daily recap · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 19 Recap: Repurposing Leftovers in Borscht & Nachos (3/31/20)

This morning I made borscht using the leftover pot roast and cooking liquid for our lunch. It was so good! A wonderful use of the leftovers. I even have enough for us to have it again tomorrow for lunch.

We started up our Washington Green Grocer deliveries again since it’s spring and there is actually fresh produce in season locally; we normally skip the winter months since nothing really grows here then. It was great opening that box and seeing all that fresh food! I hope it keeps going, it will cut down on having to go to the store and provide more produce variety than we’ve had.

I’m finalizing our lists for the grocery store tomorrow. It’s kind of nerve-wracking to think of interacting with all those people because we are healthy and virus-free due to extreme self-quarantine but I haven’t shopped for food since 3/12/20 and we are getting down to the ends of our fresh food (well, until the produce delivery showed up this afternoon). We are going to each go to one store then self-quarantine again for a few weeks. Fingers crossed I can get everything we want/need. I’m going to go in the morning then Matt is going to fill in at another store.

For dinner I made a small batch of sheet pan nachos made with leftover ingredients from last night’s quesadilla. Matt had leftover pork on leftover rice from yesterday and some leftover sweet potatoes.

Non-food related thoughts/activities:

Matt was chatting with one of the owners of the studio where he does tai chi that we were going to the store tomorrow and he was worried because we don’t have masks (well, one construction mask). She mentioned she is making fabric masks for hospitals and said she’d put a pair out on her porch for us if we wanted them! Matt drove over and non-contact picked them up. How nice was that? I can’t imagine it’s a bad idea to wear a mask. Matt said there were a lot of people still on the streets wondering around maskless and ducking into convenience stores. Go home!

How did I miss that Queen Sugar season 4 is on Hulu? It didn’t pop up on my “continue watching” screen. Maybe it just became available? I saw a thumbnail of it in a Hulu ad so I thought I’d check and there it was! How did Nova not think her family was going to react like that? Seriously?

daily recap · planning · what we ate

Day 18 Recap: Quesadillas & Sweet Potato Cornbread Muffins (3/30/20)

Our governor finally updated the order to have everyone actually stay home or face a fine! I thought it was needed a couple of weeks ago but he’s a trash governor so I’m not surprised he took a bit. I am glad it happened before we decided to go to the store to stock up. I don’t like the idea of a legally mandated shut down but I don’t think people were getting the hint about what to do with his vague directions. It’s still not super clear at all (why can we have gatherings of 10 or less but at the same time he wants us to stay home?) but maybe it will scare people into staying indoors.

I had leftover bangers and mash for lunch. I heated them up in a skillet so the potato and the sausage browned. It was surprisingly tasty!

Matt’s stomach still isn’t great, unfortunately! I think some of it is stress related. I had a carnitas seasoned pork roast from Aldi so I put that in the slow cooker and let it cook all day. Matt had some on rice and I had a quesadilla. I wasn’t going to make it (the expiration date was 4/8 so no hurry) but I figured this way we could both eat it tonight, I can make something with the pot roast leftovers tomorrow when hopefully he’s feeling better and then Wednesday we can make something with the pork leftovers for dinner after grocery shopping.

We hadn’t used the sweet potatoes I bought a few weeks ago. They were packaged by an “ugly produce” supplier and were all very small/weirdly shaped so couldn’t be used as just a regular baked potato. Since we are going shopping this week and I didn’t want them to go bad, I thought I’d roast them up to freeze/refrigerate and use later in recipes. I froze some and Matt used the rest to bake sweet potato cornbread muffins using this recipe (very similar/nearly identical recipe here without a paywall if the NYT recipe isn’t working for you). The recipe calls for baking them at 450° but that makes zero sense. Bake them at 350°.

The muffins will be perfect for breakfasts for him. I don’t always eat breakfast and he’s been eating a lot of toast and eggs in the morning, cutting into our supply. We’ll keep some out and freeze the rest for the future.

Non-food related activities:

We watched Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on Hulu. We’re not loving the development of her singing her feelings. It seemed too pat and to contradict what the earlier episodes implied. She’s been keeping in a lot of feelings she isn’t dealing with the entire season, why sing now?

We had The Dead Don’t Die out on DVD from Netflix so we watched a bit of that. I’m not sure why Jim Jarmusch felt like he needed to do a zombie movie? I guess he did do vampires so what else is there? Why did every guy I dated in college and then, later my husband, want to watch every Jim Jarmusch movie ever?

recipe

Simple Pot Roast

Pot roast is one of the easiest ways to turn a tough piece of beef into a delicious meal. I normally make a smaller one (2-3 lbs) and that is enough for two with plenty of leftovers for future meals. If you have more people to feed or want more leftovers, buy a larger roast and scale up. The trick is to make sure the roast is at least 2/3 covered in liquid before you bring it to a boil and then simmer. If you add the root vegetables at the beginning they add a lot of flavor and make a great gravy but if you had them about 2 hours in, they retain their shape better and end up being more of a built in side dish. It’s really up to you. I just used carrots and celery because that is what I had on hand but turnips, potatoes, rutabaga, parsnips or winter squash (not spaghetti squash!) are all really good too.

This is my most basic version of pot roast, which is perfect for planned leftovers because while it is flavorful, it doesn’t have a super distinctive flavor profile so the meat is equally tasty in tacos as it is in soup or in sandwiches. A slightly more elaborate version is on my recipe blog which is very good as-is or in sandwiches but I find the leftovers are less versatile and it uses a few more ingredients.

I made the leftovers into borscht.

Ingredients:
2 1/2-3 lb beef bottom round roast (or brisket or other beef roast)
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 cups beef stock
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons herbs de Provence (or whatever you have that looks good)
2-3 cups chopped hardy vegetables like carrots, celery turnips, potatoes, rutabaga, parsnips and/or winter squash (optional)
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
superfine flour (or all purpose)

Directions:

Heat a small amount of oil in a large, lidded heavy-bottomed pot (like a Dutch or French oven).

Add the onions, garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Rub salt, and pepper into the roast. Sprinkle liberally with flour. (You can skip the flour if you don’t want to to form a gravy-like sauce–I skipped this because I want to use the juices/liquid in place of stock in a soup tomorrow) Place in the pan and brown on all sides.

Add the spices and stock.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 2 hours. Add the vegetables.

Continue to simmer, covered, 1 hour or until the meat is very tender.

daily recap · planning · what we ate

Day 17 Recap: Pot Roast & Leftovers (3/29/20)

We had leftover tuna pasta salad for lunch. We found the pretzels! They fell between two bins on our floating island and some bags of pasta had fallen on them. I thought I had lost my mind when they disappeared.

I spent most of the afternoon smelling the pot roast I had simmering on the stove. I posted the recipe here, it’s pretty much just a guideline but I thought it might be useful, I’ve noticed that big roasts seem to be the last thing to go at supermarkets. It’s a shame because while they are time consuming, they are not difficult to make. With so many of us trapped at home, it’s a perfect time to cook a big chunk of meat that needs pretty much no supervision. Plus you end up with lots of delicious leftovers for sandwiches, sauce, soup! Now is pot roast’s time to shine.

I signed up to get produce delivery from Washington Green Grocer again. We’ve had them off an on for years but I don’t normally bother in the winter when it’s just things I can get at the regular grocery store, normally for less. We get the all local box and this week it looks great–some things I normally wouldn’t want in the box like potatoes and carrots but mostly some exciting golden globe turnips, mizuna and dandelion greens. They aren’t allowing substitutions at this time but I added a couple items–unsweetened coconut and pearl barley–that I haven’t found locally for a while. And garlic and shallots. I don’t like that they switched it from opt in to opt out for the boxes when the new owners took over. Opting in was a big reason why I chose WGG over other services–one less thing to remember if I didn’t want a box. But the produce is always good and this will be better than braving the stores myself.

Non-food related activities:

We finished watching Twin on Mhz Choice. It was so good! I highly recommend it.

We left the house! We didn’t go anywhere but we each drove around the block to make sure the battery in our cars didn’t die since we drove them last. It was nice to see the neighborhood. Everything is in bloom! It’s been really rainy so everything was wet but the white cherry trees in the median were all in bloom.

daily recap · what we ate

Day 16 Recap: Bangers & Mash, Pasta Salad & Sherbet (3/28/20)



Matt picked up a big pack of Irish bangers at Costco early in the month. I froze half and had the rest today at lunch. I followed my usual recipe but added cabbage to the potatoes instead of turnips. They were really good! Normally I get them at Aldi but these were pretty flavorful.

For dinner I kept it basic and made some tuna pasta salad with about 8 oz jumbo macaroni, 2 (5 oz) cans tuna, lemon pepper, celery, red onion, mayo and the few tablespoons of olive spread/tapenade I had bought at our local Italian market. There was enough leftover to have for a light meal another day. We have some cans of tuna left but I hope we can get more when we finally shop.

I’ve been really into sherbet lately. Weis makes this “Twisted Cactus” flavor that is prickly pear, blood orange, and marula fruit. It’s so good! It’s like $2.30 for a half-gallon so it’s thrifty choice too. It’s so light and refreshing.

Non-food related activities:

Really, not much! I swear I blinked and it went from noon to 7 pm. We watched a lot of this Norwegian drama, Twins on MHz Choice (they had a deal to stream for $12 for 3 months, it’s all foreign tv shows) that is really good. Not sure why they billed it as a thriller, it’s really a domestic drama with a death. We really need some new genre names!

I read an ARC of Everything is Under Control: A Memoir with Recipes by Phyllis Grant. I liked it. It was written in an odd, choppy format for a memoir but interesting.

Basically, it was a dreary, grey day that somehow felt very long yet very short at the same time and we ate some very unphotogenic food. I did order some cloth masks from a shop in Etsy today. I don’t think they will arrive before we have to go to the store. They say they only really protect people from us, not us from randos and we know we are healthy because we will have been home with zero outside contact for nearly three weeks at that point. It’s hard to know what to do.

daily recap · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 15 Recap: Smoked Pork Grilled Cheese, Canned Soup and Popcorn (3/27/20)

We do have a fair amount of pork leftover from yesterday. Today I chopped it finely and used it to make grilled cheese with some shredded cheddar. It was very good!

We froze the rest of the pork in a new eco-friendly reusable quart bag so I’m looking forward to seeing how it holds up! I think it would be fine defrosted in soup or fried rice. I’m trying not to use disposable resealable bags so if this works well, I’ll have to buy more. I also froze half of the pack of bangers (sell by 4/3) because there is no way we are eating 16 bangers between now and next week even if they are small. I froze the stew meat I had in the fridge too, it was sell by 4/2 and we also have a bottom round roast that is sell by the same day. I don’t think we will want to eat pot roast for a couple days followed by beef stew or chili for a couple days over the next week either. We still have a seasoned pork roast in the fridge, the small bottom round, half of the bangers and then a few things that have May (!) expiration dates: hot dogs, a tiny ham and a corned beef.

I’m sad to say that my spaghetti squash was suddenly moldy! It was older but it looked fine yesterday morning. Matt might bury it in the yard to see if it will sprout. Last year a squirrel must have dropped a pumpkin seed because we had a volunteer pumpkin plant and that was a lot of fun. I made so many things with the pumpkins! Anyway, the squash might not sprout but why not. At the very least it be fertilizer.

Matt still doesn’t feel 100% so we just had some canned soup and I had some popcorn. Not every day has to have an exciting menu!

Non-food related activities:

I read The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Bennett while I played the Sims. It was sort of a horror-comedy? It was odd. I also read My Father’s Arcane Daughter by E.L. Konigsburg which I remember reading in 6th grade Reading class. These ’70s children’s books are a lot more adult kid’s books today- jokes about sticking your head in the oven, lots of smoking and drinking. I didn’t remember that E.L. Konigsburg was the author until recently. I read  From the Mixedup Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, of course, but very unlike me I guess I didn’t read her other books or make the connection. Someone mentioned another one of her lesser known books so I got some from the library before they closed.

I worked on my embroidery.

We watched Cold Feet: The New Years on Britbox. Adam is so cringy!

Today is my mom’s birthday but we don’t feel comfortable visiting her. I did have a nice talk with her! I wish we could see her but with her brain cancer and my dad’s health, I don’t think it’s a good idea. My brother went over but I wish he didn’t. I know he’s been out and about.

daily recap · recipe · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Recap Day 14: State of the Pantry, Leftover Shrimp, & Smoked Pork (3/26/20)

I can’t believe it has been two weeks since either of us has left the house! We’ve been in the backyard of course, and Matt took Lulu on a walk around the block a couple of times but that’s it.

We are still in very good shape food-wise. Early in the month I shopped as if we weren’t going to the store for two weeks plus got a couple of long lasting sale/seasonal items (bangers, a small ham, corned beef) that I would normally pick up. It’s lasting a lot longer than expected even though I didn’t buy more than I typically would for two weeks.

We’ve been trying to stretch one package of meat into at at least two meals and make simpler meals for the other meals of the day. Our usual non-quarantine meals are dinner leftovers for lunch then a new meal (normally involving some meat or seafood) for dinner. We are using up a lot less meat by making sandwiches or having soup or snack type meals for one meal a day. Normally we would be opening a new pack of meat/seafood a day and now it’s more like every other day. Since I had shopped for our usual cooking routine so I have a lot more meat now than I thought I would. Matt didn’t feel well or eat much for two days this week so that, plus using frozen/jarred/boxed stuff for some meals (like this shrimp pasta or the tuna wraps) is really stretching it out.

Our fresh produce is holding up well too! I still have one bagged salad (from Aldi, it is mostly hardier veggies like cabbage and carrots), 2 heads of cabbage, some Love Beets, potatoes (sweet, Russet and Yukon Gold), celery, carrots, garlic, a spaghetti squash, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, yellow squash (not anymore, used them for tonight’s dinner), cara cara oranges and onions. Some of that I bought 3+ weeks ago! The trick is storing it well. Keep things as cool as you can.

I have a running list for when we actually go shopping again. We hadn’t ordered any food/groceries or had anything delivered food-wise. Then last night Costco.com had olive oil and canola oil back in stock so I ordered one of each. We have an okay amount of olive oil left but we are almost out of canola which we use as our every day oil. I hadn’t realized we were so low back when I was shopping. We also really need dish detergent because we don’t have a dish washer and we are washing so many dishes having every meal and snack made from scratch at home but that wasn’t available for delivery to my zip code.

I have to admit, I’m very very nervous about going shopping again! I want to do it in person to ensure that we get the best expiration dates/best looking food but it’s nerve-wracking knowing that we don’t apparently have the virus now and to go out among people who might. We aren’t in total lock-down in MD so people still seem to be out and about a bunch. Our goal is for us to go out the middle of next week. I’ll go to Aldi (their response to the virus looks good) and get the basics and Matt will go to another store to fill in the gaps with items Aldi doesn’t sell at the same time then we will try and stay home as a long as possible again.

It’s nice and sunny out today so Matt smoked a pork butt on the grill. Normally that’s a weekend activity but we are here all day so why not? We marinated it overnight. It’s huge so we should get many meals out of it. We might even end up freezing some of the cooked meat to use later. I don’t think leftover frozen meat would be great in a sandwich but I made barbecue spaghetti last summer (a surprise hit!) and I think defrosted leftover smoked pork would work well in that. Or maybe Brunswick Stew or some kind of soup.

We had our shrimp and pasta leftovers for lunch. I didn’t think it would reheat well so I added some mayo, crumbled feta, chopped celery and red onion and served it as a cold shrimp and pasta salad. It was pretty tasty!

For dinner we had the smoked pork.

We marinated overnight in a paste of

  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoon dehydrated onions
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 6 tablespoons gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons garlic ginger paste

then smoked for 6-7 hours using the snake method and a Weber grill and served it over rice with some yellow squash I sautéd with onions and gochugaru. It wasn’t quite at point where it could be easily shredded but it was very tender so we just sliced it up. If we had another hour or two I think it would have been great pulled pork! We don’t have rolls anyway so a rice bowl was fine.

Non-food related activities:

I played the Sims while I finished reading The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor. We watched the Stumptown finale (I hope it comes back for season 2!) and Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu. I’m not sure how similar Little Fires is going to be to the book. I read it back when it came out so it’s been a while but there are already some differences in pacing.

daily recap · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 13 Recap: Marble Cake, Pasta with Shrimp, Artichokes and Sun-dried tomatoes & an Anniversary in Quarantine (3/25/20)

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary and while we had plans for an exciting day trip followed by dinner out, clearly we are celebrating at home! To make things more festive I made a small marble cake using pantry ingredients and some brick cream cheese leftover from making a cake for my parents’ anniversary last month. Cream cheese has extraordinary expiration dates! I bought it in mid-February and it doesn’t expire until mid-May. I posted the recipe on my recipe blog here. We had a piece of cake before dinner because why not.

For breakfast, I made the last bit of open bacon and heated up last night’s mashed potatoes in the same pan. Later we both had a can of soup (chicken noodle for Matt, chickarina for me) for lunch .

For dinner, we had pasta with frozen shrimp, a jar of marinated artichoke hearts I had knocked off a shelf and broke the seal of, sun-dried tomatoes I bought forever ago at Trader Joe’s, capers and jarred roasted red pepper. It turned out really good and was made (except for the lemon juice/onion/garlic) from frozen, boxed or jarred items. Perfect for quarantine while still feeling a little festive. I posted the recipe here. It isn’t much of a looker but it was tasty and very quick to make.

After dinner, we went to marinate some pork for tomorrow and ended up playing the “is this still good or not” game? It was a big pork roast I bought for us to eat for several meals and the label said the expiration date was 4/1/20. When we opened the package though it smelled a little strong. I feel like we have bad luck with pork roasts. We’ve had quite a few over the years that ranged from possibly dodgy smelling to “this smells like a body rotting in the sun” slimy meat despite very good expiration dates. I can’t quite figure it out. I don’t have this issue with other pork products or other meats. I don’t know what it is about pork roasts. It’s a shame because they aren’t cheap and many a meal has been ruined. We looked it up an apparently vacuum sealed/cyropak pork roasts can have a stronger smell that goes away when washed thanks to the packaging process. This was vacuum-sealed, felt and looked fine and the smell did dissipate. Fingers crossed we made the right decision! It’s supposed to be sunny tomorrow and of course we will be home so we are planning to smoke it on the grill all afternoon.

Non-food related activities:

I watched the season finale of This is Us. No huge surprises. Why Kate wants to adopt with Toby after his initial rejection of their baby and his emotional affair is beyond me.

We were going to play a game after dinner but I felt like a headache was coming on so I took my migraine medicine and we watched the very cute rom-com, Plus One on Hulu.

recipe

Pasta with Shrimp, Artichokes and Sun-dried Tomatoes

This may not be the prettiest pasta but it is tasty! It relies entirely on jarred, boxed or frozen ingredients plus one lemon, onion and garlic. It gets a lot of flavor from the marinated artichokes (and the oily brine they are packed in) and the sun-dried tomatoes so don’t skimp on those ingredients!



Ingredients:

1 onion, sliced into half-moons

3 cloves garlic, sliced 

3 oz julienne sun-dried tomatoes (dry, not oil-packed)

12 oz jar fired roasted red pepper, drained and sliced

12 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts 

2 tablespoons capers

juice of 1 lemon

12 frozen shrimp

12 oz trottole pasta (or other small/medium pasta)

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the shrimp. Cook until just pink. Remove from water using a slotted spoon or spider. Set aside. Add pasta to the same water, cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat some olive oil. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent, add the sun-dried tomatoes, red pepper, artichoke hearts (with liquid!), capers and lemon juice. Saute until warmed through. Add the shrimp, continue to cook until the shrimp is fully cooked. Add the pasta, toss to combine.

daily recap · repurposing leftovers · what we ate

Day 12 Recap: Khoresh Bademjan Wrap, Mashed Potatoes & Shrimp (3/24/20)

Matt’s stomach is still out of wack so he is sticking to the basics like hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, saltines and his childhood favorite noodles and cottage cheese for the time being. I made myself a scrambled egg for breakfast but figuring out the rest of the meals was a little tricky. We actually don’t have any meat that has an expiration date before April 1st so I don’t have any pressure to cook anything and I didn’t want to open something and then potentially be forced to eat it all myself over a number of days. Hopefully he will feel better soon and at least he is working from home already! He feels fine otherwise.

For lunch I heated up leftover khoresh bademjan and had it on a leftover spinach wrap I spread with labneh I bought weeks ago for another meal I don’t have the ingredients for now. Might as well use it up! It was pretty good in a wrap–sort of a Iranian burrito type thing-and it was good to use up another wrap and not make more rice I’d have to use up.

For dinner I made myself some frozen crispy, breaded shrimp (from Aldi) and mashed potatoes made with some of the labneh and a sprinkle of Everything but the Elote seasoning because it was sitting out. The trick with the shrimp is to use the “quick bake” setting on my stove (it’s basically a convection setting–the same concept as an air fryer) and cook it for about 5 minutes less than the directions say. I added some extra horseradish to the cocktail sauce for dipping. I had some mashed potatoes left, I think I might make some potato cakes for breakfast tomorrow.

Non-food related activities and thoughts:

I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I’m a fast reader and read a lot anyway so this isn’t much of a difference. I’m trying to stick to slightly lighter, easier books lately which isn’t always my usual genre but you’d be surprised how many books with a fluffy premise (I’m looking at you In Five Years by Rebecca Seale) suddenly have a storyline that involves someone’s protracted, painful death like 2/3 of the way in. Why? Why?? I gave up on a lot of them but finished a couple because it was late at night and I didn’t want to have to weed through my Kindle for another book.

A mystery! I opened our last bag of Julius Sturgis horse and buggy shaped pretzels we bought over the winter. I had a few then closed the bag and now we can’t find it anywhere! It’s only the two of us, we haven’t left the (tiny) house and I only had them in the kitchen. Where could they be? Did someone break in and only steal our favorite pretzels?

Matt was tired so we ended up watching more Columbo. In every single episode so far someone has had a full bar in their living room. Is this what life in the 1970s was really like?