Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Take advantage of labor-saving devices

Making all your food from scratch takes more time than buying prepared meals, but it does not have to take THAT much more, if you have the means to acquire some devices.

The most important ones for me so far are the soy milk maker, chest freezer, yogurt maker, rice cooker, crock pot and grain mill. I certainly couldn't have done this project if I had to hand-mill all the grain. A chest freezer is, in my opinion, almost required because if you aren't using processed foods, you will go mad unless you freeze some stuff yourself, and it's important to always have meat/chicken/fish on hand, so you don't freak out that there's nothing to eat. Some freezers attached to refrigerators are a bit small to hold home-made meals, stock, and protein.

The rice cooker has turned out to be quite handy because with so much else to do, I sometimes forgot I had a pot of rice or porridge on the stove and burned it. The rice cooker will hold it without scorching. And the crock pot is invaluable.

Honestly, if you start the day by making a batch of rice in the cooker, and set up beans, a stew or braised protein in the crock pot, a 100% from-scratch day is pretty easy to do without making bread, sausage or fussy stuff. Just add hot cereal in the morning, a large salad full of vegetables, some soup you made earlier, fresh fruit, and you're there.

On the weekends, I know I'll have to make soy milk and yogurt for the week, and I always make a large pot of hearty soup, and salad dressing. With the appliances, it's really easy to just put soaked soybeans into the maker and press a button. When it goes beep!, I pour it through a fine sieve into a heat-safe receptacle and cool. 30 cents of soybeans makes $3.95 worth of fresh soy milk.

Yogurt is more of a pain, because you have to heat the milk to 180 and cool it to 110 before whisking in 1/2 cup of the previous batch of yogurt (or fresh yogurt starter). That takes a bit of paying attention. After that, I put it into the yogurt cups, and turn on the yogurt maker to go for 6-8 hours.

I have a bunch of frozen soup stock on hand, and make more when that runs low. I made a batch of strawberry jam that should last a while, and dehydrated a bunch of fruits and vegetables. They come in handy.

For breakfast, I make things like scrambled eggs with potatoes, yogurt and fresh fruit, muffins, or hot cereal. I plan to make bagels and cream cheese soon, as well as homemade cold cereal that's a bit more complicated than granola or muesli (Did you know that Grape-Nuts came from an Amish recipe?).

Lunch is often leftovers of what I made for dinner. Nick gets sent off every day with a Thermos-Bento box with soup, salad, an entree and fresh fruit.

Dinner: Easing into it, I made a lot of steak/chicken/fish with rice/baked potato/mashed potatoes and broccoli/green beans/asparagus. Stir-fry is also really easy. I then started making sausage, and serving it with lentils. Sundays are usually Mexican food, with handmade corn tortillas from fresh masa and some kind of grilled chicken/steak, with bowls of whole beans, minced jalapeno, white onion, cilantro, sliced avocado, and tomatoes. For the next stage, I will make queso fresco to include in the mix, since before the project, I always included a bowl of some kind of cheese.

So far, I actually haven't made bread as frequently as I expected I would. There's just a lot to do.

Coming up soon, I will be making crackers, goat cheese, pastrami, and authentic Jewish rye.


  1. I WANT THAT GRAPE NUTS RECIPE. They're *not sold* in my part of Canada.

    ... ahem.

    The rest of it is fascinating, and you make it seem like it's not as hard as I thought it might be. Appliances sure do help, as you say.

  2. Graham Nuts (retrieved from the book Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flour by Kim Boyce with Amy Scattergood; originally from Cooking from Quilt Country by Marcia Adams.)

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Rub a baking sheet with butter. Sift these ingredients into a bowl:
    1 cup graham flour*
    1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
    1/3 cup dark brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    In a small bowl, combine:
    1 cup buttermilk
    1 tablespoon honey
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with a spatula. Scrape the batter onto the baking sheet and using the spatula or metal offset spatula, spread the batter evenly across the entire surface. The thinner you can spread it, the more evenly the cracker will bake.

    Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Break off any areas of the cracker that are getting dark or dry, and set them on a rack to cool.

    Turn the oven down to 250­°F. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 55-60 more minutes. Every 20 minutes, check it and break off any more dry sections. Remove the sheet from the oven when the cracker is mahogany brown and entirely dry. Let cool on a rack.

    Set up a food processor with a large-hole grater attachment. Feed pieces of the cracker through the tube at the top and grind into "nuts." Serve with milk. The graham nuts will keep in an airtight container for one month.


  3. Thank you!! :) I miss grapenuts for breakfast...