Officially, autumn arrived last Wednesday! It still does not feel like it in our area, there are not very many trees around that the leaves change color, the days are still in the high 90s while the nights continue to be in the mid 70s, and as usual we need rain.
Last weekend was an awesome one for me, my daughters came to visit and we had a wonderful time helping one of them celebrate her birthday, we did a little shopping, with lots of eating and visiting thrown in for fun. We did crafts and had a wonderful time in general! When they left, my entire house was neat and clean, dishes and beds were done, everything was back in order and they left me with enough food for several meals, such precious awesome ladies, I was left feeling so loved and pampered, and I hope our birthday girl felt the same way! It was a fun time for all of us.
Did you know it is helpful to store cornmeal, flour, pasta and rice in the freezer for at least several days as freezing kills the germ that causes weevils to destroy your pantry? Also a couple of bay leaves in any of those items, once you put them in your pantry, will help keep weevils out.
Here are a few tips on how to be sure the food you are buying is fresh and the proper length of time to store various foods in your pantry.
First and foremost, when buying canned foods, be sure you do not purchase any cans that are bulged or badly dented and make sure they are not past the expiration date printed on the bottom of the can. If you purchase food packed in glass jars, check the expiration date, usually found either on the rim of the lid or on the jar itself.
Baking powder and baking soda will keep for 18 months and needs to be kept in an airtight container after opening. I store baking soda in a glass jar with the label taped to the outside of the jar, but baking powder can be kept in the can in which it is purchased. However, I have found over time that storing baking powder upside down on the shelf and to shake the contents before using. This is something Mother taught me that they did in the school lunchrooms where she worked. It truly seems to help.
Cake mixes have a shelf life of one year, as do bouillon cubes and granules, baking chocolate, coconut, pudding mixes, dried herbs, jams and jellies, olive oil, vegetable oil, and most syrups. Honey does not truly have an expiration date. If it turns to sugar, you simply place it in a pot of hot water and simmer until it liquefies. Molasses usually has a shelf life of two years or more. All-purpose flour has a shelf life of 15 months, but keeping it in the freezer lengthens this. Also, it should be stored either in the fridge or freezer in really hot weather. Check the date on any boxed baking mix and try to use them before the expiration date. If you use them after this date, they may not rise as they should. Also, they are prone to weevils and storing them in the freezer for a couple of days after purchase will help.
Granulated sugar will keep for two years and will still be good.
White rice is almost the only food with an indefinite shelf life as long as you keep it in a cool, dry place in an airtight container. However, I have had a couple of occasions where weevils were in my rice and had to be tossed. Since then, there are always a couple of bay leaves in with the rice.
Commercial salad dressings need to be refrigerated after opening and can be used safely for about six months or until the expiration date on the bottle. This is another item where it is best to check the date before purchasing. I have purchased pourable dressings only to get them home and find they were expired for months but hadn’t been removed from the shelves. This probably happens more frequently in small towns than it does in large cities, but it can happen anywhere!
Here are a couple of simple, no-bake snack bars. Both are delicious and so easy the children can help you make them, but be sure to monitor them carefully when the syrup has to coo.
4 cups crisp rice cereal (i.e. Rice Krispies-type cereal)
5 cups corn flakes
1 cup salted peanuts (either type, dry roasted or regular)
1 can Angel flake coconut
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup half-and-half cream
Lightly grease a 15×10 and set aside. Combine cereals, peanuts, and coconut in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine syrup, sugar, butter, and cream; cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture reaches soft-ball stage (240 degrees F on a candy thermometer), about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over cereal mixture, toss to coat evenly. Pat into greased pan. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen depending on size cut.
1 cup margarine (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups crunchy peanut butter
12-oz. package chocolate chips
1 box Crispix cereal*
1 box (1 lb.) powdered sugar
Place cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
Melt margarine, peanut butter, and chips together; pour over cereal to coat well. Allow to cool in bowl for 15 to 20 minutes. Pour cereal into a large brown paper bag, or, if your bowl is large enough and has a tight-fitting lid, add the powdered sugar, cover, and shake to coat all pieces well. Remove from bag or bowl into a clean container and it’s ready to serve.
*Bite-sized shredded wheat or any Chex brand cereal can be used, either alone or in combination.