Soured on the Kitchen

Somehow, I had two lemon halves, plus a wedge, in the fridge. I knew about one of the halves, but when I went digging for it, I suddenly realized I had a second. That was kind of embarrassing, because it meant I’d cut open a whole new lemon when I needed a half and had a half ready to go.

A close up of two half lemons and a lemon wedge in a plastic container. To their left is a baggie of carrots.

This is kind of the story of my kitchen functioning right now. It’s low. Very low. Some of it is the recuperating I’ve previously mentioned and some is the fact that occasionally I sleep for more than 10 hours in a night. Unfortunately, some is just a complete lack of want to do things in the kitchen.

Bill and I both get this way sometimes. And my slightly odd hours are contributing to this lack right now. I get home at about dinner time and don’t much want to cook. We’re getting there. Tonight I’ll get home at about dinner time and I have a plan for dinner (stuffed acorn squash), so I’m feeling good about that.

I also did a bunch of batch cooking yesterday. I’m thinking enchiladas. I attempted to make schmalz, but it was terribly inefficient. I did make the stuffing for tonight’s acorn squash. It was going to be last night’s, but by the time it was all over, all I wanted was Thai food.

So, we had Thai food. And it was delicious.

It’s funny. I’ve been working on a post for today for over a week. I was trying to write about Bill and I’s attempts to reduce our food waste, efforts that are going surprisingly well in some ways, and it just wasn’t coming out. I think it’s because though it’s “going surprisingly well in some ways,” the truth is that these ways aren’t ways that I’m actually that pleased with. They feel more like, “better than not” efforts than “something to bring up on the blog” efforts.

While I sometimes wonder if I have far too high standards for myself, standards I am doomed to fail to achieve, I’m certain this isn’t one of those moments. The pieces of this post I was cramming together to attempt to make a post tell me this.

It’s time to get food waste reduction back on my “to do” list. And I’m going to start by making sure I have acorn squash for dinner, before it and the chicken that goes in it goes bad.

After that, I guess I’ll work on the batch of enchilada filling I started yesterday.

Hell, I might… make a menu for the week. It rarely succeeds for me, but when it does it’s really brilliant. Maybe it’ll be “new year, new successes” over here.

What are your biggest challenges in implementing a weekly menu? How have you overcome them?

P.S. The lemons became part of turkey soup. It was really good. And used up some stuff that had been in the freezer, as well as some ugly carrots. It felt a little like an anti-food waste victory.

The ingredients for lemon-turkey soup. Two jars of homemade stock, celery, lemons, carrots, and turkey.

P.P.S That photo was taken in my birthday gift. I love it. It was pitch black out that night, but you can’t tell with the photo. So fabulous. Thank you, Bill!

9 thoughts on “Soured on the Kitchen

  1. OOooo. Neat birthday gift. As far as food waste stuff, we’re not always great at it, but we’ve been trying to be a lot better lately too. Some of the ways are using “scraps” – pork bits become lardons, beef tallow gets used to sear steaks, chicken bones and stuff for stock…some of it is in brainstorm sessions for what we can use leftover taco meat for- frittattas are actually a fantastic use of leftover bits and bobs of veggies and stuff, so that’s always in our back pocket for stuff we’re not sure about. Also, lunch around here tends to be “fend for yourself” and we try to use the leftovers then in interesting ways. I made a chili cheese waffle the other day because dammit, I wanted something with chili and cheese that I could fold up. It was pretty good, actually.

    • A chili cheese waffle sounds fantastic, honestly.

      We do a lot of that sort of thing with “scraps.” I have about two bags of carcasses waiting to become stock, for example. But some days (some weeks, some months) are better than others. We were in a really good groove right about when I was making that soup, and then it all went to hell. I do not know why.

      I used eat leftovers for lunch a lot, but with the new job it’s almost entirely PB&Js. While I can figure out a way to refrigerate food at work, reheating is not going to happen. Good thing I have about two years worth of jam in my house.

  2. My first tip, it looks like you’re already doing: freeze all the bits and ends and peels and carrots that look a bit dry and celery that’s suffering ED. Eggshells, too. And a citrus peel per gallon ziploc bag (no more than that, though or things get bitter.) This someday goes into your pot with water and any poultry carcasses you accumulate to make broth.

    My other feel-like-a-pioneer-woman meal is Leftover Soup. It’s amazing what you can throw together in a pot, add some broth and/or diced tomatoes in juice and turn it into tasty soup. In my kitchen, there’s only two divisions: Asian Food and Everything Else. That is, when it’s time to make Leftover Soup, do not mix those two categories together, because they don’t play well. But you can mix Thai and Indian and Chinese food okay (adding curry to this is never wrong). And you can mix veggies and beans and the last scraps of lunchmeat and the 2 tablespoons of chicken salad and the end of the head of lettuce (yes, really!). Rice is the wild card, it can go in Asian Food or Everything Else. If the soup looks really weird because you have a random assortment of stuff but not enough of anything to be in every bowl, then get out your stick blender. Puree it, add some dairy (Everything Else) or coconut milk (Asian Food) and some cooked rice.

    But now I totally want a chili cheese waffle.

    • Leftover Soup sounds fascinating. I have never attempted something like that, but it sounds pretty doable. It’s on the “let’s try it” list now! Thanks for the “Asian” vs “Everything Else” tip. 🙂

  3. I’m definitely a planner. Sundays I sit down with cookbooks and my computer and plan out the week and then go do the shopping. I plan dinners, and sometimes lunches, but mostly dinners. Planning has been a struggle lately, and I’ve taken to using a rubric for the week: M: pasta or rice, T: casserole, W: sandwich/burrito/tacos/wraps, R: leftovers, F: pizza night!, Sa: pasta or rice, Su: soup/stew and salad. Lately, this is working for me for two reasons. First, I’m an omnivore planning and cooking for a vegetarian and I worry about nutrition. Second, I have so many cookbooks, saved food magazines, recipes clipped and web-pages bookmarked, that it can be overwhelming. Knowing the meal category for a night, and how the week is scheduled with my work and other outside obligations, makes it more likely that I cook and we don’t eat cereal for dinner.

    I dislike leftovers, so I tend to cook smaller amounts (its just the two of us). Fortunately, the hubs loves leftovers and is an active person who is a member of the “brotherhood of the hollow-leg”, a term my sister and I coined for our menfolk who bike so much, they can seemingly never take in enough calories. Even so, food waste can be a problem, especially when I try out new recipes that neither of us were terribly excited about. Sometimes the week just doesn’t go as planned and I find I don’t have the motivation or energy to follow through on my meal plan, then we often resort to pizza or eating out. We’re lucky to live in a mountain town with some pretty fab restaurants.

    • I think part of the problem Bill and I face (and faced in Chicago) is that we’re in a town with more fabulous restaurants than it is at all reasonable to try in a lifetime.

      Bill used to hate leftovers and has largely come around on them. I don’t mind them, but due to his work place (this and the last one) having a very strong “eat out together” culture, I tend to eat most of them. This can be exhausting in it’s own way. And, as I mentioned above to Marielle, is becoming problematic as I work more.

      I like, however, your idea of “type of meal” vs “exact meal” for menu planning. We did use that to good effect in Chicago for pizzas on Sundays. If nothing else, I’d love to get back to weekend homemade pizzas. (Bill makes amazing pizza.)

  4. Well, what we end up doing is thawing one package (meaning 3 servings worth) of two or three meats to be eaten through the week. Luke always makes enough for both of us for dinner and the last serving is for my lunch. Since we are working hard to stay on budget and my lunches need to be easy to eat and fast, this combo works well. Yes, it helps that I have a microwave at my disposal and Luke happily eats leftovers cold if he eats them. Our waste seems to be minimal now since we started getting the portions right. Batch cooking is something I used to do when I was by myself because I could happily eat the same thing a few days in a row. However, Luke can’t, so it goes away.

    One thing Luke is great at is repurposing a previous meal, much like what Caroline was saying. If we add one or two different spices, stir fry, or even create a roux or gravy, much of our leftovers can be consumed with a slightly different flavor.

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