Thursday, February 21, 2008


You're in the wrong spot!

Menu Planning 101 is now part of Tummy!

Check your bookmarks- the correct address should be Menu Planning 101.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Week At A Glance

Well, the last week or so it seems I have been entirely unable to stick to my designated meal plans. This is okay when we're eating out of the pantry and fridge anyway, but my little forays to the store have got to stop! Here is the next weekly meal plan I have. Hopefully I can do better this week.

Wednesday: Sloppy Joes

Thursday: Braised Chicken Legs in Mustard Sauce, Egg Noodles, Fresh Fruit

Friday: Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry, Basmati Rice

Saturday: Deep-Dish Pizza

Sunday: Lexington Chicken Spaghetti, Garlic bread, salad

Monday: French Toast Sticks, Bacon, Fresh fruit

Tuesday: Leftover chicken spaghetti

Wednesday: Yellow Broth, homemade bread, pear butter

I don't really have many notes for this week... most of this is using things from the pantry this week. The Lexington Chicken spaghetti is a new recipe for me- the recipe makes servings for 50, so I'll be cutting that in half for our crowd. I expect there will be leftovers, so we'll be eating that again on Tuesday. If there aren't leftovers, then we'll have some Mexican stuffed shells from the freezer.

The Yellow Broth is a new recipe that really intrigues me. It's an Irish soup made with root vegetables and oatmeal- the oatmeal in the soup totally intrigued me, so I hope it turns out okay. If not, if I make it earlier in the day and it just isn't working out, I have a package of frozen cheezy chicken noodle soup that will go in the crock-pot instead of the Yellow Broth. But I have high hopes for the yellow broth.

There are very few things I need to purchase this week. Let's see, I need egg noodles, hoisin sauce for the stir-fry, bacon, 2 whole chickens, and some fresh fruit. In addition I'll need milk, creamer, and butter this week. Oh, and some rolled oats so that I can make a batch of granola for breakfasts and snacks. Easy and short shopping list this week- hooray!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

About Cookbooks

When you have a cookbook collection like mine, it can be daunting to try and think of a way to organize the books themselves, let alone the recipes within. My method is far from perfect, but so far it seems to suit me okay, and maybe it could be helpful to someone who is just too overwhelmed.

First, I need to break down my cookbooks into categories. Basically, there are three types of cookbooks for me. There's the "reference cookbooks" like Joy of Cooking or my Cooking Light Annuals which have recipes for everything within. Then there's the more specific "niche cookbooks" like my Vegetarian cookbooks, or the books by one author like Giada, which all the recipes have an Italian twist. I would consider any of my ethnic cookbooks part of the niche segment. The third type of cookbook is the non-negotiable books. These are antiques or old church cookbooks or cookbooks that belonged to a grandparent, and while I do cook from them occasionally, these are mostly around for sentimental reasons, and are not part of my organizational attempts- there's only a small handful of these.

For the niche cookbooks, I don't really organize them much, or the recipes within. Those are the cookbooks that I like to pull a random one off the shelf and just flip through and find something to cook from time to time. I keep them somewhat organized on the shelf-keeping similar cookbooks together, but don't take them much further than that.

It's the reference cookbooks that I take an organizational tactic to. Take my Cooking Light Annuals for instance. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of recipes in one cookbook. And when I have seven of them...that would be literally impossible to figure out a way to leep track of the recipes within. Imagine THAT database! So what I do is simply to take an evening and sit down with the book shortly after I've received it. With me, I have a stack of index cards and a pen. Then as I'm flipping through the book, I write on an index card when a recipe intrigues me- as well as what page it's on. When I fill up an index card, I use another one. And once I've gone through the whole book, I tape the index cards to the inside of the front cover. Now I have a quick easy reference point. When I've made a recipe, I also notate on the card whether it was a repeater. If it was a dud, I cross it off the card, as well as make a note on the actual recipe. Some of my books have many index cards, some only a few, but it makes it quick and easy to pick up a book and try to find a recipe from inside. Here's a picture to show what I am talking about:So how do I know if a cookbook is worth keeping? Well, to me that's a personal question! Someone recently asked me about my favorite magazines, and I feel the same about my cookbooks, I'd just as soon pick a favorite child than pick a favorite cookbook. But last year I started a "Cookbook Challenge" on Tummy Treasure. I challenged myself to cook out of each and every cookbook I have, and it's really helped me to cull out my collection a bit. When I was flipping through a book having a hard time finding a recipe I wanted to cook, that was a red flag to me. And then when the one recipe I would try from that book was a dud- well, that cookbook was a candidate for tossing. I'm still doing the Cookbook Challenge, although it's been a while since I've updated it, and I really need to get back into it.

I guess what I'm saying here today is that you need to find a system that works best for you. I happen to have 70+ cookbooks right now, so to organize the recipes within completely...that just seems like madness to me. The best I can do is to give the whole collection a once-over every few months and see if there are any that just aren't cutting it for me.

And finally, a note to not be afraid to mark up your books. There is nothing better than flipping through my grandmother's old cookbooks and seeing her notations to add a little of this or leave out a bit of that in a recipe. I also love finding the pages that are full of splatters and food stains. This shows me that the cookbook was loved and was used, and makes it even more of a treasure to me. And even before my kids were two years old, they would sit on the floor and flip through Mommy's cookbooks, looking at the pictures. I imagine them doing so someday with their children and grandchildren, and that's fun to think about.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Revamping The Menu

See, this is what I mean by flexibility.

Today Zander and I were at the store to pick up milk and I happened to glance in the direction of the hams. I found a fantastic deal on a great brand of ham, and right away, Zander lit up when I mentioned buying a ham. My whole family loves ham. So I picked it up, and while I thought briefly about tucking the ham into the freezer, it's been awhile since we've had ham, so I'm putting it on the menu. So here is the revised Friday and Saturday for this week, and the remaining ham will be frozen for later use. The bone will also be used to make stock, as I'm down to 1 package of ham stock. I love multi-purpose meat!

Friday: Mustard Baked Ham, Potato Pancakes, Homemade Applesauce, Lettuce Salad

Saturday: Rotini and Cheese with Broccoli and Ham

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Quick Tip: Flexibility!

One of the things about menu planning is that sometimes you do need to have some flexibility available. Today is the perfect example of that for me. Tonight's planned meal, Southwestern Pork with Sweet Potatoes was totally dependant on me doing my weekly grocery shopping today. Since we're in the middle of a snow warning, with about 4 inches on the ground and potentially more on the way, I'm not going anywhere today.

So instead I'll be pulling some chicken pieces from the freezer and cooking that up for dinner. So tonight instead we'll be having Oven Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, and a green salad.

There are other things that I could make of course, using on-hand ingredients. Some things I keep on hand just for such purposes would be Bottled Marinara and Pasta, or Pancake Mix for quick waffles or pancakes. Eggs for a quick frittata, ground beef and chicken are almost always in the freezer. Even frozen pizzas are great to have on hand for just such days.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Week At A Glance

Since I've been sick for oh, 5 days now, last week's menu plan really went out the window. It happens, and the beauty of it is that some of the things I'd planned for this week just get bumped to next week- and since I shopped for that last week, everything's already here for those dishes. Today's menu plan is also going to be a bit longer, as I'll include a few days from this week, just to have down what I've made so I can keep track.

I'm also going to do my best to link to all the recipes I use. Occasionally there will be something that doesn't use a recipe- but I've been working on getting my basic "toss-in-a-pot" meals down on paper.

So here is my meal plan for this past Monday through next Wednesday. I'm still on the fence about tomorrow's pork dish, so that may change, but this is the plan anyways.

Monday: Chicken Noodle Soup

Tuesday: Frittata, Apple Pancakes

Wednesday: Cheezy Chicken Noodle Soup

Thursday: Southwestern Pork and Sweet Potatoes, Garden Salad, Fruit

Friday: Fish-N-Chips

Saturday: Pioneer Woman's Chicken Spaghetti, Salad, Homemade Bread

Sunday: Sloppy Joes, Pickles, Cheese Slices, Homemade Rolls

Monday: French Toast Sticks, Bacon, Fresh Fruit

Tuesday: Broccoli Chicken Supreme, Salad

Wednesday: Repeat of Sloppy Joes

Just a few notes about this week's menu. You'll see fish is on the menu, this is the time of year to buy fish if you usually don't because of price. With the lenten season, fish comes down to a very reasonable price, and I like to stock up this time of year. Frozen fish is excellent in my part of the country, and it keeps in the freezer for several months. You'll likely see fish on the menu a few times in the weeks ahead. Fish-n-chips is one of our family's favorite things to go out for, and since we aren't dining out as of late, I've managed to find a batter that we love here at home.
The chicken dishes on Saturday and Tuesday are new for me this week- I've not made them before. I have high hopes for both, as I would love to find casserole dishes that we enjoy eating. (We're just not big casserole people.) I'll be buying a large roasting chicken this week, and then using that one chicken for both dishes- it will provide plenty of chicken for both days, and I'll only have to cook it once. I'll probably roast the chicken so that I have the carcass for a roasted chicken stock as well, but I'm still not sure about that. This is where I am flexible though, because I know a good roasting hen will be about 8 or 9 dollars, and if I see a sale on frozen chicken breast this week while I'm out, I may just go that route instead. Either way, both dishes should work out great.

The French Toast Sticks will be made from an extra loaf of homemade bread from Saturday, and you see last week's Sloppy Joe's bumped to this week. My shopping list should be very reasonable this week.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Quick Tip!

Here's a quick little tidbit for anyone just starting out with menu planning.

Don't get all fancy-schmancy your first few times out there. Start with recipes or meals that you already make well. Maybe make a list of your standby tried-and-trues to refer to. Then as you get more comfortable making a plan, then start incorporating some new recipes.

Remember- menu planning is all about saving you TIME and MONEY. It's not supposed to cause stress and anxiety.