Thursday, February 11, 2016

Good Cooking?

Once upon a time I was enormously organized in the kitchen. I could easily write a shopping list based on a menu that I quickly wrote based off of favorite recipes that I could easily find. Our menu actually varied with favorites and new recipes.

Then somehow my reading frugality books sort of short circuited my organization. I started cooking more from the pantry based on whatever inexpensive items I could find at the store to whittle down our budget. Also I started cooking more from scratch in an effort to be more frugal and more healthy. Then I got  busy with homeschooling.  Very busy.

For some reason now when I sit to do my menu now, I can't make up my mind. I'm usually in a hurry. I can't find recipes. I usually tally how many meals I need to plan for then shop for whatever main ingredients that are on sale that I can cook, with no complete menu in mind. That isn't as frugal as it could be. I'd like to be more frugal and more organized and more efficient with my time.

When it's time to cook I usually look at my time, pull out some meat to thaw, and then I look through cookbooks. I might find something fun to cook, but I don't have all the ingredients I need. Sometimes I run to the local store to buy the lacking ingredients, but most often I devise my own recipe based on the original with only the ingredients that I have available. The latter approach, which I resort to most often, reminds me of Chopped! on Food Network. Every meal is like opening a Chopped! basket to see how creative I can get with the ingredients I have on hand.

I'd actually like to be more purposeful than that. However whenever I plan a specific menu, it usually fails. On the days that I plan to cook a meal that requires long cooking, the days end up falling on days when I have little cooking time, so I end up changing the menu plan, and eventually the entire menu for the week falls apart.

In the summer I often plan  meals that I cook on the grill...which doesn't work so well when we get the typical summer afternoon thunderstorm. It's just not the same to cook indoors. I try to have plan A and plan B ready, one for grilling and one for kitchen cooking. 

Sometimes the creativity that I make is pretty good, but I forget to write it down. So the flavors are forever lost. Then the family laments.

In the end, cooking hasn't been as fun as it used to be. Yet it's the one activity I do each day that perhaps benefits the family, and budget, the most.

Wow! I didn't really expect to write all that out. It all seems so silly. Yet my cooking is quite haphazard. I'd like it to be more purposeful, even when I need to be flexible.

Along with all those goals, I'd also like to learn more about the cooking process. Over the years I've collected Alton Brown cookbooks! I never even heard of him until one night when I stumbled upon his imaginative tv show, Good Eats. Sadly, the show canceled a few months later.  At least I have his books, and they are funny! And informative! I've flipped through them. I've read through them. Now I want to seriously study and learn from them. How many times have I gotten stuck with a poor skill set in the kitchen? Also, how much more creative could my Chopped! baskets pantry become if I had a few scientific food facts in my repertoire?

Another goal is to write out new favorite recipes that are lost in all these cookbooks I've purchased at the used bookstore onto recipe cards. Many times I've wanted to make something but I don't remember where the recipe came from.


I've got to renew a habit I used to do. In the evenings, before my heavy duty sewing days, I used to peruse cookbooks on a regular basis. Then on a notecard I jotted down the names of intriguing recipes I wanted to try, with the page number. Then when I was menu planning, I could merely glance at the cards to see what I was in the mood for, or even what might fit a certain season or holiday. Now my evening tv time is usually spent hand sewing or blogging or reading/researching, so my plan is to be more diligent when I eat breakfast or lunch. It's usually a quiet time for me, with everyone else busy with work or college. I often flip through the cookbooks and drool over yummy looking stuff...but now I need to update these cards for future reference. Also I want to review them more often, so I remember what I want to do when I want to do it.


A habit I've fairly well kept up with is organizing magazine clipped recipes.


Once recipes are clipped from magazines or printed from on-line, I organize them in categories, including one for "to type"...the yellow tab in front...where I couldn't make up my mind! In the front I store the recipes waiting to be categorized.


Eventually they will be either handwritten on a notecard or typed...via a computer program. Years ago, when I was super organized, I used MasterCook. I think my copy is obsolete now. Anyway I found this box at a gift shop in Gruene, Texas and bought it specifically for my recipes.


I color coded with my various index cards by food type: carbs, protein, dessert, fruits and veggies.


So that's a tour of my kitchen. I might share some of the results as I make progress!

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