Archive for category Pantry

Little Boxes on the Hillside

I enjoyed my last few days in Houston – the friends, the warm weather. On the decluttering front, which has started afresh, I had to regift a few bulky parting gifts because they would not fit in my suitcase.

We arrived Sunday night, and KC* went to work on Monday morning. The movers came and I found myself surrounded by boxes.

Our queen boxspring, pictured here, would not fit up the stairs. Because I did not personally supervise the movers’ attempt (I was out getting coffee), KC wants to try again. I am certain it will be loads of fun.

While a nice young man from DirecTV installed some sort of superdish so KC can watch the rest of the cricket World Cup (after which we plan to get rid of cable and enjoy internet-based entertainment), I sorted our CD collection and set aside a stack of jewel cases for disposal. I’m still figuring out how and where to recycle everything.

Uploading CDs to iTunes and unpacking are a multitasking match made in heaven, I must say. Yesterday, desperate for home-cooked food, I tackled the kitchen.

It was challenging because a lot of the shelving is high up. Also, I had to clean the fridge to get rid of a fishy funk, which still lingers. All told, it’s a very nice kitchen. The “after” pictures will have to wait a bit for a few reasons. Here is an in-process shot of my collection of seasonings.

It doesn’t look like much, but there are a lot. In Houston I had all the spices lined up on a shelf above the stove,  and I was trying to find a similar arrangement so that they could all be at eye-level, but it’s not possible. Also, even the high shelves are not tall enough to accommodate my taller bottles of oil. Boo.

On to happier things, I’ve been braving the freezing cold to explore a bit. These hills are beautiful.

And walking up them is no joke. I’ve been enjoying lots of informal exercize.

Yesterday, knowing that unpacking the kitchen while hungry would only piss me off, I went to the City Cafe for breakfast. It is a French-style cafe where my omelette came with this amazing first course.

I talked to the owner/barrista/server/cook for a while. There is lots to say about him, and about the bare-bones gym I toured, and the two grocery stores I visited, and a bunch of other things, but now I have to watch the end of this India-Pakistan match with KC and then attempt running on these crazy hills.

*I’m tired of saying “my husband.” He wanted to be “Tonto” on this blog, making me the Lone Ranger, which I think refers to both Texas and, possibly, the solitude that sometimes characterizes relocation (or something). Aside from the fact that I don’t identify at all with Texas and will probably be changing that subtitle soon enough anyway, I knew there was some cultural baggage associated with that particular fictional sidekick. I poked around and discovered that recent adaptations are almost entirely inoffensive to Native Americans, except that “Tonto” still means “fool” in Spanish. To be on the safe side, I hereby sacrifice cuteness on the altar of political correctness, and he will be known as KC until I think of a better moniker.


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Bread and Saag

Before I present any more craptastic photos, I should mention that one my many goals for this blog is to embarrass myself into improving my photography skills. In the meantime, I hope you’ll bear with me. In another post I will detail all of the other goals, both for this blog in particular and our relocation in general, but first things first.

I made a list of everything in our pantry and freezer so that I can start using things up. There is no hope for all the oils and vinegars, the rice and many different kinds of beans, so I am picking my battles. For example, I’ll bake all of our bread until I run out of flour.

A year ago I would have considered this an impressive undertaking, but here’s the recipe that makes it totally manageable: One-Minute Ciabatta It is awesome and I highly recommend it.

I’ve heard a lot about the No-Knead Bread, but it looks a bit involved for my taste. I’d probably try a recipe that required kneading before I tried that.

While poking around and taking inventory, I found a large can of spinach that I bought ages ago to use for a potluck dish. I never did use it because I was afraid it might be too horrible to serve, and then time passed and I forgot about it. I also found a block of paneer in the freezer.

This prefab saag was a revelation. At $4.99 (or was it $5.99) a can, this was roughly the same price as buying fresh greens, and it tasted perfectly fine. There were no weird preservatives on the ingredient list, and it saved a lot of time and trouble. Houston has a ton of Indian grocery stores, and I’m hoping Pittsburgh has something comparable because I would definitely buy this again.

The paneer tasted okay but had a strange texture, which likely had more to do with how long it’d been hanging around in the freezer. There’s also a chance it had thawed and refrozen at some point in its long life, so I won’t disparage the brand.

I ended up with more saag paneer than we could eat, even over the course of a few days, so I froze some of it. That’s the one step back after my two steps forward. Right now I have a gigantic batch of urad dal slow-cooking in the crockpot, and some of it is probably destined for the freezer as well. Oops. 

Also unearthed during inventory was a quantity of steel-cut oats, which take way too long to cook for weekday mornings so I have been ignoring them for months. When we ran out of rolled oats last week, I made a big batch of the steel-cut version in the evening to be portioned out for a couple of days’ breakfasts, and this worked really well. It just requires a little bit of foresight.

My primary goal is to not buy anything except dairy and fresh produce as long as I can help it. The secondary goal is to have more or less bare shelves within a month. We’ll see how it goes.

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