January 13, 2016

The Winter Pantry Experiment

The Winter Pantry Experiment | The Naptime Chef

Hi! It has been a looong time since I was on my regular posting schedule. The holiday season was so fun and busy I simply didn’t have time to sit down and write. We enjoy a lot of our favorite meals and I made scores of our favorite Christmas cookies. My parents visited from Cooperstown and I actually had them time to read a few great books. All in all it was a wonderful break from the routine, though I did miss this space and being here.

The Winter Pantry Experiment | The Naptime Chef

When I was thinking of things to write this week I decided to hold off on recipes and share a little bit about what I’ve been doing in the kitchen since the kids went back to school last week. On Monday, in a fit of Virgo-inspired OCD organizing, I tore through my cabinets and made lists of all the food I have on hand. Specifically, the dried food, the staples, the things I can use as a base or key ingredient for many delicious meals. A lot of these items have been hanging around in the my kitchen for an embarrassingly long amount of time and this winter it is time for me to do something about it.

The Winter Pantry Experiment | The Naptime Chef

So, as my experiment, and, frankly, a way to save some money after a generous Christmas season, I am pledging to use all of these things this winter. It will mean I spend money mostly on fresh food, and use what I already have to form the basis of my meals. Here are a few things I plan to use and how:

The Winter Pantry Experiment | The Naptime Chef

Dried salad dressing and dip mixes: A lot of these were sent to me by sponsors of past projects. Whatever I didn’t use I tucked away. They are still perfectly good so I plan to make salad dressing, marinades, and dips for parties. I also can use some of them to flavor soups and pasta sauces.

Dried grains and rices: I tend to make a lot of grain salads in the summer, but they are just as delicious in the winter, too. This winter I plan to experiment with hot grain salads and fill them up with healthy vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

Dried noodles and pasta: It is never a problem to eat pasta in my house. But still, this winter I find myself with have rice noodles, orzo, and lasagna sheets in addition to bags of regular spaghetti and ziti. I think these would be perfect for homemade pad thai, healthy orzo salads with vegetables, and lasagna rolls for dinner!

Spices: My spice cabinet is a tiny bit out of control. (I can’t help myself, I buy them all the time!) Last year my mother brought me an amazing bag of paprika from Hungary, and good friends gave us South African Peri-Peri Rub among other things. This winter I plan to use them to make our favorite Paprika Pork Soup (from The Naptime Chef cookbook) and Peri-Peri roast chicken and skillet pork chops.

The canning cellar: I mostly have jams in the canning cellar. This means my breakfast toast will be extra sweet, but it also means I can make jam-glazed tarts and quick chutneys to dot on pork tenderloin. Good jam never goes to waste!

I also have some jarred sauces and canned tomatoes in my cabinets. But they are used frequently and rarely stay on a shelf for more than two weeks so I am not going to worry about using them up. Right now my goal is to clear up the odds and ends that built up for 2015 so I can start fresh with meal planning this spring.

The Winter Pantry Experiment | The Naptime Chef

Have you ever cleaned out your cabinets and done something like this? I’d love to know. It is always interesting to hear how people approach cabinet cleaning and meal preparation in the winter. Do share!