Feeding the Temple: Get Ready, Get Set – Part 3
We just arrived home and unloaded the car. All the pantry foods are to be placed in the cupboards and here, organization is key. Be sure to put the newer duplicate foods, canned and boxed, behind the older items. A few minutes spent at the beginning will save oodles of time during the end game…Dinner.
In an apartment where we had no pantry and very limited cupboard space, there was a method that worked quite well. When all the plates, glasses and other necessary nonfood items were placed, we dedicated one cupboard to the most frequently used spices and table or cooking needs.
There was a closet in the hallway leading to the bedrooms in which we placed a couple of inexpensive bookcases. That’s where we stored the canned and boxed goods that allowed for shopping in bulk or for use on the spur of the moment. It worked well.
Get A Jump On The Week…
- When removing the produce from the plastic store bags, place everything on the counter at the sink…not in the fridge
- Spend some time now to avoid spending a lot of time later
- Wash the fruit with a kitchen brush, and rinse well, before placement in the refrigerator Hint: Good Grips manufactures a brush with replaceable brush heads…a good buy! It’s not so stiff that it will damage delicate produce and yet it does a great cleaning job. The bonus is that anyone who grabs a piece of fruit, or is taking over cooking chores, knows that everything in the fridge is ready to eat, to cut or to freeze.
Keeping Produce Fresh…
- Bell peppers, squash, snap peas, radishes, cucumbers, and other like veggies are washed, as described, wrapped in wet paper toweling and then refrigerated in the crisper drawers
- Onions should be stored in the fridge, as is, with the onion paper still intact. If you remove the onion paper, the onion scent will permeate your refrigerator and your grapes will taste like fresh onion! Wait until the onion is cold, before cutting. You will suffer fewer tears this way.
Hint: Once cold, you can slice, or chop the onion and place it in the freezer in a plastic freezer bag that’s been crushed to emit all the air and flattened. Then that onion is available for stews, soups and stir-fry. No work here!
Hint: Do 3 or 4 onions at one time, if you have the freezer room. What a gift when time is short. And it avoids the extra washing of the knife and cutting board!
- Grapes and tomatoes (cherry, grape and full-size) should be washed in your hands with soapy water and thoroughly rinsed in a colander. Do not refrigerate tomatoes. Leave the tomatoes at room temperature. They will retain the full flavor and will not spoil, if consumed in a reasonable period of time, usually about 5 to 7 days.
- Rinse the celery, with running water to remove any loose dirt and, if there is muddy debris on the outer stalks, brush with your lightly soaped veggie brush, gently, and rinse well. Thoroughly rinse the leafy tops and cut off any ends that are browning. Wrap two wet paper towel sheets around the celery and place in a plastic bag, left open when refrigerating in the crisper. It will stay crispy for a few weeks. As you use the celery, remove the stalks you want, keep the toweling wet, and replace in the crisper. If you’re making a salad in the next couple of days, slice up a few stalks and place on a wet paper towel on top of the lettuce and greens and cover again with another wet paper towel. The celery doesn’t get limp or soggy. Amazing!
Hint: Do not separate the stalks because that shortens its refrigerator life
- Leafy vegetables, such as Organic Romaine Hearts, available in a plastic bag in the produce section, make the best salad start because the greener the lettuce, the more vitamin content and, therefore, the healthier it is. The waste, when the whole head is purchased, is so great that buying the bagged Romaine Hearts saves time and you end up with usable produce without the mess. When you remove the Romaine lettuce from the bag, if you’re planning on a salad within the next day or two, cut off the base, throw away the outer leaves, if necessary, and rinse each leaf well. Place the leaves in a colander and cover with a wet paper towel, and refrigerate. When you’re ready for that salad the lettuce is all ready to slice, or chop, and go. Cut twice the amount you need for one evening’s salad. It will last for at least 2 days before any browning occurs. That way you’ve already prepped the lettuce and you can skip this step for the next salad dinner. Another time-saver! If you don’t have an immediate plan for salad, take the lettuce from the bag, remove any brown leaves, wrap in wet paper towel, replace in the bag and refrigerate in the crisper drawer.
- Spinach and baby kale are available in plastic 1-pound containers, already washed…a boon to the busy cook. Kale is curly and has very thick stems, therefore, buying it in bulk requires removal of the stems and careful cleaning of the leaves. When buying this healthiest of vegetables, already triple washed, all the work has been done for you. Don’t be shy about quantity. Even while cooking for one, I didn’t have waste from buying in large quantities. It’s not only a money saver, but helps to do bulk cooking! The answer is in freezing…coming up in a future article. Stay tuned!
Hint: In some stores you can find the two are combined for easy salad or stir-fry
Hint: Remember that you’ll be using these same ingredients for great cooked dishes, as well as salad
- Cabbage is a snap! Tear off the outer leaves and discard. Wrap in wet paper toweling and refrigerate. Later, after slicing off the amount you want to use for cooking, slaw or salad, rewrap and refrigerate the unused head. When unwrapping to slice off another wedge, you may find some browning on the side from which you cut. Just before using, thinly slice off any part that may have browned. Rewrap in the rewetted toweling and it’s ready to use again. It will last longer with that moisture locked in. Cabbage is also available already sliced, as slaw, in a bag.
Hint: If you’re buying the bagged slaw, avoid the product that contains the slaw dressing for a few reasons. As part of your salad you don’t need the slaw dressing; making dressing for slaw, if that’s how you’ll be using the cabbage, is very easy and doubling the quantity gives you premade dressing for next time. The packaged dressing is higher in fat content and your own will be healthier.
Hint: If salad is in the immediate dinner plan, use about an eighth to a quarter of the head, slice thinly, and place with the lettuce, under the wet towel.
Hint: For a great do-ahead, slice the appropriate amount for your family and toss in your slaw dressing or Newman’s Ginger Sesame Dressing. In fact, try different dressings, such as Light Balsamic Vinaigrette, and what you don’t use as a side you can toss right into your jumbo salad. Once dressed, it will last about 4 days when refrigerated in a sealed Tupperware, or comparable, container.
- Carrots are available in bags: sliced, shredded or in bite sized “babies.” A good buy and great for snacking, too! These carrot choices are so tasty, and inexpensive, it’s a worthy saving of time over scrubbing, or peeling, the freshly picked.
Hint: Serve the baby carrots, instead of mixed nuts, chips or Pub Mix, in a bowl with a side dip that’s a combo of low-fat mayo, spicy brown mustard and Newman’s Low Fat Ginger Sesame Dressing. To make the dip: cream the mayo, add the mustard and blend. Add the dressing by dribbling in while stirring until it’s the consistency of ranch dressing. In other words, it adheres to the carrot but doesn’t pile on. We’re talking about a whiz-bang flavor with negligible calorie attack. Or just try adding grape tomatoes and pickle slices to the carrots and munch away on this garlicky finger food. Coming soon: a low calorie, low fat aioli for dipping carrots, snow peas or pretzels.
- Mushrooms are available loose or in packages, in many varieties, and come in whole or sliced versions and, even, prewashed for speed and efficiency. If the plan is to use them in a day or two, store them in the fridge as they are, unwashed and loose…not in plastic. Plastic bagging makes the natural moisture of the mushroom spoil more rapidly. When ready to use them, simply rub in your hands with cold water, cut off the tip of the stem and slice or chop for salads, stir-fry, soups, sauces and stews.
Hint: If they are prewashed and sliced they will not last as long as whole fresh mushrooms, so if you’re not using them within a day or two, place them in a plastic freezer bag and freeze them, raw. You can use them anytime directly from the freezer in any of the above cooked versions.
Hint: Mushrooms are healthier than most of us realize. They are great as a weight control food, since they are low in calories and have 0 fat grams; they add a chew to a stew because they have the mouthfeel of meat (especially the Portabella variety); they’ve been proven to fight cancer; they’re a source of protein and potassium.
Your produce is now ready for stir-fry, as additions to soup for a complete meal in a dish, to freshen up and to enhance frozen or boxed prepared foods and render them “home-made.” And, of course, you now have all the basics ready for your salad entrée!
Salad to follow…stay tuned!!