Monthly Archives: October 2007

Meal planning > Save money, shop less, eat better

Yes, it’s officially Autumn. Finally, I can turn on my oven for supper without the risk of overheating the entire house and melting into a puddle. Hooray, now I can make roast chicken again … which is, you know, nearly my favourite meal of all time.

This week’s cooking letter is another piece about getting organized, working from a meal plan, and preparing for the new school year. Over the summer, you may have been eating more take-out meals than you’d like, or one too many frozen dinners. Autumn is the perfect time to adopt a new regime and break the take-out habit. And I’ve got a few tricks that will help 🙂

Why are you eating take-out or frozen entrées for dinner? (or toast, or canned ravioli…)

Everyone has different reasons for why they’re not cooking as often as they want to. For example, if you’re coming home at 6 pm it’s hard to start cooking dinner right then and there, especially if you have no plan. Sure, you could start cooking at 6 pm and eat by 7:30 pm, but it’s a bit trickier if you have children who need to eat earlier.

Sometimes we can’t put dinner on the table because we haven’t done the grocery shopping. Sometimes we can’t put dinner on the table because we’re doing too many other things. Like committing ourselves to too much else.

If I was to talk to you about eating at home and why people don’t do it, I think the biggest obstacles are:

  • Lack of time
  • Being away from home, coming home late – like at 6 pm or 7 pm and then feeling starving and not having the brain-space to put dinner on the table
  • Lack of groceries in the house.
  • Lack of motivation
  • Considering different people’s tastes and diets in your home and trying to cook something different for everyone
  • And finally, it’s easier to order to take-out, or to the grocery for pre-package food.

The pre-packaged food from the grocery store tastes pretty good, but you don’t always know what’s in it. And it’s about 2-3 times more expensive than it would take to make the same thing at home. I think it’s interesting that the food that they sell at the front of the grocery store in those packages – like the single serving lasagne, or the fish and rice – it isn’t very exotic. It’s like home cooking for people who don’t want to cook at home.

Is a weekly meal plan the answer?

Yes, I think so. You’ll save money. You’ll think less. You’ll shop less. You’ll eat better. I’ve broken down meal planning into 8 steps… in the beginning that will seem like a lot steps, but in the end it takes 25-30 minutes ONCE A WEEK, and then you’ve got all of your meals planned for the week, and you don’t think about “what’s for supper” again.

Remember, when you make your meal plan, it’s you who gets to pick what you’re going to eat this week, and you get to pick your favourite things. People say “I don’t know what I’m going to feel like.” Well if your menu plan is filled with things that you love, and you know you love, then it’s quite motivating when you think that tonight you’re making that chicken quesadilla recipe that you really like, or that hamburger recipe that is so fabulous. You will start to look forward to that feeling of “I know what I’m having tonight, because it’s that thing I really like.”

Start by picking your favourites. The roast chicken recipe that takes absolutely no effort, and an hour later it’s done and then you’ve got leftovers for sandwiches or soup or Thai curried chicken.

This week’s cooking letter has been adapted from “Eight easy steps to plan your week so you can eat at home, save money, be healthy, and impress yourself!” This 16-page Special Report #1 > Motivation and Meal Planning is available by PDF download now.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just hit reply to this email and drop me a line 🙂 You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com


Do you have ‘mystery meat’ in your freezer?

I feel like Autumn is the beginning of a new year, even more so than January. It’s the ‘back to school’ phenomenon … new pencils, new clothes, new backpack. Everything is shiny and brimming with possibility.

So now’s the time to take a ‘back to school’ approach to the kitchen. It’s time to get organized, get rid of habits you don’t like, adopt some new ones. Over the summer, you may have been eating more take-out meals than you’d like, or one too many frozen dinners. September is the perfect time to get adopt a new regime and break the take-out/frozen meal habit. And I’ve got a few tricks that will help 🙂

Don’t know where to start? Have a look at what’s in your house.

Start by clearing your clutter. Go through your cupboards and your fridge. I think that it’s probably a good idea to throw out the stuff you know you’re not going to eat. I find it very demoralizing to open the freezer and see something that I put in there (that I didn’t really like when I made it). Then every time I open the freezer thinking “what’s for supper?” – I see that thing, and I say to myself “oh, I don’t want that.”

If you don’t want to throw out food, you can always give it to the homeless shelter in your town. I did this recently – I’m afraid to tell you – I got married last year and we had a reception here at the house where we had cake and champagne. I made three chocolate cakes, and only half of one cake was eaten. I cut the leftovers in half and froze them, and thought “someday we’ll eat them.” And six months later they were still in my freezer, kind of depressing … so I took them down to the women’s shelter with cans of frosting, and they were super thrilled to see me. It was going to be the treat for bingo in the afternoon.

While you’re looking through your house for food you know you’re not going to eat, at the same time you can make an inventory of what you DO have that could be turned into a meal. For example, if you have pork tenderloin in the freezer, we could put that on a short list of “let’s find a way to use it up this week.” If you’ve got some pasta, for example a box of spaghetti, we’ll find a meal for that. Start with what you already have in the house so that you’re not buying every ingredients for all of your planned meals.

Sometimes I’ve got a box of lasagne noodles that’s been there for 2 weeks, or 3 weeks, or 4 weeks. And I’ll open up the cupboard and think “those noodles, better find a way to get rid of those noodles.” Or it could be a single can of coconut milk, and that reminds me of the Thai curried chicken recipe that I like to make, so that’s what I’m going to make this week because it uses up an ingredient that I already have.

Check your pantry, and your deep freezer. If you have a half-pound of ground beef, or a pound, or a piece of pork tenderloin or a chicken breast – let’s find a meal to use that up. I’m sure there are lots of people who have deep freezes full of mystery meat!

 

 

This week’s cooking letter has been extracted from Step #3 in the “Eight easy steps to plan your week so you can eat at home, save money, be healthy, and impress yourself!” This 17-page Special Report #1 > Motivation and Meal Planning is available by PDF download now.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just hit reply to this email and drop me a line 🙂 You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com.

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

How I got started cooking at age 12

How did I get started cooking when I was 12? Well, I literally had no choice, considering my electives during my Grade 7 school year were (1) Family Living (girl and boy body parts, puberty, etc.), (2) Metal Class, (3) Woodworking (where my sister nearly lost a finger), (4) Sewing, and finally (5) Cooking class.

So the decision wasn’t that difficult: a three-legged table or apple crisp? I choose the cooking class.

My junior high school memories are grey: smelly classes, ineffectual teachers, and generally being misbehaved. Yet, in Cooking class, I had the chance to make and eat something, which broke up the stupendous dullness of Geography (we called it Geograph-Free because the teacher didn’t do anything and expected the same from us).

By contrast, the Cooking classroom was a well-ordered space. Drawers pulled out to reveal black outlines drawn inside showing where to put measuring cups after they were washed and dried. There was a full-functioning teacher at the front of the room demonstrating how to peel an apple, how to test if the butter was soft enough, and don’t forget to preheat your oven.

Then magically, about 40 minutes later, the timer went off, we removed pans from the oven, and there was apple crisp for two. We served it with whipped cream, couldn’t wait until it was cool enough, the whipped cream instead melting into white soup.

That’s it. That’s the whole story. In the middle of my grim junior high school years, there’s this little bit of sunshine — warm apple crisp in a tiny portion. It makes enough to share, but I’ve also eaten leftovers cold for breakfast!

I still remember that feeling of accomplishment, at age 12, and it was pretty fabulous. As the eldest of four girls, I believe I promptly went home and announced that I knew how to cook, and made up a double batch to share with my sisters.

And now I’ve replicated this entire event many times in my adult life, including this past weekend. Peel a few apples after dinner, mix up the crunchy topping, put it in the oven, breathe deeply as the house fills with the smell of apple and cinnamon. Since it’s the weekend we can open some wine, then take the apple crisp out of the oven, let it cool a bit, but I still can’t wait long enough. Serve with fresh whipped cream flavoured with a bit of vanilla.

[Photo credits: Kris Brandhagen]


Apple Crisp for Two

(original recipe from Shelley’s Grade 7 cooking class, Gorsebrook School, Halifax, Nova Scotia)

2 cups (500 mL) Macintosh apples, peeled, cored & sliced (approx. 2 med. apples)
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar
¼ (60 mL) cup flour
¼ (60 mL) cup rolled oats
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) nutmeg
3 tablespoons (45 mL) soft butter

Grease a rectangular bread (loaf) pan. Put the apples in the bottom of the pan. Mix the other ingredients in a small bowl, and sprinkle on top of the apples. Make sure no apples are showing (or they’ll burn). Cook @ 350°F (180°C, gas mark 4) for 30 to 35 minutes.


As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just hit reply to this email and drop me a line 🙂 You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,  Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com