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When you’re busy, loosely plan.

Categories: Cooking, Food, Meal Planning

2 comments

Things are pretty awesome right now in the Summers Domicile. School starts in under 5 weeks (goose bumps) and we’re moving to a lovely home in a week. But with awesome comes frantic, lots and lots of frantic. This is a temporary state of course, especially once I’m able to add the organization aspect to this blog, but I think we all have times in our lives where it’s just kind of crazy and there’s not much to do but plow through.

Last week I mentioned the Monthly Meal planner at Family Fun and how much I loved it. I don’t follow it to the letter, or day, but I use it to jog my mind on Sunday night or Monday morning when I get ready to plan what we’ll have for dinner that week. I work from home so I’m usually able to fit in meal planning and prep here and there.

This week though with the frantic pace of moving, I’m getting just a small taste of what it’s like to be out of the house all day. Couple that with the fact that I want only the bare minimum in my kitchen as far as perishables, I’m going to the grocery store each night on my way home, which I’m sure sounds familiar.

I think we generally run into trouble with dinner when we arrive at 5pm without a single direction for dinner. With the pace of this last couple weeks I can’t commit to a full week of meals because food inevitably goes to waste as we grab a turkey sandwich and call it dinner at 8pm.

This is how I’ve been using the Family Fun meal planner and it seems to be working out reasonably well. Early in the week I look over the available foods for the month and picked out a couple which did not require my oven to turn on (I don’t like the furnace effect in the summer). I knew we had steak in the freezer and my husband would grill it to the delight of my oddly carnivorous daughter, but I have a very hard time finding side dishes to go with my meals. Usually we bake some potatoes and steam some broccoli which is, boring. I looked at July 14, saw a grilled steak suggestion with a Corkscrew Tomato salad. So I stopped on our way home and picked up the tomatoes.

tomato pasta Ordering Disorder

This literally took me under 20 minutes to throw together including the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta. I didn’t have corkscrew pasta so I used rotini instead.

tomato pasta salad ordering disorder

I only wish I could tell you my family gobbled it up, they were all incredibly lukewarm and I ate this dish for lunch the next 5 days. My husband has a phobia of pickles, mayonnaise and vinegar (even the most mild). He has been known to “dress” a salad with a lemon.

No, that’s it. Nothing else. That’s the whole recipe. Spinach in a bowl with lemon squeezed over the top. So please don’t let that stop you from trying this recipe which uses an oil and vinegar dressing with walnuts all processed together in a blender or food processor.

Last week I also planned to make the July 30 recipe for Nutty Chicken Nuggets, the use of the microwave both frightened and intrigued me (no heating up the kitchen!). To understand my fear of microwave meals, you must know my mother owned one of the first microwaves rolled out in the late 1970s. She cooked a meatloaf in it once and it was as close to death on a plate as I’ve ever tasted. I also planned to make the Peas and Couscous to go with.

This is where flexibility comes in incredibly handy for the working parent. I got home late and couldn’t begin to concentrate on the recipe with so many ingredients. Rather than fall back on pasta and butter, I pulled out my very, very reliable Seat Of The Pants Suppers cookbook (it’s out of print, but maybe if enough people click the link she’ll republish it?) and found the answer, we’d have our peas and couscous with Chicken Soy Saute.

Chicken Soy Saute -not necessarily for your next dinner party, but great for kids and not chicken nuggets.

  • 1 pound boneless chicken, cut in bite size pieces
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic (or 1 clove pressed)
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil

Toss chicken briefly in a bowl with garlic and soy sauce to coat chicken. Try to do this a little ahead of time so chicken absorbs the flavors. Heat oil in skillet and saute chicken until done.

While the chicken soaked up the soy and garlic, I started working on the couscous. I followed the recipe but was very very careful to cut the onion so small in the food processor no one could see them.

couscous orderingdisorder

And no one could except my Bionic Onion Sensing husband who found the one single piece of distinguishable onion. He begrudgingly admitted he liked it, but didn’t have two servings once he knew I’d tried to sneak an onion past his lips.

Lesson from this week: “Loosely plan and be flexible about dinner.”

Next week’s lesson: “How to feed a family of four out of a box, a moving box.”



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2 comments so far...

  • Great suggestions. I’m actually not a cook and my husband and I are so busy that it’s not infrequently that we will end up wolfing down a bowl of cereal! I’ll have to try some of your recipes! Thanks.

    Victoria  |  August 1st, 2007 at 8:17 pm

  • Thank you for the heads-up on Family Fun’s Month of Meals online planner! I’ve been referring to it often — either directly using their recipes or indirectly getting ideas for other recipes.
    I just made the dinner for Aug. 25, Sweet and Sour BBQ’d Chicken
    (http://jas.familyfun.go.com/recipefinder/display?id=40716) and it was incredible! If you like bbq, you should try it. Even my boys loved it and they aren’t huge bbq fans.

    Krissy  |  August 26th, 2007 at 6:53 pm

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