The Winter Pantry: Surviving a New England Winter

21 12 2008

I am not a weather junkie like my husband so I don’t usually plan for a snow storm or bad weather.  I try to check the weather periodically so my children are dressed properly for school/daycare, but even then I am not so consistent.  So what do I do to avoid dirty looks from my children’s teachers and my hungry family?  I keep well stocked cubbies, backpacks and pantries.

At school, my daughter has extra everything, clothes, hats, gloves, shoes and a pair of slippers.  That pretty much covers her.  I did learn this past week, however, that clothing has to be replenished since her mittens were wet and she had put them in a pocket of a different coat so one day her teachers had the great idea to put socks on her hands for recess (desparate times call for desparate measure).  I do the same for my son when he goes to family daycare.  I try to keep his backpack stocked with all the right gear for the worst possible weather rain, sun, sleet and snow.

To avoid dirty looks at home when the hibernating bears and cubs have rumbling tummies, I have a well-stocked pantry.  Given that this is our first snow storm and I didn’t check the weather, I have a relatively well-stocked pantry but it needs a bit more winterized.  The next time I go shopping I will be fully stocking my Winter pantry.  In my pantry, I have some of my  basic items that can get you through several meals in a pinch.  For me all the necessities are:

Starches & Grains
couscous
rice
dried pasta of all shapes and sizes (usually chosen by the kids)
quinoa
barley (or whatever grains you like to eat)
matzoh ball mix

Tomato Goods
tomato paste
crushed or diced tomatoes
pizza sauce
pasta sauce
sundried tomatoes
salsa

Vegetables
I am not a fan of canned vegetables but there are three that I like to have on hand.
artichoke hearts
hearts of palm
green chiles
In jars, I will also usually have:
marinated artichoke hearts
roasted red peppers
capers

Beans
black beans
garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
kidney beans
cannellini beans
chili beans

(Any kind of beans are good, but definitely start with the top three beans and then add whatever other beans you like or would like to try.)

From the Sea
canned tuna
smoked oysters
canned salmon

Stocks
(I know one should make one’s own broth, but I never have and I prefer to fake my own broth.  I buy the good tetra-pack broths preferably low in sodium and I saute some carrots and onions and add some herbs and pour the broth over it.  When I don’t have enough I refill the box with water and add it to my faux home-made stock)
free range chicken broth
no-chicken stock
vegetable stock

Seasonings & Mixes
onion soup mix
taco seasoning
falafel mix
salad dressing mixes (for marinades)
dried herbs & spices

The Snack Shelf
tortilla chips
water crackers (such as Carr’s)
family favourite crackers (Stoned Wheat Thins)
granola bars
fruit leather (such as fruitabü)
graham crackers

In the Fridge Long-Term
Vietnamese fish sauce
hoisin sauce
oils: canola, olive, peanut, sesame
mustard
ketchup
jam
soy sauce
worcestshire sauce
yeast

In the Fridge Less Long-Term
cheese (many cheeses if wrapped correctly will last a long while in the fridge)
yoghurt
sour cream (full fat or low fat)
corn tortillas
olives
citrus: lemon, limes, grapefruit
milk (if you are a bit milk drinking family or you cook a lot with milk, you can buy UHT milk that has a pretty good shelf life in the pantry.  For your fridge though non-UHT milk is much better and tastier.)

In the Freezer
fresh ginger root
organic frozen vegetables: spinach, peas, green beans, corn
frozen garlic in mini ice cube trays
frozen leeks that I sauteed this summer from the farm
frozen puff pastry
frozen ground meat (beef, buffalo, chicken, turkey)

In the Root Cellar
(No, I don’t have one…but I wish I did.  I have a small basket with a lid that I bought at Pottery Barn that works fairly well as a mini root cellar.  Air can flow in and out while the roots are in the dark.)
onions
garlic
potatoes

In the Baking Cupboard
rolled oats
flour (whole wheat, unbleached white, gluten free)
baking soda
baking powder
kosher salt
chocolate chips
baking chocolate
polenta
cornmeal for baking
honey
mollases
sugar: white, brown, dark brown

Ok, so now you have your pantry stocked.  What do you do with all of this?  I will try to write a weekly recipe that you can make straight from your pantry.  I usually work the other way from a recipe, to my grocery list, to my kitchen.  I find that if I have some ingredients in my pantry that I need to use because I can’t get out to go shopping or I don’t want to go out and buy groceries, then I just do a search onepicurious.com or foodnetwork.com For example if I have frozen corn, some beans, and a can of chopped tomatoes then I will find this recipe:  Taco soup.  If you don’t have ground beef in the freezer just skip it.  If you’re stuck inside with the kids you can bake a loaf of bread or some cookies.  So for dinner you have soup, crackers or fresh-baked bread, some cheese from the fridge, cookies from the oven or the pantry for dessert.  If you are a fairly carnivorous family be sure to have frozen ground beef, buffalo or chicken in the freezer to round out the meal.

Bon courage.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Teri’s PantryThe Well-Stocked Pantry(Mother Earth News),Tips for buying and keeping food in bulk (Martha Stewart), Martha Stewart’s Winter Pantry(includes recipes), Fresh Start for a New Year?  Let’s Begin in the Kitchen (Mark Bittman – NY Times)

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Holiday Survival Series: Breakfast For Dinner

12 12 2008

Okay parents.  It is that time of year.  We’re festive, we’re fun, we’re decorating, we’re shopping a little, we’re planning, we’re travelling, and we’re starting to get tired and cranky already.

Take a deep breath.  I decided that I would re-evaluate everything I am doing right now.  First I think: Is it necessary?  Yes, I suppose the kids do need to eat dinner.  Will they care or notice?  No, I don’t think the neighbour will care if I don’t drop off a jar of home-made cookie mix.  Will it make me stressed?  Yes, I don’t want to plan it right now, but If we have time, we’ll makes mixes as an afternoon activity before bed.

Okay, so dinner has to be made.  No groceries.  No problem.

“Kids!” I say and I know it’s not so novel to us but to them it’s a big deal to switch things up.  “We’re having breakfast for dinner!  Isn’t that funny?!”   Of course my daughter is a bit concerned that this isn’t quiteKosher to have breakfast for dinner, but she gets over it once I tell her she can have some dinner foods and some breakfast foods.  I make some french toast and feel good that my son is eating eggs that way.  I slice up some ham (or whatever cold cuts you have left in the fridge).  I found grapes, but apple slices are good too or bananas.  Et voila!  Dinner for breakfast.  We’re cleaned up and in bed by 7:00.  Phew!

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Breakfast for Dinner (Wondertime)





Thanksgiving: Throwing in the Kitchen Towel

24 11 2008

You’ve driven what used to take three hours and now takes seven with the kids and it is just not manageable.  You invited family to your place and inevitabely someone wasn’t happy with the arrangements.  You tried cooking the turkey and it took three hours longer than expected.  You ordered prepared foods and couldn’t keep track of everyone’s dietary requirements, get the food all in one store and you don’t have enough room in the oven to reheat everything.  So what now?  Throw in the towel!

Here is Bostonchefs.com list of restaurants where you can make reservations.  Send an evite to family and have them join you there.    If you’re worried it won’t feel like Thanksgiving then choose a tradition to make it become Thanksgiving.  Have drinks at your place first.  Have everyone come over for pie and coffee afterwards.  Bring grandma’s gravy boat and ask the kitchen to serve the gravy in it.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: eviteBostonchefs.compingg





Delivery 101: Boston Organics

16 10 2008

When my daughter was old enough for baby food, I had fantasies of steaming my organic veggies and using the fabulous food mill that I got as a baby gift to make her the most delicious, nutritious, hand-shmooshed food a child’s palate could experience.  I thought on weeks that I just couldn’t find the time to cook I might grab a serving of locally made Little Lettice baby food.  It turns out my daughter doesn’t do baby food and she would only have smoothies that she made with my assistance or adult food.  So instead, I made some fabulous raspberry sauce and perfect mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving with my food mill.

I wanted good organic food for the whole family baby food or not so, we joined Boston Organics.  We would pull our empty green bin out from it’s corner on the porch on Wednesday morning and go back later in the day to find our green bin laden with organic fruits and vegetables.  It was a fruit and vegetable gift that we unwrapped wondering what was in it this time.  My daughter and I would unload the box, and as we did she’d ask about the different foods and sample them raw.  She and I still love to snack on raw peas from the farm, raw beans of the vine, and sweet cherry tomatoes warmed by the sun.

The nice thing about Boston Organics is that you can choose a variety of boxes:  all fruit, 2/3 fruit, ½ and ½, 2/3 vegetable, all vegetable, office box-full of great fruit for snacking on, or the family box.  You can see this week’s box here: http://www.bostonorganics.com/fresh/thisweekbox.html.

Delivery can be weekly or bimonthly (this is erroneously labeled as biweekly on their site).  There are three tiers of boxes that range from $27 to $57 and there is no additional delivery fee. Most recently they added a small box of ½ fruit and ½ veggies for $24.  Boston Organics now offer add on groceries that range from pumpkins and other seasonal items, to chocolate, cheese, eggs, Nashoba Brook Bread, peanut butter, soynut butter, and other such items.  Last, but not least, they have a No- List so that if you hate bananas and are allergic to kiwis you can just add them to you no list and they will never be included in your box (I believe other items will be substituted). You don’t have to be home for the delivery and you can choose where they leave the box either indoors or outdoors.  You can use the service once or on a regular basis and if you need to cancel a delivery Boston Organics just needs two days notice.

When I was using Boston Organics I found the downside to be that so much of the produce was fromCalifornia and so little was local.  It seems, however, that they are trying to provide more local produce. Given the New England climate, especially in the winter, it’s understandable that most of our non-root vegetables and all our fruit will come from California.  Also, since it must be certified organic that limits options for local food sources.  Try a green box and see what you think.  Once we have our last CSA pick-up, I just might sign up for Boston Organics again.  Oh and if you’re wondering what a CSA is that’s coming up soon…

Bon Appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info:
Boston Organics-www.bostonorganics.com/index.html
Little Lettice:  www.littlelettice.com/





Grocery Store Delivery 101: The Supermarkets

13 10 2008

Once you have kids, delivery has a whole new meaning, purpose and value.  The first delivery is usually the most painful, but once you get used to the whole process it’s a breeze.  And, no, I’m not talking about the hospital, birth center, home birth, water birth kind…I do mean food delivery.  It’s new, you might not be familiar with the website or system, there may be a fee, it’s not how your mother shopped, but you’ll see that there is a time and place for delivery…you’re worth it!

First of all, there are several types of delivery service.  I am typically a Whole Foods shopper, but I recognize that grocery chains now carry more natural and organic foods.  I love to shop locally whenever possible and there is a new delivery service that I am eager to try that will help with that.  You’ll find that at different stages of your life as a parent you’ll be interested in different services.  There are the classic grocery chain delivery services, and more recently there are some exciting and new delivery options. This week is all about these options and we’ll start with the basics.

Peapod is a service that I used a handful of times after my children were born.  I think sleep deprivation, recovering from the most important delivery in your life- your child, and caring for a newborn are individually reason-enough to warrant paying for a delivery service.  The first time I did, I also received coupons for the next four or five deliveries so it really was not a bad value.  In addition, one can shop more efficiently because the sales and coupons are all listed together, and can be browsed quickly. More importantly, you have until midnight the day before delivery to make changes and additions.   If you run out of wipes at 11:30 p.m. you can add them to your order!  You’re driving home in the snow and the salty slushy mess on your windshield won’t come off because your wiper fluid is gone, no big deal, add it to the list.  Peapod has a fuel surcharge whenever the price of gas is over $2.75.

This is not a service I would use regularly but for the first couple of months of parenthood it was worth it. The groceries are brought up to your kitchen and if you’ve had threedays of pouring rain and it’s not stopping soon this might be a good time to place another order.

Roche Bros. also does delivery for $9.95.  This is the same as Peapod if you don’t have a $100 minimum grocery bill but it’s easy to get to $100 with diapers, wipes, windshield wiper fluid, etc. Someone has to be home for delivery, but with a newborn (especially your first) this is usually not a problem.

Coming up next:  organic delivery, local farm-fresh delivery, and the NAP delivery service.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie).

For more info: The website for Peapod is:www.peapod.com/ .  The website for Roche Bros. delivery service is: shop.rochebros.com/.