Thursday, January 7, 2010

Food, Glorious Food

One of my priorities this year (and really over the last few months) has been to stay on top of meals for my family. This means not only providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for everyone. But also providing nutritious meals with a variety of foods; providing lunches for us to take to work so we aren’t buying food out, and also managing our household food budget. (Some of my other goals are to get rid of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, white sugar and white flour, and have myself follow a more gluten-free diet).This list has me spinning – so I just keep reminding myself “baby steps.”

This means every morning I have to get up early to: prepare breakfast and lunch, and start on that day’s dinner if needed before I head off to work. Or at least that is the goal. And some days, like today, it doesn’t all get done. It takes a substantial amount of time and I hope to become more efficient at it in the future.

But I’ve been running out of ideas for meals, lunches, etc. So, this week I took out a cookbook by Jacques Pepin. At one point last year, Thomas brought me some of his recipes and said he would be willing to try anything he makes. Stunned, I scanned through the recipes --- onions, mushrooms, eggplant were all common and these are foods he prefers not to eat. Of course, I relished the idea of eating more of these foods that I like and never use anymore. So, I looked closer at them, but really didn’t do too much with them. We made a recipe here or there.
Until this week. I took down from our shelf a book we picked up by him at the used bookstore and LOVE it. Thomas has managed to stock our kitchen with about 5 cookbooks by Pepin and honestly I haven’t gotten around to reading them all. So, I was surprised to find one this week titled The Short-Cut Cook: Make Simple Meals with Surprisingly Little Effort. Everything is simple, easy, quick, and made with things on hand. Almost every page has a recipe I would love to try. And many of these recipes I already had ingredients for.

Yesterday, I dove in full force. I made sure I had the key herbs he uses in stock – swinging by the organic co-op and picking up bulk herbs which are so much less expensive than buying a bottle at the grocery store. And also picking up the 1 ingredient I seemed to need for each of the recipes I wanted to tackle over the next week.

And as a side note, I also picked up an 8lb ham, 4lbs ground beef, 6.5 lbs of ribeyes, 5.5 lbs pork loin chops, and 10 lbs of sausage for just $61. I was very happy to find meat on sale yesterday (not at our organic co-op). In case you are curious, that is just $1.79 per pound on average.

I made a few of the recipes earlier this week. But to my surprise, I made 4 recipes from the book in the last day or so. And it was not difficult because everything is really so simple, and the prep time for many of the recipes is minor. So over about a 25 hour period I made: Ham and Bean Soup, Banana Bread, a Blueberry Tart, and an Egg and Cheese Soufflé.

I absolutely loved the soup – I used left over kidney beans I had cooked a few days ago, with a small chunk of ham I just purchased and loved the overall flavor. Plus, I got to try a new hand blender that I got for Christmas – it was so smooth and mashed the beans up more quickly than imagined possible. And cleaned up fast. The soup was a breeze – I spent maybe 5 minutes or less on prep time, 10 minutes cooking it – and it was done. Easy enough for any rushed dinner after a day of work! Which is what I need.

I would also like to note here the soup was not that appealing in looks – nothing like mashed kidney beans to peak your interest. And the children were very wary about trying it. We snuck a bite to Jasper and that was all he needed to eat his small bowl. And at the end of the meal I bribed Petra into tasting it by letting her sit in my lap (a small price to pay)–she loved it and ate about 2.5 small bowlfuls.

Another great addition to this week was the chicken stock I made on Sunday and have had at my disposal all week. This has made a huge difference in all the flavor of our food, plus we had a meal from the chicken…it takes such a little amount of time and money and the benefit has been so great that I hope to make it every week just for this purpose.

So really, I guess I want to say just how happy I was with all the recipes this week and how exciting it is to have a cookbook with such great and easy recipes. I’m not the only one excited. Thomas helped fill up some of our spice jars this morning and was also pronouncing his excitement over the new flavors.

We love good food, but seriously who doesn’t?

(You can find Jacques Pepin recipes and videos online here)

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