kind of milk you like) plus one to two teaspoons of cocoa powder and two to three teaspoons of sugar (or more or less, depending on how much sweet you want) plus one to two ounces of coffee.

Winter bliss.

Okay, that’s it for now. I need to get to work. Stay tuned for the return of the How to Shop series. And maybe someday I’ll cook something that looks good and take a picture of it again.