Thursday, January 24, 2008

213.5 and Food Debacles

So last week, in my endeavors to continually pinch the penny (that phrase always reminds me of pooping, which tells me I probably shouldn't have ever been entrusted with the education of young children), I decided to make two giant, inexpensive casseroles and eat them for lunch and dinner, three days each. This attempt to both simplify and budget my life was, of course, an unequivocal disaster. But it's cool.

The first casserole I made wasn't horrible. It just wasn't that great. I got both of these off Aimee's Adventures, and I need to take a moment to say that I don't believe the nastiness of last week's food was in any way the fault of her or her recipes. I'm just a sucky cook, for various reasons. Anyway, I started off the week with this casserole, which from this picture kind of looks like a glistening square of grasshopper abdomens and maybe some postnasal drip but I promise looked pretty awesome when actually prepared. You can click on the picture for the recipe if you want to try it on your own (and then send me some in individually portioned containers so I don't have to cook next week):

It was mostly just kind of bland, probably because of the fat free cheese and the whole wheat rotini that tends to make everything else in casseroles taste like whole wheat rotini, and also because I accidentally grabbed a cream of celery instead of cream of chicken, but in general I it was not completely horrible and I dutifully ate my six servings of it.

Then came this:

And this, my friends, was simply pure evil in a crockpot. I do not know what the shit I did to it, but when I woke up the next morning the chicken chunks had turned kind of a grey-brown, and the squash and the parsnips had kind of congealed into this burnt sienna colored blob. The only things I really recognized were the carrots, and they were just kind of bobbing there in the sea of mush, numbed by the indignity of having to spend an evening in a crockpot with the rest of it. I didn't have anything else to eat, though, so I scooped some into my Gladware container and gamely tried it out for lunch that day. And seriously, when the first glob of it passed over my tongue, I swore out loud. I've eaten food I didn't like, and I've tasted things I'd rather not taste again, but I've never actually eat food that tasted BAD until now. And I know probably 105% of it was because I Rachael Ray-ed the portions and kind of played fast and loose with the seasonings, but still, there was just something unholy about it that a mere human couldn't have caused. That casserole just twarn't right.

Anyway, while I was trying to figure out what to eat for this week, Anne posted this awesome book summary on AFG over the weekend. It got me inspired to see if I could stay within my budget, but also make sure I had a good variety of entrees to choose from, interesting snacks (one of my downfalls last week was not to budget any extra food beyond meal preparation), and as much organic and natural stuff as I could get. No fat free, no lite, no Splenda, no high fructose corn syrup. It takes longer to shop that way, and people give you funny looks when you're holding a canister of bread crumbs up to to the light to read its ingredients, but I've found that it seriously reduces the number of impulse buys I make, and because I'm generally a lot happier with my food I don't go out to eat as often. Here's the weekly grocery list and food plan.

And since I manage to screw up other people's recipes last week, I decided to try screwing up one of my own this week instead. There is a restaurant in Kansas City called Eden Alley, and if you're ever near the Plaza you should definitely go eat there, because it's incredible even if you're not a hippie. The food there is beyond delicious and everything's reasonably priced and you get a ton of it and it's just great. When I was there last time, I had a mushroom and spinach loaf that made me forget ever missing real meatloaf in the first place, and it seems straightforward enough to make so I'm going to try it. There are surprisingly no closely related recipes online for this, so I kind of cobbled a recipe based on Eden Alley's picture and description and some similar tofu loaves on the Interweb. I'm going to make it tomorrow night and I'll let you know how it turns out. The idea of combining natural, simple foods into a recipe seems, to me, to follow the logic of eating simple foods by themselves: it's really hard to mess it up if you're sticking to the basics, right?

But as I figured out with Satan's Savory Squash Stew, the road to Hell is often paid with good intentions, so we shall see.


Fat Grl Slim said...

Oooooh here's a casserole for you to try!!!! It's my new addiction. Lately I've been adding broccoli to it too. Very yum and points friendly and even if you eat the whole dang pan, it's not that bad!

The recipe is in the middle of that post :)

psychsarah said...

Don' t beat yourself up about the unfortunate squash recipe. I have made a similar recipe in the crockpot (with acorn squash and chicken) and it turned out pretty vile and disgusting. I like these items out of the crockpot, but I think the long slow cooking makes the squash take on a nasty flavour. I threw out the recipe I used so that I wouldn't mistakenly make it again. Unfortunately, I'm stubborn about wasting food and money, and couldn't bring myself to throw the slop out, so I ate it for about three days before the dog got the rest! I hope you have better luck with the loaf!!

Anne M. said...

I heartily congratulate you on Rachel Ray-ing your way through recipes. I tend to do that myself a lot, especially since I don't usually have some of the non-standard things in the pantry or can't afford to get them. It sucks to make a big pot of whatever, hate it, and then know that you've programmed your meals to include that thing you've just figured out you hate.

I'm glad the AFG post was helpful. I'm working my way through the book now and recommend it highly.