Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cooking Camp

Lent has begun and I know exactly how many days are left:  32 days including the 4 Sundays leading up to Easter Sunday.  So technically only 28 days of sacrifice.  This year Warren and I gave up sweets which is a huge sacrifice for us.  I love baking and we love eating baked goods.  Since neither of us can partake in the baked goods I stopped cold turkey and boy did the kids notice.  No homecooked treats and a whole lot more casseroles.  I guess casseroles must be second to sweets as my comfort food.  I've been cooking a lot lately (fun for me) and trying new recipes (also fun for me).  The rest of the family though doesn't always appreciate my desire to try new recipes and eat casseroles day after day.  Here's our current menu I'm working through.

Beef and Potato Bake
sliced oranges

Chicken 'n Rice Casserole
Canned peaches

Cheddar Chowder

Hug 'n Kiss Soup
Homemade bread
Cranberry Sauce

Venison Stew
Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Pepperoni Pizza
Sliced Apples
Black Olives

Cheesy Spaghetti Bake
Garlic Bread
Steamed Cauliflower
Icy Lemonade

Pizza Burgers
Canned fruit
Black Olives

Pork Chops in crockpot
Green Beans

Crockpot Potato Soup

10-Minute Taco Salad (meatless)
Sliced Pears

Chicken Noodle Casserole
Clementines and Apples

fresh sliced apples and pears

I've tried a variety of menu planning.  Years ago I printed blank monthly calendars and then filled them in with menu options.  March menus included late winter/early spring type dishes.  A mix of hearty soups and stews for those days when March brings snow/sleet storms and grilled food and salads for those first warm spring days when a coat is optional and flip flops are worn for the first time again.  As I made a meal I checked it off with a pencil so I knew which meals were still available.  This system worked for me for over a year.  I don't recall why I abandoned this method; I still have the filled in calendars and do refer to them every so often when planning meals now. 

I also planned menus based on a particular cookbook or magazine.  While going through a Taste of Home I would begin a menu with a recipe I'd like to try.  For example if I found a recipe for Asian Noodle Salad I wanted to try I would create a menu around that recipe.  Pork chops, (new recipe), canned fruit would go on my list and then I'd keep looking.  I labeled the top of each notebook page with the cookbook name/magazine name and issue so I could easily retrieve the recipes when needed.  I became addicted to this at one time.  I have an entire notebook of menu plans to go with all my various cookbooks and magazines and I still use these when at a loss for what to make.

Of course there's been plenty of weeks when I've failed to write down any plan.  We're still all here so obviously we didn't starve to death, but I wouldn't recommend this method unless you're single because hungry eyes looking at you at 12:01 or 5:30 is enough to eat right through you.

So for now I keep a variety of breakfast and lunch foods in the pantry and plan my supper meals in my daily planner.  With 7 people all going different ways it's helpful to have my calendar handy when planning meals.  I can see at a glance if the meal needs to be quick, slow-cooked, meatless or feast day worthy, early or late.  I also keep a hidden stash of quick food (popcorn chicken, taquitos, corn dogs) because inevitably something will come up and a more involved meal will have to be postponed. 

I hope this Cooking Camp inspires you to make a meal plan because food can nourish the body, but it also nourishes the heart and soul and I'm sure your family is worth it.


  1. Thanks for the tips- I always enjoy reading what other families are eating as inspiration for adding new elements to our menu.

    I try to do my groceries once a week so plan my menu before that. Grocery day is fresh fish day, Sunday is casserole or other larger cooking that reappears as leftovers on Monday night.

  2. I'm dying to know what Hug'n'Kiss Soup is!


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