Wednesday, March 23, 2011

No trouble at all

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.


Egg-and-Ham Casserole
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
6 eggs
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

8 comments:

  1. Menu planning must be on the brain lately. I've been thinking (and writing about it)this month too! My menu plan keeps me mostly sane :)
    Your recipe today made me think of your breakfast pizza, which I made for lunch a while back and - oh my goodness - it was good. So thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My current menu planning consists of jotting down 4-5 (new) recipes at a time that I'd like to try. In between these I make some of our regular staples (quiche, lentils, pizza, etc.). It lasts me about two weeks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I missed lunch today so your casserole looks especially dee-lish. Don't have any ham, but appreciate your suggestion of sausage or bacon. I think I shall try it with bacon.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Twice this week already, I forgot to eat lunch. I know this isn't really interesting information, but I'm telling you anyway. I kinda like when that happens because then I can eat a bigger dinner without feeling glutinous.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Timely post...I was just pining away for something to make with the MANY eggs my girls have been laying as of late. This will work perfectly!

    And thanks for the encouragement to start up my own menu planning again. It's always SO helpful...you'd think I'd never fall off the planning wagon!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this kind of mama's minutia! I love details.

    I plan menus very similar to the way you do. Week at a time, bonus points for breakfast and lunch. I usually write down several menus and don't assign them days - I see how the week pans out. I also usually include at least one or two pantry suppers to keep using up what I've got on hand.

    And I try to remember to write down every supper in my supper notebook (http://thriftathome.blogspot.com/2010/03/my-supper-notebook.html) - it's SO HELPFUL for that half-hour of planning when I have no ideas but want to get some sort of plan together.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My life improves so much with a menu plan. I generally make a list of meals I want to make and then look at my week and assign meals to the days. For example, I'm out of the house all afternoon/evening on Wednesdays, so that's the day I assign a crockpot meal, or something speedy quick.
    ...And we just had a breakfast casserole for dinner last week! I'm never awake enough in the morning to put anything like that together a whole hour before we want to eat.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've just recently started menu planning... I guess about 6 weeks ago or so.

    Would you believe I actually went through all the trouble to create a chart in Excel that I can print off each week, and then just fill in? Days are across the top; there are also rows for meat, grain/starch, veggies, and additional notes.

    Probably takes me about 20 min or so to fill it out. We're not really ones to use recipes, so we like have a simple list of ingredients. It also helps us from buying too much food each week and letting things sit too long in the freezer.

    ReplyDelete