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

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