Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Year-End Reflections: Cooking

This week I've been stopping to reflect on the year and share some tips or lessons learned.  The kitchen has been my favorite place lately.  I have become very comfortable with trying new recipes.  I even have made up some of my own, which I am so proud that they actually taste good.  One reason that I have had to be a little more bold in cooking is because of my daughter's food allergies to milk.  Talk about a big challenge.  I don't really like to buy lots of expensive ingredients to substitute, and my husband and I still eat dairy.  So the challenge became to not only make healthy and tasty meals that were dairy free, but to make her meals look like ours if our meal had dairy in it.

I also learned a lot about making recipes from scratch and saving money along the way.  My favorite, favorite new thing to make is chicken stock.  It costs pennies to make and the taste is so much cleaner than from a can.  I also like making casseroles without (yes without) cream soups.  I used to use cream soups a couple times a week.  Now I will substitute a milk-based (for us) sauce or simply use a homemade stock.  Again a much cleaner taste.  Yes, I still use a can of tomato soup here and there.  And we aren't completely free of processed foods.  But I have found that it really isn't that much more work to make from scratch (or near scratch).

Another lesson I am proud to have learned is freezing meals.  I absolutely love making a couple extra batches of food and freezing them for later.  Even browning a couple extra pounds of ground beef and freezing it makes meal prep much easier.  I feel that once I do go back to work (whenever that is) that I will have a good strategy in place for easy meals during the week that can be quickly unthawed and cooked.  I use our Foodsaver and it preserves the food really well.  I even learned how to freeze corn on the cob and other fresh fruits and vegetables.  This saves us a lot of money, as well.  I will often save the little bit of roast and use it to make a soup or fried rice.  It's amazing how just a little bit of meat can be stretched with different fillers.

It's been a tasty year for us and I really look forward to cooking up new dishes and making trusty favorites.

To check out my recipes go here!

To read my reflection on organizing go here and my reflection on lessons from a toddler go here!

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