Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Next question....Dinner?

The next question asked....What is for dinner around my house and how do I plan the meals?

That has changed in the past few years along with my eating habits. I used to always plan a 2 week menu. I would buy the ingredients and mostly stick with what I had planned. It is a great idea and helps get dinner done with less trips to the store. However, a few years back I started to eat almost all organic and mostly local. Then, last year, I went mostly vegetarian. That changed the way I cooked and the way I shopped. So, meals are now centered around what is in season, what looks good at the farmer's market and what is growing in my garden. You can't chart a two week menu for this.

To get the most nutrition out of produce, you want it as fresh as possible. Cooking "fresh" takes cooking something by availability. To do this, you need to have ideas. To get ideas, you need to read cookbooks like novels. If you want to eat fresh, you need to read "fresh". You don't want books on slow cooker meals, main dishes by Campbell's soup or Casserole ensembles. You want books that embody flavor. You want books that travel the world inviting you to taste their cuisine (far better than American fare I believe). You want books with pictures of fresh fruit and veggies on the cover. By reading the recipes like a book and all the wonderful intro's, you develop ideas. Ideas help you put meals together, with or without recipes. If you don't have ideas, you can't look at fresh produce in your garden or at the market and create a marvelous dish on demand. It takes schooling. I devour cookbooks. Especially Mediterranean ones.

So, here is a few things I have going right now to work with. I have a honeydew that spontaneously grew from my compost bin mulch without asking. I picked it a little too early and it tastes like a cucumber. I found some perfectly ripe mango's so they will all go together in a mango/honeydew salsa to top a grilled pizza. I have many beautiful bell peppers of different colors that will go great in any variety of dishes. I am thinking in some roasted potatoes as a side dish. The cucumber will be in my Tzatziki sauce for the Greek Falafal dish I will make. I have a tree full of plums that need to be eaten and I just read a most delicious plum cake recipe from an authentic Italian Cookbook I just didn't quite give back to my mom before they moved.

In reading about other cultures, I have found that almost all other regions eat this way. They don't use cans of food, produce out of season or bake things until they are brown. They put real food together with real flavors. Food is savoured. I love this way of eating. You just need produce and spices.

I do have some sort of revolving menu's to go on. It seems that my meals fall into certain categories. I make something Mexican, something Italian, one dish with meat, one meal usually all out of side dishes, a salad type dinner, something Asian and some type of soup. There are a million different combinations with those labels. But, it gives me guidelines and variety to go off of.

Some recent meals were:

Fresh tomato/basil linguine with Bread and fruit
Tomatillo and white bean tacos
Roasted Vegetable soup (I know it's 150 degrees here.... still love soup)
Hawaiian Pizza's and salad
Roasted potatoes with herbed cheese sauce and roasted veggies
Jamaican Black Beans and Sweet potatoes over coconut rice
Fresh Corn enchiladas
Pesto Pannini's with fresh tomatoes and salad
Roasted Vegetable Penne
Crispy honey chicken with rice and veggies
Southwestern salad with beans, rice, fresh veggies and tomatillo ranch

Just a few ideas. Many of these you will find on this blog.

To be able to cook on demand, you also need to have a good variety of things on hand. Some things that are usually stocked in my kitchen are:

fresh Parmesan cheese (One of the most easily digested cheeses)
all sorts of other cheeses
vegetable and chicken stock
all sorts of spices and herbs
fresh herbs
huge variety of grains
many different types of beans and rices
coconut milk
hot sauces and asian chili paste
Bragg's liquid aminos to use in place of soy sauce
Vinegar's of all flavors
fresh farm eggs
plain yogurt
coconut and olive oil
Organic heavy cream
Pasta of all shapes
sweeteners: sucanat, honey, coconut sugar, molasses

With those items, I can make just about anything with what grows and is collected. If I just stock those staples, I usually don't have to run out to grab a missing, last minute ingredient.

I do try to have a mental note for the week of what I may want to prepare so that I can check what I need to have on hand if i don't already. I also check my fridge a couple times a week to see if there is anything that needs to be used before it goes bad. I hate to waste food! Especially anything that I grew myself.

Not all nights go as planned. Some nights we pick up pizza. (last night) Tonight, I got home at 7pm and had to start dinner. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but with time so far gone, it didn't go so well. I wanted to recreate this Indian rice dish with cardamon and peas. It didn't look like dinner at all. I kept adding things and the end result was ridiculous. Nothing went together. Not that anything was bad but it wasn't really a dish that looked like anything. In the end, we were all fed. Thank goodness most nights turn out much better.

Hope I answered the question. It takes time to develop your kitchen saviness. Wherever you are now, build on it. You may need to keep at the two week menu for now. I love to read recipe's on line and print my favorites to put in my "blog recipe" binder. Build a great arsenal of recipes to pull from so you don't get stuck in a 10 dinner rut. Kids aren't always so excited about your adventures but they will learn. My kids are doing so well with or mostly vegetarian lifestyle. I am so proud of the way they eat and that they support me and what I want to eat. Start your kids early. They are developing their taste buds so feed them.... don't let them get hooked on simple foods. Expand. Explore.

***I have had quite a few inquiries lately about my cookbook. I don't have any more left but please email me if you would like one. If I get a good enough response, I may go for a second printing.


Tirsa Baker said...

Hi Shari,
I am looking to switch over my personal care items such as shampoo/conditioner, lotion, face wash, ect. to more natural things. Do you have any suggestions on this? I am attempting some homemade deodorant right now but I feel lost on the other things. Your blog is so inspiring. Makes me want to start waking up early before my son wakes up :)

Shari Goodman said...

I will blog about this soon, but check out the EB skincare button on my sidebar. She is a friend who created her own skin care line with all natural ingredients. It is wonderful and very affordable. You can make deoderant with coconut oil and essential oils as well. My husband has used them for the past year and hasn't been "stinky" at all. That's amazing for a guy. I will blog more about it soon!

Lindsey said...

I would take a cookbook!

Dallin and Ashley said...

I would buy a cook book in a heart beat!!! and I know my SIL would too!

Rebecca said...

I just found your blog and am facinated. I would love a cookbook

Alisha and Josh said...

I would love a cook book too! Thanks for the post- it will help with my meal plans :)

Shirley said...

I would love to buy a cookbook.

kami said...

loved this! i have a question for you to tackle...how about food storage?!?

S and B H. said...

I would love a cookbook :)

Kate said...

Shari- I just love the way you describe foods. You can just feel your passion and then in turn everyone is inspired. Thanks so much!

josh and allie said...

I would LOVE to buy a cookbook! I can't believe I missed that the first time around!

Rita said...

Hi Shari, I would love to buy one of your cook books too!

Taryn said...

Dang...this is impressive. My garden is growing and I am also trying to figure out how to use the items grown in my menu. I have only been a full time stay at home Mom for 2.5 years now and I am proud that I make menus and look for recipes with fresh ingredients. Thank you for inspiring me to do better each and every day.

Allison said...

You truly inspire me. Oh, you are amazing! And I would love a cookbook.

Cindy Sage said...

Where do you get your coconut sugar and coconut milk?

Just learned recently that I have many IgG food allergies including:
Tomatoes, Beef, Milk cassin, oranges, soy, Oats, egg white (but luckly I can have the whole egg and Blueberries. So basically I have to change everything around and make alomost everything from scratch...Healthier, but...

Shari Goodman said...

Those allergies will probably help explain some of your migraines. If you are totally strict with avoiding those foods completely, most likely you will be able to eat those again in the near future. My Tate used to be allergic to 32 tested foods and now we are down to 13. Once you start healing the gut by removing offending foods, the allergies start to resolve. Consequently, if you keep eating them and leave the gut inflammed, allergies keep growing. Curcumin and probiotics are huge to take for healing. You probably know all this info already, but just in case.

I get my coconut sugar from Azure Standard along with the coconut milk. The coconut sugar looks like sucanat and has a little bit of a molasses flavor. I love it! I love the coconut creme concentrate from Tropical Traditions as well.

Kara said...

We hardly ever have to same dish twice all summer because things come in and out of season so fast with the heat. My kids never complain about new things because most everything is new.

Your staple list is pretty much exactly like mine, we must cook alike!

kami said...

Hey Shari, coming back to this post...Have you found Organic heavy whipping cream that is not Ultra-Pasteurized? And, if so...where? I know Trader Joe's has conventional heavy cream that is just pasteurized but I don't remember how the Organic cream is pasteurized.

Shari Goodman said...

All I can find is the pasteurized at Trader Joes. I can sometimes get it from the dairy but it isn't very thick. I cook with it usually so I have to pasteurize it when cooking. I just don't want it to be homogenized if possible.