Thursday, July 21, 2011

Harvard Magazine Review - Building Convenience

Waging war on the societal trends that are pulling 49% of American's food budgets into restaurants has become one of my mantra's in this blog.  The article "Restaurants Rampant" in Harvard Magazine July-August 2011 reiterates the dilema in which we find ourselves.  Why are we as a nation in the middle of a famine and overfed at the same time?  There is no food to be had at home so statistics indicate that families eat out.  The fast food or "professionally cooked" food is void of nutrients, high in fat and sugar and addicting.  Starving for family togetherness and a Mom in the kitchen, Americans eat and eat.  No wonder we find ourselves in an "obesity epidemic."  All the associated health risks of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer along with juvenile deliquence and divorce trot along side this stampede.  It is time to stop, evaluate the direction of our lives and preserve what is most dear: family.  One of the most compeling places to start is at the family dinner table.

Harvard Magazine reports "A Grand Presentation" is the big marketing tool of many restaurants nowadays like the el Bulli on the Costa Brava north of Barcelona. Chef Adria spends six months a year just planning how to turn regular ingredients into "pyramids" or making "ravioli transparent." I feel to the contrary, a man and a hungry child don't want "phoo phoo food" as my husband calls it.  They simply want homemade food cooked and served in a wholesome meal.  A guest in our home this week observed, his mother never cooks; if there is food, they never sit down and eat together, and they never have a prayer over the food.  I fear this is the norm in too many homes across America.  We are in a nationwide famine for homecooking.  As cooks we need to overcome our fear of not making it "just right."  There are a thousand recipes and a thousand cooks in a thousand homes and a thousand restaurants.  Who is to say our way is not the perfect way for our families.  Create your own signature dishes.  Let them flop or soar.  One only fails, if he "fails to try again."

If convenience is demanded by your family's lifestyle, then create convenience - homemade.   Here are some dishes that help me throw a meal on the table in minutes with minimal preparation:

  • 4 Week Bran Muffins (in the refridgerator)
  • Pancake Mix with all dry ingredients, dry milk, etc.. ready to add water, eggs, and oil
  • Muffin Mixes (modified with less sugar, half whole wheat, more nuts etc..)
  • Biscuit Mix (Grandma's recipe only all the dry ingredients and butter cut into the mix, just add the water)
  • Whie Sauce Mix - use in cream soups, a-la-king recipes, cream gravies over biscuits, etc..
  • Oriental Stir Fry mix Beef or Chicken in quart jars in the fridge ready to make a delicious Terriyaki Sauce in 5 minutes
  • Frozen cookie balls individually frozen on a cookie sheet then stored in a large freezer bag or box just like one can buy except that I control the cost and the ingredients.
  • Frozen pie crusts
  • Frozen waffles - Once a month I make a double batch and freeze the leftovers.  It is enough for 2-3 more meals.
  • A few freezer meals like upside down spaghetti, chicken enchiladas or linguini-a-la-Anne (not too many because these take a lot of valuable freezer space for frozen meat, margarine, fruits and vegetables.
  • Once a month cooking with the family of Granola, Crisp Topping, or homemade noodles.
  • Spice Mixes like Taco and Sloppy Joe customized to our families palates and stored in one meal size foil packets that eliminates dragging all the spices out every time we cook.
  • Menus that build off the basics that will last 30 years ensures that I always have something to eat on hand: rice, wheat, beans
  • Pressure cook and bottle meat and beans for homemade convenience.
  • Simplify recipes and pick recipes that don't require hours of step by step preparation.
  • Bottle/freeze fresh garden produce for later use - eliminating another trip to the store.
  • Leftovers.  I nearly always prepare enough food to last at least one more meal.  That enables me to relax for a cumulative 3 days out of 6 and do no cooking - just reheating.  Everyone in the family loves the easy.  These meals are sometimes frozen and sometimes refridgerated but never wasted.
  • A few pioneer favorites like bread and milk that are simple, wholesome and enjoyed by all.
  • Crock Pot breakfasts and dinners once or twice a week save more hours in the kitchen.
  • A menu or a plan for the week and the month avoids the biggest obstacle of all: deciding what to eat every day.  These decisions are hard if procrastinated until 5:30 when the gang has to be at soccer practice at 6:00 -  All too often McDonalds will win.
As for me and my house, I am waging a war to protect what I hold most dear a chance to look at my husband and children across the dinner table every day and reaffirm that we are connected.  We choose a "feast" physically, socially, and emotionally over the famine in the land.  We are happy.

Hats off to followers, Megan and Steve, for creating their own "Food Storage Recipes."  See Megan's blog at for more ideas.

Today: Breakfast: Spinach omlet with leftover mac and cheese and hot dogs for those too timid to try something new.
Lunch: Chicken Noodle Soup (added more spaghetti noodles broken to small pieces to the leftover broth from yesterday's chicken soup with egg drop noodles)
Dinner:  Chicken Teriyaki with broccoli, celery and almonds over rice.


  1. The advice and suggestions just flow from you. I'm continually inspired. My desire is always to improve my cooking and family time. Thank you for your help.