Sunday, January 31, 2010

Meal Planning

I'm a foodie. I love to watch the Food Network, talk about recipes, try new things, learn new techniques. But in searching for balance in my busy week I am finding that I'm going to have to do some dedicated meal planning or introduce a "day of the week" menu plan.

This epiphany came when at the end of a long week on Friday, I had to come home and yet again figure out what's for supper. And I realized that I would have to do this every day until I get too old to do it for myself. I got overwhelmed and made Kraft Dinner. (which for all of my preaching about homemade food, is one of my indulgences)

I floated the idea of a menu plan past my husband, something like: soup on Monday, beef on Tuesday, pork on Wednesday, etc. And we both like it because he likes to know what he's having ahead of time and I don't like having to make the decision every day. I love cooking new and interesting dishes but I'm going to have to save my culinary adventures for the weekend, when I can plan for it and take some time to enjoy it.

I'll let you know how it works out. I actually have to make the decisions now about what goes on each day first. ☺

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Typical Weekend

What do you do on the weekends? Are they packed full of activities and shopping, and leave you just as exhausted on Monday morning as you were on Friday evening? Or are they peaceful, restorative, and fruitful?

Today I spent the morning catching up on and planning out our finances while Sabrina watched Anne of Green Gables movies. Then, after a lunch of yesterday's leftovers, I cleaned the bathroom while supervising her shower (she's learning how to wash her long hair on her own). While I got laundry going, I utilized Sabrina's skill at pulling things out of cupboards and had her clean out my kitchen pantry. She organized items into groups while I reorganized putting them back in. It looks fabulous and nothing falls out at me anymore when I open the door! I also know what to put on my grocery list for tomorrow.

Then while I prepared the lamb for my Make-Ahead Lamb Stew recipe, Sabrina played and read nearby, occasionally showing me her discoveries and singing me songs. When it came time to change the loads of laundry, she came with me and I taught her how to remove grease stains (her dad gives us lots of practice). While the stew was simmering, I decided to make a fresh batch of hummus and brown some meatballs to put in the crockpot tomorrow. Sabrina made the meatball mix all by herself, with my direction. She also helped me roll them, which went much faster! The hummus only took a couple of minutes to whirl up in the food processor, just the way I like it.

Why do I share this level of detail with you? Because I am very careful with the extra activities I allow into my time, I am able to spend quality time with my daughter teaching her things that will help her when she's on her own, make homemade food for my family, and devote the time and attention to my household that it needs. I still have another day yet to rest with my family, visit friends, and finish what couldn't be accomplished today. I can start my week refreshed and refueled, knowing that all is well at home.

What do we teach our children but our same chaotic habits when we do not stop long enough to evaluate what is really important to be investing our time in? Activities for children have their time and place, but they do not replace the one-on-one time of teaching and relationship-building that Sabrina and I had this weekend. Do you really need to go to the mall? WalMart? Or could you rearrange your cupboard and remind yourself of what you already have? Is your freezer full of convenience food? Do you eat out more than once a week? Do you despair over your grocery bill? Take some time on the weekend to plan meals and a grocery list that does not spend most of your budget on prepared items that you could easily and cheaply make at home.

Our week is busy enough without adding any more to it. I work full time as an accounting manager and Sabrina goes to school and before/after-school program. Corrie works a long day in his tow truck. The only times we ask ourselves "is there more to life than this?" is if we have wasted our precious free time on things that don't bear fruit. For each family, those things will be different. I challenge you today to take some time to evaluate yours and pursue the balance that you have been longing for.

Hummus (mom_of_4 style)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin
salt to taste
enough olive oil to make desired texture

Put all ingredients but the olive oil into a food processor with the chopping blade. Whirl together while drizzling in olive oil. Stop occasionally to scrape down sides and taste balance of flavors. Hummus has been blended with enough oil when it is smooth with no lumps, not runny, but has a firm texture that can be dipped with raw veggies, crackers, or pita bread. It is also delicious as a spread on sandwiches or wraps.

A favorite high-protein, high-fibre, non-dairy snack! You can reduce the fat by substituting water for olive oil, but if you know me, you know that low-fat is not in my vocabulary.

Make-Ahead Lamb Stew

Printed from COOKS.COM

1 lb. lean boneless lamb stew meat, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tbsp. olive or salad oil
1 sm. clove garlic, minced or pressed
3/4 c. regular strength chicken broth
1/2 c. dry white wine or more chicken broth
1/4 tsp. marjoram
1/4 tsp. savory leaves
2 med. carrots
1/4 lb. sm. white boiling onions (I like to use 2 shallots)
3 sm. new potatoes, cut in 1/2 inch thick slices (I use red potatoes, diced)
Chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. grated lemon peel

Trim excess fat and membrane from lamb. Heat oil in a wide frying pan over medium heat; add lamb, cook uncovered, until well browned on all sides. Add garlic, stirring until lightly browned. Stir in chicken broth, wine, lemon peel, marjoram and savory. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, cut carrots diagonally in 1-inch lengths. Plunge onions into boiling water for about 1 minute; drain and peel. When lamb has simmered for 1 hour, add carrots, onions, and potato slices to frying pan. Then cover and simmer until vegetables are fork tender, approximately 30 to 35 minutes more.

With slotted spoon, lift vegetables and meat from pan and place in individual bowls. Turn heat to high and boil liquid to reduce to about 1/2 cup; pour over stew. Sprinkle with parsley.