Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 7: Ham-and-egg it (plus bread recipe)

zero food waste challenge 2015 I wasted my first big piece of food! I had to throw away a couple of onions from a 3-lb bag I bought the week before I began this challenge. They’d sprouted so much that they were unsalvageable (actually pretty funny-looking.) 🙁 Well, onward. This week’s tip: ham-and-egging it; the usual grocery list; and a recipe for the bread I bake for myself.

No-Waste Food Tip #6: Ham-and-egging

A lot of this challenge for me can be summed up as stop overbuying already, doofus. This means keeping a close eye on what I have in the house and not adding too much to it every week. My routine’s still a little off because I shopped on Monday last week instead of my normal Saturday, and this week I’m anticipating two meals out (one of which should provide me with leftovers) and I still have three servings of the chicken soup I made last week left over, which are good for taking to work for lunch. I needed to get ingredients for a dinner I’m cooking for friends tonight, and I’d run out of some basics (coffee, eggs, apples) but I decided to otherwise take the week off from batch-cooking. What this comes down to is there will be a few more eggs-and-toast, or peanut-butter-and-jelly, meals this week than usual. I think of this as “ham-and-egging it” which is a term I picked up from baseball; that’s what a manager says when some of his key guys are on the disabled list and he’s going to just try to work with what he has, even if it’s kind of awkward and not optimal. Accepting that there will be some weeks like this, and finding some meals you’re ok with eating when you’re out of everything else, really helps if you’re trying to keep your food-buying under control. As you may note from the above, my roster of these meals leans heavily on bread (sandwiches, toast) so the recipe I’m including this week is for the bread I make. It stands up pretty well to being kept in the fridge; I usually freeze one loaf until I’m ready for it, because often the first loaf lasts 2-4 weeks, depending on what else I’m eating. After the first day, I just toast it automatically, which refreshes it pretty well. It’s very cheap; I can get at least eight loaves out of two five-pound bags of flour, plus I buy a jar of yeast once or twice a year and honey every now and then. That’s why you rarely see these things on my grocery shopping list even though I usually eat some bread every week.

Weekly Grocery Report

Grocery store:
Parsley, $.89
brown sugar, $.99
garlic, $.50
milk, $1.79
rubber gloves, $1.79
2 jars of marinated artichoke hearts, $3.98
raisins, $2.69
sponges, $3.49
almonds, $6.99
gallon freezer bags, $2.99
sundried tomatoes, $3.99
Total with tax: $30.67

Farmer’s market:
eggs, $2.10
apples, $3.75
coffee, $12.00
Total: $17.85

Grand total: $48.52

Tassajara Bread
adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book

I’ve been making this bread for about fifteen years now, and have arrived at some conclusions: one, it’s hard to screw it up too much. Every now and then I make a loaf that’s mysteriously too dense and heavy, or something else goes wrong, and you know what? It’s still edible. Two, it works much better with bread flour in the mix instead of all-purpose (called for in the original recipe). The other adaptations I’ve made mostly involve streamlining a little, while staying true to the spirit of the original. Since there’s about three hours of rising time total plus an hour of baking time, this is a great recipe to make on a day you’re staying home — the “active time” is quite short, probably a grand total of 30 minutes including doing the dishes, so you can come in and out.

For two loaves, you need:

a really big bowl
a wooden spoon (preferably broad and flat)
two loaf pans
3 cups hot water
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup honey (approximately)
whole wheat flour and bread flour (in a pinch, use all-purpose instead)
1/3 cup oil (preferably vegetable or canola, but I’ve used peanut or olive oil in a pinch)
1 tablespoon salt

Stir yeast and honey into the hot water and let the yeast bloom (a few minutes.) Stir about three cups of whole wheat flour in until the mixture resembles thick mud. After this, don’t stir any more; you’re trying to avoid cutting the developing gluten. Take your spoon and fold/beat — scrape along the bottom of the bowl, and kind of fold/flip the sponge as best you can. (This is easier to do than to describe, I promise.) Do that 100 times until the mixture is totally smooth. Depending on your yeast, it may also be burping at that point, which is hilarious and fun. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave it in a warm place for one hour.

Sprinkle the salt and drizzle the oil on top of the sponge; then fold/beat to incorporate. Fold/beat another cup of whole wheat flour, then a cup of bread flour. (At this point you are up to 5 cups total.) This is generally the point at which I stop being able to usefully incorporate more flour using the fold/flip method. I now dump another cup of bread flour (we’re at a total of 6) on the counter, then tip my dough onto it and scrape out anything still clinging to the bowl. Then I scoop out another cup of bread flour and sprinkle some on top. At this point, I start kneading, incorporating flour as I go; it’ll be very soft at first but just keep sprinkling flour on wet spots and it’ll get there. I never time my kneading, just stop when the dough feels right; I sometimes incorporate another half-cup or cup of bread flour (up to a grand total of 8 cups; don’t use more than this) if necessary. It’s ready when it’s relatively smooth and elastic and it bounces back when you press a finger into it. Oil the bottom of the bowl and put the dough ball back into it; cover again and let it rise for another hour. Then punch it down (about 15-20 times) and cover/let rise for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease your bread pans (I rub a piece of butter around in mine.) Dump the dough onto the counter and cut into two pieces; knead each one four or five additional times, then roll into a log and put it in the bread pan. Cover the pans and let the loaves rise for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350. Now slash the tops of the loaves (use a sharp knife and drag it across the top of each loaf twice, cutting down about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) and then bake for about an hour. The loaves should turn out of the pan very easily and you can check the bottoms, which should be a nice even medium brown; if they’re pale, put them back in for another 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely. Freezes beautifully and keeps well in the fridge (although you have to refresh the bread by toasting it because the fridge dries it out.)

20 thoughts on “Zero Food Waste 2015, Week 7: Ham-and-egg it (plus bread recipe)

  1. Kristin says:

    My version of ham-and-egging it would be cereal for dinner. Sometimes I get home from work and the thought of making dinner sounds exhausting. Or if I’m about out of food and cereal looks like the best option! I’m really interested in making my own bread, but it’s such a carb weakness for me. I could seriously eat bread or toast all day long, ha!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I LOVE cereal for dinner — I do it more in the summer, though, which I guess is why I didn’t think to put it down here. I can often be found eating granola or Life (my boxed cereal weakness of choice) when I just can’t muster up the enthusiasm for “real food.”

  2. That bread sounds amazing, I wish I could try it…but alas the avoidance of the carbs shall continue.

    Could you have plated the onions? We left some sweet potatoes for too long and they grew some seriously huge stems, so we planted and eventually got even more sweet potatoes for FREE. Maybe that is a way to win the no waste challenge, buy vegetables(?) that will sprout if left too long and plant them to eventually get more. It would be like veggie dividends.


    1. thesingledollar says:

      It is actually a great idea 🙂 I love the idea of veggie dividends. Unfortunately I have no garden! I also don’t have a compost pile — which is another great way to win the challenge!

  3. That’s pretty frugal! I know what you mean about having really odd-combo meals, we end up with a tiny bit of this and that leftovers all the time and it really doesn’t gel. Frequently ew end up making something entirely new, in a volume that’s sufficient for dinner, because it’s all we can think of at hte time, and the leftovers aren’t sufficient.
    Bread is delicious! (stupid allergies, I miss it)

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Oh man, without bread I’d be in trouble. I’m sure I’d adapt, but…. Tiny bits of this and that just have to be eaten, for the purposes of my challenge, so that’s providing a good incentive (I used to let things go a lot.)

  4. ARBM says:

    I love the term “ham-and-egging it”, that’s awesome!
    The bread sounds delicious! I made scones to go with our soup for dinner last night. No yeast, so they are much easier. Maybe I’ll try my hand at bread this weekend…

    1. thesingledollar says:

      After so many years, I’m no longer intimidated by yeast, but yes, it does introduce a complicating factor 🙂 Good luck if you do try it!

  5. Sometimes we eat the onion sprouts. I think they’re the same thing as spring onions or something like that… We’ve thrown out a lot of sprouted potatoes thos week that were too far gone. We’ve been eating down the pantry this month, so there’s been a lot of “ham and egging it”. Last night we had “pasta primavera” (ends of packs of pasta, frozen veg. cut up and some EVOO salt and pepper. turnout pretty well actually)

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I actually just learned that you can eat them! Shouldn’t have thrown those two away 🙁 Sprouted potatoes are dangerous, though, I think; the sprouting eyes are toxic. That pasta dish doesn’t sound bad at all!

  6. Bread is probably the one thing my hubby has yet to master, so I am going to share this recipe with him and I will let you know if it can really be f’ed up because he has f’ed up lots of homemade bread recipes. It really blows my mind too because he makes pizza dough and pasta dough from scratch with no issues. We will see!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      huh, that’s really interesting! If he can make pizza dough he should be able to make bread with no problem — the basic kneading and rising is the same! Good luck to him and you and let me know how it turns out 🙂

  7. I have been wanting to make my own bred forever. I’m almost afraid though that if I do I’ll create a monster and eat nothing but bread…it smells OMG so good freshly baked.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I’ll admit, some days when I make bread I pretty much just eat that, with butter and honey on it. 🙂

  8. Alicia says:

    I’ve always wanted to make my own bread, but I never feel like I’ll get it right. But I’ve mastered my own pizza dough, and there’s yeast and rising involved with that, so maybe I can attempt your bread 🙂 Have you tried any substitutions for different flours such as whole wheat? (Also, I giggled too much at the dough burping than I’d really care to admit).

    Also, I have some onions like that as well. There was a BOGO deal on onions back in December, and I bought two bags. Turns out I could only get through one in the time frame… I’ll just cut around the middle the best I can, but I heard that the onion gets kind of icky when it’s sprouting because it’s putting all its energy of sprouting. Live and learn 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I used up the rest of the bag yesterday as the basis for a pasta dish — they were all sprouting too and I just wanted to get through them! Had to toss another one that was getting soft, but I salvaged most of the rest of them, and I figured they wouldn’t be too bad sauteed in olive oil. Regarding bread: the dough burping is so much fun 🙂 As for flour, you can do any kind of mix. I usually go half whole wheat and half bread flour, but you could do half all purpose and half bread flour, or even 100% all purpose (it’ll be soft and less structured) or 100% whole wheat (it’s too dense for me) or some kind of mix of all three. Pretty much go to town. If you can do pizza you can do this — it’s all variations on mix-knead-rise-shape.

  9. That bread recipe sounds delicious, I definitely want to start baking bread more and figuring out how we can reduce our grocery costs by making more at home. Wasting food is one of my biggest annoyances, and I’m inspired by your challenge to figure out what’s in our fridge/pantry and use my creativity to stretch some of our meals.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yay! More people getting in on the no-waste act! I have been a pretty terrible waster over my life so I’m feeling good about this reform 🙂 It’s wonderful bread — I haven’t really bothered to make anything else on a regular basis in over a decade.

  10. DebtFreeJD says:

    I have nothing much to add to this, since I am terrible about wasting food. In my defense (she whines) it is just SO hard when I come home after working until 9 to muster up the energy to creatively use up leftovers in my fridge. Mainly I just go for pasta. But GOOD for you for taking this on.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Dude, if I worked until 9 I would have takeout pizza EVERY NIGHT. Jeez.

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