Friday, 27 January 2012

It's Nearly February: Time to Stock Up

Of the many sale items I look for when grocery shopping, cheese is toward the top of my list (along with bacon, unsalted butter and high pulp orange juice). I happened to find these 2-cup bags for $2 each and they have a great refrigerated shelf life; however, I never anticipate them staying in the fridge for too long. As for the gouda (smoked of which is my second favourite cheese), that too was on sale for $3.99 (originally $5.29).. do check the expiration date.

Have you ever had those days when you aim to go to a grocery store and whether or not you actually have a list you end up buying more than you actually intend? That's quite often the case for me and as far as restocking my staples, I take the time to succumb to sale items or give in to the moment and purchase an ingredient I don't typically use. As much as I love bacon, cheese and cream (I'll count milk in that lot; don't get me wrong, those are well tended to), forcibly stocking unfamiliar items gives me the creative room to think outside the box (and in many cases, out of necessity, i.e., before they spoil or go to waste). In this post, I'd like to catch you up on some great developments--interspersed with some of the random items I purchased--before I get onto a follow-up post on finally using my Christmas standing mixer to make homemade butter.

...ironic? I better eat this WAY before the end of the world...

Of all the fun and exciting news items I want to include here, I have to start off by congratulating Lauren for getting into her first PhD programme! I'm sure there will be many more acceptances strolling in over the next few weeks and I can't wait to keep hearing all the options for the fall. And while decisions are apparently being made by departments throughout the country (I can't believe that process has already started), I'm still here in Granville anxiously awaiting the results of the applications (one to a program and one for funding) I submitted weeks ago. Whatever the news ends up being, I'll be sure to mention that in a future post.

Thankfully, my job is keeping me rather busy and able to distract me quite well from the inevitable response. This past Monday, we celebrated the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (yes, I know his national celebration was two weeks ago, but we have our reasons, a big one of which is for timing purposes), and though this was only my second Day of Learning celebration, I must admit I was incredibly happy with the way everything turned out and I'll go so far as to say it was the best one in recent memory. 

The squashes and many root vegetables are typically $.99/lb (I should note I typically shop at Meijer for my ingredients). Though I don't typically cook either unless a recipe calls for it, I though an acorn squash and sweet potatoes should be able to help provide inspiration when it comes to random menu planning. Usually, it's cheaper to buy regular red skin potatoes (the 5-lb bag) than it is to buy the 3-lb gourmet petite red skin potatoes (either around $3.99/ bag); however, I found these as part of Meijer's 10/ $10 mix-and-match promotion. Finally, I also got a head of lettuce (also $.99), after having been inspired by reading through many East African dishes that include it in their meals. Plus, a wedge salad topped with bacon, diced tomatoes and blue cheese dressing wouldn't be too difficult to conjure up at a moment's notice.

And after one sigh of relief and a huge event now done, our Center continues to remain actively engaged and preparing for more for the semester. Tomorrow, in fact, the staff and student employees of the Center for Cross-Cultural Engagement (the one I work in), the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life (the co-sponsor of the Community Culture Kitchen) and the Center for Women and Gender Action (right down the hall from us) will engage in a six-hour "Identity Summit."

Speaking of the CCK, I met with an associate provost at Denison who helped me in thinking through our next CCK event. Pairing up with the campus-wide theme of "Migrations," I will be drawing upon the culinary cultures of the lands home to three prominent pilgrimages: St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Land and Mecca. There will of course be more to come on this one in another post, as will be the case for our International Food and Culture Festival which is slated for the end of March. Last night, I met with representatives from various student groups and am now in the process of finalising a strong draft for our Dining Services team. I am so thrilled to be able to work with so many who care about and are engaged wholeheartedly in both food and culture.

Especially after my recent experience with fillo dough, I thought it might be a good idea to have some in freezer for those spontaneous hors d'œuvrerequests; plus, it [versus the more often utilised puff pastry dough] happened to be on sale. And frozen spinach--though not on sale--is also a good thing to have in stock.

Finally, recently acquired food news that I'd like to share is that I will soon have the honour and privilege of cooking for, among the faculty, staff and direct guests of the Dance Department, Dada Masilo. Dada is a South African dancer who fuses African aesthetic and technique with classical ballet. Unfortunately, I'll be unable to make her performance on campus next week, and so this opportunity to cook for her is an especially meaningful one; our French gastronomy class will actually be having a special "First Friday" dinner at The Refectory during the performance. Within all of this, I will also be taking a brief break from Ohio and heading to Notre Dame to visit Lauren and our friends in now their fourth semester there. As is the case with the aforementioned, I will be covering all of these evenings in separate posts.

And while of these many evenings are swirling around, I bring us back to this evening's grocery trip, the original items I had intended to buy being eggs and milk. Marilyn was unable to try the violet and lavender crêpes some of the students made at the first Community Culture Kitchen event, and so I'll be making those in the morning for the staff to try before the Identity Summit. Tomorrow is National Blueberry Pancake Day and though I won't be making blueberry pancakes, I did intend on buying berries to make my take on berry butter which I had first seen last Saturday while watching The Pioneer Woman on the Food Network (in which she, quite ironically, focused that episode on stocking up). And as I was typing up this post, my former college roommate Tony reminded me that today is National Chocolate Cake Day. All of this being said, let's make some homemade butter and a chocolate cake, shall we?

Perhaps the most random of the ingredients I purchased were sun dried tomatoes. For whatever reason I had thought they were wicked expensive; for four sun dried tomatoes, these only cost $1.69. Great for a late night pizza or perhaps as part of an appetizer topping to go with the fillo, I expect these will really help open my creativity. As an aside, the most random item was a pair of turkey grabbers on a 90% clearance for $.79.

For these photos in context with the butter and cake prep, click here.

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