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PamMehnert

Hi, I'm Pam Mehnert

As Outpost's general manager, Pam's work keeps her at the office, in meetings, or in front of her computer more than a simple 40 hours each week. However, her passion as a foodie has driven her to take on this challenge for the culinary experience of...
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Pam Mehnert

A Year of Inconvenience

A Year of Inconvenience
For one year, I'm making everything from scratch and forgoing convenience foods. Join me on my journey! By Pam Mehnert on May 21, 2010
I had hoped to keep this blog upbeat and positive for as long as possible. After all, a lot of people I don’t even know have cheered me on and have given me positive support to take on this challenge. But to be honest, I’m having one hell of a week. I knew this week would come eventually… I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

This was the week where my work life took precedence above all other activities. My days started at home at 6 am, hoping to catch some kind of break reading email early, catching up on correspondence and planning out my workday and ended at 6 or 7 or… well right now it’s 9:40 pm on Thursday night. This week is without a doubt the very reason why it’s much easier to live a convenient life.

I learned a few short weeks ago that planning is critical to feeling good about this new lifestyle. Getting a jump on the week with some baking off of the essentials (bread, crackers and/or granola) sets me up for many breakfasts and gives me a great foundation to build my lunch menus. I/we accomplished that on Sunday when I began the day with a quick bake-off of a cinnamon raisin English muffin bread before running out the door by 8:15 am to the first flea market of the season. (BTW I returned quite triumphantly with a few additional antique storage jars and an enameled canning pot for what I anticipate will be some long days of food preservation come August.) Unfortunately Sunday night dinner had not planned ahead, so with a quick trip to the co-op we returned with a high level of enthusiasm for some polenta with sautéed veggies and fresh chicken Italian sausages. I knew I needed (I’m restraining myself from saying kneaded) sandwich bread for the week so late in the afternoon I started that while Lisa made banana bread from some frozen bananas I swear we’ve had in the refrigerator since “W” took office the first time. For two people that really don’t eat a lot of carbs, we now had three beautiful breads to start off the week.

Don’t you just love those little polenta logs you can buy at the store where all you have to do is slice and brown it lightly in a pan of butter? Me too, but I’m not using them because they are a convenience food. The polenta from scratch took what seemed like an unreasonable amount of time to thicken however the reward was creamy, rich and delicious and we’ll cook it again next time planning so we’re not starving and eating at 8:00 at night.

It’s been said that man doesn’t live by bread alone. I wonder if the person who said that did all of their cooking from scratch? Oh wait, that’s from the Bible (I was a theology major some many years ago) so I’m guessing they did their cooking from scratch – over an open fire – with some kind of poisonous asp lurking nearby. But I digress. By Tuesday night, returning home at 8:15 following a networking meeting, we were resolved to having scrambled eggs and leftover potatoes from Monday night’s dinner. Come Wednesday both of us were crabby from the overly-crunchy (aka mouth numbing hard) granola I made last week, and by Thursday it was all I could do to keep from crying like a baby when I realized I forgot to add the baking powder to my batch of crackers already rolled out and ready for the oven at 7 PM.

The crackers (aka chips when I feel like snacking) turned out pretty tasty so I’m honoring them as the good thing that happened this week.

This recipe is adapted from one my Mom used to make when we were kids and when cooking from scratch was maybe a bit easier because those activities made up your “day job.”

Delores Mehnert’s Crispy Crackers
  • 1 cup yellow corn meal
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (I like adding a bit more to taste)

If you don’t have a non-stick pan liner such as a Silpat, you’ll want to grease two large baking sheets rather generously. If your baking sheet has a lip on it, turn it over and use the flat side.

Combine all of your dry ingredients first in a medium size bowl (don’t forget the baking powder). In a separate measuring cup whisk together the water, canola oil and Worcestershire sauce. Pour into the dry mix and blend well by hand.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead it until it feels smooth, about a minute or so. Divide the dough in half and roll out each half directly onto the Silpat or greased cookie sheet. Roll the dough out as thin as you can roll it. Okay, now roll it even thinner. You want these cracker/chips to be crispy. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into squares or triangles. Season, if you wish, with a little salt or your favorite seasoning mix if you plan to eat them as chips.

Bake at 350°F for about 12-15 minutes or until they are lightly browned. They will continue to cook when you take them out of the oven and you will want to cool them down right on the cookie sheet.

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