Thursday, December 31, 2009

Out With the Old... in the pantry and fridge. Sometimes we forget what we have hidden in our home, stowed away like some squirrels prepared for winter. Actually what I have is not necessarily old, just needs to be used.

Guess what? It is now officially winter (as of about a week ago) and it's the perfect time to use up what you have. There is a pantry clean-out happening at my place and freezer use-up to stretch that grocery budget just a little tighter.

Some things I found and how I might use them, might look like this:

3 cups ground cornmeal - cook up like polenta (see recipe forthcoming for tamale casserole)
1/2 cup carob powder - use to make "fudge" (mix together 1 cup nut butter, 1/2 cup honey, and 1/2 cup carob powder (or cocoa), then freeze
1 frozen ginger root - trim up and use in a stir fry or other Asian dish
2 -3 cups almonds - soak and make milk (then make a drink with frozen ripe bananas & vanilla in a blender, then pour into glasses with ground nutmeg on top - Thanks, Kristen!)
15 frozen ripe bananas - see suggestion above and for more smoothies, of course! =)
8 cups whole wheat grain (or berries) (both hard for yeast bread and soft for non-yeast bread) - grind for flour for bread baking and for other baked goods
3 cups whole rye grain (or berries) - grind and use in Old World Black Bread
2 cups pecans - snacking, cookies
2 cups walnuts - oat burgers
2 cups pine nuts - "better butter"
1 bag frozen spinach - spinach dip or as a topping for homemade pizza
bagged ice - leftover from making homemade ice cream 2 or 3 times worth (wasn't much, got tossed)
25 or so home frozen corn-on-the-cob - use some for lunch today
1 bag frozen peas - green pea salad
1/2 pound mesquite flour - any ideas, anyone? I bought a small package of it a few months ago and want to make something with it or use it in a recipe with something else.

1 cabbage - coleslaw or in a stir fry
2 half bottles of mustard - honey mustard chickpeas, or use in a salad dressing
2 cups maple syrup - pancake meal, use as sweetener in granola
5-6 big leaves collard greens - one batch worth of green smoothie for the family
1/2 tub sweet white miso - salad dressing, dip
2 cups homemade macadamia nut butter - see suggestion above for carob fudge

4-5 packages dried sheet nori - snacking, homemade brown rice veggie "sushi" rolls
2 packages dried shiitake mushrooms - use in "sushi" rolls, homemade spring rolls
1 quart home canned green beans - minestrone soup or other vegetable soup
4 pounds rolled oats - baked oatmeal, cookies
2 cans coconut milk - make ice cream, or use in a curry dish
1 bag lentils - make lentil soup
2 bags other beans - use in various bean dishes and salads, sprout
2 large cans crushed tomatoes - chili and other soups
1 small can tomato paste - ketchup, barbeque sauce, Catalina dressing, red sauce
5 cans pumpkin puree - soup, use in baked goods, make a pumpkin butter (like apple butter)
2 1/2 cups small pearl tapioca - use in pudding, grind up dry for thickener in soups, add to baked goods
1 can water chestnuts - use in spinach dip
1 jar sauerkraut - tempeh reubens
walnut oil - use in small amounts in baked goods
macadamia nut oil - ideas, anyone?
1 bottle Argentine chimi churri sauce (like A1 steak sauce) - marinade for tempeh or tofu?
10 pounds potatoes - baked
6-8 large sweet potatoes - baked or in casserole, sauteed with onions, use in baked goods

This is just a few things I found and some ideas for me to remember. Anyone have other ideas that I haven't thought of?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Traveling? Save money while you're gone...

Many people are traveling this time of year and visiting friends and family. If that's your case, why not "pack up" the house too? Not to take with you, of course, but rather to save some money on your bills while you are gone.

It makes most sense to turn down the heat to something that will still keep your plumbing from freezing up. In the case that you are traveling during warm weather, make sure your air conditioner will not be on all the time (or turn off). And what about your water heater? Some people have a "vacation" setting they can use.

We have used a checklist in the past to remind ourselves of things we didn't want to forget when we were busy packing. Some things we did a few days before. Others where done the day before and some were done the morning or a few hours before heading out. Organizing our travel this way ranked right up there with the best ideas we've done. It went something like this....

Hold your mail at the Post Office. See if you can do it online.
Turn in all library books and materials.
Have someone water plants (if needed).
Secure someone to feed pets and check them.
Clean all toilets.
Clear refrigerator of foods that may go bad.
Wipe down counters and wipe stove off.
Wash and put away all dishes and clean sink.
Check that all windows are closed and locked.
Tidy up, picking things up and putting things away.
Turn heat down.
Turn water heater to vacation setting or to pilot.
Close curtains and drapes.
Unplug all things not needed while gone (this may include the computer, stereo, lamps, alarm clocks, small appliances, etc., but leaving the refrigerator and chest freezer on).
Double check that the stove burners and oven are turned off (can unplug if easily accessible or gone for a long period of time).
Make sure all faucets are turned off and are not dripping.
Make sure toilets are not running unnecessarily.

There may have been others, but these come to mind right now. I know that each household will be different and have other things to remember. What I liked about a checklist is that we were reminded of things, in the busyness of getting packed and ready to go, we didn't have to think about it. Things were all written down.

The biggest benefit for me, besides saving money while we were gone, was having a clean house to return to. So nice. Like someone gave me a jump start when we returned.

Remember to leave your checklist out for when you return to make sure you turn things back on. No one wants a cold shower, so turn that water heater back on when returning.

Now enjoy your time with family, worry free.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Old World Black Bread

This recipe is for all those bakers out there wondering if they will ever like rye bread. If you are like me and just can't get to liking rye bread because of the strong caraway seed taste, this bread is for you. The nice thing about making things from scratch is that you can change things depending on your preference.

I honestly cannot remember if there ever was caraway seeds in this recipe someone gave me. I've been making it so long this way, I heartily enjoy this lovely dark rye bread sans caraway. This is a wonderful dark pumpernickel bread which lends itself to baking as a round bread giving lovely oval slices.

Old World Black Bread

2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

Stir together separately, then add to yeast mixture:
2 cups rye flour
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup rolled oats (optional)
1/4 cup carob powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in:
1/3 cup molasses

Let everything stand for 10 minutes. Add:
2 cups whole wheat flour (or 2 1/2 cup spelt flour)

Add additional whole wheat flour as needed until you have a stiff dough. Knead vigorously for 10 minutes, or until dough is moist, but not sticky. Allow to rise until double (about 1 hour) in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a slightly damp thin towel (I like flour "sack" towels for this).

Punch down and shape into round or oval loaf and place on (oiled or lined with parchment paper) cookie sheet. You can, at this point, lightly "dust" your loaves with additional rolled oats, if desired, and press gently. Then slash with a sharp knife an "X" (about 1/2 inch deep) on top of a round loaf before rising. Or two to three parallel slashes across an longer oval loaf before rising. Let rise 45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes or until it sounds hollow when loaf is tapped on the bottom. Yields one 22 oz. loaf.