Saturday, February 9, 2008

Food (you are always on my mind)

It is just after noon on a Saturday and my stomach wants something to fill it. However, my ongoing health issue means my usual (typically high fat) diet is out. I love cheese, drink milk by the gallon, slather butter on my toast and pancakes, and enjoy using sour cream and cream cheese in my recipes. Raised on a dairy farm, I enjoy all the various products that can come from milk.

I have mentioned in earlier posts about my monthly grocery shopping I have a monthly menu planned to help me shop for the items I need. I try to balance between items that need preparation time (e.g., a casserole or pizza from scratch) and items that can be prepared immediately. How do I do this?

As I have mentioned, I like cheese. Therefore, an easy meal would be toasted cheese sandwiches. All that is needed is two slices of bread, butter (or margarine or even vegetable oil) and two-four slices of American cheese. Other cheese can be used but I like how smoothly American cheese melts. Butter one side of each slice of bread, place one slice on a warmed pan, add the slices of cheese (as much or as little as you prefer), place the second slice of bread, butter side up, on top, and flip carefully when the bottom side is toasted. I find that a quick and satisfying meal especially with a glass of milk.

I have mentioned pizza before. It is both a great meal to prepare during the weekend when I have more time as well as during the week when I do not feel like doing much after work. Since I generally eat alone, I do not need a full-size pizza. Once my bread maker is done kneading and allowing the pizza dough to rise, I divide the dough into three pieces. Two go into the refrigerator and one is used immediately. Before the end of the dough cycle, I cut up the onions, grate the cheese and prepare any other toppings. I do not think it is time-consuming, but additional grated cheese can be prepared for later and refrigerated.

I am old-fashioned so I roll out the dough, slide it onto my pizza pan, wet the edges and roll up the dough to form the pizza crust boundary. Since I use so much flour to roll out the dough, the water removes the excess flour and allows the dough to stick. Next comes the sauce--I tend to be heavy on the sauce then I generously sprinkle on the cheese, add the toppings (I like onions and pepperoni) then brush olive oil on the crush. It bakes up nicely in about 15 minutes and I have a thin-crust pizza fit for one.

The leftover dough can be used for meal preparation during the work week. I have kept it for a week without issue. If you like thick-crust pizza, consider making a larger batch of dough and dividing it in half. With premade dough, I can cut down my preparation time to just ten minutes from rolling out the dough to baking in the oven. That is easy enough, right?

Pasta dishes like Country Supper (smoked sausage, Velveeta, onion, macaroni) usually make several servings so enough is made for dinner and then lunches and dinners to follow. One day of cooking if it takes an hour or two and the result is four to six meals is a good investment of time. I do put the more time-intensive recipes on the weekend, but there are some that I need only an hour for that I like to prepare during the week. I have not advanced to batch cooking where meals for weeks or even a month are prepared during a day. I am limited by freezer space so this is not practical for me. If I am adventurous (and have enough containers), I might have two different leftover meals to choose from during the week.

So my menu is typically a balance between more time-consuming food preparation and simpler, quicker meals that I can prepare anytime. The items above are just a few examples. Salad is a nice change of pace and takes less than fifteen minutes to prepare. Think of a few recipes you enjoy, figure out where they fall in the preparation time scale and learn to balance when time is premium versus wanting something more than a sandwich.

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