Especially at this time of the year, post holiday binge, when it's cold and dreary, cooking dinner can become another chore to dread. The challenge has provided a creativity component that has made meals a little more fun.
One of the messages I received confirmed it wasn't just fun for me:
"Thank you for such a fun challenge last week. I was having a very bad week last week, and the "Cook What Ya Got" challenge was a fun escape! I am now onto planning out meals for the next few months (my goal is to plan a whole years worth of meals). I even have a couple of friends that took up both challenges. Thanks again. I will keep you updated on my progress."
It also provided incentive for some of my fellow bloggers, who documented their creations:
Patti Anatasia's Table Talk
Martha's A Simply Delicious Life
Mary Beth's Tasty Tidbits
Charity's For Life Personal Chef Service
JoEllen's Newport Personal Chef
Amy's Dinner for a Year and Beyond
My favorite CSA farmer, Debbie, posted on WhiteHouse Gardens CSA
Plus, many of the other participants posted their creations and photos on my Facebook Fan Page. There are some amazingly creative dishes pulled from the pantries and freezers of folks all over the country.
I have to admit I ate pretty well, and other than milk, yogurt, and some fruit and vegetables, I haven't bought any other groceries this year.
Most amazingly, thanks to Jim Lahey, I have become a bread baker. When I mixed up the first loaf of no knead bread, I'll admit to being a little skeptical. But by the time it had cooled, and I cut into the artisan style loaf, I was sold. I kept taking little slices and marveling that I had actually baked something so amazing. As we speak, loaf number three is enjoying it's slow rise.
What else did I make last week?
Monday I made Tuna with Smoked Almond Romesco Sauce, Roasted Broccoli with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette, and roasted fingerling potatoes.
Tuesday I made a Toscana Soup with Hot Italian Sausage from Curly Tails Farm and a few potatoes, believe it or not, left from my CSA.
Wednesday I had unexpected leftovers from a chef client menu, of soup with turkey sausage, peppers, and black beans, and a penne dish with sweet potatoes, zucchini, black beans and tomatoes, which fed me for days. I did however have 2 1/2 pounds of ground pork defrosted to make a couple of recipes, so I made Pork Bolognese. I gave half to my sister, but sadly I only had a big spoonful that I actually mixed with the last of the penne dish. I should have put some in the freezer right away, but I didn't.
I still had about 3/4 of a pound of pork left which I intended to make Pork Empanadas with, but this Pork Meatball with Black Bean Garlic Sauce popped up on a blog I was reading, and I made them that day for lunch. Yum, but mine weren't photo worthy. Quite the opposite in fact.
I went out with friends on Friday night, but I did make a blast from the past recipe - my mother's homemade garlic sticks, half of which I gave to my sister with her pork bolognese.
I ate mostly leftovers through the weekend. I did have some extra chicken from Wednesday's chef date which I had intended to make for myself when I made them Chicken Marsala ,which I finally got around to making last night, along with some roasted fingerlings and roasted green beans with lemon zest. A leftover piece of that chicken, sans sauce, just became a Greek Salad for lunch. Final piece will be tonight's dinner.
I felt like I was losing a little steam and I am jonesing for a trip to West Side Market. Then I went "shopping" in the freezer and my resolve was renewed. I "bought" a container of vegetable soup, a smoked pork hock which is going to make friends with some awesome heirloom beans I got at the farmer's market in the fall, and a big strip steak.
I have enough green beans plus canned and frozen tuna, for a nice salad nicoise, to use up some more of those fingerling potatoes I scored at Sam's Club (5# for $6).
I will buy a few things tomorrow at Mustard Seed Market because they run a Groundhog Day special. 10% discount for bringing an 8x10 picture of a groundhog, or 15% if you're brave enough to dress as a groundhog from head to toe. I will be happy with 10%.
And I will probably hit West Side Market for some fruit and veggie action this week. But I don't really need much.
I was able to make a nice donation for Haitian relief with my January savings.
February's savings are being earmarked to celebrate Cleveland Restaurant Week (Feb 22nd - 27th). 45 Downtown restaurants will offer 3 course meals for $30. I already have reservations at Lola and Crop. February is the longest short month of the year in my opinion, and I am looking forward to ending it by enjoying someone else cooking.