Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Food Adventures - The Plan

Hello, good and faithful reader.

I have a plan.

A food plan.

A two week, eating well on a budget plan--just to see how well it will work.

And I'm super excited.

In my [somewhat limited] cooking experience, it's incredibly challenging to have something fresh, healthy, tasty, and fast.  You must sacrifice one of the 4 (at least).  I've historically sacrificed one of the first 3 far more than the speedy element, and I've been a bit convicted by that lately.  I mean, I KNOW that I'm going to be hungry later.  I KNOW that I'm going to want something fresh, healthy, tasty, and fast.  It shouldn't come as a surprise to me when, three times a day (at least), I become hungry, and yet it does!  I find myself so often unprepared for that moment!

So now that I have the space, the will, and the foresight, I'm trying out a meal plan that will stretch my culinary skills and fuel my body with fresh, delicious food.

Back story: one of the things that I was (am) most excited about concerning the move into a single apartment is the full dominance of a kitchen all my own.  I enjoy cooking.  Stems back to living with Sarah, who, upon hearing that I'd had a rough day, would don an apron, miraculously throw dinner on the stove AND some chocolate baked good in the oven within 15 minutes, and play with my hair while waiting on food magic to finish.  She's so maternal that it's contagious.  I was inspired to be domestic!  I wanted to learn to cook fun things--I knew what I liked to eat at other places, and that was the first kitchen I'd had to play in since I lived at home (and everybody knows that home kitchen is Mama's Domain--unless your dad's the cooking one in the fam fam).  And so commenced cooking lessons with Sarah: salmon and orzo, whole wheat pancakes, butternut squash bundt cake, double chocolate rum cake (be still, my beating heart) and much much more.

Sarah and I had one difference: style of cleanliness.  She was not a dirty roommate.  I just happen to be a little neurotic about hygiene.  See, I've historically been stupidly terrified of throwing up.  Vom-vom is not my thing, ok?  So I know nearly every cleanliness, hygiene, bacteria clean-up rule in the book.  And precisely how violating that rule will KILL YOU, and if not kill you, make you vom-vom, which is worse.

So, basically, only my mother is sufficiently clean for me.  She knows all the cleanliness rules, too.  And my dad rolls his eyes at her as she lysols the kitchen counter just like Sarah rolled her eyes at me.  Just like Jared does even today.

But today, I can lovingly say, "Jared, if you don't like the cleanliness standards of this kitchen, you can sit in the living room, cuz this is MY KITCHEN, SIR!"

And it's the first time I've been able to say something like that!

But back to the food adventures.

So I went to India, right?  Camebackmovedjumpedbackintoworkhitthegroundrunning.  Haven't really had time to think about cooking anything, except some lemon rosemary garlic chicken last Sunday, which was an epic success, if I do say so myself.  Cooking that very meal inspired me.  It was time to go grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping... with a plan.

I went to Sprouts, a sort of commercial farmers market (isn't that contradictory?...), and left with a backseat FULL of food to last me for at least a week (maybe 2), and for only $35.  I got navy beans, pine nuts, yogurt, dry yeast, olive oil, pasta, bay leaves, broccoli, squash, celery, salad (curly endive lettuce), garlic, parsley, kale, carrots, onions, mushrooms, bell pepper, and bananas.  ALL FOR $35, YALL.  Now, argue with me that you can't be healthy and frugal all at once.

You can't be healthy, frugal, and impatient all at once.  But if you plan ahead, just a little bit, and are willing to experiment, just a little bit, you'd be crazy surprised.

On the menu for this week (all food this week will be consumed within my $50 limit, which means after grocery shopping, I still have $15 if I need to do a little more shopping):

-Herb bread
-Curly endive salad with homemade vinaigrette
-Aioli, also homemade
-Fall minestrone soup with kale and butternut squash
-Pasta with oil, garlic, and herbs
-Roasted vegetables (carrots, onions, new potatoes, butternut squash, broccoli, mushrooms)

On the menu NEXT week (with a $30 limit because many of these ingredients will already be here!):

-More herb bread
-More salad (I want to learn to really enjoy a good salad)
-Polenta torta
-Homemade pesto sauce
-Pizza using said sauce
-Pasta using said sauce
-1,2,3,4 Cake (kinda my "reward")

Basically, the plan is to make one BIG challenging thing a week using fresh seasonal veggies (week 1 is the minestrone soup, week 2 is the polenta torta).  The game plan is to freeze half of the soup and half of the torta to whip out later (like, in a few weeks) when I'm in need of a quick tasty meal, and use the others as take-along lunches or "oh look!  Leftovers!" for dinner this week.  The other things on the menu are either things I've made before, so I'm comfortable with whipping them out, or they're so easy to make it should be illegal.

I'm not the most adventurous cooker ever, so I'll be blogging about all this, complete with pictures (if I can figure out how to grow another arm to take pictures while cooking...), and, yall, if I can do it, you can too.  I'll let you know what's easy, what works, and what doesn't.  And if you're in town, come cook with me :)  it's always more fun to cook with company.

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