|Homemade Paella (its still cooking).|
Humans are such creatures of habit: Monday is steak night; Tuesday is spaghetti night, etc. We usually tend to do the same things over and over, like chop the carrots the same way no matter the dish, or always eat the same type of vegetable.
In this modern world where we have so much variety at our fingertips, why do you only stick with the same old foods and ways of preparing them? I’ve heard that we only really know how to prepare 7 staple meals and these are the ones we do over and over.
If some authority figure told you that you could only eat the same thing each week, most likely you’d fight back because you wouldn’t want to be locked into monotony. I would!
Remove the authority figure and, you guessed it, we do this to ourselves anyway.
It’s exactly what I do too but I try to do it with a bit more thought. I might only have 7 staple meals like the rest of the population, but every 6 months my 7 staples change. The end of last year we had lasagne, shepherd’s pie, chicken casserole, enchiladas, pasta bake, rice pilaf and potato and leek soup as my 7 staples. Earlier this year the 7 staples have been pumpkin soup, chicken parmigana, samosas, burritos, potato bake, chicken strips and lamb cutlets. I can see we’ve started moving into another phase as well because we’ve now had risotto, minestrone soup, nachos and homemade pizzas a few times. Can you see the variety in only a bit over a year?
|Homemade pumpkin soup|
You might also notice that while I do change my 7 staples, there are a few things that stay the same. There is usually a Mexican dish in there, as well as a chicken dish and a soup. That’s because I want to experiment, but I don’t go nuts. I just use new flavours and keep the same techniques going (i.e. potato and leek soup moved to pumpkin soup). Next, I might try to experiment with new techniques and the staples will be completely different. For instance, I tried paella for the first time last week instead of the usual risotto. New technique but similar flavours and it worked so well I’m definitely doing it again!
So here are a list of ideas that aren’t too radical, and use the foods, flavours and techniques you’re probably already using, but just give you a bit of variety and hopefully a few new ideas to try:
Don’t chop the carrots and zucchinis into circles anymore! Ribbon the carrot and zucchini by peeling along the vegetable to make long thin strands which can then be sautéed quickly with a sauce or seasoning. Eat it as a vegetable side with a meal, or add it to slices of eggplant, capsicum and haloumi and you’ve got a great warm salad. Add couscous and you’ve got a meal.
|Ribbons of carrot and zucchini|
|Ribbons of zucchini and carrot mixed with capsicum,
eggplant and haloumi cheese in a warm salad. Really yum!
Why serve the burger already fully made? Grab a wooden board and place the burger ingredients around it so that it becomes a share platter for a group of friends. Each person can make their own just the way they like it, and it creates a more visually pleasing way to serve. It also reduces washing up as you only need one
board (that’s a definite plus cause I hate the cleaning up!).
I’ve also done this with breakfast. I’ve piled onto a large board eggs (fried, poached or scrambled), salad items, nibbles, fruit, cheeses and croissants, toast or English muffins and presented it for a wonderful and hearty brunch on a lazy Sunday.
|Breakfast deconstruction. Looks more enticing than eggs on toast!|
Do the chicken and salad or salmon and salad have to be two completely separate elements on the plate? Why not add the cooked chicken or salmon to the salad and have it as a complete meal with some crusty bread? I’ve done this plenty of times with my warm chicken salad that’s evolved from a simple Women’s Weekly recipe I discovered over ten years ago.
Similarly, you don’t have to eat beans or lentils as a separate element either. I made a salad the other day for a work function where I included lentils along with lettuce mix, tomatoes, beetroot, avocado and feta. It was a definite success as everyone commented on how good it was, and how unusual it was. But it’s such a simple idea!
Pasta salad from the stores always seems to have so much creamy stuff in them. Why not just toss the pasta with some pesto and a touch of olive oil and add in some olives, sun-dried tomatoes, corn, or whatever vegetables it is you like and have on hand. It’s a great side to a meal and it means that you’re not weighing yourself down with a main-sized stodgy pasta heaped with cheese, cream and calories.
Got a whole bunch of aging vegetables in the fridge? Sauté or grill them in a fry pan like a stir fry with some seasoning (herbs, spices, sauces or pesto) and then serve over the top of some grilled (or barbequed) polenta wedges. According to a cookbook I read once this is called ‘Strata’. It’s simple, easy and the best bit is that you can cook it for a gluten free friend (check the type of seasoning though) as its vegetables and corn! Easy, simple, delicious, budget and gluten friendly! Could you ask for any more?
This last idea I saw in a magazine only last week. If you’re keen on iced coffee in the summer you’ll most likely add ice cubes to keep the whole thing cool. But as the ice cubes melt they dilute the strength of your coffee. Simple solution: ahead of time freeze left over coffee (presumably from a pot you made and didn’t finish) into ice cube trays so come iced coffee time, you’ve got a cool cube just as you needed, but one already made from coffee so there won’t be any diluting of flavour. Cool idea, huh? Presumably this can be extended into other types of drinks as well such as iced tea and juices. You could even do it with wine and champagne I reckon too. Have you ever done this? I’ve seen Nigella Lawson add wine to ice cube trays and then add these to casseroles and sauces when she only needs a small amount of wine. Too cool!
Hopefully by now you’re brimming with ideas and raring to go with creating a bit of easy to do variety in your kitchen. Leave a comment to share with us any other interesting and crazy ideas that make life that much more interesting in your kitchen and with your own culinary passions!
Here’s to your creativity!