I remember reading a quote a long time ago about fried rice and stirfry style recipes developing as a way for poor families to make a single serving of meat serve a whole family – when the meat is chopped very small, everyone gets a few pieces in their bowl.
The sandwich above is more generous in its serving of meat, but the idea is the same. A 5 ounce steak looks tiny when placed on a plate in once piece. But if you slice it thinly and pile it on a slice of rustic bread, it doesn’t feel so small anymore. In fact, it feels quite indulgent.
Whether you’re trying to eat smaller portions or you’re long overdue a bit of steak on your tight budget, it’s a concept worth keeping in mind.
I have a favorite ancho/pasilla chili sauce which unfortunately requires a certain amount of tedious work that keeps me from indulging as often as I’d like. It’s not a fast sauce – you first have to cook the ingredients, then puree them, then cook them even more to bring the flavors into balance (it’s bitter before the last cooking). But the tediousness of it makes it a perfect candidate for split preparation: do the first half of the work in a big batch, and then do the second half as needed, when needed.
A month or so back, I made a double recipe of that lovely sauce. But I didn’t do the final round of cooking. I put it, mid-recipe, into ice cube trays. Once frozen, the cubes of sauce were dumped into ziploc freezer bags and stashed.
Now whenever I want delicious homemade sauce for a Mexican dish, I pull a few cubes out of the freezer and toss them in my crockpot over the chicken I’m stewing, or in the oven over the chicken I’m baking. They melt and finish cooking with the chicken, and I get a delicious, flavorful meal that would have normally taken a lot longer and a lot more dirty pans. Figuring this out has saved me from the lure of quick, store-bought sauces out of a jar. (Yes, Trader Joe’s Simmering Sauce, I’m talking about you.) I know exactly what’s in my sauce, I have the quiet contentment that comes from knowing I made it myself, and it didn’t cost me two bucks or more a pop.
Being able to portion out the cubes is a perfect tactic for someone who eats alone. Just take what you need and save the rest for later. It’s also nice simply for someone who doesn’t want to do a lot of prep every night when they come home from work. Get all the flavor of the long preparation, but much quicker and with less hassle. Take the half hour you saved and spend it with the newspaper, your pet, or your mate.
It doesn’t always have to be sauce (or the ubiquitous fresh herbs) that you put in your ice cube trays. I recently froze a carafe of coffee that didn’t get finished at one of my previous dinner parties. I don’t drink coffee, I’d merely had it on hand for the guests, but I couldn’t bear to throw it all out. I froze it, same as above, and plan to put it in the blender with a little milk and sugar syrup to make iced coffee drinks for a future summer event. The point is to be mindful – can you do something now that would make your life better later? Can you save something that would otherwise be wasted?
I love to think about and do things like this; it economizes your time, improves the quality of your daily meals, stretches your money, and minimizes waste. Plus you get to feel clever!
I tried to join a local CSA a few months ago, but they were booked full. They offered to put me on a waitlist and I accepted, although I didn’t think it would do me much good. I was wrong! Last week, my number on the waitlist came up, and yesterday I got my very first CSA box ever. I can tell right now it’s going to be like getting a present every week. The anticipation, the hints, the slow reveal, the tearing through the packaging…it’s all there.
Started my summer garden last weekend! Pulled off the mulch and landscaping paper of last year, turned over the patch with a shovel, and then smoothed it out with a rake. I’m longing for some sturdy attractive edging, but it’s not in the cards. After the bed was prepped, I laid out a soaker hose that runs the length of the plot, and then covered everything with landscaping paper – the kind that draws water down, but doesn’t let it evaporate into the air, and also blocks weeds. The soaker hose will be attached to a timer that turns on in the early mornings for half an hour or so. After I get my plants laid out, I’ll then cover the paper with mulch to provide sun relief (the paper is black) and weigh it down.
The sprouts have forgiven me for not marking which seeds are what and are doing a pretty little show for my entertainment and edification. Happy cilantro and spinach on this end of the tray! In a few more inches, I’ll transplant them to pots, or perhaps straight into my freshly prepared garden bed.
Took the labels off my toothpaste and face wash.
I pulled the lid off, and lo and behold, I have seedlings! Failed to properly mark them, though, so I no longer know which end is what. Give it a few more weeks, though, and I’ll be able to id them based on more mature foliage. I’m excited though (maybe improperly so). I planted both basil and cilantro, and those are the two herbs I have the hardest time keeping alive when bought as mature plants. I’m hoping raising them from seeds will somehow make them hardier and harder to kill.
Related Posts: Hope, Faith, and Gardening
Gardening is probably the very definition of “Hope springs eternal.”
Here’s hoping this tray turns out cilantro, spinach, basil, and morning glory seedlings in a few weeks.
Also, I’ve realized the planning and doing of growing my own food is quite meditative for me, in a get-sweaty-and-dirty kind of way. I have absolutely no thoughts in my head at all while working, not even what the next step should be. It’s lovely medicine.
Filed under: living mindfully
I purchased a kitchen scale last fall. Now that I have it, I wonder how I lived without it. In addition to now being able to make recipes from the rest of the world and be confident in my grams, there are some serious benefits that can be filed under the realm of economics, environmentalism, aesthetics, and the pure pleasure of simplification. The domino effect goes something like this:
Filed under: living mindfully
I’m starting a new category of tips (that I either live by or aspire to live by) that contribute to living mindfully. Living mindfully could encompass many things, but the following quote covers about 95% of it for me.
Tending the things around us and becoming sensitive to the importance of home, daily schedule, and maybe even the clothes we wear, are ways of caring for the soul. When Marsilio Ficino wrote his self-help book, The Book of Life, five hundred years ago, he placed emphasis on carefully choosing colors, spices, oils, places to walk, countries to visit – all very concrete decisions of everyday life that day by day either support or disturb the soul.
[The goal of caring for the soul] is not to make life problem-free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness.”
- Thomas Moore, The Care of the Soul
The 5% that the quote doesn’t touch on, but that I feel is also vitally important, is the environmental aspect. By choosing to do things purposefully and carefully with an eye towards waste, resources, and sustainable actions, I’m being mindful of both the earth and my soul. That’s important!
I’d love to know what conscious decisions you make to live mindfully within your own daily routine.