I’ve been doing an excellent job at writing a weekly menu and then sticking with it. Of course, things do get switched around or I’ll add new dishes in, but for the most part my plan gets followed.
It’s such a relief. That half hour of planning on Sunday or Monday (and yes, it does take me that long) frees up my brain to think about all sorts of other stuff during the rest of the week. Like what desserts would best showcase my sour cherries and if it’d be acceptable to make yet another batch of flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (yes, those cookies are always acceptable). And with my expert menu planning, I use up a lot more of my Put-Up Food. Three cheers for empty quart jars!!!
This menu idea is not a new thing—I’ve written about it before—but then I got all loosey-goosey. My menus went haywire, and we lived on things like pancakes and eggs. (Which wasn’t that bad, really.)
But now I’m on The Straight and Narrow again. I'm immensely proud of myself. In fact, my head is so high I have to look down my nose to see anyone else. (Please don’t stick your foot out or toss a nanner peel in my path, kay?)
Seeing as today is Wednesday and the flies are buzzing around my flying fingers and the birds are singing outside and the fire in the woodstove burned itself out and my flourless peanut butter chocolate chip cookie is all—sniff—gone, I thought it might be nice if I’d share some details about my menu planning. It takes such a very lot of skill and expertise to draw up a menu so I’m pretty positive it’d be nigh near impossible for you to figure out how to do it without my profound instruction. And I love to be helpful.
Don't worry, it’s no trouble at all. Really.
Here’s what you do:
First, take a notebook and write the days of the week, in abbreviated form, in the margin of the page, skipping every other line.
Second, draw a box around the abbreviated days.
Third, write down a dinner idea for each day. You get bonus points if you include breakfast and lunch ideas. In parenthesis, jot down notes for yourself, like, thaw chicken, or make pancake syrup.
Fourth, look at the menu before going to bed at night and upon waking in the morning.
Fifth, cook the food and eat it.
Would it help to see a sample from my menu notebook? Okay. Here’s what I came up with for last week’s menu. I hope you don’t mind that there aren’t any boxes around the days of the week—I’m not computer savvy enough to know how to make boxes (it’s one of my weaknesses)—but you can just pretend they’re there, right?
Mon: curried lentils, rice, pie
Tues: baked potatoes, corn, green beans, squash
Wed: broccoli soup (for lunch), ham-and-egg bake, peas, applesauce
Thurs: in West Virginia
Frid: potato soup with eggs and bacon
Sat: pesto (didn’t have it) and pizza (for supper)
Other ideas are written in the margins: Finnish rolls, cream puffs, peanut pie, beer cupcakes, pumpkin pie, cherry cobbler, beans/tortillas/salsa, etc. I brainstorm pretty heavy on the sweets.
So tell me, do you have any great menu planning tips up your sleeve that are just itching to be shared? Or are you a Menu Winger?
Writing down that menu reminded me that I want to tell you about the egg-and-ham casserole we had for Wednesday’s supper. I think I’ve photographed it two separate time with the intention of telling you about it, but then I let it slide. Shame on me. It’s a simple dish, really. An ordinary dish. But it’s also a gentle dish, good natured, patient, and kind in every way. (Oops. It appears ‘Enry ‘Iggins is speaking through my cassy-roll.)
It’s supposed to be a breakfast casserole. One of those splendid ones that you assemble in the evening and then pop in the oven first thing upon waking, after which you are permitted to shuffle off to do Other Things until it's ready.
It also works well for supper. Last Wednesday I assembled it first off in the ayem, lived Life for eight hours, and then while I was at my dance class, my husband popped it in the oven. When I got home, famished and sore, supper was ready, hallelujah.
Adapted from my Aunt Valerie’s recipe
Other meats can be substituted for the ham. Already-cooked sausage and bacon are my favorites (you don’t need much to get a bunch of flavor), but Valerie also suggests chicken and shrimp.
6 slices bread, cubed
3/4 pound grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups chopped ham
3 tablespoons onion, minced
3 cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Toss the first four ingredients together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs and add the milk and spices. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and toss gently. Pour the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 pan, cover, and set in the refrigerator overnight (or for about 8 hours). Bake the casserole, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
This same time, years previous: playing Martha