In the past few months I have been reading more and more cookbooks and books about food in general. Some of these books have been duds (The Taste Thesaurus? Blah) but others have been gems. You might be wondering if I have become obsessed with food and you might be onto something. I do like food, A LOT, but cooking? Not so much. Being on the GAPS diet, also known as the "no processed anything diet" requires me to spend a lot of time cooking. You might think that having been on this diet for 16 months! now I would have acquired a love of cooking given the many hours each day I spend in the kitchen but you would be sadly wrong. If nothing else I probably dislike it more. In my quest to make cooking less painful I have stumbled upon a few very fabulous tips that help me spend less time in the kitchen and help me save money to boot.
The first tip comes from a cookbook that I haven't even read yet and probably won't unless the price goes down:
The author of Well Fed offers a thirty-page teaser preview on her website which was so awesome that I was almost willing to pay $30 for the cookbook; almost. What is magical about this cookbook besides its delicious recipes which include, amongst others, chocolate chili?
Melissa Joulwan comes from a family of restauranteurs which means she
knows how to cook food FAST. Once a week Joulwan does the majority of
her food prep for the week, usually within a day of her shopping trip.
In two hours she browns ground beef, cooks chicken breasts and
sausages, roasts sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash, steams broccoli
and cabbage, chops up raw veggies for snacks, boils a dozen eggs and
As I read this idea it astounded me. In
years past I had subscribed to a menu mailer that advocated such weekly
prep as this but it didn't really work for me because I didn't like all
the recipes included in each weeks mailers. Joulwan, however, doesn't
worry about such things as "recipes". She only makes 2-3 real recipes
every week. The rest of the time she makes what she calls "hot plates."
Basically, she takes what prepared items she has an assembles them into a
meal. She decides what flavor she wants (Mexican, Indian, Asian etc.)
and then what protein and throws it all together into a skillet and
voila! Dinner. The example she gave for a Mexican dinner was to throw
together in a skillet a pound of the precooked ground beef, steamed
chopped peppers and cabbage and while that was warming up make some
"South Western Cumin Lime Dressing" and she had dinner ready in less
than ten minutes. This way you get lots of variety and you aren't stuck
with the Chicken curry you had planned to make when what you really
crave is Mexican.
I have done this a few times and it
has worked famously. I wish I was better at doing it but as with every
new skill learned, it takes time to change habits and fit something new
into the routine. The chopping and steaming vegetables has been genius. I
wash and cut up lettuce as soon as I get it so that I can make an easy
salad, grate and steam cauliflower rice, and slice a head of cabbage for
"noodles." It is so easy just to steam the already wet from washing
sliced vegetables until just soft and put in a container in the fridge
until I need it. I also like to make up the week's salad dressing so I
have no excuse not to eat my greens.
As for working on those flavor combinations to mix together those hot plates? The Flavor Bible
is essential! I cannot say enough about how great this book is. The way
it is organized is so perfectly aligned with how my brains works. The
only thing that I didn't like about this book is its omission of Sherry
An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace
had such a lovely little gem of a not-quite-cookbook title that I
bought it, not even waiting for it to come to the library. I don't
exactly regret my purchase but I since I am not eating grains currently,
her grain heavy and Italian influenced cooking tips really did not
quite hit home with me. She also has a mysterious "thing" with beets
which I cannot comprehend. It wasn't that this was a useless books, on
the contrary, her tips for stretching your culinary budget are sound and
tasty, but Adler definitely needed to endear herself to me with her
unflinching praise of fat to keep me reading until the end. The most
useful tip that I found in her book was to use EVERY part of the
vegetable. The core and leaves of that head of cauliflower? Edible. Yup.
Not every part of plant is edible (carrot tops?) but when you are
paying for those throwaway bits it is nice to be able to put them to
use. I now use the extra leaves and cores of cabbage and cauliflower to
make blended French-style potage soups.
trick that Adler taught is to use the cooking liquid from cooking
vegetables as a base for soups. Yes! Duh, I don't know why it took me
this long to figure that one out. For a while now I have always saved
the drippings from roasts to use for soups and they really amp up the
flavor; using the veggie "drippings" is much same.
favorite kitchen tip I have actually been doing for years: boil the
bones but what I didn't know is that you can boil the snot, erm
nutrients, right out of them for a week before throwing them out. Perpetual Broth
has become my new best friend and the very best way to stretch that
expensive pastured chicken carcass. It is so nice in the winter to be
able to have broth for soup available for meals throughout the week and
even with a 1/4 tsp. sea salt, a cup of broth is both nourishing,
soothing and delicious after a long day. I very highly recommend doing
Those are my tips for now. Any that you are willing to share with me?