Weekly Menu Plan: February 2016

library cookbooks (prose)

The other week at a girls’ night, a friend asked an innocuous question: Do you still menu plan? The answer was yes, but…

In my explanation, I realized I still planned a weekly menu, meaning I selected a handful of recipes, scribbled them on a scrap piece of paper and made sure I had the groceries to make them. But I had fallen away from a more intentional pattern I used to practice with consistency. That menu planning assigned a specific meal to a specific day. It also had at least 4 – 5 planned “other” items. My other items are either specifically helpful with breakfast or packed lunches (i.e. getting four people out the door going in four different directions), or grab-and-go items that make life smoother when running to soccer practice, needing a small snack to hold us over because catching the sunset is a must, or bites to stuff in a backpack so we can otherwise spend more quality time outside. It may seem inconsequential, but that routine also includes a nicely printed menu hung on the refrigerator, so everyone in the family knows what’s coming up.

When I got home from that girls’ night, I decided to return to my old pattern to see if the additional structure was worth it. Indeed it was! We had homemade dinner as a family every single night that week, and I could tell any after work stress  was alleviated simply by not having a choice to make. Assigning a meal to a day also meant I could do prep the evening before, knowing I’d use it the next day. And the legibly written menu on the side of the fridge gave me a small sense of affirmation when I walked by. Feeding people I care about is something I value highly, and feeling prepared for the full week is a worthy accomplishment for me.

I LOVE getting a sense of how dinner time works in other families, and thought perhaps you’d feel the same. Listed below is the exact menu we followed for a week (in this case, Saturday – Friday, with a few other notes you may find helpful). You’ll note some of the recipes are mine, and some come from other sources I’ve linked to. I tend to adapt the majority of recipes I use, so I’ve commented on that where applicable. Also, as I mentioned in a recent post, we are mostly vegetarian eaters, with meat once or twice a week. Both kids (ages 2 and just-turned 11) ate exactly what was on the menu, but sometimes deconstructed, also explained below.

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Vegan Crispy Cacao Bites

TKB - crispy cacao bites - five

I’m a lover of experience and memories over things, pretty much always. This is evident in the way I gift my family, particularly for birthdays. Planning a surprise getaway brings me almost as much joy as the trip itself. For Aidan’s 11th (today!), we planned a short trip – just one overnight and two days of skiing and snowboarding up at Crystal Mountain. It’s a 2.5 hour drive, and lift tickets were included with our stay. This allowed us to be sneaky behind the scenes and plan for one of his best friends to join us.

I try to keep things economical by making and packing as much of our food as possible, and aiming to get a room with a kitchen. For this trip, it meant making minestrone soup and sandwiches before we left for our trip to have for dinner last night, and bringing the goods to make french toast this morning. I also packed these crispy bites, and put 2 – 3 in individual snack size bags. I froze them, then sent everyone out with a bag to stuff in their jacket pocket for a little energy while out on the slopes. The crew loved them, so I thought I’d give you all the recipe, too!

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Red Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato, Kale & Herbs

The Kitchen Beet - Winter Red Lentil soup

For the sake of all parents (and all people with taste buds), you should have this soup recipe. I’m particularly smitten with it because my children will eat it without fuss, and I happen to really enjoy family meals that involve us all sitting around the table, eating. (Such a novel idea!) It comes together easily, is pretty inexpensive to make, and if you do yourself the favor of chopping the leeks, sweet potatoes and kale beforehand, you’ll be impressed with how quickly you get it on the table. Here in Michigan we’re trying to maximize our time outside and enjoy the latest snowfall. I’d be hard-pressed to find something I relish in more than a hearty, veggie-filled bowl of soup after a couple of hours on the cross country trails.

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