Cleaning Out the Pantry

Because the temperature dropped so low last night and I had the windows open, my well-insulated log home took in all that cold air so when I shut the windows, it stayed in the low 60s all day. Therefore, I took the oppurtunity to boil the bones of a roast for stock. In folk wisdom, rich chicken broth — the famous Jewish penicillin — is a valued remedy for the flu. Modern research has confirmed that broth helps prevent and mitigate infectious diseases (Nourishing Traditions). Experimenting on my own family, I’ve discovered that the closer I get to Grandma’s way of doing things, the longer sickness stays away from my home. I began using gelatin-rich broth for health puposes for my family. Now, I can taste the difference. No wonder French chefs believe that stock is the basis for all great cooking. How could I have ever used those nasty little cubes? Ugggh!

I also made pumpkin pudding (see recipe below). Of course, I realize that this is completely the wrong season for such recipes, but … I’m cleaning out my pantry and using all my creative skills to eliminate every can, sack, box, and tin from my cupboards. It’s funny how a shift in thinking can turn a difficulty into an interesting game. I’m out of money and I have two weeks to go before Paul returns with any. I’m also waiting to be kicked out of my house. The more I consume, the less I pack. But instead of bemoaning the fact, I find the challenge interesting. How can I use five cans of a variety of vegetables in one recipe? Hobo stew, maybe? But I’m out of tomatoes. A chowder? What about …?

Thus, when I yanked out a massive pork roast and plopped it in the crockpot to cook for hours, I had none of the usual ingredients to complete it.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

I took the bottle of Raspberry Chipotle Sauce that’s been in the fridge forever and dumped the entire contents over the roast. MMMmmmm. After a night of cooking, the meat fell off the bone in yummy raspberry sweet-hot perfection. Chopped up, we placed the pieces in fried corn tortillas, topped with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, chipotle peppers and sour cream. I was missing the cold beer and lime that would have perfectly complimented the meal. Red wine didn’t quite cut it. But that is the price you pay when cleaning out the pantry. You end up eating pumpkin pudding in the summer, cooking pork roasts all night, and eating tacos without beer. Tomorrow … pulled pork sandwiches.

I got a call from a reader of my blog. I finally met her for lunch last week and enjoyed her company so much. She called to encourage me. She is also going through the painful process of losing her house. “We’re packing up, too,” she said, “and it just … sucks.” Yep. My feelings exactly.

I love getting responses from different readers. I had a wonderful lunch with a mom who struggled with the school system. I’ve had people identify with being unemployed, having a husband be unemployed, trying to balance a large family and being frustrated with things falling out the van door everytime you open it, longing to be home with kids. I’ve talked with frazzled homeschool moms, working people who hate their job, people who want to follow their dreams, people who want to escape it all and travel, etc.

That’s been one of the nicest perks about writing (other than getting invited to Cabo) — learning that I’m not the only one, that I’m not alone, that these struggles are shared by others. It relieves me a great deal, somehow. I sometimes beat myself up. You built the house too big. You shouldn’t have built in the middle of friggin’ nowhere. You shouldn’t have been so proud and built so slow and careful and green. You should have …, you shouldn’t have …, you should have …

But what’s the point? Given all the information I had, I don’t know if I would have chosen any different. Who knew that bubble would pop? I had no access to the inside scoop. I was just a little homeschool mom up in the Ochoco Mountains whose brother usually called me to let me know that we were at war.

So … now I’m learning lessons that Grandma has always known. 1) don’t borrow 2) pay with cash 3) build the smallest house in the best part of town 4) save for an emergency 5) save for the future

Also, a lesson I’ve learned from cleaning out the pantry — it’s amazing how much money I save by not going anywhere! I read a book a long time ago called Your Money Or Your Life. You’re supposed to add up the cost of childcare, clothes, upkeep of your looks (makeup and hair), and gas and figure out your real hourly wage. As a teacher, I did that and … with multiple kids in daycare, I would have made something like … $1 an hour. I wonder if this recession is going to make us smarter — moving closer to our work, cooking from scratch, growing our own gardens, raising our own chickens, working together within communities to meet each other’s needs, trading, simplifying. I wonder if the creativity mustered for confronting this recession might lead us into living better lives. Hmmm… sounds like a good tagline: How the Recession Rescued Me From Living the Life I Never Wanted.

Patty’s Pumpkin Pudding (Superfoods Rx) – using my mixer, I put these ingredients into the bowl from the bottom up. I’m giving you a double batch version. Use the biggest baking dish you have – 10×13.

1 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cloves, 4 lg. eggs, 1 30 oz. can pumpkin, 2 15 oz. cans of evaporated milk.

Mix together and pour into baking dish. Bake in a 350 oven for 40 minutes. Serve with fresh whipped cream or plain with a glass of milk in a jelly jar. Enjoy!


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