We are back with a new plan, a rejuvinated approach and some exciting news!
We are finally fulfilling our dream to move to the Napa Valley! We are hoping to close escrow at the end of the year, or just after the first of the year. This will be an adventure for us. We are practically empty-nesters. Our last daughter Kayleigh is living at home, working and going to college in Napa in the culinary department.
The three of us will move up there, and live in the house while it's being renovated. A major gut job, think Fixer Upper the TV show but with high California $400 per square foot prices. I will be blogging the whole house renovation, and sharing travel and lifestyle tips over the next several months.
To kick off the holidays and do something fun... I am doing a personal challenge. With 4 grown kids who come home often to eat my cooking, I can hear my son banging around in the kitchen cupboards now saying "there's nothing to eat." True there is no prepared or pre-packaged foods, but there are thanksgiving leftovers and a lot of pantry staples. I made a bet with my sons that I could cook meals from now until Christmas with what is in the house and use only a $50 gift card for milk, bread, eggs and fresh produce. They don't think it's possible. I assured them it is... and we will still have enough to make our traditional Christmas Brunch without skimping.
Now this takes thoughtful planning, a full inventory of what I have hoarded away in the cupboards and pantry, and the ability to keep my family out of the meats so they can be used for meals. Wish me luck....
Most everyone has a store of canned and dried food in their cupboards that they always forget to use. We love to cook. Our kids love to eat. We entertain a lot. I feel excited to create meals with the things we have on hand and show my kids that there definitely IS something to eat in the cupboard!
The bonus of this is that we will be reducing our food stores considerably. In anticipation of living in the garage of our new home with a microwave and a crock pot for the next few months, I don't want to pack all of that food away in storage and worry about critters getting to it. The other bonus is that closing escrow at Christmas time means money will be tight. If I can stretch the budget, we can spend the food money on Christmas! HUGE bonus points.
I have set the bar high. Lets see if we can actually attain the goal. I have already threatened my family a few times today when they pull something out of the refrigerator. Everyone must now have permission from the food police before they can eat something. My son eating a whole package of Salami and loaf of bread that was slated for 4 lunches and a pizza dinner hurts the meal plan. Getting them on board will be tough.
First: Inventory for the Use what I have challenge. You need to really make a complete list of what you have on hand to work with. Really dig around in the cupboards and the back of the freezer. I found some weird things in my freezer. I am sure they aren't what they seem. I really must start marking and dating things. I found a bag that looked suspiciously like shredded chicken. After defrosting it, low and behold, it was! 4 cups of chicken from a previous broth making day! I used half of it and froze the rest for another meal.
Second: Meal Planning/Recipe search I did a Pinterest search for foods with the ingredients I have and compiled a Use what I have board on Pinterest full of recipes for the things I have on hand. Next I planned out the week's meals, with lots of soups for quick lunches. If you want to follow me on Pinterest I am listed under my full first and last name, karansimoni.
Third: Prep and freeze perishables: This takes some time, and busy working families might not like this part, but you can do it if you designate some time on the weekend. When I buy a rotisserie chicken, I save the bones and skin. I also save celery tops, carrot ends and onion tops and bottoms. When I have enough, I throw it all in a pot with water and a couple cloves of garlic and make a rich tasty broth. I strain it, freeze 2 cups at a time in a ziploc bag, One batch usually makes 6-8 cups of broth. If you want to be really frugal, you can pick the meat off of the bones. I usually leave a lot on. the back, wings and sometimes drumsticks. This will yield you 1-2 cups of cooked chicken for a future recipe. Another thing I do is save the broth from cooking vegetables. It makes great veggie broth. Add some powdered bullion to it and it's fabulous! I also chop and prep my veggies. Cut the celery, onions, carrots, green onions and whatever other vegetables you use into small pieces for future meals. It makes the cooking prep part go so much faster.
Day one meal plan:
Me: bowl of special K cereal with 1/2 cup of milk. Hubby, fruit salad left over from thanksgiving, a slice of cheese and 2 pieces of toast with spinach dip on them. Getting creative with the leftovers from thanksgiving.
Lunch: Cream of Broccoli soup with chicken and homemade croutons.
1 head of broccoli, stems included chopped into florets
4 stalks of celery (ugly outside ones are fine if you trim off the bad parts and chop the good parts up)
1 medium onion chopped
8 cups of chicken broth
1 cup cooked shredded chicken
1/2 cup milk, cream or 1/2 and 1/2 (or sour cream or unflavored yogurt) Something to make it creamy
Cook veggies in broth until tender. use stick blender to liquify vegetables into creamy soup base. Add cream, and chicken, salt and pepper to taste.
For croutons, I cubed up 4 left over dinner rolls, sprayed them with pam olive oil and sprinkled on Italian seasoning. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Dinner: Salads, left over onion tart from thanksgiving, poached pears in orange blueberry sauce. I had 5 pears that were bruised and starting to go bad. I peeled and cored them, cut them in half and made the poached pears on the fly with some oranges I had and some blueberry syrup my hubby brought home from a trip to Canada. .
Poached Pears in Orange Blueberry Sauce
4-5 small pears peeled, halved and cored
juice of 4 small oranges (1 cup)
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tbspn blueberry syrup (can substitute with agave syrup or corn syrup)
place all ingredients in pot and simmer until pears are tender. Let cool. Serve with reduced poaching liquid and Whip cream or vanilla ice cream.
So that is it for day one! Not bad... My husband is feeling deprived and jokingly tells me he will be traveling a lot for business this month because of this food challenge. Tomorrow we have Ham Bone Bean Soup on the menu, with a Spanish twist.