Monday, May 10, 2010
The title, by the way, is a lie. I always worry about menu planning, but I am crazy. Because I am crazy, I developed a careful method for planning weekly dinner menus, grocery shopping, etc. Because I am crazy, it starts on the Wednesday before the week in question. It's the only way I get by. But I bet that you, sane reader, can take some tips from my system and make it your (less obsessive) own.
Wednesday: My Fresh Picks order is due Wednesday night for Saturday delivery. My neighborhood farmer's market starts up this week, so I might be eliminating this step soon. Anyway, when I order Fresh Picks, I tend to just get whatever suits my fancy, plus a box of mystery vegetables.
Saturday: Fresh Picks arrives. (Or I go to the Farmer's market.) I take everything out, decide what goes in the freezer, and try to make a list (at least in my head) of what I have.
This Week: crimini mushrooms, lettuce, carrots, mixed greens, arugula (!), green garlic (!!), ramps (!!!), bread, and short ribs. This was the best week ever for Fresh Picks. It's not always so exactly suited to my tastes, and I frequently have to try new things or find new recipes, which is one of the cool parts of the service.
Sunday: On Sunday, I make lists. First, I make a list of everything that we have. This includes the Fresh Picks order, plus stuff like eggs, cheese, milk--whatever is in the fridge, and frozen meats and seafood. I also try to take stock of the pantry staples (beans, rice, pasta, canned goods, etc.). I'll discussing stocking a pantry in a later post.
Next, I make a list of meals I've been craving, that David has asked for, that I've seen on blogs or read about in cookbooks or magazines. Then, I try to fit the two lists, together, trying to use up as many ingredients from Fresh Picks or the fridge as possible. After I've chosen 5 meals, I put them in order. I try not to have two starch-based meals (with less protein) in a row, or to eat meat two nights in a row.
Here's what this week's menu looks like:
Sunday: Spring Risotto with Ramps and Crimini Mushrooms, Arugula Salad
Monday: Fresh Pasta with Ramps, Green Garlic, and Fried Egg, Salad
Tuesday: Braised Short Ribs, Green Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Carrots
Wednesday: Chili-Lime Tofu, Cinnamon Quinoa, Braised Greens
Thursday: Leek Fried Rice with Egg
With this menu, I will get though everything from the Fresh Picks box, except for some of the carrots. I also try to make things easier for myself. For example, on Tuesday and Thursday I work at the cafe in the afternoons, so I'm pretty tired when I get home. Tuesday's meal will mostly come from the slow cooker, and Thursday's (as you've seen) is super easy.
After I've determined the menu, I make a grocery list. This week, it looked like this:
-sandwich supplies (whatever is on special at the deli)
The grocery store has so many options, that I find it much easier to base my menus around my Fresh Picks box, or what is available at the Farmer's market. Then, shopping at Treasure Island is under control, and I have less of a tendency to impulse shop. Having not just a grocery list but also a meal plan makes it easier to get everything that I need for every meal. If I just go through the store stocking up on everything I usually buy, I will inevitably forget the leeks for the fried rice or the limes for the tofu.
For Honesty's Sake: I frequently stray. Usually at least one meal a week gets axed or drastically changed. If I've had a horrible day at work or I have a paper to write, we usually end up getting sushi or thai or something. If it's unexpectedly nice out, we will end up grilling sausages or hamburgers. Also, despite my system, I do end up forgetting things at the grocery store, which is when David makes himself indispensably by running out when I realize halfway through a cake that I've got no eggs.
I know that this is a little crazy and complicated, but it's what works for me. It helps me to spend less, waste less, and eat better, all of which are noble goals.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Carnitas. So delicious, so easy. Since moving to Chicago, I have been in a carnitas drought. There are good mexican restaurants here, but none of them serve carnitas that are up my high (Boca Grande) standards. So I made my own, and it was unbelievably easy. Also, cheap. Pork shoulder is really inexpensive, and the slow cooker does most of the work.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Stop the presses, stop your diet, stop everything and make this rice.
1/2 cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried
4 cups day-old cooked rice, preferably jasmine, at room temperature
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons soy sauce.
1. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly.
2. Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons oil and leeks. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not browned. Season lightly with salt.
3. Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt.
4. In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.
5. Divide rice among four dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
A final for a class called "Plagues", no less.