Betty Says: It’s the Planning

What am I supposed to do with all of this stuff?

Sometimes it’s the simple questions that get right to the heart of the matter.

What’s the hardest part of cooking?

– Curious in Chicago

Hi Curious,

Today I stood in the supermarket, staring at the produce aisle. I didn’t know what to buy because I couldn’t come up with a creative meal idea for the life of me.

And there’s your answer: planning meals.

You see, I really do enjoy cooking. I like seeing a meal go from idea to completion in less than an hour, because there are plenty of days where that’s the only closure and completion that I get; my writing projects can go on for weeks or even months. But sometimes I think that if I have to come up with another #%^*#%^ meal, I’m going to scream.

You’d think that this lovely archive of meals would be a good place to look for Tuesday’s dinner, but you’d be wrong. I want to make things that are new and different and earn me a thumbs up from the family, not an eye roll or “this again?” That part is never easy.

So what do I do? I jot down recipes when I think of them. I print recipes when I spot them. But there are still those days.

And this, my dear friends, is why take-out exists. It’s not my everyday solution, but sometimes it’s an absolute sanity saver.

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3 Responses

  1. Jim P says:

    Unless I have a specific menu in mind, my strategy is to work around a) whatever I have that is about to spoil, or lacking something about to spoil, b) working around something in abundance (which usually makes it inexpensive) given the season (that would be eggplant right now).

    Some of my main strategies for dealing with monotony (how much eggplant parm can you eat) is to think about unexpected substitutions (e.g., make zucchini bread from eggplant), changes in texture (fritters, anyone?), and when all else fails, Okonomiyaki, a Japanese catch-all for fresh veg.

    I think having a repertoire of TECHNIQUES is more powerful than having a repetoire of recipes. being able to fry things well is a skill that is worth learning, for example.

    My only concession to a collection of recipes is that it’s wise to have a large complement of SAUCES that you can produce competently. Sauces are the secret weapon of mundane dishes, and they usually rely on ingredients that are freezer or pantry-stable (like stocks, or spices), or high inventory turns in the home (like butter, or milk). While I’m generally not a fan of cookbooks, I think everyone who apires to cook at home should own a copy of Peterson’s “Sauces”, it’s a bible of sorts in our home, and at the top of our list for wedding shower gifts for young homemakers (men and women).

    All that said, we hit take-out about once a month 🙂

  2. Alisa says:

    Ah, fritters. That reminds me that I still haven’t written up my recipe for zucchini fritters, or as the Tiny Kitchen Assistant called them, “critters.”

    You’re right about techniques. Learning how to make decent beans (I used to be very good at undercooked black beans) has opened up a new world, and they can be as neutral as pasta in terms of accepting a wide variety of flavors. I love that!

    My recent struggles with menu planning are aggravated by the fact that lately, my carb-addicted body isn’t interested in pasta, which used to be my fallback menu item. In fact, I haven’t wanted anything carb-laden, including pancakes, waffles or any sandwich served on a giant chunk of bread. But that’s a topic for a separate blog post.

    And we’re like you: take-out is about a once a month thing here, but when I need that out, I REALLY need it.

  3. Jim P says:

    Fried okra will fill some carb needs.

    I should post how to do it on Foodwhisperer.

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