Spring Cleaning Challenge: Week In Review

Well, we made it.  No one was  harmed or suffered too much during the challenge.

All tolled, we ended up using over 20 things from the freezer, avoided buying any groceries all week and only went out to eat the two times I mentioned in my mid-week check-in post.  So, what’d we make?  Was it all just chicken breasts and rice?  No way!  In addition to the things I mentioned in my mid-week post, here’s a sampling of other things:

  1. Pork Chops
    If there’s one thing I know about my husband, it’s that he absolutely loves pork.  I mean, loves it.  So, I pulled out some of the stash in the deep freezer with all the rest of the pork we bought last summer (post to come about that).  Later, I’ll tell you just how I made them.  They were great paired with the produce I had on hand, including a local acorn squash we’ve been meaning to use for a couple months.  They don’t last forever, but this one kept quite longer than we anticipated.

    Pork chops topped with pan sauce and homemade pear-onion chutney served alongside roasted local acorn squash and a salad of roasted beets, orange supremes, celery leaves and goat cheese w/ a champagne vinaigrette.
    Pork chops topped with pan sauce and homemade pear-onion chutney served alongside roasted local acorn squash (right) and a salad of roasted beets, orange suprèmes, celery leaves and goat cheese w/ a champagne vinaigrette.  (iPhone pic)

  2. Veggie-Filled Crustless Ricotta Tart
    Ricotta tart full of spinach, peppers and a touch of ham & bacon served alongside half an everything bagel from Sammy's New York Bagels.
    Ricotta tart full of spinach, peppers and a touch of ham & bacon served alongside half an everything bagel from Sammy’s New York Bagels.

    I pulled out a recipe I posted last month and made substitutions based on what I had available. In this I used up a box of spinach, 3 slices of bacon & a few slices of leftover ham from the freezer.  We had an orange pepper in the fridge along with half a jalapeño so those got diced and tossed in.  I also skipped the crust since I already added extra calories from both pork products. It was outstanding and served perfectly as a weeknight meal as well as several breakfasts.

  3. Berry Smoothie
    This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I used berries & 1/2 a banana from the freezer as well as some yogurt, chia seeds & almond milk. However, being the frugal fella that I am I had saved the water I squeezed from the spinach for the tart and this was the perfect place to use up that vitamin-rich liquid. It didn’t change the taste one bit and I felt great about having upped the smoothie’s nutritional value.
  4. Molasses Banana Bread
    I have a bad habit of buying too many bananas, which always leads to one or two getting slightly too ripe to eat.  So, I usually peel it and toss it into a freezer bag with its friends who suffered the same fate.  It’s perfect for baked goods and smoothies because it adds sweetness, fiber, nutrients and is one of the quickest/easiest things to thaw for baking purposes.  So, I pulled out 3 1/2 of the bananas and used them in a banana bread made with molasses using the recipe on the back of the bottle.  Holy wow, I wasn’t prepared for the super strong flavor this would have, but I liked it.  The strong flavor had the extra benefit of keeping portion sizes small.  I took most of the loaf to work and some people seemed to enjoy it.  Hey, you win some you lose some.
  5. Apple-Molasses Upside-Down Cake
    Speaking of losing some… Next time I have a doubt about a recipe I’ve never used, I’m going with my gut.  I made this molasses-apple cake in my cast iron skillet, which was actually a lot of fun to make; I kinda felt like it was a return to my pioneer heritage. Something about not using special tools/equipment/power (aside from the stove top/oven) makes me get all nostalgic for times before I was alive.

    DSC_0023
    Apple-walnut upside-down cake with walnuts

    Anyway, I got to use up some of the unbleached all-purpose flour from the freezer.  I don’t bake a lot so we always store our flour in the freezer, especially the whole grain flour as it keeps nutritional value better in the freezer, plus it doesn’t spoil as quickly.  Oddly, the recipe called for 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt.  I thought that sounded pretty heavy but since this was my first time cooking with molasses as most of the sweetener in the recipe I thought that maybe there was a reason.  I also decided to add some toasted walnuts in for flavor and crunch.  Holy wow, did the cake turn out beautiful!  Look at that!  So gorgeous.

    I tried a bite and Holy Salt, Batman!  The moist, gooey part of the cake near the apples and walnuts was tasty because the apples helped add sweetness to what was the bottom of the cake while it was baking.  The cake layer, sadly, was nearly inedible it was so salty.  If I ever make that again, I’ll make it with only 1/4 tsp salt.  Still, she was a beauty!

Overall, I’d say the challenge was a success.  Of course, using up all these things from the freezer made room for the 38 cups (9.5 quarts / almost 2.5 gallons) of chicken stock I made, but that’s an ingredient I use almost weekly so that’ll be used up within a few months.  I think I’ll do this sort of thing more often.  We certainly have more we can use up!

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