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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Peaches and Coconut Overnight Oats

TKB - Peach Coconut Overnight Oats

Living in a place like Michigan, with all four seasons, really suits me. I could certainly handle some seasons being longer (oh, sweet, fleeting autumn) and perhaps shorten winter to three months instead of approaching six. But the variety is harmonious with my personality. I love when seasons collide, like now. Summer not quite ready to say good-bye; autumn chilling the air and lake in a way that makes jeans and sweatshirts deliciously appropriate. At the market this past weekend, I saw big Honeycrisp apples for the first time, but the peaches were still there, too. Before they’re gone, spend less than five minutes making yourself this breakfast. You can grab and go in the morning, and get something that fills you up instead of sacrificing because mornings often seem too short.

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Peach-Blueberry Bars with Pistachio-Honey Crumble

The Kitchen Beet - Peach-Blueberry Bar

I mean. If that title is reeling you in, we’re already friends. These bars are my idea of perfection – they’re not too sweet, so they seem equally appropriate for brunch with tea, or when you want a treat after dinner but don’t want to feel too full. If you’ve already made my Raspberry-Rhubarb Bars, you’ll notice several similarities! The base is very much the same, but I’ve swapped out a few key ingredients so they taste quite different. In Michigan, the blueberries are starting to get a little more sour – the particular variety I used for these bars is called Elliot. When peaches are ripe and need to be used that day, their juicy, luscious flavor makes a perfect complement to the little blue jewels of late summer.

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Blueberry-Coconut Smoothie

The Kitchen Beet - Blueberry Smoothie

You guys have been really, truly making my day. I mean it. One of my co-workers stopped by my office this morning to report her girls loved the cacao-coconut power balls (and they agreed with Aidan – better without the dried cherries). Another co-worker said she can barely boil water, but made the kale-red pepper-mushroom quiche to such success she felt like a kitchen warrior. A friend who now lives out west texted me pictures of the mango-sesame tofu spring rolls she made over the weekend, and mentioned multiple success with the granola, too. This literally makes me so happy, I can hardly put it into words. So thank you for every time you tell me you made a recipe from this site and loved it. I can tell you right now that will never get old!

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