De Ma Cuisine

menu planning tips Archive

Monday

13

January 2014

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COMMENTS

Menu Planning Series – Part Three – Staples and Tools

Written by , Posted in Menu Planning, Thoughts

The third installment in our menu planning series has to do with having a properly equipped kitchen.

(Did you read parts one and two? If not, have a look, then come back to this one.)

You’re gonna need some tools. Let’s talk about them, from the pantry and to what you might want to keep in the freezer, to the instruments that will cut, shape, hold your food.

Here we go.

Staples to Have on Hand

I like to have a few things on hand for last minute meals: pasta and tuna for a Tuna Casserole, Tomato Soup, cheese, and bread for Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup (boxed soup is fine, but if you want to make a large batch of homemade and store it in small portions, it’s a great idea!); homemade waffle/pancake mix, and eggs and bread for French Toast.

RoastedTomatoSoupNC-3

I also like to have regular pantry staples such as: good olive oil, coconut oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, white vinegar, canned beans (great if you don’t have time to soak and cook dried ones – it takes some planning ahead), dried beans, cans of tomato sauce (plain, add your own seasonings – cheaper than buying a jar of pre-made sauce at the store), dried herbs (oregano, parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, savory), salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, all spice, nutmeg, onions, garlic, pasta, brown rice, corn meal (for polenta and cornbread), quinoa, oats, potatoes, all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, coconut palm sugar, honey, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla extract.

In the refrigerator: unsalted butter, milk, eggs, apples, lemons, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, peanut butter, maple syrup, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, sandwich bread, homemade jam, carrots, lettuce, greens (kale or spinach), and fresh herbs.

In the freezer: a package or two of ground beef/turkey/chicken, a whole chicken, frozen leftover chicken, salmon, and bacon (f you don’t eat meat at every meal staples like: tempeh and tofu work well), peas, corn, dry yeast (yes, an extra jar), and frozen veggies (ones that might not get eaten the week they arrived in the AHO box, cut into bite smaller pieces).

Kitchen Tools

If your kitchen isn’t fully equipped, here are a few things that you will need to get started: a good chef’s knife (that is kept sharp), paring knife, bread knife, set of bowls (that can be washed in the dishwasher, if you have one), large serving spoon, medium serving spoons, wooden spoons, whisks, tongs, grater, small sauce pot, medium sauce pot, heavy bottomed soup pot, baking sheets, cooling racks, cast iron skillet (one of my favorite kitchen tools), cutting boards, veggie peeler, hot pads, meat thermometer (I use mine all the time), baster, spatulas, kitchen scissors, measuring cups (the scooping kind and the glass pouring kind) and spoons, funnel, aluminum foil, and parchment paper.

Once you’ve got the basics, here are a few other tools that I’ve gotten a lot of use out of: hand blender, microplane grater, KitchenAid stand mixer, steamer basket, small glass prep-bowls, individual sized ramekins (perfect for individual Chicken Pot Pies), oven thermometer, and a rolling pin (if you don’t have one you can use a large glass bottle).

I think you’re ready. I hope that in no time at all this becomes second nature to you. I have confidence that you are well on your way to a lifetime of delicious foods. And remember to ask if you need help.

Happy Eating Friends!

Friday

10

January 2014

0

COMMENTS

Menu Planning Series – Part Two – The Menu

Written by , Posted in Menu Planning, Thoughts

Welcome to step two of our Menu Planning Series!

In this post we’re going to tackle the menu. It may be daunting, but you can do it!

Give yourself an hour or two.

Let’s plan.

(Week one talked about the reason and the research behind the menu plan. It also had the first step to menu planning.)

On to step two…

Menu-Template

2. Make a week long calendar. Use pencil (or the computer – feel free to print off my menu template above). Write down the ideas and notes on a separate page and take them with you to the computer to peruse your favorite food blogs I’d suggest some of my favorites: De Ma CuisineSimple BitesAbundant Harvest KitchenGluten Free GirlEating from the Ground UpJoy the Baker), or search through your preferred cookbooks or magazines. Bookmark online recipes, note page numbers from cookbooks, and tear out recipes from magazines. To begin it may be best to use just a few blogs, one cookbook, and one magazine, so it’s not too overwhelming.

3. Think about the types of foods that you like to eat and the ways they can be used. For example, I like to roast a whole chicken. If I plan to roast it on Monday, I know that there will be leftovers (since there are two of us eating). I can freeze the leftovers and use them to make Chicken and Rice Soup on Sunday. I can use the bones from the chicken to make stock for the soup. I could plan a Stir-Fry for Tuesday, doubling the amount of brown rice so I can freeze the leftovers for Sunday’s soup.

4. I like to write down ideas for the sides and main dishes, so I don’t forget something and end up with pasta three times and no rice or beans, and beef four nights in a row. I might start with some basics for sides: pasta, beans, rice, polenta, quinoa, potatoes.

Then I could expand each one to:

Pasta = spaghetti

Beans = chili

Rice = stir-fry

Polenta = cheesy polenta

Quinoa = quinoa risotto

Potatoes = crispy potatoes

CrispyPotatoesWithChiliAndCheese6

Then I could move to adding proteins to the dishes:

Pasta = spaghetti and meatballs

Beans = chili with ground beef and beans

Rice = stir-fry with almonds or peanuts

Polenta = roasted chicken with cheesy polenta

Quinoa = quinoa risotto with ham

Potatoes = Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese

Rice = Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

Next add your veggies and fruits:

Pasta = spaghetti and meatballs (with zucchini, bell pepper, onions, garlic, spinach, and tomatoes) with homemade caesar salad

Beans = chili with ground beef and beans (with tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, squash… the possibilities are endless!)

Rice = stir-fry with almonds or peanuts (with carrots, snap peas, onions, garlic, citrus, broccoli)

Polenta = roasted chicken with cheesy polenta with roasted broccoli and cauliflower

Quinoa = quinoa risotto with ham (with peas in the quinoa risotto) with roasted green beans

Potatoes = Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese with a green salad with homemade vinaigrette

Rice = Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup (with peas, carrots, onions, garlic, squash)

Add any notes or extras:

Pasta = spaghetti and meatballs (with zucchini, bell pepper, onions, garlic, spinach, and tomatoes) with homemade caesar salad – serve with garlic bread, freeze leftover garlic bread to go along with Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Beans = chili with ground beef and beans (with tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, squash… the possibilities are endless!) – serve with cornbread, re-heat leftover cornbread for breakfast tomorrow with a fried eggfreeze leftover garlic bread to go along with Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup, freeze leftover chili for Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese.

Rice = stir-fry with almonds or peanuts (with carrots, snap peas, sprouts, onions, garlic, citrus, broccoli) – make a double batch of rice and freeze half for Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Polenta = roasted chicken with cheesy polenta with roasted broccoli and cauliflower – leftover broccoli and cauliflower could be used in the Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Quinoa = quinoa risotto with ham (with peas in the quinoa risotto) with roasted green beans – slice leftover ham for sandwiches for lunches, freeze cubed leftover ham for a Ham and Potato Chowder (meal idea for next week?), freeze small slices of ham to make Hawaiian pizza.

Potatoes = Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese with a green salad with homemade vinaigrette – make extra vinaigrette and store it in the fridge for salads for lunches and for next week.

Rice = Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup (with peas, carrots, onions, garlic, squash) – serve with leftover cornbread or garlic bread.

Now that I’ve got my meals, I’d look at the calendar and figure out which days they will work best for. (Keeping in mind that I might not prefer to have the same food three days in a row, so spacing out the beef, for example. Also remembering not to put the leftover meals at the beginning of the week. ;))

Monday

SpaghettiAndMeatballs5

Spaghetti and Meatballs

(with zucchini, bell pepper, onions, garlic, spinach, and tomatoes)

with homemade Caesar Salad

Serve with garlic twists. Freeze leftover garlic twists to go along with Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

Take chicken out to defrost for Wednesday.

Tuesday

StirFry

Ginger-Citrus Stir-Fry with Almonds and Brown Rice

(with carrots, snap peas, sprouts, onions, garlic, citrus, broccoli)

Make a double batch of rice and freeze half for Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

Wednesday 

PolentaWithTomatoesAndSavory3

Roasted Chicken with Cheesy Polenta with Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Leftover broccoli and cauliflower could be used in the Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

In polenta, substitute for savory with thyme, omit tomato and baking step. Take beef out to defrost for Thursday. If ham is large, take out to defrost for Friday, if not change note to tomorrow.

Thursday 

ThreeBeanChili_5

Three Bean Chili

(with tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, squash… the possibilities are endless!)

Serve with cornbread. Re-heat leftover cornbread for breakfast tomorrow with a fried egg. Freeze leftover cornbread to go along with Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup. Freeze leftover chili for Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

Friday 

Quinoa Risotto with Roasted Ham with Roasted Green Beans

(with peas in the quinoa risotto)  

Slice leftover ham for sandwiches for lunches. Freeze cubed leftover ham for a Ham and Potato Chowder (meal idea for next week?). Freeze small slices of ham to make Hawaiian pizza.

Take leftover chili out to defrost for Saturday.

Saturday 

CrispyPotatoesWithChiliAndCheese3

Crispy Potatoes with Chili and Cheese with a Green Salad with Homemade Maple Vinaigrette

Make extra vinaigrette and store it in the fridge for salads for lunches and for next week.

Take leftover chicken, rice, and bread out to defrost for Sunday.

Recipe from De Ma Cuisine.

Sunday 

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

(with peas, carrots, onions, garlic, squash)

Serve with leftover cornbread or garlic bread.

Now that the hard part is done, pat yourself on the back, step away from the menu, and take a breath.

I’m proud of you.

Now make a note to come back on January 13th to learn more about equipping your kitchen to cook all these amazing meals that you’ve just planned.

Tuesday

7

January 2014

1

COMMENTS

Menu Planning Series – Part One – The Reason and the Research

Written by , Posted in Menu Planning, Thoughts

AHOBox-1

It’s the new year. Happy Happy New Year to you! I hope that it is starting out exceptionally well.

I think it’s generally true that on January 1st many people like to have a few resolutions for the coming year. Often they are centered around losing weight, exercising regularly, or eating better…

Eating better can mean a myriad of things.

Maybe some of these sound familiar:

I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch every day last year and want to branch out.

I ate too much take-out food and forgot to eat homemade meals.

I was too busy to cook dinners so I bought pre-made meals.

I never had anything planned for meals and was always too tired to think about it at the end of the day. So it was pasta most nights, with some sort of sauce from a jar. Because I didn’t have meals planned, so much food‚ went to waste. 

I didn’t have a grocery list planned, so my trips to the store were expensive and resulted in lots of wasted food.

I had a menu planned most of the time, but I didn’t always prepare in advance, so often didn’t stick to it. (This would be mine.)

None of these are the end of the world when they happen occasionally. But, when they become the norm, that’s when we can feel trapped by our eating habits. And as a result, our wallets, waistlines, and trash piles take the hit.

Some Things to Consider

The annual cost to eat out for lunch every day (and the ingredients you’re paying to put into your body). The foods you may be missing out on by limiting yourself to the same meals day after day. The money, your hard earned money, that gets wasted when you go to the grocery store and buy a bunch of things that you aren’t going to use (not to mention the food that gets thrown out as a result). The fun you may be missing out on by not cooking (who knows, you may love it!)… Food for thought.

I’m going somewhere with this. It’s not meant to be a guilt-trip. Instead, it’s supposed to be an encouragement. I want to help you learn to menu plan and have a place to start your meals, even when you’re too tired to think after a long day.

The reason I started menu planning, about 7 years ago, was to stretch our small grocery budget. I found that I was going to the store with nothing in mind and spending way too much money. The menu reigned that in and helped me to learn to use what we had. It was also around the same time that we started ordering our box of Abundant Harvest Organics produce. I started planning around the box so I wouldn’t waste it. It took time to get used to it and to figure out what worked for us. So don’t give up. If it doesn’t work perfectly the first time, give it another try. And, as always, if you’re so overwhelmed and need a bit more guidance, I’m available to answer questions or to start you out with an affordable customized menu plan. I had a great time writing this series. I love to grocery shop, to make lists, and above all, to menu plan. So seriously, if you need help, please ask.

It’s going to take some planning ahead, and a little bit of extra work in advance, but it’s so worth it. Trust me. Please.

I’ve broken this series down into three posts, so to (hopefully) not overwhelm you. This first one just deals with why it’s a good idea, and starting to do some research into what you and your family enjoy eating. It’s the easy step.

Step two will be the most daunting. Push through. Persevere. You can do this. It’s the menu planning phase. Yes, you can.

Step three might be something you have already done: stocking your kitchen with tools, food, and supplies to equip you to succeed in this menu plan.

How to Get Started 

This can be a daunting task, so let’s start small. Let’s plan for a week.

Step 1. Sit down with any members of your household who will be consuming meals. Discuss food preferences. This would be a great time to ask if anyone wants to be in charge of a meal each week. They can do as little as cook, or take on the planning and shopping too. If you have small children, here’s a great opportunity to get them involved in the cooking and eating of foods they may think they can’t stand. 😉

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?! Come back on January 10th to find out what to do next. 😉