Monday, January 20, 2014

Baked Beans And Other Food Updates

OMG you guys!  We are having so much fun with Joe's cook-and-eat-only-the-food-in-the-house-before-you-even-think-of-buying-any-more challenge!

As many of you know, I posted a slew of photos on Friday night of Joe's food caches around our house.

Well, our friend Randy scoured those photos, noticing every food item in each cupboard and drawer.  He posted this comment on Facebook "BTW, let me know when he dusts off the bean pot, as they are my favourite!"

Joe needed no further encouragement!  Off came the bean pot from the laundry room shelf.  Navy beans went into a bowl to soak overnight.  Smoked pork jowls saw the light of day after spending a few years buried in the bottom of the freezer.

And wouldn't you know it?  Joe had every item needed to make baked beans!  Except one.  Molasses.

I invited Randy and his beautiful wife to join us for dinner the next night to watch the football game.  But there was a catch.  I asked if Joe could borrow 1/3 of a cup of molasses.  Before I could hang up the phone, Randy was at our front door with a brand new container of molasses!

Dinner was delicious as we all knew it would be.  Joe rounded out the meal with potatoes 'Dauphinoise' and a cole slaw.  I threw a dessert together.

A happy customer

What a fun way to spend the evening.  With good friends and good food.


I missed Joe's spice collection when I was documenting his food with photos!  

Joe's other meals this past week have been nothing short of wonderful.  It is amazing what he can put together at a moment's notice while shopping in his own larder.

 Baked cannelloni stuffed with chanterelle mushrooms, ricotta and kale

 Roasted root vegetables

Steak and Guinness pie on mashed potatoes with green salad

And in other breaking news.... witch hazel is blooming.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Joe's Speakeasy recent blog post about our new project garnered quite a response!  Lots of your comments on facebook made Joe and I laugh.  Thank you.

It got me thinking about one of Joe's other loves.  Cocktails.

Our bar on the kitchen counter

It all started several years ago.  For Joe's 50th birthday, he wanted to host a cocktail party.  The kind of party where he could create any drink his guests requested.  So in true Joe fashion, he began to prepare months in advance.  He bought a cocktail recipe book.  He mail-ordered all manner of cocktail glasses.  He bought many, many bottles of assorted liquors and liqueurs.  He purchased mixing paraphernalia: jiggers, shakers, specialty ice cube trays, bitters.

The irony is Joe hardly drinks.  So he tested his cocktails out on me.

Joe's glassware collection

An assortment of some of his vintage glasses

But also in true Joe fashion, he tends to go overboard.  We have enough booze in this house to sink a ship.  Well, maybe not a ship.  But a dinghy for sure.  (Seeing as it was Christmas a few short weeks ago so Joe and I, along with our guests, did a fair bit of damage to his ample alcohol supply.)

Joe doesn't have a proper bar.  He stores his bottles on a shelf in the closet of our spare bedroom.

 The left-hand side of the closet shelf

 The right-hand side of the closet shelf

Many cocktails Joe makes require bitters.  So we have more than our fair share of those too.  (For the uninitiated, just a few drops of bitters go into each drink.  We have enough bottles to last a lifetime.)

There are five bottles of bitters alongside the shiitake mushrooms in the laundry room cupboards.

What's this?  Just a wooden tray of bitters I found under the bed in the spare room. 

If you ever find yourself in need of a drink, especially if it requires bitters, you now know where to come.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Project 'Cook-And-Eat-All-The-Food-In-The-House-Before-Joe-Can-Buy-More'

My husband is a good cook.  Scratch that.  He is an excellent cook.  Self-taught.  Comes from a long line of fabulous cooks.  His mother.  His grandmother.  And I'm sure his great-grandmother before them.

Joe is a foodie.  He loves to eat food.  He loves to cook food.  He loves to cook food for others. But I think most of all, he loves to shop for food.

He likes nothing better than to look at food in grocery store aisles.  He pores over the fresh fruit and veg bins.  He is on a first name basis with the local butcher.  He mail orders non-perishable food items from the U.S.A.

And oh my goodness, you should see him during our summers in Europe!  We go to more outdoor markets than museums. His greatest pleasure is to wander around French grocery stores examining all the foods we do not have here in Canada.  Pig's brains and lamb sweetbreads.  Tinned octopus and cheeseburger potato chips.  He is fascinated by it all.  Me on the other hand?  I just get a glazed look on my face and go sit in the car.

I get it.  Cooks need to have a lot of different foods in the house.  They need a ready supply of staples like flour, rice, oil, eggs, milk, sugar and salt.  Cooks need to be constantly surrounded by a variety of foods and spices.

But I think things may have gone too far around here.  We have 8 different kinds of salt.  EIGHT!  Three types of rice.  Huge sacks of different flours.  And multiples of EVERYTHING!  And I mean everything.

I tell Joe he has FBA.  Food Buying Addiction.

We were throwing ideas around for a New Year's resolution and I suggested he challenge himself by cooking only the food that is currently in the house.  No more shopping for meat, tinned foods, dried foods or condiments.  Of course he can buy fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, etc.

Surprisingly, he was open to my idea.  (I've suggested it before and let's just say he wasn't so intrigued.)  I told him I would take before and after photos and document the project on my blog.  Just think of the funny meals he could make!

May I remind you that we are empty nesters.  There are only two of us living in this house.

So here goes...

When we renovated our kitchen two years ago, I naively thought that these 5 shelves in our pantry cupboard would be more than enough space to house most of the non-perishable food in our house.  I thought wrong.

 Shelf 1

 Shelf 2

 Shelf 3

 Shelf 4

 Shelf 5

I took photos of all the food in our house.  Because one needs to have a baseline to be able to measure one's progress.

Cupboard above the pantry.

 The refrigerator door

 The refrigerator

The refrigerator freezer

 Joe took me at my word when he learned he could only buy fresh food until the end of this project.  Hence the HUGE 25 pound bag of carrots...

 ...and box of onions...

...and big burlap sack of potatoes in the garage.

 More unearthed food in the garage.   A few fancy French cheeses at the bottom of a cooler.

 The right side of our chest freezer.  Blueberries anyone?

 The trays in our chest freezer.

 The left side of our chest freezer.  

 Shelves of food in our laundry room.  CHRISTMAS PUDDING ANYONE?

 Shelf of food above the furnace.

 Bags of salt and other sundries on a counter in the laundry room.

 Cupboard of food in our laundry room.

See what I mean about multiples?  (And there is currently an unopened jar of capers in the fridge bringing the total to four.)  WHO THE HELL NEEDS FOUR JARS OF CAPERS IN THEIR HOUSE?

 Seven jars of jam tucked way into the back of a drawer in the laundry room.

 Looks like we'll be eating pasta and noodles for a while.

So.  Where do we go from here?

We have been eating out of our cupboards for a week now and the meals have been nothing short of exemplary.

 A huge mac 'n cheese casserole

 Carrot soup (Joe doesn't even like carrots.)

Roasted duck breast and pan-fried potatoes on top of a kale salad with shredded beets and carrots.

I will keep you posted about Joe's progress with this project.  I am sure we will have a few laughs.  Or not.    But whatever it is, it will be interesting.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goodness Jar Project

One year ago today I embarked on a project I had seen on Pinterest.  It intrigued me.  The premise was to write down the things you were grateful for, or made you happy, and pop the slip of paper into a jar on a daily basis.

January 1, 2013

I liked the challenge of doing this every single day.

January 16, 2013

But I am not a very disciplined person.  I questioned whether I could keep the project going for an entire year.

April 3, 2013

Well, whaddya know?  I could keep it going.  And I did.  I never missed a day.  Not one.

July 5, 2013

Being involved in this project forced me to stop and reflect at the end of every day.  I asked myself, "What was good today?  What made me smile?  What was I grateful for?"  Some days I had to think really long and hard to find it.

December 8, 2013

Even when I had a bad day, there was always something good that had happened.  All I had to do was look for it. 

December 31, 2013

The project is now over.  This morning I tipped the jar over and pulled out all 365 slips of paper.  I spent many hours today picking up random notes and reading them.

January 1, 2014

Not surprisingly, a lot of good things happened in 2013.  Some big things.  Mostly small things.  I was astounded to realize just how many amazing things happened to me in one year.

I plan to put these slips of paper into a scrapbook.

Now I'm looking for another project to chronicle 2014.  I'm considering the 'Do Something New For 30 Days' challenge.  I wonder if I could find 12 new things to keep the project going every month for the whole year?  I'm game to try.

Happy New Year everyone!  May you all be happy and healthy in 2014.