Category Archives: Using up stuff

Pantry Soups & Other Ideas

This was started in February, just so you know!

Twice now I’ve made what I call “Yellow Hand Soup.” The first time it was mostly carrots with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion. This time it was mostly sweet potatoes with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion, no carrots at all.

The first time we had it with grated cheese. This time we had it with carmelized pecans.

Both times I cooked the squash in the micro then scooped the cooked flesh into the pot with stock, the onion and other vegetables.

The first time I had a new bag of carrots from the CSA to deal with and a bag full in the fridge. This time, I’m in the same boat, but with sweet potatoes, which we use much less often. Both times, the idea was to use what we have the most of, before it goes bad.

As a part of the food planning for this spring, I’ve also been researching how long various veggies last. The idea is that I’ll arrange menus to use up the most fragile foods first. I don’t have anything really fragile still in stock, but I will next spring!

There’s a buzzfeed list of how to store your foods, and how long. You can find it here. I don’t agree with all their times, but if you get your food from a market in a city, they’re probably right. I don’t, I get much of our food fresh from the farms where they’re raised, so no time is spent in warehouses, on market loading docks, or in walk-ins.

YMMV!

It’s another way to cut down that 40% we all supposedly waste, right? Use the foods which will go bad the fastest before the others.

Other Stored Food Meal Ideas:

Things we eat regularly from canned foods:

  • corn cheese soup (creamed corn, some onion, cheddar cheese, s & p)
  • bean soup. (rinsed beans, onion, mush with food processor or fork, add seasoning, onion, bacon or sausage if you have it)
  • fried rice: rice, LO meat, onion, other fresh or frozen veggies, as available.

From fresh foods:

  • ____soup (some veggie, appropriate stock, onion, celery. Can be curried, creamed, or just veggie or you can add meat and make beef vegetable soup, etc.) Or, you can make it stew by adding cream sauce, or making gravy instead of stock.
  • ____ stir fry (usually baby spinach, onion, maybe LO meat
  • meatloaf (ground beef, onion, seasoning) or meat balls (same) or hamburgers. If meatballs, can be with pasta or served in Albondigas soup.
  • chicken ______ , recently I’ve made creamed chicken with dumplings, curried chicken, fried chicken, lemon chicken with rice, chicken salad.

From frozen foods:

  • Sausage soup (frozen sausage, onion, frozen greens).

I rarely use recipes. Do you have standards you make with whatever you have to hand? I’d be interested to know what food you make! Because I don’t follow recipes, the quality does vary, it’s almost never horrible, but sometimes it isn’t as good as it could be.

 

 

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The Unhibernated Dining Table

The dining room table had been “hibernating,” or something. It had a length of fabric over it and the cherry coffee table, which currently has no home, upside down on top of it.

That means of course, we couldn’t eat at the table. During the winter, since this is the north side of the house, in a room that’s cool by nature, that wasn’t a problem.

But I bought new rugs yesterday for the dining room. In order to get them in the room and convert it to the two or three separate functional spaces it needs to be to USE those rugs? The table had to be cleared. It is.

Unfortunately, it had also developed a rather bad check (crack) while storing the coffee table! DH looked at it and said something like, “Hm. You really want a round table, right?” and indeed I do. One of the pieces of research I did on decorating talked extensively about the effect of square or rectangular tables in a room, that is that emotionally, it’s says, “Stop!”

I bought the table and chairs to decorate our Tampa house, in 1985 or so. It’s oak, modern, and rectangular, which fit the open-concept, new/modern house we had. It was our kitchen table. There was a tiger oak dining table, which I sold a few years back, an English antique, it was one of our first pieces of “real” furniture. A relative of DH’s contributed tiger oak chairs. We still have the chairs, they’re heirlooms.

So, DH may make me a new table top — we’ll see! But in the meantime, the dining table has emerged from where it was hibernating — progress!


Other things I bought yesterday were a desk organizer and a sign, also for the kitchen/dining area. While at the company’s website, I decided wtf, I’d take their decorating “quiz,” because it could hardly be worse than all the others I’d tried.

Much to my surprise, the description of what I like was pretty accurate:

“You love the fresh, stylish-yet-simple look found in today’s updated Farmhouse Décor! Your style is graceful and uncluttered but retains a welcoming and warmhearted feel. Clean, soothing whites, taupe and grey tones, mixed with weathered wood and the occasional splash of color create a simple backdrop that’s easy to live with and even easier to accessorize! If you love the look of painted bead-board, or ship lapped walls paired with wooden floors…you’re all in girlfriend!”

Well, okay. I like whites, (and matte black) but I hate most greys and taupes and “greige,” ug. Lots of splashes of color. Yes, I like painted bead-board. Shiplapped walls? Nope, but this is a log home, it looks like we shiplapped the entire building! Wooden floors? Well, I like my wooden floor, I just wish it had been finished before we moved in!

“Farmhouse style reflects a way of life that is intimately connected to the land. It represents a lifestyle where necessity and a do-it-yourself attitude demand that items be repurposed and reused – often by generations of farm families. You love this style because it hearkens back to the simpler days of yesteryear and satisfies your longing for good-old-fashioned hard work, practicality, and close family ties.”

I don’t know if any of this is true or not. Certainly we do a lot of DIY and I like reused items quite a lot. But I said years ago that I liked “shabby” not because I loved chippy paint, but because I liked the fact that you didn’t have to fuss to maintain the surface. My observation about modern decorating is that it’s all about surfaces: clean, shiny surfaces — and they demand extensive caretaking. I do NOT want that. I want a place I can put my feet on the table or couch without stressing about it. The Tampa house was beautiful, but it had a great room with a white floor and the other floors were all med. grey carpets. Took a lot of maintenance to keep up the huge horizontal surfaces (which I didn’t do well).

“A Farmhouse style home is unpretentious, but definitely stylish, with an emphasis on useful yet aesthetically pleasing items. Flea market finds and DIY masterpieces are combined with new items and reproductions – it’s all part of the charm. A neutral color palette sets the stage, followed by weathered or painted furniture, apron front sinks, open shelves, and farmhouse tables. Complete the look with grain sack, linen, or ticking stripe fabrics, farm and industrial accents, galvanized tin items, vintage signs, chalk paint, white ironstone, and mason jars.”

I agree with all of this, up to the apron front sinks. I’m not fond of most of the rest of it: grain sack linens, ticking, farm/industrial accents, galvanized tin items, vintage signs, chalk paint, ironstone, and mason jars. I like all of that in moderation and HATE most of what I see. I call it “cheap Chinese crap.” I’m not fond of cutesy. I don’t want this place to look like the Sears catalog or any other. 

This was weird, because I hadn’t found anyone who seemed to have any idea that I might like a huge old industrial pressure cooker (we use it to hold fat wood) as well as the LCD op art looking thing on my bedroom wall (it’s a thermometer). If you read this blog at all, you know that I’ve written several posts about trying to find a description of my preferred “style.” And, although I will likely never put up a sign about farm girls, farmsteads, or country, or sweet tea or… this is pretty darn close!

The company has NOT asked me for this review, and I’m not getting anything for it, but the company is this one.

My (Still Being Tweaked) Food Tracking

I came up with a schema which seems to work. It tracks what we use up, what comes in, provides a way to make a shopping list AND track additions to the pantry. However, it’s still being tweaked.

I’ve found the easiest thing to do is to enter the items from the shopping receipts. What I end up with looks something like this:

(item source) Description *| | | | | Remainder Long Term Freezer/Pantry Qty

  • Source: pantry, fridge, freezer, store name or initials.
  • *: Indicates a change in the stored quantity.
  • The next four columns stand for Fri(dge), Pan(try), Fre(ezer), Dry. I put a + when something is added to the storage or a – when it is removed from storage.

So, if I use some frozen chicken, these columns will look like this:

| *| | | -| | which tells me there’s a changed quantity (*) and it’s taken from the freezer.

  • Remainder: If the change is a net addition to the stored foods, I put it in italic. If the change is a net decrease and I don’t replace it, it’s put in bold and [bracketed]. If there are leftovers, they are just listed. As I use the left over items they are lined out.
  • Long Term Freezer or Pantry Qty: Gives a rough estimate of what I should have of the items in long-term storage.

I used a butternut squash this past week for example. I have the end of a shelf of them. (I had so many I was giving them away in December!) I have NO interest in counting squashes. The last column reads: “6+ butternut squash” which tells me I don’t need to buy any for some time. The same is true of any veg. I keep quantities of, long term: potatoes, sweet potatoes, whatever.

At the end of a meal, I go through and line out what I used and list any left overs. The next time I work on the chart, I make sure I update those items.

The really great thing about this? Going down the “Remainder” column gives me a potential shopping list. And going down the far right column gives me a partial pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory.

Although it sounds complicated, it really isn’t. It’s still too easy for me to forget to add things or note what I’ve used making a meal, but as I said, I’m still tweaking this. I suppose, if I also didn’t want to track the left overs or generate that shopping list, I could eliminate that column:

Description, * |fri |pan |fre |dry |,  Long Term Freezer/Pantry Qty

Listing the leftovers has been good, we’ve been using everything up since I started this!

The other big “issue” is that I have no computer in the kitchen, so I have to go back and forth. I think ideally, the answer to that is to make this a blank form I keep in the kitchen on a clip board. God only knows if that means I won’t keep it up to date, like all the other kitchen tracking I’ve tried in the past! But so far? So good.

Frugal Food, New Ideas

Two or three things.

  • Because of the government craziness, I decided I would buy $10 (on non paycheck weeks) or $20 (on paycheck weeks) of shelf-stable food and donate it to our food pantry. Even with food stamps still being given out, there’s about 50,000+ new people and their families who might need those resources. There’s no way the system can just absorb that much without extraordinary help. This is what I came up with that I can do.
  • Because of that, I’ve been working hard at trying to figure how I can use what we already have, in new ways:

I went through the entire list of veggies, etc. available from the farm in 2018 and figured out what I’d do with all of them. This has been an on-going issue. I end up with green slime in my fridge every year and tossed  veggies and I hate that!

The answer? Use/designate what you want to use fresh for a week. Have a plan in place to deal with the overage of any extra and deal with it, so you start fresh each week. I have done some of that previously, but hadn’t done it EVERY WEEK, which is my new idea. I did it with greens at the beginning of last season, so I started winter with a jar of dried “savory” greens.

I also tried to make piecrust, with the typical result, that is, that it didn’t work as planned. What do you do with this ball of dough with a stick of butter in it? DH came up with an answer for that one, he made a loaf of brioche. Worked fine! (I will try pie crust again, sometime.)

Last week I bought some fresh flat-leaf parsley and thyme. I used most of the thyme in a chicken dish last night, yummy and no left overs. But there was extra thyme. It got dried this morning and will be added to the spice bottle.

Because I have no recipes which actually use my dried greens — I have a pot of soup:  dried greens, potato, celery, leek, and stock simmering for lunch. (I’ve been just sprinkling a little in soups or stews and always had to toss about 1/2 a jar or more in the spring.)

veggies

(Not sure where this image came from, but it is NOT mine. It’s an image I’ve used before here, but I am not laying claim to it.)

I generated a list, by week of products from the farm, and how to put  any extras aside. This is ingredients rather than finished meals, like OAMC.

  1. Greens
  2. Herbs & Spices
  3. Stew/Soup Veggies and Greens
  4. Stewed Tomatoes
  5. A few dried Veggies
  6. At least one herbal tea mix

I’ve done this before, but not consistently. I don’t think I’ll put aside enough to get us through winter, but that’s the idea. And, of course, in the spring, there will be hardly anything left.

I’m out of farm greens, onions and celery. I have 2 more leeks. The carrots I’d put in the fridge are gone. That’s week 3 of 12.

Anyway, that’s my new idea. Have a plan in place to deal with any unused food, and get that done.

What do you do to avoid feeding your trashcan?

 

“Almost Instant” Chili from Fresh Ingredients

I dream about “bowls of red,” that is, slow simmered, meaty chili made with abundant quantities of traditional tomatoes. I grew up in So. Cal., so chili has always been part of what I eat by preference.

Except. I cannot eat red tomatoes in quantity any more. It isn’t worth the 3 in the morning gut ache, even when I make it myself. The result of this is that I make many “chilis” using salsa verde as the base, which I like. But it’s not the same.

Today was farm day and I was fairly conservative about the different items I got, in most cases I got more than 1 item. (You’re allowed so many items a week, this season, it has been 8 all year.) They had quantities of non-red, greenhouse tomatoes, so I got 4 lbs of tomatoes, or 2 items worth.

This was also the first PYO for peppers — jalpenos, so I got some of those too.

I put this together from what I had acquired today or already had on hand.

Take 4 large non-red greenhouse tomatoes, wash them and cut off any hard core or other not so great spots. Put the tomatoes into a sauce pan with a little oil and smash them down with a potato smasher. Simmer.

Stem, seed and then slice a med-lg jalapeno, add that to the tomatoes and keep cooking. In a small frypan, put in a little oil again, and cut up a fresh bulb onion in largish pieces. Saute the onion, add chili powder. Cook til almost cooked through but not quite. Add the onions to the still simmering tomatoes. Put 1/2 lb ground beef in the fry pan, add about 1T cumin and cook to crumbles (cooked not crusty). Add the leaves of about 1/2 bunch cilantro. Cook until well wilted. Add the meat/cilantro to the tomato mixture.

Pull some of the liquid from the pan, put it in another bowl and add about 1T flour, stir til smooth, return it to the tomatoes. Taste. Add beef demiglace to add richness, about 2t.

Serve with generous amounts of grated cheddar cheese.

This is acceptable  chili, but not an outstanding one. It would have been better for adding the meat and letting the entire thing simmer for an hour or so, but that didn’t happen. It’s closer to a “bowl of red” than I’ve had in more than a year, so I’ll take it! (The left overs, the next day, were better because the flavors had blended.)

NOTE: This is seasoned as it is because: I love cumin and my husband loves cilantro. I also like more salt than he does. He likes a lot more pepper than I do, so we add salt and pepper ourselves and I don’t cook with it.

More Rug Stuff

The blue slubby fabric for the stairs was returned by the seamstress a while back.  She made it more finished than I had in mind, which is both a good and bad thing. Good in that it may just wear longer. Bad, in that she put a seam down the middle of the piece and DH is concerned it will wear more quickly or be bulky there. We unrolled it down the stairs and I will say it looks stunning. The stairs need to be painted, first. I also need to decide if I’m doing stair rods or how I’m attaching the fabric, if not with stair rods.

The living room rug which was in front of the couch has been replaced with one of the new rugs. The replaced rug was made by the Mennonite Committee from old blue jeans. I don’t have a designated place to put it. Now I have too many rugs, or too many rugs I’m not sure where they’ll go — of course!

There are:

  • The 2 newest rugs (which match the living room rugs). These are runners.
  • the blue jean rug. This is a runner.
  • a rug made from old saris I bought used two years ago. This is a very long runner.
  • the dining room rug. This is NOT a runner!

I started this post before we’d found the new living room rugs, and solved that part of the problem. Obviously, I like runners!

The other issue, that of the stair rug? It doesn’t have a solution yet either.

So I solved the living room rug dilemma, but created another or added to it. That’s the way it goes around here!

Stealing From Our Grandmothers

Because I make rugs from old clothes, I’m always looking at the cheapest clothing in thrift shops with the idea that I could maybe use the materials? A few weeks ago, I found a super heavy, dirt brown wool pullover sweater. Ugly color. Not an attractive shape, but it was WOOL and heavy….

One of my rarely used tools is my long-pole feather duster. It upsets me for three reasons.

  1. That although I got it used, it’s made with ostrich feathers. (If it was made of chicken feathers I don’t think I’d mind so much, hypocrite and happy chicken consumer that I am!)
  2. It doesn’t work all that well. It has a telescoping metal handle, which is handy when trying to clean the staircase fan/light. It gets the fan blades cleaner but NOT clean!
  3. It’s a single-use tool. I only use it on the fan, and as I said, it doesn’t work that well….

Accordingly, I hardly use the feather duster. I feel guilty every time I look at it thinking that some bird’s tail feathers (and likely nothing else) were used to make it.

Our grandmothers covered their brooms with cloth, by pinning it on, to make dusters.

When I cut the felted sweater into pieces today, I had the yoke with the neck separate, and thought, “WTF a I going to do with that?” And then it hit me — one arm was flattened out and wrapped around the bottom of my broom. The neck was threaded onto the handle of the broom, and wrapped around the first piece. Fastened with a kilt pin? I now have a “duster” with a thick, recycled wood pad — on the end of a pole.

When I need to use the broom as a broom, I’ll just unpin the yoke, remove the now dirty sleeve for washing and put away the yoke and pin with the other flattened sleeve.

The wool started out dirt colored, so I don’t have to worry that using it will stain it and it will need replacing.

I already had the pin.

The sweater yielded 2 small sheets heavy brown felt, two dusting pads, a method to connect them to my current broom,  and the ability to remove another single-use tool from my life. Whoopee! [The feather duster is in the discard bin.]

The only thing I don’t have? A way to clean the fan, but that’s not new.