The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Cook all day, eat all week. . . .

I am often inspired by my own food stories, or rather by the people I feature in them. I have a fancy ice cream maker at home that I bought after writing about how to make ice cream; I bought a turkey from Greenacres after a homegrown Thanksgiving story, for instance. A few weeks ago I wrote about "being your own personal chef" and spent most of the day with Debbie Spangler as she stocked a client's freezer, I thought I'd do the same. I still have folks to feed at home, and I felt I've been falling down on the job lately. Sometimes they're gone before I get home, and I hate to see people I love eating ramen in that short space between school or work and tango class or an evening meeting.
So a couple of weekends ago I thought I'd spend a Saturday cooking ahead. That way there would always be something decent on hand. I made meatballs in tomato sauce, split pea soup, chicken pot pies and marinated meat for stir-fries.

Saturday was fun. I enjoyed having such a time-consuming task--I was able to put aside thoughts of all other, less fun jobs. I made a couple of mistakes, though. The chicken pot pies, from Cook's Country magazine, individually made in little aluminum pans, were too time-consuming, even though I didn't even make my own crust. (They're really good, though, and perfect for one person having dinner on his or her own.) My meatballs weren't sturdy enough to stand up to freezing, thawing and reheating, and in the end a simple meat sauce would have been just as good. The soup is perfect for freezing, though, and totally easy. The stir-fry meat is great to have--even though it takes no time whatsoever to cut up meat for stir-fry, this is more about knowing it's there, not having to worry about meat going bad in the fridge, and just having it planned. Even a couple of carrots, a few stalks of celery and a bell pepper is enough to turn it into an entree.

I also made the mistake of cooking breakfast and making dinner the same day. I didn't even get everything done on Saturday, and I can tell you cooking again on Sunday was nowhere near as fun. Next time, I think I'll shop on Saturday and cook on Sunday, forget any other cooking for the day, and maybe make more similar things: like just things with ground beef, like chili and spaghetti sauce, or just with chicken, like chicken pot pie and chicken soup. Once there's enough things in the freezer, there will be enough variety. Also, I'll have to think harder about vegetarian foods--for some reason, all my most conservative , meat-centered recipes came to mind.

A lot of people are interested in this cooking strategy, as you can tell by all the new "meal assembly" places popping up, like Dream Dinners. I've also seen several books to the point. I just got a review copy of "Once-a-Month Cooking" by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Labergorg, which works out complete strategies, down to the list of containers.


at 2:02 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a really good vegetarian soup that is very hearty. It's easy to double and freezes well.

Mushroom Barley Soup
From Jacques Pepin’s Simple and Healthy Cooking
½ cup barley
5 cups water
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium carrots: trimmed, peeled, thinly sliced
1 medium onion: peeled, very thinly sliced (1 cup)
6 oz. domestic or baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced (3 cups)
1 oz. dried mushrooms, crushed into small pieces (1/2 cup)
2 cups chicken stock (low sodium if using canned)
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Place barley in saucepan with 3 cups water. Bring mixture to boil, cover, reduce heat to low and boil gently for 50-60 minutes. If using quick cook barley, follow directions on package. Barley should be tender but not mushy. Do not drain, set aside.

Heat oil in large pot, add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots and onions, cook over high heat for 1 minute. Add both kinds of mushrooms, stock and remaining 2 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Add pepper, salt and barley with its liquid. Bring back to a boil, add parsley.

Serves 6.

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