Category: cooking

The Pantry Challenge

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it on this blog but I am not the greatest when it comes to budgeting. Luckily my expenses have always been pretty low and I haven’t really needed to that much. Well, recently I set a goal to try to do better, and I am focusing first on grocery expenses. You see my pantry and freezer is a bit of a mess!   I will often buy things on sale or have portions of items that I need for one recipe but don’t use again. To solve this problem I have decided to take on the pantry challenge!

My goal is going to be to go as long as I can without going to the grocery store and just use things from my pantry. The one exception will be milk that I will get from Winder Dairy each week. I’m not going to say I will never eat out but I am going to try and reduce that as well. There may end up being some meals that feel like I am on chopped but I’m up for the challenge!

How long do you think I can go? How long could you go without going to the grocery store? I’m excited to see how it goes and I will try to update you guys as regularly as I can.

Let’s do the pantry challenge!

Movie Munchies: Ratatouille

Today I get to present to you the 2nd episode in my Movie Munchies series.  Just in time for Valentines Day Jacqueline and I make the french dish ratatouille and talk about- you guessed it- Pixar’s Ratatouille!  These videos were a huge challenge for me so I would love your feedback.  We plan to do a couple a month so if you have ideas for good movie/recipe combinations please put in the comments sections.

Also if you try the recipe let me know what you think.  It’s a very versatile dish that you can use as a main dish or side.  Very tasty.

Thanks so much for your feedback and help!

Recipe:
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
1 large eggplant (1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large yellow onions (1 pound total), diced large
1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and diced large
2 large zucchini (1 pound total), diced large
1 lb mushrooms
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon oregano leaves
2 to 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper

Salt the eggplant and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Saute peppers, onions and garlic till translucent.  Add eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms and get some color.  Add tomatoes and then let stew on medium low heat as long as you can.  Serve as a topping for pasta or a side with meat.

Movie Munchies 1: Apricot Chicken/Blind Side

Hi guys!  I wanted to share with you a very exciting video I just posted on my youtube channel.  It’s called Movie Munchies where we will review a film and make a recipe on the same video.  This week to celebrate the Super Bowl we are talking about 2009’s The Blind Side and making my favorite apricot chicken drumsticks- perfect for game day.  This was a huge challenge for me and I would love to get your feedback.

We’ve already got episode 2 filmed and will probably do this a couple of times a month.  If you have any ideas for good movie/meal parings please let me know!

Making this video required a whole new kind of editing and filming for me so I learned a lot but I’m really excited for the future.  I loved my chemistry with Jacqueline and found the entire experience very rewarding.  I know each episode will only continue to improve.

Thanks for checking it out.

Recipe-
3 lbs drumsticks or other meat
1 cup onions diced
1 cup bell peppers diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c firmly packed cup brown sugar
1/4 c molasses
1/4 c honey
1 14 ounce bottle ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce to taste
1 jar apricot preserves
Olive Oil
Heat up onions, peppers, and garlic till translucent. In separate skillet sear the chicken on high heat to get a golden brown color. Add all ingredients except for jam, heat and then let simmer till it thickens.
Add apricot jam to mixture and poor over chicken.
Bake at 400 degrees for an hour, remove tin foil at 30 minutes. Test with thermometer. Want chicken 165 degrees or higher.
Enjoy! Let me know if you like it and I’ve made it with wings, pork, ribs etc.

Raspberry Jam

I’m not some hipster where everything has to be homemade and local in order for me to enjoy it.  That said, there is something satisfying about crafting your own products.  I have a job that is online and markets others people’s stuff but I don’t make anything myself.  That is why it feels good to take raw materials and make something usable out of your efforts.

Yesterday I had such an experience and I turned a bunch of these:

jam3Into these:

jamIsn’t that impressive? I’m impressed by my efforts at the least! And to make it even better the jam tastes good my friends!  (It’s set up more now than last night when I had this toast)

jam4The great thing is it is very simple to make.  In fact, I didn’t even follow the recipe right and it still turned out right.

I had 10 cups of raspberries and I used 10 tbsp of this real fruit pectin (any pectin will do).

jam5Then you mash the raspberries (mine were very soft so just a spoon was all I needed).  Then I had 20 tsp of lemon juice.  I saved myself from all the juicing by using bottled juice since it is mostly for the acid.

lemon juiceThen add 2 tbsp butter and let mixture boil for 2 minutes.  (I put sugar in at this point but you aren’t supposed too. I read the directions incorrectly but it didn’t matter).

Take off heat add the sugar 10 cups (It makes a lot of jam) and then let it get to a rolling boil again (so it can’t be stopped by stirring).  Let boil for 2 minutes.

Let cool and then skim off any foam and put into jars.  I don’t use a canner for this kind of jam.  All you have to do is put on the seal and ring and turn it upside down and it will set. (you can tell if it is set if you press down on the seal and it doesn’t pop back up on you.

And that’s it!! Raspberry is the easiest of all because aside from washing there is no prep work for the fruit.  That’s what made peach jam so difficult is the peeling, pitting and chopping of the fruit.  I have also made strawberry jam and that is so good but is still more work than raspberry (but a lot less expensive).

All of them are delicious and fun to make.  Especially if you have a family it could be a great project.  I would like to branch out into other types of preserves such as ketchups, chutneys and pickles.  Do any of you can or preserve your food?  I’d love to hear your recipes.

Trees, Turkey, Meals and Lights

Hi guys!  I just wanted to give you a little update on my life.

Well to begin with Christmas has arrived. Got the lights and the tree up!

lightswindowThis year I rented my Christmas tree which is a completely brilliant notion.  Instead of having to store a giant tree all year and lug it out, decorate it by myself, I signed up and for the price of a house cleaning it is set up, stored, decorated and taken down at end of season.

treeAs some of you will remember from years past I have a memory tree with ornaments from travels and all other parts of my life.  I also have little picture frames that have black and white photography of my friends and family, which is especially nice this year as I will not be seeing family and my best friend Emily is away.

I have a few new ornaments to add to the tree.  Some I got in Tampa and these fun Disney ornaments to pay tribute to my Disney project and blog this year.

disney ornamentIn other news Thanksgiving has been a lot of fun.  I went to my aunt and uncle’s for dinner and it was a full house of cousins and relatives.  I was in charge of making the salad and it turned out pretty tasty.

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And now a little recipe.

saladArugula Salad with Butternut Squash and Apple Cider Dressing

Arugula

pomegranate pips  (put pomegranate under water and it makes it easy to de-seed)

butternut squash peeled, seeded and diced into 1 inch cubes

parmesean cheese

walnuts

cranberries

apple cider

apple cider vinegar

olive oil

shallots finely diced

digon mustard

maple syrup

Start with butternut squash on baking sheets with olive oil and maple syrup. Put in 375 degree oven for 45-60 minutes until the cubes are tender but crusted on outside.  While cooking mix 2 tbsp vinegar, 3/4 cup cider, 2 tbsp syrup, 2 tbsp shallots in saucepan.

Cook for 8-10 minutes until mixture has thickened.  Then add1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp mustard, 1/4 cup maple syrup.  Put in jar and shake until mustard is emulsified.  I added a little water because my vinegar was strong.  If you like it sweeter add more syrup . If you want more mustard go for it!

I used a cranberry walnut mixture I bought at the store but if you don’t have that then I would roast the walnuts before.

When serving add arugula, butternut squash, walnuts, cranberries, pomegranate pips, parmesean shavings.  Add all ingredients and top with dressing and serve!

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Since I wasn’t cooking Thanksgiving dinner I decided to order one from my local market, Harmons, so I could have some leftovers!  It was pretty cool I got everything from a full turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green beans, rolls and 2 pies for $100.  Pretty cool right?

So I portioned it all into meals and have them ready in my chest freezer for many holiday meals to come! Pretty clever right?

dinner dinners

So that’s my little holiday update. I hope you are all doing great and having a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  Make sure to check out Scrooge month on my other blog.  I’m having a blast watching and writing about these films of the story I love so much. I just posted yesterday about the Alistair Sims classic and today on the Disney stop motion effort.

European Style Grocery Shopping

veggies

I’ve spoken a number of times on this blog about food, cooking and the challenges of shopping for one.  Lately I’ve been trying a new strategy that has been working out very well.

This article explains the shopping philosophy and how it saves money, gives the best food http://www.wisebread.com/buy-your-groceries-european-style

Basically the idea is instead of buying in bulk or cooking large quantities, you go to the grocery store every day and buy what you need for that day or perhaps for 2-3 days.

This is smart for the following reasons

1. You get the freshest ingredients

2.  It avoids waste saving money and time

3. Fresh, seasonal ingredients typically are the least expensive

4. For a single woman who eats out a lot it makes it easy to eat out without spoiling food or meal plans waiting to be made.  You can just plan on eating out instead of shopping.

5. With a grocery store in walking distance of my house it isn’t really any  more work to shop everyday.

6. Less groceries and less mess.  Today I dirtied a few pieces of silverware and 1 plate instead of tons of pots and pans.  Of course, I can plan an everyday meal that uses a lot of pots and pans but at least I know that’s what I am doing and can plan accordingly instead of just having ingredients and trying to make something good out of it.

7.  It allows you to order what you are in the mood for on a particular day.  Not stuck eating leftovers or ingredients that sounded good a month ago.

Today for example I went to the grocery store purchased a rotiserie chicken, a kale salad and twiced baked potato they make at Harmons and stuff to make easy crepes for dessert

The other day it was a tub of chili, another it is chicken and sauce.  A lot of items are hard for me to purchase because I just can’t eat them fast enough.  A loaf of bread for instance is hard for 1 person to polish off before it is either stale in the fridge or moldy outside.

With European grocery store I can  buy just what I need for that meal and be done with it.

It may seem like this type of shopping would be more expensive and while I haven’t done the math I don’t think I’ve spent much more if any.

I know that such shopping might be impossible if you have a family but if you don’t, give it a try.  I bet you will love it!

Plus, you get to sound all suave and debonaire with your European shopping trip… 🙂

How do you shop for evening meals?  What strategies work for you?

First Day Jitters

So today is the first day of the new job!  I started to write this post many times but then would stop because it was seemingly more tweet than blog worthy.  I am part nervous, part excited, and that’s basically it.

It’s something entirely new as a career and I have no doubt that transitioning from hobbyist to a career in digital marketing will be a challenge.  However, I also know I am starting small, part-time and we are all committed to being patient with each other.

It feels strange starting something new.  It’s probably been since starting the job in accounting which was way out of my wheelhouse.  I also was thinking back to the the first day in the MTC and the mission field.

Wondering what it was going to be like and if I could do it.  On one hand I want to give both of the Rachel’s at those points a hug and say ‘you’ll get through the tough times’ and also say ‘you do it and you do it well’.

Looking back on those experiences I realize the worrying was justified and it wasn’t.  Those were some of the toughest times of my life beginning but the worry of failure wasn’t really justified.  I wasn’t perfect but I think I turned into a good missionary and then accounting clerk.  Regardless it all worked out for the best.

What about you my friends?  What in your 30’s+ have you started anew, afresh? Whether a new marriage, job, child etc?  Were you excited and freaked out like me?  Any advice?  How has it been different starting something new in your 30s vs 20s?  It seems like it could be more challenging and yet more rewarding.  Would love to hear your perspectives.

This morning we had a conference call to go over the company I will be working for and in the next week will be filling out forms and starting projects.  It is a new position so there will be some moving and stretching as we figure out what works best for everyone.  I will probably be going out to Georgia sometime this summer to see the facilities and meet my co-workers.  The main offices are in Dalton Georgia so that should be a fun place to visit.

So that was basically it.  We did a basic orientation of the company and most of the answers to questions were ‘I’ll get back to you on that’.

I think I may just have to read Julia Child’s book My Life in France.  It’s one of my favorites for a lot of reasons but I love that she had the guts to change her life later in life.  She didn’t graduate from culinary school till she was almost 39.  Then she spent the next 10 years of her life working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking and in 1961 when she was 49 it was published.

Everything we know about Julia Child started then.  At 50 she became the Julia Child we all know with the debut of The French Chef.  How many people do you know that have started something so big at 50?  It’s so inspiring to me.

Her marriage to Paul Child is another inspiration to me. They met when she was 32 and married at 34.  He seems to have been worth waiting for.  As an artist he no doubt wanted to be creative and energetic but he chose to work as a bureaucrat for his job so that Julia could go to culinary school and write her book.  What a wonderful example of love and support.

Most people would find the notion of a housewife going to Le Cordon Blu in the 60s to be silly but not Paul Child.  In fact, it was his insistence that  kept her motivated when it got difficult.

I wasn’t planning on talking about Julia and Paul on this post but they are an inspiration to me and as I start this new journey I hope to embrace the adventure like them.

Read My Life in France.  I know you will love it!

So share with me your new experiences.  What you learned from them?  What your inspiration was?  What was tougher at 30 than at 20? What was easier?  Thanks in advance.

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