Daybook, April 24

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Monday, April 24

Outside my window…….the sun is shining and a few folks from the neighborhood are getting in their morning walks. A lizard is taunting one of my cats who is perched on the windowsill; this is pretty much a daily occurrence.

I am thinking…….about what I need to do this week, especially as I am going out of town this weekend.

I am thankful for……the end of the semester! I am so grateful to be (almost) done. I have a paper due in my Thursday evening class and a Wednesday afternoon obligation, but then I have 10 days of no school at all. I am looking forward to that short break.

From the kitchen…..the breakfast dishes need to be cleaned up and the dishwasher started. The fridge is full, so I’m not worrying about cooking until dinnertime.

I am wearing…..pjs, shortly to change into cropped jeans and a t-shirt.

I am creating…..a couple of articles for work.

I am going…….to visit my family at the end of the week!

I am reading……..the New Yorker and some cooking magazines that have accumulated.

I am hoping……that I get everything done before flying north on Friday morning.

I am hearing…..two cats “negotiating” with each other, and another cat enjoying a cardboard box (we had an air purifier delivered — the box is big and the cats are in heaven).

Around the house…….I need to tidy everywhere and get on top of the laundry.

One of my favorite things……cats and boxes. 😉

A few plans for the rest of the week…..I’m working the first half of the week. For school I have some edits due to a classmate this afternoon and then that paper I mentioned earlier. I should also brush up my resume. It looks like Michael is getting sick now and since I blew through all the cold medicine we had on hand, I’m going to have to make a trip to Walgreens, too. We’re slowly but steadily working on getting the really rough (nasty) parts of our lawn in order, so I’m planning to spend a little time today and tomorrow tearing out some weedy, scrubby bushes by the shed in our back yard. And I’ll be packing for my trip to visit family (my grandmother is turning 90!). As usual there are some bills to pay and I also need to schedule eye appointments for each of us.

Here is a picture I am sharing…….the beach a Cumberland Island. It was pretty and so quiet, which is my favorite kind of beach.

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What I Spent, What We Ate

What I Spent

This week I spent $34.95 on groceries. I need to sit down and tally everything, but I am pretty sure that I am over $300 this month, which is $100 over budget and a consequence of allowing busy-ness and illness to get the better of me. And spending a whole lot at BJs in the beginning of the month. I’ll share all those gory details, though, in my grocery journal at the end of the month. For now, let’s talk about this week. I visited two stores, Publix and a discount grocer. I only needed fruit and didn’t feel like making the trip to Aldi, even if it would have been cheaper. I spent $14. Then I met up with my friend who is willing to explore discount and salvage groceries with me; like the previous month I had intended to only spend about $10, BUT they had my coffee at a great price, so that skewed the total a bit. I spent $20.95 there.

sheps salvage and discount

At the discount grocer, I picked up mostly snacks and 2 pounds of coffee beans. The coffee beans were a great deal — $4.99/lb; even at BJs I pay $8/lb for these beans. Tortilla chips, crisp bread, tea, chewing gum, and chocolate covered almonds. These aren’t exactly needs, but we will eat and enjoy them. I was very tempted to buy a case of Ghirardhelli chocolate caramel candy bars, but even I couldn’t justify that much chocolate, no matter how good the price.

Publix__April 2017

At Publix the fruit was my primary objective, but also wanted something snacky and salty. The fruit wasn’t the cheapest, but it’s all very good and I’ve decided that the time factor may be important enough for my filler trips to just go to Publix or Winn-Dixie. I’m not tempted to buy things that aren’t on my list, and both stores are so close to home that I pass them no matter where I am heading.

What We Ate

File Apr 17, 6 41 04 AM

Sunday — Easter Dinner: Ham, Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Deviled Eggs, Rolls, Raspberry Almond Cream Puffs

Creamy ham and veggie soup 2

Tuesday — Creamy Ham & Veggie Soup, Rolls

fajita-bowls.jpg

Wednesday — Fajita Bowls w/brown rice and black beans

Monday, Thursday and Friday we had leftovers. I had also made ham and cheese egg cups, which factored into different meals throughout the week.

The upcoming week is my last of this semester, for which I am profoundly grateful. I am hopeful that the summer semester is less intense and that I can get a grasp once more on a work/school/life balance.

Creamy Ham and Veggie Soup

Creamy ham and veggie soup 2

It might be a bit of a stretch to call this a new recipe, since I didn’t follow one, but I’ve also never made this soup before so…I’m counting it as a way to get back on track! Usually I make ham and bean soup with leftover ham, but thought that ham and potato sounded good this time, plus I have a ton of potatoes on hand. And then I decided that I should just add some extra veggies so that I could in good faith call this a one-pot-meal. It’s pretty simple.

Creamy Ham & Veggie Soup

Serves 8 – 10

  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 extra large carrot, chopped (my carrot was a monster — you want roughly the same amount of carrots and celery, so use that as your guide)
  • 2 onions, chopped (again, see above — I wanted an even ratio of carrots, celery and onion)
  • 1 T. olive or vegetable oil
  • dried herbs and other seasonings to taste (I used a Bavarian blend, but dried rosemary would be good)
  • 4 -5 potatoes, chopped
  • 6 – 8 cups broth
  • 2  cups chopped ham
  • 1 can cream style corn
  • 1 pkg. frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 – 2 T. cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • heavy cream (optional)
  • green onions and shredded cheese to serve
  1. Heat oil in large stock pot. Saute celery, carrots and onion until onion is translucent and the other veggies seem slightly softened.
  2. Add desired seasonings and potatoes and continue to cook for a minute or so.
  3. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Add ham, creamed corn, broccoli and continue to simmer until heated through.
  5. Make a slurry using some of the broth and some cornstarch. Stir into soup and cook until slightly thickened.
  6. Stir in cream or half and half if desired (I added about a 1/4 cup), and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve with chopped green onions and shredded cheese.

Enjoy! We had ours with leftover rolls, but biscuits or crackers would be tasty, too. Or just on it’s own.

 

Spice Cabinet Organization

I did quite a bit of inventorying, purging and reorganizing of my main food storage spaces (pantry and freezer) earlier in the year, but never got around to taking stock of my spice cabinet. Finally a few weeks ago I took the time to go through all that I had accumulated. It was a little horrifying. I had a lot of duplicates. I also had a few items that I decided really shouldn’t be kept any longer. Generally herbs and spices just lose power, they don’t really go bad, so I tend to hang on to things and just use more? But really, some of these were outside of what even I am comfortable using. Despite the excess of many things, I also was out of some key essentials (or almost out). Ugh. I’m hoping that this reorg keeps me on better track, as I consolidated a few things, did a better job of sorting like with like (where possible or applicable) and also just made a list of what is on hand! I have pictures of what had been stored on each almost every shelf as well as a picture of the final, reorganized cabinet. And, of course, an inventory of what I have on hand.

File Mar 26, 9 45 41 PM

These spices had been on the bottom shelf of my spice cupboard. I use one of those expandable risers to more easily see what I have available. There are some duplicates here:

  • garam masala
  • ginger
  • mustard seed
  • ground cardamom
  • ground thyme
  • cinnamon
  • more mustard seed
  • dried rosemary (almost empty)
  • chipotle chili powder
  • nutmeg (whole)
  • curry powder
  • wasabi powder
  • tarragon
  • dill weed
  • cayenne (empty)
  • curry powder
  • cinnamon sticks
  • med. chili powder (this is actually really spicy)
  • cardamom pods
  • ancho chili powder (empty)
  • celery seed
  • red curry powder
  • ginger (nearly empty and old)
  • ground cloves
  • turmeric root
  • bay leaves
  • chinese five spice powder
  • cream of tartar
  • smoked paprika (empty)
  • even more mustard seed
  • sugar (jelly jar)
  • flour (for roux or other uses where I don’t want to grab the big canister)
  • dried mustard powder
  • and MORE mustard seed (this time brown)
  • ground allspice
  • more dill weed
  • two very old jars of curry paste (tossed)

File Mar 26, 9 45 19 PM

On the middle shelf I have two lazy susans, plus I tuck extra spices in as I can. These items are from one lazy susan:

  • dried onion
  • oregano
  • a very tiny bit of cumin in a very large container
  • onion powder
  • more oregano
  • black pepper
  • more onion powder
  • dried basil
  • crushed red pepper flakes (I keep a larger jar of this in my pantry and just refill this very old container…we use these quite a bit)
  • garlic salt
  • thyme (leaves, not ground)
  • cayenne pepper
  • powdered sugar (I keep a small amount in a shaker so that I can decorate cakes/scones if desired)
  • saffron
  • more dried mustard powder
  • sazon w/cilantro and achiote (other sazon in pantry…)
  • achiote
  • autumn harvest spice blend (st. augustine)
  • pumpkin pie spice (st. augustine)

File Mar 26, 9 48 19 PM

And these items are on the second lazy susan:

  • liquid smoke
  • hot sauce
  • bakers blend spice mix (st. augustine)
  • homemade taco seasoning
  • homemade chili powder (which I don’t like, so it’s just been hanging out — I need to use it up)
  • cajun seasoning
  • old bay
  • more cream of tartar
  • baking powder
  • vanilla
  • almond extract
  • mint extract
  • butter flavoring (part of a homemade butter beer kit that was a gift)

Finally, the top shelf. What a mess this was. I actually can’t find my photo, but Found the pics! There was a large tupperware bowl that held a number of random spices and spice mixes in bags and then lots and lots of tins and containers from the Mennonite store (at home) and random jars of homemade or premade mixes (like Mrs. Dash). This was truly horrifying — I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I had something like 24 spice/herb blends on hand, most of which are these tiny ziploc bags of spice mixes and meat rubs from a tea and spice store in St. Augustine. It was/is ridiculous.

 

 

spices_top shelf

On the shelf:

  • ground coriander
  • poppy seeds
  • paprika
  • simon & garfunkel rub
  • specialty salt pack
  • vindaloo curry powder (super hot)
  • pretzel salt
  • bay leaves (very few, all broken pieces)
  • dried parsley
  • oregano
  • turmeric
  • mrs. dash lemon pepper
  • saffron
  • mrs. dash garlic & herb blend
  • mrs. dash steak seasoning
  • mrs. dash table blend
  • mrs. dash southwest chipotle
  • curry powder, reg.
  • sesame & ginger blend
  • chicken & rib dry rub
  • BBQ chicken rub
  • spicy Mexican dry rub

spices_tupperware_top shelf

In Tupperware:

  • everyday smoky rub
  • smoked salt rub
  • Mongolian style bbq rub
  • au jus gravy mix (why do I have this? I never use these mixes)
  • whole nutmeg, 2 pks
  • hot paprika
  • california herb blend (st. augustine)
  • signature spice blend (st. augustine)
  • sundried tomato dipping spices
  • salmon tea rub (st. augustine)
  • espresso steak rub (st. augustine)
  • tailgaters spice blend (st. augustine)
  • smoked sea salt (st. augustine)
  • matanzas chili spice blend (st. augustine)
  • island sweet blend (st. augustine)
  • chardonnay smoked sea salt (st. augustine)
  • seafood blackening (st. augustine)
  • ras al hanout (st. augustine)
  • grilled fish blend (st. augustine)
  • cinnamon sticks (two packages)
  • ground cardamom
  • ground turmeric
  • whole cloves
  • pesto allo genovese (dried, gift)
  • cinnamon
  • unnamed spice blend

Ridiculous, right? I consolidated as much as possible, threw out some really old stuff and generally just reorganized. In addition to the long list above, I also keep some bulk-size containers in my pantry, which include:

  • chili powder
  • peppercorns
  • seasoned salt
  • red pepper flakes
  • cinnamon
  • mrs. dash original
  • mrs. dash garlic and herb (except — I was out! the horror — i use this quite a lot)
  • costco no-salt seasoning
  • steak seasoning (montreal style)
  • dried chives
  • dried mint
  • seasonings for popcorn

Despite ALL these items in my cupboards, I actually needed a few things like dried rosemary, garlic powder, cumin, smoked paprika, the Mrs. Dash garlic and herb blend, etc. I recently signed up for the Penzey’s email list and while generally I am happy to purchase most spices at a bargain grocer, there are a few things I think are just worth spending a few more dollars on. They had a few freebie offers that I took advantage of and so for the most part my spice cabinet is stocked with all the things I find essential as well as all the extras I’ve accumulated over time. Except I forgot to pick up the Mrs. Dash when I was at BJs this month, darn it.

File Mar 26, 9 46 00 PM

Here is the final, reorganized cupboard. It’s still stuffed pretty full, but spices have been moved around for better usability. And now that I have a list of all those spice blends (in my defense, MOST of those were gifts) as well as an inventory of all spices on hand, I’ve been working more diligently to use them in my cooking.

Are you a minimalist when it comes to spices, herbs and other seasonings? Or more of a maximalist like me? Do your friends and families like to give you culinary gifts that sometimes take a while to use up?

ETA 4/22/17 to include pictures of top shelf spices before reorganization.