Thursday, January 30, 2014

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Pink Coconut Possibilities



Wanna know a secret? I don't like pink. It's true. It's one of those colors that rarely looks good on me and thus I've harbored a not-always-silent little grudge against it. Especially when it's managed to infiltrate large portions of our womanly world--from Victoria's Secret bags to Mary Kay lipstick to your daughters birthday cakes (ages 2-15). As a female, I'm pretty much required to enjoy this color.

Wanna know what else? I don't really like cupcakes. Once again, I'm striking out against woman-kind here. Only now I'm also attacking our 21st century version of American pie. Ask anyone (or at least anyone who shares loud facebook opinions)--they're sure to tell you that to dislike cupcakes is un-American.

And I mean I kind of get the cupcake thing. I mean, they're cute and all. But they're just so impractical. I can't ever seem to get a bite from top to bottom into my mouth at once, so I have to eat a frosting-heavy bite or a frosting-less bite (I mean, the horror of this tremendous first-world problem; let us not speak of it). Furthermore, the cake to frosting ratio is just always off for me--cake that's too thick with too little frosting. Cupcake makers have compensated for this by creating cupcakes with a layer of frosting just as thick as the cupcake itself. Yeah, I don't like that either. And, once again--whose mouth does this fit into?

Yet for my dear dear friend's birthday, I wanted to make her a little something. And, for whatever mystery of the universe, the thing that I very very very most wanted to make her were cute little red velvet cupcakes. The thought just rolled around in my brain and made me salivate. It's no secret that I love red velvet cake. I've got the recipe and then this and this riff off of it. I love it especially in these sweet little Valentine's day weeks. But cupcakes? What was I thinking? Nevertheless I followed my heart (or, well, tongue) and wound up with pretty little red cupcakes with white frosting. And then I thought, "Well, I'm sure my friend would enjoy some coconut on these." And then, well, insanity overtook me again and I could not imagine anything prettier than pink coconut atop my red and white cupcakes.


And you know, sometimes it's best to just roll with the insanity because I was really really happy with how they turned out. And they were delicious. And beautiful. I still couldn't fit it from top to bottom in my mouth though. But, truth be told, my red velvet cake recipe is good enough to eat plain. So I ate the bottom like that and then I ate the frostinged cupcake top.

And I think my friend liked them too. And they all lived happily ever after in a pink land of sugared confection. I mean, it is un-American not to.


I followed my red velvet cake recipe here (I halved it and that made 12 cupcakes). 

To dye your coconut (and it doesn't have to be pink), you'll find instructions at the end of this post. It's so easy it's stupid. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thai Soup with Chicken (Gluten Free)








Tonight I took the train to crazy town and made my family a soup containing (among other things) coconut milk, lemongrass, lime leaves, thai curry, and rice noodles--this for my family who complains fervently when I have the nerve to make tomato sauce that has "chunkies" in it. Because I figure if you're going to go to crazy town, you might as well not stop half way. And I didn't. I had to take a deep breath every time I shoveled in big doses of ginger and lime zest, handfuls of cilantro and a glug of fish sauce. When my husband came in, he uttered this loving phrase, "That better be healthy." By which he meant, "Because there'd be no other reason in the world for eating it." So then I added more lime juice and some other weird stuff. So then he left the room. And I just kept thinking that this would never ever work. But there it was--the most heavenly broth in the world. And, while my kids weren't crazy about the rice noodles, they actually really really liked the rest of the soup. #Is this my family##I love crazy town.# (And, no, I don't do twitter. Why?)

Of course I had planned for defeat. I'd made this so simple and delicious refrigerator bread to go with it (only I'd made it mostly with white flour). Turns out I wasn't so defeated after all, but--boy howdy--was that bread good dipped in this soup. #Who needs drugs# (#Why is it so fun to hashtag everything##I can see how people could get addicted##to bread/soup and hashtags#)

It's been wicked cold here and for whatever reason tangy, creamy, hot things are the very deepest desire of my heart. This hit it right on.

Now I must say this. I've never made a soup like this before. I could get several of the ingredients at my local Walmart. But the rest (lime leaves, cilantro root, etc.--#cilantro roots huh#) required a trip to my city's ethnic store and I had to spend about 20 minutes there and ask several questions to a very sweet man who did not speak my language (it reminded me of my good old days teaching English in Taiwan). We eventually found everything, or nearly (the cilantro root called for still eluded us). I'm still not sure I got exactly the right type of noodles. What I am sure of is that I used too many noodles. With the amount of noodle called for this came out as more of a noodle dish than a soup. Nothing wrong with that, except that you sort of had to eat it with a fork and a spoon (#chopsticks were in order#). Nevertheless, it was a very good noodle dish. But I thought the broth was just so divine that it really needed its chance to shine as the soup it was meant to be. When I make this again (which I'm already planning for a Friday lunch with friends), I plan to use only a quarter of the noodles and to chop them a bit so they're not quite so long.

If you're feeling a little afraid of this recipe--don't. You can find rice noodles, coconut milk, limes, fish sauce, curry, and cilantro at Walmart (and of course chicken and broth). And, truth be told, you'd probably be doing pretty well with just those ingredients. Yes, I do feel that the lime leaves and lemongrass added something to it (in the same way a bay leaf might add something to your pasta sauce--it's good, but if you leave it out, your pasta sauce will still be great). So don't be afraid. You can make it a little less exotic if you wish. And if you make it you will be so so happy. #Yes. Yes you will.#

Also, if you're vegetarian, I think you could easily make this without the chicken and use a vegetable broth. It's just so flavorful anyway--the chicken just added another level/food group.

Thai Soup with Chicken
adapted from Chef Michael Smith
Serves 6-12
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: $10.15 (or about $1.00/serving)
coconut milk: 4.00, curry: .20, chicken: 3.00, chicken broth: .30, carrot: .10, lime leaves: .10, lemon grass: .35, limes: .25, ginger: .25, rice noodles: 1.00, cilantro: .50, green onions: .10

Note: We halved this.

Note: I used cooked leftover chicken and just let it stew the last 10 minutes or so. Below I'll give directions for cooking up raw meat.

Note: Why have I never grated ginger before? It's so much easier than mincing it. With this recipe you can just grate your carrot, the lime zest, and your ginger. Done.

2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
1 heaping Tbsp Thai curry paste (I couldn't find "Thai" curry, which I believe has more heat; I used a little red and a little green, just to cover my bases, but after making it, I'm sure either would have worked)
1 bunch cilantro roots, rinsed (never found; didn't miss, but if you 've got them, then, by all means)
1-2 chicken breasts, cubed
2 C chicken broth
1 carrot, shredded
4 or 5 lime leaves
2 stalks lemon grass, halved lengthwise, woody leaves removed
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 limes, zest and juice
1 knob ginger (yeah, I found the word 'knob' a little vague too--I probably used 3-4 Tbsp shredded ginger)
handful bean sprouts (go crunchy and make your own)
rice noodles (2-4 oz, broken a bit if long) (original recipe called for 8 oz)
2 green onions, sliced
1 bunch cilantro leaves
salt or soy sauce to taste

Before starting, grate carrot, lime zest, and ginger. Cut your lemon grass. Juice your lime. Yes, you can do this while your chicken cooks if you'd like. But if that stresses you out, do it now.

Heat a large pot. Scoop thick coconut cream from the top of one can into your pot. Melt it, add the curry and stir until it gets all fragrant and you feel woozy with pleasure.

Add cilantro roots if you could find them. Add chicken and cook it until it's cooked through (5 minutes or so).

Add remaining coconut milk from first can and the second can. Add chicken broth, carrot, lime leaves, lemon grass, fish sauce, lime zest and lime juice, and ginger.

Simmer about 20 minutes.

Stir in bean sprouts (these add a lovely texture, but if you can't find them, this will still be good). Stir in green onions.

Add rice noodles. They don't need to cook, per se. They just need to rehydrate. That said, they used a lot more liquid than I had expected, so start with less (2 oz) and then add more if you want more noodle.

Stir in cilantro (I chopped mine pretty finely).

Remove lemon grass stalks and lime leaves.

Taste and season with a little salt or soy sauce if you think it needs it (I didn't.)

Garnish with more cilantro if you wish.

PRINTABLE RECIPE



Friday, January 24, 2014

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup




If you know me, you know I run cold--like, cold (which is not to say that I run in the cold--burr). A house set at 67 will leave me goose-bumped. Anything less and I shiver. I've learned to take sweaters to restaurants even in the summer (granny style). I usually wear two sweaters at my house in the winter. And let's not even talk about how cold grocery stores are because my lips might turn blue. Lucky for me we have a wood-burning stove that keeps at least part of our house deliciously warm. And lucky for me I like soup.

There are a few recipes for tomato soup on this blog. That simple little soup is my favorite. So I've got a roasted tomato soup--perfect for when you've got too many garden tomatoes or when you wind up with some blah tomatoes from the store (roasting brings them back to life). I've got a 7-minute pantry-friendly tomato soup. And I've got my "best" tomato soup--a tomato soup I consider to be of restaurant quality--fresh herbs, a little smoky, delicious. And today I've got another best soup. What?! You can't do that, right. Whatever. It's my blog. I can and I will. The fact is that today's soup is just as good and easier to prepare. It's a little different. It's not as bacon-smoky. Instead, it's creamy from something as basic and whole foody as cream cheese. It's got a nice dose of basil. And mine came out just a bit tangy from some lemon juice that was with my home canned tomatoes. That tanginess really amped it up for me. There's something about hot and tangy that just beats the cold like nothing in this world. Also, let me please emphasize that this soup is super easy to make. I hate to compare the two, or rather I hate to pick favorites on my own blog. They're like two slightly different, but still very attractive sisters. But let me say that today's soup--well, if the cold weather keeps up, I just might start taking baths in it.  

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
adapted from The 36th Avenue (and, yes, I totally un-skinnied this recipe)
serves 6-8
Prep time:
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $4.85
onion: .15, butter: .06, tomatoes: 3.00, cream cheese: 1.00, basil: .50, other stuff: .14

Note: Instead of water and bouillon, you can use chicken broth--homemade or otherwise.

1 small onion, finely chopped (like it's minced almost)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp butter
3 14-oz cans Italian-style diced tomatoes (or some home-canned tomatoes with lemon)
2 c water
2 tsp chicken bouillon granules (or cubes)
8 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp pesto (or 1/4-1/2 C chopped fresh basil)
squeeze of lemon, optional

Chop up that onion. Chop it good (if you've got a decent knife, this adds about a minute of prep time and saves about 5 minutes of cook time).

Melt butter in a large pan. Add onion and cook for several minutes or until it begins to soften. Add garlic. Cook another minute, stirring.

Add tomatoes (with juices). Add water/bouillon. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

When it's about done, add the basil (or pesto).

Put your cube of cream cheese in a blender and add 1 C of hot soup. Blend (and be careful--you don't want it to burst out of your blender and burn you).

At this point, you can just add that creamy puree to your chunky soup and have a chunky soup. Or you can puree the rest of the soup, which is what I did because my family likes creamy. I had to do it in two batches. And I must warn you when blending hot liquids--be careful. Most blenders have a little plastic thingy at the top that you can remove. Remove that--this allows the steam to escape. If the steam stays bottled up, it sometimes makes your lid pop off and sprays super hot soup all over your face, arms, and kitchen. This is bad. So remove the plastic thing if you can. Then put a dish towel over the top of the blender and blend.

Re-warm if necessary. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper if necessary. If you'd like this tangy (and, oh, I do) add a couple good strong squeezes of lemon.

PRINTABLE RECIPE


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cilantro Cream Sauce for Fish Tacos


So at the end of the year when Kip and I ordered 2 (TWO) years worth of pictures, which came to us in haphazard order, I begged him to add that date feature to our camera. And then when these food bloggy pictures came up, I thought, "Oh yeah." So until I remember to ask my electronic genius of a husband to remove it (because I am electronically remedial), you'll get that lovely date on my pictures. Alas.

But nevermind my photographing and electronic insecurities. Let's talk about fish. Fish is easy and fast. Tacos are easy and fast. It's a heavenly match. I mean, seriously, this is amazing and healthy dinner in less than 15 minutes. But if you top it with something nasticular because you don't know what you're doing, then you will be sad. So top it with something good and still easy.

I came across this little recipe in a cookbook called The Picky Palate, which is great (though not at all, in my humble and rather experienced opinion, at all for picky palates). It's lovely and cooling and simple. We used it over tilapia, but I plan to use the rest this week over shrimp. I think it would work over any basic, mild white fish.

You'll cook your fish first. I did my tilapia for just about 3 minutes a side in a skillet with simple olive oil. Then you add this. You can leave it just fish and sauce in your taco or add shredded cabbage, avocado (which is wicked good with this) slivers of red peppers, or cooked peppers and onions (my choice).

Cilantro Cream Sauce for Fish Tacos
adapted from The Picky Palate
prep time: 3 minutes
Cost: $.40
sour cream: .25, cilantro: .10, other stuff: .05

4 oz sour cream
1/2 C finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 tsp hot sauce (or a dash or two of cayenne pepper)
1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
1/2-1 tsp lime juice

Combine all ingredients. Use as a topping for flaked fish or shrimp.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Quinoa Oat Pancakes



I suppose that since it's January it's about time I post something Utterly, Unapologetically Healthy (UUH--quite the acronym, isn't it). And I don't know what says "Utterly Unapologetically Healthy" better than quinoa--that grain of the gods, superfood of the Mayans, iron-filled, full-proteined, and now suburban mother pantry staple. Sure we're going to put that UUH  food in pancakes and you're probably going to pour syrup on it (I myself would never do such a thing to a UHH food). And one day soon you will thank me for it.

Let me tell you something personal. In the last several months my oldest child--the almost debilitatingly picky one--has been struggling with some tummy trouble. I'm not sure what's going on with him yet, but I suspect that no matter what it is his limited diet (wheat products for breakfast, dinner, and lunch) isn't helping his gut. Recently we tried a little gluten-free stint (we tried this for just over a week until I read that I won't get an accurate reading on blood tests if he's not eating gluten). Our gluten-free experiement was as they say in France--Outrageously Successful (OS). (And, no, they don't really say that in France.) My son had been feeling lousy enough for the past month to try almost anything. Which is saying A LOT because every other thing we've ever tried (bribes, threats, peer pressure, shopping together, cooking together, being strict, being loose, every thing every book/magazine has ever suggested) hasn't done much to sway him in his eating until now. But recently we've tried all kinds of new foods. Strangely this tummy trouble and the no-gluten limitation sort of seemed to give Mark the freedom to let go of all his conceptions and pre-conceptions and just try some stuff with an open mind. All kinds of food. All kinds. Why only last week, he polished off two bowls of African peanut soup (peanut butter, coconut milk, onions, garlic, butternut squash, tomatoes, peppers, etc.). This being the child who routinely used to refuse new breakfast cookies (sugar, fat, whole grain, maybe something healthy) because "it smells like banana." So, yes, we've really improved leaps and bounds. Truth be told, Mark's still not too hot on meat. But tons of other things have been OS with him. These pancakes were one of those things. In our pre-tummy-ache-life, he would have seen them and noticed that they sort of looked like they had texture and he would have refused him outright. Even if I forced him to have a bite or two, he would have insisted that he didn't like them just on principle. But this time...this time--He LOVED them (OS for the UUH). My kids ALL loved them. As he snarfed them down, he said, "Mom, these are even better than regular pancakes." So I tried one too. And he was right. They are better than normal pancakes. 

They're a simple and not too crazy way to break out of the All-American wheat for breakfast, lunch, dinner rut. Because I know that there's at least someone out there with a bag of quinoa in her pantry who's terrified of touching it.

Quinoa Oat Pancakes
adapted from A Pretty Life In the Suburbs
makes 10 large, 20 smallish pancakes
Prep and cook time: 20-30 minutes (but quinoa must be pre-cooked, so that's another 15-20 if you've got to cook it)
Cost: $.90
oat flour (homemade in blender): .15, eggs: .20, buttermilk (milk and vinegar--we didn't have the real stuff): .20, quinoa: .30, other stuff: .05

Note on Quinoa: Quinoa can be found in most health food stores. It's usually cheaper if you can buy it from the bulk bins. You prepare it as you would oatmeal--2 C water to 1 C quinoa. Bring to a boil. Simmer until liquid gone and quinoa tender. You can just eat it like oatmeal too and it's good. It also freezes really well cooked, so if you make more than you need, you can freeze it to make these pancakes later, or to serve it as a side like you would serve rice, or to have as your breakfast grain like you would oatmeal.

Another important note on Quinoa that I almost forgot: Quinoa has a natural soapy coating if you don't rinse it before cooking (this is why pests never ate it in ancient times). So if you got it from bulk bins, rinse it before cooking. That said, if you should ever happen to forget to rinse it first (not that I would ever forget anything like that), you can rinse it afterwards and the world will be right. That said, if you even forget that and still make it in these pancakes you won't be able to taste anything soapy (though if you eat is as you would oatmeal, you probably will).

1 1/2 C oat flour (you can make your own in a blender--cheap and easy)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp sugar
pinch salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 C buttermilk (if you don't have any combine 1 1/2 C milk with 1 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla
1 C cooked quinoa

First you've got to cook your quinoa (rinse it first if it's from bulk bins). If you eat it on a regular basis, this is the perfect way to use up leftovers. If you're terrified of the stuff, see the note above.

Combine oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt.

To this add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk.

Then stir in the cooked quinoa. This batter will seem thinner than normal batter. You can let it sit for a few minutes and that will get the baking powder and soda working and make the batter a bit thicker, but it will also poof up a bit when heated, giving you a normal pancake. If you're nervous about thinness, add a couple more Tbsp oat flour.

Pour batter onto a buttered skillet and cook over medium heat. Flip and repeat.

PRINTABLE RECIPE 




Monday, January 13, 2014

Broccoli Cheese Soup



So far in 2014 I've been a pretty lazy blogger. I like to tell people that that's because I've had a lot of things going on in other areas. Yes, that's what I like to tell people. 

But maybe now it's time to get out of my lazy pants and actually blog about some of the many food pictures I've got sitting there on my computer (much to my husband's annoyance). I think that my 2014 blog goal will be to get all my favorite recipes on this blog. There are actually still some that I haven't blogged and that is just wrong. Here's the first. 

Kip and I loooove broccoli cheese soup. It is our Christmas Eve tradition to put the kids to bed and then eat this together (ah; blessed tradition). But we like it plenty of other times too. 

Because we like it so much (Kip isn't normally much of a soup man, but he goes for this), I've tried several different recipes. This is our favorite. This recipe is from Pioneer Woman. It's tough to go wrong with her--it's a delicious recipe and I love how creamy it is, but I found that I did have some trouble with this milk-based soup getting stuck to the pot bottom. To avoid this I felt like I had to stand there and stir the soup constantly and I didn't love that. This year I realized that I could nuke the broccoli before adding it to the soup, which keeps the soup from sticking (because it's not simmering as long) and actually gets dinner on your table a little faster too. 

Broccoli Cheese Soup
adapted from Pioneer Woman
serves 6-8
prep time: 5-10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $3.20
onion: .15, butter: .25, flour: .05, milk: .50, half and half: 1.25, 1.00

1 whole onion, diced (or shredded if you've got onion averse people in your house)
1 stick (1/2 C) butter
1/3 C flour
4 C milk (PW recommends whole milk; I use it if we've got it, but it works with 2% also)
2 C half and half
4 heads broccoli, cut into florets
1 pinch nutmeg
3 C grated cheese (I use milk cheddar, but mixing that with Gouda would be wicked good too)
salt and pepper to taste
chicken broth for thinning

Note on cheese: I grate mine. If you buy it pre-grated, they put something on it to keep it from sticking together. This may make it less easy to stir in and melt. I don't know because I haven't used it, but be warned that it might make the cheese harder to incorporate if you use pre-grated. 

Melt butter, add onions. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then sprinkle flour over top. Stir to combine and cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk and then half and half. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. 

Make the broccoli. {Note: You can do this while your onion is cooking if you've got a lot of kitchen coordination going on. Or you can make it before you start the onion/roux/white sauce. Or you can take the white sauce off the heat when you've made it and make the broccoli.} Here's how you nuke your broccoli. Put your broccoli florets into a microwave safe bowl, add some water (let's say 1/2-1 C--you don't need a whole lot) and cover it with plastic wrap or a microwave safe lid. Microwave for 3 minutes. Stir (watch out--steam will pour out of it when you remove the plastic wrap; don't get burned). Put the plastic wrap/lip back on, then microwave for 1-2 more minutes if needed to soften your broccoli. When it's done pour off the water

Now add the cooked broccoli to the white sauce you've created from the milk/half and half. Cook, stirring, for several minutes. Stir in cheese and allow to melt. 

Taste for seasonings. Add a bit of chicken broth if you feel it needs it (we never do). Pioneer Woman purees hers, but I like the chunks, although I do mash up/chop up the broccoli so that they're smaller chunks. 

We serve it in soup bowls for special occasions, but any old bowl will do. 



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

One Bowl Oat Muffins



January has arrived in all its negative degreed glory. My kids have been home the last couple of days due to "unusually low temperatures" (Really school system? Truly I think that the superintendent had just planned a romantic rendezvous with someone and then when we only got a centimeter of snow, she had to come up with some other reason to cancel school--"uh, well, it is awfully cold outside, unusually so--eureka, that's it-- romantic rendezvous here I come.") Anyway, it has been cold and we've had people home and hungry. What better thing to do than make muffins.



I thought I had these on my blog.



I would have bet money on it, but I have trolled my way around it several times and can't find this recipe anywhere. Which is just wrong because these are some of the most delicious, most simple, most adaptable, and just generally best muffins out there. So now I will give you this recipe. And happy January because it's also low in sugar (though it doesn't go all out and announce that fact) and low in cost ($.08/muffin--that's what I'm talking about January), and did I mention infinitely adaptable.

One Bowl Oat Muffins
adapted from Simple Bites
makes 12 muffins
prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10-12 minutes
Cost: $1.00 (without add ins)
milk: .13, oats: .10, brown sugar: .07, butter: .50, flour: .15, other stuff: .05

1 C milk
1 tsp white vinegar
1 C oats (rolled recommended, but quick work too and are better if you've got a child with a texture aversion)
1 egg
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 C butter, melted (oil works too, but butter is tastier)
1 C plus 2 Tbsp flour (I use mostly white, but sub in 1/4 C of whole wheat)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
add ins if you choose (we usually go for 1/2 C chocolate chips)

Combine Milk and vinegar (note: If you've got a cup of buttermilk, you can use that in place of the milk and vinegar.) Add oats and let sit for about 5 minutes (with quick oats, you can just give it a quick stir and you're good to go).

Mix in egg. Add brown sugar and melted butter. Mix.

Combine remaining dry ingredients and stir them in just until combined.

Add add ins if using.

Pour into 12 greased or lined muffin tins.

Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes (slightly longer if you've added fresh fruit as an add in).

Potential add ins:
raspberries
apples
nuts
dried cranberries
blueberries
rhubarb
coconut
dates
carrots

You can go to Simple Bites for exact measurements on the add ins if you're interested.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Freezer Clean Out: A New Year's Suggestion to Save Money and Feel Better





I love January. It just feels so fresh to me. A new year. A pause after the holidays and before the work that can be spring.

But January can be a very empty wallet time of year. And for many people the cold empty space that is January can be really depressing.

Well, not to oversimplify a potentially complex problem, (by which I mean  I'm totally going to oversimplify a potentially complex problem), you should clean out your freezer. It helps with January blahs and January budget.

I have a regular freezer and a small chest freezer. I recently cleaned both of them out only to find that I had a butt load of food just sitting in my house waiting for me to notice it. I mean, sure I knew my freezers had food in them. Why else would they be so stuffed that I could barely squeeze another little item in? But I had only a vague-ish idea of what exactly kinds of food were in those freezers. So I pulled everything out, put like items with like items in little bins, bags, or sections. And then I made a list (yes, a list) of what I had in each freezer. I CANNOT tell you how free this made me feel. Suddenly I knew there was a block of Swiss cheese in the upstairs freezer. And I knew which bin it was in (the cheese bin--because I had a lot of cheese hanging out). Before I cleaned out my freezers, I'd go to the store and think, "Do I have Swiss cheese? Hmm, I'm not sure. Better grab another." Now I don't have to. It's on the list. Also, my freezer just looked so nice I wanted to keep opening the door and showing it to people, "Hey Kip, look at this. Hey kids, look at this. Hey random stranger who is the mailman, want to check out my orderly freezer." It's beautiful, people, beautiful.

After I knew what food I had, I did something radical. I planned my meals around those foods. Yeah, I'm kind of a genius; try not to be too jealous.

And I realized that I wouldn't have to buy much more than milk, eggs, and some produce this month--for the WHOLE month. I have that much food. And I had NO idea I had that much food. I had no idea what lovely things I could create with the food in my house.

So give it a try. It actually took less than 30 minutes (about 15 minutes per freezer; I also cleaned my pantry to get an idea of my dry goods), lists and all.

Happy New Year!

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