discovering something new

At the moment, I think there is no more beautiful set of words than “organized pantry.”

For months, we’ve been dreaming of getting our act together. With all the traveling of this summer, everything in the house functioned on an emergency basis. Dishes done? Mostly. Rinsed, at least. Okay, time to leave for the airport. We keep a clean house but cluttered. We stumbled over toy cars and stuffed animals on the way to get the suitcase to pack again.

I’m so happy to be home for a good long while now.

Last week, we took everything down from the shelves in the kitchen, cleaned out all the drawers, threw away old food, and donated what we could to the thrift store and food bank. I love those days — you  know you’re doing good work as you scrub and sweep and pour oats into a big jar. Now, like a big sigh of relief, the kitchen is organized once again.

We have work to do, playing in the kitchen as we finish our cookbook. I don’t want any clutter standing in the way of our work.

(Ever notice how much mental energy cluttered spaces take up? “I’m going to get to that.” or “Damn it, that’s driving me crazy!” Right now, I’m just trying to purge the house of any space that make me grit my teeth when I walk through it. I like my brain cleared up for better thoughts.)

Besides, the great thing about having all the pantry ingredients in our house in one place, neatly displayed? We remember foods we had forgotten before.

The other day, I spotted a jar of this creamy brown rice cereal. Months before I had bought it on a whim, then it sat unopened in the back of  a crowded cabinet. As I was thinking about what to make for Sunday morning breakfast, Beatles playing and Lu and Danny dancing, I reached for the jar in front of me on the shelf. Brown rice cereal? Okay.

It’s pretty simple. Two cups of boiling hot water, a good pinch of salt, and a cup of this cereal. Stir, sort of paying attention but mostly listening to the music and laughing instead.

When it was thick and fully cooked, I spread out the cereal onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. (Maybe I would grease the parchment paper first next time.) And I let it cool.

(We three shared a pear while we waited. Oh, the juicy pears of autumn.)

When it had fully cooled, Lu and I grabbled little hunks of the sticky cereal, rolled them into balls in the palms of our hands, and flattened them into patties.

With a little ghee in a cast-iron skillet, some sizzle, and enough patience to let them cook until they formed a golden-brown crust on both sides, we were ready to eat.

I did a quick stir-fry with leftover chicken thighs, chanterelle mushrooms, and parsley and threw it on top.

Everything was eaten, happily, at the table, while I looked at the neat rows of jars in our pantry.


20 comments on “discovering something new

  1. Jenn Sutherland

    I agree – there is nothing more beautiful than a well organized pantry, closet or home…and I just planned to take a day off on Friday to do just that. Like you, I’ve been on the road for months and the house is feeling claustrophobic…I know with a full day to troubleshoot those pesky piles, I’ll feel the harmony of being at home return.

    I’ve never tried brown rice cereal, but now you’re making me want to give it a whirl! Thank you!

    1. shauna

      yep! My mom used to make cornmeal mush for me when I was a kid, so that was rattling around in my head when I made it too. We always ate with syrup, so the savory part was new. I think I like it better!

  2. Allison

    yes, clutter definitely makes me crazy… and we recently moved, while 7mnths pregnant… but finally I feel as if I’m getting some order to what I can now call “our home” and the results make me smile… and of course breathe with a sigh of relief!

  3. Pamela

    Oh my, that looks so delicious. A bit like frying polenta squares. The mushrooms in that photo look so delicious–I wish I could get really good, fresh mushrooms where I live!

  4. Niki

    There is not much more satisfying than the feeling of accomplishment I get when I finish a big cleaning and organizing project. If I could only remember that when I’m faced with a big mess (like the one that I’m putting off tackling as I leave this comment). The reward really is so much bigger than the energy expended to achieve it. And this gorgeous breakfast makes me hungry – thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Beth

    I do so love your writing. I also crave organized spaces, though find they only seem to stay that way when no one is in them. We really live in our house, and our life seems to scatter our belongings. The meal sounds wonderful, and the photo is gorgeous. That is one of my favorite ways to cook. What do we have, what can we make, what is filling and satisfying and nurturing, both for stomach and soul? Thanks for sharing.

  6. InTolerant Chef

    I love an organised pantry! I have clear containers so I always know what everything is, and my pantry and fridge shelves are labelled too. Such a nice feeling, no kitchen anarchy for me!

  7. Stephanie

    Know just what you mean. I’m needing to seriously dig in and focus, but also know that if I take care of a few things I’ll be able to do a better job of it. Over the weekend I: 1) washed windows inside and out (glorious light!) 2) cancelled the magazine subscriptions and returned the library books I don’t have time for 3) ruthlessly cleared clutter from counter and table tops.

  8. Barb H

    As a child my Mom would serve corn meal mush and scrapel. Usually with ample syrup, or a not so good imitation. That is when I discovered bologna sandwiches, and never touched scrapel ever again…

  9. Lorena I.

    Mmmmm It looks delicious, actually It’s making me hungry lol…. and I’m not going to say a word about cleaned and organised pantry, because mine looks like a jungle of jars, bags, bottles, boxes,…ok, dirt…… hmmmm I said I wouldn’t say a word….
    Love your blog!! kisses from Spain 🙂

  10. gluten free gift

    Think this is a great idea… hadn’t thought of using the brown rice cereal this way. I often make fried “patties” with leftover buckwheat or millet… however they require an egg to keep them held together (we know that you have given eggs the kibosh). A simple idea (my speed) – grazie ancora! Claudine

  11. AmandaonMaui

    I suggest It’s a program geared toward people who need help de-cluttering, but who also just need to get their home into a space that is not too chaotic to leave on a trip or to have someone over. It’s really for everyone. I know someone who works an 80 hour a week job outside of the home, and then has to do her own housekeeping. Her home is spotless. She follows the Flylady plan; as do I. The program is completely free, and you won’t regret it. Nobody ever has. She also has great plans for engaging your kids in keeping their rooms clean and uncluttered, and for getting their homework done on time too.

  12. Patti

    Brillant! I never would have thought to do something like that with the cereal. It sounds delicious.

    Thank you. Keep dancing!

  13. kathy_h

    Wow, I can’t qiute imagine sitting down to chicken thighs first thing in the morning but I guess that just shows my lack of imagination!! The way I like brown rice cereal is with some coconut in it—so delicious!

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