# Shed Kitchen Algebra

by on 05/14/2010

Gooooood Friday morning!

Well, my breakfast is cooking and I’m already thinking about dinner. And despite being a little sleepy, I’m crunching some numbers.

Yesterday I shared some of my favorite dinner recipes, but the thing is…I don’t cook with actual recipes that often! When I am hungry and want to make a “purple” meal, I usually just follow a basic formula. (Very basic, as I’m not a math girl.)

Protein + veggies and fat + small starch and fat.

Now that’s not mind-blowing, but I’ve found that sometimes people may not realize my formula because I mix my variables up so much. So the actual formula is more like….

(Protein A)(Cooking Technique B) + (Veggie C)(Cooking Technique D) + (Fat N) + (Starch Y)(Cooking Technique M) + (Fat Z)

Or sometimes I use the same fat throughout the meal and then it’s just (Fat N) squared!

This is the same way I make lunches. The breakfast formula isn’t very different either…it just usually adds some fruit in the mix, and then cooking technique is “Magic Bullet the hell out of it.”

So then the biggest thing to eating simple healthy meals but not getting bored is checking your variables!

• Protein variables: type of meat, cut of meat, ground meat, white meat vs. dark meat, non-meat (eggs, dairy)
• Veggie variables: cold sliced veggies, warm veggies, in-a-salad veggies
• Fat variables: solid (nuts, cheese) vs. liquid (melted butter, coconut milk), unsaturated vs. saturated, plant vs. animal
• Cooking techniques: grill, bake, saute, toast, roast, microwave, steam, broil, made into soup, blend, scoop out of the container and call it a day

I have a staple grocery list, but I change the variables so much within that list. I experiment with different cuts of meat; grilled chicken thighs taste very different than grilled chicken breasts. My cooked veggies change weekly, although I can eat green beans any time of day. Sometimes my starch might be bread, although I love red-skinned potatoes as of late. If I’m having yogurt, then maybe it’s granola or fruit. And when it comes to fat, I mix it up with to suit the overall taste of the meal.

And then there’s the X Factor. X is for “experimentation.” No matter what you’re eating and whether you’re grilling or baking, it’s so important to experiment with spices, sauces, and different cooking techniques. Having BBQ sauce and tomato sauce in your pantry can be the difference between a blah dinner and a banging one. Adding a cool new spice to your cart each week can help you build up a collection of X factor saviors. Making herb butter each Sunday with a different herb is a great way to turn your baked potato into something restaurant-worthy. That’s the X factor…making every meal look elaborate and taste delicious without doing a lot of complicated cooking.

And know that when in doubt, add a little pesto, cheese, or bacon. These things ALWAYS saves the day. Some might call this cheating; I think of it as “using a calculator.” You’re pretty sure you’re going to get things right when you’ve got that handy.

Jessica @ How Sweet May 14, 2010 at 8:50 AM

This is exactly how I eat 90% of the time. Well, minus the vegetables unless they are on pizza or in a smoothie. Or…smothered in cheese/bacon!

Leah (Nutritionista) May 14, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Look at you! Doing math and everything! So proud.
.-= Leah (Nutritionista)´s last blog ..Breakfast: Egg Un-McMuffins =-.

sarah @ syrupandhoney May 14, 2010 at 9:42 AM

this sounds a lot like how i eat, too! the only thing i’d add for me is beans…i started cooking with beans about a year ago and now i’m borderline obsessed.
.-= sarah @ syrupandhoney´s last blog ..Rhubarb Newbie =-.

Rachel May 14, 2010 at 9:43 AM

Oh yeah Sarah, beans are definitely one of my go-to starches, but I’ve just been way more into potatoes lately…I think it has to do with the weather. I’m sure I’ll be loving beans again once summer hits!

Jen May 14, 2010 at 10:11 AM

I love how you made an algebraic equation! This past semester I took a course titled “Food and the Social Order.” One of the articles we read was by an anthropologist named Mary Douglas who, in an article titled “Deciphering a Meal,” crafted algebraic equations much like yours to analyze the meaning and structure to the various meals we consume.

That sounds entirely geeky of me, but the course was fabulous. If you’d like, I can send you a .pdf of the article.!

MelissaNibbles May 14, 2010 at 10:14 AM

This is pretty much how I eat too. I love whole wheat pasta or brown rice as my starches!

Bess May 14, 2010 at 10:40 AM

So glad you gave a shout out to green beans…I can seriously eat an entire bag of fresh raw green beans in one sitting (like them better raw).
.-= Bess´s last blog ..“I think I’ll eat a flag today” =-.

samantha May 14, 2010 at 1:10 PM

raw, crunchy green beans are my favorite snack EVER. they’re also really really good roasted, mmm.

that’s mainly how i break down my meals, too — my carb is sometimes a buttload of fruit (like it was last night), now that’s it’s summer/spring/whatever, i just want cold things.

Julia May 16, 2010 at 9:09 AM

This post really reminded me of my first cookbook: How to Boil Water (DJM). The Food Network wrote it and it is a good solid reference for beginners/people who are looking for simple ideas. Honestly though, for anyone who is just looking to have a basic guide to how to cook an entire list of vegetables/meats/etc. seven different ways, it has a really great chart so it definitely fits in with mixing up your variables!

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