Monday, January 11, 2010

Part 1, Lesson 4: Food Storage

Part 1: "I Don't Know How To Cook"
Lesson 4: Food Storage
Recipe: Roasted Pesto Shrimp with Pilaf and Spinach (Master File 3)

We're going to juggle three recipes at once today.  Start with shrimp, then spinach, then the pilaf.  Half the shrimp will be used for Wednesday's recipe and half the rice will be used for Friday's recipe.  So let's talk food storage.

Vast Plastic Wastelands
If you know you're going to have a crazy week and will be pressed for time (and subsequently tempted by fast food or food-in-a-box), look for recipes where you can cook once eat twice. If you're making rice, make a double batch and freeze half.  Same goes for beans, casseroles, taco filling, or whatever.  It's nice to have a stockpile of cooked staples in the freezer so you can put a meal together in a few minutes.

In an ideal world we would all be storing our leftovers in glass containers with airtight lids.  Glass keeps odors in, doesn't stain, microwaves well, and doesn't leech chemicals into food.  But glass storage can be expensive so it's something you may need to build up over time.  Glass also doesn't travel well.

Everybody's got a collection of yogurt containers, margarine tubs, deli containers, and Cool Whip tubs.  They're fine for short-term use but they're not meant for washing and reusing.  The plastic breaks down and leeches into your food and causes any number of known and unknown health problems.  It also tends to put an off plasticky taste into your food.  My personal rule of thumb is to reuse the containers twice, then recycle.  If the containers get frozen, they get recycled after one use.  They never get microwaved.  You can use a Sharpie to put a mark on the container to keep track of how many times you've used it.

If you're going to freeze food, zip-top freezer bags are great space savers.  They're not the greenest option but if they don't get too funked up with greasy food you can wash and reuse them.  You can portion out rice, meat, beans, sauces, or grains and lay them flat in the freezer.  They defrost very quickly this way.

I'm not covering a lot of new ground here.  The point I want to make is that planning ahead in small baby steps will save you time and money down the road.  It doesn't take much more effort to make a little more of something a day or two a week and have food waiting in the freezer for later.

Here's the new meal plan, Master File 3.

I'm not going to give you the full play-by-play for today's recipes because this is boot camp, remember?  You can do this.  Remember to read the recipes fully before you start and have your equipment ready to go.  If you have any questions or problems, leave a comment below.

1. Soak your skewers
2. Start your rice
3. Prepare shrimp
4. Prepare spinach
5. Put shrimp in oven
6. Prepare pilaf

The Takeaway
Plan ahead.

Your Homework
Take out all the storage containers that you own.  All of them.  Yes, even that half-melted Tupperware bowl your aunt left at your house in 1987.  Spread them out on the floor and sort them according to type.  Get rid of anything that's warped, melted, cracked, or otherwise unsuitable for the storage of nourishing food for you and your family.  Now take all of your lids and match them to each container.  I bet you have a ton of lids with no containers and containers with no lids.  Get rid of them.  By the way, did you know that if you have any Tupperware branded containers you can order replacement lids for everything?  But if you know that there's no way in hell you'll ever muster up the effort/money to do this, get rid of your un-lidded, useless Tupperware.  Be honest with yourself.

Also note that when I say "get rid of them," I mean "please recycle your shit."

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