Friends are always asking me how I get so much done each day. I know they aren’t asking about my full-time job… so, let’s start with dinner! What? Well, I’ve probably posted about it before… but dinner is one of the top stressors for moms, working moms, stay-at-home-moms, dads too… heck anyone who is hungry, right? So… what’s for dinner!?
Since the boys were little, we have had basically the same weekly menu. In fact, they helped create it! I know, I know… repetitive, right? Well, when you have food allergies, intolerances, picky eaters, and strong preferences for familiar foods, it works! The bonus? As repetitive as it is, a few little tweaks allow for a lot of customization, with very few ingredient swaps! A week of meal planning can function for a month!!
- planning is done once (with less frequent shopping) so ingredients are always on hand
- recipes are memorized, simple, tasty and nutritious
- knowing the next day’s dinner allows for thawing, prepping in advance, etc.
The Downsides: well… um… none? I mean really, this is such a stress-reliever. Not only am I, the primary cook (by choice… though everyone on the farm cooks well) minimizing avoidable stress… nobody is EVER asking me, “what’s for dinner?” Even pre-dinner appetizers and snacks (and drinks!) come together easily.
Tips: prep, prep, and prep some more! Grocery shop on Sunday, but before that food gets put away, prep it! Cut up those veggies, shred that cheese, get the beans soaking, seeds sprouting, meats thawing… and bring in jars of home canned & bulk food from the pantry. Make double recipes (we LOVE leftovers for lunches) or plan to freeze portions for a meal in a future week. (It’s just too easy to cook double taco meat, arrange a 2nd casserole, make a double batch of soup, etc.) Varying the protein keeps meals exciting: elk, venison, rabbit, chicken, turkey, fish, pork, shrimp, black beans, etc.) We serve our meals with lots of sides so there are plenty of choices at the table: applesauce, pickles, canned or fresh fruits, salads, relish, salsas…
So, let’s just get into it. The weekly meal plan is this (keep in mind these meals are all scratch made and home made):
- Monday: M&M (meat & mashed)! Variations: roasted chicken & vegs, steak & baked pots, fish & chips, pork chops & rosemary potato wedges. *Tips: roast 2 chickens and extra veggies for ingredients later in the week; prep for fish & chips and freeze 2nd batch for later; create a soup on Wednesday with leftovers from this dinner…
- Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, of course! Variations: taco bar with options for ALL, enchiladas, burritos or chimichangas, fajitas, nachos! *Tips: cook double meat or pressure cook double beans to freeze for next week; make a 2nd pan of enchiladas and freeze for later…
- Wednesday: S&S (soup & sandwich)! Variations: French dips, tuna melts & tomato soup, stew & garlic toast, sweet potatoes & chili, grilled cheese & chicken noodle! *Tips: many soup freezes well (just leave out the noodles until reheating), and at our house, this is usually an “easy” mid-week night where we open a jar of home canned stew or soup or chili!
- Thursday: Italian! Variations: spaghetti, manicotti, lasagna, carbonara, ravioli, minestrone & focaccia, minestrone! *Tips: make extra sauce for pizza on Friday; make double of any of these and freeze for later…
- Friday: Pizza! *Tips: homemade is the bomb… totally customizable, and doesn’t lead to regret over the price of takeout!
- Saturday: Dad’s choice – usually BBQ!
- Sunday: Mom’s choice – usually a new recipe or a casserole after a day of ingredient prepping (with extras going in the freezer, of course!)
So, there you have it. A few of my dinner-making, stress-alleviating, how-does-she-get-it-all-done tips!
Recipes to come. 🙂
When I have extra time, I really enjoy making cheese. Below is my favorite book as it has clear, easy instructions, the recipes work consistently well, and there’s a great section on making cheese from goat milk!
Soft cheeses, pressed cheeses, aged cheeses, waxed cheeses… easy to do with a few simple tools, some quality cultures, and enough patience to follow the recipes (trust the science!) I age cheeses in a small electric wine cooler, in brine in the fridge, or just make fresh, soft varieties. Cheese doesn’t last too long in our family… we all love cheese!
Sonia’s Vegetarian Kimchi (a.k.a. Wednesday Kimchi)
I fell in love with Kimchi in 1997. It was in a jar, from the deli section of our local supermarket, and I could eat it all in one sitting! I first tried it when a friend from the racquetball club brought it to a potluck at my rental house in college. All I could remember from that first encounter was that I thought it was exotic (Korean?), and it was salty, and it felt really energizing to consume. It was tangy, sweet & sour, and just spicy enough to make me crave more. Being the frugal soul that I am, I couldn’t see spending $5-$6 for a small jar of the stuff…so I didn’t have it for several years. But after declaring my love of Kimchi to Patrick a few years ago, he found Kimchi once again for me, and diligently provided me with the good stuff as often as he brought home fresh oysters – my other “can’t live without” indulgence. But again, I just couldn’t see spending the big bucks for this delicacy! However, when it was included in a healthy eating plan that I followed back in the spring of 2013, I made it, and made it and made some more… and ate every delicious bite. This Kimchi is alive with the invisible good things: probiotics, healthy cultures and nourishing vitamins. It is the kind of vegetable dish that is easy to digest and is usually eaten as a side dish with um… everything… or more often, right from the jar!
This recipe makes 2-3 quart jars. Enjoy!
1 head Napa cabbage, shredded or chopped
1-2 bunches green onions, trimmed & chopped
3-6 carrots, peeled, grated or thinly sliced
1 bunch radishes, trimmed & chopped or thinly sliced
4-8 cloves garlic, crushed, chopped or sliced
4 peppers (mild or spicy – personal preference), chopped or sliced
1-2 TBSP grated fresh ginger
2-3 TBSP sea salt
1 tsp fresh whey per Mason jar (optional)
Place all prepared vegetables in a large bowl and toss with salt. Place into jars (I use wide-mouth mason jars) and pound down with the handle of a wooden spoon as you fill jars, to release juices. If needed (but you shouldn’t have to if you have sufficiently pounded as you filled) top with water and whey. Cover with a lid and set in a room temp place to ferment for 3 days without opening. Transfer to the fridge or enjoy now. Left unopened, kimchi will last for months in the fridge, but once opened use within a few weeks. Tips:*It is easier to pound out the juices if you leave the salted veggies to sit for a while in the bowl first. *Leave 1” headspace or your jar may overflow. *Omitting the pepper makes it sweeter and is perfectly acceptable. *In a pinch, this turns out well with regular green or purple cabbage as well. *The ingredients that seem to be indispensable to the unique flavor of kimchi are the green onions and the ginger. Believe me, I’ve tried all combinations!