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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 April 28, 2010
I knew that if I were going to have any chance of getting ahead of the meal planning game, I’d have to designate some time for some real meal prep. That day was Sunday.

I thought, innocently and perhaps somewhat romantically, how nice it would be to have my sweetie wake up to the aroma of coffee and fresh baked sweet rolls, to enjoy while reading the Sunday paper. Can’t buy ‘em, gotta make ‘em! Yeah, well that was a nice thought. I do know a bit about baking and I should have listened to that inner voice that was telling me the yeast wasn’t behaving like it should. I think the water was too hot and I killed it. Poor yeast, dying a slow but sweet death among the butter and sour cream. What a way to go. Needless to say – the dough never did rise enough and my cardamom buns were more like sweet, sticky hockey pucks.

Over the next eight hours – yes that’s right, eight hours – our kitchen was a food production machine. You can see from my list (below) the ambition of a true (hungry) Virgo who thrives on variety as the spice in my kitchen. From the pretty hilarious pretzel assembly line, which resembled an episode of “The Lucy Show”, to the giant caldron of boiling bones and vegetables, we were cranking out the food. Well, with not a lot to speak of that is. By the end of the day the final inventory included:
  • 2 dozen cardamom lime morning buns (aka sweet sticky hockey pucks)
  • 4 quarts of beef stock
  • 4 dozen pretzels
  • 3 single servings of pizza sauce (from scratch creating my own crushed tomatoes)
  • 6 containers of hummus (which you can freeze BTW)
  • 1 roasted turkey breast (for sandwiches)
  • Not to mention, and I will because we also made; breakfast (eggs & toast), lunch (grilled cheese sandwich), and dinner (country ribs with butternut squash, shallots and sage)

Equipment used today:
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Stock pot(s)
  • Immersion blender
  • Food processor
  • Kitchen Aid mixer
  • Baking sheet(s)
  • Silpats
  • Roasting pan
  • Microplane
  • Lemon reamer
  • Rolling Pin
  • Cooling Racks
  • Strainer
  • Large and small measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Microwave
  • One (now slightly burned) bamboo strainer
  • Mixing bowls, various sizes
  • Storage containers
  • Knives, spoons, wooden spoons, spatulas, ladle, towels etc.

Muscles sore and exhausted, the one thing I was most proud of was the pizza sauce. Yes honey, your hummus turned out to be truly amazing as well, but I want to write about the sauce. I’m here to tell you that we all very much take for granted, this miracle we call frozen pizza. I didn’t even get around to making a whole pizza – just the sauce – but I’m amazed at the amount of energy and water it takes starting from scratch.

Pizza Sauce From Scratch
  • 4 pounds ripe tomatoes (any kind in season, if you’re lucky to have them in season)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
  • 6-8 leaves fresh basil (depending on your taste) finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Equipment Needed: Large stockpot, large bowl, large slotted spoon, small or medium cooking pot, small sauté pan, immersion blender – food processor – or blender.

Skip this next part if you already know how to crush tomatoes…

Take a large stockpot fill it half way up with water. Get the water to a rolling boil on the stove. In the meantime take a large bowl (at least 12” in diameter) and fill it with ice and water, creating an ice bath. Once the water boils, take a few tomatoes at a time and plunge them into the boiling water. Leave them there for 30-40 seconds, don’t go past one minute. Take the tomatoes from the boiling water with a large slotted spoon and place them into the bowl of ice water.

Now you’re ready to peel and crush the tomatoes. (So what do you do with that giant pot of water? This is what I’m talking about, the embedded energy that goes into making just the sauce. I took advantage of my pot of water and started some chicken stock from scratch. I also let the ice in the ice bath melt and filled my watering cans for my houseplants. But I digress…)

Remove the center core from each tomato and gently take off the skin. It should come off pretty easily. After all of the tomatoes are peeled, cut each one in half and carefully push your finger/thumb into the pockets of seeds to remove them. You want to get most of the seeds out, doesn’t matter if there are a few left in there. Now take what’s left of the poor tomato in your hand and crush it (squeeze the life out of it) into a small pot.

Take your pot of now crushed tomatoes and start them simmering on the stove with about a teaspoon of salt. While the tomatoes are getting up to a simmer, start your onion cooking in a small sauté pan with a little bit of olive oil. Once they are soft, add the minced garlic and a little salt. Cook for about 3 minutes longer. Now add the onion and garlic mixture to the simmering tomatoes, along with the finely chopped basil and olive oil. I also added a splash of white wine, but it’s probably not necessary. Cook this mixture on a low simmer for about 30 minutes.

Turn your tomato mixture into pizza sauce with the simple click of a button using an immersion blender (or let it cool a bit and put it into a food processor or blender). I found this made about three servings of sauce for three pizzas, depending on how large of a pizza you will make.

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