So, today seems to be that perfect storm of blogging material. A few things about my cooking and me:
- I love cookbooks. I love reading recipes and imagining how things will come together and taste. I generally stick to pretty “safe” things (for example, ethnic dishes don’t generally make it into my menu) not because I’m afraid they won’t taste good or turn out–most has to do with the cost of ingredients. Which brings me to #2.
- I plan a month’s worth of meals at a time. Crazy, right? But there are two huge benefits to doing this: cost and time. I started out of necessity. When we first moved up here from Florida 4 years ago with a house down there and a house up here and bills for both, I learned quickly that I needed to keep the cost of groceries down because that was a cost I could control. Not every meal has to have meat. (It took my husband 5 years of marriage before he realized my lasagna didn’t have meat.) And once that house in FL sold, I loosened up a bit, but not much. I can still feed our family of five for $300 or less a month. And today’s Good Eating section of the Chicago Tribune totally reinforced it for me–the feature article was on how planning your menu would be friendly to your budget. The time factor is big, too. You don’t have to do a month at a time like I do, but when I only have to do major shopping once a month and when I don’t have to sit down every week and plan the menu, it’s awesome. And sure, there are days (like today) when the meal I have listed is not what I want. So what do I do? I look through the list and see if there’s a better option, or one that can be changed. Like tonight.
- Every month I try to come up with new recipes to throw in the rotation. Did I mention I love cookbooks and recipes? Because of #2, I spend a good amount of time looking through my cookbooks and monthly magazines, watching shows like America’s Test Kitchen (though I can’t afford the subscription to Cook’s Illustrated or their website to get access to everything), and perusing the free recipes I get through email from Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and the like. And I usually find something that looks good, something that looks interesting, something that looks like it’ll fit into the budget. So I’ll try it. Sometimes I hit the jackpot; sometimes I don’t. Last night was in between those.
So, how is today a perfect storm?
- Well, last night I picked up my new Penzey’s Spices catalog. (Endorsement for which they aren’t paying me: They have awesome spices and blends at a fairly affordable price–though when I’m pinching pennies I can’t afford them. You can visit one of their many locations or order online; if you subscribe to their catalog you get some new recipes and often a coupon to use (free spices or a big discount!).) I was able to sit and drool over their various cake recipes (this is their 25th birthday, so they had a lot of cakes in the catalog) during the Chicago mayoral coverage that interrupted my viewing of Parenthood. I can’t resist picking up anything that has a picture of a 3-layer cake on it, especially one covered in chocolate frosting. And it had a great coupon on it. It made me happy. 🙂
- Last night I had a new recipe on the menu: Orange Chicken Bowls from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook I got for Christmas. Looked good and doable and and a bit different and would perhaps be a new good stirfry-like recipe to have on a regular basis. Well, it was okay, but definitely not worth losing the Pyrex measuring cup that slid off the counter and shattered (expediting the scrubbing-the-floor process to get rid of stickiness and glass shards) as I was measuring orange juice. I still like this one from Kraft: http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/speedy-chicken-stir-fry-107263.aspx
- Tonight I had Creamy Herbed Pasta on the menu. Not in the mood for it at all. What to have? Not sure. Something with hamburger? Ask the husband. “Hamburgers,” he says, which is slightly crazy because he doesn’t normally have an opinion about what we eat. Because of my planning and shopping, I have ground beef in the freezer. Guess what we’re having for supper?
Chicken. Just kidding–hamburgers it is. 🙂