Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Quick Cook Uses What's There--Once It's Found!

Last week I posted my Quick Cook Tips that I write about once a month in The Pinewood News, a small town paper in Munds Park, Arizona. I’ll be doing a series on some of those tips so you can see how it might play out in your kitchen.

Your Quick Cook Tip #7 is:
Organize your pantry

A few years ago, I was helping my mother organize her food pantry and other food storage areas. Ay yi yi yi yi! She had five boxes of cocoa and that was just the beginning. I asked her why she had so many of so many different products. And you know the answer. She couldn’t find cocoa powder so she bought more. There was fish in the freezer that was more than five years old. And so out it went.

I took everything out of her pantry, cupboards, refrigerators, and freezers and tossed old or duplicate products. Then I arranged foods in categories. She had a hard time with “like goes with like”. But it makes such sense to me to put spices only with spices and ingredients you use for baking together. Soups should all be together. Beans and other veggies together. Fruits together. I bought her organizers to help with that principle and to use space well.

I do not think I am anal retentive but for The Quick Cook to put a meal on the table fast, it means I cannot spend time hunting for foods. Grab and Go! Pick and Pour! Match and Mix!

The pantry principle also applies to your closet. Who hasn’t taken out everything and laid it around the room discarding/or repairing the torn, giving away the unworn, and keeping the clothes you know you wear. They say (Have you ever wondered who “they” are?) that we wear 10% of our clothes 90% of the time. That is probably true, as I look at my daily clothes choices.

I’ll bet the same is true, or close to it, for our foods. There’s that lovely pumpkin pie spice sitting there and used rarely. It sits next to pepper—used daily.

Like your clothes reorganization—you discover the shirt you ALWAYS wore with one pair of pants can be used with that skirt or those shorts—it is productive to see where else you can use some of those food products.

Now that you’ve got your kitchen all organized, let’s try mixing it up a little. Perhaps you are nervous about putting ingredients together that you never tried before. That’s natural. No one wants to waste food. So, an easy place to try your experimentation is with appetizers.

Generally we make smaller portions of a few dishes to serve as appetizers. If you don’t like something, just don’t make it again. But remember, someone else tasting your creation may think it is spectacular.

Here are six suggestions to start:
Pop a batch of microwave popcorn and toss the hot popcorn with chocolate chips and that package of leftover nuts. Or melt the chocolate chips and drizzle over the popcorn and nuts. I often toss popcorn with dried cranberries and nuts.

Soften cream cheese and mix with that half-jar of leftover pepper jelly and use as a spread for crackers. Or spread the mixture on a flour tortilla and layer on cheese slices and baby spinach leaves. Roll up tightly and slice into 6 pinwheels. Pulverize the can of black olives and mix with cream cheese for a different spread.

Mash up the leftover black beans and add in the dab of corn you have left. Blend in salsa and fill tortilla chip cups with the blend for bite-size appetizers. Or crumble corn chips and put in bottom of shot glasses. Layer black beans, corn, diced tomato, and diced green onion topped with more crumbled corn chips. Serve these salsa shots with a tiny spoon to eat.

Your turn. What’s in your refrigerator and pantry? Be adventuresome!