Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Let's Talk Pantries

I have had many friends go all ga-ga over this pantry in my home.  Do I think it is special?  No, it's way too small and since I've had larger ones in previous homes, I'm not sure exactly what I was thinking when I designed this house and it was built!  I do know, I was thinking there was only going to be two of us and I did not need the large size pantries I've had in the past.  Little did I know that I was going to increase my interest in cooking, distance to the nearest grocery store was further than I liked to travel and maybe the world might spin out of control and I would have to survive off my stash for months or maybe longer......that was 22 years ago when we started the 6th house building project.  How time does change things!

 If you like to store many food products for easy one stop shopping for meals, have a large family to feed or feel you need to prepare for the unknown then think BIG, BIGGER AND BIGGEST that you can work into a home!

French doors look nice in my kitchen and go with two other glass swinging doors.  Okay, that was a good decision but not allowing more space for storage I will forever kick myself. So if you are in the house planning stage, no matter at what point in your life then think long and hard about the pantry, how you cook and what your needs are.

I am a STORAGE FREAK - always have been and so I like to have LOTS of things on hand for cooking.  On these shelves see my last discovery a year or so ago, which I really love - GLASS JARS - all the same jars filled with everything I can think to put in them, at eye level, some labeled and ready when I need them. These nice jars are sold on Amazon.com but you can also buy them at Walmart for a bit less money - around $5 each.  They hold a good couple of pounds of grains, beans, corn meal, brown sugar - which btw, stays moist in the jars for months and months with no problem - just make sure you close the lid well when you are finished.  

I also have the neatest bins that sit on the floor under the last shelf that I designed and lucky for me, my husband built for me many years ago.....what a shelf and space saver they are for canned goods.  There are lids on the top of each box to make it easier to pack the boxes to the very top and handles to pull forward for easy access.  I have 12 of them to hold various sizes of canned goods of the varieties I use the most often.

 The left side of the pantry narrows down for space because there is a fireplace that backs up to this wall in our living room.  Because of this much narrower space and because my husband used to like to drink wine with his evening meals I had this nifty wine rack built on the wall.  As you can see there isn't many bottles of wine on the rack anymore.  He doesn't drink wine all that much any longer so I use the shelves for all of those odd shaped things like dog biscuit boxes, bags, wrapping paper, long white serving plates, cast iron smoker and so on - whatever I can shove in there.

On the floor in the above photo and this one you can see large food safe bins.  Big blue one is dog kibble storage box, the rest are large quantities of rice varieties and flours which are always bought in 25-35 pound amounts.  I keep a big closet storage area with these types of bins in my basement that are filled to the top with everything from beans to oatmeal and when one of my glass jars gets empty then off to the basement to fill it up.  On the top shelf I store large items that I use infrequently like over sized roasting pans, super sized stainless steel bowls, ice cream machines and NEVER used dishes.

So if you are thinking pantry keep in mind that there is never enough space - bigger the family then the bigger the pantry should be.

Monday, June 17, 2013

I'm Back!

I’m back!  Okay, where have I been for months you ask?  Well, it’s been a trying several months what with major house repairs on the exterior of our 17 year old home, two deaths in the family, one Emergency Room visit for me, yes, I’m okay, several trips from the east coast to the west coast, husband diagnosed with a progressive brain disorder that will diminish his cognitive skills as time goes on, one ageing 15 year old dog that has to be taken outside every couple of hours or else – you know what the “else” is and who knows how many trips to the Vet!  Some days I’m not sure why I get out of bed!  I know, excuses, excuses but one gets tired and sometimes in our old age we would just rather sit in a chair, stare out the window, enjoy the silence and maybe do a little knitting.

The longer one stays away from blogging the harder it is to figure out what to say when the itch occurs to get up and going again.   I have run four blogs for several years along with many, many other activities.  Now with changes afoot in my life  I have more-or-less stopped painting (hope to get back to it eventually though) because of demands on my need to hang around closer to the daily goings on in the house.  I have at least managed to continue to cook interesting things, knit, read, surf the Net, follow politics (depressing), take photos and in general manage the ebb and flow of daily events around our corner of the world here in Maine. 

So, I guess to begin once again I will start by posting a recipe I had planned to post last December!  Better late than never as the saying goes.

Simple Cranberry Relish

 No cooking, simple, quick, except for cleaning those cranberries and is tasty!

All you need is oranges, cranberries and sugar.  Take two oranges, clean well the outsides with a soapy scrubby brush or sponge, rinse, dry and slice into quarters.  Place in food processor and whirl until nicely chopped.  Yes, you use the entire orange.

Add to food processor two packages of cranberries that have been cleaned and any nasty areas cut away.  No cooking required with this recipe.

Grind in processor until tiny bits are like a relish would look.
Add 1 cup of sugar and give a couple of pulses.
Taste and decide if it is sweet enough for you.  Add more sugar if needed.

 Ladle into clean jars and seal.  Stores in freezer until the following Christmas! That's provided you can keep from eating it all up in no time and then having to go on a hunt for more cranberries which we all know are not available until about Thanksgiving.  So taste, enjoy and make more if you like while cranberries are fresh and available.  

This is delicious on toast, as a side with turkey or chicken, slathered over many types of meats/fish and baked.  You decide and experiment with the recipe.  My whole family loves this relish better than the cooked varieties.  Enjoy!