The Happy Menu Planner

October 19, 2009

daph with drinkYou know how you always read in all the home and cooking magazines about how dinner time will be so much easier if you just take a little time over the weekend to get organized and do some planning in advance?  Sure, it sounds simple enough when they write it but really, who has any extra time on the weekends and do you really want to use it menu planning if you do?   

But with three kiddos also comes having to prepare lunches every night, religion classes, soccer practices, football practices, showchoir practices, spelling tests, homework and the host of other unexpected activities that always seems to crop up.  Dinner was taking a way back seat and becoming a very stressful event in our household.  So, I decided to give the old menu planning advice a whirl.  I am happy to report, it has been an overwhelming success and the magazine writers were right.  I have been at it now for three weeks.  We’re eating great meals, at a decent hour and I’m enjoying the process.  When mommy’s happy, everybody’s happy.  Try it.  Like me, you might even find yourself with extra time for cocktails!

Whenever I can grab a half-hour at some point over the weekend, I pull together my dog-eared recipe magazines, cookbooks, recipe binder and my handy-dandy momagenda grocery/menu list notepad (this item is not a crucial part of the equation but it’s sure cute) and the planning commences.   If you can do your shopping over the weekend or Monday morning, you’ll even be that much more ahead of the game.  I got so overzealous one week I was making the next night’s meal the day before.  Only the more truly advanced menu planners should attempt this daring feat!

I’m going to give you my past two weeks menus and a recipe from this week just to inspire you.  Happy planning!

October 5 -11th

Monday:  Lemony Chicken, Orzo and Maple-Glazed Brussel Sprouts

Tuesday: Turkey & White Bean Chili, Tossed Green Salad and Skillet Cornbread

Wednesday: Broccoli & Ham Quiche and Salad  — Brown Sugar Cookies (OMG – these cookies are so good, will post recipe soon)

Thursday: Crazy Bean Soup and Grilled 3-Cheese Paninis

Friday:  Pizza Night – Kitchen Closed!

Saturday: Chicken Marbella, Mashed Idaho Taters and Salad

Sunday:  Split Pea and Smoked Ham Soup, Garlic Bread — Tarte Tatin   

October 12 -18th

Monday:  Pork Bolognese* Penne, Green Salad

Tuesday: Beef Soft Tacos and Cheesy Black Beans

Wednesday: Whole Wheat Flatbreads with Lamb and Yogurt*, Cucumber & Tomato Salad

Thursday: Turkey Meatloaf with Fontina and Mushrooms*, Green Beans & Hazelnuts

Friday:  Dinner out – Kitchen Closed!

Saturday: Seared Cod with Pesto, Crispy Potatoes, Roasted Tomatoes and Green Salad

Sunday:  Greek Chicken Lemon Soup, French Bread and Roasted Broccoli  — Tarte Tatin

*Recipes from Everyday Food – September 2009 issue  

So what’s on the menu for this week you ask?  Well, the kiddos have requested chili and cornbread again so that’s up for tomorrow night.  I tend to like to make most things from scratch as I like to know what’s in the food I eat and serve my family.  That being said, I’m also not a complete purist (or a complete masochist) and I will go for convenience if it’s healthy and cost-effective. 

chili mixFor me, Carroll Shelby’s Original Texas Brand Chili Kit fits that bill.  Almost every major grocery store (including Wal-Mart) carry it.  My mom used it when I was growing up and I always liked her chili.  I use it now and my kids like my chili.  Nuff said.  It’s inexpensive and it has only very simple, real ingredients in it.  Plus you can easily doctor it up to make it your own.  I like that.  It used to come in the cutest little paper bag but for some reason (probably cost) they changed to a box.  It’s only the spices in the kit so you still need to add your preference of meat, tomato sauce/tomatoes, beans and whatever else says chili for you.  You can make it mild or hot using the spices provided.

With chili, must come cornbread.  At least in our house.  I like to make cornbread in my cast-iron skillet and serve it with butter and honey drizzled over the top.  Here is my recipe:


 Cast-Iron Skillet Corn Breadcast-iron-skillet

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp. water
3/4 cup canned whole kernel corn (drained) 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Pour the vegetable oil into a cast-iron skillet and put the skillet into the oven while it preheats.  Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and a pepper. 
In a bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and water until blended.  Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing together just until moist; a few lumps is a good thing.  Do not overmix.  Stir in the corn. 
Carefully pour the batter into the preheated oil in the pan.  Bake the corn bread until the top is golden brown and the sides have pulled away from the pan, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately with butter and plenty of honey. 







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