Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding inspiration in the kitchen

Over the last couple of months I've really focused on getting back into the kitchen. This probably doesn't surprise those who know me, but I once considered culinary school rather than a traditional university. Coming home after a long day and cooking myself a nice meal while enjoying a glass of wine can almost be meditative.

My goal has been to really focus on my eating - increasing fruits and vegetables, decreasing processed ingredients, and saving money by having quality meals on hand rather than grabbing something quick and easy. Yes, cooking for one can be a drag, but hey, you're worth it, aren't you?

I had previously looked at Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, but for a variety of reasons never signed up for one. A friend at work told me about one nearby that didn't have a long term commitment or upfront cost. The week to week option fits my lifestyle completely, if there's a weekend I know I will be busy and unable to prepare meals, then I simply don't sign up for a share.

The CSA and Pinterest have also made meal planning fun and interesting. It's forced me slightly out of my comfort zone by making me try things I have cooked with little to no times before, like cauliflower, eggplant, brussel sprouts, Romensco, etc. I do my best to pick recipes that are interesting and don't require a large investment in additional ingredients.

Yes, all of this is very time consuming. Fortunately I know before pick up what will likely be in my bag. Meal planning probably takes a couple of hours, and I carve out Sunday to cook for the week. I've learned that if I don't use the fruits and veggies when I get them, then it is likely alot will go to waste. The plus side is that grocery shopping takes probably about half the time since I only have to go in for a few ingredients, and don't wander the aisles and risk impulse buying.

This week's bag had: tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, Romanesco, red potatoes, garlic, shallots, eggplant, and cranberries. (Note: The cranberries were a substitute, another reason why I love this particular program. I was supposed to get mushrooms but asked if I could get something else instead.)

How everything got used:

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce where cut up for salads.

Shallots (and local honey from a prior week's bag) - Chicken with Honey-Beer Sauce

Brussel sprouts - Maple, Balsamic and Bacon Brussel Sprouts

Cranberries (and the rest of an open bottle of red wine) - Spiced Cranberry Sauce (placed in freezer until Thanksgiving.

Broccoli and red potato - Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Cauliflower and garlic (and a butternut squash for a prior week's bag) - Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Casserole

Eggplant - Eggplant stuffed with eggplant, onion, and ground sausage with Bechmel sauce. (The recipe I found was not very good, so I kind of winged this one. It came out pretty good.)

Romensco and garlic - Romanesco and Rigatoni (I also added in some diced pancetta that I had in the freezer)

Lots of great things to eat this week (and leftovers to freeze for busy weeks)!

What's your favorite seasonal thing to make?

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