Monday, September 14, 2009

The (Somewhat) Organized Home Cook

Some helpful resources:
1. A recipe vat.
I call it a vat; you'd probably call it a filing system. Unfortunately, my system breaks down quite often... like when I put the Southwestern Chicken Soup recipe in the Beef folder. Filled with my tried and true recipes, it's my go-to place for recipes for the week. Handwritten, cut from the newspaper, ripped from a magazine, printed from the internet... all good things go here.
2. Other good resources.
Magazines: Cooking Light, Gourmet, Real Simple, Southern Living (sometimes), Food &Wine, Bon Appetit... haven't bought Food Network's new mag.
Books: Cooks Illustrated: The Best Recipe, The Joy of Cooking (my bible), Pol Martin, the list goes on... in fact... I may have to dedicate a post to my favorite cooks and cookbooks.
Internet:,, (only if I feel like placing the fate of my dinner in the hands of some stranger of unknown taste...),
2. Meals for the Week List.
This is where I look at our schedule and figure out how many meals we'll actually eat at home... and plan out the menus.
3. Grocery list.
Usually written on the back of the meals for the week list. Tip: As you shop, tear a tiny notch in the edge of the paper next to each item you put in the cart. (Mark's fabulous idea!)
4. Pantry staples and common ingredients.
The more you cook, the easier shopping will become. Every pantry should have a line-up of versatile ingredients. Monitor your supply of these ingredients and buy as much as you can when they go on sale!
Also, look for recipes with common ingredients... If a recipe calls for only part of an ingredient's package, try to find another recipe that uses the rest for later in the week.

THE PANTRY BASICS (I'll probably be editing this for the next few days.)

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Canola Oil or Other Frying Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • White Wine Vinegar
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Seasoned Breadcrumbs
  • White Flour
  • White Sugar
  • Brown Sugar
  • Chicken Stock (15 oz cans or larger boxed packages... which can be re-sealed and refrigerated)
  • Beef Stock 
  • Dried Basil 
  • Dried Oregano
  • Dried Thyme
  • Ground Cayenne (Red) Pepper
  • Ground Cumin
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Garlic Powder
  • Black Pepper (Fresh ground is best)
  • Kosher Salt
  • Table Salt (Esp. for baking)
  • Coarse Sea Salt
4. Weekly Display. 
This one is pure fun. I write our weekly menus on a cabinet door coated with chalkboard paint. (BTW...a fantastic invention!) The Henster likes to help with this part. And his daddy looks forward to seeing what's on the board for the week!

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