That is perhaps the biggest secret to how I cook such a variety of items. While I rarely make a recipe exactly as written, they are a great source of inspiration. Bottom line: I read A LOT of cooking magazines and cookbooks. I watch cooking shows and "The Chew." Every time I see a recipe or an idea within a recipe I want to try, I clip it and even write notes on it. I also keep a small notebook that I jot down ideas in and refer back to. Sometimes, I just write an idea on a post-it and throw it in the recipe file!
Why do I bother? part of it is that I get bored eating the same things over and over (there are some recipes I love again and again, but that's not the norm). Part of why I do it is because I love learning and experimenting and want to make more meals at home. Plus, by clipping recipes, I can creat a shopping list each week and stay more organized (read: less stressed) during the week and still cook a good meal. Here are my tips and tricks to staying organized and eating a variety of meals!
Grocery shopping: I shop once per week. When I make out my shopping list, I pull out my folder of recipes and any cookbooks I want to reference and make out a list of meals and ingredients. That way, I have everything I need when I'm ready to cook. But, if there is something on special, I'm not afraid to change my cooking plans or buying and freezing things on sale.
Fresh food: Spring and summer are the best seasons at the farmers' markets. Try and shop the markets and take advantage of the local offerings. If they are available in your area, services such as greenling.com bring together produce, meat, and other items and deliver them to you each week. Not always the least expensive, but if you can afford, it's worth doing. For meat, get to know your local farmers and buy from them - the meat comes frozen and keeps a long time. It may cost more, but you're supporting local farmers and escaping the industrial food chain.
Organizing recipes: When I clip the recipes, I keep a simple accordion folder with tabs for each month. I file the recipe under the month I might want to try the recipe. We get bored eating the same things over and over, so it motivates me to try new things. Once I try the recipe, if I don't like it, I throw it out. If I do like it, I add to my "permanent" file with a date I tried it and a note about how I cooked it or anything special about the recipe. (My permanent file is actually a set of recipe files - one for recipes I like and one for the "heirloom" recipes I make again and again).
|How I keep recipes organized - filed by month|
Following recipes exactly: My honey dislikes bell peppers... and most vegetables... and many fruits... and..., well you get the idea. There are many recipes that have one or two ingredients he won't touch. Rather than just not make the recipe, I omit the items he won't eat. That way, I customize to our tastes and still get to try a potentially delicious recipe. It may not taste quite the same, but it works for us.
Cook ahead: A big secret about restaurants is they cook everything they can ahead of time. That beef rib you're eating on Friday? It might have been partially or fully cooked on Sunday and just reheated the day they serve it! If you can find time on the weekend to even cook some of the ingredients ahead, all you have to do the day you wat to eat it is assemble and reheat. When I took night classes, I cooked 2 or 3 meals on Sunday and divided them into portions for the week. I may have had to run the dishwasher more often to clean all of the Tupperware I used for storage, but dinner was ready in less than 10 minutes most days.
If you're going to try this, summer is a great time to begin. Start simple - try grilling a couple extra chicken breasts on Saturday night and serve a chicken Caesar salad Monday with the leftovers! Make a steak salad with an extra steak you grill up. Serve as a salad with mixed greens, sliced red onions, blue cheese, and balsamic vinegar dressing. Two meals for the effort of one!