This is not a mommy blog.
But when I had my daughter, two of the biggest changes in my life were I never got out of pajamas and everything went unused and wasted in my kitchen. I was living in what felt like a permanent slumber party (sans slumber) with lots of pizza delivery. In an effort to feel like an adult and get ideas for a minimalist collection of polished “mom” clothes, I turned to capsule wardrobes (if you have no clue what I’m talking about see capsule wardrobes on Pinterest). Capsule wardrobes emphasize decluttering your closets and working with less. According to fashion bloggers I only needed to invest in good quality basics: tees, blouses and flats all in neutral colors, a pair of great jeans, smart slacks, and a little black dress. Then add a few seasonal accessories – perhaps a silk scarf, leather tote bag and a cocktail ring – and suddenly stay-at-home Susan is transformed into a chic, Parisian woman.
But since I’ve opted to take this maternity leave to a more permanent level, building my new capsule wardrobe was not exactly my top priority. Or financial option. As for the pizza, I love Two Boots Pizza delivery almost as much as I love my husband but it was getting pretty tired. I needed to simplify my shopping, meal planning and cooking so it could realistically work with my role as a busy (OK, overwhelmed) new mom. I began thinking about cooking like a capsule wardrobe.
When I looked into my messy closet I saw a rack packed full of clothes, and yet had nothing to wear. The same went with my studio apartment kitchen. Six different bunches of herbs in the fridge, all for a recipe that called for a teaspoon of each. A pantry shelf dedicated entirely to oils – coconut, pumpkin seed, walnut, grape seed, and a lemon-olive blend for fish, only – a bunch of shit I didn’t need and no viable options for dinner. I cleaned out my kitchen almost entirely, much like a closet filled with dated clothes from my pre-pregnancy body, getting rid of old jars of jam and other condiments, expired oils and dated spices. Minimalism would now allow me to create simple meals, starting fresh.
And that is how Crate Cooking was born.
How I Crate
I divide my ingredients into two crates. I begin with best-quality basics, easily available any time of the year – organic chicken, extra-virgin olive oil from Puglia, Dijon mustard and a crusty baguette, to name a few. In terms of cost I am more likely to splurge on the basic crate items since they are the foundation of my cooking. For the seasonal crate I add my favorite fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs such as asparagus, spring onions and tarragon for spring and zucchini, sweet corn and basil for summer. Rather than buy those six types of herbs I had in my fridge, I focus on cooking with larger quantities of just one or two versatile herbs. Overall, I commit less time to shopping for a large assortment of ingredients and less space to unnecessary food items.
Now, I build my recipe repertoire. Using my ingredients I create a few base recipes, like a citrusy-mustard vinaigrette and easy baguette croutons, and build with them to make meals. I marinate chicken pieces in the vinaigrette and roast them on a bed of spring onions for a quick weeknight dinner. For a-make-ahead lunch with girlfriends I toss blanched asparagus with the croutons and vinaigrette, serving a springy panzanella.
Seasonally, I build crates collections to help simplify time and space in the kitchen and eliminate wasted ingredients. My crate recipes serve 4 people. I generally leave out measurements for salt and pepper because everyone has different tastes. You’ll notice I’m pretty enthusiastic about lemons and don’t quantify in teaspoons or tablespoons how much zest and juice I use. Taste as you go and cook how you like. I believe the less you do to good quality food, the better it is. That is what Crate Cooking embodies.