Pantry Cooking Month: the inventory

Sometimes, a cooking geek just has to inventory the canned goods.

For some reason, I got it in my head to inventory the pantry contents before and after this pantry cooking month. Silly/nerdy, I know, but hey.

IF you are a similar nerd and want to see what’s in my cupboards, the full list (minus a gazillion spices — I started to list them and gave up) is in this shared Google doc.

The short take, however, is that I have pounds and pounds of pasta, loads of other grains, and so many condiments I can’t even. Also many, many, many cans of beans, along with some other canned items.

Here we go! Yesterday, I made a big batch of pork fried rice from some jasmine rice and leftover kalua pig. Haven’t decided yet what to have today; since I’m back to work after the holiday break, I may let James take care of it.

Pantry Cooking Month, January 2017

One way to save money on food? Stop buying food! (Not forever, of course.)

canned food
Stock image purchased from depositphotos.com

The good news: We’re getting out of debt!

The bad news: We’re still spending too much money on food.

Thanks to a plan I discovered in Anna Newell Jones‘s The Spender’s Guide to Debt-free Living, we are practicing needs-only spending for a year while we try to pay off some of the debt we incurred during our move down to San Diego. We’ve never had credit-card debt before, and I hate it, so I am taking a very drastic measure. If we don’t need it, I’m not buying it.

That means no eating out, no new clothes, no junk food, etc. However, groceries are an obvious need, so I’ve been buying all the groceries I want, and when I looked at my grocery bill for December 2016, I was floored. It was a LOT.

Pantry Cooking Month to the rescue! I have a ton of food in the house. I’ll take some photos so you can see, but basically, I’m pretty sure we can get through the month with almost no influx of food. We’ll buy anything we really need that we run out of (bread or flour for making bread, for instance), but I plan to see how empty I can get my pantry by the end of the month.

I will, of course, post any fun/weird/creative recipes I come up with.

Today, I’m cooking for the kid’s birthday. I already made the mango pudding, and the kalua pig is in the oven. Next, I’ll throw together her favorite salad.

What are you cooking lately?

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy joes you can make with meat or without, with equal success.

When I first started this blog, I was telling my co-worker and friend Haydee about it, and the first thing she asked me after I described it was something like, “Oh, and then you’ll give the healthier versions of the foods, right?”

I looked at her like she had two heads.

If my mom’s food were made healthier, it wouldn’t be mom food.  I mean, make clam chowder with low-fat milk and less butter and you just change the whole nature of the thing.

But sometimes. SOMEtimes, it really doesn’t matter.

One example is food that’s already very good when it’s unadorned. The glory of a tomato salad made with tomatoes at peak season shines, whether you use a lot of olive oil or just a little. If it’s an exceptionally good tomato, olive oil is gilding the lily. Not that I don’t like a good gilded lily from time to time.

Another example is a certain class of food that I tend to call “trashy,” but I should probably find another term. Help me out here — casual? I don’t know. Fast food, I guess.

Anyway, sloppy joes fall into this category for me. Their essence is in the textures, the sweet-and-sour-and-a-little-smoky sauce, and the fun of trying to eat it without getting it everywhere. I found out when I was a vegetarian that sloppy joes can be made with anything from tofu to lentils to commercial veggie crumbles, and the experience is roughly the same.

Growing up, I had NO idea you could make sloppy joes yourself. It was a can of Manwich in our house, and never anything else. When I was a kid, that sauce had lots of chunks of green pepper and onion in it. Those are smaller and less plentiful, but the sauce is still passable, if sweeter than I like. As it turns out, though, you don’t need the can, because you probably have most or all of the ingredients you need at home, and when you make it yourself, you get to tweak it to be just how you like it.

What you need:

Something tomatoey: Ketchup, barbecue sauce, tomato paste/sauce/puree, whatever — I’ve even used V8 juice.

Something smokey: I’ve used smoked paprika, liquid smoke, chipotle peppers, and smoky barbecue sauce.

Something sweet/sour: Ketchup is already sweet/sour, and so is barbecue sauce, but if you use another tomato product, you’ll want to add some kind of sweet thing (sugar, honey, apple juice concentrate, etc.) and some kind of sour thing (usually vinegar, but lemon juice, citric acid, and tamarind paste all work). Also, if you like things tangy rather than sweet, you can cut down or eliminate the sugar, and you can add some mustard (powder and/or prepared).

Something crumbly: browned ground beef, veggie crumbles, crumbled extra-firm (drained/pressed) tofu, ground turkey, firm cooked lentils, smoked mushrooms, crumbled tempeh, even brown rice. When I could eat soy, tempeh was probably my favorite of these. Nowadays, I mostly use Quorn crumbles.

Onions and bell peppers, any color.

Below is a recipe of sorts, or click on the thumbnails in the gallery for step-by-step photos. The slaw you see is James’s adaptation of Bakesale Betty’s — we were customers at her shop on its first day, and we continued to go there a lot until we left Oakland. If you have a chance to go, you really should. The line is always long, but it moves fast, and you should get there early, because when she sells out of chicken, it’s all over. Our location was on the corner of 51st and Telegraph in Temescal, but there are other locations, or there were last time I checked.

Eventually, I’ll make a post about the slaw, because we eat it all the time.

Do you make your own versions of fast foods you had as a child? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Sloppy Joes
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 servings
 
This recipe is just a rough guide. Use what you have. Be flexible. These are sloppy, after all.
Ingredients
  • 1 lb of meat or veggie substitute (see post for ideas)
  • ½ onion, chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, or to taste
  • 1 to 1.5 cups ketchup or other tomato product (see post for ideas)
  • Something smoky (see post for ideas)
  • Something sweet/sour (see post for ideas)
  • Something spicy (optional -- I use either sriracha, chipotle, chili powder, hot sauce, or hot peppers)
  • 4 sandwich rolls
Instructions
  1. Saute onion, pepper, and garlic in about ½ cup water on medium-high heat until translucent, around 5-8 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except for rolls, along with about a cup of water.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened.
  4. Spoon ¼ of the meat onto each roll and serve.