After much work, we finally convinced my mother that she needs to downsize and move from La Crosse County to Janesville to be closer to us. So we’ve spent the last couple of weekends sorting through closets and cupboards and finding all kinds of stuff that we needed to decide what to do with--like a full box of used wrapping paper (Mom was a recycler before it was fashionable) or my brother’s “blankie” that he carried around with him from the time he started walking until about the age of 17.
(That last sentence will prove to me whether or not he reads my blog. Yes, I’m an evil big sis.) He took his blankie home with him, incidentally.
In the back of my mind I knew, but until now, I didn’t really think about the fact that my mother has continued to shop for groceries as if she is feeding a family of seven. (Mom is a septuagenarian who gets full eating a small cup of soup or half of a sandwich for lunch. To say she doesn’t eat much is an understatement.) But for some reason she can’t resist the lure of canned goods on sale. Her cupboards and pantry were loaded with dozens and dozens of cans and jars; more than she could possibly use.
So while my sisters were going through her bathroom cupboards digging through 20 year old bottles of shampoo, or in the bedroom sorting through 40 years of accumulated shoes, I spent a large portion of my allotted organization time looking at faded expiration dates on tins and packages and sorting them into three piles--trash, food pantry or moving. The food pantry stuff alone filled two large cardboard boxes.
When I got home last weekend, I started thinking about my own pantry. How much stuff is in there that I don’t use; that I bought for a recipe or some idea which never came to fruition; or is expired? I’m pleased to report, not much. Everything in our modest pantry generally gets turned over within a couple months of purchase. I did find a jar of salsa which was set to expire which I pulled out for imminent consumption. I don’t know where it came from—I generally like to make salsa from scratch. (I’m guessing it was on sale. Genetics are a powerful thing.) But rather than just buy and consume a big ol’ bag of tortilla chips in order to use it up, I decided to pour it into a basic chicken soup, add some rice and voila, (or whatever the Spanish equivalent is), I have a Mexican Chicken Stew for dinner.
Which is great, because it’s Mom Moving Day, and I won’t feel like cooking.
What’s in your pantry that you need to use up? Do your parents/grandparents have a love of canned goods?
Mexican Chicken Stew
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1 inch dice
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 bay leaf
1 16-oz carton of reduced sodium chicken stock
1 jar of salsa, hot or mild to your taste
1 cup of uncooked white rice
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute the chicken in the olive oil in a heavy duty saucepan until brown. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside to reserve. Add the onion and carrot to the pan. Saute, scraping up the browned chicken bits and stirring often until the vegetables begin to soften. Add a bit of water if they are browning too quickly.
Add the chicken stock, salsa and the bayleaf and bring up to a boil. Add the rice then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the rice is tender, about 12-15 minutes. If you prefer a more soup like consistency at this point, add a bit of water.
Taste for seasoning and stir in the reserved chicken. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
Lisa Parsley is a Janesville native writes about food and cooking for Gazettextra.com. Lisa is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. Her opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.