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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Menu Project

Food storage pushes us in the direction, often, of eating new foods. We may be choosing them because we’re trying to shift our diet to a lower impact, more ecologically sound one, because we’re trying to develop a truly local food culture and cuisine, because we can’t afford more expensive foods or because we want to eat what we store. Getting started with new foods can seem overwhelming, particularly if you are looking at a 50lb sack of wheat berries for the first time.

A simple way to get started is simply to start asking - what do we eat that is compatible with food storage, and with the food we can preserve or get from our gardens (I’m assuming for the purpose of this discussion that I’m at the worst garden season of the year - which, actually, I am now ;-)). What home-based meals will we enjoy? How can we adapt the menus we eat now to work with our pantries? What new foods might we integrate into our diets that our family members would actually eat?

Then we put together a week’s worth of menus, and look at the ingredients list. Do we need anything we don’t have? If you can store ingredients for this, you’ll have a solid, if somewhat repetetive diet set up. You can start by trying this one meal at a time, first one a week, then two or three. Then do another day or week’s worth to add variety.

When I started to write my own menus out, I was tempted to embellish them a bit. Hey, I can make the people who read this think that my kids eat apple-cranberry muffins for breakfast - and that Mommy rises before dawn to make them (yeah, right, I rise before dawn, but only because the kids make me and let’s just say that my eyes aren’t usually wide enough open to safely mix food).

Probably like many people, we eat the same stuff a lot here ;-). Breakfast is particuarly unimaginative at my place - that is, my kids already eat either oatmeal or toast with jam or peanut butter for 90% of their breakfasts. The other 10% they might get eggs, or rice pudding, and three or four times a year, they get muffins. I mention this because sometimes I think we go around making menus and think that we have to be really imaginative with them - and yes, imagination is great in food. But there’s something to be said for “we all like it and it gets to the table” meals that my family, at least, relies on - we’re content to eat these more than once a week. Oh, we might prefer something new, but it is food, it is good. So don’t make yourself nuts, unless you already live in household where elaborate and complex meals are made new three times a day.

Here’s my family menu

7 breakfasts: toast or oatmeal, eggs (occasional) real tea for me, herb tea with honey for kids.

Storage ingredients: wheat, yeast, molasses, salt, brown sugar, rolled oats or groats, earl grey, peanut butter, chicken feed.

Home produced ingredients: Homemade jams, lemon-mint herb tea.

Snacks: Dried fruit, nuts, homemade fruit leather, cheerios, carrot sticks, yogurt, applesauce, lollipops, wheat pretzels, bread and jam (see above), cheese, apple cider.

Storage ingredients: Dum dum pops (these are cheap little bulk industrial lollipops - did I say we weren’t perfect yet?), dried cranberries and raisins, cheerios, organic dry milk, pretzels, rennet and cheese cultures, cider.

Homemade: Dried strawberries, dried cherries, dried apples, dried peaches, dried plums, fruit leather, carrots, applesauce, nuts.

Lunches (we drink only water with meals anyway):1. Roasted root vegetable wraps, garden or cabbage-carrot salad depending on the season 2. Baked potatoes with greens and chipotle sauce (adults) or salsa (kids) 3. 3 bean chili, cornbread, and stir fried greens or cabbage. 4. Pumpkin Pancakes with applesauce and fruit (fresh or home canned), 5. Vegetable Soup, bread and dried cranberry and sprout salad. 6. Sandwiches of herbed yogurt cheese with onions, pickles and sprouts, carrot sticks and apple slices 7. Dal and Curried Rice with greens and stir fried vegetables.

Stored ingredients (does not include items listed already): balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, canned chipotles in adobo, dried beans, tvp, dried corn, buttermilk powder, canned pumpkin, sprouting seeds, lentils, brown rice, mango pickle, tamarind paste, spices, mushroom “oyster” sauce, kecap manis, coconut milk,

Home preserved ingredients: mint chutney, root cellared vegetables including most roots, cabbage, apples, pears, daikon, etc…, greens (garden or season extended), chicken broth, homemade salsa, applesauce, home canned fruit, dried sweet peppers and mushrooms, herbs, pickles, parsley in a pot.

Dinners: 1. Drunken Noodles 2. Laotian chicken soup with greens or stir fried sprouts and rice. 3. Salmon cakes and beet-carrot salad 4. Onion Soup, Crusty Bread and greens with lemon dressing 5. Spaghetti and “Wheat Balls” (much better than it sounds, btw), cabbage, carrot and sesame salad 6. Pita bread, falafel, labneh, beets with tahini and parsley- quinoa salad. 7. Lamb stew, Challah, applesauce and lemon-pepper cabbage

Stored ingredients: Tahini, honey, lemon-pepper, quinoa, fava beans, sesame seeds, bulghur, parmesan cheese, fair trade, wild caught canned salmon, matzah meal, canned pineapple, soybeans (or shelf-stable tofu), dried rice noodles.

Home preserved: Basil plant, keffir lime, lemongrass plant in a sunny window, Lamb Stew base, garlic, onions, canned lemon juice.

Now some of this may look like a lot, or a lot of work - but that’s simply because I’ve chosen the meals we like best, not the easiest ones. Were I starting from scratch, I’d probably choose more peanut butter and jelly (we eat that too) and less Lamb stew.

How about you? What’s on your routine food storage menu?



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