this might be cool or lame, i’m not sure which, but i cook five or six nights a week at home.
you might be thinking: am i at the right blog? it’s called ‘adventurings’, right?
well, by home of course, i mean in the czech republic, and this adventure includes learning how to cook and doing it well! hooboy!
(are you still with me? haven’t checked out yet? …. okay, good.)
i might be a thirty year old married person with no children and a little doggie, but somehow i feel it so strongly as my duty to do this. cook, i mean. i can’t even tell you where that drive is coming from. it could be the fact that they don’t sell many (if any) frozen meals in stores here – no lean cuisines, yet! it could be the fact that if i wasn’t the one cooking, we’d both be eating buttered noodles every night.
or, it could also be that i love to eat good food. LOVE. so much that i’m ready to put in all the time and learn all the skills i need to know to make those meals because the variety of foods that i love aren’t offered in the city where i live (welcome to central europe!). restaurants that i do love would quickly add up on my teacher’s budget if i went out as much as i used to living back in seattle; a food wonderland. (well, i barely could pay rent, so maybe it still added up there, too. beside the point.)
in any case, the drive to cook is deep. the drive to create healthy meals on the regular and to nourish us is strong. i know i feel really good eating the kinds of plant-based meals i tend to cook. lentils, wild rice, thai soups, stir-fries… i never feel “greased out” from this kind of fare.
in order to cook five or six nights a week, i write a very structured weekly meal plan every monday. that means, i think of about five different meals i’m going to cook that week, taking into account what vegetables i might have already in the fridge (a cabbage? carrots?) or in the summer, in my csa share box, that need to be used up. taking stock of what we already have in the fridge comes first.
next, i find my inspiration and recipes. inspiration is huge!! if you have no inspiration, you probably won’t be cooking. (like when i recently bought a whole thing of mixed greens and then didn’t feel like putting in the work of making salads) i try to surround myself with my favorite inspiring food bloggers to help this process.
many people have the problem where they just don’t have the slightest clue what they’re going to cook, so they make the same meals over and over again. to combat this, i consider what meals i or alex might be craving that week (pizza? tom kha soup?) and note that first. next, i think about the recent recipes or meal inspiration that i may have bookmarked online or pinned from the previous week. (guys, i have a LOT of bookmarks, divided up into type of meal or food)
then, i search for recipes that specifically use the ingredient i want to use up. finally, i scour cookbooks and favorite food blogs to fill in the blanks for the rest of the week, also taking into account what the weather will be like (cold weekends = perfect for a big pot of soup) and any events we have going on that week.
a sample meal plan for the week looks like this:
(actually, this is exactly what i ate for the past week)
tuesday – pasta (tortellini with vegetables)
wednesday – zucchini stir-fry (need something quick to make on wednesdays!), my own recipe
thursday – alex cooks something (hallelujah!)
friday – lentil-tempeh taco night! my own recipe
saturday – big pot of clam chowder* – food.com recipe
sunday – saag curry – ohdeardrea’s recipe
monday – okonomiyaki japanese pancakes – heidi swanson’s recipe (i had a lot of green cabbage to use, so i found this recipe specifically for cabbage)
why plan out your whole week’s meals? you save money! you waste so much less food! you never have to think about what you’re eating during the busy week because it’s all there on your list.
i realize this doesn’t always work with everyone’s lifestyle. with my daily schedule right now, however, it works quite well. yes, i do spend a lot of time in the kitchen but i do consider it time well spent, plus it’s a great opportunity to listen to music or podcasts. (below, cous-cous filled cabbage leaves with salad, drizzed with tahini from sarah britton’s cookbook which i adore)
so, if you’re looking to be better at meal planning or want to start, i hope i may have inspired you a little bit! tell me, what does your meal planning routine look like? anything like mine or worlds different?
*this clam chowder was made possible by my mother in law who brought three cans of clams with her in her luggage even though the woman hates seafood! god bless!
ps, you might like how moving abroad changed my attitude on cooking