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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How the menu drawer works

So, while this whole thing is fun for me...how can it be useful to you?

Here is how cooking works for me (and through my blogging about it, I hope that it works for you) -

1. Create a menu for the week: Each weekend, I choose three dishes (which each have 2-4 servings) that I want to cook during the week. Because I'm cooking for one, three recipes is generally enough food for lunch and dinner for the week. (I usually have a smoothie, oatmeal, or buckwheat pancakes for breakfast.) If you're cooking for two, you may want to add one more dish to the mix. I choose recipes that have some overlap in ingredients, so that if I'm buying a bunch of cilantro, for example, I can use most, if not all of it, rather than buying it just as garnish for a thai chick'n pizza. I also generally choose dishes that take no more than 30-40 minutes to make, (most only take 20 minutes) so that cooking, on weeknights in particular, is quick.

2. Write out a categorized grocery list: Once I know everything that I'll need, I check to see what I already have, and then write out a list of what I need to buy. I generally organize this list according to how the grocery store is laid out (i.e. produce, canned goods, dry goods, freezer/refrigerator, etc.). This way, while I am shopping, I'm not all over my list (or the store) trying to figure out what I still have to get. I know, the organization is a little over the top, but it really makes things easier.

3. Shop for groceries: This one is self-explanatory.

4. Cook and Eat: I like to make one or two dishes on Sunday, and then alternate between these items until Tuesday. Then, I'll cook again on Tuesday or Wednesday for dishes that generally last through Friday.

So, on The Menu Drawer, each weekend, you'll find:
  • my menu for the week,
  • my grocery list, and
  • the accompanying recipes.

And as I cook during the week, I'll share tips and changes that I've made while cooking.

Look for the first menu this weekend!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why "the menu drawer"?

My impulse to begin something, each time it has tugged at me, has never come to me as a single, linear force. More often, a confluence of sitting ideas and long-standing interests begin to flicker and then merge, forming a swelling tide that ultimately pushes me to do the thing it is that I want to do.

Launching The Menu Drawer was the same. Several factors and reasons have brought me to this write this blog.

1. I wanted to start something that is my own creation.
2. I love cooking.
3. I love writing.
4. There is no substitute for a homemade meal.
5. When I am tired and forget #4, I order food. It is always overpriced, and always leaves me unsatisfied, and then I remember why it's worth spending 20 minutes in the kitchen to have a homemade meal.

But, as a 20-something in New York City, is it really practical to cook for one or two people almost every night?

Yes - if you have a weekly menu.

1. With a menu, you can buy all the ingredients you need in one trip to the store.
2. With a menu, you know exactly what to do every night after work.
3. Menus can be created to use similar ingredients, so you waste less and save more (food and money).
4. Leftovers! (Read: The next day’s lunch, so you can keep the money for the $7.95 lunch special in your wallet.)

By writing this blog, I hope to inspire myself to continue to sift through food websites and cookbooks, to choose, try, and tweak recipes, and to be good to my body and eat well every day.

If you like to cook, but:
· find the process of getting organized to be time-consuming, or
· find grocery-shopping for one or two to be expensive,

then I hope that this blog, this drawer full of menus, makes cooking and eating well easier for you, by compiling recipes, using ingredients effectively, and providing a plan. Happy chopping, grilling, shredding, mincing, sautéing, mixing, pureeing, and best of all - eating!