Meal Plan Monday (on a Friday!)

In the midst of vying for a valuable spot in the online ordering queue for our local grocery store and a few tears cried because my husband doesn’t quite know how to do buy groceries to my liking, meal planning has taken an adventurous turn. I’d usually post on a Monday, but lately my meal plan is constantly evolving and who even knows what day it is, anyhow? I’m still attempting to create a menu, but it’s hard to plan a week’s worth of meals when you have a 12 year old and 14 year old constantly grazing and grocery store roulette leaves you with some glaring holes on your grocery list.

I am limiting my time out in public significantly and that’s leaving Kevin to fetch and pick up for us. He’s amazing and doesn’t complain until I complain about the wrong deli meat he’s picked up. (I’ve been craving a good corned beef or smoked meat on rye for weeks… No, ham isn’t going to cut it!) We get our grocery spot and he’ll pop out once in awhile to fill in the gaps.

I’ve been getting online slots about two weeks out, but it’s always a surprise to see what doesn’t make the final cut. Some weeks it’s been meat, other times veggies, and never ever junk food. This past shop we didn’t get certain dairy, meat, pantry, or produce I had hoped for. This means meal times are reinvented or we look at alternate sources. The farm store near us still had flour and they had great (more expensive) cuts of meat from their farm to table butcher.

Tonight I finally had my Caesar salad with thanks to a local restauranteur who provided me with a bottle of dressing when she read I didn’t successfully get one in my last shop. She also kept us well-stocked for whipped cream. It’s the little things, people!

Over the last few weeks we’ve made substitutions and taken shortcuts, believing that “fed” is often more important than stressing over the “what.” We’re still looking at balance, but not sweating the fact that the pulled pork came prepared in a frozen box. (Hint: M&M Food Markets have great selections of prepared foods… including desserts!)

Some of our meals have included:

  • Chicken strips (frozen), caesar salad, cucumbers, and potato wedges (fresh)
  • Take out (when I’ve had just about enough!)
  • Breakfast for dinner (always a hit!)
  • Beef chili (made with stewing beef)
  • Beef chili “enchiladas”
  • Pulled pork tacos
  • Soup of different varieties (with bread and cheese)
  • A pot roast that no one liked
  • Spaghetti (which everyone liked but me)
  • Burgers

I’ve been flexible with the grazing and I’ve been flexible with the dinner time complaints. (Someone didn’t eat his wedges tonight and you know what, that’s fine! I didn’t eat my cucumber.)

Overall, I don’t even think I’ve had to be too creative either. If you look at older meal plans, there’s nothing too different on the list. I’m sticking to things I know for the most part and finding some comfort in that. Switching out the odd meat or vegetable o make things work isnt huge sacrifice. There’s a bit of control in the kitchen with the ingredients I do have and in a world that I have very little control over right now, that works for me!

What’s cooking in your kitchen these days? Are you baking up a storm? Taking out your frustrations on your bread dough? Sticking to the classics or trying to keep things fresh and creative? Whatever you’re doing… stay healthy and have fun!

Apple-Pear-Sauce and Pleasant Memories

Anyone else love fall? There’s something about it that just makes me happy. Spring is delightful, but fall is the season of my heart. I think a lot of this has to do with comfort food, and most of my comfort foods are perfect for the cooler nights and seem to feature fall harvest produce.

Growing up, as far back as I can remember, my Beppe (grandma) has canned for her family. I can never decide whether her green beans are my favourite or her applesauce. They’re both delicious and evoke those warm childhood memories that a bite of comfort food often kindles.

Some of my relatives have taken the initiative to become more self-sufficient in a home-steading type of way and have taken her wisdom and put up jars of produce for their families as well. I think there must be a special kind of satisfaction in that. Alas, other than some small-scale canning I did years ago when the boys were toddlers, I have not been as successful in stockpiling for the winter months. I have been known to freeze my rhubarb, though. It’s a start.

Despite my lack of garden this year, we’ve been blessed with fresh produce. People literally leave portions of their harvest on my desk or outside my office door, and it makes me feel so cared for and appreciated! We’ve enjoyed carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, and more recently garlic, pears, and apples. I’m pretty sure food is one of my love languages.

My pile of pears and apples, while valued, weren’t at their perfect prime. A few were good for snacking, but the rest required peeling and some heavy paring to make them suitable for use.

So what’s a girl to do? Dig deep into her happy food memories and whip up a batch of apple-pear-sauce. Not traditional, but with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and dash of brown sugar, it oozes comfort food charm (not to mention, my house smells amazing!)

While not Beppe’s recipe at all (and one day I’ll ask for her applesauce recipe, among others) it still brought a smile to my face, warmth to my belly, and pleasant memories to mind. It’s a perfect tatste of fall and happiness in a bite. In my books, that’s cooking done right!

Comfort Cooking: Potluck Favourites

On occasion, our church will decide to host a potluck luncheon. While sometimes this makes my “ick” radar go off, for the most part, it’s never been a problem. My measure of success? No one’s gone home with food poisoning…

These events always leave me a little stressed, however. I’m usually scheduled for something else at the church and the timing issue leaves me in jitters. I don’t want to have to wake up at 5 a.m. to start cooking a casserole or preparing a slow-cooker dish. My go-to is usually a bunch of frozen meatballs & sauce (dump, toss, and heat!) or a salad.

Once in a while, I want something different, and I go to our family comfort foods (meals that 3 out of 4 agree are tasty) and prepare the day before. I’ll let the kitchen staff worry about heating! For some reason, these comfort foods are always rich and flavourful, and maybe not very healthy. For the potluck today, I made a shepherd’s pie yesterday. I’ve always wondered if it’s truly shepherd’s pie though, as I don’t use carrots & peas but opt for corn, and occasionally something else thrown in the mix.

My shepherd’s pies are never actually the same, which is one of the joys of the dish. Today’s casserole includes a mix of peaches & cream corn with leafy greens on the bottom. The next layer includes a flavourful mix of ground beef sauteed with onions, garlic, and steak spice, then tossed in a gravy of choice. (I cheated and used a packet of peppercorn gravy mix from the grocery store this time.) The final layer is a creamy topping of mashed potatoes – seasoned as you wish. I chose to leave them rustic (i.e. I didn’t bother peeling them) and used my beaters to “mash.” I toss it in the oven to bake when I’m ready to use it as a meal – whether it’s immediately after preparing or sometime in the future.

Other potluck favourites include layered nacho dip (super easy!), crockpot meatballs (as stated), Caesar salad (a classic), slow cooker pulled pork (it always disappears), jerk pork bites (not for the faint of heart), slow cooker scalloped or roasted potatoes, and Italian pasta salad (not a family favourite, but again, easy to make.) If it wasn’t a church potluck (the organizers ban soups and provide desserts themselves), I would consider adding my meatball soup or no-bake cherry cheesecake to the mix.

I know there will be extra bodies in the service today, so I’ve also prepared a second dish. It is a Thai Quinoa salad of sorts – peanutty dressing, lots of veg, and quinoa tossed together. I figure it’s {maybe} healthier than my shepherd’s pie and won’t take space in the church ovens.

I’m basing my efforts off these inspired recipes, but didn’t have cabbage on hand so it’s more of a kitchen sink project – brocolli, carrots, cucumber, pepper, and spinach: Ambitious Kitchen Famous Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad and Cookie & Kate Crunchy Thai Peanut & Quinoa Salad. Great way to empty out the crisper!

What are your family’s comfort foods? What is your go-to potluck dish?

Meal Plan Monday – January 21st Edition

I get that it’s Tuesday, but I didn’t want to overpost last night… so you get Meal Plan Monday – a day late.

We were out of so many staples this week and I’ve been trying to use up the bits and pieces in the freezer, fridge, and pantry. Lots of improvising and substitutions. With the cold weather, I’ve wanted to make some comfort food and soups. Unfortunately, soups are hit and miss with this crew. (Mostly miss… what is wrong with them?!) I’m also putting my crockpot to use this week!

I’ve looked ahead to our schedule for the week and try to take into account our busyness as I plan out our meals. I like to keep some basics on hand in case I feel the need to just do something simple. I put together a plan yesterday and then tweaked it again today. I’m sure it will change once more before the week is out.

Here is what’s on our menu:

  • Spaghetti & Meatballs (Monday’s meal, in fact. I had frozen meatballs to clear out of the freezer.)
  • Cream Chicken & Rice Taco Soup (new recipe for us!)
  • Crockpot Enchilada Casserole (also a new one – based loosely on this one, but we’ll change it up to make it our own.)
  • Breakfast for dinner (most likely sausage, veggie omelettes, some fruit, and diced potatoes
  • Mystery meals – I fully intend on staring at the freezer and seeing what piques my interest. I’ve got some ground beef set aside, some chicken wings, and salmon that we should use. No real “plan” for these ones, but simple sides like rice and veggie medleys.

What’s cooking at your house this week? Will you be trying anything new? Feel free to share your tummy-warming cold weather favourites in the comments!