Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Great Pantry Experiment: 2010 Spice Oddysey

My Dinner On A Deadline homework this week was to organize my pantry.  I have been meaning to do this for a long time, and had even planned on taking "inventory" at the beginning of the year so I would know exactly what I had.  It took this homework to finally get me in gear.

The project started on Monday with the spice cabinet and the pantry, then continued on Tuesday with the refrigerator and freezer.  I threw spices away that no longer "smelled" potent enough, and threw away some items that had "use by" dates from 2006.  The silken tofu might have still been good, but I decided not to take any chances.  I also entered into my computer, by category, what I have, so that when I'm in a desperation dinner sort of mode, I can scan my inventory list and make up a recipe.

The second part of the homework was to make dinner based on some of the pantry items I found, and pair them with one splurge item to make dinner.  These are the items I decided to utilize:
I have had the Red Curry Paste for a loooong time, but it had never been opened, so I figured it was fine.  I wasn't sure what to do with it, but there was a recipe on the side for Red Curry Shrimp, and I just happened to have ALL of the ingredients.  I couldn't remember why I bought the coconut milk, but figured I'd give it a go.  
 The recipe called for 1-2 Tablespoons of curry paste, but due to my hubby's sensitive stomach, I used only 2 teaspoons.  It was still so spicy we both had to have a glass of milk (two for him) to cool the heat! The flavor, however was fabulous, and I will be making this again - just with a little less curry paste!
I served this over brown jasmine rice, made in my trusty rice cooker.  Besides my fancy electric tea kettle, probably my favorite kitchen appliance.  Shrimp - the big ones, were my splurge item here, although I do try to have them on hand as they are quick thawing and take only a few minutes to cook.

So, The Great Pantry Experiment is complete and here are a few tips:

1.  Organize things according to how you use them - for example, I have all my baking staples, i.e. flour, sugar, etc. together.  Some things are even in a pull out bin for easy access.  

2.  Place like things together - mustards, vinegars, oils, Asian sauces 

3.  Label & Date things in your freezer - I do this, but am still guilty of forgetting to use things.  Now at least I know what I have!  I threw away some wickedly freezer burned meatballs I made well over a year ago.

Pantry Staples I just HAVE to have:
Jarred Pasta Sauce (good quality- no high fructose corn syrup stuff)
Rice - several varieties
Cheese (I do live in Wisconsin)

Hope you have a great Memorial Day.  My assignment for next week is to cook without recipes, which is what I do most of the time, so let's see what I come up with!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Hat Parade - A Post by The "Real Baby"

My mom has finally started knitting again.  I guess she's finally getting the hang of having me around.  She made me this pretty pink "Baby Squash Hat" from 101 Designer one-skein Wonders, and she says that she's making the "Pink Tweed for Baby" cardigan to match.  She better hurry up, because I'm growing like a weed.

This modeling is tough work!
She also made me this hat from Last Minute Knitted Gifts.  
I'm growing so fast that's it's almost too small.  I guess I will send it to one of my new cousins who will be coming soon!
Thought I'd show you my "baby blues."  Just like my dad's!
The next hat is still a little big, and it's my mom's favorite color.  Not sure where she got the pattern, but it's just an easy baby hat, knitted in the round.
My mom says I look like "Mushmouth" from the old Fat Albert cartoon.  
Sometimes when I babble, I  do sound like Mushmouth, so I guess I won't take offense.
I also got my first big girl sports equipment this week.  Daddy is so happy!
His friends at Titleist made this Bullseye putter just for me!  I'm sure it won't be the last club my Dad gets for me.  He is a great teacher, so I'm sure we'll have lots of fun together.
Poor Paddy has been feeling a little left out lately, so we've been trying to give him a little extra love.  He sure does like to lick me!

My mom will be back next week posting about her Dinner On A Deadline project.  She got off easy this week, as my daddy was only home one night!  We missed him, but I think I saw her eat a peanut butter & marshmallow creme sandwich for dinner last night!  She did have a glass of milk with it.

Have a great weekend!

The Real Baby of Sheboygan County

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dinner on A Deadline: Week 2

Granted, my posts have gotten less frequent since the baby arrived, but I am still committed to Dinner on A Deadline.  Homework for this week was "planning."  Never my strong suit, being a right brained, creative type, but like Frank Sinatra, I did it "My Way."  

At the beginning of the week I had the conversation with hubby on scheduling - what nights will he be home and what nights he has meetings or other obligations.  He told me he would be home Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday, and on Tuesday we would have our big city friend, Rufus, joining us and it's a tradition that they barbecue.  Easy enough.

Now, to scan the freezer.  We had chicken, and steak.  Perfect for barbecue.  I have a simple marinade that I use for chicken.  I know I could use a bottle of italian dressing, but have you read the ingredient list on most of the bottles?  I swear I can't pronounce most of it, so I have a basic marinade I use and "doctor" it up depending on what herbs I might have around.  Here are the ingredients for the basic marinade:

Olive oil - I don't use Extra Virgin here because it's just going to get cooked. Save the good stuff for your salad dressing!
Vinegar - here I used White Balsamic, but be creative - if you're grilling pork, an apple cider vinegar would be nice, or red wine vinegar is good for flank steak
Salt - here is used Mediterranean Sea Salt, but Kosher is great, too
Pepper - I like freshly ground

My proportions are as follows - there is no science to this
A "count" of olive oil for each piece you are grilling - i.e. 4 pieces of chicken, you pour as you're counting 1, 2, 3, 4  (I made this up, but it works)
I did about double the count of vinegar - it pours slower, but really did it until it equaled a little over 1/3 cup  (again, NOT science)
Salt - about 7 cranks on the grinder (if I were using Kosher I would have used 1t. for this amount)
Pepper - about 7-8 turns of the grinder
There's a reason recipes say "season to taste"  It's OK to "wing it!"

Add any herbs that might go with what you are grilling - in the summer I love basil with this, but also know that the marinade is good just as is, extremely cheap to make and takes almost less time than opening a bottle of salad dressing, and you know EXACTLY what's in it!

Next, I pour this over the chicken in a plastic bag and let it sit for at least 30 minutes like this:
You can even mix the marinade in the bag if you like!

Next for the steak - here's my trick.  I watch for beef tenderloin to be on sale at our local market - no kidding, I think I got this for $3.69/lb.  Then, have the butcher cut it into filets - thickness of your choice - I usually do about an inch, which makes for a perfect serving size.  Then I portion into quart size freezer bags and take out what I need.  I also label them so I know how many are in the bag and when I froze them....
Oops!  These have been here a while, but guess what, they were surprisingly fresh looking when thawed, so luckily no freezer burn.  All the more reason to plan your dinners!
A tender cut like this gets simple treatment - a little olive oil and salt & pepper.  That's it.
I tossed a mixed green salad with strawberries & goat cheese, used a basically the same mix for the marinade for the simple salad dressing and we were set!
Uncle Rufus was a happy camper!  And so was Mary-Claire!

My Wednesday dinner was shrimp from the freezer, linguine from the pantry and jarred pasta sauce.  Not fancy, not pretty, but I did it!  And we liked it!

Now awaiting my next assignment from Dinner On A Deadline!  

Have a great weekend!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Friday, May 7, 2010

Future Yarnoholic

My name is Mary-Claire and I'm a future "yarnoholic."
My mama can't stay away from the yarn shop, and I know I'm going to get "hooked."  The crochet hook is already clenched in my little fingers, and I know the knitting needles will be next.
Woe is me!  This is hard work!
Enough already!  I surrender!  

Have a great weekend and a Happy Mother's Day!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Dinner on a Deadline Project

I happened upon this post the other day, and it got me thinking about my recent dinner endeavors.  I am a person who finds a lot of satisfaction in cooking, however since I became pregnant last summer, and now that I have given birth, I have been slacking in my culinary duties.

Luckily, I have a husband who doesn't mind, but I do know how much he appreciates when I go the extra mile.  We tend to eat healthier, more balanced fare, and there is something to be said about knowing exactly how your food is prepared.  

So, upon reading the post from Married With Dinner, I decided to get back in the game, food wise.  It really doesn't take that long, so I have committed to taking the fish, pork, chicken, beef, or whatever else I might need out of the freezer at least three times per week and putting a healthy meal on the table.  It really doesn't take that long, and although it may not always be pretty, it's better than some of processed stuff we have been eating too much of.

Here was last night's meal, which was truly a hit with my family.  
We started with this:
Just a simple green salad with tomatoes, a sprinkling of parmesan and some Brianna's Blush Wine Vinaigrette, although I do make my own dressing frequently.

We proceeded to the main course
From Southern Living May issue - click here for the recipe
Very easy, and very tasty.  For some reason I tend to forget how easy pork can be to prepare, so it doesn't get into the rotation very often.
We rounded out the meal with just a smidge of leftover mashed potatoes & stuffing from the night before.
Finally, a simple fruit cup for dessert:  fresh pineapple ($2.79 at Costco!), strawberries, blackberries and some cut up Clementines.  

Project Dinner on a Deadline has begun!  
Hope you try it!

The Real Housewife of Sheboygan County
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