Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cooking: Is it a Chore?

Recently I've had the opportunity to speak with people who feel that cooking is a chore that they feel they should do, but that it is hard to motivate themselves to get going in the kitchen.  I understand this, i've had bad days where getting my butt into the kitchen seemed annoying at best.  Thankfully, if you're cooking just for one or two, there's plenty of techniques you can employ to save time in the kitchen and reduce actual "cooking time."

Getting Started Cooking:

1) What do you like to eat?
2) What are the basic seasoning ingredients in that type of food?
3) What are the basic vegetables in that type of food?
4) What are your protein sources (meats you eat versus meats you don't eat, non-meat sources for protein?)

Basic Nutritional Information:

We are omnivores, so the key to health is diversity of foods.  Be they vegetables, meat, nuts, seeds, whatever--we require diversity in our meals to maintain nutritional health.  As Michael Pollan says in "Food Rules," : "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Vegetables."

The key to doing this easily is having the veggies on hand.  "Eat Food" means not the processed crap.  His guide to that was if you are in a grocery store and your grandma or great grandma were with you--would she recognize it as food?  If she wouldn't--it isn't food.  A good guide.

Around the Kitchen: basic equipment for reluctant cooks--

The stuff that goes on that birthday or christmas, housewarming, graduation, or wedding registry is the stuff that will make your life easier.  For the reluctant cook, the best equipment is the stuff that gets your food done on your schedule.

That is the following:

A Slow Cooker-- put a night (or a week) of food in the cooker in the morning, have it ready by that evening.  There are even some really awesome recipes for overnight oatmeal.  *As a slow cooker and rice cooker do much of the same thing, you can use a slow cooker for your rice.  

A Pressure Cooker -- cuts down on the time it takes to make just about anything.

A decent Coffee Grinder--for nuts --If you need to add a little bit of protein to your daily intake but have a  hard time with this, buy and store bags of nuts, coarse grind them and top oatmeal, muesli, yogurt, cereal, add to cookies, ice cream, turn into a butter for toast, over stir fries, salads, or as trail mix.

Blender--smoothies can be a quick way to get a burst of protein and sugar in the mornings.  Add greens (yeah, I know how that sounds, but you can't taste them) and you can obtain more iron that way, too.  Flax seed?  and you have a dose of omega-3s.

Stainless steel, glass, and BPA-free silicone-- I hate cleaning.  I do it, and I've even gotten better at it over the last few years, but I still hate it.  But if you are a lazy-in-the kitchen person, focus on buying kitchen products that are easy to clean is essential.  Stainless steel and glass don't stain or hold odors or flavors the way wood does.  For artisanal cooking this is not desired, but for easy cleaning and throw-in-a-pot nightly cooking (or semi-nightly cooking) it is highly desired.

BPA-free silicone is for any baking endeavors you might undertake.  Breads and cakes don't stick.  I've been ecstatic about these acquisitions.

Glass storage containers-- these have a higher upfront cost than plastic storage containers, but you can forget a meal in a glass storage container, it can mold and get down-right disgusting and then you can hold your nose, dump it out and clean the glass container and it will retain *no* smell--none whatsoever. Make a mistake in a plastic container and any food you put in it will taste gross.  Glass lasts longer and is more forgiving with lazy-cooking mistakes.

Once you have a few choice items, you are ready to start building a workable kitchen for a lazy cook.  And--it's okay to be a lazy cook.  We all start there, and some cooking is better than no cooking for your wallet and for your health.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Real Food

I have recently read "In Defense of Food," by Michael Pollan.  I really liked it, of course, though there are some things that I would have asked pesky questions about if I'd acquired the same information in a lecture format.

In all, the Real Food movement is mostly in the same direction I've been moving towards.  So I would like Modern Menu to chronicle my journey, shifting away from packaged foods and progressing towards a healthy lifestyle--food first.

What is the plan?

For April:

Protein rich breakfasts
Green leaves in all three meals
Eating more slowly
At least 1 walk a day
Putting my plants in the ground!

I will share recipes as I come by them, and discuss the challenges and learning experience I go through as I make these changes.