Monday, October 28, 2013

Food for Thought

I'm a good cook.  I started cooking dinners when I was 10 years old.  My mom worked long hours and I was on dinner duty - either that, or we'd have been eating dinner at 8pm.   She taught me her methods of menu-making, and then I got married and shuffled them all around.  And then we went off grains, so "I'll make some pasta" isn't on the list *either*.  

This is how I plan my dinners:

Main dish - this is almost always meat

Side dishes - at least two
  • Ideally I play old-school and have two veggie side dishes, one yellow/orange, one green, one of which is raw or close to it.   This can be as easy as sautéed carrots + a green salad, or you can get fancy with orange/onion salad & sautéed spinach. 

Carb - optional
  • We don't eat wheat (well, the kids do) so our carb - when I include it - is potato or rice.  I know the other starchy root veggies count, but I'm really the only fan around here, so I include those in our diets sparingly. 
Sauces/condiments - when possible (my family loveeees special sauces/condiments, like hummus, peanut sauce, etc).

I try to have one star of the show for regular days, and the rest of the items are served relatively plain.  So - maybe I'll make bacon sautéed brussel sprouts... which I'll serve with roast meat or roast chicken, maybe some rice and pineapple. 

I extend that rule (including more fancy things) for bigger meals and feasts.  If *everything* is seasoned within an inch of its life, you won't be able to taste anything.  The palate needs a break!  Mashed potatoes anyone?

Same thing for menu planning.  Once or twice a week I'll really pull out the stops, but the rest of my meals are easy to deal with (even if they aren't all that "quick" as I am home all the time and a long-cooking item isn't a problem).

Once a week, weather permitting, I make soup or stew for dinner.  Sometimes that's served with salad, sometimes not.  (Mostly depending on whether that day was grocery day).

Variety is important.  Rotate your menus.  I do this with an excel sheet.  Rotate your cuisines - African, Asian, European, etc.  Rotate your meats.  No one - not even *my* husband - wants to eat beef every.single.night for a week.  I go to the store a couple of times/wk, but I keep track of what I've been serving so we don't end up eating the same thing over and over and over.

Balance your meals.  Heavy meal?  Light dessert.  Light meal?  Heavy dessert.  Rich food? Make sure there's something sharp and savory along with (like a pickle or an onion salad or...) to break up the heaviness.  Super light food?  How about a bit of soup to accompany it? 

Match your meals to the weather.  We're having cool, cloudy weather... I think I'll be making some rich, warm food.  When the weather gets hot-hot-hot, that's the time to serve something light, with a wide variety of vegetables and maybe something interesting to drink.

Match your meals to your schedule.  My week's schedule and my menu go on the same page, so that I don't decide that on one day I'll spend three hours cooking and five hours scrubbing.  If you're going to do Spring Cleaning, use your crockpot.  Or serve sandwiches and re-heated soup from your freezer.  Balance!

Try new recipes.  If not once a week, once every couple of weeks, include something new.  You might find a new friend.  :)  If not, no harm, no foul - tomorrow you get chicken and rice, all will be well.

Be willing to bring out your family's favorite foods, so that everyone knows their special foods will see the light of day. 

Have fun!


  1. I also do the new recipe thing at least every other week at least. It's a great way to break up the menu monotony.

  2. I also do the new recipe thing at least every other week at least. It's a great way to break up the menu monotony.

  3. I do something similar although we do eat wheat around here. I'm trying new recipes about 2-3x a month so we don't get into too many ruts. The men around here like their meatloaf and beef stew ruts though so those won't change.


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