Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A week of meals made simple

Today I’m going to talk about meal planning. I do this, most of the time and it makes a lot of things go more smoothly in my kitchen.

First of all I have a master list. It contains 40 or more meals that my family enjoys eating. On the list are also recipes, if I need a recipe to remember how to make it, and an ingredients list for each item. One day a week, Sundays lately because we do our Trader Joe’s shopping on Sundays, I sit down and plan the meals for the next week. I try to first take into account what we already have that needs to be used up, especially in terms of fresh produce and meat. I also like to try one new recipe a week and incorporate it into my meal plan and shopping list. Once I have the meals planned I check the ingredients lists for those meal against what I already have and write a shopping list for the missing ingredients, as well as breakfast and lunch staples. I keep a magnetized list on the side of my fridge and write down anything that we run out of or that I remember we need during the course of the week. This also goes on the shopping list. I then write down in my day timer a reminder to take anything out of the freezer or start things in the crock-pot the night before a meal is planned if it is needed, it really helps with getting dinner on the table everyday.

One thing that I really like to do is meal plan to make my life easier and utilize leftovers. For example, here is a sample of a week of meals at my house.

Sunday: We have company for dinner. I roast two large chickens with a spicy saffron and lemon and ginger and garlic and garam masala rub that they sit in for several hours before roasting. We also eat rice and salad and some appetizers and roasted brussel sprouts.

Monday: I warm up some of the leftover chicken and serve it along with black beans flavored with cumin and chili and oregano and salt and pepper and cilantro that I started in the crock-pot that morning, and brown rice, and salad. Monday night I take what is left of the two chickens after dinner and put them in the crock-pot and cover them with water to simmer. They cook all day Tuesday.

Tuesday: We eat quinoa and lentils for dinner prepared with chili peppers and other spices, cooked peas, and raw carrot sticks and broccoli florets and red pepper slices. (I don’t feel like making salad.)

Wednesday: I drain the soup broth and remove the meat from the bones to add back to the broth. I add the leftover black beans and rice from Monday, the leftover lentils from Tuesday, some Dahl that I have in the freezer in tiny amounts for flavoring soups because I made too much one night and it was a little too salty but is perfect for adding flavor to soup broths, and added some celery and fresh kale and parsley at the end for dinner that night. We eat it with salad and sprouted grain toast.

Thursday: The kids want noodles. I make a tomato sauce with whole-wheat rigatoni and ground beef. In the summer I often have homemade tomato sauce. When tomatoes are in season and a good price I make big batches of sauce and either freeze or can them for later. But it’s February, so I use store bought canned and ground beef out of the freezer. Any leftovers will be lunch the next day.

Friday: This is our special dinner day since we keep Shabbat. On this day is when I usually try out a nicer recipe. In the morning I start the Challah bread, which is super simple once you’ve done it a few times. After lunch I start dinner prep. which this time is marinating a London broil to grill in Thyme and garlic and fresh ground pepper and red wine and olive oil. I try out two new side dishes, one with broccoli and olives that I like but no one else does and fennel root with blood oranges and broth. I also make scalloped potatoes and salad.

Saturday: We eat the leftover soup from Wednesday with the leftover Challah. We have roast beef sandwiches for lunch from the rest of the London broil. Sandwiches at our house are productions involving gourmet mustard, specialty cheeses, those tasty spicy pickles, and chopped pepperoncinis and olives, and often some whole-wheat sourdough from Trader Joe’s.

Sunday: I make cheeseburgers. We eat the leftover scalloped potatoes also and salad.

Salad is made of whatever I have in the fridge. So this week the base of greens was romaine lettuce and arugula. I have been adding Italian parsley leaves and cilantro to all of my salads recently because it makes them taste really fresh. I also had some fennel leaves last week so I threw them in there. Sometimes that’s the salad, and we have a choice of dressings. I put different toppings on it for variety. Sunday was apples and raisins and walnuts, Monday it was red peppers and celery and broccoli and sunflower seeds, Wednesday it was just greens, Thursday I made a caesar salad using Brianna’ Asiago Caesar dressing, juice of half a lime and fresh ground pepper over the greens base, this tastes so good with the cilantro and parsley added. I also throw in celery for crunch and black olives. I don’t like croutons. Friday I think it was greens with fennel, blood oranges, goat cheese, walnuts and a limejuice balsamic vinaigrette. I think at this point you get the idea.

4 comments:

a. borealis said...

Have you always been this organized? You are amazing! I feel like I am just starting to get my bearings in this arena. I wonder, though, if having several children force organization (if you want to eat well).

Shoot! This post is chock-full of excellent ideas; most of which I am heading towards, but it is extremely nice to have things written out. I'm encouraged!

Carrien said...

No I haven't always been this organized, it took me a long time to find a rhythm in the kitchen. I've just now begun to find it keeping things tidy, seems to take about a year for every new place I move to. Now if only I could get it to cross over to paperwork I'd be set. :)My mom and grandmother were good examples in the kitchen though, so I had a head start.

a. borealis said...

Rhythm - oh, it's so true. I feel like I am at just the beginning of catching my stride. Thanks for a great post (not to mention a great blog). I'm just eating it up.

ms said...

i found your blog thru a.borealis and was just about to make the same comment as she did. your blog is great, this post is exactly what i needed right now - a detailed outline of a week. it is so simple, and yet not something i have done yet...thanks!

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