Shopping My Freezer: 8 Weeks and 23 Meals

by Anne Maxfield on May 2, 2016

Accidental Locavore Freezer InsideYou know that moment when you open the freezer and the last thing that was shoved into it drops on your foot. You howl in pain and vow to clean it out—pronto! That was the state of the Accidental Locavore’s freezer. As a challenge, I thought I’d see how long we could go eating what we already have, buying vegetables and perishables only.

The unofficial start was March 12th – with a grape leaf “pie” from Ottolenghi’s Nopi cookbook (delicious!) made with ground beef and a marrowbone from the freezer – and is still going on as we reach the end of April. We have eaten out several times, and I haven’t really counted the nights we ate leftovers, but so far it’s been over 20 meals created from what we had on hand.

Accidental Locavore Grapeleaf PieI have bought fish three times, some (extraordinarily tough) chicken thighs and a couple of pork tenderloins, but that’s it for the meat and seafood section of the market in eight weeks. Needless to say, our grocery bill was significantly lower too.

So what does a month of shopping the freezer look like?

  1. The aforementioned grape leaf pie
  2. Albondigas I made for Frank before I left for France and an avocado with dressing.
  3. Lunch of salad with feta (homemade), and leftover steak
  4. Indian chicken, basmati rice and roasted broccoli
  5. Guests for dinner of pulled pork and mac and cheese
  6. Pasta Puttanesca with Italian sausage (from the pig class)
  7. Moroccan lamb shanks with artichokes, butternut squash (from freezer), dried chickpeas (balance now in freezer) and couscous
  8. Leftover grape leaf pie
  9. Chicken with cilantro chutney
  10. Meringue cookies with chocolate from freezer, cornflakes from cupboard, egg whites from hollandaise sauceAccidental Locavore Freezer Door
  11. Broccoli soup with stock from freezer
  12. Lamb stew with spinach and basmati rice
  13. Lasagna, sauce and Italian sausage from freezer
  14. Pork roast with hoisin sauce
  15. Cod wrapped in banana leaves (from freezer) with cilantro chutney
  16. Amazing Tartine Bakery bread for toast
  17. Lamb-stuffed grapeleaves
  18. French onion soup
  19. Another batch of pasta Puttanesca with Italian sausage and a couple of meatballs
  20. Lasagna with the leftover Puttanesca
  21. Chocolate salted-caramel mousse with chocolate from the freezer (and some tuiles I whipped up
  22. Rao’s meatballs with ground beef we were going to make burgers from
  23. BBQ spare ribs

Accidental Locavore Sealded FoodMy verdict: Without my FoodSaver (sealer) almost all of this would have suffered from freezer burn–it is worth the money! All the pork, lamb and beef we got locally was either sealed or well wrapped in butcher paper. Even with all these great meals, the freezer is still pretty packed. We could/can go at least another month and let me tell you, shopping from my freezer is a whole lot easier than running out to the market every other day! Besides, I like the challenge of working with what I’ve got. How long do you think you could go shopping your freezer?




Nopi Lamb Meatballs

by Anne Maxfield on February 25, 2016

Locavore Meatballs With CouscousEveryone loves a good meatball and while the first dish the Accidental Locavore planned to cook from the new Ottolenghi book Nopi was the Vine Leaf Beef Pie, I haven’t been able to corral enough adventurous eaters to make it worth doing (without leftovers for weeks). These lamb meatballs looked great and I had some really good ground lamb from my Four Legs Farm share. The original recipe was for six but I halved it to feed 3:

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Large pinch dried mint
  • 2 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • ½ pound Swiss chard, stems removed and greens shredded
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (whole milk) or labne
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water to form a paste
  • 1 small egg, lightly beaten
  • Seeds from ½ pomegranate (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Locavore Nopi Meatballs and ChardPlace the first six ingredients in a large bowl with 1 teaspoon of the allspice, 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper. Mix well and form into golf-ball-sized meatballs; you should have about a dozen.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium saucepan with the onion and the other garlic clove. Cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened but not browned. Add the chile and the Swiss chard and cook for 2-3 minutes until the chard has wilted. Stir in the other teaspoon of the allspice, chicken stock and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat.

Locavore Nopi Meatballs With SauceIn a large mixing bowl, add the yogurt, cornstarch paste, egg and ¼ cup of water. Whisk well to form a smooth paste. Gradually spoon in the chard mixture, stirring well after each addition until the two mixtures are combined. Add a teaspoon of salt and a couple of grinds of pepper and set aside.

Pour the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and fry for 4 minutes, turning so all sides get browned. Do this in batches if you need to.

Locavore Nopi Meatballs CookingWipe down the pan and pour in the yogurt sauce. Bring to a very gentle simmer on a medium-low heat. It should just barely be bubbling. Stir continuously in one direction to prevent the yogurt sauce from separating. Return the meatballs to the pan, stir to coat and cook on low heat, covered, for 20-25 minutes until the meatballs are cooked through.

Locavore Nopi Lamb MeatballsServe garnished with the pomegranate seeds and the cilantro sprinkled on top and enjoy!

My verdict: Maybe the recipes are “restaurant food” because in a restaurant you have someone to wash the dishes! Without sounding too much like The Twelve Days of Christmas, this used four measuring spoons, three frying pans, two cutting boards, and a mixing bowl washed twice. However, if you can con someone else into washing up, this was a delicious dinner! The meatballs were tender and juicy with a nice crunch from the pine nuts. The yogurt sauce was reliable, for once not only not breaking, but adding a rich creamy touch to the lamb. It might have been because I actually used labne instead of yogurt – that’s an experiment I may have to run in the future, and I was very careful to keep the heat low. When I made this, I actually made the meatballs ahead of time, refrigerated them, made the sauce later in the day and added the meatballs until they were warmed and cooked through. Even though there are a lot of steps (and dishes), nothing is terribly difficult and the results are worth it! Next time, I’ll make the full recipe of meatballs, freeze half and do the sauce as needed. That will save a pan or two.

A special shout-out and thank you to Bob & Edesio who hand carried my signed copy of Nopi back from the UK! Come up and I’ll make the Vine Leaf pie!



Accidental Locavore Pig Ornament

In lieu of the usual list of stuff the Accidental Locavore would like to play with, this year I decided to make a list of things – books, gadgets, appliances – that I have and keep going back to. As I write this, I realize that a lot of it, most of it in fact, was given to me, so in the spirit of giving back, here’s my list for you:

Appliances: Accidental Locavore Sansaire

  1. My Sansaire sous-vide machine. I really think this is the crockpot of the twenty-first century. It does a lot of what a slow cooker does, and you can always “cook’ something like a steak and finish it off later. While it’s not so good with some vegetables (stuffed squash was a disaster), it’s great with fish and meats!
  2. To go with the Sansaire, you’ll need a vacuum sealer, but you need a food sealer anyway. It’s really a miracle with anything you want to freeze and lately I’ve used it to seal granola and nuts.Accidental Locavore Canner
  3. The Ball canning machine. Granted, it needs a lot of real estate for storage, but if you can find the space, it’s totally worth it! It truly has made a canner out of me and I’ve got a shelf full of goodies, we can eat all winter. Oh yeah, in addition to space for the canner, you need a shelf for all your finished products!Accidental Locavore Scale
  4. A scale. Yes, even if you’re not a baker, a scale is a big help. I use mine for lots of things; multiplying or dividing ingredients if I’m scaling recipes. And for my copies of the Ottolenghi books, it’s invaluable as they’re UK versions and all metric!

Gadgets: Accidental Locavore GIR Products

  1. Anything GIR, but especially the big spoon, little scraper and the silicone lids. I use at least one of these every day and can’t imagine life without them. Now if they’d finally do a sponge, I’d take a dozen red ones!Accidental Locavore Speegee
  2. When I’m not using the GIR scrapers, I’ve gotten hooked on the Speegee. It was in one of my subscription boxes from Mary’s Secret Ingredients (another great gift idea). It works really well as a scraper, but because of its length, levels frosting (if you bake) or pans of granola and is a great multi-tasker.Accidental Locavore Mary's Measuring Spoons
  3. Another great gadget from Mary’s latest box – the Pourfect set of measuring spoons. While I initially scoffed at them, they’re now my go-to measuring spoons, especially the 2-tablespoon one. Not only do you have a ton of different sizes, the slick bowl of the spoon really allows whatever ingredients to slide out easily; I used them with some sticky Thai curry and it came right out.

Cookbooks: Accidental Locavore Nopi

  1. Nopi. Ottolenghi’s latest, it’s a beautiful book, that I haven’t made anything from yet, but I’m looking forward to playing with it soon (and have all the ingredients for the Vine Leaf Beef Pie).
  2. My Paris Kitchen. I’ve written about this before, but if you don’t own it, you should. This is probably the most-used cookbook I have (okay, maybe Julia still reigns) and after a year or so, there are still lots of recipes I want to try.Accidental Locavore Kerry's Book
  3. Adventures in Comfort Food. From one of our favorite restaurants in Maine, a good down-to-earth collection of interesting recipes with Kerry’s crazy takes on the classics. Besides a lot of good food, I like that most of the recipes are for 1-2 people.
  4. iPad Air 2. While not technically a cookbook, it’s what I use to store recipes and write blog posts like this one. And while I don’t yet own the Air 2, it might be time to give my iPad a retirement party…hint, hint, Santa Baby.




Measurements and Kitchen Gadgets

by Anne Maxfield on October 26, 2015

Accidental Locavore Tupperware SpoonsAs part of my latest box from Mary’s Secret Ingredients, there was a set of measuring spoons that the Accidental Locavore initially just laughed at. I’ve been using a set of Tupperware spoons since I got them and they worked fine (come on, what does a measuring spoon have to do but measure stuff?), were a good color and clipped together easily so they were easy to find in the drawer. So when I saw this mess of spoons from POURfect and a strange stick that was attached, I was a little resistant. After reading that they were in Braille and metric, along with English, and had spoons for a drop, smidgen and pinch, skepticism reigned supreme!

Accidental Locavore Utensil DrawerPart of it is probably because I don’t bake, so the accuracy of a pinch isn’t as much of a priority as finding the room in my height-challenged drawer for a big set of spoons. A pinch to me is as much or as little of the particular item (usually a spice) as I like. As for a smidgen – really?

Accidental Locavore Cauliflower PrepThis morning, I had to admit to being a little hasty in pre-judging the spoons. I was making a recipe for baked cauliflower that called for 2 tablespoons of oil to be drizzled over the cauliflower. Large bottle of oil in hand, doing it without making a mess was going to be a challenge. Then I remembered the set included a 2-tablespoon spoon and soon my perfectly drizzled cauliflower was on its way to the oven and the only thing requiring cleaning was the spoon.

Accidental Locavore Mary's Measuring SpoonsSince the pinch and smidgen spoons turn out to be in milliliters, they may come in really handy when I start cooking from my new (autographed) copy of Nopi. It was hand-carried over from London (thanks to Bob and Edesio!) and is all in metric, so now I don’t have to keep Googling conversions!

And the weird stick? Turns out to be a leveling tool—clever!