Monday, March 24, 2008

Home Ec Dropout

I am in a big rut, food-wise. Lately I've been eating turkey sandwiches at least four times a week, and Addy eats a rotation of pb and j, cheese and crackers, or macaroni and cheese (homemade, usually) with a side of applesauce for lunch every day, with occasional culinary delights like Campbell's Noodle O's thrown in there for variety. I was doing pretty well there for awhile making interesting dinners, at least, but my enthusiasm for cooking has waned again, and I feel despondent and confused come dinner time. I poke around lethargically, opening the same cupboard four times hoping to see something new pop out at me as a Delicious Dinner Solution, and instead keep seeing the same can of pizza sauce (but no pizza crust mix or other toppings) and inexplicable box of unflavored gelatin.
The ridiculous amounts of chocolate and leftover lemon coconut Easter cake floating around in the kitchen today are not bolstering my resolve to cook. It is noon and I must produce lunch soon, but there are no tortillas for me to wrap up my turkey and cheese, and if I feed Adelay peanut butter for one more meal in a row I fear she'll be taken away from me on suspicion of neglect.
I have a bin overflowing with bags of organic lentils and split peas and black beans, purchased in a fit of nutritious overachieving. I was planning on making simple and hearty soups a la Catherine Newman, but those soups have yet to be enjoyed. Instead, I discovered that black beans take approximately two months to soften, and that when cooked in the microwave to speed the process up, they splatter black bean juice all over which will depress you so much that you will refuse to clean the microwave out of spite at the universe until, two weeks later, you get really sick of that charred bean smell every time you reheat your coffee.
Does someone have some sort of Official Pantry Checklist, with ingredients that, if you always keep them on hand, will provide an endless cycle of tasty yet simple meals? Meals which are hopefully not based around a can of cream of mushroom and a block of Velveeta? Although at this point, even processed cheese product would be an improvement.


Jess said...

I do have a checklist of stuff I always keep on hand but it is based on the Weight Watchers recipe that I use most often so I don't know how generally useful it would be. I try to always have chicken, lean ground beef or turkey, whole wheat pasta, canned crushed tomatoes (I use that to make spaghetti sauce), onions, garlic, chicken broth, olive oil, and canned mushrooms. And granola bars for a snack in case of an unexpected cooking issue/delay.

K in the Mirror said...

I don't have an official list, although I think I probably should. There are things I tend to throw in the cart every time I go to the store though- pasta, garlic, onions, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, cream soup, butter, sour cream...

As for the split peas and lentils, I have a great recipe for them. I'll post it when I get a chance- right now the hamburger helper is cooking for the daycare kids. :)

Tessie said...

You totally meant me with the Velveeta and cream of mushroom thing, didn't you? TOO BAD! I comment anyway! Heh.

We actually do keep either frozen or refrigerated pizza dough on hand at all times, because we make homemade pizza a lot.

OR, you could just keep English muffins, we like English Muffin Pizzas a lot too.

I usually keep tortillas all the time too, for quesadillas, which you can put just about anything in, or for taco or wraps or whatev.

d e v a n said...

ugh. I hate food ruts.
I don't have a checklist per say, but there are staples in our pantry. Whole wheat pasta, Annie's macaroni and cheese (d's fave), spaghetti sauce, cream of soups (lol), brown rice, canned black beans, refried beans and various canned fruits. Assorted frozen veggies and meats in teh freezer, always chicken breasts, whole chickens and ground turkey. You can make a ton of different things with those.
Have you looked for recipes online? I like if you need ideas. I like to type in what I want to use (like chicken for example) and search recipes that use it.

Maggie said...

I adore cooking (I know, now you can hate me). I usually make a major list and get everything I can possibly think of about once a month, then put a lot of it in the freezer - although I still have to make random stops for fruit and veggies, but that's it.

How do you feel about pasta? I make a ton of different pasta dishes, and even the kids will eat that.

The things that I seem to make most often are spaghetti, pasta alfredo, pizza, soup and grilled cheese, tacos, quesadillas, waffles/pancakes, and grilled chicken of some sort.

I got a cookbook several years ago called Dinner Doctor, and it has several hundred recipes that you can make in a very short time, with common ingredients. It also has a list in it of everything that you should stock in your pantry to have on hand to make quick meals. I think I got mine at Barnes and Noble, but they might have a copy at your local library. Otherwise I can scan and send you some of the things in there - most of the things that I have made have turned out pretty well!

LoriD said...

Okay, I've never done this, but I always thought this idea from Kraft is pretty cool. We don't do a lot of meat, so it's not that great for us, but the recipes and ideas look pretty good.

SLynnRo said...

I could have written this. At the beginning of the year, I was all COOK COOK COOK. And now? Heating up a can of soup seems tiresome. Cooking Light usually has some pantry list each month. It worked, the one time I bought the shit on the list, that is.

jen said...

I have been in a chicken rut for years, it's all we eat. I don't like pork, ham is not something I cook often, steak is too expensive and we're just starting to get into pot roast.

aside from whole birds, there's a bunch of variations on rice and potatoes I use. My latest favorite is a one dish potato/meat in the oven dinner.

Even chicken with salad dressing and mashed potatoes and a vegetable I really haven't been bored with that and it's not like it's fattening.

things we always keep - chicken, rice, potatoes, carrots, lots of frozen veggies, salad.

You can make pizza dough with flour and yeast and a bread machine.

Then there's whole-bird weeks, and Carcass Soup.

Yeah it all sounds so exciting but I can't pry my butt off the couch!

Also many things can be adapted to teh crock pot if you have a short attention span like I do. :)

Pickles & Dimes said...

We are big fans of chicken. Even just baking it with some spices and seasonings is delicious, especially over rice. Otherwise we saute it with veggies or just seasonings and have it over brown rice or with potatoes.

I'm also a big fan of tortillas. Even PB&J looks fancier in a tortilla!

Shannon said...

If it weren't for my husband, I would eat turkey sandwiches and BLTCs for every meal.

I tend to have a set number of recipes I always make and then throw in one or two new recipes a week. Jeff likes it and when he is happy, we are all happy.

Banana said...

I always have tomatoes, potatoes, apples, pears, carrots (all of these things last longer in the fridge than many veggie/fruits) and a bag of spinach (I really like it sauteed with olive oil and garlic). Also, tortillas, olive oil, garlic, whole wheat pasta, canned beans (black, pinto and white), canned tomato sauce, canned crushed tomatoes and cheese. Add any of these things and your meat of choice in a pot/bowl/slow cooker/pan and you have dinner.

Jill said...

we're all about the freezer over here. We love frozen stir fry vegetable mixes, buy skirt steak and chicken breasts whenever they're on sale and portion and freeze. We do stir fry a lot (you just have to remember to thaw the meat). Skirt steak is awesome b/c it's pretty cheap and cooks in like 3 minutes. It's also really good in fajitas with peppers and onions.
I usually keep canned tomatoes and black beans on hand, just because we always end up using them. Chick peas are good too.
Do you like eggplant? Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorites, and sometimes I don't even bread the eggplant to save time. Just roast the slices for about 30 min, top with jarred spaghetti sauce and cheese and bake, then serve with bag salad and pasta. Any sort of baked pasta like that is a favorite of ours since we can eat from it for lunches or dinners all week.

andi said...

I always used to get into these ruts too. Then I got a few good express cookbooks (because lord knows I'm lazy and hate cooking) and I make a list of 6 dinners I'm going to make each week (one day is for ordering pizza). Then I get all the groceries I need for those meals and don't have to wonder what's for dinner each night and whether or not I have all the ingredients.

I can't help with lunch though - I'm a boring sandwich or soup kinda girl.

Mommy Daisy said...

I always buy the frozen chicken breast from Meijer (when they're on sale BOGO) and keep them around. They're good for everything. Then I almost always have a variety of pastas, rice, frozen/fresh/canned veggies, beans, and a few other things.

Matt has encouraged me lately to make an actually menu for two weeks and keep stuff for that. Normally I would plan enough meals to get us through that time frame, but would come to an evening and have to decide what to make from that list. Now I know what to make that night. It's working out well.

I also do a lot of crokpot recipes. "Fix It and Forget it LIGHTLY" is a great recipe book for that. It has lots of great ideas. The crockpot and I are great friends. I can put something on at noon (or a little earlier ot a little later depending) and have a delicious supper. Then by suppertime all my prep dishes are already washed and put away and I don't feel rushed at dinner time.

Billie said...

I am fairly certain you will hate my idea but it works for me:

Firstly, have your husband hate your cooking so he gets his meals from his ex. Since we look after the kids every evening, we just pick up his food along with the food she cooks for them. I would fight about it harder but I work 60 hours a week and have discovered that it makes me too tired to care.

Secondly, be able to eat the same thing every day. This means that I cook once a week and make enough food to last me the entire week (along with one or two meals for my honey since we only see each other a couple of times a week). I might be busy on Sunday making some homemade bread, breakfast items like muffins and my supper but it is done and out of the way for the week.

gretchen said...

idea one: get those packaged frozen salmon fillets from costco/walmart. you can defrost them, but if you forgot, it's fine to do this frozen. pour some olive oil- about 1/4 cup- into a bowl, and mix in some garlic powder, paprika, and salt. brush the salmon fillets on both sides and broil till done.
at the same time, saute an onion and some mushrooms. add however much rice you want and water (one cup rice to two cups water), and bring to a boil. add some salt- about a tablespoon or so. stir together, put the lid on, and simmer for 20 minutes.

idea two: buy pizza crusts and cut up some veggies for toppings. make a salad to go on the side.

idea three: boil whole wheat pasta, stir in some butter, mix with ricotta cheese, diced fresh tomatoes, and fresh or dried basil. add salt if you want to. serve with salad.

idea four: cut an onion into fourths and separate the layers. put in pot with a can or two of tomato sauce, and a pat of butter. bring to a boil, then let simmer for 40-45 min or until done. at the same time, boil pasta and mix in sauce when it's ready.

idea five: make soup! zucchini soup is my favorite and really easy. wash (but don't peel!) 4 or 5 zucchini and place in pot. peel an onion and put it in there too. peel a potato or two (depends how big they are) and put that in too. crush a few cloves of garlic and add them. add a few tablespoons of salt and boil for 40-45 minutes, until all the veggies are soft. now if you have an immersion blender, just blend it right in the pot, but if not, you can easily remove the vegetables, blend them in a regular blender, pour it back into the soup water, and mix. i like to serve with homemade bread or rolls- but you can also just buy a loaf of french bread.

hope these help!