Use It Up Challenge: A Tale of 4 Grains

-by Jamie

Well I'm just gonna go ahead and say it:  We sort of failed the "Use It Up" Challenge.  But only sort of.  I'll explain:

First, here's what I had in mind:  Tim and I were planning on using up all of the random stuff that we'd accumulated in our pantry by getting creative and looking up recipes, etc.  Then I was going to beautifully organize things with a plethora of decorative vessels.  What didn't occur to me when we chose this category to use up is that we had friends and family in town for the holidays, lots of holiday parties and pretty much never ended up eating dinner at home.  Oops :-)

Here's where it gets really embarrassing:

This is both the before and after picture of our pantry.  I know.  We are what I'd like to call "pantry shovers"; meaning ever since we moved into this house OVER A YEAR AGO we've been shoving our groceries into our cabinets, telling ourselves that we'll get around to organizing it all at some point.  Tim's random Asian ingredients ended up at the top where I can't reach...that's about as organized as we've gotten so far.

Now that our dirty secret is out of the way I would like to move on and discuss what I did get out of this challenge, which was actually a lot:

Tim and I both want to be healthier.  I recently had a doctors appointment during which I discussed with my doctor the fact that I have these huge spikes and dips in my hunger and energy levels and that I sometimes even get nauseous when I'm really hungry.  She said that this was probably due to my addiction to processed refined carbs aka my tendency to eat lots of baguettes and pasta.  She recommended that I try to not make those items such staples of my diet.

So, as you may notice, the only pasta left in our pantry is one box of lasagna noodles.  The question now was what do we cook instead?  That's where this challenge was hugely helpful.  While rummaging around I found all sorts of healthier grain options that I had either opened and tried once or, gasp, never even opened.  Here are some of the recipes we tried, with honest reviews on how they tasted:

1.  Rice (brown rice is of course ideal).  This one is obvi and I'm sure most people eat rice as part of their diet.  To go on top of the rice, for the "Use It Up" challenge I grabbed a pre-made curry boxed 'meal kit' and added to it sun-dried tomatoes, since I wanted to get those out of the pantry (an awful idea) as well as cabbage, tofu and fish sauce (a very good idea).  The consensus:  I will definitely continue to stock up on these sorts of ready made curry boxes as it was so easy.  We got a bunch at the Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet.  And I will never again add sun-dried tomatoes to it.


2.  Quinoa

We had four boxes of quinoa that we purchased once from the Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet because they were on sale for $3 each!!!  Then we tried it once and I didn't really like it.  The solution:  This recipe I got from pinterest:

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

It is sooooo good!  I won't exactly call this healthy cuz cheese but it is a great way to get veggies, protein and healthy carbs into the belly of Lil' P...she loved it.



3.  Millet

I'm gonna go ahead and say that millet as a stand alone is not so yummy.  But I have not given up on it!  I plan on trying to bake with it as well as use it in soup ...I think it will work better that way.  For millet I used this recipe:

Millet Bowl with Mushroom Gravy and Kale

While I find Millet blerg, I love love loved the gravy!!  I plan on making it again and putting it on top of a different grain.  Since I'm not vegan and because I was trying to use up what I had as opposed to go shopping, I made some substitutions/ changes to this recipe which I was happy with:

-I cooked the millet in vegetable broth. 

-I dissolved a chicken bullion cube into the gravy

-I also added Worcestershire sauce and dried parsley for some color

-I topped with Parmesean cheese!!!!!!!!


Oh man!  I'm not going to even bother with a recipe because I eat this stuff ALL THE TIME!  It is so good!  Follow the package instructions and cook it with broth instead of water and wow!!  Farro stands alone and can be used as a side dish for any, chicken, pork, you name it.  You can even make farro risotto (farroto).  Get you some Farro!!!!!


Ok well I think that's about it for this portion of the Use It Up Challenge but I'm not calling it quits.  I'd like to actually finish the challenge with Tim's help and use up a bunch more stuff in our pantry to make some space so that we can actually organize it.  We will of course keep you posted!!  Happy New Year!


P.S. don't forget to check out Ali's blog.  She'll be posting with what she did for the challenge tomorrow and I have a feeling it's going to be awesome

Good Little House