Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekly Menu Review

I really need to do better at organizing the freezer. Who knows what
is in the back? I added 3 quarts of stock, 2 pints of pizza sauce, butter,
half&half, pork bones for stock, and a bag of DD12's potato smiles
since last week. Making waffles to freeze this weekend.

UPDATE: Alert! Do NOT try freezing stock in jars.
I did one jar that did not break, but when I did these three,
they all broke on about the 3rd day, wasting both jars and lovely stock.

Time to see how well I did with the new menu plan. I know this seems silly to people that have used a menu plan for years, but writing it down helps me think about cooking from storage. For years, I just knew what to cook, and bought it weekly at the store, according to what was on sale. Now, I am trying to coordinate using my stored food, eat locally and seasonally, and watch the sales to replenish my long- and short-term storage.

This was the plan:
Mon - Shrimp Fried Rice
Tue - Bangers and Mash with White Pepper Gravy
Wed - Chicken and Spinach Lasagna
Thu - Red Beans & Rice with Chicken
Fri - Hawaiian Pizza
Monday went OK, except that I didn't get dinner done until 9:30 PM. I took DD15 to work at 4, and did grocery shopping until she was done at 6:15 PM. All I had to do was go home and cook, right? Ha. Got sidetracked by a business emergency as soon as I walked in. But we did have Shrimp Fried Rice, by gum! With broccoli from our garden, bacon from the Bacon Club, local eggs, and basmati rice.

Tuesday's plan to make roast chicken for lunch was derailed - it takes longer than I thought to thaw a whole frozen chicken. Oops. But I didn't need the chicken to be cooked until Wednesday night, so that was OK. Tuna sandwiches for lunch. Baked cookies. Tuesday dinner was the "locavore" version of Bangers and Mash, which I posted for the Dark Days local eating challenge.

By Wednesday lunch, the chicken was still not fully thawed. DD15 made her own shrimp curry for lunch to take to work, and I asked her to make enough for both of us. Really busy day, and dinner was suddenly a struggle. There was a storm front moving through, and both DH and I got sinus headaches. We ended up declaring an "on your own" night - everyone forages for themselves. Gotta use that canned soup in the cellar sometime, right? DD15 made us look bad by making herself rice with beans, peppers, and shreds of chicken she picked from the bones leftover from stock-making.

Thursday we finally had chicken! But for dinner - DD15 and DH were both out in the afternoon. I put the chicken in before I got DD15 from work. DH made experimental Sausage & Sage Dressing to go with it, using a bag of stale rolls I bought from the discount rack. I made gravy using both sausage and chicken pan juices, with fresh chicken stock. Scorecard: gravy needed more kick, maybe mustard or more pepper. Chicken was predictably good. Dressing was like a savory bread pudding - I really liked it.

OK, so now it's Friday. But, there is not enough leftover chicken for lasagna. A 5-pound chicken doesn't go as far as I thought for 4 people. I have only managed to make 2 out of 5 planned dinners. Am I maybe planning too much food? Maybe only four large meals per week, and more homemade "quick food" ready in the fridge. People keep wandering into the kitchen looking for something to eat, and not finding something easy to put together.

Cleaned and inventoried the fridge this morning, to see what needs attention. Emptied a few containers from the back - mostly leftover sauces made by DD15. Things that need using: 4 leeks, a quarter pound of bleu cheese, cooked sweet potato, some carrots getting limp, three stale rolls, a pineapple (now on counter).

Top shelf: Uh oh- out of milk! Have pickles, chocolate syrup, red cooking wine, spelt and WW flour, wheat germ, flax meal, buttermilk, half&half, red miso, homemade yogurt, duck sauce, ginger plum sauce, 2 qts ricotta, 3# mozzarella, lemon juice, salsa, pizza sauce, sour cream, bacon fat.

Middle Shelf: Plastic basket of tortillas and assorted cheese, bag of dried beef, 2 quarts of chicken stock, containers of carrots and cooked sweet potato, piece of scrapple, 2 yogurts for DD12, jar of maraschino cherries, lard, tomato sauce, DH's beverage.

Bottom Shelf: Leftover chicken, leftover cooked rice, leftover dressing and gravy, 2 cartons of live red worms for compost bin, bag of spinach, 4 leeks.

Drawers (not seen): 3 dozen eggs (making pasta) 1/4lb bacon, 1/2 lb keilbasi, bags of carrots, half sleeve celery, 2 apples, small cabbage head, celeriac.
Today, I am making Celeriac-Leek Soup and Sweet Potato Cornbread. Making a little apple bread pudding from the rest of the stale rolls. Cutting up that pineapple. We have a busy weekend ahead, and we need to have some easy fridge pickings.

Next week is Thanksgiving Week. We will have dinner at DH's large (40-50 people) family gathering in Philadelphia, so I get out of cooking a big meal. But I need to take a dish for the buffet. I am a relative newcomer to this event, and most of the attendees staked out a niche on the buffet table years ago. First time, I took a nice ginger applesauce cake from a premium bakery. Last year, DH took his blonde brownies, having reconstructed his late father's recipe (a sentimental hit). This year, DH will make his luscious sweet potato pie (the secret is Cream of Coconut). And I need to produce something fabulous, that does not complete with another guest's traditional contribution. The dessert table is packed, so no more of that. I better call the hostess and consult before taking a side dish - maybe I can make something she can check off her list.

We'll eat heavily on Thursday, so I we'll eat lightly the rest of the week, with easy cooking. Apples, clementines, muffins for snacking. I'll leave next Friday completely unplanned, to take advantage of yummy leftovers.
Monday: Chicken Corn Noodle Soup
Tuesday: Turkey Burritos with Refried Beans
Wednesday: Spinach Salad with Blue Cheese Crumbles
Thursday: Bagels and honey lebne w/fruit (breakfast)
Dinner Prep: Thaw a pack of chicken thighs and a roll of ground turkey. Thaw dried beef to make Creamed Chipped Beef for a lunch.

Regular Weekly Prep: Make bread, yogurt, lebne, freezer waffles, carrot muffins and/or parsnip coffee cake.

Shopping: Get tortillas, ginger root, horseradish root, semolina flour, bananas. 15# basmati rice and 25# sugar for storage. Swiss cheese, milk, half & half, eggs.

So, now I am going to the farmer's market, list in hand, to try to stick to the menu plan. It's hard, when there is so much holiday food on display, not to come home with more produce than we can use before it spoils. Produce is my biggest food-wasting area, and I am trying to stop wasting ANY food.


Krista said...

Produce is what gets me every time. I see it and it is just so cheap and we do eat a lot of it. I buy way more than I should and end up tossing a lot of it. Each time, kicking myself, because I really do know better. Sigh... I am working on it, though.

MeadowLark said...

Just my two cents - you mentioned that perhaps you planned too much food.

I have found that planning a "fresh" meal each night we end up with chaos and wasted food. So I really try to make a meal, then some "version" of leftovers the next night with a helping of the original version to take for lunch. While I personally don't mind eating leftover several days in a row, husband doesn't like to see the same thing twice. Also, we cheat and eat fairly plain veggies. That way I can throw them into anything else that comes along that week.

Susy said...

I have found that if I plan only 4 meals a week that's much better for us. We use leftovers to fill in or breakfast for supper or a vegetarian night. We also have one night each week that's, eat up everything in the fridge that needs eaten night.

I have also found that if my meals build on each other that's much easier for me. For example: spaghetti on Monday (homemade sauce, a big pot of it), then I use some of the sauce to make minestrone soup on Tues, then I make lasagne or baked ziti with all the leftover sauce on Wed or Thurs. If I still have some sauce leftover I may make italian tomato soup with grilled cheese one night. Then one night we have a vegetarian night with only veggies & fruits. You could do the same with chicken, have chicken on Monday, and then chicken quesadillas on Tues (which you only need a tiny pit of chicken for), then make stock with the bones and use it for veggie soup for Wed & Thurs.

The more you do it the better you'll be at figuring out a pattern that works for you! Since we work at home and I need quick lunches I like to make big pots of stuff like soup to eat for lunches or dinners. We don't mind eating the same thing a few days a week.

MeadowLark said...

Ooooh... I forgot I was going to suggest you make "Sunshine jam" with that pineapple!!! YUM