Making Fresh Groceries Last Longer

Every Wednesday I shop for groceries, mostly produce. While I try to use all of these up in a week, I want them to last beautifully until I use them.

Certain produce simply lasts longer if stored in certain conditions.

I knew this a little, but it wasn’t until I read The Waste Free Kitchen Handbook that I learned that I needed to store things in my refrigerator right (the know on a crisper drawer does what?!?) or that tomatoes should be on the counter unless cut. I can’t recommend this book enough, and mostly for the “How to Store” section in the back.

So…

The unloaded produce…

My new counter companions…

I put my peaches in a paper bag to soften. This is great for avocados too. Just put avocados in the fridge after they’re ripe.

Then I put garlic, onions, and sweet potatoes in the pantry. Onions make potatoes sprout, so they’re on opposite sides. I use metal magazine holders from IKEA. I saw that on Pinterest.

Then my fruit for the fridge drawer on low humidity (that slide thing means something!) with all of this, don’t wash anything until you’re ready to use it and it will last longer.

Then it’s time for the vegetables. This takes the most effort, but you can really make a “lasting” difference.

I separate radishes from their tops and placed them in a bag, actually cooking the greens in a crockpot with bacon grease for dinner. So tasty.

Lettuce gets stored in an airtight bag (the one it came in works if I squeeze out the air and tie it. It keeps longer with a paper towel on the core to keep it moist. This is all after I remove the twist tie that’s strangling the head.

Herbs can last like cut flowers on the counter, but I fail when I try this. I like the method of storing them in their bag, but keep it open and breathable. I put a dry paper towel with parsley and cilantro and wrap the roots of my green onions with a wet paper towel.

Storing my heavy things at the bottom with herbs on top, my vegetable drawer is packed to the brim, but not crushed.

There’s something so satisfying about caring for everything in your home, including the things you’ll eat soon.

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Less Mess Deviled Eggs

After making easy peeling hard boiled eggs, deviled eggs are a snap. All the times I’ve made deviled eggs, the peeling takes the longest time. I like my deviled eggs savory and sour. You should make your favorite filling but mine is:

Mashed hard yolks from halves of a dozen hard boiled eggs (don’t count in the picture, it’s fewer here), 1/2 c mayonnaise, 3 Tablespoons Dijon mustard, and 2 Tablespoons of relish or finely chopped pickles (whichever you have).

Once your filling mixture is smooth, put into a frosting bag with a tip or a ziplock bag and snip the corner. (It’s kinda amazing that I have a frosting bag. I use it primarily for making deviled eggs. I don’t have a deviled egg plate so I use a pie pan.)

Then pipe in your filling one egg half at a time. If you have frosting skills yours will look better than mine. I just hold the tip near the bottom of the egg half then squeeze until the egg is filled and lift out.

I sprinkle with paprika, but chives or dill would be good too.

Happy Cookout Gatherings!

Silver Dollar Pancakes

I’ve been doing this for years and never thought to blog about it until my sister in law witnessed me making pancakes and said, “Oh! That’s a good idea.” That’s almost always the reaction I hope one of my blog posts gets.

Simply put… I use a cookie scoop.

I make pancakes for the kids at least once a week so I use the buttermilk pancake mix (just add water?! I have water!) and mini chocolate chips, I get both at Aldi.

Side note on mixes and shortcuts… I recently heard someone say, “If you can get at least 80% of the taste for only 20% of the work or less… so worth it.” I also think that the best product you can buy is the one that causes you to USE it.

Anyway…

When making chocolate chip pancakes, mix in your chips. It helps them go throughout your pancake and doesn’t waste so much chocolate to pan melt that happens if instead you sprinkle on chocolate chips then flip.

I use a pan. I have a griddle, I just rarely dig it out of my cabinet. Once again, the best product is usable

They’re pretty and uniform. Only problem… my kids refused Grandma’s because her pancakes weren’t this small. Sorry Grandma. My shortcut spoiled them.

Cheesecake (The Best 5 Ingredient Dessert)

I am still using the same recipe I first learned in FACS class in high school. Thanks Mrs. Carr! I’ve refined my method and made some fun variations over the years (16!). Homemade cheesecake has great wow factor no matter how simple it is. If you make a cheesecake like one of these and bring it to any event, you will be asked, “Did you make this?” And, “It’s the kind of cheesecake you bake?!”

Yep. And soooo much tastier than any no-bake cheesecake.

The five ingredients…

1. Graham pie crust… I most often buy my crust. This one will be a chocolate and vanilla swirl cheesecake and I had a coupon for Keebler, so I opted for the chocolate graham crust.

2. Eggs

3. Sugar

4. Cream cheese

5. Vanilla

That’s it.

Variations…

Chocolate cheesecake… Add 1/4 c cocoa powder AND 3 oz melted chocolate (semi sweet chips or Dark or bakers depending on your own taste and what you have)

Key lime… Add 1/3 c lime juice and grated lime zest if you have some (preferably Nellie and Joe’s key lime juice, and preferably eat it with the ocean in sight… ahhh)

Peanut butter… Add 1/2 c creamy peanut butter or to taste.

Back to it…

Directions

Cream 2 8 oz packages of cream cheese (softened… like on the counter for hours softened) and 1/2 cup of sugar until well blended, scraping the bowl if necessary (it’s always necessary).

Add 2 eggs one at a time and blend until smooth, scraping the bowl if necessary (always scrape the bowl!)

Add 1 tsp of vanilla and blend.

Voila… vanilla cheesecake/base for all my cheesecakes

Add any variation ingredients or keep it vanilla, pour into graham crust. Place on a half sheet pan and put into preheated 350 degree oven.

Pour warm water in sheet pan for a water bath. (Helps the cheesecake bake evenly)

Bake for 45 minutes then check every 5 minutes. Try not to open the oven during the baking time. You want the top completely set but without brown spots or cracking. (Though when this happens it still tastes very good.) It may jiggle a little.

When done, cool cheesecake completely on a wire rack, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Cut in 8 slices and serve.

The one I made today was a vanilla and chocolate swirl. I eyeballed 1/2 vanilla cheesecake and put it in the crust.

Then I added 2 Tablespoons cocoa and 2 oz melted dark chocolate to the mixer.

Then I spooned the chocolate in dollops on the vanilla and swirled with an offset spatula.

Submerge your knife blade in hot water between slices to help make clean cuts.

My swirl method needs work, but I’m not turning down this slice and I bet you wouldn’t either.

Open-toe Ready

Someone I considered very fashionable once said, “Never show your toes without some polish on them.” I have pretty much abided by that ever since (does that make me a slave to fashion?) So, after giving my toes the winter off, it’s time to get them show ready.

My friend Jenny in college French tipped her toes. The first time I watched in awe as she did it in the passenger seat of a moving 15 passenger van. She didn’t even use guides.

I have them, but now I never use them either. It’s not that I’ve gotten any better at it, it’s that your toes are so far from people’s eyes, no one can really tell how wobbly your white tip is up close.

The French tip is great if you want to coordinate your outfit to your polish. White tips go with everything.

I usually do white then the pinkish then clear.

Then…

When your polish is wearing and starts to chip, no need to redo it all…

I seriously keep the white in my cosmetic bag, right with my tweezers, for touch ups. Camping, beach vacation, just the daily rush… my tips keep getting a fresh coat until I have the time to do them from scratch.

If you paint them Spring will come?

Meat Portioning

I don’t always buy a lot of meat, especially before we’re going on vacation. But when Fresh Thyme opens a store near me and sells chicken and beef for waaay cheaper than usual, it’s worth it to stock my freezer.

I do this with all the meat I buy, so it was especially good to share when I had a lot to portion out.

All I do is separate portions with fold and seal sandwich bags, you know, the ones you buy by accident when you forget to double check if it’s a zipper top.

For chicken.. each breast and every one or two thighs are in their own fold and seal sandwich bag, then put in a freezer bag. This way I can thaw only what I need at a time.

But for ground meat, I weigh my portions. I go for 8 ounces in each sandwich bag then put them in a freezer bag. I love this scale. I zero out my meat then subtract my portions as I bag them.

Now my freezer is stocked and I can thaw what I need meal by meal.

I keep a pan in my fridge to prevent cross contamination as I thaw.

That frozen chicken’s gonna take a while.

A Crumby Deal

My kids and I have texture purity preferences. I like my orange juice pulp free, and we like our Cheerios “dust free.” (Cheerio dust was a term my daughter called what happened at the bottom of a Cheerio bag.)

I was even reaching my hand in to the bag for the last bowl of mini wheats, trying to grab the last biscuits free from loose fiber bitsies.

Yes, I’ve clearly got a problem and have thought too much about this, but the results are worth it…

Cheerios…

Dust removed.

Bottom of the pretzel bag…

Less salt!

Mini Wheats…

Look at all those bitsies. To the texturally-sensitive eater this is a rough bowl of cereal.

Shake, shake… now it’s as nice as the first bowl after opening.

This delicious crumb-less bowl of cereal brought to you by…

The plastic colander you already have.