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Thursday, 12 January 2017

My challenge for 2017

I love this time of year. I love Christmas and New Year and all the family get-togethers.  We have traditional Christmas dinner of turkey and pork and all the trimmings.

We then have a big buffet dinner to use up all the cold meat and pickles and turn the veg into Bubble and Squeak.

We make patés and curry and stock for the freezer and this year because we were away shortly after Christmas we put a bit of leftover sliced meat into the freezer.

After the extravagance of Christmas and New Year I love the frugality of January too.  I always set myself some kind of challenge for the year, in some way related to reducing waste or reallocating resources: buying no clothes for a year except second hand, buying nothing in single use plastic packaging, giving away 10 books a month and buying none new - these things have all featured as yearly challenges and I enjoy them.

This January I decided to have a USE IT UP month so we are living out of the freezer and plan to completely empty it.

Our first meal back at home in 2017 involved making a soup from the few bits of veg we had left in the fridge. For this I got out some stock from the freezer. The soup consisted of a chopped onion, skin still on and some chopped leak ends - the green leaves - and a couple of stalks of celery. There was a bag containing some cauliflower leaves and stalk so that went in along with the stock, once the celery, onion and leak had sweated down. I then chopped up a couple of parsnips keeping the skin on and a carrot.  I still had a few sprouts and carrots and more celery left for the weekend but the veg drawer was otherwise empty.

I also came back home to about two thirds of a pint of old milk.  Normally my Dad would have collected the milk from my fridge and used it up.  I do the same when he goes away.  But between us we must have forgotten.  So I decided to make a batch of herb scones to use up the sour milk.   It would also be an additional something to take to another family get-together at the weekend where we had promised to bring lunch with us.

Herb scones to use up some sour milk

For dinner we used up some sausages from the freezer. I must have frozen them in a hurry as there were eight sausages in the tub. With only three of us at home I had a feeling we wouldn't eat them all but it is very easy to use up cooked sausages so we cooked them all. The next day we remembered that we had frozen some leftover toad-in-the-hole, so we dug deep and found that. We added the extra sausages from the day before and used up the gravy we'd had with our sausage and mash and there was plenty for the three of us. It inspired Junior Daughter to have a go at toad-in-the-hole at uni. Turned out very well by the looks of it.

I often have lots of stock in my freezer and of course with a turkey at Christmas we have plenty of stock from that.  Each day we've been raiding the freezer either for soup or for stock to make soup.

Mr Pitt has made various turkey based soups for lunch and we've been eating it with the herb scones.

We've also had burgers and that helped with an interesting challenge for the Pitt family - some processed cheese slices.  This is not something we normally buy, but acquired these after a cricket club barbecue, not wanting them to go to waste, of course.  So we bought some salad to go with our freezer raids and had melted cheese over some pork burgers.

The freezer is slowly emptying and so far, we've only had one casualty.  We thought it might be hummus, but it was the big sin of not labelling what you put in the freezer.  Once something defrosts you can usually tell what it is, but this was just a grey blob of something mushy with no smell.  If it was hummus once, it clearly wasn't great hummus.  We decided the best place for this was the compost heap.

In preparation for our family buffet, we had a cook up evening. It was fun finding things we could use up.  We wondered what we cold do with our slices of cold meat.  There wasn't a lot left, and I felt the ideal thing would be vol au vents, but the freezer didn't reveal any ready made puff pastry.  I always make my own short crust pastry as its quick and easy and always delicious, but I haven't made puff pastry since I made it in a cookery class at school at the age of 10.

Time to get out the cookery book bible.  Yes, it is a complete faff, but actually it isn't hard.  I learnt a few things, like leaving the pastry thicker for vol au vents than you would for a pie crust or sausage rolls.  I'll have to have another go soon to try and improve. They went down very well... and besides what's the point in making home made anything that just looks like it is shop bought.  Shame I forgot to take a photo when they were made up - and the evidence has now all been eaten.

I had made a large mince pie on Boxing Day, which we forgot all about, so we had left it in an airtight cake box in our porch - which acts as a spare fridge over the winter (well most of the year round, in fact).  We had a reasonable stock of eggs in the fridge so I made a batch of short crust pastry to make a quiche as the main event for the lunch.  What to put in it?  We had some feta cheese and there was some cooked gammon from the freezer.   I had frozen some broccoli before going away so I put that in too and there we have it - broccoli, feta and gammon quiche.

I had a bit of pastry left over from the quiche and wondered what could go in it.  We had some paté in the freezer, so we took that out and I layered it into the centre of the rolled out oblong of pastry and rolled it up to make a kind of sausage roll.  We forgot to take it with us for lunch next day, which was a happy surprise on Sunday when we wanted a little snack for lunch, before a roast dinner in the evening.

To sum up the spread for the buffet we had:

  • broccoli, gammon and feta quiche, 
  • turkey and pork and sweetcorn vol au vents in a white wine sauce
  • herb scones with butter
  • pork pie (made by our local butcher and bought uncooked and frozen)
  • lattice mince pie for pudding
Not bad for a use-it-up freezer raid!

The freezer delving continues and I think on tonight's menu we are making a sort of butternut squash, lentil, bacon and feta cheese lasagna, but instead of using lasagna sheets, we are going to substitute some broken tortilla wraps from the freezer.

There will be more soup, no doubt, but what else will we find, I wonder?  I think it is going to take us at least another week or two after this one and then we will move on to the cupboards.

But, there's more to the story... what started as a practical decision to use up the contents of the freezer so it can get a thorough clean out and defrost, has led me onto more use-it-up ideas.  I had a big box in my bedroom full of various toiletries.  That has been pulled out and I've been using up bits and pieces from there.

The biggest clear up for 2017, however, is going to be digital.  I decided that my big 2017 challenge would be a digital detox.  I'll tell you more about that another day.

Here's to 2017.  Let's make it a great year!

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