Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Heart : Stomach :: Brain : Refrigerator, or, How I Learned to Stop Stressing and Love Zucchini

Inspired by this fascinating photo essay, today I share with you the contents of my refrigerator and freezer. We're at a moderate-fill level right now -- most of our basics are in stock and some extras as well, but we're not exactly as full-up as I usually like to be.

I should start by saying that I like cooking. I've mentioned previously that it makes me feel more sane to have control over what I'm making and eating. I enjoy finding new recipes, planning what I'm going to eat, when, and the 1/2 hour or hour in the kitchen every day helps calm my mind and makes my tiny little apartment feel more like home. As a sidenote, I also love the nights I come home to find E making me dinner, and cooking together is one of my favorite date night activities. We try to eat sensibly and economically, and I think the contents of our fridge (and the list of basics we try to have on hand at all times) reflects that. So, without further ado...

...our fridge! I told you it's looking kinda empty right now. The Brita pitcher is obviously always in there, because E is convinced it tastes better than tap (even though some studies, such as this one, show otherwise) and is better for you (even though our tap water source is rated 13th in the country). So that takes up a lot of space in our tiny fridge -- it's only about 5 feet tall. We also have 2 different kinds of milk: skim for me and Lactaid for E, who doesn't tolerate dairy too well. Other things we pretty much always have are giant jars of minced garlic, whole wheat bread, eggs, butter, margarine and orange juice. Right now we've got some fresh parsley as a bonus.

In the vegetable drawers, we pretty much always have red potatoes, red onions, some kind of squash, tomatoes, and apples. Sweet potatoes are usually on hand as well. We are lucky to have several green grocers within about a 2-minute walk, where we get amazingly priced produce. 50¢ avocados? Yes, please. Zucchini for 69¢ a pound? Definitely. And oftentimes they tell you where it's from, and it's usually relatively local, so that's pretty exciting when you're trying to figure out ways to eat more sustainably. We got amazing late summer tomatoes harvested on Long Island for 99¢ a pound in August, and they were huge, bright red, and fabulously tasty.

Here's our freezer. We buy a lot of frozen vegetables, especially in the winter months, when fresh produce often leaves much to be desired. Brocolli and spinach get a lot of play. We had a few slices of turkey bacon and a couple of pork chops in there, as well. Overall, we have greatly reduced our meat intake for environmental reasons, but we still use it a lot. If I were only cooking for myself, I would cut meat out entirely, but E is a big fan of meat (and truth be told, I like it, too) so we still cook with it. In a few weeks we're going to start buying ethically sourced meat directly from farms at farmers' markets, which I'm excited about. I have no qualms about eating meat, but I think it can still be done in an environmentally responsible way if it's a minor part of your diet.

The white stuff in containers on the top shelf is buttermilk, since every time I bake with it I have to buy a quart but only need a cup. You can also make your own buttermilk substitute, but I use it regularly enough that I just buy it and freeze what I don't use til the next time I make something delicious that requires it.  I've also gotten in the habit of freezing leftovers. On the bottom shelf (behind the pint of ice cream that E has somehow had for close to a month without devouring as I would have done) is a container of veggie tortellini stew from last night that is awaiting a night we don't feel like cooking and can just defrost some homemade stew instead of something super processed.

Winter time is prime stew time in our home, mostly because you can cut up a bunch of veggies, throw them in a pot with some spices, and have a hearty, delicious, and supremely healthy meal in an hour. In this case, I used a little leftover ground turkey to start it off and give it a little flavor, and then added red and white onions, green peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese tortellini. I put in 2 cups of water and let it simmer for about 30 minutes while we assembled a cabinet for our bathroom. It came out delicious and perfect for the weather lately (Temperatures dipped into the single digits with wind chill yesterday), and we have some in the fridge for a couple more meals, and that frozen portion for a later date.

Tonight I also tried making Blondies for the first time! They came out pretty good, but more on that next time, when I'll be reviewing a few recipes I used for holiday baking: Blondies, Red Velvet Cake Balls, Chocolate Chip Meringues, and Chocolate Pudding Pies.

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