Monday, November 28, 2011

Parenting: Harder than it looks - Pet edition

Dooce posted this, and once I was done laughing hysterically I realized that it is the perfect euphamism for parenting. You let the kids go free, and hope they will trust their instincts and make you proud.

And then they do. And it's AWFUL.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A perfectly stocked pantry - for the holidays and every day

I have this great idea for a housewarming party - everyone brings an item to stock the pantry.
A staple, something unique, or a personal favorite.

But whether you have just moved in or not, the easiest way to save time and money on your grocery bills is to keep a good supply of shelf-stable dry goods in your house. It really makes everything a lot easier, and minimizes running out to the store for "just a few things" (and then buying a bunch of other stuff while you're there) or paying higher prices at a covenience store in your effort to avoid the grocery.

This list can also help you avoid an issue I have experienced time and again: a refrigerator that is jammed full of condiments, with little room left for, you know, food. "Sorry," you can apologize "I don't have much to eat, but I have three kinds of ranch dressing and two bottles of chocolate syrup!"

If you unexpectedly have a dinner/after dinner/overnight guest, or if your mom stops by to check on you, this will get you through - and might even impress them. Well, maybe not. But still. It's a start.

(By the way, if something you use regularly is not listed here, PLEASE comment so I can add it!)

First, I made a list of spices I use regularly here.

Today we are going to talk about the supplies and staples I keep in my house. It's a mix of baking supplies, condiments, and ingredient basics for many recipes. And I'm not talking about just baking - I'm talking snacks and entrees too. My goal is to be able to open my pantry at any time and come up with something interesting, not necessarily from scratch, but something I put a little more effort into than peeling off the cellophane and stirring after 3 minutes on high in the microwave. These are not all health foods, but I don't see anything wrong with a treat - or a shortcut - now and then.

Having these things on hand will help you eat well, and enjoy the process.

olive oil
oil blend (canola, vegetable, etc.)
sugar (I use raw sugar for every day)
powdered sugar
dark brown sugar
baking soda I buy massive amounts of this because I use it for cleaning and laundry too)
baking powder
vanilla extract
karo syrup (I've only used this twice in my entire life, but I was glad to have it when I randomly needed it)
jello mix
pudding mix
worcestershire sauce
ginger (minced, in jar)
garlic (crushed, in jar)
horseradish (not cream of horseradish. Just extra hot grated prepared horseradish)
chicken broth (I use concentrate)
beef broth
cream soup (mushroom or celery)
dried onion soup mix
soy sauce
fish sauce
oyster sauce
hoisin sauce
crushed tomatoes
tomato paste
pasta (spiral, rotini, shells, elbow....a bite-sized shape)
egg noodles
black beans
white beans
chick peas
dried lentils
canned chicken
canned tuna
balsamic vinegar
canned corn
canned fruit (mandarin oranges)
good olives
canned jalepenos
parmesan cheese
cooking spray
hot sauce (Cholula, Tapatio, etc.)
peanut butter (or soy nut or almond butter)
shelf stable milk (dairy, soy or other)
coconut milk
chocolate chips
popcorn and/or pretzles
flour tortillas (these can be used for soft tacos and enchiladas, or fried quickly for home made tortilla chips. WORTH THE HASSLE.)
corn muffin mix
cake mix and frosting for emergency cake needs
cupcake cups
pancake mix
potato flakes
tomato juice
cranberry juice
club soda
oatmeal (not instant)
cornflakes and/or rice crispies
dried fruit (raisins, craisins, blueberries, something small)
almonds - unsalted
curry paste
mango chutney
lemon juice
ginger snaps and/or graham crackers

In fridge:
frozen veggies - peas or green beans (for eating or injuries)
frozen berries
filtered water
plain yogurt (I buy Fage greek yogurt)
whipped cream (NOT WHIPPED TOPPING)
apples or pears
baby carrots
a wedge of decent cheese
crumbled goat, feta or blue cheese
block of parmesan or romano - a hard italian cheese for grating
loaf of decent bread (not just sliced sandwich bread...maybe a nice soudough or french or pumpernickle. Can be frozen)
favorite salad dressing (blue cheese, caesar, ranch, raspberry vinaigrette, goddess, etc. Something really high quality.)
chicken (can be frozen)
hamburger (can be frozen)
italian sausage (can be frozen)
bacon (can be frozen)
pint of good vanilla ice cream

The spice rack for people who actually use spices

This is sort of an appendix to my pantry list. But here, we are focused only on the spice drawer. You can buy one of those pre-stocked spice racks if you want to, but over the years I have figured out what I really needed, and half of it wasn't on that damn spice rack (or, the spice rack did not have nearly enough of it). And sometimes they put weird, unecessary stuff on there. Meh. I usually go to the health food store that sells bulk spices, and just buy small plastic bags of what I need more of, to refill the jars I already have in my spice rack. I hate waste.

So here's my list. If I missed something, please comment, your input is invaluable to curating a really comprehensive document.

First, let me start by listing the only items you might possibly really need to buy IN BULK at costco for regular amounts of home cooking:
Italian Seasonings
Salt (I buy kosher salt for cooking, and red hawaiian salt for serving at the table, and then I have a small round bottle of regular salt for my salt shaker)

Step away from the half gallon of seasoning salt.

I keep a few blends - Emerils, Mrs Dash, Bells, Old Bay, Spike, herbs de provence, lemon pepper, steak seasoning, and garam masala
I have a small tube of saffron for very special occasions

I also keep on hand:

chili flakes
ground mustard
garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
ground cloves
cinnamon sticks

And I keep a few emergency packs of dried seasoning/sauce mix:
beef stew
brown gravy

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The only cleaning product you really need.

Baking soda.

This miracle powder (not to be confused with baking POWDER) does it all. You can scrub with it, do laundry with it, brush your teeth with it, and then throw some in your baked goods. I buy it in a huge sack.

You should too.

Best part about it is that it doesn't have any odor and doesn't burn my skin. Yay for super inexpensive, non-toxic cleaning!

(I tried to feel this kind of love about cleaning with vinegar, but my entire bathroom smelled like salad when I was done, and I just couldn't handle it.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Parenting: Harder Than It Looks - Halloween edition

Every so often, I see something so alarming that I just don't even know how to deal with it.
I'm going to post these things here. You're welcome. I found them floating around facebook with no photo credits. If they're yours please give me a shout so I can give you the respect you deserve.

Lollipops - laced with chicken pox. I wish I was kidding.

But I think this guy would totally go for it:

And something for those of you who have chosen to keep your gene pool to yourself for maximum awesomeness: