I’m a little late for New Year resolutions, but I think the bug to reorganize and streamline my entire life just hit me this week. I’m sort of an all-or-nothing thinker in most aspects. The house is either organized/labeled/decluttered to near-monastery levels, or it looks like a band of hoarding leprechauns have taken up residence. My trunk is full of Goodwill items, and IT FEELS GREAT. If I touch something and cannot immediately think of where its home is or why I should keep it, it goes into the “go away” box.
This post has nothing to do with that, actually. I am also trying to really minimize our restaurant eating (my goal is zero going out—the others in my household are not QUITE on board with that ideal) and cook more whole foods at home. I’m not doing anything crazy, just being intentional (again) about shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, cooking from scratch rather than from shortcuts when I can/have time, and paying attention to organics and ingredients. However, if I just happen to have a mad craving for guacamole and chips, that is okay too! Work has been pretty busy lately, so I’m also trying to use the crockpot almost every day for dinner. I haven’t quite mastered not using as many processed foods for that, but I’m working on gathering new recipes.
Fun Fact: I like to cook lots of vegan/vegetarian meals. On other days, I use bacon like it’s going out of style. I’m a conflicted soul, what can I say?
So, here’s some of what’s been on our menu lately:
White Bean/Ham Soup—PEOPLE. This is the easiest thing I’ve done in a very long time, and it was so good that I’m still thinking about it. The entire house smelled heavenly all day while this was cooking. My grandmother was chatting to me about how she fed all of her 9 (nine!) kids on practically zero money and mentioned that this meal is what she still craves from those lean years. After Christmas, my mom gave me the gigantic bone from the ham we all shared. I threw it in the freezer and forgot about it for a while. I tend to season everything to death, but you really don’t need anything for this—I didn’t believe it until I tried it.
- 1 lb dried beans, about 2.5 cups (I used 2 cups White Northern beans and 1/2 cup Navy beans)—soak overnight in cold water, then rinse (or quick-soak at a low boil for 2 hours)
- Large ham hock (bone from a large ham—I have no idea if a ham hock is the same thing and I’m too lazy to look it up)—I also added in some leftover honey-baked ham
- 1.5-2 quarts vegetable broth
- Spices if that’s what makes you happy (salt/pepper, garlic, onion, celery, and so on)
- Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours, then pull meat from the bone (it will just fall off) and remove
Sweet Potato Ravioli with Kale Pesto—super easy!
Ingredients for ravioli: wonton wrappers, a baked sweet potato (I just microwaved one), lemon juice (1 lemon), pine nuts/walnuts, garlic, salt/pepper
Ingredients for the pesto: kale, garlic, olive oil, salt/pepper
I won’t bother with my photo, because my friend Sarah’s is much better! She had the genius idea to use wonton wrappers (which I almost always have, for some odd reason) as a base for ravioli. The filling is very easy (I think pumpkin would also be great and want to try that next). I used walnuts in place of the pine nuts and a baby greens mix (which included kale and spinach) in place of the kale in the pesto. I would cut back a bit on the lemon juice next time, but Andrew and I both really liked this. Baby Girl was a little overwhelmed by the pesto (though she will eat basil pesto straight, with a spoon), so I think alfredo sauce would be more kid-friendly for some.
Steel-cut oatmeal in the crockpot—if you’re eating the instant stuff, THIS ISN’T EVEN LIKE THE SAME FOOD. It takes about 30 minutes on the stovetop, but it is worth the extra time. I tried making it in the crockpot overnight—total mush—so I make one bigger batch and just keep microwaving it through the week. It is incredibly chewy and reheats very well. I make it with milk (not water) and add in salt, vanilla, lots of cinnamon, raisins, real maple syrup, etc. If all that is negating the health benefits, I choose to ignore it! I can make it to about 2:00 on this before my tummy starts growling for lunch.
Crockpot Mushroom/Cream Cheese Chicken with Rice—I can’t find the base recipe (haha, “recipe”) I used, but I basically threw together: frozen chicken breasts, vegetable broth, 8 oz cream cheese, a big pile of white mushrooms, dry white wine, and salt/pepper. It’s no diet meal, but everyone devoured it and ate it for days.
How to cook steak like a restaurant—this method is a REVELATION. I’m the worst at cooking meat well, but when I do eat a steak, I figure we might as well get the nice cut. When you cook it at at home, it is still a bargain in comparison to what you’d pay anywhere out. As you might predict, we skip the fussier parts of this process (specifically, the compound butter step), but THIS will make you happy you stayed home.
Juicing—Yes, back on the wagon with this as well. I’m partial to green machine recipes (and the storebought versions are good) and yogurt-berry juice smoothies, but I don’t usually have time to eat lunch anyway, so this is a better plan than my usual crash/burn/headache cycle.
Sweet Potato Chili is next in line!