Food self sufficiency or How to order less takeout

I have a really good friend who always asks me how it is that I manage to make meals six nights a week with my schedule. Doesn’t it take lots of planning? Aren’t you so tired at the end of the day?

Yes, planning helps.Yes, I can be really tired at the end of the day. But I admit this and work it into how I deal with meal planning. I typically plan my difficult or time-consuming meals on days when I know I’ll have the time and energy to make them. Often this means Sunday or my non-gym weekday.

Although it is easier for me now, early on when I took over the cooking duties I had to plan meals. Otherwise we’d be eating takeout. Sometimes we’d hSome of that had to do with the fact I didn’t have what I refer to as “KISS” (Keep it Simple Silly) meals that I can prepare at the drop of a hat in my repertoire. I also didn’t know how to shop and stock my pantry so I could be flexible. Making sure I have versatile stuff on hand is something I’ve learned with experience. Early on I made menus for the week and shopped for the menus. Now I wing it a lot. I also make sure if I know I’m going to be zapped that I deliberately plan to make something from the “KISS” (Keep it Simple Silly) recipe bucket.

What allows me to wing it and make a KISS recipe at the drop of a hat is that I make sure I have always have something

  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Seafood
  • Sausage

in my freezer. Why, because it guarantees variety and flexibility. Often I only know what the meat is going to be for that day’s meal and I only know that when I choose what to thaw. How I’m preparing depends on the amount time I have at my disposal. The vegetable gets selected based on several criteria: how old the choices are, how well they keep, and how much time I have.

If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, the grill plus a rub or marinade is your friend. 10 mins to prep a marinade and put it and the meat in a zip top bag. Go to the gym for an hour. Come home, start grill. Shower while grill pre-heats. Cook meat.

Go to KISS (Keep in simple silly) grill dishes for me

  • Skirt Steak – Alton Brown’s Skirt Steak marinade
  • Pork loin chops – marinate in minced garlic, green onions, chopped thai basil and low sodium soy sauce. In a pinch you can sub garlic powder for the fresh garlic
  • Chicken Thighs – Best local barbecue sauce you can buy
  • Shrimp – Cumin, garlic powder, ancho or new mexico chili powder, Mexican oregano, lime juice and olive oil
  • Any kind of white fish fillet – Put fish on aluminum foil, small pad of butter, lemon juice, cracked black pepper

KISS recipes that aren’t as fast but dead easy

  • Roasted Chicken – Spatchcock it (that’s remove the backbone). Rub with mixture of olive oil, fresh rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram. Bake in a 9×11 pan.
  • Stuffed peppers – These look fancy and taste great but they are super easy to make
  • Sauted Veggies and pasta toss – Good jar of pesto or your own homemade frozen and thawed, vegetables like peppers, onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, zucchini and a box of pasta. If you’re a meat lover you can also include some kielbasa like sausage. I like Johnsonville sausage with chipotle and monterey jack cheese.
  • Shrimp and green bean stir fry – Shrimp, green beans, garlic, thai basil and chili garlic sauce
  • If you like pizza, then making your own isn’t that difficult. I make dough a head on the weekend then portion and freeze it. Because I make thin whole wheat crust pizza a batch of dough makes 3 pizzas. You can use small can of standard tomato sauce dressed up with garlic powder, oregano and a pinch of sugar. There are lots of topping choices. My favorite is Margherita style with the freshest tomato sauce, diced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and the best mozzarella one can get. Emeril Lagasse has a good recipe for this if you want to make it with your own homemade tomato sauce. Sometimes I make this as “white pizza” which means not sauce just fresh slices of tomatoes, basil and the mozzarella. Grilled vegetables are also a really good topping option.

Tasty healthy good food doesn’t have to be complicated and involved. Eating in you’ll get to control your portions better and make recipes with healthier ingredients. You’ll notice some of these things I suggest use some pre-made things but the recipes don’t have to. A great thing about marinades, rubs and sauces you can always make your own and store them. The advantage being you’ll reduce your intake of sodium and extra preservatives. But you’ve got to be organized. Chefs who run successful restaurants actually do spend time thinking, planning and organizing. The actual preparation is a chaotic but coordinated dance of getting things done. Your kitchen is this on a small scale.

Success depends on knowing your skills and limitations and working within your realms of control. I still can’t juggle more than two dishes simultaneously. It is why I hate holiday meals – in particular Thanksgiving with its turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetable, rolls and dessert(s). So I don’t attempt this for normal meals and all ends up well 95% of the time. Sometimes you’ll fail and have to order that takeout. But you’ll remember how you screwed it up for the next time and become a more self food sufficient.

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