Friday, January 11, 2013

Trying Out a Daily (almost) Food Blog

So...welcome back to my kitchen. It just relocated to Seattle, and has made a few upgrades:

* out with the non-stick, in with the stainless steel (If you're considering this, do it. And if you're going to do it, get your stainless steel at a restaurant supply store - much cheaper and still stainless steel. Sure beats mainstream store prices)
* out with the knife block, in with the Golden 3 (8in chef's knife, 5in paring knife, and 10in bread knife - after a month of this, I have yet to want another knife)
* immersion blender (I got this exact one at Cosco for $35) and mini-food processor - for the solid, and irreplaceable win. Your soup making will be revolutionized, and your chopping time cut by half.

Here are my food goals for the year:
* meal plan - every week. My lovely sister-in-law got me an amazing fridge-magnet meal planner and I am immensely enjoying it.
* salad night once a week
* vegetarian night once a week (salad night doesn't count, and won't always be vegetarian anyway)
* keep our grocery budget under $300 a month - I'd love to do $200 a month, but I think $300 is a little more realistic
* as much organic as possible
* as much from a humble "I live in a rental" garden as possible

So, here's my plan - every night I'll try and post a brief recipe (emphasis on brief, since this is an every night endeavor) and once a week I'll post our meal plan and shopping list. If you want to cook along with me, a day or week behind, feel free to. This won't be a blog with amazing pictures (though I'll try) and I'm quite sure I'll miss a few days, but I'm going to at least give it a shot.

Before we get started, and if you're new to my kitchen blog, let me give you a little bit of my 'chef' philosophy - I think everyone has potential to be a great cook, if you have a love for food. If food and eating fall in a sort of 'eh, I do it to survive' category - it will be much harder to be a great cook. To be a great cook, you must LOVE to eat.

Secondly - cooking, like any skill, sucks until you get good at it. But, if you stick with it, I promise you (yes you) can be a great cook. Just like any art, the right tools, supplies, and emergency back-up plans make success all the more attainable. With that in mind, my freezer usually holds some 'bad day back ups', and my pantry (currently a wire shelf from home depot) is always stocked with what I consider to be the essentials.

To spare you the bore of list of what's currently in my kitchen, I'll just make sure to include a list of "items already on hand" in whatever shopping list I put up at the beginning of the week - if I consider it an essential, I'll indicate it as such.

OK - enough details! To give you a glimpse at this past week - here was our meal plan

Sunday - Homemade tacos (which includes homemade tortillas, and usually includes homemade refried beans - but that didn't happen this week)
Monday - Lasagna with garlic bread and sauteed asparagus
Tuesday - Leftovers
Wednesday - Spinach Salad with hardboiled egg, walnuts, feta cheese, dried cranberries, and Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette salad dressing
Thursday - Roasted Tomato Soup/Bread
Friday - Crockpot Beans and Rice
Saturday - no plans

So, here's the scoop on tonight's dinner (I'll put up details/recipes on the above recipes whenever they are re-circulated in future weeks).

I wanted to try something with beans and rice, since so many cultures eat something along these lines as a staple.

Crockpot Black Beans and Rice 

2 cups homemade chicken stock (recipe to come at some point) 
1 cup dried black beans
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, diced 
1 can corn, liquid included 

Combine the above in a crock pot and let cook on low for 2 hours. 

1 cup dry rice 
1 large can of whole cooked tomatoes
1 Tbs cumin 
1 tsp salt
2 cups water 

Add to the crock pot, stir thoroughly, and let cook for another 2 -3 hours. 

Viola - dinner. Done.

Be sure, if you're home, to check the amount of liquid periodically as beans and rice both absorb great amounts of water. If you're unsure, add an extra cup of water or chicken stock (my recommendation if possible) - the worst that will happen is you'll have a more soupy dish, as oppose to a dry one. If you add way too much - you've just made soup :)

Couple quick fix tips - though this recipe is pretty direct and chopping - free.
* use a mini food processor for the garlic and onions
* if you need to make this and leave home for 6 hours, toss everything in at the same time - being sure you leave plenty of liquid- stir thoroughly, and set your crock pot on it's lowest setting

I'll be serving mine tonight with Greek Natural Yogurt, homemade salsa, and possibly diced bananas. I'll let you know in the next post how it goes, and will retroactively add a pic to this post.

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