A Cooking Post: Food Prep

In yesterday’s paper, there was article about organization, specifically household organization. More specifically, it was about women getting more organized in the home, although why that’s a woman thing, I can’t figure.

I know who makes the most clutter in these parts.

Anyway, I think the article was geared toward the general new year resolution kind of thing. I don’t know about you, but I work on this all year long. January hardly makes a dent.

It was purely coincidence that yesterday was a big cooking day for me. As in… well, organization. Anyone who reads, or watches TV, has heard the tips about how to eat a more healthful diet on a busy schedule. You know the routine. Cook extra servings when you prepare a meal, so you can freeze some for later. Wash and dry your lettuce, chop up salad and sandwich fixings, maybe cook a batch of chili or something for later in the week.

I’ve always done this kind of thing. In fact, I’ve taught it to clients as part of my defunct personal chef business. I’m always surprised that some people don’t do it, but I’m learning that there really are people who hate to cook, hate to do dishes, hate anything to do with food except for eating it when it’s put in front of them.

If you’re someone who practically breaks out in hives at the thought of entering the kitchen, you may never try to make it easier for you and your family to eat a healthful, colorful diet of Real Food. And that’s okay, because I’m sure you spin circles around me in some other area. We all have our gifts and our preferences.

If you don’t say anything about the cobwebs in my house, I won’t say anything about your precut celery or Costco casserole. Promise.

But today I stood in the kitchen with the sun shining in the windows and I let myself feel at peace while I washed, cut, and cooked. Being in the kitchen centers me. Today there was no rush, and I was able to just flow in a quiet rhythm as the food fell into shape under my hands.

I had lots to do. There was the vegetable CSA box, with it’s load of leeks (5 huge ones), beets with tops, and batch of carrots. Then I’d bought stuff for salad, since I’m making a big effort to eat veggies or fruit instead of bread and cookies.  And I was cooking a special dinner in my new tagine, which was a Christmas gift. I had extra meat, so at the same time, I had a separate dish going in the slow cooker: the meat simmering with a bunch of crimini mushrooms and garlic, oregano, thyme, and basil. I could freeze it in batches and use it over pasta for a couple of meals.

lettuce

For future salads, I washed, spun dry, and chopped up a head of red butter lettuce, a bunch of kale, and some arugula from the CSA box. We aren’t big arugula people – it’s too bitter even for me. I used some for the salad and some in the quiche I made for quick breakfasts this week. The rest of it went in the compost. There’s your proof that I’m far from perfect.

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I also chopped a batch of scallions, radishes, and a couple of carrots to use as salad add-ins. I have a few avocados to add at the last minute. My salad adventure was fueled over the holdiays when we made a fabulous chopped salad at my SIL’s one day. They’d recently subscribed to a CSA box, and being foodie newbies, weren’t sure what to do with a lot of it. It all went in the salad and was terrific. Except for the scallions. They were going to grill some asparagus and we threw the scallions in with those. That was awesome!

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The quiche used up the beet greens and one leek, and I added a bit of sage and nutmeg. I had some for lunch. Very easy to make and it really tasted good!

I was pleased to find a tagine recipe that used beets and oranges, as I had plenty of both. All the beets went in the tagine, while the greens went in the quiche.  It’s always good to use the whole plant, right?

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Waste not, etc.

I’ve made Moroccan dishes before, but I never used an actual tagine. Since this type of cuisine uses a lot of ingredients, I used the mise en place technique to make sure everything was ready to add at the right time. I minced the garlic, smashed the coriander seeds, sliced the red onion, peeled and quartered the beets, cubed the beef, quartered the oranges, chopped the parsley, and got the honey and cinnamon sticks out. Whew! Then I started cooking.

Once the mise in place is done, the actual cooking is pretty easy. Just sautee the onion and garlic, add the beets and spices for a few minutes, then the beef and a little water. In cooks for a while (about an hour), then in go the oranges and honey. This simmers for another 20 minutes or so. Pretty, isn’t it?

stew

I served it with couscous – the recipe called for hot, buttered couscous, and who was I to argue? I included a small salad, because after all, I only had to dish it onto plates. And wine, of course – a nice, flowery Chardonnay. Oh, and we have leftovers for two more meals.

This  is why I love to cook.

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2 thoughts on “A Cooking Post: Food Prep”

  1. I can’t say I “like” to cook, but I don’t mind it. Because I see it as a chore, I almost always try to make enough for leftovers so it’s one less meal I have to cook. 🙂

    What else are you going to do with the leeks? I’ve always wanted to try potato leek soup, but I never seem to have those two ingredients in the house at the same time.

    1. I’ll probably use one leek when I make carrot soup, which is what I’m doing with the rest of the carrots. For the others, I’m going to try something different. I’ll slice them thinly, toss with olive oil, and roast til crisp. i suspect I’ll eat them like popcorn.

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