menu planning monday

Well, after last week’s big announcement about our upcoming move to Denver, we have worked our butts off to spruce up our house and it is officially on the market! So far we’ve had five showings in two days, so we’re hoping things go smoothly. If you know anyone looking for a great house in one of Little Rock’s cutest neighborhoods, let us know!

Also last week, I made one of our favorite dishes that I first fell in love with on our 5th anniversary trip to Costa Rica, gallo pinto, and I must say it was totally worth ordering Salsa Lizano on the internet, because it totally scratched my pura vida itch.

Also last week, I had a rare dinner flop. The Tandoori Quinoa. I think it turned out fine, I just didn’t like it. I admit I pitched the leftovers because I couldn’t face eating it again. It’s ok to have a cooking flop once in a while– comes with the territory if you’re trying new things.

It’s also nice to diverge from the meal plan once in a while. I had planned on tuna cakes with sides of grits and zucchini, but we ended up having salmon with baked potatoes and zucchini instead, because I had some potatoes I needed to use:

This was supposed to be tuna cakes, grits, and zucchini. Instead it became salmon filets, baked potatoes and zucchini. The tuna will keep in the pantry for another day.
This was supposed to be tuna cakes, grits, and zucchini. Instead it became salmon filets, baked potatoes and zucchini. The tuna will keep in the pantry for another day.

As far as what we’ll be eating this week, here’s what we have planned:

We haven’t had a pizza night in a while, and this one from Annie’s Eats looks particularly veggieriffic:

I have sweet potatoes and tortillas chilling in the pantry, and 3/4 of us are obsessed with fried eggs, so these sweet potato huevos rancheros sound amazing:

I love a one-pot pasta meal, so this one-pot zucchini mushroom pasta sounds great:

My one upgrade to these spinach and bean burritos is to grill them in my panini pan:

And for a seafood meal, this lemony shrimp and couscous sounds good (and is a recipe from the binder of recipes I made for Jon):

What’s cooking with you lately? Got any Easter treats planned? I’m going to be making these little nests for my girls:

 

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menu planning monday

Meal Planning Monday | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo

I promise eventually my life will slow down enough (more on that eventually) to do more than post menu plans, but today is not that day. We spent the week getting our den ready for new carpet to be installed (thanks, tax refund!), and spring cleaning in general, so not many deep thoughts were thought, which isn’t very conducive to writing. Even when I’m not writing, though, we gotta eat. Thus, Menu Planning Monday.

Meal Planning Monday | The Adventures of Ernie Bufflo
Last week’s meals.

While spring cleaning, I found under our guest bed four giant binders of recipes I had torn out of magazines in the pre-Pinterest era. Now that my husband wants to get into cooking, I realized the hardest part for him will be deciding what to cook. He’s not a Pinterest-er, and he doesn’t read food blogs or peruse cookbooks. When I found those binders, though, I realized I could basically make him/us an analog Pinterest binder of vegetarian and seafood recipes that take less than 30 minutes. And since most of the recipes were from my old Real Simple and Rachael Ray subscriptions, they’re all pretty fast/healthy/easy, too. I went through all the binders and pulled out all the best-looking recipes, and now we can flip through them anytime. I can see it being useful to have the girls flip through and pick out some things they would like to eat every now and then, too.

Here’s what we’ll be making this week (reminder: if you’re reading via an RSS feed, you may need to click through to see the embedded pins):

The first recipe Jon picked out of the recipe binder:

One pot always wins me over:

Will likely serve these tuna cakes with cheesy grits and sautéed zucchini:

I have a bunch of kale that needs to be used before it disintegrates, so this tried-and-true recipe will take care of it, and it’s another one pot recipe:

And because I have a craving for some Costa Rican deliciousness, gallo pinto:

What about you? What’s on your menu this week? Made anything tasty lately?

menu planning monday

Back by popular demand, our next few dinners on deck. My favorite thing we ate last week? The spinach and mushroom lasagna. I even made my own noodles with the pasta maker I got for my birthday, and they turned out amazing. The spring vegetable paella also turned out fabulous, even though I didn’t remember to get pimientos and threw in some saffron for extra flavor. We ate it with fried eggs, and Claire had like 3 helpings! We still haven’t eaten all the meals I planned last week, so we’ll be having the cauliflower and chickpea tacos this week for sure.

Other things we’ll be eating this week (note, if you’re viewing this in an RSS reader, you may need to click through to see embedded images and be able to click through to recipes):

We’ll likely have this potato tortilla with a side of salad and some olives and cheese, pretend we’re in Spain:

Recently our girls have been liking roasted brussels sprouts, so I think this is worth a try:

Might make a bean and corn salad to serve on the side with these tostadas:

We’re also hosting a Friday Night Meatballs this week (with eggplant based “meatballs” since we gave up meat for Lent–I may even try to write up my recipe for these, so look for it next week) and planning to go to our friends’ house for dinner another night, so that’s it for this week’s plans!

In other food news, my love for Michael Pollan is well-documented, so you won’t be shocked to learn that I love his docu-series “Cooked” on Netflix. On the night we watched the third episode, I immediately got up and mixed up some bread dough because I was so inspired! Check it out, for sure!

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menu planning now that we’re mostly vegetarian

#bigdinnerlittledinner

Since I’m home alone on a rainy day luxuriously planning meals and making my grocery list while my husband has the kids at the science museum, I thought I’d follow up my post about our recent diet change with a post about how this has affected our meal planning and eating.

Spoiler alert: it actually hasn’t affected it all that much. You may remember from my “meal planning for the easily bored” post that I rely heavily on hyper-organized Pinterest boards to plan our meals. When we decided to commit to being mostly vegetarian (really, we’re pescatarian), I went through my pinboards and micro-organized them further. Instead of just a pasta board, I now have a vegetarian pasta board, and it’s up top. I did the same with soups and stews, Tex/Mex/Tacos, and veg+grain meals. Now all the boards that are compliant with how we’re eating are right up top and easy to find.

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Today, I checked out what we already have on hand and what’s on sale at our local store and then opened up Pinterest. I picked out one vegetarian pasta, one vegetarian soup, one vegetarian tacos, one veggie+grain, and one seafood recipe. I mostly eat leftovers for lunch, and the kids eat sandwiches/soups/cheese and crackers/fruit, so I really only plan dinner recipes and keep basics on hand for breakfasts and lunches: bread, yogurt, eggs, fruit, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, etc. Planning dinners is really the bulk of my menu-planning.

If you’re curious about what we’re having for dinner this week, here’s what’s on deck:

In other family food news, Jon and I went on a marriage retreat over the weekend, and one thing we discussed was having him cook more. I happily do most of the cooking because, if you haven’t guessed, I love cooking and see it as a creative outlet. He usually takes the kids to the park in the afternoons, so I really enjoy my me-time in the kitchen, listening to podcasts and making good food. However. we’ve realized that our girls may not realize that I cook because I love it, and might get the idea that cooking is a woman’s job. Since he has a flexible schedule that often has him home in the evenings, he could totally cook– I just haven’t offered him the opportunity. We want the girls to see that their dad is also competent in the kitchen, and that it is reasonable for them to expect a partner who shares cooking duties. Since I kind of usurped the kitchen years ago, I will likely at first set him up for success by doing some of the prep work, almost like a Blue Apron sort of thing, but I am going to try to stay out of his hair and let him do his thing.

You can often check out our meals on Instagram, where I often use the hashtag #bigdinnerlittledinner to document what we’re eating. I’ll let you know when a meal was prepared by my better half, too!

#bigdinnerlittledinner

How do you plan your meals? Would it be helpful if I start sharing our weekly meal plans on a regular basis?

meal planning for the easily bored

three methods of meal planning for the easily bored.

I used to live a block from the grocery store. I never had to plan our meals further than an hour or two before dinner time, because I treated the store like my own personal pantry, running over to grab whatever I needed for that day’s meals. Now that my grocery outings involve at least one, sometimes two children in tow (depending on if Etta and I go while Claire’s at preschool), I just can’t go to the store that often. Now, I plan at least a week’s worth of meals at a time. But, since I also feel that cooking is a fun, creative outlet for me (and I like to eat good food), I try really hard not to get into a meal-planning rut– I like to rotate between a few methods and try lots of new recipes. I figured I’d share my methods, and also solicit yours.

A few key pieces of info: we are largely meat-free but not vegetarian, instead choosing to eat less meat and when we do eat meat, to eat locally/sustainably/ethically raised meat whenever we can. We do eat eggs, fish, and dairy. Also, we’re not super adventurous in the breakfast department, so I don’t have to think about that much. Cereal, almond milk, yogurt, eggs scrambled with leftover veggies and cheese, and fruit are about as varied as we get most mornings. Lunches are leftovers for adults, toddler tapas for the kiddos– they have crackers or bread, cheese, raw veggies, hummus, fruit, boiled eggs, beans, etc. that I keep in the fridge and mix up regularly. So, I’m mostly planning dinners, about 5 dinners per week with at least one leftover night and one meal out.

Method One: Tour de Pinterest

pinterest pin boards for recipe organization

I love Pinterest. For me, it’s not just some sort of aspirational fantasyland full of outfits I’ll never try and DIY’s I could never master, but an actual, useful tool. Before it came around, I, an avid food blog reader, had tons of folders of bookmarked recipes to try. The problem with that method was, no matter how descriptively I titled the bookmarks, it was hard to tell what was what. Pinterest solves that, because it’s visual, and makes scrolling through bookmarked recipes like flipping through a cookbook looking for a picture of something tasty.

The key to this method is to hyperorganize your pin boards. I have them divided into categories like: Mexican, Asian/Indian/Middle Eastern, Soups and Stews, Vegetarian, Seafood, Pasta, and Chicken. Then it becomes a matter of choosing 5 recipes from several different boards, so in one week we’ll have a pasta dish, a taco/enchilada/burrito type dish, maybe a homemade pizza, a stir fry, and a soup and salad night. I open up each recipe in my browser, make my grocery list on my phone and write the names of the dishes at the top of the list so I can easily find them when it’s time to cook. Then, for my own future reference, after we’ve had a meal, I go back and leave myself comments on the recipe pins letting me know if we liked it and what I would do differently if I made it again. If a recipe flat out didn’t work, I delete the pin.

Method Two: There’s an App for That

20140312-122006.jpgThis is a new thing I’ve only been trying recently. I have a couple different cooking apps on my phone, including Real Simple’s No Time To Cook and Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I did a week of recipes from the Real Simple app over the last week. I opened the app, chose Vegetarian and 30 minutes or less, scrolled through, and picked out several dishes.

Our meals for the last week and a half included: salmon and green beans with brown butter and almonds, red bean and spinach burritos, polenta with blue cheese and garlicky chard, and pierogi with sauteed red cabbage. Our last meal of the week was a use-up-the-leftover-veggies dish of veggie fried rice. Things I liked about this method: It was easy to find and choose recipes, none of them had a ton of weird ingredients, and they all truly did come together quickly. What I didn’t like: several of the meals just didn’t seem hearty enough, so I had to doctor them a little. The salmon and green beans were delicious, but to me, the meal needed a carb/starch, so I added lemon-y risotto. The red bean and spinach burritos were delicious, but I added cumin and chili powder to the beans and grilled my burritos in a panini pan to make them more special. The polenta with blue cheese and garlicky chard was a great starting point, but needed protein, so I added white beans and soft-boiled eggs– now I can’t imagine having that recipe without the “sauce” of a soft egg on top.

Overall, I will try this method again, but I will definitely keep in mind that I may need to add to or spice up the recipes.

Method 3: Pick a Cookbook, Any Cookbook 

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Several of our favorite Bittman meals.

I usually use this method with my Mark Bittman cookbooks, either The Food Matters Cookbook or How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I’ll page through the book, pick a handful that look tasty, maybe a snack or dip or two, too, and make my meal plan that way. I love Bittman’s less-meatarian philosophy, and his recipes are simple, delicious, and always very adaptable to any number of variations. I’m sure this method could work well with whatever your favorite cookbooks are. A perk to the Bittman books: you can get the complete How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian as apps on the iPhone for $10ish, much cheaper than the books themselves.

There are other methods I haven’t tried, like, oh, actually looking at circulars and deciding a menu based around that, largely because I’m driven by the recipes themselves, and because I’ve already cut our grocery bill substantially by cutting most of our meat and processed foods. One of the nice things about having the Pinterest, cooking and cookbook apps, though, is that if I get to the store and notice say, avocados are 99 cents, I can call an audible and pull up a taco recipe or something and swap out one of the others.

What about you? Do you meal plan? Where do you get your menus?