Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Joy (and sometimes drudgery) of Cooking.

I'm not gonna lie. Sometimes cooking is just not fun. Says the girl with daily migraines, vertigo, painful arthritis, and other fun chronic illnesses that I do not wish to bore you with. Then again, sometimes having fun is just not part of the equation. We all do the things we need to survive. I take care of my family whether I am sickly or not. It's my job. I make sure everyone is taken care of and has what they need to be happy and healthy. If I take a day off my family turns feral. Next thing you know the kitchen is on fire and someone is eating out of the trash. That's just no fun.

So I thought I would write a post on how to make life easier for those of you cooking for your family or yourself when you're busy or tired or sick or sick and tired of being busy.

Step 1. Preparation
The most important thing that makes cooking easier is having a stocked pantry. Nothing makes cooking harder than not having ingredients to cook with. Try making pasta without pasta or flour. Try it. I dare you. Take a few minutes and make a list. Stock up your pantry and it'll save your butt on many occasions. Check out my Keys to Having a Bad-Assed Pantry series.

Step 2. Shopping
Build up good shopping habits. Such as:
a) Figure out your budget prior to shopping.
b) Plan meals for the week. Make sure you have back-up meals and snacks planned too.
c) Make shopping lists. Don't look like a lost child taking up the entire bread aisle because you can't make up your mind.
d) Eat something before you go. 10 boxes of Hamburger Helper Nacho Beefaroni and a 24 pack of Hostess Ding Dongs looks pretty damn necessary when you're hangry.

Want to save some money? If you actually have a choice of where to shop see who's got better prices. Shop around. If you have the time split up your grocery needs into more than one place. I buy my veggies and meat (and Asian ingredients) at a small family owned Asian grocery nearby. Super fresh and super inexpensive. Then I go to the regular big supermarket for American/Euro items, canned goods, frozen junk, bread, dairy, etc. They both lie on a direct route to my house so it's not really that big of a deal stopping off at both. In the end, it saves us quite a bit of money.

Step 3. Make Extra
Even if you're just cooking for one person cook extra so that you have leftovers. You can bring the leftovers to work for lunch or for your kids school lunch or for next day's dinner. Heating up leftovers is super easy compared to cooking something from scratch. Sometimes a dish or soup tastes even better the next day.

Step 4. No Waste
If you get tired of your leftovers you can re-purpose it into something else. Chicken Parmesan easily becomes chicken enchiladas with just a few extra ingredients. Cooked rice can become congee or fried rice. Soup can become a sauce and vice versa. Use your imagination. My uncle taught me a dish when I was little called pizza eggs. Yes, it's as easy albeit strange as it sounds. Diced leftover pizza cooked with scrambled eggs. It's actually super tasty. Lol. Use what you've got. Nothing needs to get wasted.

So yeah, you can save yourself a lot of headache and money. It just takes a tiny bit of your time and a little bit of planning. Don't be that person that's all dead eyed and starving in the grocery store staring at $10 boxes of frozen chimichangas.

Here's a few ideas to get you started:

Buy a whole chicken. 
Roast it. (Or if you're in a real pinch, most supermarkets sell rotisserie chickens. It'll do.)
Day 1. Eat the cooked chicken breast with salad/chicken Parmesan/chicken salad sandwiches/with rice pilaf and veggies.

Day 2. Use the legs and thighs for Arroz con Pollo/gumbo/enchiladas/chicken fricassee

Day 3. Make a roasted chicken stock out of the bones and add leftover scraps of meat to soup. I make a mean matzo ball soup out of scraps.

Buy a large pork shoulder roast.
Roast it.
Day 1. Pork roast sliced with pinto gallo/adobada tacos/with mango salsa and veggies

Day 2. Pork and beans/pork chili/pork roast sandwiches

Day 3. Pozole verde soup/pork quesadillas/pork fried rice

Buy a bunch of bulk dried chickpeas.
Soak them overnight.
Day 1. Grind some soaked chickpeas in a food processor to make falafel sandwiches or with salad.

Simmer them with herbs until soft.
Day 2. Chana masala/Cuban chickpea and potato omeletta/Moroccan chickpea stew

Day 3. Chickpea and tuna salad/fried chickpea fritters/hummus and flatbread

You get the idea. Make your life easier. You don't have to eat canned soup and microwave pizzas if you don't want to. Eat well by planning out your life. A little organization goes a long way. Now go take some aspirin and cook yourself something tasty. xoxo