Monday, January 2, 2012
New Year's determinations + Soup for one
Susan Voisin in particular has articulated her KISSS plan clearly (or technically it's KISSAS, the perfect acronym for a diet, in my opinion, though Susan has chosen not to use it) and although I haven't read Eat to Live and 6-week-type plans don't work for me, free spirit that I am, eating like that is how I lost my weight last year and also pretty much what I'm doing now.
Do I make New Year's resolutions? You bet! I love them. There is nothing like the feeling of a shiny new year, a fresh start, however symbolic, new beginnings, something to enliven the doldrums of January and, if you make it that far, the desperate dreariness of February and March that is weather in Edmonton. But this year I don't have any plans for self-improvement important enough to be called resolutions, so I've made what are more like New Year's determinations. This year, I am determined to:
1. Use up a significant amount of the contents of my deep freezer, pantry shelves (kitchen and basement, I could stock a dry goods store with the stuff I have down there), refrigerator, and auxiliary mini-fridge. I absolutely love buying food but it's getting to the point where there is simply no place to put it all. Grains, pasta, sauces, spices, nuts, condiments, pickles, and I don't know what all (actually I do have pretty good tabs on it, but still, there's so much). How many bags of fereek does one person need?
2. As a sub-determination of (1), to buy fresh food in small quantities. I live alone with several good grocery stores within easy reach, which I visit often. Why then do I feel I have to stock up on everything every time I go, just because it looks so good and buying fresh stuff is such a pleasure, to the point where when I start actually cooking I have to ask myself, hmm, what needs using up today? so though I shop for groceries probably twice a week I'm always ending up cooking with stale vegetables? Why? Why?
3. Really, truly practice cooking for one. One of the items taking up space in the freezer is containers of stews and soups of various kinds that are delicious, but left over. Man, I hate leftovers. To the point where I'll replicate an entire dish two days later rather than simply thawing the leftovers from the first one out. Once in a while I'll start a project, such as painting my house, where I have no time, space, or inclination to cook, and then I'm glad of them. Or have company on very short notice. Or I'm too depressed to cook. But I only paint once every several years and my friends are generally quite considerate about giving notice, and knock on wood I'm a pretty happy gal these days, plus cooking cheers me up so I'd have to be really depressed to dig down in the freezer for leftovers and that would for me usually mean I'm too depressed to eat anyway.
All these three determinations interlock. If I have carrots going wilty in the bin, I'm not going to want to just use half of one in a soup, I'll use all five, which is the first step in the Recipe for Disaster.
Phew, I'm feeling better already!
So to begin this overarching personal culinary economic revolution, I've been scouring out the fresh contents of the refrigerator(s; yes, I've had to resort to a creating a sub-depot in the mini-fridge downstairs). Soup is a very good way to do this, plus I love creating soups and stews, and having to use up odd bits of things is a good way to force oneself to be creative.
Start with a medium-small saucepan. You are cooking for one, so you are determined that this time you will not be pouring the contents into a larger saucepan later on. Measure out your high-calorie, starchy things. In the picture at the top of this post, you see 1/4 cup of dry black-eyed peas (just washed, which is why the skins are a little wrinkly), plus 2 tablespoons of pot barley, plus a single millet grain that got in somehow. It doesn't look like much, maybe, but it will expand. Cover generously with water or vegetable broth (you can add more later, or let it boil down if there's too much, so don't sweat the amount), bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 40 minutes while you go do something else.
Now fry some onions in a little oil, and when they're soft, add garlic, mushrooms, and celery. You can of course just add all this to the soup pot, but frying is just one more pan, and the added flavour is worth it.
Add diced parsnip and herbs, tarragon and fennel in this case, and fry a little longer, not to cook them through, just to toast everything a bit and mingle the flavours:
Deglaze the frying pan with white wine, and scrape the contents into the soup pot. Mmmm....
Simmer until the vegetables are tender, and just before you're ready to eat, add some finely chopped broccoli:
Okay, I snuck some kabocha squash in there as well because I'm addicted to it. But yes! I kept within the confines of my pot, ate it all (and was very full and satisfied afterwards even though the entire pot contained only about 400 calories), plus I finally made something with black eyed peas for New Year's, which I have been meaning to do for years but for one reason or another never managed. I'm ready for my abundance and wealth now. Is it ready for me?