cooking

Tasty Noms

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Despite the lack of posting, Operation Plan Your Damn Menu has not fallen off the wagon. I got a little hung up on thinking I should try and take nice, artful photos of my cooking—but let's be honest. That requires taking photos while the food gets cold, then eventually digging out the camera cord, firing up photoshop for the inevitable touch-ups, blah blah yada. Then I thought maybe I should do something fun like illustrate the recipes I cook. And then I thought, "Maybe I should just try and keep this blog alive with a post at least every other month," so here you have the glamorous iPhone shot of last night's dinner in the Cuisinart.

There have been some amazing and some just okay recipes that I have cooked in the last two months. Last night's beet pesto was amazing. That's probably due to all of the olive oil and parmesan cheese that's in it, but I digress. As a person whose only prior experience with beets consists of a seared-in memory of rubbery red discs served at the Merrie Moppets preschool I attended in 1986, I did not have high hopes for ever enjoying beets. The husband swore that they were delicious, so we tried this recipe. We couldn't find golden beets, but we made it anyway. It wasn't bad, though it was a little too "roughage heavy" for my tastes. It wasn't thrilling like beet pesto. Which, I would like to add, I ate while watching the new episode of The Walking Dead and felt a little wrong. Zombie brains, anyone? No? OK then, suit yourself.

Some of my favorite recipes have been Smitten Kitchen's mushroom bourguignon and spicy squash salad with lentils and goat cheese, the thai-spiced pumpkin soup, and these roasted chickpeas with feta. I'm sure some of the other recipes that I've tried and have been just ok could be really great with some tinkering, but since I have problems planning a menu a week in advance and finding all of the ingredients for some of these recipes, I'm clearly not someone who is going to attempt to make them better. 

So what's up next? I'm thinking of trying this turkey burger and maybe some chicken salad. Two non-vegetarian recipes in one week! What's up with that? Maybe I'm anemic. No, not really.


This ain't no ramen noodles and hot pockets

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Week one of Operation Plan Your Damn Menu has been successful. Pictured above is the Thai Spiced Pumpkin Soup from 101 Cookbooks. (Excuse the iPhone photography—at least I kind of tried to stage it). I have to say, this recipe was mind-blowingly easy. It also helped that I had a bunch of acorn squash sitting around from approximately November (I'm not really sure, but it was before the local Amish food stands shut down, which was a while ago). I was a little leery of using really old squash, but they were fine. Score one for me! Also, the soup was really, really tasty. This will become a winter staple for sure.


It's time to stop eating like we're still in grad school

The husband and I are usually relatively health-conscious people. As two recovering former chunkyweights, we try and cook foods that don't clog our arteries and make time for regular workouts. Except that over the past year or so, we've both slipped somewhat. Our long work commutes and skinny wallets caused tiredness, lack of time, waning motivation, and a feeling that the only place we could afford to grocery shop was Target.

Don't get me wrong—I love shopping at Target. However, they don't really have a robust produce department. Which led to us stocking up on bagels, eggs, and cheese, with the occassional tub of hummus thrown in the cart. Add to that the occassional stock-up trip to Trader Joe's for bread, soup, and peanut butter (I swear they put crack in their bread, it is that good) and we basically had some variation of sandwich and soup running through our veins. Whereas it's not necessarily unhealthy, there's a severe lack of produce in our diets. I used to hate vegetables and fruits as a kid. When I went to the regular grocery store the other day and got excited by the extensive selection of the produce section, I realized that I have outgrown that hatred. Either that, or I have some form of scurvy that is affecting my food selection choices.

I've decided to try a new tactic for the new year. It's called menu planning. Have you ever heard of it?

I can't believe that my type-A self has never really planned out our menus before. I guess it just always seemed like I didn't have the time to plan our menus, or we were broke and couldn't afford to have "real" meals (please pass the Cheerios and milk), or some variation on that same theme. I have armed myself with a bevy of tools with which to accomplish this: a speadsheet with the meals we'll have each week along with the ingredients that we'll need to buy, my Pinterest board for inspiring meals, and I also just discovered Punchfork, which is another way to find good food. Although you can really tell that everyone's still on their Christmas sugar high when you browse the trending recipes.

I've noticed that I tend to be inspired only by vegetarian recipes, even though I'm not a vegetarian. I think this is because I am afraid of cooking steak and would rather pay for a good medium rare filet than try it myself. Chicken bores me. Seafood is ok, but I've heard way too many gross Fresh Air podcasts about shrimp and salmon farms to ever really be thrilled about seafood again. Except for canned tuna, which is cheap and full of that delicious mercury.

Will we stick with the menu planning, or will we slide back into the land of bagel-egg-and-cheese sandwiches? I feel confident that we'll stick with it. If for no other reason than the little voice in the back of my head that tells me I will not be able to feed my future children bagel-egg-and-cheese sandwiches every day of their lives, so I should learn to cook now.