Posted by: alethacs | March 24, 2009

Our Daily Bread: Update on The Year to Simply Live

st-pats-streamers

Our St. Patrick's Day Wand Streamers Catch a Breeze While the Pitas Cool in the kitchen

What!  March already!  We have been very busy with all sorts of unplanned activities (the subject of a later post) but are finally ready to update our status on our year to simply live.  If you’ll recall, we have decided  for one year to buy NOTHING retail (new), make ALL our own food from scratch (this includes not eating out), eliminate television from our home, cut out the use of credit cards and stop all unsolicited mail (junk, catalogs, etc.) from coming over the threshold.  We are happy to report progress and success in all of these areas and will try to update you on each category (one per week) over the next several weeks.  

First, we wish to come totally clean with our dear readers and tell you we had to delay our start date till Feb. 1, but we are now going strong.   I am so excited about the progress on our second goal (eat to live) that we will begun our update there.  If you’ll recall, we have pledged to make all our own food from scratch, to buy nothing that comes in a box, package, or mix, including not purchasing prepared food from the supermarket or eating out.  But please don’t mistake my enthusiasm for bragadiccio regarding my cooking prowess because it wasn’t so very long ago that I was calling up mom to ask, “Just how do I boil an egg again?”  (Seriously, they kept coming out tinted green) (Seriously, seriously they still come out a little green sometimes when I leave them on too long!).   We did have a fairly active kitchen in past years– almost always making our own daily bread, pizza doughs, ice cream, soups, etc.  such that the thought of increasing my time in the kitchen was a bit dautning.  How could I cook even more from scratch?  Thus the idea for our year was born–I needed something to motivate me to take that final step.  

So, drum roll please. . . We have so far made the following “new” items in our very own little kitchen:  juice, butter, yogurt, pita bread (twice now), tortillas, and crackers. 

Do you have visions of me slaving over the hot stove, sweat pouring down my exhausted face as I roll dough?  I must admit, I did, before I did it, but IT IS SO NOT THAT WAY.  After we made pita (with apologies to those of you who already do this on a regular basis), I couldn’t get over how easy it was.  Why did the thought of those little pocketed wonders that enliven sandwhiches seem like the impossible kitchen task?  Don’t know, but Truman, Isaiah, & I had great fun.  The second time we made pita, we decided to double the recipe.  We made the dough in the morning, counting out the 12 cups of flour into our largest metal mixing bowl–Truman’s eyes bright as he got to stir this (to his 5 year old self) huge pile of flour.  It was even more fun to see his look of pleasure on peeking at the dough after its first rise–where it had doubled in size to fill the bowl.  He observed–“Mommy, the bread grows when it rests just like I do when I sleep!”

Then, after lunch, we set to work dividing the dough into 48 or so balls, rolling it out to pita thinness, and baking.  The key to getting the nice round shape appears to lie in starting out with a nice round ball (a lot like making a play-dough ball, but more satisfying ’cause you get to eat it at the end).  After that, the rolling out the dough is as easy as pie, er pita.  Next, you place on the pan, they cook for about 5 minutes–and poof (literally) yummy fluffy whole wheat goodness. 

We need to score some more pans at a rummage sale, though because we only had two, so that lengthened the process a bit (You can only fit a few per pan).  Since they cook at 45O0, lengthening the process does tend to heat up the kitchen.  Luckily, it was a cool but not cold day so we opened the kitchen door and let the heat out.  Our ultimate goal is to build an outdoor brick oven and do these outside.  For now, we’ll have a last marathon pita cooking session before summer heats us up too much.

We had similar success with our other cooking items, and the rewards, apart from beginning an enjoyable and nourishing tradition with our children are all about the taste.  Making yogurt is REALLY easy (why did I ever buy this, easy) and to me, it tasted like ice cream! (Okay, so I haven’t had actual ice cream in over a year because of Isaiah’s dairy sensitivity, but still it WAS good, just ask Truman who eats like it IS ice cream).  Same with making our own oj–it tastes so good, you drink less & it goes farther.   As for the pita– they were good.  Even better the second time around.  Brian never really ate pita before, and now I have to ask him to please save some for the rest of us!

As mentioned, dear Isaiah has oodles of food sensitivities, so we have eaten out only rarely in the past 18 months (maybe 1-2/month), so giving up eating out, while still a sacrifice wasn’t much of one.  But, we did have our version of “fast food.”  About once or twice a week we were using canned beans.  Perhaps refried to make tacos, chalupas, enchiladas, kidneys to do a quick red beans and rice,  garbanzos for a fast hummus, or cannellini for an “instant” pasta fazioli.  Since we have eliminated all canned items our taste buds have been singing.  I had no idea how much taste quality we have been sacrificing by relying on these products.  Now I make some “bean of the week or month” in a large batch in a crock pot where they cook themselves, and put up the surplus in the freezer.  The taste quality of just our hummus has increased 100%!

The moral of my story is that if I can do it (albeit with the help of two master chefs 5 and under), anyone can if you want to.  REALLY.  It does take a little more time for some things (our two-pan pita operation, from making the dough to 8 “packages” of completed pitas took a little over 2 hours).  And a little more planning.  For instance, Saturday is waffle day, we make enough of those to last the week.  If we want to have tacos, we’ve gotta make sure we’ve got the tortillas made AND the beans.   So I have a little menu planning cheat sheet for the week where I remind us to take items out of the freezer for the next day, make up a batch beans or whatever is needed. I do not feel like I am spending oodles more time in the kitchen, and I am certainly not a slave to the stove.

Upcoming cooking projects include making our own graham crackers, pasta noodles, baked tortila “chips,” and fruit leathers.  Next steps?  We are planning to grow our own beans in our own little backyard so that we can add “grown at home” to our “cooked at home” repertoire.  We anticipate our taste buds will be singing AND dancing, if we succeed.

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