Love Song Menu

I didn’t tell you this because I never got going–but I wanted to bake for you before you left.

I had visions of cheese bread. I found my recipe. I thought of making homemade pitas–so many recipes that week decorating my feed. I thought of baking cheese straws for you to take.

Baking filled my heart. I thought of making a pound cake, some macaroons, some cookie from the candy in the house.

You were leaving and I wanted to bake. I didn’t. We were busy. We always are busy. I didn’t want to make frightful messes and noise as you wrapped up things for your absence from work. I didn’t bake. I cooked a bit-but no baking.

Each week I struggle with menus. I think of things and then forget or they are all wrong for the week. But tonight, you buzzed and said “Pizza night.” You’d gotten email from my order. I started to tease you with things I had thought of to eat. I hadn’t yet but in that moment a menu danced in my head–a menu, a love song.

Grilled Cheese…
yours with mustard.
Hashbrown Casserole,
Foreplay Funghi.

Egg and cheese sandwiches,
Pickles, and hashbrowns.
(scattered, smothered, covered, capped and diced)

Cheese Straws,
A cheese plate with olives and cherry tomatoes,

Veggie burgers with avocado,
Cumin crusted tofu tacos with black bean salsa,
or maybe homemade mango salsa.
A quesadilla cut into a heart.

Omelet-rich with cheese and sauteed mushrooms and green onions,
Or goat cheese and fresh herbs…

Tabouli salad,
Homemade Hummus, with those
Pitas I have never made.

A pasta salad
Made with rotini
and early in the day so the salad chills,
The flavors meld.
which kind? which kind? It’s very warm…so
Perhaps cucumbers and tomato…

(Did I tell you about everyone sniffing the tomatoes last night?
Store-bought. (last Friday.)
Perfect looking tomatoes.
They smelled so much of tomato–I made everyone sniff.
“Mmm” said youngest. “It’s a tomato-what did you think it would smell like?” said boy.
“Oh-wait–you got that at a supermarket? No way! Give it back-let me smell again.”
RJ “Wow.”
“That’s nice.”
Me:”It’s incredible. Store-bought. Below my buy price for even
Lousy tomatoes.
Better than on-sale price even!”
I crowed.)

Zucchini boats,
Rivers of Cheese Macaroni and Cheese,

Watermelon agua fresca,
A pot of fresh coffee,
Cold, sweet water,
Ice cold bottle Coke

The list danced on in my head, the menu that never comes when I plan our week, a long-distance love song.  A menu of everyday favorites and foods of romance.

But perhaps, we’d skip dinner.
It’s a love song after all.

Back on Track Meals

I am feeling a little better today. I credit the fact that I finally got my haircut. (at the $5.00 haircut place! Yay!) I came up with a menu for the week. Cross your fingers we stick to it.

I think for next week, I plan to work on trying out The Pantry Challenge. Better late than never, right?

For this week:

Saturday–Veggie Burgers and Salad

Sunday-Savory Chicken and Vegetables: Blander than I would have liked, but I did get to use the last of a carton of rice milk and some soy milk in it. I never use the crock-pot for Sunday dinner and the change of pace was nice. Biscuits on the side, and Rebecca made a nice Spiced Applesauce Cake with Caramel Frosting for dessert. (Using up some leftover applesauce from the fridge)

Monday: Leftovers

Tuesday: Brown Rice Primavera

Wednesday: Curried Couscous

Thursday: Hashbrown Casserole

Friday: Tortellini and Spinach Soup

Imaginary Meal Plan vs Reality

I had a plan on Friday when I walked into the store. Wait. No, I didn’t. Sigh. We ended up at home with groceries and I am sure I can create meals out of them–but I need time to think. Oh wait, I have served four dinners (and multiple breakfasts and lunches) since shopping and so thinking time should be well past.

Can I recount those instead?

Friday-Specialty-except not because we were out of the special ingredient and had to substitute a variety of canned tomatoes for it. Kids ate and complimented but notably–there are leftovers still.

Saturday-Greek Chicken on pita with feta and hummus, a variety of fresh vegetables. Oh wait. No. That was the imaginary meal. Reality: Chicken Piccata sort of like Elise Bauer’s at Simply Recipes. (except I don’t do capers and fresh parsley? ha. I forgot to put any parsley on it.) Served with leftover fake specialty, green beans dressed up and “salad bar” from the mixed greens, sliced radishes and feta I did have in the house.

Sunday-No idea what I thought to plan but scuttled once we realized that the fried chicken hater would miss dinner. We had the opportunity to try the new sandwich at KFC (imagined during commercials as being a lovely mash up of King’s Hawaiian rolls and chicken) and to get a mini bucket with sides for the family.

Monday-Once again, imaginary meal sounds lovely–if I could remember what I imagined. I think a stir fry with crisp baked tofu I saw in a cookbook. Reality: Grilled cheese with roasted red pepper and the leftover side of choice–fancied up green beans for Mama, coleslaw and mashed potatoes for Denise.

I know mock chicken salad is on the menu this week. I don’t remember what else, but I plan to sort out the fridge and freezer tomorrow and a menu then.

In the meantime, does anyone else ever end up this way? Do you have the imaginary menu and the actual served meals? Why does it happen on your part? Poor planning or unexpected time crunch or just not in the mood?

Five More Secrets to Meal Planning: Kid Friendly

A few weeks ago, I told you about my friend Kim and her meal planning and cooking stress. I promised more meal planning strategies. This week, I want to talk kid-friendly. I won’t cook to kid demands but I don’t ignore their preferences either.

1. Drag out the cookbooks and the post it notes flags. Have kids flag the recipes they would consider trying. You might be surprised at  adventurous meal choices by your children.

2. Always include something in the meal that each person will eat. For years at our house, a green salad starred at our dinner table just because something about the rest of the meal didn’t suit one person or another. A salad ensured that no one went to bed without a bite in them. No, none of them would have starved, it just made me feel better.

3. Check your children’s calendars BEFORE meal planning for the week. Nothing messes up a week of menus like learning this is the week you have the recital, the teacher conference, and the soccer game and you have last minute prep or a meal that needs focus, planned.

If you have a home where some days mean your family eats in shifts, ensure the meal reheats well. The now 20-year-old really appreciated that weird microwave plate with the separate sections that landed in our combined homes somehow. I served dinner and put a plate away for her–ready for her to take the lid off and heat after she returned from her job. She felt like she got the “family dinner” without having to serve it herself or scrounge up a sandwich or chips and salsa instead.

4. Prep as much as you can the day you shop or the next day. Chop the vegetables. Pre-cook the chicken. Assemble casseroles and dishes to be baked. Put ingredients together. You can even measure out spices and put them in reusable bags or containers-mark the top “Pot Roast” or “Chicken Specialty” –whatever the recipe. Mark salads the same way. Add a post it note to dishes to be baked with the instructions. Use the plastic grocery sacks to hold a “meals” pieces together in the fridge. Don’t forget to chop some easily noshed on veggies and fruits for your snacking children.

5. Include the kids in meal prep too. They can chop, fetch items, stir a sauce, and when they help–they eat it. You also get a lot more information about your child’s day if you both work on a task together. My children also get the revolving right to pick the veggie served with dinner.  Most of the year this means a frozen vegetable, that gasp-I microwave. I keep a variety on hand and a child chooses and now they all know how to prep them and push the frozen vegetables button on the microwave.

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