My mother is a superlative cook, but I remember her saying (after more than twenty years of marriage) that she was “tired of thinking about what people were going to eat every day.” I’m not there yet, although I do find it a challenge to balance a variety of factors: what my family will eat, what I can cook that won’t bore me to death, what the family is doing in a given week, what is in season and fresh at the moment, and how I can get the most from my weekly grocery budget. Four o’clock appointments and 6:00 practices call for slow-cooker meals or those that are quickly assembled, and dinners when Rob is on the road are much simpler than the “real” dinners we eat when he is home. The “boys” would eat meat and potatoes every night, but I would never get the chance to try a new dish or crack the binding of a fresh “Bon Appetit.”
Every Thursday I plan menus for the following week. I sit down with my calendar, the sales insert from my grocery store of choice, and any cook books or foodie magazines with which I am currently obsessed. My defaults are allrecipes.com and my trusty binder of clipped recipes. I always try to have at least one meat-free meal, and no more than two meals that include red meat. Typically we eat one meal a week out, and its usually Saturday lunch. This week, its going to be REALLY hot here, and so I am also trying to avoid running the oven
Here’s what we’re eating this week:
Slow-Cook Thai Chicken, Steamed Rice, and Cucumber Salad.
Bags of frozen chicken tenders are on sale “buy one get on free,” and I’ll use some for this and the rest for the chicken salad later in the week. I always have rice in the house, and Cucumber Salad is just sliced cukes, sliced onions in water with sugar and vinegar to taste. No oven tonight.
Grilled Pork Chops, Sweet Potatoes, and Scalloped Apples.
Pork chops are on sale, and we have large quantities of barbecue spice from Rendezvous Ribs in Memphis, which goes on with a little vinegar at the end of grilling. I’ll cook the Sweet Potatoes in their jackets, in the microwave (to be eaten split open with butter and/or brown sugar), and just slice up some Granny Smith apples and pan-fry them with some cooking spray, a little butter or Smart Balance, and some brown sugar and apple pie spice. Again, no oven.
Country-Fried Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese, Apples, Pecans, and Cider Honey Vinaigrette, and Biscuits.
This salad comes from a fantastic cook book called “Whole-Meal Salads.” I will use the remainder of my “sale” chicken tenders to make this, and although the recipe calls for many exotic lettuces (oak leaf, butter, romaine and endive) I will probably just buy several bags of mixed field greens on sale or see what I find at the farmer’s market.
As for the biscuits, its a great, simple recipe that will (alas) involve running the oven briefly. If you use this recipe, I suggest that you read the reader reviews first, or you may end up with stiff dough and dry biscuits. I don’t bother rolling and cutting them because I find them more tender made as a drop biscuits.
Tuna Salad Roll-Ups, and Melon Slices
For this meal, I will make my “regular” tuna salad which is made with white water-packed tuna, Light Miracle Whip, finely diced onion, and finely diced celery. This is the only reason I ever use Miracle Whip, but for some reason I really dislike tuna salad made with Mayonnaise. I will roll the salad up in white flour “wraps,” which are white, but contain an amazing amount of fiber, I’ll probably sprinkle some shredded cheese on the guys’ sandwiches, and sprinkle some grated carrots and sprouts on mine. Maybe some fresh tomato, too.
Reduced-Fat Fettucine Alfredo, Garlic Bread, and Salad
This Fettucine recipe comes from “Cooking Light’s” 2002 edition of “Five Star Recipes.” It is healthy, delicious, inexpensive, and gives us our meatless meal. For the garlic bread, I slice crusty Italian bread, drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil, rub each slice with a cut clove of fresh garlic, and broil it in the toaster oven until its fragrant and hot to the touch.
Grilled Burgers, Buns, Potato Chips, and Fruit
This is a no-brainer, since we still have leftover burger patties, buns, sliced cheese and potato chips left over from my daughter’s graduation open house. All I have to do is throw together a bowl of grapes, bananas, strawberries and melons.
We never got to eat this last week, and I still have all of the ingredients.