Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March 9, the food and the failures

There is no growth without failure, and today was a very growing sort of day. Last night I found that our old half-gallon of milk had spoiled. I accidentally bought two gallons two weeks ago in a moment of forgetfulness, and two gallons in two weeks for two people is just too much. I didn't want to waste it though, so I went online to see what I could do with it. Someone suggested paneer, a soft Indian cheese that's usually pan fried and put into curry-type dishes. I figured why not try it? I wasn't sure it would work at all because my milk is skim and the recipe called for full fat, but the curds did separate when I boiled it and added vinegar, so I thought maybe it would work after all. I poured the whole boiled mess into a cotton napkin and tied it to the sink to hang, then squeezed and pressed it. It took quite awhile! At the end, though, I had a few ounces of something that looked like a cross between firm tofu and soggy styrofoam. It had no taste, and a very meaty texture, like something that hadn't cooked in the crockpot long enough. 
I refrigerated it overnight and tried to fry it up for lunch with soy and teriyaki sauce. It was very dry and chewy, not like cheese at all. I got about halfway through it before the epiphany hit: this is gross. I tossed the remaining paneer into the trash. Next time the milk goes bad, I will take the other suggestion I found and use it to water the outdoor plants. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? 

Half a paneer was not a good enough lunch, so I decided to try another experiment. My sister K told me that she likes to eat peanut butter and jelly faux-quesadillas from the quesadilla maker. I thought that sounded just weird enough to work. I had two tortilla shells aging in the fridge and figured I could use them up. I spread peanut butter and jelly on a shell, put another on top, and cooked them in the quesadilla maker (five dollars from Craigslist last summer). It smelled pretty good, but the shells were big and unwieldy, and I was silly enough to set the plate on the stove to try and cut it. My hand slipped, the plate slipped, the PBJdilla went flying, and I was out both a lunch and a plate from my wedding present set. Not happy. At this point, I decided I was no longer hungry, so I just cleaned up the mess and deserted the kitchen. 

I did another load of bathtub laundry, make an unreturned phonecall about a job, and gathered my nerve for supper. Once back in the kitchen, things started looking up again. I made penne and hotdog casserole, a variant on penne pasta casserole  where instead of browning ground beef and putting it in the sauce, I diced four hot dogs and tossed them in with the onions and garlic, then made the sauce. It's actually really good. I used up my half-boxes of rotini and penne for the noodles, and have plenty left for lunch tomorrow. 

Flush with success, I also made another batch of granola, this time subbing in the pine nuts M's mom sent me instead of sunflower seeds. Wicked expensive, but very tasty. It's the sort of thing I don't buy, but use with the utmost gratefulness when I can. My granola hasn't been clumping too well lately and I'm not sure why. Maybe not enough honey? It makes a great cereal that way, but is tougher to snack on. Honestly, that is probably better, since I am already pretty much addicted to the stuff. Anything that slows down my consumption is good.

Later on, while I was fiddling with the camera in the kitchen, Pookah came in to bother me. She knows where the food comes from around here, and is often underfoot when I'm trying to cook. Her assiduous efforts to eat everything on the floor have led me to increase my vacuuming and actually scrub the kitchen floor. She needs a home with clean people. Anyway, while she was begging, I took her picture. It surprised her. 

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