Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A New Year, A New Plan

Good call on the menu call, Emily. I'm not usually big on New Year's resolutions, but this year I did make one - to record what we had for dinner every night. I have my ups and downs with menu planning - sometimes I get the whole week planned out ahead, other weeks it's flying by the seat of my pants. But at least, I thought, I could write down what we ate AFTER the fact, right? And then after a few weeks or months, I'd have lots of ideas recorded to refer back to, instead of wondering anew, "what's for dinner?"

Providentially, I then happened upon a post at Life in Grace all about using google calendar for menu planning. (That's her calendar, not mine)
This is perfect for me, since I already use google calendar as my main "keep track of the crazy" method. Edie had the brilliant idea to just create a separate calendar called "dinner" (and make it a different color-fun!) and put in your menu plan there - including the whole recipe or a link to it in the "notes" section. The great thing about google cal is that you can set each "event" or "dinner" to repeat at whatever specific interval you want... so our regulars, like roast chicken, I set to repeat every 2-3 weeks, while more obscure meals get set to repeat every...8, 9, 14 weeks? whatever I want. I'm still not being super great about planning ahead, but what I am doing is putting in the dinners as we have them, and setting them to repeat according to how much we like them/how easy they are, etc.

Anway, I can't tell you how excited I have been and still am about this system. I really hope to have a system that will work well in the long term. And of course there's got to be flexibility, but I have no problem with starting out my week looking at a whole menu plan and then just tweaking it - as opposed to starting with nada.  If you don't already use google cal, you should. It's so convenient to have it on the computer or your phone and be able to access it anywhere!

Ok, enough of my long-windedness. I will just mention a few new recipes I've tried recently and really liked.
Chicken and Kale Casserole - loved the hint of lemon in this, it was easy, and KALE, yay me, right?
Beef Stew- also from Life in Grace; I've made beef stew many a time, but this one was really delish.

And finally, our menu this week ( do you really want to know?)
M-Potbelly/Jimmy Johns (haha cheat night since Brian took the boys to a Bulls game)
T-Chicken and Groundnut Stew
W- Shepherd's Pie
Th-Sausage and Kale soup (got to use up the rest of that kale!)
F- panko breaded tilapia filets from Costco

Speier fam Menu plan

Okay, here's my menu from last week. I apologize in advance for the lack of actual measurements and pretty pictures:

Monday: crock pot chicken tacos and Nanny's Slaw
Nanny's Slaw: thinly sliced green cabbage, red bell pepper, green apple, red onion, sunflower seeds with a vinaigrette made from olive oil, rice wine vinegar, cumin and Tony's. She usually adds jicama too, which I didn't have.

Tuesday: Alton Brown's meatloaf, salad and garlic mashed potatoes. I used my new favorite healthier swap item in the mashed potatoes: Lite Labne (Kefir cheese) is a great substitute for sour cream.

Wednesday: Coconut Curry in the crock pot: 1 pkg boneless skinless chicken thighs, 1 can of light coconut milk, 1/2 onion, 3 carrots, 3 stalks celery, 1 red pepper (all chopped) 2 cloves garlic (minced) 1 or 2 Tablespoons each of red curry paste, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Cook it until the chicken shreds easily and then add 1 can of chickpeas until everything is heated through. Serve over brown rice with whatever garnishes your family is into. We do jalapenos, cilantro or basil, scallions, chopped peanuts and rooster sauce.

Thursday: I made this farro salad, but truth be told, it wasn't a hit. Maybe because I didn't get the fancy ricotta salata she recommends. I think next time I will just make a wheat berry salad, which my family all seem to enjoy: 2 cups of uncooked wheat berries simmered in either salted water or stock for about 45 minutes, chopped apple, cucumber, scallion, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, feta and parsley. I make a vinaigrette sometimes with lemon, sometimes with rice wine vinegar. Sometimes I add cooked chicken, too.

Friday: Asian shrimp soup? I don't know what to call this, really. I sauteed red pepper, carrots, garlic, ginger and scallions and then added stock and water. I simmered rice noodles, shrimp and thinly sliced napa cabbage until the noodles and shrimp were cooked through. (Garnish with cilantro and siracha again.) I served edamame in their pods on the side.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

menu call

so, as usual, the beginning of a new year brings me wanting to get a better hold on my menu/meal planning.  and, as always, i seem to be in desperate need of some new ideas.  thus, i am asking anyone who still remembered this blog existed to help me out.  do your own post or even throw your suggestions in the comments.  
please, don't make me beg...

burch house
monday - bbq chicken sandwiches with broccoli, sweet potato fries (cheat), and arugula salad
tuesday - croque madames (fried egg on top) with fruit
wednesday - jessica's pot roast
thursday - farmer's market casserole, grilled chicken and buttered noodles
friday - fondue (super random, but we were cleaning out for a garage sale and came across our old fondue pot and thought we should let the kids use it one time before i decide to sell it)

farmers' market casserole is my new favorite dish thanks to allie.
quick rundown.  fill the bottom of the pan with uncooked israeli couscous, roast egg plant and onions with a little olive oil and seasoning then layer on top of the couscous.  then layer any vegetables you like.  i used italian zucchini, a layer of mozzarella and tomatoes.  then mix together some panko (or your choice of breadcrumbs), some parmesan, some chopped basil and chopped garlic.  sprinkle over the dish and bake at 350 covered for about 30-45 minutes, then uncover and let the top get crispy and delicious.  finally, greedily hope your family doesn't eat all of it, because the leftovers are fantastic as well.  and lunch the next day has been made.
(allie, if you have any variations to add, feel free to chime in!)

we always have a couple of these in the freezer.  my kids are obsessed and when i don't have time to make a side dish, they come in mighty handy.  if you have more kids than me and want to make two bags, pour them on separate trays as they do get soggy when all piled up together, but are super crispy when able to bake in a single layer.  just a suggestion.

and, as a random extra, we made these egg biscuits this weekend.  store bought biscuit dough, rolled out and pressed into a cupcake tray.  crack an egg in the center and top with whatever you like (cheese, salt and pepper, maybe a little meat...).  bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes.  they will make your kids very happy!