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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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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Mango Coconut Curry

 

TKB - Curry brightened

I have that mid-January thing that always seems to sneak up on me…runny nose, sinus pressure, sneezy coughing fits. I’m not complaining, really, as winter is generally a season of slowing down for me anyways. I’ve really embraced these cold, white months in recent years. I’m grateful for all they offer – skiing, sledding, indoor soccer followed by brunch, leisurely girls’ nights with the best conversation, Hope and MSU basketball games and even a Griffins hockey game this past weekend. I also spend more time in the winter curling up with a good book, even more so when I’m sniffly. It likely won’t surprise you that, during my leisure reading time, you would often find me thumbing through cookbooks. Most recently I’ve been reading, learning and taking notes as I look through Zahav, What Katie Ate on the Weekend, Near and Far, The Kripalu Cookbook and the My New Roots Cookbook. I recently picked up Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine again, and I’m so glad I did. Her voice is like a hug from an old friend  – we’ve never met, but I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels that way. This lovely book alternates between essay and recipe; her true love for food shines in a way that lets me know she is my kind of person.

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Butternut Squash-Sage Galette

The Kitchen Beet - Butternut Squash-Sage in bowl

I’ve been meaning to post this since Thanksgiving, and now Christmas is in EIGHT days. My favorite part of a house bustling with food preparation for a group is actually the eating throughout the day. The focus for a holiday like Thanksgiving is typically the “big meal,” but I prefer all the other details – starting with a hot breakfast and leisurely coffee, snack buffets with hummus and veggies, and feeding people flavorful bites throughout the day. The two most-loved appetizers from this year were Balsamic Mushroom Tart with Walnut-Parsley Pesto, and this galette. There’s something about a flaky, buttery crust setting the stage for sweet butternut squash and sage to dance together. It didn’t last four minutes with my family.

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Roasted Cauliflower + Butternut Squash Wild Rice Gratin

The Kitchen Beet - Roasted Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Wild Rice Gratin

Today after work I picked up both kids, made a library trip, took Aidan for a hair cut and cruised on home with one goal: quickly take pictures of the gratin I made last night before the sun sets. The sunset was at 5:34 pm this evening. I find that a little offensive. On a positive note, it was gorgeous and warm (70!) today, I got a picture and now I can give you this recipe. While I think we can all agree casserole isn’t the most photogenic dish there ever was, this one is DELICIOUS. It’s my favorite combination of a meal that feels both healthy and decadent, roasted cauliflower never fails and it’s plenty to feed a large family or keep a smaller family hooked up with lunches during the week. I strongly urge you to add this to your Thanksgiving menu. Not only will you feel like a total superstar in the kitchen, your family members will be begging for this to be on repeat for years to come.

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