Search Results for “pantry”

August 7, 2018

Time for Another Pantry Challenge

My pantry is a mess; it’s time for another pantry challenge. My range broke recently and you can see it in my pantry. Apparently I’ve been cooking less, but buying as if I’m going through food at the regular rate. There are so many layers of lazily stacked pasta, tuna, honey, chicken stock, strained tomatoes, and baker’s chocolate I can’t see what else is in there. My sister calls making yourself use what’s in the pantry a pantry challenge.
pantry
If I make this pantry challenge a game for my grandson DJ, maybe I can accomplish two things at the same time. At the ripe old age of two, DJ has become a picky eater. He used to love broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, bananas, blackberries, steak, chicken, and bacon.

Now he only wants cheese, cheese dip, cheese quesadillas, cheese crackers, and cottage cheese. Funny thing though, he doesn’t like mac & cheese or other typical kid food for that matter. He won’t eat hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, French fries, or mashed potatoes either.

Truthfully, he likes hummus, pretzels, applesauce, grapes, raisins, dried mango, dried figs, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and pizza. But we’d really like for him to eat more green vegetables, fresh fruit, and meat, fish, or poultry. We’d also like for him to enjoy whatever we’re eating.
stove
DJ has his own stove – a metal one that I played with in my grandmother’s attic when I was his age. DJ has also started helping me cook. He likes to add salt and pepper and stir with a whisk. Maybe if I let him choose one or two things from the pantry as the basis for a meal he can help prepare, he’ll be willing to taste a wider variety of food.

If he chooses a box of pasta and strained tomatoes from the pantry, we’ll be in good shape. I’ll make pasta with some kind of red sauce that includes meat. If he chooses tuna and green chiles, I can make a southwest tuna casserole. On the other hand, if he chooses a bottle of vinegar and a bag of caramel chips I may have to think for a very long minute.

I don’t really want to reorganize the pantry until I’ve emptied some of its contents, but I may need some rules to keep this challenge headed in a positive direction. Here’s what I’m thinking…I’ll choose 6 items, sit them on the counter and let DJ choose 2 from the preselected inventory.

Then he can help me prepare something with the two items he has chosen. As long as I pick 6 things that can be mixed and matched easily, I can use the other 4 in the same dish or an accompanying one later in the day. DJ is here two days each week. Using 6 items at a time, the excess should be gone quickly.

A quick look in the pantry reveals these possibilities…

Wednesday’s proposed selection can be mixed and matched several ways:
Egg noodles
Black beans
Chicken stock
Tuna
Green chiles
Gluten-free breadcrumbs

Next Monday’s options lean toward something Asian:
Tamari gluten-free soy sauce
Rice
Honey
Mandarin oranges
Raw cashews
Shredded coconut

The following Wednesday could lend us cornbread:
Yellow cornmeal
White cornmeal
Sweet white sorghum flour
Sugar
Shortening
Baking powder

Another Monday will garner ingredients for a hearty salad:
Quinoa
Pimentos
Dried figs
Pecans
Pumpkin seeds
Golden raisins

As I dig deeper, I’m sure to find other suitable combinations. I’ll probably let one day be dessert treats just to keep the game fun. I know I have some chocolate chips and marshmallows hanging out somewhere in the pantry. I can make gluten-free grammy crackers in advance & we can make s’mores. Maybe we’ll make solar s’mores on the back porch. It’s certainly hot enough!

In a couple of weeks I’ll have reduced the pantry contents to a more acceptable level. At that point, I’ll reorganize and get rid of anything that’s too old. Then I can resume shopping as usual.

In the meantime…game on!

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=pantry

April 11, 2017

Spring Cleaning Pantry Challenge

A spring cleaning pantry challenge is a great way to start spring cleaning in the kitchen! I’ll admit it, I’m not really a spring cleaner. That doesn’t mean I don’t do deep cleaning. It just means I tend to do it at the odd times that a spill, utensil search, or crawl under the bed to grab a baby toy lead me into intolerable dust, dirt, or disorganization. Then I stop whatever I had planned and start cleaning. I may not finish moving all the furniture to clean under it right then, but I stick with the project until it is complete.
spring
Whether you’re a sporadic deep cleaner like me or part of the 78% of people who regularly spring clean*, it’s easy to forget about the pantry. With larger tasks like oven cleaning, curtain washing, grout scrubbing, baseboard dusting, and window washing looming, it can be easy to reason that the pantry will take care of itself through regular meal preparation.

The problem with that approach is that few of us have pantry space that’s designed one item deep and one item high in a manner that everything is visible at once. And if you can’t see it, you’re bound to forget about it. Who hasn’t bought some ingredient for a recipe, used part of it and put the rest in the back of the cabinet to be forgotten? I have bottles of fish oil, rice wine vinegar, and real maple syrup sitting in my pantry. I don’t use them often and I can’t tell you how long they’ve been there. It’s definitely time for a pantry challenge at my house.

What’s a pantry challenge?

A pantry challenge is a period of time dedicated to using everything in the pantry before purchasing more groceries. In other words, you’re challenging yourself to plan meals using what you have on hand. Now, obviously you may need to buy milk, eggs, fresh produce, or meat to go with your pantry items, but the goal is to use what’s available in your pantry as quickly as possible.

Before starting the challenge, discard any outdated items. Once those are discarded, create some menu items that include the remaining pantry contents beginning with anything that’s open, partially used, or about to expire. It’s always fun to see what new combinations come to mind when you have limited ingredient choices.
pantry
During my pantry challenge, I’ll be enjoying red lentil soup, homemade yogurt, gluten-free pasta with red sauce, molasses cookies, roasted red pepper cornbread, applesauce muffins, and tuna croquettes. That won’t completely deplete the pantry offerings, but it will pare down some of the older items. Before I restock, I’ll clean all of the shelves and drawers and organize whatever remains.

I’ll also take a minute to review my organizational system. There may be some tweaks that will make every day cooking easier. If so, I can implement those changes now and easily incorporate upcoming purchases into the revised system.

As I’ve pared down my furniture, knick-knacks, clothes, shoes, and jewelry over the past couple of years, the over abundance in my pantry feels more noticeable. Because my job includes creating recipes, I can swiftly end up with clutter-creating remnants. I don’t want to wastefully discard them, but I am aware that I need to develop a system for making sure they’re used in a timely manner. My pantry challenge will be a great opportunity to think through this process.

Spring cleaning may not be fun, but a clean, tidy environment can make fun times more joyful. I’ll try to keep that in mind when I’m elbow deep into cleaning out the pantry!

*https://www.sparefoot.com/self-storage/blog/17104-dread-spring-cleaning/

January 15, 2019

You Can Never be Too Prepared…Can You?

planYou can never be too prepared…can you?

As small children we learn to stop, drop, and roll. As teens we’re encouraged to be prepared to practice safe sex. As adults, we are oft admonished to prepare for the future by contributing to a retirement account. That’s three examples of ways we’re encouraged to prepare, but there are hundreds: take AP courses to prepare for college, get your flu shot, have a safe place to go in a tornado, wear your seat belt, have enough savings available to cover 3-6 months of bills, buy life insurance, know the best glide speed of your airplane, rehearse your dance moves before a performance, practice shooting free throws, learn CPR, take an umbrella, put your gloves in your pocket, etc. Much of our time and energy is spent preparing for something.

When I was learning to fly, most of the training time was focussed on preventing or preparing for a malfunction or emergency. Once I had mastered the procedures, my instructor deemed me ready to fly solo. Could I have flown the plane before that? Yes. And I could have done it safely as long as everything went as planned. But I would not have been ready to make a lifesaving split-second decision in the event of a catastrophic event.

Preparation is a good thing. It allows us to excel in sports and academics. It makes for productive meetings. It gives us food that is elevated from its original state. It calms our minds. It sometimes saves our lives. I am all for being prepared. In fact, I believe it’s sometimes critical.

But is it possible to over-prepare?
prepare
Preparedness or Fear?

I have a friend who describes traveling with his former girlfriend as a regimented execution of her meticulous planning. Each attraction, restaurant, and hotel was identified in advance and mandatory in inclusion. His hankering for BBQ rather than Tex-Mex simply could not be accommodated.

This begs the question of whether the girlfriend was over or under prepared. Obviously, she was logistically prepared, but it seems she was not confident and relaxed enough to vary from her plan even if it would have enhanced the overall experience.

This is an example of how fear can cloak itself in preparedness. When this happens, preparedness takes on a life of its own and begins to hold us back rather than providing a foundation for us to move forward.

My sister prepared for over a year to become gluten-free. She researched taco seasoning mixes, doughnuts, restaurant menus, one-to-one flour mixes – everything that she needed to know to feel prepared. Then she did a pantry challenge to make sure no food went to waste. The preparation period went on so long that she started to believe going gluten-free would be really hard.

Luckily, she didn’t talk herself out of the original goal. After a year with less pain, more energy, and fewer sinus problems, she admitted that she had made things much harder than they needed to be. She had prepared past the point of readiness.

While my sister still managed to move forward, my 98-year-old cousin stopped herself from the trip to Alaska she wishes she’d taken. She was so focused on saving for the future that she stayed home while her friends had the time of their lives. If she had been struggling financially, that could have made sense. She wasn’t. She had more than enough. Again, fear masqueraded as preparedness.

You’ve probably known someone who buys way more food than they need because they fear they’ll run out, or keeps going back to school but never pursues the new job for which they’re more than qualified. You may know an amazing artist whose work sits in the back room while their spreadsheet of galleries to contact grows. They are all adequately prepared to move forward, but may tell you they’ll make the move as soon as they prepare in x, y, or z way.

Preparedness vs Being Present

When you spend your time preparing for the future, you cannot fully experience the present. The truth is, we can never prepare for every possible circumstance that will affect us. This is an area in which it is wise to choose our battles.

Choose to Prepare…or Not

What are some things to look for when making preparedness choices? Here are five questions to ask yourself:

1)Does it require buying something, using a specific service, or taking a medication that is being advertised to me? If so, it is good to think twice. Some marketers and advertisers prey upon fear to drive sales. This is sometimes disguised in rhetoric of prevention or preparedness.

2)How much time, money, or effort will the preparation take in relation to the likelihood of the threat? If you live in Missouri, there’s no real need to prepare for a hurricane. On the other hand, it is a good idea to know the safest place in your house in the event of a tornado.

3)Am I laying the groundwork for moving forward, or am I avoiding something? Preparing yourself for the worst possible response from your spouse may keep you from broaching a topic that needs to be resolved. You can also avoid cleaning out the closet by continually exploring containers, racks, bins, and other organizational tools before you get started.

4)Have I reached the point of over-attachment to one specific approach or idea? Over-preparing for a meeting may keep you from really hearing a potential client’s objections because you have become so focused on the script you’ve rehearsed in your head. Over-preparing for parenting can mean you fail to notice the most effective way to motivate a specific child.

5)Am I truly preparing, or just shielding myself from making a decision? As long as I’m still in training or strategically planning, I don’t have to make an active decision to do anything. It’s great having one foot in and one foot out. I can hold onto the dream that makes me sound good in conversation and still stay stuck in the muck.

I say all of this to prepare you for the posts that will come next. Many of us must heal our bodies, minds, and spirits in order to thrive. The path to healing has common elements for all of us. Mapping the process can help you know what to expect along the way.

It’s easy for “experts” to tell us we will see a difference in days or weeks or quickly when we begin healing process. That can be true, but it’s not the whole story. If it were, no one would give up on a health plan after 6 months, relapse, or go back to an abusive relationship. Having a map to guide you can help you persevere in the moments when backward feels better than forward.

Don’t worry, amidst all this mapping there will be cooking too. The food and the process offer many tools for healing.

Next up, we’ll prepare…you had to know that was coming.

Until then, I wish you warm hugs and kind words.

https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/09/22/personal-preparedness-why-prepare-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/think-going-gluten-free-is-hard-visualization-can-help/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/time-is-on-your-side/

December 11, 2018

Always Keep Kitchen Safety in Mind

When you’re preparing food, it’s important to always keep kitchen safety in mind. Where else in the house do you get to play with sharp objects, open flames, boiling liquids, cans under pressure, and countless amounts of breakable glass? In contrast to the rest of the house, the kitchen is a perpetual accident waiting to happen.

I feel like I’m pretty aware of safety when I’m working in the kitchen, but I am constantly reminded of yet another hazard by an OMG moment! Grandchildren in the kitchen have added yet another layer of awareness.
kit safety
Here are a few safety tips from my kitchen…

Knives

Beyond the obvious keep knives away from fingertips warning, don’t be tempted to leave knives lying on the countertop. This is hard for me. I will chop something on a cutting board, then lay a knife across it because I plan to use it again after I’ve done a few other things. I know the knife is there, how dangerous can it be?

Well, having almost stabbed my foot with a falling knife I’d accidentally jostled a couple of months ago, I’d say pretty dangerous. I was grateful I’d had Stop the Bleed training. I also became keenly aware how difficult it would be to use that training on myself.

I know not to leave sharp or breakable objects on the counter when my grandchildren are around. A curious 18-month-old may reach above his head and swipe his hand across the countertop to see what he can find. He also may reach for a knife from your knife block if it is visible. Luckily, my grandson warned me that he was about to pull a knife out by telling me he needed one for the dish he was “cooking” on his stove. My knife block no longer resides at the end of the counter.
knife
Flames

I’ve narrowly escaped burning dish towels and sleeves by failing to notice until the last minute how close they were to the flames on the burner. In general, long flared sleeves may be adorably cute on you, but they’re a really bad idea to wear as cooking fashion. In the same vein, a dish towel may be the most handy potholder, but if you leave any part of it dangling, it can touch a dancing flame before you know it.

And don’t even get me started on paper towels near the stove. Fry some chicken, cover a plate in paper towels, hold that plate above and to the side of the skillet when you remove the chicken to drain on the paper towels. Sounds like reasonable instructions, right?

The instructions aren’t bad, they’re just not complete. They should include a caution to make sure NO paper towel extends beyond the edge of the plate and that the flame is turned low enough that it doesn’t extend past the edge of your frying pan. If you need the flame higher than that to maintain the proper oil temperature, it’s probably best not to hold the plate so that you know it’s sitting a safe distance away from the flame.

Also, don’t be tempted to wipe that drip off the top of the stove just behind the burner while it’s on. You’ll have to reach your arm over or around a very hot pot near a very hot burner most likely with something wet in your hand that won’t protect fingers from heat. That’s too much risk for the amount of time it will save you later. Of course I know this is a bad idea because I’ve done it.

Always keep a fire extinguisher charged and handy just in case flames get out of hand. Mine lives under my kitchen sink. If you happen to have a small grease fire in a pan, turn off the burner, smother the fire with a metal lid or baking sheet, baking soda, or salt. Do not throw water or flour on the fire. Do not cover the pan with glass or pottery. Do not try to carry the pan outside.

Pot Holders and Dish Towels

We just touched on one downside of using a dish towel as a potholder, but it’s also good to remember that a damp or wet towel will not provide insulation from heat. Any towels or potholders should be dry before grabbing a hot handle.

Dish towels may have to be folded multiple times to be thick enough to protect your hand. This can result in a wiggly (technical term) grip. Heavy skillets like those made from cast iron increase the risk a wiggly grip poses.

I use my pot holders so much, they get thin in the middle. I usually discover this when I grip a skillet of cornbread and start to lift it out of the oven. The heat transfer is gradual, but over time I’ve learned when it feels hotter than it should in the first few seconds I should immediately put the skillet back down on the rack in the oven. Muscling through the heat to lift it to the counter is a D-U-M-B thing to do.

Storage

Don’t store anything in the oven that isn’t oven proof to the temperature you’d use to bake a frozen pizza. Sometimes I just need a quick place to hide something in the kitchen. Of course the oven works beautifully…until days later when I’ve totally forgotten the plastic tray in there and preheated the oven. Ugh, you get the picture. I actually preheated the oven this morning with a skillet & sheet pan in it. I do this on the regular, so I know I have to outsmart myself and only store oven proof things.

If you have pets, storing anything on the top of the stove can be risky. A former customer of mine put a basket on top of her stove to at night. One night while everyone was sleeping, her cat jumped on the stove to investigate. In the process, the cat’s foot turned on a burner starting a fire. Luckily, a smoke alarm awakened the family quickly, but the whole kitchen burned.

Having a system that tells you how long a bottle of olive oil, soy sauce, or maple syrup has been stored open in the pantry can prevent you from eating spoiled condiments. Of course, it’s good to do the same thing for the salad dressing, mayonnaise, pickles, jelly, and ketchup in the fridge. Discarding these in a timely manner (with hot sauce, timely means you have years to spare) is a great safety precaution.

I’ll admit my discard system is haphazard. When I’m testing recipes, I use everything so fast this isn’t an issue. When I’m cooking less, I periodically throw everything away that I can’t remember opening and start over. I’m about to have one of these purging sessions in my pantry.

Microwave

I’m sure you know not to put metal in the microwave. You may not know that putting a honey bear in there to heat up crystalized honey can result in serious burns. If heated too long, the bottle can explode when you remove it and you can end up covered in molten honey. This happened to a friend of mine, but a Reddit thread tells me it’s happened to others as well.

When James was about two, I microwaved a cup of water. I took it out of the microwave then had to go check on his crying baby brother. Before I left the room, I made sure the cup was toward the back of the counter where James couldn’t reach it. Being resourceful, James pulled a chair up to the counter, climbed up, got the cup and spilled a full cup of boiling water down the front of his shirt. It all happened in a matter of seconds.

James proceeded to run around the house screaming at the top of his lungs because his shirt was burning him. When I finally caught him, I grabbed the shirt and quickly pulled it off. The skin of his entire chest came off along with the shirt.

Yes, it looked as bad as it sounds and I’m sure it was as painful! After a visit to the doctor, we kept the wound clean and coated in Silvadene and it healed. The only scars left are in James’ memory and on my Mommy record.

Coffee

Unplug the coffee grinder before you use your finger to scrape out the grounds that didn’t fall into the lid. I mean it. Unplug the thing. More than once I’ve had coffee grinders come on unexpectedly and get stuck on. One of them was recalled because of this problem. I’ve seen plenty of otherwise smart people dig out grounds with the grinder plugged in. It makes me cringe each and every time.

Unplug the coffee maker when it’s not being used. I once watched my coffee maker shoot sparks into the kitchen. It was plugged in, but not turned on. The fact that I was there to see it (and prevent a fire) was a happy accident. I switched to a French press.

Timing

I use the timer on my stove, but it’s not very loud. If I’m leaving the kitchen, I know it’s a good idea to set a corresponding timer to carry with me. The one on my phone works great. I also have a stationary one on the desk in my home office.

It’s also a good idea to set a timer if you decide to chill a can of soda in the freezer. I rarely do this, but when I do, I consistently forget about that can for way too long. Usually I catch my error at the point the top of the can begins to bow out, but I have had to clean up the freezer after a can explosion. I can assure you that cleaning the freezer is not my idea of fun!

Other Things

-Read labels for allergens.
-Disinfect anything that touches raw meat.
-Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat reaches a safe temperature.
-Don’t eat raw eggs.
-Wash fruits and vegetables.
-Kiss Caesar salads goodbye for awhile. The romaine problem has gotten out of hand.
-Refrigerate leftovers in a timely manner.
-Turn pot and pan handles toward the center of the stove.
-Wipe spills up quickly so you won’t slip and fall.

Clothing Optional

I’m fine with you doing whatever you want to do in the nude, but this post is about safety in the kitchen. Soooo, don’t cook naked. Like ironing naked, it seems like a good idea until it’s not. By that point you’ll probably have frozen or burned something you really don’t want to freeze or burn. At least put on an apron. A simple apron with heels can be the perfect cooking outfit depending on the guest list.

Every cook I know burns themself at some point. Many cut a finger. Most of these injuries are minor. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to have a watchful eye and always keep kitchen safety in mind when you’re having a kitchen adventure.

https://www.firerescue1.com/firefighter-training/articles/223446018-How-to-put-out-a-grease-fire/

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/index.html

https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/index.html

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/make-the-kitchen-your-happy-place/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/pare-your-kitchen-down-to-the-basics/