Saturday, January 25, 2014

Disney Movie Night: Emperor's New Groove

It's an oldie, but a...well, an oldie.

Can you believe I've never seen Emperor's New Groove?  Or, I hadn't.  Until tonight.  In a search for movies we haven't seen yet, I decided we needed to give this one a try.  For our dining pleasure this evening, I decided to try my hand at Peruvian cuisine.  I've never eaten Peruvian food, let alone cooked it, so I had to do some research.

For dinner, we had Sweet & Spicy Beef Empanadas, Arroz Chauffa (rice with salami and pineapple), and Roasted Root Vegetables (beets, carrots, and turnips).  They were pretty good.  I was concerned about the rice.  I mean, salami and pineapple?  But it was yummy!  The empanadas were pretty spicy, so the kids didn't really like them, and I've never been a big fan of beef and cinnamon.  But they were OK.  The vegetables were good.

For dessert, I made Picarones.  These are sweet potato and pumpkin donuts.  Again, I was skeptical.  But they were actually good!  The donuts weren't overly sweet, but the powdered sugar on top was a nice complement.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why we have 3 BOXES of Kosher Salt. (OR Why you need an organized pantry!)

I admit it.  I am guilty.

I am one of those people who goes to the grocery store and then just shoves things in the pantry without taking time to organize them.  This is especially bad on co-op nights when I get home at 9:00 (or later!) and am tired.  It's a bad habit.  I'll try to stop.  Especially after today.

Why today?  Well on the Organized Home Challenge for this week, today is Declutter Pantry Shelves.  I've actually been meaning to do this for a while.  My pantry was a mess.  I couldn't even shut the door all the way.  And the bag from January co-op with pantry items was just piled in front.  See?

And good luck finding anything in there! 

Now, in all honesty, it didn't take long to get this in shape.  Just going through, shelf by shelf, and putting things where they should have been originally.  I did get rid of a grocery bag of expired, half used items.   I also pulled out another bag of stuff for the food pantry.  Most of that was canned items I'd bought for a recipe and then either never used, or ended up substituting something non-canned instead.  Hopefully I'll be able to cut down on that with my new meal planning process that gives me time to make home-made substitutes.  

The biggest problem I ran into was duplicates.  I mean, who really needs three almost full boxes of Kosher Salt!?!?  I kept two in the pantry.  I mean, we will use it eventually.  The third I pulled out to go with my supplies for making household/beauty supplies.  I put kosher salt in my laundry detergent.  Helps make the clothes nice and soft.  I pulled all of those supplies (washing soda, baking soda, castile soap, essential oils, etc.) out and moved them down to the bathroom off the playroom.  Plenty of cupboard space there, and it leaves the pantry free for just food items.  I also moved the blender down to the cupboard where I keep rarely used appliances.  That let me slide the dehydrator farther back so the rice cooker would actually fit.

See the improvement!?  And the door closes now, too!  Here are a few close-ups of some of my tips for a cleaner looking pantry:

1.  On my "liquids" shelf (which also has my salt...), I have a metal cookie sheet.  See it on the left?  I put all of my oils, vinegars, honey, agave nectar, and cooking wines on this.  That way, if they leak, it's easy to pull out and wash off.

2.  Clear plastic bins for staples.  I have my most used pastas, sugars, baking soda, arrowroot powder, cocoa, breadcrumbs, etc. in these.  I also have ones for my flours, oats, cereals, and protein powder on the top shelf.  I do have a few boxes of special pastas that I've bought for a recipe: angel hair for sesame noodles, rotini for a soup.

At the bottom of the picture, you can also see my snack bins.  I have one for me and one for my husband.  I keep things like bagel sticks and pretzels in mine.  He has trail mix and Clif bars.

3.  Baskets to collect like items.  I have 4.  One basket holds snacks for the kids (mostly dried fruits right now).  That one is on the shelf with canned items.  I'm also using it to separate cans that I've bought for recipes or are just random fruits or soups from items needed for co-op recipes.  I'm really hoping to be able to cut down on the amount of stuff on this shelf.  But it's not bad.  A couple of cans of pineapple, some tomato paste, tomatoes with chiles, enchilada sauce, and stir-fry veggies (water chestnuts and baby corn).  The enchilada sauce and tomato paste I can probably make.  The tomatoes with chiles I might be able to can this summer.

I have another basket for crackers, taco shells, and croutons.  I also stuck my gigantic bag of dried chiles in there.  I didn't know where else to put it.

The small basket has mixes (ranch dressing and onion soup), yeast, and sprinkles.

The last basket is all baking supplies - nuts, coconut, marshmallows, and chocolate chips

I'm happy with it.  Now, how long do you think I can keep it cleaned up? :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Meal Planning week 3: Planning ahead pays off!

When I started this new system of planning 4 weeks of meals and then shopping sales, I thought it would take a long time to pay off.   Turns out, it didn't!  My grocery list this week, once I take out all of the things I already have on hand, is only 23 items!  For a family of 5, that's awesome!  And most of it is fresh "stuff", which is my real goal.  I love that we are eating better, and a lot less canned and processed food.

Here is the menu for the next 4 weeks:

And here is the grocery list.  See if you have as much success as I did! :)