Using up: baguette

I got a free baguette from somewhere a few months ago. It’s been sitting in my freezer since then, desiccating, apparently. I got it out to make banh mi yesterday and discovered that it was rock hard. I would’ve given up on the whole idea except that I’d already bought all the other ingredients.

To attempt to rehydrate the bread, I… steamed it. It mostly worked. Soggy on the outside and still pretty hard on the inside = delicious, right? Fortunately, panfrying got rid of the sogginess.

Bread down, onto the hacked-together filling! The main components of banh mi are some protein (I used fried tofu and scrambled egg), cilantro, mayo, fish sauce, and marinated veggies. I had trouble with the fish sauce (don’t have it) and the marinated vegetables (don’t have vinegar), so I made some wild substitutions like usual.

Julienned carrots and radish are supposed to be marinated in a combination of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. I didn’t want to buy a whole container of vinegar (and it’s not available in bulk) just as I’m about to move out, so my plan was to use lemon or lime juice in place of vinegar. Lime would be especially fitting – it’s commonly used as a topping. But… the grocery store didn’t have either 🙁 The closest alternative I could find was grapefruit. I still don’t know if that was a good choice.

I added bonito flakes to the marinade to substitute for fish sauce.

The final banh mi-like sandwich. (This nice plate was a bulk-trash-pickup-day find 🙂

The sandwich was actually pretty good, considering. The vegetables only have the faintest hint of grapefruit-bitterness flavor… 😀

Another using-up recipe: cream biscuits

A while ago, I need to use up a pound or so of sour cream (left over from some event) and some over-cooked sweet potato. I steamed it into sweet potato mush 🙁 I had the bright idea of making pancakes (really good, super tender and fluffy) and biscuits (not so great, but edible).

At least they have a good color. Any suggestions on how to use up a ton of biscuits?

The original biscuit recipe, which is much better than my modification, is from Joy of Cooking:

Cream biscuits

20 2-inch biscuits

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (might need more salt)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  1. Mix dry ingredients. Add the cream all at once. Mix until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  2. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it gently 5-10 times, adhering any loose pieces in the process, until the work area is clean.
  3. Roll or pat the dough out to 1/2-inch thick. Cut into desired size (2-inch squares is standard). Reroll and cut any scraps.
  4. Bake in center rack at 450°F for 10-12 minutes until biscuits are golden on top. Set biscuits close together on baking sheet for joined biscuits with soft sides.
  5. (To cook on a griddle, roll dough out to 1/4-3/8-inch thick. Cook in griddle until brown on one side, 3-4 minutes, then turn and cook until brown on the other side.)

Mostly-free cornbread

I don’t really use cornmeal for anything, so I decided to make cornbread to use up the haul-cornmeal. It had the added benefit of using up the rest of my flour. I’m moving out in a month and am trying to not have any food left. I’m down to my freezer stash of carby foods, like biscuits, brownies, low-tier garlic bread, low-tier baguette (which is gonna be upgraded to banh mi :).

Anyway, my mom provided the Cook’s Illustrated “Northern cornbread” recipe that she likes. (The “Southern cornbread” recipe has more cornmeal and, I believe, less sugar.)

Why is the browning so square?

Ingredients

  • 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk (I used yoghurt)
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat to 425°F. Grease a 9-by-9 pan.
  2. Stir together dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients until just combined.
  3. Pour batter into greased pan. Bake until top is golden brown and lightly cracked and edges have pulled away from side of pan, about 25 minutes.
  4. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

Free food!

I discovered a neighbor was moving out when I discovered trash bags full of dry goods (gasp!) outside their door. I couldn’t keep myself from asking if it was fine for me to take what I wanted (the answer was “yes” and I was even offered my pick of furniture), so I ended up with this haul:

Let’s see, from left to right, there’s cereal, spaghetti, butter, cornmeal, cashews and almonds, water chestnut flour (used as an alternative to cornstarch, I think?), a “string” of fig “buttons”, various Indian spice mixes, salsa, jaggery (unrefined sugar), olives, chickpeas, cooking oil.

I love getting stuff I wouldn’t normally buy. It’s a treat 🙂 I especially enjoyed the salsa.

The day the neighbors moved out, I dug through the apartment dumpster, and additionally got a chair (for putting my “in use” clothes on), an apparently never-used yoga mat, laundry detergent (never get Gain original scent… On the plus side, I hear Gain is super strong), and a single handkerchief.

Hot cross buns

For Hot Cross buns, use the cinnamon roll dough recipe. Add some amount (just eyeball it) of candied fruit and currants when you are ready to shape the dough and make about twelve rolls.  For Hot Cross buns, the egg wash is very important to give the right look.  Whisk together a whole egg with a bit of salt; this is brushed on just before baking.  You can use the other half of the egg or a previously saved egg white can be used.

Cinnamon roll recipe

Dough for a small batch:
  • 1/2 package of yeast (this would be 1 1/8 teaspoon but my mom uses 1 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/2 Tab water
  • 1/2 cup milk (can be whole or low-fat)
  • 2 1/2 Tab butter
  • 1 1/2 Tab sugar
  • 1/2 of a large egg
  • 1/2 teas salt
  • 2 cups (or a bit less) bread flour
  • 1/8 teas cinnamon
  • 1/16 teas nutmeg
  • 1/16 teas ginger
For cinnamon rolls:  
  • 1 Tbsp (or maybe less) softened butter to spread on the dough
  • Cinnamon and sugar mixed — heavy on the cinnamon
  • nuts — preferring pecans and preferring cookie-size pieces
  • currants
For icing:
  • 1 teas butter (this keeps the icing soft)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp milk or cream
Pan:

Well-buttered (glass is good) baking pan about 7×11 inches.

Use a standard bread maker mix cycle to make the dough, or without a bread maker:  Make the dough and let it rise until doubled, the punch down and shape.  Once the dough is ready, roll it into a rectangle about 14×12 inches.  Butter the dough with the softened butter.  Sprinkle on the cinnamon-sugar, then the nuts and the currants.  Roll up and then slice off the cinnamon rolls.  Nine or twelve rolls is about right but this can vary quite a bit, depending on your preference.  I like to refrigerator overnight so that the rolls are ready in the morning.  In the morning, warm the oven to a low (not yeast-killing) temperature, turn off the oven, and put in the roll pan.  I like to cover with a cloth.  When the dough is light and the pan warmed, remove the pan from the oven.  Then heat the oven to 425°F.  (If you like the look of an egg wash, see the Hot Cross bun instructions.)  Bake for 15 minutes. If the rolls start to get too dark, make a foil tent to protect them.  

After the rolls are done, swirl on icing and serve.

Frankie, one of my favorite musicians, has a new song about ghosting, “breaking off a relationship (often an intimate relationship) by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as ignoring the former partner’s attempts to reach out or communicate”. The song is really good, plus the music video is a gender-swapped allusion to Grease 😀 Enjoy (and listen to Frankie’s other songs)!

Extended Producer Responsibility, etc

Here are more resources related to corporate responsibility and extended producer responsibility:

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition “promotes green design and responsible recycling in the electronics industry”. They write various articles on green electronics, including how to recycle and proposed laws.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics campaigns for the removal of toxic and harmful ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. The website includes information about what ingredients to look out for.

The Environmental Working Group does a lot of different stuff. Broadly, EWG monitors ingredients and contaminants in products that consumers use, including food, water, electronics, etc. The company promotes safe and sustainable products, and they produce many different consumer guides to help do this. EWG is most famous for their extensive Skin Deep cosmetics database, which includes extensive ingredient information and safety ratings.

The Bottle Bill Resource Guide compiles information about regions of the world with current or proposed bottle bills. Bottle bills (or container deposit laws) require consumers to pay a small, refundable deposit for every bottle purchased. When the bottle is returned for recycling or reuse, the deposit is returned. Bottle bills significantly boost recycling rates. Here’s a cool history of the switch from reusable to disposable bottles and cans.

Christmas presents :D

I got: local beeswax, local honey from bees that ate yaupon (a plant native to Texas, and the only caffeine-containing one native to North America), a stainless steel soap dish, multi-colored peppercorns, and a gift card to Blue Apron (that meal kid company).

Of course, there was also the casting kit for last-making!

And for my birthday a couple months ago, I got….

US-grown purple popcorn! I sometimes have popcorn as a low-effort dinner.

US-made scrub brush. The fibers are tampico (made from agave), so I figure they’re from Mexico. The brush sheds a little; hopefully that dies down as I use it more.

Heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo! An essential part of my diet 🙂

What did y’all get for Christmas?

How to use a handkerchief

A lot of y’all probably know that I use handkerchiefs in place of (disposable) tissues. I find them very convenient and, since they’re such a foreign concept to most people, I want to explain the ins and outs of their use and care!

What do you use hankies for?

I treat hankies as a cross between a tissue and a cloth napkin. I use them to blow my nose, and occasionally wipe my hands and mouth, but appropriate use varies by culture. For example, in Japan, it is rude to use your handkerchief to blow your nose (or to blow your nose in public at all); handkerchiefs are meant only for drying sweat or your hands. And in the US, handkerchiefs are just not used (except in hanky code by the gay and BDSM communities), so there is no particular etiquette I am aware of.

How many handkerchiefs do you need?

I carry one handkerchief in my pocket every day. I use it until it gets too dirty, then I switch it for a new one. Unless I’m sick, I usually use the same one for a week. I carry a couple backups in my backpack in case I suddenly get hit with allergies, or a friend needs a tissue.

I have about 20 hankies in my personal collection, but that’s way more than I need for day-to-day use. If you’re gonna switch to tissues for a really runny nose, 5-7 hankies should be fine for the rest of the time.

What do you do when you’re sick?

I use hankies when I’m sick too! I’ve never needed more than my 20 hankies in a single day. If it looks like I’m going to run out, I wash some handkerchiefs by hand and let them dry overnight to use the next day.

How do you wash handkerchiefs?

You can wash hankies either by hand, or by machine in a mesh lingerie bag. I usually put mine in with the rest of my laundry. In either case, unfold each hankie and soak in water for a few hours before washing. This rehydrates dried mucus so that it can be washed off 🙂 Handkerchief fabric is very lightweight so they dry very fast. I always airy dry them.

Where do you get hankies? What should they be made of?

My handkerchief collection is all from my maternal grandparents’ estate. My grandparents had a huge number of handkerchiefs and bandanas. Apparently, they had grown up using handkerchiefs (during the Great Depression) and continued to do so until disposable tissues took hold.

Some of my collection. Almost all are embroidered. Some have crocheted or tatted edging. A few have handmade lace!

Because of the switch to tissues, there are lots of old hankies available at thrift stores, antique stores, creative reuse stores (I’d say this is your best bet), and on eBay. You can use thin woven fabric, like a bandana, or t-shirt material.

The fabric should be natural (cotton and linen are common) and not a satin weave – your snot will slide right off 🙂 (Pocket squares make poor handkerchiefs because they’re usually made of glossy fabric.) A color or patten will help hide stains. If you’re worried you’ll look weird using a hankie, use white ones; they’ll look just like tissues.

How do you fold handkerchiefs?

I fold mine into sixteenths (in half, in half hamburger-style, in half the same direction, then in half hamburger-style again) to make a sort of “book”.

Each time I use the hankie, I use a “page” of the book so that I have a new surface available. I use the main fold of the hankie booklet for wiping my mouth so that I can keep food and mucus separate. To keep the outside of the hankie clean, don’t use its “cover”.

A lot of people think hankies are gross, but you’ll be fine if you’re used to washing other cloth items that come in contact with bodily fluids, like cloth menstrual pads, cloth napkins, even underwear. If it really bothers you, you can also use each hanky just once before washing (but then you’ll need a lot).

Good luck!