Sunday, October 18, 2009

5 Tips for Finding Time to Cook

One of my favorite parts of The New York Times Magazine article last weekend about Jamie Oliver, Putting America's Diet on a Diet, was when after Oliver made Mini Shell Pasta With a Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce for his two daughters and the article's author, Alex Witchel observed:
"He [Oliver] is not a diet cop; he’s about scratch cooking, which to him means avoiding processed and fast food, learning pride of ownership, encouraging sparks of creativity and finding a reason to gather family and friends in one place."
I just love that sentiment, that eating "healthy" is less about what you are eating (i.e. organic, carbs, no carbs, meat, no meat, fat, no fat, etc.), but about eating "scratch cooking" with other people.

I love to cook. If I have time to cook dinner, I know that my day is just the right amount of busy. Today was one of those days. Although neither my husband and I are vegans (I was one a long time ago), I still like vegan cookbooks. Inspired by a Joy Behar interview last week with Alicia Silverstone about her book, The Kind Diet (Behar's face while tasting the vegan food Alicia brought was hilarious), and by this month being VeganMoFo's Vegan Month of Food, I thought I'd try a few new recipes from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero, a birthday gift from my in-laws this year.

I made three dishes (pictured above) A Hummus Recipe, Corn and Edamame-Sesame Salad, and Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies. The cookies were of course my favorite because I have a crazy sweet tooth.

Finding time to go grocery shopping and cook can be tough. Some weeks are easier than others. A few things I do to find time and motivation to cook are:

1. Plan when I am going to shop and cook. Just like you have to plan when you're going to make time to exercise, you have to do the same with shopping and cooking. I try to go shopping twice a week, once on the weekend and once mid-week.

2. Pick recipes, or foods that sound fun to make. I'm a recipe person myself and part of the reason I like making new recipes is that it feels like you get a surprise at the end--How will it taste? What will it look like? Will this be my newest favorite dish? I own a lot of cookbooks, but I also get them out from the library, ask friends for recipes, and search for new recipes on epicurious and Food Network.

If you aren't a recipe person, pick a food (Epicurious has a Peak-Season Map where you can see what foods are in season near you) that sounds fun to build a dish around.

3. Keep my grocery list in my phone. My favorite iPhone application right now is Grocery iQ. Every time I notice we need something I just add it to my list on Grocery iQ, that way if I find myself unexpectedly near a store I can grab a few things.

4. Always have the fixings on hand for one dish that doesn't use perishable ingredients. I found the recipe for Midnight Pasta with Tuna, Pancetta and Spinach in a Food & Wine Magazine stuffed in the front pocket of a plane seat over five years ago. It has become one of my standbys because it's easy to keep the ingredients for it on hand: spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, pancetta or bacon (I use Morningstar Farms Veggie Bacon Strips, which keep in the freezer for a long time), crushed red pepper, frozen chopped spinach, oil-packed tuna, white wine, and salt.

5. Make food for friends. When it's just my husband and me, or just one of us at home, we sometimes get lazy with cooking, but if we have people over it motivates us to cook. You can organize a meal swap with friends if you don't like to eat the same leftovers for days afterwards, and sites like MealBaby make it easy to organize meals for a sick friend, and might motivate you to make dinner for them, and you at the same time.

Below are links to some of the cookbooks I turn to again and again. What are some of your favs?

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  1. Great Advice. I've never seemed to have time to cook. Even though I eat healthy, in my mind I've always considered it a burden. I suppose I if slow down a bit to care for myself more, I wouldn't feel this way.


  2. The key is, like for many things, to find a way to make it fun!

  3. One more reason you are so awesome :) I'm a GroceryIQ junkie too - it has saved me SOOO much cash when it comes to shopping.

    I've also taken to finding new recipes (either at home or on the fly) on my iPhone too: Whole Foods, epicurious, VeganYumYum and Simply Organic (the spice company) are some of my fave veg-friendly recipe apps.

    My fave sites and cookbooks (besides, actually, most of what you included in your post) for locating inspiring "holy cow I really don't feel liking cooking but I'm tired of overeating and overpaying at a crap restaurant" nights:

    - (not all veg, but WOW!)

    Cookbooks I can't be without (besides the Garden Of series + Isa's books): Vegan Vittles, The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, How To Cook Everything Vegetarian... and so many more.

    I also love using and the iVegetarian iPhone app when I'm traveling to find cool veggie spots to nosh at.

    Great post! Sure do wish you lived closer, I'd love to veggie potluck with you :)

  4. Wow! What an awesome list of resources, Katie. Thanks so much. I'm going to check them all out.

    I made the Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onions and Sage Breadcrumbs from Veganomicon last night and it was freakalicious.


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