The Year of the Wine Ration

January 4th, already.  A new day, a new year, a new chance to make a difference in the food and consumption departments of our household budget.  Guilty of over-indulgence in many areas of consumption; butter, chocolate, food in general, and need I even mention it, Wine!  So, I agreed late last week to join forces with my husband and tether down the continually rising food and alcohol expense that we incur. Not really ready to join an established AA meeting, (although two of my closest friends and I could seriously start our own chapter – not really sure how productive that might prove; well, yes, I am sure – NOT AT ALL) I am ready to begin my year of  wine rationing and overhauling our other consumptive practices.

So, don’t get me wrong, wine is not the only area that needs reduction.  One of my biggest problem areas is that of using leftovers in timely fashion.  ‘They’ say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but in my case, it is paved with leftover stinky broccoli, numerous portions of grilled salmon, mashed potatoes, slimy cucumbers, 1/2 cup of soup, egg yolks (or whites – depending on which half was otherwise called for in the recipe) and various morsels too old and too transformed to identify.  Looking especially hopeful right after a delectable dinner when you KNOW you’ll want to eat (that) tomorrow, the day after that at the LATEST, I stash  the ingredient or leftover with angelic intent, then promptly forget its existence.  What was once fabulous food, prepared lovingly and enjoyed thoroughly is now a science experiment.  I have seen some of the most incredible looking molds growing in my refrigerator!  Technicolor marvels of wastefulness: green, blue, pink, orange and brown – oh, my!  I confess to these sins because many of my compatriots have shared similar stories, and I know of no one who hasn’t wasted something.  And, you’re not judging me, right?  RIGHT?  Also, (I mean it this time) I want to improve.  So, here we go.

The Year of the Wine Ration is predicated on my desire to (A) Save money, (B) Waste less food, (C) Be more responsible to my family and the planet.  I’ll be sharing recipes, organizational tips, successes, screw ups, pictures and lots more.

One of the first things I did (January 1st, actually) was to regroup on my pantry.  I rearranged canned food storage, pantry storage, labeled canisters and generally put like items with like items. Later today, I’ll take pictures of my fridge – before and after, and share them with you.  This is part of my admission that I have a problem, and hey, I am working on it.  I intend to utilize all these ‘found’  items in my January recipes.

Two recipes made over the last few days use fresh produce and dry pantry items that I had on hand.  I confess, that I had to purchase the canned tomatoes for the soup.  Everything else, I had on hand.  If you cook much, you might also have these items.  Try ‘Juanita Sanders’ Frozen Slaw’ and my ‘Lentil Soup with Tomatoes and Cumin’.

Juanita Sanders’ Frozen Slaw

1 cup cider vinegar (I had white vinegar, so I used that)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tsp yellow mustard seed

1 tsp celery seed

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then chill.  Meanwhile, shred or thinly slice 1 large head of green cabbage, shred 1-2 carrots, and mince 1-2 colored bell peppers.  Place the vegetables in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 Tbls salt.  Stir and allow to sit for an hour while the dressing is chilling.    Drain the vegetables and squeeze out all the moisture.  Pour the chilled dressing over the vegetables and chill until ready to serve.  This slaw keeps in the refrigerator for up to  5 days and portions can be frozen to eat later.  Really good, pretty fast, and no fat.  Best of all, you can use that leftover cabbage that’s been in the crisper for a few days.

Tip: Freeze the portion that you don’t the first meal in 1/2 or 1 cup servings for later.  Great with BBQ, fried chicken or try it on a fish sandwich or fish taco – Really!

Now for the soup. Red or yellow French lentils are high in fiber, cook quickly and are beautiful in this soup.  If your pantry yields only brown or green lentils try it anyway, you may just have to cook it a bit longer.  This soup, paired with a salad and some crusty bread is a high fiber, low fat meal.

Lentil Soup with Tomatoes and Cumin

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 ribs celery, sliced or chopped

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 bay leaf

1/4 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh)

1/2 – 1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

3 average sized carrots, peeled and sliced or diced

1 15oz can diced tomatoes

3 cups water or vegetable broth

3-4 oz red wine

1/2 tsp sugar

1 cup red lentils

freshly minced Italian parsley, for garnish

Saute and sweat the onion and celery until the onion is nearly transparent, about 10 minutes or so.  Add the garlic, pepper, dried thyme, cumin, turmeric, pepper and bay leaf.  Stirring constantly, cook for about a minute or until spices and garlic are fragrant.  Add the tomatoes, sugar, vegetable broth, sugar and carrots.  Cook until the lentils are quite tender and the carrots al dente, about 15 – 20 minutes.  Garnish with fresh thyme and parsley.

Tip:  Cook this soup a bit longer until it reaches stew consistency.  Serve over creamy polenta and top with a bit of hard cheese or even feta – don’t forget the fresh herbs.

Extra special Tip of the Day – When you come home from a restaurant with leftovers, place them in a reheatable container, label and freeze right away.  Put a note on the refrigerator and next time you are craving a quick dinner or snack, it will be ready to go!  Tip from Heather Kinsey of http://www.illustriouscreations.com .

More later from Mary, Enjoy!

Additional recipes, products and cooking news on my website:

http://www.cookwithmary.com

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