Thursday in the City- Meal Planning Part I (Gathering)

pile of cookbooks, originally uploaded by penguincake

The first step in meal planning is gaining some experience in cooking and knowing what your skill level is to pick out recipes.  A reasonable goal is to try one new recipe a week.  Some of them won’t work out, some you will want to share.
I needed to eat an organic, hypo-allergenic diet (as if teaching yourself how to cook normally isn’t a challenge without restrictions).  I also wanted to eat seasonally and local when I could so that it was fresh and better for the environment. When I started this process  (about 10 months ago) , I didn’t really know how to cook or bake anything.  I had to start looking at cookbooks, magazines, blogs, and watch cooking shows.  I have a preference to homemade, natural ingredients, vegan, herbs, easy, unusual and pretty to look at as well as eat.  Things that are really tasty, something a meat eater wouldn’t mind sharing even though it is vegan/vegetarian. I really wanted interesting combinations with lots of color.  I mean, eating avocados all the time can get ho hum even if they are delicious.  Unless I wanted to keep eating unfulfilling salads or plain rice and veggies, I need to start gathering recipes.
So, I started my research.  I read and watched everything.  I learned how to cut up and wash a leek.  I learned how to use coconut oil.  I discovered a mandolin slicer and an immersion blender.  I just started.  I watched shows even though I wasn’t interested in that particular dish, but was interested in how they treated a particular ingredient.   I just made a Carrot Fennel Soup from Orangette.    I never used fennel before.  (I admit I bought it twice then ended up composting it after I wimped out waiting to use it.)  Well, I watched Mary Ann Esposito on Ciao Italia shave a fennel for a salad a few weeks back.  So, that is what I did, shaved and sliced.  That is the best carrot soup I have made yet!  I would post the recipe for you, but I really want you to go read her story about it.  I almost felt French enjoying my soup!  I have attempted other recipes but never  liked them.  I wanted a carrot soup, so I kept trying.  (Looks like I do not like the full amount of OJ in it.)  Blogs have really been a great tool in learning.  You can see what worked and didn’t through other people.  I have a “Blog- food” bookmark just so I can keep up to date on recipes as the seasons change.

Carrot Fennel Soup I made using a recipe from Orangette

Here are some of my favorite research recommendations in no particular order:
Cook Books
Cook with Jamie (or any other Jamie Oliver cook book)

Magazines and websites
Whole Foods ( I was surprised at how good this was.  Even makes shopping lists which is great.)
Martha Stewart (Can also print out shopping lists.)
Blogs
TV and websites:
Caprial and John’s Kitchen
I have so many recipe pdf files on my computer that I have arranged by main ingredient.  Categorizing by “dinner” wouldn’t work for me.  For example, I have a category just for lentils.  I specifically wanted to learn how to use them in a bunch of different ways.  So, I spent an hour searching, gathered the best and saved them as pdfs.  My goal is to try them out.  If they work, then I will print them out for future use. I haven’t decided on a final organizational solution for the print out.  Right now they are in a stack.  Not exactly ideal.  But part of my process none the less.  I think ideally it would be nice to put them on pretty index cards and use a standard recipe box.  But I don’t see me doing that this year.
Armed with my growing stack of recipes, I set them out in front of me and see what has similar ingredients.  If there are two with leeks, then I try to plan to make those the same week so I use up all of the leeks. More on planning next week.
Hope you find a new favorite resource to add to your recipe library!

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