Home Assignment #1

My pantry and freezer are fairly well stocked. We shop a couple of times a week for fresh produce, bread, milk as needed. Most dinners tend to be spontaneous and fairly simple – salad or frozen vegetables, microwave potato, something on the grill, pasta with jarred sauce or leftovers if we have them. Sometime on weekends, we cook a big batch of something (soup, stew, chili) so we have leftovers for lunches and dinners.

i do like it when I make a plan for the week, not necessarily for every meal, but enough to have a few ideas so I can shop for ingredients if needed, take something out of the freezer, and know what I’m going to do when I get home from work. Otherwise, we’re standing in the kitchen trying to figure out what to do, grazing along the way and eating dinner at 9:00.

For my first recipe, I made the tomato sauce recipe from class. I used frozen Roma tomatoes from my garden, cooked pasta, grated cheese and a dollop of the leftover pesto from class.


For my second recipe, I decided to make use of my Instant Pot to cook adzuki beans that I got in my CSA share and made Carrot and Ginger Adzuki Bean Stew.

I enjoyed making these recipes. I learned that by taking a few minutes to collect the ingredients makes the prep go faster. It doesn’t really take that much time to prepare a meal with ingredients that I have on hand.

Week One Assignment

Because I have children, I definitely spend more time (than I did pre-kids) planning meals and putting some effort into making them nutritious. But I still would describe my meal planning as somewhat chaotic and inconsistent. Some weeks I am really good about coming up with a few good recipes and sticking to my shopping list, and other weeks I feel totally uninspired – like I’m making the same thing over and over again, and I just don’t feel like cooking so we eat frozen pizza or go out to eat (very expensive for a family of four!). My main challenges are finding recipes that don’t take too long to make and that everyone in the family will actually like. I try to use the weekend to cook things that take longer so we can eat leftovers throughout the week, or I can freeze a portion for later.

I think over time I’ve established a pretty full/useful pantry, but we have a pretty small kitchen so it’s difficult for me to have very much on hand. I have lots of spices but they’re all in a cupboard so I have to pull everything out to see what I have. I’ve tried to come up with organizational solutions for this but haven’t found anything that really works well for me yet. I also keep olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, and peanut oil on hand; as well as vinegars and things like soy sauce, cooking sherry, etc. Always have garlic, onions, ginger, shallots, etc. I do also have pastas and some grains (although I tend to buy them, use part of the package, and then don’t use them again until they’ve expired, and then buy more (or forget that I had them in the first place). I’ve thought of coming up with a better grain storage system, like putting everything in similar storage containers – but I don’t like throwing away the packaging because then I lose prep instructions!

Recipe One – Pancakes


We make pancakes on weekends pretty regularly – I use a family recipe that can be used for pancakes or for waffles. Not too long ago we splurged on an electric griddle which has made the process go so much more smoothly and quickly. I made a double batch for breakfast after our birthday sleepover.


Real maple syrup is something I will always spend a little extra to buy instead of the ‘fake’ stuff. It tastes so much better and I tell myself it’s better for us and probably is supporting a local supplier.

Recipe Two – Red Lentil Soup


This is a recipe I have in a cookbook. It’s very quick and easy to make. The recipe calls for chicken broth but I had vegetable so I used that instead. My kids used to love it when they were little, but as they’ve gotten older don’t like it as much so I don’t make it as often, but I had the ingredients on hand so we had it for dinner Sunday night.


Along with some buttermilk biscuits from a recipe I had recently seen online and wanted to try.

Home Assignment 1: Meal Prep and Pantry

I find my meal planning habits to be relatively inconsistent.  As a graduate student, my schedule can be both flexible and unpredictable.  As a result, I benefit greatly from meal planning, but sometimes find it more challenging to be consistent.  A goal I often have is to make something on Sunday that will have enough left over for lunches during the week.  This is often something simple like making a batch of rice or roasting a spaghetti squash, and then I can add various meats/beans/vegetables/etc I have on hand.  While it sounds simple enough in theory, I admit that it does not always go as well in practice.

My pantry has some of the basics that usually can lend themselves to some meals.  I keep olive and canola oils, balsamic vinegar, flour, sugar, breadcrumbs, canned tuna and beans, lentils, pastas, and rice on hand (didn’t realize how that’s quite a bit until listing everything).  Many of these items, however, are tucked in a corner of a shelf, and sometimes get overlooked rather than remembered for go-to ingredients.  Also, frozen vegetables are a staple of my diet because they provide some variety without concern of anything going bad too quickly.  Fun fact: frozen vegetables have been shown to be just as nutritious as fresh vegetables.

Cooking Assignment

I confess that my photo taking during this process was sub-par.  One recipe has a picture of the ingredients (post-hoc, mea culpa) without the finished product, and the other has a finished product without prep.  I will attempt to make up for this by adding some descriptions.

Black Bean Burgers

I’m not a vegetarian, but, as someone who lives alone, I often find meat inconvenient (thawing it enough in advance, using it all before it goes bad, etc) and tend to go lighter on meat at home.  Black bean burgers use items I (usually) have on hand.

Ingredients (minus the egg; I used my last one making them)


Crush black beans (this is where my magic bullet shines.  Or, if you want an arm workout, mashing by hand with a fork works).  Add egg, couple tablespoons of flour, and breadcrumbs until scoopable, but not soupy (adding to this recipe’s added arm workout).  Season as desired, cook for 5ish minutes each side.


Seasoning arsenal.  I’m realizing just now that most of the labels aren’t facing out.  The hard to see ones include black pepper, cumin, curry powder, garlic powder, and paprika.  Yes, my spices aside from salt and pepper are alphabetized…

Recipe 2: Meatballs

No ingredient picture this time, but actually similar to the black bean burgers, just using ground beef instead of black beans, and no flour. (I know traditional meatballs have mixed meats, but that’s too inconvenient for me on an ordinary basis).  I just throw them in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes (again, for convenience) and now I have meatballs for the week.



Week 1 Blog

Meal planning is usually a day by day decision.  It depends on what ingredients we have at home. I create meals that I know how to make like step by step or very easy to make meals.

Im not accustomed to an established pantry. I can use what’s available, but we normally purchase ready to cook foods. I recognize that we need to do better using whole ingredients.

Week 1, Part 1

How does meal planning generally work for you?  Do you have a routine or strategy, or is it spontaneous?  Without judgment, talk about what works and doesn’t work about it. 

I find meal planning to be a stressful activity.  Because of this I do it in spurts rather than consistently.  I tend to pour over recipes and try to figure out what to cook.  This is probably the longest part of the process.  When I find something to cook I get very disheartened if it doesn’t turn out.

How does your pantry inventory look?  Do you think you have what you need to prepare food the way you want? What do you still need?  What do you have that isn’t necessary?

My pantry inventory is mixed.  I have some oils, vinegars, spices, condiments, and a few staples but I’m not sure what all should be included.  I probably need a few items such as grains and a few more canned goods.  We tend to purchase too much “ready to serve” food for those long days when a quick meal is necessary.  I’m hoping to turn that around.

Assignment 1 – part 1

My daily (regular) meal planning for me is dependent on my schedule and energy level.  Honestly, it may take me a couple of weeks to actually make something that I want.  This may be because I don’t have ingredients or more than likely I am getting home too late from work to actually cook.  As an example, I have been planning to make chicken noodle soup for a while.  I have some left over cooked chicken breasts so I will be making chicken noodle soup either tonight or Saturday.  My Friday night is already booked!

My “pantry” or multiple cabinets are over crowded and two of the three shelves are out of reach unless I have a stool to climb.  I am 5′ 2″ so no kitchen is truly suited to my height.  Both my husband and I buy groceries.  He buys more processed food (ie, canned chicken noodle soup, cake mixes, etc) and I stock more organic ingredients.  Don’t get me wrong, I love convenience!  Just wait to see how I make chicken noodle soup and my chili!  We have two different buying strategies…..What we don’t need is totally from our different perspectives!!!