Mini Meal Upgrades

Taking advantage of a discount offer, we got a meal kit subscription for a few weeks recently. It was delicious, convenient, and a whole lot of fun. It also gave me a few little tweaks that will make a big difference as I make future meals on my own. Here they are (so I can remember and you can possibly benefit…):

  • Jazz things up with a new vegetable. I have now tried shallots and poblano pepper for the first time. They were delicious! I’m going to keep my eyes open for unfamiliar produce when I’m shopping (especially at the farmer’s market) now. If it’s a good week for creativity, I’ll get it and research what to do with it. I might like it…
  • Branch out with meat toppings. We eat a good amount of meat that is simply roasted with seasoning or a simple topping (like mayo and grated parmesan — the favorite). One meal had Swiss cheese and bacon on top of chicken. I’ve used cheddar and bacon often, but this combo was another kind of tasty. It will definitely be served again soon.
  • Roasted vegetables + dressing > Roasted vegetables. We love roasted veggies, but we LOVED roasted veggies tossed with a simple dressing of rice wine vinegar, honey, and olive oil just before serving. I do not care for, to put it politely, cooked carrots — but I kept and ate every last scrap of these. The steak was an also-ran.
  • You can do it. Most of the meals were quite simple with just a few ingredients. Now that I’ve done it once, it’s easy to get the stuff myself (or assemble what I usually have on hand) and make it again. Most meals will have an adjustment or two for our taste, but now I have more recipes in my rotation.

Bonus: Not related to the meal kits but something else I learned recently: Sour cream brings the flavor level of chicken soup up a notch or two. So yummy stirred into the bowl before eating!

Emergency Pantry Shelf

You know how you listen when your mother shares from her wealth of experience? Well, when she shares from her mother’s experience…you share with your friends. Here it is, in her own words. Enjoy!

I remember a hint from one of Mom’s books. In order to be prepared for unexpected company (or always ready to be hospitable), have an emergency shelf in your pantry. It’s a really good idea.The emergency pantry stash has a dual purpose.

  1. It has the makings of a simple but tasty meal that you could pull together with little warning and no trips to the store.  It would fill the need if you had unexpected company drop in at meal time or if you needed to quickly pull together a meal to share with someone in need.
  2. Secondarily, it ensures that there is always the makings for a full meal in your pantry, even if you have had some unexpected interruptions in your normal routine that might catch you needing to feed the family but not having some necessary ingredients.

For example, the emergency stash might contain a box or two of pasta and/or dry potatoes, a can or two of meat such as chicken or ham, a jar of pasta sauce, a couple cans of vegetables, a can of fruit, pickles, olives, canned milk, and a brownie mix. I always keep a box of Rice Krispies and marshmallows on hand. They make a simple, but quick, dessert or snack.Everything on the list has long enough shelf life to last a while.  None on this list are the sort which would cause you to call an emergency within a few days of stocking. I had a friend who always kept a box of assorted fancy cookies on hand. They went well with a cup of coffee or tea or as a dessert after the meal. I’d have an emergency a week if I had such a treat in my pantry! The idea for this emergency shelf came from (I think) Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book, which Mom had when I was in high school. At that time, convenience foods were unusual and the microwave oven had yet to be invented.  Being intentional about preparedness for hospitality was necessary in those pre-microwave days. Our challenges are different, but our need to be hospitable and prepared still remains.