Making it with Your Own Hands

As a single mother, working full-time and having a 30-minute commute home each weeknight, my biggest challenge is making dinners that are ready before 8pm. I can see why there is so much popularity with pre-made foods and eating at fast-food establishments. On top of a full work day, there are errands to run and children’s activities to take care of. By the time all that is done, what energy is left for cooking a homemade meal? Yeah sounds daunting! (Oh wait! You still have to make a lunch for everyone for the next day).

Thinking all this over, and realizing that I have been spoiled over the past 4 years – my sitter has been my sister-in-law and she has provided lunches for my daughter, I realize that it’s about to get tougher!

The challenge we all have with making homemade meals is the misconception that it is more time consuming and more expensive. I spend much less money on food when I make it at home, than I do going out to eat dinner every night. (I am not saying do not ever eat out – because that is ridiculous and it is a lot of fun to try new restaurants or to visit your favorites! Just don’t make it an everyday habit.) On top of saving money you end up eating healthier because now you are in control of the fat, salt, fiber etc… that is in your food. With a little organization and a well-stocked pantry, the goal is more attainable and your misconceptions start to melt away! (I’m a huge fan of organization, by the way, and actually I thrive on it).

Each year I set “culinary goals” for myself (last years was this blog in fact), and with the changes coming up this year, I decided I want to get myself and my kitchen better organized. I want more than half of my weekly meals to be homemade. Meaning I need to find a way to have homemade meals at my fingertips.

Some initial ideas off the top of my head …freezer friendly meals/food, weekly meal planning, creating menus, learning to better stock my pantry and fridge, waste less food, and collect or create recipes that are easy, fast, and fresh.

Also on my “culinary goals” list is to finally join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). With a CSA, you pay a local farmer at the beginning of the season (sometimes in combination with volunteering your time on the farm) and in exchange you get a weekly basket of fresh produce. Some farmers include eggs, while others offer packages that include meat. This all depends on where you live and what the farmers in your area offer. I am so excited about this because not only will I feel better about what my daughter eats, but I will also be challenged to cook and eat things I might not have otherwise chosen. Plus the money I pay goes to help support a local family farm, and in turn contributes to the health of the earth. Each Saturday I take my daughter to the Farmer’s Market; it’s actually something my daughter and I both look forward to doing (perhaps it’s the bounce house, but we do learn along the way). We have a good time and it is really neat to see so much of our community each week supporting the farmers and eating local!

If you have ever read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma you may know why I believe strongly in eating locally and sustainably. A local farm is more likely one that is “sustainable” and not using a bunch of chemicals to grow food. A sustainable farm has its own ecology – a farmer can feed the crop wastes to animals and then feed the animals’ waste to the crops and very little waste is put out into the environment causing pollution. Commercial farmers pump synthetic nitrogen into their crops to help pump out as much produce as possible. There is something about robbing the soil of all its ability to produce plants, flooding rivers with pollution from synthetic chemicals, affecting communities’ tap water and dead zones in the sea that makes me think industrial agriculture is not working as well as we once thought. If you have not read the The Omnivores Dilemma, I highly recommend the book. Reading this book has helped me to understand the whys of eating locally and sustainably, why it is good for our bodies and for our environment. (My personal opinion).

My, ever-changing, personal food philosophy is to make what I eat with my own hands, rather than out of a box or from a fast-food company.

So with all that said, here are my 2011 Food/Culinary Goals:

1. Organize!
2. Clean out and stock up!
3. Find ways to waste less food.
4. Create an arsenal of Go-To recipes for lunches and weeknight dinners to help save time. A restaurant has a menu, why not my kitchen!
5. Make more than half our weekly meals homemade.
6. Eat local, when I can.

Wish me luck – I’m open to all suggestions and information you may have, please share!

Here is one of my new favorite fast weeknight dinners to start off.

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 shallot
½ box spaghetti noodles
1 can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan

(You could also use a can of garbanzo bean and roast them with the cauliflower to mix it up – roasted garbanzos are good!)

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Coat the cauliflower lightly in olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Roast the cauliflower in a 450° oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook spaghetti noodles according to the package directions, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water when you drain the noodles.

Put 2T. Olive oil in the pot and sauté the shallots for 2 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower and sauté for another minute more.

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Drain a can of cannellini, or other white beans, and add the beans to the cauliflower. Add the noodles and pasta water. Add chopped parsley and stir to coat the pasta.

Serve with parmesan cheese and garlic bread.

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(Hopefully these are the last crummy weeknight photos that I have to use – I just ordered a lightscoop which will make it easier to take photos on weeknights when it’s dark and I don’t have natural light…)

Happy New Year everyone! Cheers!

 

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3 Responses to “Making it with Your Own Hands”

  1. Amanda, what a wonderful article. I want to put a link to your blog and recipes on the 3rd & Curry St. website. I also want you to send that piece and recipe to me so I can forward it to Sally and Peggy the Editor of the Appeal. There is no reason why we should have an AP article in the paper when you have articles like that. You are a terific writer and I loved this article. I think a lot of people are thinking about and wondering how they can accomplish exactly that this year.

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