Cooking with a Capsule Kitchen: Making It Work
I've laid out the basic steps of how to design a capsule kitchen that will work for your lifestyle and goals. The implementation is all about taking what you have in your streamlined kitchen, and making it work.
It's All About Adaptation
Before doing the capsule kitchen, I tried to plan out my meals ahead for the week, but I would usually choose 4+ totally unrelated, independent recipes for dinners and plan several different options for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. I was only using most of the ingredients that I bought in one, specific way, and therefore I was spending a lot of money and wasting leftover ingredients.
A capsule kitchen is an exercise in thinking through the components that make up a meal, the ingredients that really determine the flavor profile of a dish, and adapting your simplified list of ingredients in a variety of different ways. I have found that I still enjoy the same sense of novelty that I had when I was cooking all those different recipes, even though a lot of my main ingredients are on repeat throughout the week.
From here on out I plan on doing specific posts weekly about how to learn to adapt recipes, use ingredients in multiple ways, re purpose leftovers, etc. But here are some basic ideas to get you started. These feel a little random, but they are a preview of what I will delve into more in later posts.
Tips To Get You Started
- Think of a recipe in terms of it's major food group components and then the detail-type ingredients that are really key to creating the flavor profile of the dish. Most of the time a meal will have a meat or protein, a vegetable component, and a carb/starchy component. Often you can exchange those macro-elements in a recipe and replace them with whatever protein, starch, or veg that you have, but still glean the key flavor profile ingredients from the recipe.
- It helps to not try to take on too many different kinds of cuisines in one week. Most of my weekly plans tend to take on a theme of either Latin, Mediterranean, Creole, etc. because it's easier to use the ingredients in different ways if I stick with a theme. So on a Latin week, for example, I would have black beans, shredded cheese, tortillas, and salsa on hand which would then be used in huevos rancheros, tacos, quesadillas, rice and beans, chips and salsa etc. throughout the week. The main exception to that is that over the past couple years I have pretty well stocked my pantry to always have the basics for pan-Asian stir frys and curries on hand, so I do those once a week almost without exception.
- That last point leads to another tip, which is to stock your pantry with the basics for your favorite cuisines, so that you can always turn your pantry ingredients into a simple meal with whatever fresh ingredients you have on hand. So if you love Mediterranean food, go ahead and stock up on olive oil, garlic, lemons, canned tomatoes, (whatever your favorites are) and you'll never be very many steps from a great meal even if you don't have much left in the fridge.
- Most weeks I cook meats in a large batch with a single method. The first time we eat that meat, we just enjoy it more or less as it is. Then, I plan to re-purpose the leftover cooked meat as an element of a totally different kind of dish. For example, we will make a large batch of grilled chicken. The first night we might eat grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, and grilled veggies in a basic meat and sides format, but the rest of the week I use the leftover grilled chicken in chicken salad, and add it to stir frys, tacos, pasta, salads, etc.
Has anyone out there started a capsule kitchen? If so, hows it going? What is working, and what is not working? Do you have any questions or tips? We'd love to hear from you!