Thursday, December 31, 2009

I'm Playing Along with the Eat from the Pantry Challenge

I read about this challenge on the Money Saving Mom blog, and I'm going to give it a try. Since I drained a lot of my stockpiles with the cookie challenge, we are short on some staples and that'll keep me from following a strict "pantry-only" approach.Here's my version of the challenge:

- Only spend half our grocery budget, preferably less! The excess will go toward paying off the "grocery budget deficit" we acquired from buying a meat/eggs/yogurt CSA membership, which is good through April. I'd like to pay back the deficit over the next two months and try to sock some away to pay for our annual veggie CSA -- the membership starts up in June, but we haven't bought our share yet. This may need to turn into a habit...since as soon as we've paid off the meat CSA, it'll be veggie CSA purchase time, and then meat purchase time again (the veggie CSA is annual, but there's a winter supplement, and a fruit option, and...and...and...). The "preferably less" part of the goal will be important if I ever want to get us off of the "deficit" wheel and see pretty green bars in my grocery budget entries on again! This is a good warm-up for my 2010 goal of cutting down the grocery budget 20%.
- Eat from the pantry as much as possible -- in part so that I can get it better organized.
- Stick with my kitchen resolutions and boost our preparation for my maternity leave in the spring.

Here's my tenative meal plan for the next two gets a little sketchy after the first 10 days:

Thursday, 12/31: Dinner: Lamb chops, sweet potato latkes, mulled cider, no-bake cheesecake
[prep for future: sweet potato hashbrowns]

Friday, 1/1:
Lunch: defrosted stuff from the recesses of the freezer (doesn't that sound yum! But there are cookies in those recesses, you know....)
Dinner: eggrolls (ground pork, carrot, cabbage from pantry -- wrappers from the store); kung pao chicken (pantry-only); teriyaki noodles (pantry-only)
[prep for future: bake bread from freezer, make extra eggrolls]

Saturday, 1/2:
Lunch: grilled cheese sandwiches, maybe w/chili or soup
Dinner: French beef stew in crockpot (pantry-only)
[prep for future: make cinnamon rolls]

Sunday, 1/3:
Lunch: veggie burgers, maybe w/chili or soup
Dinner: Roasted chicken; butternut squash and potatoes with rosemary in crockpot (all pantry)
[prep for future: make mac & cheese for Stella's lunches]

Monday, 1/4:
Dinner: leftovers!
[prep for future: soak some beans]

Tuesday, 1/5:
Dinner: steak, roasted carrots, white bean crostini (all pantry)

Wednesday, 1/6:
Dinner: lamb roast; potato-carrot pancakes; pita chips (all pantry)
[prep for future: bake a cake]

Thursday, 1/7:
Dinner: onion-coated chicken; corn (all pantry)

Friday, 1/8:
Dinner: leftovers!

Saturday, 1/9:
Lunch: ???
Dinner: yellow split pea-spinach dal (will need to buy some spinach) plus...??
[prep for future: make & freeze some bread dough]

Sunday, 1/10:
[prep for future: ???]

Monday, 1/11:
???something with the other beef roast I have

Tuesday, 1/12:
tortellini & sauce, garlic bread with cheese

Wednesday, 1/13:
shredded beef tacos, refried beans, tex-mex rice, homemade tortillas
[prep for future: make extra tortillas and freeze]

Thursday, 1/14:

Friday, 1/15 --> onward ....

For breakfasts, we have sweet potato hashbrowns, eggs, cereal, chocolate tarts, apples, yogurt, and poptarts, so no one is going to go hungry. For drinks, we have leftover cider and various cans of soft drinks.

This actually takes me pretty much to the end of my meat supplies (other than some smoked ham hock....). I feel a little guilty thinking about meat as central to a meal, but it's almost always the limiting factor...and figuring out what I need to defrost & when is the easiest way for me to think about what to make. I'm expecting another CSA delivery on the 19th, which will help. Tonight, we went shopping (technically that falls on 12/31, but I'm counting it against the challenge because mostly we were refilling on must-buy staples like milk) and that put our expenses so far at 8.26% of the monthly budget. So far, so good!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Pre-holiday Family Cooking

This week I'm staying with my daughter, husband, mom, mom's partner, brother, sister-in-law, two nieces, and nephew. In town to join us at some meals are my husband's parents, his brother, his grandmother, my aunt and uncle, and my mom's partner's son and his wife. Usually I cook for 2 and a toddler :). Cooking for 17 instead of 3 in a tiny kitchen with tiny pans has been a bunch of fun, especially with my niece helping out every step of the way. So far, I've made:

- turkey-bacon clubs on homemade buttermilk bread, Rachel Ray style (ground turkey, bread crumbs, milk, egg, chopped bacon, browned up nicely, spread with a layer of herbed goat cheese whisked with milk and some extra herbs, served with tomato and romaine) (lunch #1)
- pork chops browned with 5 minutes/side, cooked up with sunny spain seasoning from penzey's then simmered in crushed tomato sauce with herbs, pantry beans (3 cans of beans, sauteed shallots, some honey, some vinegar, a can of green chiles, and some dribs and drabs of barbeque sauce), corn bread by my mom's recipe with some corn. (dinner #1)
- brown sugar chicken and texas tortillas grilled up as quesadillas (lunch #2)
- pumpkin pie (did my usual approximation of the recipe on the back of the pumpkin can), apple pie (no caramel sauce in my rendition), cranberry bars, rosemary bread, french bread, all to go with my Aunt Brenda's famous lasagna and a green salad. (dinner #2)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meat & Mushroom Lasagna

We are headed out of town so I'm cleaning out the fridge rather than plotting for the future. David was busy in Santa's workshop, so I only had one arm to cook with...the other being busy holding/feeding/patting/rescuing our toddlesome toddler. Dinner tonight was tasty & quick -- lasagna and salad.

For the lasagna, I used some organic whole wheat noodles, 8 oz mozzerella, some parmesan, some frozen Italian meat sauce w/spinach, and a can of cream of mushroom soup. The soup was an experimental new addition -- I keep seeing it advertised in various magazines as a recipe suggestion, and since I built up a bit of a stockpile of soup due to all the sales, I figured I'd give it a try. This was a good thing, because one of my usual lasagna additions -- ricotta cheese -- was a no-go....furry and green :(. If I'd realized this before I got into the thick of lasagna construction, I would have sauteed up some onions and mushrooms or something. As it was, I would have been pretty short on volume without the soup added in there. The salad was straight from a bag, a freebie w/Q from Dominick's. I don't generally count up the price of a meal, but this one surely came in cheap, with leftovers that look like lunch for tomorrow. I've been following these steps for making lasagna lately:

0. Put down a few spoons of sauce to prevent sticking.
1. Boil 4 noodles at a time for 4 minutes, add to pan in a single layer. Put in 4 more noodles to boil while you add a layer of sauce & cheese.
2. Continue step 1 for 3 or so layers. Your last layer should be sauce then cheese.
3. Bake for 40 minutes.

The nice thing about this method is that the time it takes to boil the noodles is just enough to get a layer laid down and some cheese grated, and you don't end up
with a messy pile of stuck together noodles because you cook so few at a time.

IRL prep time: 1 person, 15 minutes.
IRL cooking time: 40 minutes, unattended in the oven.
**IRL = in real life, as in, how long it took an actual person to go from the ingredients she had on hand to something cooking. So many recipes claim to be quick and easy, and then call for 15 different ingredients to be already peeled, chopped, blanched, etc. IRL means, I came through the door and dove in. Most of the time, the whole family is cooking, so I'll make a note of the number of people. Sometimes this makes a huge difference in prep time, other times it lets one person prep while another cooks, etc.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 12 of the Snowbound Cookie Challenge

I think I am officially too tired to handle day 12....I'm going to play the pregnant momma card and go to bed. I'll finish up tomorrow.

I've been falling asleep on the couch off and on for the last two hours, and instead of pushing through it, I'm going to listen to the message my body is sending loud and clear, and pack it in.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Grass Is Greener CSA Delivery

Today was the first of five deliveries from our membership in the Wisconsin meat/dairy CSA Grass Is Greener. It's a 6-month subscription, but we started a month late.

This month's winnings:
- sirloin steaks
- lamb loin chops
- ground pork
- cut up chicken
- whole chicken (missing parts) **
- lamb boneless shoulder roast
- sirloin tip roast
- smoked pork hocks

In addition, we bought a twelve-pack of yogurt and a carton of eggs. I'm not sure when we'll eat all this, since we're headed out of town, but it's a nice addition to the growing stockpile in our freezer. Also, I have no idea what to do with smoked pork hocks....I'm pretty sure I've never had them.

**This made me laugh...reminds me of the warning label on garage sale puzzles.

Day 11 of the Snowbound Cookie Challenge

It's the day before the last day of the challenge, and I gotta say....I am ready to be done. I am down to my last egg, and a half-stick of butter, and not much cooking spray either for that matter. Every container I could scare up is full of cookies, and some are mounded up on plates. I think we are equipped in the cookie department for a long time to come.

Today, I decided to go for an experiment -- starting with a "healthy" oatmeal cookie recipe, I added a little bit of this, a little bit of that, substituted here, skipped there, and ended up with what might be called "Oatmeal Puddles". They really smell great baking in the oven, but they come out a little too crispy-crumbly-thin. My original recipe was pretty much just oil, sugar, oats, and an egg (peanut butter, a couple raisins and cranberries from the bottom of the bag, cinnamon, and leftover fudge from the tarts were tossed in there too), but maybe it would have been useful to add in some flour to help it hold together and milk to soften the oats.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 10 of the Snowbound Cookie Challenge

Today's plan is to mix up some apple bars, let them bake, and then finally face the sugar cookies. I would like to cut them up in shapes, frost them with some canned vanilla icing I have in the cupboard, and sprinkle them with red sugar. Doesn't that sound lovely? But for some reason I am more excited about the apple bars :).

I managed to get the apple bars and sugar cookies baked -- yay. My sweetie helped me get all of the cookies cut out. I am calling them solstice cookies, since half are stars and half are moons. The decorating will have to wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 9 of the Snowbound Cookie Challenge

Oh, man, is my kitchen a mess. I have almost no clean storage containers left, and butter is approaching a critically low level....with no countertop space left to roll out the sugar cookie dough, it's going back in the fridge. I'm going to try making some rice krispie treats and spend the time I have between now and sleep getting my kitchen back into some kind of order. Wish me luck.

Kitchen Resolutions for the New Year

1. The Grocery Budget
My primary resolution for last year was to cut our grocery bill by 50%, and although we only managed to drop by 40%, we also drastically cut back on our numbers of lunches and dinners out. Even with all that extra eating at home, we still did rather well. I think we can get the rest of the way to this goal in 2009. A lot of people do just fine with a whole lot less, but this is a place we are fortunate enough to be able to choose to spend more than the absolute bare minimum (although don't think I'm not in total awe of moms feeding families of six on $40/week...!).

As I did last year, I would like to keep up or improve our level of "junk-free" food -- organic, natural, green, local, whole-grain, cruelty-free, hormone-free, additive-free, blah, blah, blah food at the same time. This is a non-scientific, within-reason kind of thing -- I'm not going to stop buying brands we love unless I become convinced that they're terrible for us, and I'm unlikely to pass up on particularly good deals or make a special trip to a different store for an item or two (except when it comes to meat and milk, where I always really taste the difference...and the wanton use of hormones and antibiotics in animal-sourced products is a little anxiety-producing anyway). If I make it from scratch, my attitude is that it's junk-free, even if some ingredients aren't organic or all-natural: I made it, and I didn't put a bunch of junk into it, so that's good enough. But if I dump non-organic corporate-ag-produced veggies into a saucepan for five minutes, we'll eat it and maybe enjoy it, but it's not particularly junk-free (although knowing me, I probably got it for 80% off).

Bottom line -- if it's not junk-free, we better love it, or it better be cheap. Minimizing our tox load is important, but we have a whole family of filtration organs for handling this stuff....and triscuits, diet squirt, and pop-tarts are yummy....

My overall strategy this last year has been to plan meals in advance, to take advantage of sales and coupons, and to avoid waste. These three together seem to have been relatively successful. We've saved money and time as well as dropped our overall meal-making stress...I'm not sure I'd want to go back to doing things the old pre-kid, pre-budget way! I've started up a little bit of a stockpile (which needs more organization...and I've got to pay more attention to using up some of this stuff, like the mountains of carrots and potatoes from the organic veggie CSA) and learned a lot about prices/coupons/sales. I think our new giant deep freezer will help in this area as well. Additional strategies I'd like to implement this year include: stocking up at farmer's markets/u-pick farms, using our new meat/dairy CSA membership, and continuing to build up my stockpile/sales/coupon mojo. Reminder to self: renew veggie CSA membership ASAP!

2. Target the Top Three Food Stress Days
We are fortunate to be able to each work from home one day a week, which leaves three days per week where both of us are gone all day and Stella is at her fab babysitter's house. Getting all of us out the door in the morning and all of us home again in the evening seems to result in long days overall -- one of us inevitably has an early meeting or a last-minute disaster and we end up short on time, energy, or both in the evenings. I want to target these three days (Monday, Tuesday, and Friday) for particular effort in the meal planning process as well as in an advance meal prep schedule to drop the overall time to dinner delivery. I've done some of this off and on (remembering to cut up extra of this or that, setting out all the ingredients for a crockpot meal, tossing something in marinade, planning leftovers or quick meals for these days, etc.) but I haven't been consistent or focused.

3. Observe Kitchen Wednesday
I started up "Baking Wednesday" without a lot of thought -- it's my work from home day, and back then, Stella took 2 or 3 naps and was happy in her high chair. So using the 'commute time' savings to do some extra special meal prep, or taking 10 minutes while lunch is cooking to knead a hunk of bread or toss a cobbler in the oven was easy to do. But my baking plans only made it into my meal plans irregularly, and as Stella has grown up, she doesn't nap as often as she used to, and she's not as happy just sitting in her chair or rocking in a swing while I make a mess in the kitchen. Finding new and creative ways to work with a toddler (and soon enough, a toddler and an infant) while doing extra in the kitchen will be a challenge, but I think some extra planning will really pay off. Stella is a good observer and a good helper, and I think she'll respond well to some kitchen routines.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Snowbound Cookie Challenge: Day 8

Well...chilling sugar cookie dough for 24 hours that says to chill for 2-3 hours has resulted in a hard, dried up bowl of something. Hmmmmmmm. It softened up after a zap in the microwave, but now it's wayyyyy too soft to work with....and I don't have time to wait on it to finish chilling back to a medium state. Eh, tomorrow.

I went ahead and made the fudge tarts, but my total lack of pastry mojo (and lack of granulated sugar to prevent sticking) made rolling the dough to 1/16" a silly dream. So the yield is about half what the recipe promised, and I've got a little plastic box of fudge filling for ....something. And they took 1.5 sticks of butter :/.

After a day at work where technology hated me, it's not really surprising to have an evening where cookies don't have much use for me either. Another day, another batch, I spose. The tarts are tasty but a crumbly disaster...good thing no one around here is relying on me to be a pastry chef.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Snowbound Cookie Challenge: Day 7!

We spent the late afternoon/early evening doing some grocery shopping and arrived home close to 9pm -- fortunately I had dinner in the crockpot ready to eat -- so once again the evening's cookie priority was to find something fast to put in the fridge to chill. I settled on sugar cookies (made with powdered sugar) and whipped them up while David put the baby to bed. I also found a recipe for some yummy-looking fudge squares that belong on the docket as soon as I have time (maybe Wednesday).

A few discoveries and observations for the day:
- Finally found the baker's sugar I suspected I had (it's a finely ground version of granulated sugar). Found coconut extract, almond extract, green and red decorative sugar, food coloring, and cookie cutters -- plus even more cinnamon, cocoa, and vanilla extract. Sugar cookies definitely seem appropriate under these conditions, eh? :) Cutting out cookies is definitely one of my fond holiday childhood memories. Too bad I don't have any rainbow sprinkles!
- My right hand seems to be having a reaction to either too much hand washing or too much exposure to wheat :/. The skin kinda hurts, and there are some red zones. This may turn out to be a problem, since I promised my sweetie that I'd make up some bread this addition to the cookies I owe myself for the challenge.
- 98 days 'til my due date, and I have this urge to organize my pantry and inventory my freezer. This might not seem tremendously odd in and of itself, but I am probably the least organized person I know (too much order makes me feel sort of defiant and irritable...good thing I never joined the military...but the idea of organizing cupboards and making up google spreadsheets of the contents of my freezer sounds perfectly logical and fun at present). I think I might be nesting...

Butter tally: 3 sticks
Egg tally: 4 eggs
Sugar: maybe 2 cups? Lotsa powdered, though.
Flour: plenty
Oil: plenty
Shortening: maybe 1/2 c?
Dairy: plenty -- powdered buttermilk, 1 c milk, whipping cream, evaporated milk
Goodies: cocoa, extracts, some leftover bits of chocolate candy, various spices, some dried fruit
Plus at least 3 cookie mixes.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

SCC: Day 6

Another near-napless day for a baby girl...the early signs of meltdown started up, so it's off to bed at 8:30....time for some cookie love.

Lessons & observations from today:
- Apparently my baby daughter likes peanutbutter cookies.
- All this baking keeps making me think that candied fruit, coconut, and chocolate chips should be as much a part of my stockpile as flour....sort of like working at a university raises the constant temptation to get a PhD, I suppose. Candied fruit would be cheaper, as environmental pressures go....
- I apparently do not keep a supply of waxed paper, but I probably should.

I found the (nearly) perfect recipe for my current constraints: cherry cream cheese cookies. One egg, powdered sugar, and a way to use the maraschino cherries I found while cleaning out the fridge today. I substituted sliced almonds for the coconut, and Andes mints for chocolate chips. The end results look like the best ones yet -- the overall yield was more like 4 dozen than 5.5, but that always seems to happen to me. I also ran out of topping -- hard to estimate over so broad a range, and the almond made the scoops more generous & less precise anyway.

So, now we have chocolate crinkles, lemon bars, cheesecake bars, peanut butter cookies, date fingers (more like filled pastry thingys....super for breakfast), and cherry cheese shortbreads. Yum!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 5 of the Snowbound Cookie Challenge

It is 9:41 pm, the highly nap-resistant baby is asleep, and I am heading for the kitchen. Time to put in a little extra effort since I was so worn out last night. The "date fingers" need baking, and something else needs to at least get started, if not completed. I did discover another problem last night...I don't have enough freezer containers to freeze everything in nice little boxes. Fortunately the chili I made last night harvested a few containers out of the freezer, but I'm harkening fondly to this giant pile of freezer containers that I tossed out a few months back. Those were the days BBF...before big freezer.

Quarter after midnight (how did that happen?) but I'm all done -- date fingers were more work than I thought...they are more like date empanadas or something. My peanutbutter cookies (Joy of Cooking recipe) came out tasty but a little crumbly (maybe because they only got half an egg instead of a whole egg, or else too much flour....the recipe did warn me about too much flour....) Sweetie is finding containers for storing our goodies, and I'm having milk and cookies. Milk and peanut butter cookies. Delicious!

One note from the state of the stockpile....starting to run low on shortening. This is a good thing really...that shortening is really kinda old...but along with the low levels of granulated sugar (and my new lack of brown sugar).... The next few recipe selections will be interesting.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snowbound Cookie Challenge: Day 4

When I started this thing, I didn't exactly expect the sky to fill with icy snowclouds and the temps to dive below 0. This was supposed to be theoretical snowboundedness. Imaginary. Not trying-to-come-true. Ha. Ha. Ha. Funny Kaylea. Yea, well, oops. At least it's easy to find a place to cool off whatever is hot from the oven....last night's cheesecake squares chilled quite nicely in the uninsulated mudroom at the back of the house....also known as the auxiliary fridge....soon to be known as the original auxiliary freezer if this weather keeps up. I mustered up the courage to try one of the lemon squares today -- yum!!

Other projects kept me out of the kitchen until late-late-late, so I am on the hunt for something I can mix up in a bowl, toss in the fridge, and call it "progress enough for one night". And I don't even care if it has eggs in it. Nyah.

A hah. Date fingers, from the intimidatingly non-narrative and encyclopedic 1001 cookies cookbook. It calls for currants and dates....I've got raisins and prunes. But on a fast pony at midnight....who will know the difference?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 3 of the Snowbound Cookie Challenge

Ugh. There, I said it. I don't feel like my usual sparkly self today, I feel tired and pregnant, and I'm sure no one wants to read a big whiney post about my extremely minor difficulties and complaints....because in the grand scheme of things, I am probably the world's most fortunate and blessed person. Or, at least, I've never met anyone luckier than me. Which doesn't help my headache go away (whine alert! whine alert!) but maybe some tylenol and some cheesecake squares will do the trick :)

Life's little lessons:

1 - If the food safety website says store your shortening in the fridge or it'll go rancid, and the shortening container says store it at room it at room temperature. At least during the Snowbound Cookie Challenge.

2 - I need to look up a helpful hints website that can tell me how to store brown sugar without it getting all gross.

Kitchen discoveries:

A tin of cocoa, a bag of prunes (surely these can substitute for dates), and a gorgeous little jar of fancy orange marmalade....hmmm....

The cheesecake squares are baking happily, my sweetie is cutting up lemon bars to put into freezer containers, and my little baby is sleeping peacefully. Oh, and my headache is gone. Life is good.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 2 of the Snowbound Cookie Challenge!

I baked up the Chocolate Crinkles from the fridge tonight, which was fun and easy -- I think I ended up with more like 7 dozen cookies rather than the 6 the recipe said it would yield. The cookies are tasty but unusual -- crispy and quick to spread out in the pan, rather than the thicker look they seem to have in the picture. I did run them in the electric mixer a little bit longer than the directions may have expected, but my guess is that the real difference is that I used their directions for substituting self-rising flour. David carted several plastic boxes of cookies down to the freezer, and it was on to cookie #2: Lemon Bars.

Lemon Bars done the Betty Crocker 1960's Cooky Book way are quick and easy -- a couple ingredients, bake, a couple more ingredients, bake, done. No problem! Hmmm....what to make tomorrow....

This brings up the question, in a round-a-bout way, of why I'm enjoying this little exercise in the first place. Why do it?

Reason #1: It's like a cookie exchange, only no one takes away your cookies or judges you. The whole idea came up as I was ruminating on the cookie exchanges of my childhood. We kids loooooved the cookie exchange. Mom would do a bunch of work, and we would get a huge variety of cookies. What could be better? :). The cookie exchange seems to have an overall cultural reputation as being a lot of work, and in some cases, a source of social stress (Are your cookies gorgeous? Tasty? Healthful? Do they omit everything forbidden by everyone else's allergies and diet concerns? Did you bring recipe cards? Are they laser printed on fancy cards you hired Martha Stewart to design for you personally?). I came to the conclusion that I didn't particularly want to ringlead the imposition of stress and hassle on other people....I just wanted a lot of different cookies. And a lot of different cookies is a bunch of fuss and bother, but I don't mind going to all kinds of fuss and bother over something if I get to choose the fuss and bother....

Reason #2: I don't feel particularly confident in my ability to innovate with baked goods. I'm comfortable inventing recipes for main dishes, but baking has a lot of chemistry...I can't just fix a bad batch of cookies by adding some vinegar, cilantro, diced fruit, and/or black pepper...if the bread doesn't rise, adding curry powder just isn't going to liven things up. So this seems like a good way to hone my instincts. I would love to be able to whip up a batch of cookies or whatnot while I'm making dinner or working on other things, but I never seem to set aside the time to do it, and it's just not second nature.

Reason #3: It seems amusing. I expect I'll learn a lot and have fun along the way -- and at the end, well, there will be cookies. Amusement is surely one of the best reasons for this whole experiment. And cookies.

What could possibly go wrong??

My observations so far:
- Eggs seem to be more important to cookie making than I had realized. Sugar, flour, butter, some spices and flavorings and such...that's to be expected. But eggs? I'm going to run out of them, for one thing, and that's going to push me to consider either wacky ideas for substitutes, or else some very odd-sounding recipes that don't require eggs. Or is the egg thing a Betty Crocker thing, and will the next book I work through be less concerned about them? We'll see. My theory about eggs in cookies is that they must play the same role as they do in other dishes where their flavor isn't featured, which I think is to act as a kind of binding & thickening agent.
- I have a few items lurking in my cabinets and fridge that I'd forgotten about....which is good, considering how many things I am already running out of. Marshmallows...coconut juice....surely those will be helpful, although maybe not together.

On tap for tomorrow: something without any egg in it. The overall egg attrition rather is just too high to be sustained. Lemon snowdrops, or will that be too many lemon/powdered sugar items when mixed with the lemon bars from today? Cream wafers are eggless, but also rather pastry-like. Cheese dainties want an egg white, but have the advantage of calling for cream cheese...and drawing fron a diverse supply of ingredients may be important to long-term sustainability for this enterprise....besides, there are plenty of recipes that only want the yolk....cheesecake squares curiously do not call for cream cheese, but rather condensed milk....on the other hand, they would mean the end of my meager supply of brown sugar. But what really matters is....what will be tastiest?

The Twelve-Day Snowbound Cookie Challenge

Last night, in the span of time between 9:30 and 10:30 pm which separates my daughter's bedtime from my own, I invented a new holiday tradition: The Twelve-Day Snowbound Cookie Challenge. The rules of the challenge, also invented on the spot, are as follows:

- 12 days (and 12 nights), 12 different types of cookies. Multiple recipes can be fully executed on the same day, but this is discouraged. For example, last night I got my batch of chocolate crinkles (yum!) up to the "chill overnight" phase, and stopped. Tonight, I'll bake them, and get another batch of cookies up to the "chill overnight" stage.

- Bake from your grocery stockpile, and only from your stockpile! Make do with what you have already on hand. In my case, this means no molasses, no coconut, no candied fruit...and honestly, not a ton of granulated sugar, cinnamon, or eggs. So this is going to be a challenge in the true sense of the word....for now, I'm going by recipes, but once I start running out of things, all bets are off...

- And for next year....don't pick out the recipes in advance! Recipes should only be selected once the challenge has begun. This is a subtle way that a sneaky contestant might avoid the "stockpile only" cheating, no peeking, nope nope.

So there you have it. Pretend you've got serious cookie (or as my 1960s era cook book says, cooky...) debts to pay, but you're snowbound and have to work with what you have.