New leaf?

English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with vari...
English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with variously colored stems on sale at an outdoor farmers’ market in Rochester, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the pantry project is ongoing, but just lately Glinda and I have started talking quite seriously about how badly we tend to eat.  To that end, we’ve made a couple of pacts:  First we said salad once a week, minimum.  By which we meant dinner salad.  This was a good decision but badly thought out because it’s gotten cold here and the last thing we want for dinner is a cold salad.  Tonight we agreed that a heavily vegetable-based meal would do as well in the cold months.  Of course we agreed this while eating a perfectly delicious meal of a half of a (large) sweet potato each, some freshly roasted chicken with lemon zest, curry powder and garlic, and a fantastic kale salad that was pretty much the same as my Swiss chard with lemon and ginger except served cold, not hot like the chard.  When you can eat things that taste so good, eating better is not a hardship.

The other pact?  Fish at least once a month.  We made that agreement over a month ago and tomorrow night will be our first proper fish meal since I don’t count tuna casseroles.  I suppose I could or should, but I don’t.  Glinda’s cooking, YAYZ!

It’s all well and good to make promises like that but going at it rather haphazardly is a recipe for disaster (Forgive the pun. Normally I’m not given to them, but sometimes they race up and whap you over the head.)  So after having experimented with about a week of making a to-do list every day, I observed, over coffee on Saturday, that we really should try mapping out a week’s worth of menus.  Since we were going shopping on Sunday, we could decide what we wanted to make and then make a shopping list too.  I mean, this is what real people do, right?  Grown-ups.

So we talked about it for a while, and came up with the following:

  • Saturday: Tuna noodle casserole.  It was already planned so not a big stretch.
  • Sunday: Butter chicken.  Glinda makes a great butter chicken curry.
  • Monday: Sweet potato with kale.  Alas, I lost track of the recipe I wanted to use so I had to improvise.  The reason there was chicken was that we went to the meat dept. of Whole Paycheck and got a roasting chicken and a rump roast.  Why there?  Well, if we’re going to eat meat at all, and we both still do, we would at least like to make healthier and more humane choices.  We’re willing to pay more for that, but then it becomes all the more imperative that we make good use of what we buy.  So… wait, what was I saying?  Oh yeah, the chicken.  We got a roaster and I cooked it this afternoon.  I figured we’d have some with dinner, and then I’d cut the rest of the meat off the carcass and use it for chicken a la king at a later date (It’s in the freezer now.) The carcass is in the slow cooker with six cups of broth and some herbs.  It’ll be ready some time tomorrow morning.  This is spreading the cost of the $10 chicken out across at least three meals and possibly four or five.  Yes, it’d be even cheaper from some other source but like I said we’re paying for our principles.  Oh yeah and we’re collecting drippings for the Thanksgiving gravy because Glinda’s sister, Laurie is The Gravy Master and uses all sorts of drippings in her masterpiece.
  • Tuesday is fish and veg.  Glinda is in charge.  I’m really looking forward to it.
  • Wednesday is what my friend, Gwen, used to call “Choice day.”  You take what’s in the fridge or you fend for yourself.
  • I’m excited about Thursday because I’ll be making some jumbo shell pasta stuffed with a chard and ricotta mixture and baked in homemade marinara from our neighbor, Linda.  How many times can I say that we have the best neighbors on earth before everyone tells me to shut up?
  • Friday I’m going to be making a rump roast the way Mom used to.  I have some serious trepidation about this because Mom was one of the best cooks I ever knew, and also I’ve never made this by myself.  Good thoughts will be appreciated.  If all goes well, we’ll get at least three meals out of the roast, and probably more.  I’m looking forward to a hot beef sandwich, and finally to making up a beef pot pie and freezing it for later.
Shakshuka (Photo credit: Pabo76)

I honestly have no clue what we’ll do over the weekend, but I am beginning to have a freezer full of useful stuff.  And I’ve been wanting to make shakshuka, a savory bread pudding, and matzoh soup, all of which I can do with what’s in the house, so I’m feeling kind of good about our choices, how I’m starting to shop and the way I’m beginning to think about food.

Why am I writing all this?  Because I’m starting to feel that it’s really possible to change the way we do things if we just pay attention to how we think about those things. I know I’m not going to accomplish a complete 180 and make my life perfect overnight.  Doubt it’ll be perfect ever, but I can keep on trying.

So this weekend, we’ll sit down and talk about what’s for dinner next week.  And it should become a habit. And when it does, we’ll be one step closer to eating better and saving money.  I don’t think you can argue with that outcome.

For anyone who is interested in the recipes that informed what I’ve been cooking lately, here’s a partial list.  If you know me at all you know I consider recipes to be nice suggestions.