Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The end of the Pantry/Freezer Challenge

Someone once said that all good things must come to an end...and right now, that good thing is the Pantry/Freezer Challenge. Today's post wraps up my month-long personal challenge to cook exclusively from my pantry and freezer, only supplementing what I had on hand with fresh fruits and vegetables.

-I kicked things off with a veggie burger recipe inspired by my time in Americorps, when my 11 roommates and I learned to flourish on a tight budget by often substituting legumes and whole grains for more expensive animal protein.

-Even after one week, I noticed myself being more mindful of my food habits, and a little pizza party proved that you don't need fancy ingredients or lots of dough (hehe) to entertain.

-Next, I marveled at the wonderful recipe-healing properties of parmesan cheese when a barley risotto recipe doesn't turn out as expected.

-After a trip to Stanley's produce market, I learned that homemade gnocchi is not as daunting as it seems, and also...I need to buy a candy thermometer.

-Starting to see the light (at the back of my freezer, that is), I shifted my brain into autopilot and pulled together a tried and true classic for a weeknight dinner.

-Finally, the Chicago blizzard of 2011 begat an impromptu snow day, and thus an excuse for a hearty snack with a special spread.

I'm really glad I decided to take on this challenge. Beyond identifying some funny stockpiling habits (apparently I fear a shortage of hoisin sauce) and an obvious reminder to avoid impulse buying in the future (Alton Brown lost 50 pounds eating sardines, right?), the Pantry/Freezer Challenge reminded me of something important. I feel strongly that my food choices should reflect my ideals of eating a less meat-centric diet, supporting local agriculture, and avoiding unnatural ingredients, among other things - and by stepping out of the grocery store for the past month, it's helped me reconsider how much I spend, on what types of food, and where.

I hope that I can keep moving in the right direction.

Anyone out there inspired to do a challenge of their own? Have any other challenge ideas for me? :)

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