tip for moving #5

SONY DSC

If you’re a closet food hoarder like I am, you should probably start paying attention to what’s in your pantry right about now. If you’re moving in less that three weeks, you should probably start cleaning out your pantry. Starting yesterday.

I grew up in the country, several miles outside of the town in which I went to school and at least half an hour any direction from the nearest large grocery store. We had to drive 30 minutes one way to get to Walmart, 40 minutes another way to reach Hart’s or Price Cutter or Harter Haus, and if we needed bulk or specialty items — well, that was an hour and a half, at least.

Understandably, I learned to hoard pantry items. When it’s a Saturday afternoon and you need homemade chocolate chip cookies but have no butter or chocolate chips, there is no change-out-of-sweatpants-and-drive-to-the-store spontaneity because that would take at least an hour, and then where are those cookies? So, we stockpiled. (Interestingly enough, this is also how I learned to experiment and substitute so freely in the kitchen. My creative mother was judicious in her cooking experiments — I learned from the best.)

Fast-forward ten years and I’m within walking distance of the farmers market and just a short drive from the commissary or my favorite grocery store. I don’t have to stockpile because I can easily pick up some canned tomatoes or a rasher of bacon any afternoon I might need it, no long-term planning required. And yet.

I hoard canned tomatoes in my pantry and rashers of bacon in my freezer. I have little tins of hatch peppers and bulk jars of jasmine rice and gluten-free oats and a couple bags of seaweed and canned tuna and olives and coconut milk and all sorts of things stored away, like a little chipmunk saving up for winter hibernation. Which is all well and good was I living with said stocked pantry for another couple of months, which I am not. Take it from me, friends — it is better to start cleaning out early and buy what you need later in the proper amount than to be saddled with too many jars and cans.

To begin, make a list of all of the dry goods and frozen items you have. Take stock of the perishables in the refrigerator and, with list in hand, start brainstorming meal-planning ideas. You’ll save money, get creative in the kitchen, and prevent wastefulness.

Got a half a bag of frozen peas just hanging out? Throw those bad boys into a pot of soup. What do two boxes of crushed tomatoes, a can of pumpkin puree and a jar of broth have in common? They are an excellent base for chili. Coconut milk added to ground meat and veggies and a dash of curry powder makes for an easy ethnic meal. Green tomato relish add pizzaz to daily scrambled eggs, and don’t forget those olives! You should probably just eat those as a snack, plucked from the jar with your fingers.

My pantry/freezer inventory includes:

bulk gluten-free oats, steel-cut oats, buckwheat groats

jasmine rice

sugar

tapioca starch

dried shiitake mushrooms

onion jam

balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar

green tomato salsa

dried seaweed

carob powder, cacao powder

flaxseeds

frozen Ezekiel bread, coconut granola

tahini, Siracha, homemade mayo and all the condiments ever

aged parmesan

frozen vegetables + fruit

canned crushed tomatoes

coconut milk

2 tins hatch peppers

Castelvetrano olives

salmon filets, ground lamb, ground turkey

1 rasher of bacon

frozen homemade waffles

And I know this sounds like an absolute mess of items — one of these things is not like the other — but it is actually quite easy to meal-plan from my kitchen. Some ideas include:

turkey chili with canned tomatoes, hatch peppers, frozen green peppers

lamb coconut curry with frozen bell peppers, peas, broccoli

seared salmon with garlicky aioli (homemade mayo)

fruit smoothies with frozen mango, blueberries, coconut milk

chicken thighs with shiitake mushrooms + fish sauce

brinner: eggs, bacon, waffles

Thankfully, we have neighbors on either side who will gladly profit from any incomplete meal-planning. Those random jars of oatmeal and the half-open jars of hot sauce and the uneaten chocolate ice cream and the orphan frozen pizza will all get new homes. They won’t be wasted, and at least I can say I tried.

SONY DSCBraised “Everything-In-The-Pantry” Turkey Chili

1.5 lbs. ground turkey

two 4 oz. tins of Hatch peppers

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 c. broth

28 oz. can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder

2 tsp. sea salt

fresh black pepper

dash of cayenne

1 Tbsp. cumin

1 tsp. fish sauce

1 c. chopped green bell pepper

2 pints Sungold tomatoes

In a large, oven-proof, heavy bottomed pot with a lid, brown the turkey. While the meat is cooking, smash and peel garlic and set aside. Season the turkey with salt, pepper and spice, and continue to brown until cooked through. Stir in the canned peppers, fish sauce and tomatoes, and bring to a vigorous simmer. Mince the garlic and add to the chili, along with the broth, bell peppers and whole Sungold tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. After the chili has reached a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot and transfer the chili to the oven to braise for an hour and a half. Stir occasionally. After the time has elapsed, increase the heat to 350 degrees and allow the chili to reduce uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes.

Advertisements

triple roasted salsa // life in the southwest, part II

SONY DSC

Life in the southwest is all about the Tex-Mex, let me just tell ya. We have about a bazillion Mexican restaurants in town, and although we’ve only tried a few we are really, really happy about this. I love Mexican food — the chips and salsa, the sizzling fajita plates, the melt-in-your mouth barbacoa, the chili verde and the carnitas. If you play your cards right in a restaurant, this cuisine can be pretty nutritious, too. Although, that’s not what this post is entirely about. This post is about my proximity to authentic peppers.

We were at a local dive earlier this week, watching the BCS bowl and getting to know the local bar scene. Needless to say, it was a Monday night and not many people were out to party — neither were we. But we currently live without a television (and love life that way), and so our desire to support the SEC from a distance could only be quenched at a sports bar. (Don’t worry, all. I had a Whole30-approved club soda with lime — no challenge-busting beers for me here.) The game was less than thrilling, to say the least, but what was more enthralling was the incredible scent of homemade chili filling the bar. One of the bartenders brought in a huge pot of her homemade chili for customers to enjoy while watching Monday Night Football, and it gave the bar a warmer, homier touch. I asked her about her ingredients and they were mostly your typical chili mix-ins — tomatoes, beans, ground beef, onions, a little brown sugar, spices. But the spices. She had a friend across the border who routinely sent her huge buckets of freshly roasted and ground Mexican chilis, with which she made her own chili powder seasoning mix. I didn’t even taste the chili, but I could smell and entirely new level of flavors: something roasty, smoky, deeply sweet-hot. Exhibit A.

Exhibit B refers to the ever-changing produce available at my local commissary. It’s pretty cool the way the offerings change every week, even though sometimes there aren’t avocados or kale greens when I “need” them. (How am I so disconnected from the seasons that I eat avocados in the winter? I digress.) I got so excited the other day when I found kabocha squash that I bought three, only to discover that Andrew doesn’t like them. But one thing I know he does like is something spicy, and so when they were available I bought a pound of Hatch peppers.

SONY DSCHatch peppers are grown almost exclusively in New Mexico (howdy, neighbors!), and with their mellow flavor and medium-bodied spice they are the perfect accompaniment to almost anything, from soups to dips to my favorite slow-roasted meat dishes. My parents fire-roasted some this summer and gave us a few to sample, and from then on we were all Hatch pepper converts. My mom keeps hers in the freezer, and every once in a while breaks off a chunk to add to vegetable soup or a chicken dish that needs some flavor oomph.

Without a grill, I did my best to simulate the fire-roasting by charring these babies in a 475 degree oven. Before they got too black I turned the heat back down to 400 degrees to keep them cooking, and the end result was a soft pepper with plenty of crispy, black skin. I used some in my Roasted Chicken Chili, and used the rest to make a crazy salsa verde that I’m not exactly sure what to do with. Stay tuned.

SONY DSC

Roasted Triple Pepper Salsa

5-7 Hatch peppers

1 small habanero (this is what took the salsa to the next level — I recommend omitting this if you don’t want it too hot)

1 jalepeno

4-5 cloves roasted garlic

1/2 yellow onion, caramelized (reserve from an earlier recipe or roast in the oven alongside other ingredients)

2 limes, juiced

juice of half a lemon

1 bunch cilantro

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. salt, cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

Wash the peppers and dry-roast in an oven set to 475 degrees. When nicely charred, lower heat to 400 degrees and cook until tender. When cool enough to handle, remove stems. Remove seeds from jalepeno and habanero peppers. Pulse in food processor with other ingredients, seasoning to taste.

With the habanero, this salsa was a little too hot for comfort even though the flavor was good. Next time, I’ll omit that tiny, powerful pepper, but keep the zesty citrus, the smoky spices, and the vibrant cilantro for a more mellow salsa.

around here

SONY DSC

1) starting and [already] loving Project Life.

bye bye tree

2) saying goodbye to our first Christmas tree.

SONY DSC

3) welcoming snow in West Texas.

SONY DSC

4) planning to simmer something warm to feed us through the weekend. (this or this)

SONY DSC

5) delivering pies to our sweet neighbors as a belated holiday/thank-you gift.