Saturday, May 05, 2018

Living the Pantry Lifestyle - Adjusting to warmer weather cooking

We temporarily went from below normal to way above normal temperatures this week.  Thankfully, the immediate forecast looks a little more like it should for early May but the hot weather reminded me it is time to change my menus.

With just the two of us, I no longer make a written menu list for the week but I do some adjustments to my beginning-of-the-month big food shopping trips.  Specifically, purchasing less food that requires the oven and more that can be made either stove top or no cooking involved at all.

I do still make some cold weather dishes like chili, to be served on a cool-ish day and then the rest of it frozen to be reheated and served over "baked" (as in the microwave) potatoes later.  Some veggies like beets* are roasted in the morning and then prepared for serving later either cold or at room temperature.  Baking is also (mostly) accomplished in the mornings when necessary.

Since my kitchen and family room are kind of one big room, anytime the oven is on makes that side of our ranch style house very hot.  Which is quite cozy in January but no so much in July.

So... while doing my first warm weather shopping yesterday (and taking so long my husband thought something had happened to me... and he rarely worries about me), I took my time to look at all the produce, canned goods, frozen items, etc.

I bought split chicken breasts this month as they were $1.19 a pound.  Each family size package had four large split chicken breasts and I put two of them each in four plastic bags.  Each of these packages but one was slipped into Ziploc bags for extra protection that I keep in the freezer and reuse.  The fourth went into a shallow pan on a shelf in the refrigerator to use this weekend.  I put all meat in a bowl or pan to protect the refrigerator shelves from leaks.

I already had a package of chicken thighs and a package of deboned chicken breast, in the freezer left from last month.  If I see a very good price on deboned chicken breasts, I may buy one family size package and divide it up for the freezer.  I buy what is on sale each month and only pay full price for the Aldi's organic ground beef.

I have found frozen veggies to be budget friendly as well as healthy for two of us.  Well, except for the two small boxes of stuffed jalapenos I allow myself each month for a treat.  When Christopher lived at home, I would buy a large box once in awhile to enjoy when we watched a movie.  Neither my husband nor my daughter-in-law will go near them so making them from scratch is not worth the effort.

I love the Birds Eye frozen rice, especially mixing a package of their "long grain rice with veggies" with a package of their brown rice. Where I live, Meijers has the cheapest everyday price on them by quite a bit. I saute' them defrosted (or microwaved per instructions) in either a mix of a little olive oil and butter or in the skillet where I have fried chicken but poured out most of the oil.  It makes for an easy fried rice dish (although I also just microwave one package at times for a simple side dish).

Since I have to use organic ground beef most of the time for my husband, I only buy four packages each month (usually making one ground beef dish a week).  I couldn't afford it except Aldi's has a great price, they are always sold out if I don't get there early enough and I buy four at the beginning of the month for the freezer.

I tend to pan fry more fish in warm weather. Also from Aldi's, I buy one large package of their frozen tilapia fillets and one regular package of their frozen salmon fillets for the month. Each fillet is individually wrapped so I take out just what I  need for a meal and let them sit (still shrink wrapped) in cold water until thawed. 

Usually it takes 15-30 minutes for four fillets to defrost. I also cut the tilapia fillets in half vertically (their is a natural place to cut usually) and then lightly bread them.  By doing this, two fillets become four smaller pieces for each of us and that is plenty of protein.

I serve tacos more in the summer and I am loving the fairly new Mission brand Extra Fluffy tortillas.  They are taco size and thick enough to pack with everything we like in a taco.  The first time I used them, my husband asked me never to go back to the thinner tortillas or hard tacos.  I'd say they were a hit. 

Summer is when I tend to make spaghetti more using either a favorite brand of marinara sauce that I sometimes mix with a can of chopped tomatoes.  I am not going to stir homemade sauce on the stove for hours on humid days.

My new-ish favorite go-to spaghetti is the Barilla brand thick spaghetti. I don't know if it has been around for a long time and I just missed it or if it is new but after trying it, I have only bought the thick spaghetti and orzo for my pasta picks.  With limited cabinet space, concentrating on these two helps although in the summer I also will buy rotini for when I make my favorite pasta salad (pasta raises blood sugar quickly so it has to be limited).

The thick spaghetti when cooked reminds me of a cross between spaghetti and a noodle so I've even used the thick spaghetti in dishes that call for noodles (when I was out of my favorite Essenhaus brand of dried noodles) with great success.  I love to find budget friendly products that make cooking easier.

I tried a couple new-to-me cheeses from Aldi's this week. Their Happy Farms brand is so reasonable.  My go-to meal in hot weather when the kids were home was cheese, fruit, sliced summer sausage, and Triscuits (or another cracker) and it still is a favorite.  Although these days I may double the fruit and not add the summer sausage.

One of the things I enjoy doing in a change of seasons is to go through my favorite cookbooks to look for seasonable recipes to try.  Just a few perhaps but warm weather cooking is where I really need inspiration.

I'll be back next with with an update on my pantry and cupboard organization project for the new season, too.

*My husband hated beets, absolutely despised them.  So I never bought them even though they were very nutritious.  I started seeing on cooking shows how some cooks were now roasting them and I tried that.  I can't say they are now his favorite veggie but he likes them enough to eat them.

I individually wrap large beets in aluminum foil and roast in a pan.  Smaller beets will go in a pan with sides that is covered with foil to be roasted.  Beets can really stain so I try to be extra careful. I like to bring them to room temperature, then peel them, and store in a bowl in the refrigerator until ready to serve in hot weather.

Note:  I love pre-cut parchment paper to line baking sheets and use it all the time to help with clean up.  It is truly one of those items that make my life so much easier, without the frustrations of flattening out parchment paper from the roller. When I am tired in the evening, easy is good.

Mentioned in this Post
I use:
12 x 18" parchment baking sheets for oven roasting... here.
9" round parchment baking sheets for cakes... here.

I bought as a gift for my daughter:
12 x 18" unbleached parchment baking sheets... here.

Disclaimer:  Most links to are Associate links.


The Journey said...

Beets are excellent for your blood pressure. A couple of summers I cooked in convection oven on patio but it died. So these are great suggestions.

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I love to do grilled chicken salads, BLTs, tacos or fajitas for warm weather cooking. Also a sugar free ice cream Dinner is tasty!

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I love to do grilled chicken salads, BLTs, tacos or fajitas for warm weather cooking. Also a sugar free ice cream Dinner is tasty!

Unknown said...

Oh ! the beet information reminded me of a favorite cold beet salad I used to make years ago , and forgot about , I think it had sliced oranges and thin red onion slices , and some kind of crumbled cheese , it made the beets very tasty ,tangy , not vinegary I can't remember the dressing ,probably fruity , anyway I am going to look for it as I change my menu too in the summer .

Anonymous said...

My husband and I don't care for the raw taste of straight-out-of-the-bag tortillas so I've taken to charring them a bit by laying them on an oven grate over an open flame on low. It could probably be done in a pan too, but I like the quick work of doing it directly over the flame. They have to be watched because they do char quickly but I usually turn them a quarter turn every 15 seconds or so and they get nicely done. Adds a nice smoky flavor to the tacos too :)

Thank you for the links for the parchment paper singles, very helpful!

tealady said...

I had to chuckle to myself because my hubby and I both love the what we call peasant dinners, cut up fruit, veggies, sausage, and crackers and add pickle, olives and any other finger food items we can find.

Anonymous said...

We like the Costco brand canned chicken. Over a salad it makes a nice easy supper in July.

Mama Squirrel said...

We like Barilla brand pasta too--I have packages of their rotini and spaghettoni in the pantry.

My husband likes a certain brand of frozen meatballs in tomato sauce, which according to the package is supposed to be baked for an hour in the oven. We've found it cooks just as well in a covered pan on the stovetop. It makes a good meal for the two of us, plus lunch leftovers.

We have also started buying pre-mixed salad sometimes, the bags that have kale and other "power foods" chopped into them, just for variety.