Week 1 of the Menu Challenge

Last week I issued a challenge to myself to plan the week’s meals in advance. Many of you joined me in this challenge. Thank you to everyone who posted your menus and ideas. Here’s what I learned in this very first week.

Start Earlier

I did a lot of thinking about my plan but I didn’t actually put anything into practice until Sunday evening. It was 3:30 PM before I went to the store and began prepping ingredients. That created a bottleneck in supper preparations and getting everything done that I wanted to do. (Yes, we do call the evening meal supper around here.) After 2-1/2 hours everything was cleaned, packaged and planned for the week. A refrigerator full of prepared lunches and snacks ready to grab and go. I have a written menu plan so I know exactly what we will eat each evening. The planning and pareparation was worth the effort.

Be Flexible

The menu is posted not only on social media, but also prominently displayed in the kitchen. Monday and Tuesday went according to plan. I walked in from work, glanced at the menu and within a half hour, supper was on the table.

Wednesday found us with an unexpected change in schedule. We could not get home in time for a home cooked meal, so ended up eating at a restaurant. I hereby give us all permission to vary from our plan when the need arises. There are things you just cannot control and when that happens, adjust.

Refrigerator Betrayal

On Sunday, I started this adventure with a thorough cleaning of the refrigerator. I purged the contents, removed all of the shelves and wiped down all surfaces. It gleamed. I was so proud of my efforts.

Tuesday morning, we awoke to a strange rattle coming from the fridge. The motor sounded as if it were attempting to grind something into submission. Inside the refrigerator compartment, items were still cool, but not cold. The freezer had been malfunctioning long enough to turn ice cream into soup and thaw meat. We quickly moved all contents to the spare refrigerator in the garage and began planning to repair or replace.

The next couple of days may find slight adjustments to the posted menu in order not to waste a few things that were thawed. Thankfully, we caught it early enough that no major losses occured.

Next Week

My menu challenge theme for next week is A World Tour….each evening will feature a dish from a different culture or cuisine.

Will you join next week’s challenge?

Make a Quick Nutritious Meal

Do you ever find yourself dragging in after work, tired, hungry and ready for a quick meal? Standing in front of the refrigerator, shuffling from one foot to the next, moving to the pantry and wishing for something to fly off the shelf ready to eat? The temptation to call for pizza delivery is strong.

This week I experienced one of those nights. I was wiped out and muddling around the kitchen, my brain was tired of thinking. Coming up with an idea for supper was almost beyond the remaining energy available.

For times like this, I have found the best solution is to always stock the ingredients for one or two simple meals. One of our Farm favorites is pasta with homemade marinara.

Pasta is a simple food, quick to prepare and easy to find a dried version that has limited mystery ingredients. Our marinara is made in the summer when tomatoes are plentiful, then frozen in one cup portions. (You can find the recipe in my book Simply Delicious, but if you stock canned crushed tomatoes and Italian herbs in your pantry, you can make an excellent version.)

On this particular evening I did not want to eat meat so used mushrooms sauteed with garlic in olive oil to give a meaty texture and extra flavor to the sauce. Pour over hot pasta and serve.

Pasta like this needs a green salad. We were blessed to have fresh late season garden lettuce and a few remaining tomatoes. The tomatoes were picked green just before frost and allowed to ripen in the garage. I added some crumbled home made buttermilk cheese, salt, pepper and a simple dressing of balsamic glaze and olive oil.

In less than thirty minutes a salad, pasta and bread were on the table. My desire for fast home-cooked natural food was satisfied.

The time it took to prepare and freeze the sauce in the summer made tonight’s meal warm, easy and satisfying.

You can do this too. Decide on a few meals with simple quick cooking ingredients that can be stored in your pantry or freezer. Keep those items on hand and you will be ready to fix a homemade meal at a moment’s notice. You will be glad you did.

Pasta with Marinara for Two

1 cup home made frozen marinara or 1 can crushed tomatoes + 2 tsp Italian herb seasoning blend

4 ounces diced fresh button mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp olive oil

Pasta of choice cooked according to package directions

Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes, then add garlic. Continue to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. If using canned crushed tomatoes and Italian herbs, add the herbs and saute for 1 minute, then add canned tomatoes. If using home made tomato sauce, add to the mushroom mixture and cook until flavors are blended and heated through. Serve over hot pasta.