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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Last Minute Gift Ideas: Forgot the Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker

19 12 2008

I can say it is officially crunch time.  As we walk to the car around the puddles, there are little tiny ridges of crunchy white snowy ice.  School is having it’s all-school sing and pot-luck.  In a couple days the children will be home for the holidays whatever they may be in your home.  Some people have already started there travels and it sends off a domino effect of families hopping in trains, airplanes, cars, and bicycles traveling to a party somewhere.  Others are pulling their blankets up around them and staying put.

If you’re not a naturally gifted shopper or you’ve had a busy year then perhaps you’re not quite where you’d like to be on the shopping and/or making gift front.  Perhaps you forgot about your favourite librarian, the man who serves you coffee every day, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.  So here is a quick list of last minute gifts.

Get a gift certificate to a favourite restaurant.  Some suggestions might be:  Rialto, Chez Henri, Oleanna, the Blue Room, Ole, Craigie on Main, Upstairs on the Square, Small Plates, T. W. Food, EVOO, the Elephant Walk among many others.  If you want some guidance you can check out chowhound, ask someone at your favourite foodie market or store.  You may be able to get some great deals on restaurant gift certificates at  restaurant.com.  You don’t have to go to the restaurant, as mentioned in this thread on Chowhound, you can often call the restaurant and have the certificate mailed to you or to the recipient.

You can also get gift certificates to boutique foodie stores such as Formaggio Kitchen, Savenor’s, even local little stores.  Just make sure that it’s not a drag for the recipient to go to said store and that they actually would use the certificate otherwise it is not much of a gift.

If you’re feeling creative, you can put together a gift basket.  I purchased some baskets from China Fair this week and my daughter’s classmates all contributed something special to put in it store bought, home-made, hand-sewn and hand-written.  I think this would be a perfect gift from any group.  If you don’t feel like making your own, Wilson’s farm makes some great food baskets, as do Winston Flowers, and Pemberton Farms

Finally, for the chocolate lovers you can’t beat the offerings at local chocolaterie L.A. Burdick.

For more info: Restaurant.com, Formaggio Kitchen
Petsi PiesWilson’s Farm ,  Winston FlowersSavenor’s MarketBakers’ BestFlour BakeryVicki Lee’s,
Verill FarmPemberton FarmsCardullo’s L.A. Burdick Chocolate





Move Over Poultry Here Comes Pasta

5 12 2008

My husband came home with a plea for no more poultry.  We don’t eat a lot of red meat because it is expensive and not our favourite food.  We usually cook quite a bit of vegetarian and fish dishes, but I haven’t made it to the fish monger or the produce section of the grocery store this week.  I am still used to our weekly CSA bounty and haven’t taken into consideration that the crops have been tucked under their blankets for winter.

The solution for today:  Pasta.  Capone Foods on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, is a great place to shop for an easy dinner.  The whole family likes pasta, it is relatively inexpensive and it’s quick.  I bought their chive pasta that I will serve with a fresh green salad and some scallops (or a cheaper white fish if scallops are expensive today).

Capone Foods will be having an open house tomorrow, Saturday December 6th, from 12:00 to 5:00 pm.  As a nice afternoon outing with the kids you could park at Capone Foods, 2285 Massachusetts Ave, sample some of their gift and entertaining ideas.  I picked up a gift for my mom who is a ginger and cookie fanatic.  They will also have special pricing on pre-order items by the case.  You could put together some fabulous gift baskets custom tailored to the recipient’s taste.  After Capone Foods you can walk down toward Porter Square.  Why not stop in at China Fair for some baskets and ribbons for your gift basket?  You can get some treats at Pemberton Farms.  There are plenty of places to grab lunch as well.  If the children need incentive for the walk you can have Stellabella toys as your final destination.

If you feel like leaving the kids with their sitter, or “the other” parent.  Then you can treat yourself to a massage at nearby Sollievo either before or after the Capone Foods Open house.  Then you’ll come back renewed with dinner!  Who could ask for anything more?

Buon appetito.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Lunch: Zing PizzaCafe BaradaCapone Foods Massage:  Sollievo Playtime:  Stellabella





Thanksgiving To Do List

22 11 2008

Here we go…

Whether you are at home or at work this week, tomorrow is a pivotal day in the preparations for Thanksgiving.

To do:

  1. Make a detailed grocery list for all the ingredients for all the meals before, during and just after Thanksgiving.
  2. Do not go shopping (unless you want to go first thing in the morning or late at night)
  3. Check the pantry, the wine cabinet/liquor cabinet for anything that you need to replenish.
  4. Pull out all the serving dishes and implements to take a quick inventory of what you have, need to buy, need to borrow.
  5. Count the napkins, pull out the linens to make sure you have the right ones for the table(s) you’ll be using.
  6. Count the chairs to take a quick inventory of what you have, need to buy, need to borrow.
  7. Confirm that everyone knows what they are bringing to dinner.
  8. Make sure you have enough tea, coffee, biscuits, snacks for everyone coming and going.
  9. Write out a time line for Thanksgiving.  Anything that can be done in advance should be done.  Make a pie crust when you come home from work or after the kids are asleep and check it off the list.  Prep any vegetables that can be prepped.  Bake and freeze breads and/or rolls. Place final orders and confirm that you know when and where things are going to be picked up.
  10. Pour yourself a drink…re-read your recipes, grocery list and time-line.
  11. Start your week relaxed and ready to chip away at the Thanksgiving process a little each morning and evening.

    Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)
    For more info: Martha Stewart’s Thanksgiving Workshop,Epicurious Thanksgiving Survival Guide,
    Williams Sonoma Thanksgiving Timeline,
    Yankee Magazine Thanksgiving Timeline,
    Fly Lady Thanksgiving Timeline (for those who dare)