Meal planning. Do it.
Do you guys have any idea how much easier life is when you’ve planned your meals out for the week? When you know what days you’re cooking which recipes, and all the shopping is done at once? I had forgotten. One of the items on my self-improvement 2011 plan (does that sound better or worse than new years resolutions?) is to plan my meals for each week and get the shopping done for those meals only once a week, thus saving money and eating less crap. It’s been super easy so far, since I’ve just been cooking from one cookbook a week. In the past, when I’ve tried meal planning, I’ve gone into overachiever mode and used 3 cookbooks at once. This doesn’t work for me. I get too scatterbrained. So I just try to remember that I’ll have all these cookbooks forever (hopefully), therefore no need to try to cook from them all in one week. Finally, it’s been made even easier because there is a 12 week cookbook challenge going on over at the Post Punk Kitchen. I have 8 of the 10 cookbooks (there are 2 freebie weeks), and with lots of other people cooking from the same books, I have double the motivation. This week we are cooking from Appetite for Reduction, which I just got about a week ago. However! I had started the week before with 30 Minute Vegan, so I’m gonna show you that stuff now. Next week you’ll get the AFR photos.
Without further ado:
I made this cucumber dressing for salads throughout the week. I liked the flavor, but…I don’t know. I wasn’t crazy about it. It’s super low-fat, so it just sort of flavored the salad without coating anything. Definitely odd. I’d use it as a sauce for a grain though, something that could soak it up. It’s also possible that I screwed it up because it calls for soy yogurt and when I opened mine up, it was all moldy, so I substituted a mixture of Vegenaise and almond milk (yeah, I know). The world may never know. Anyway, the combination of mint and cilantro was pretty rad. It’s funny how much I used to hate cilantro. Now it’s no big deal. I’ve gone through almost 2 bunches in as many weeks. Taste bud mysteries!
I made this herbed almond pate for lunches (since I was just starting out and wouldn’t have leftovers for a couple of days). It was rather nice! Next time I would add less fresh ginger, because that flavor sort of took over everything else. Also, I’ll add my water to the food processor gradually, because I had forgotten how my processor likes to explode when there’s a bunch of water in it. I hate messes.
White bean-terragon soup. Delicious. This book certainly uses a lot of fresh ginger…in one week I depleted my entire supply that I’ve had for months. It was perfect in this soup though. My only complaint with this one is that it was majorly salty. I had to add a bunch of water to it. It calls for a bunch of veggie broth and then 3 Tbsp of soy sauce, so next time I’ll leave out the soy sauce, or just add it gradually, tasting as I go.
They’re so ugly, but so versatile and tasty. This is the quinoa kitchari. I added a bunch of carrots to it. The book is cool that way – it gives you pointers for additions or substitutions if you happen to have more than 30 minutes to get dinner on the table. I usually do, because my life isn’t terribly hectic (no children, no school, no dogs, and I’m only cooking for myself). Therefore, I got to add extras to most of my meals this past week. I ate this with some brussels sprouts that I roasted with sesame oil, crushed red pepper, and slivered almonds. The flavor of the kitchari was wonderful, also. The addition of fresh herbs at the end really kicked it up a notch.
This saag tofu was my favorite recipe from the book so far. My friend Julie came over to cook this with me, and it was so easy that we were really able to just chat and hang out while we threw it together. One thing: the recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of coconut milk; we added an entire can. We both love coconut milk, and I prefer my saag a little creamy/soupy and it was rather dry beforehand. It was perfect afterwards! Also, you guys know about those Amy’s spinach and tofu Indian burritos? This tasted just like those. I was blown away. We served this with some rice w/peas, mint and dill from an old Turkish cookbook I have. I would have made it with brown rice, but we were starving and white rice takes so much less time.
I could honestly eat food with Asian origins for every single meal. And I do, for most dinners. I just gravitate towards it! Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean…I love it all. This particular dish, Asian shiitake tofu, tasted like classic Chinese takeout. Except the sauce is made from scratch! No msg, no mystery ingredients. Plus, the tofu wasn’t all fried like it usually is when it’s with a brown sauce, and I got to eat fresh produce like broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, and red peppers with it. Yum! Besides eating this with the leftover rice from the saag tofu, I made some gingered kale, since it was Sunday and I had some extra time.
It was perfectly gingery and went nicely with the shiitake tofu. The recipe originally calls for collard greens, but I’m not a huge fan…and it says kale is a fine substitute. This meal made enough for 4 large servings, so I got to eat it for leftovers at work a couple of times, which is always nice.
All in all, I’d say this book has some yummy recipes. I’ve shied away from it in the past because it calls for a basically nothing but fresh ingredients, and that can get pricey…but it’s worth it. I spent $80 on groceries for the week, cooked 4 meals, all with around 4 servings. I did not have to eat food from work all week (so much healthier), and I did not spend any additional money on emergency food (since I usually don’t plan, I’ll sometimes have to run out for a burrito or something). When you break that down into servings (4 meals x 4 servings each = 16 meals, divided by $80), that’s only $5 per meal! Pretty darn good, if you ask me.
One note on this book: it never says to press tofu. I understand that saves time, but we all know tofu doesn’t absorb flavor as well if it’s not pressed, so I advise that you make time for the extra 20-30 minutes needed for that step, or press it before you go to work or whatever. It’ll be worth it.