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Menu Ideas for the Frazzled Food Journey

June 12, 2013

I think that one of the most difficult parts of cooking is figuring out what’s for supper. Monthly menus have helped me tremendously for years! I sit down with a calendar each month. I like to use up foods that are in my freezer and pantry. I try to plan favorites for my college students when they’re home. I plan quick meals for busy evenings. (I’m starting to think more seasonally: like saving apples for fall when they’re fresh, corn in the summer supplemented with some frozen every once in a while, kale and spinach now (because they’re in my garden!), tomatoes when in season – although we enjoy year round crushed tomatoes from a jar.) A menu makes my life a bit less frazzled day to day.

Some people make menu planning easy by making each night a theme:
Meatless Mondays, Mexican Food Tuesday, Italian Wednesdays, Breakfast Thursdays, Cook Out or Pizza Fridays.
I tend to go by what I have available that’s in season, what I have time to make, and what I have on hand to use up.
Do whatever works for you!

This isn’t “primal or vegetarian or gluton free”. There are many websites out there for wonderful new recipes for healthy diets. In the transition to real food, my family appreciates meals they recognize! I realize that organic pasta, taco shells and cane sugar still are processed foods. I have heard that rice has arsonic, unsoaked grains are difficult to digest, and tuna has mercury. (I don’t serve even good tuna or organic rice more than once a week. I’m learning more about soaking oatmeal, flour (sourdough), almonds, rice, beans and other stuff.) I’m on an ever-changing, ever-frazzling journey to real food. I figure each step away from artificial and processed foods is progress. Pat yourself on the back for any steps you’ve taken!

My Grandma didn’t make much Mexican, Chinese or Italian foods, but her grandchildren and great-grandchildren like them as a regular part of their diet. And it helps me stretch that expensive meat! So here are a few meal suggestions that might help you come up with menu plans of your own!

For us, Mexican meals includes burritos, enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, (with or without meat), nachos, quesadillas and more. I add variety by rotating chicken, ground beef, steak, cheese, and beans as the main ingredient.

Salsa Chicken is one of my favorites because it’s so easy. We slow cook a whole chicken in salsa for the day. The chicken falls off the bones to put in tortillas with whatever else we want to add. The broth and left over chicken make great tortilla soup for the next day! (Thanks, Jonathan Mallette for that one!)

Tacos: I was fortunate to find organic ground beef from a farm a little over an hour from home! I cook the ground beef in skillet and rinse, then add garlic salt, chili powder, pepper, cayenne, onion powder, oregano and whatever else I have around the house (no taco seasoning packets needed!). Popular sides around here include: Guacamole (I make it with avocados, plain yogurt or sour cream, salsa, lime and salt), black beans, organic cheese, salsa, lettuce and non-GMO/ organic corn chips. I’m waiting for fresh tomatoes in season. We just had the works tonight!

Italian includes various pastas, chicken, beef, egg-plant or zucchini, marinara sauce, white sauce or butter/ olive oil and Italian seasonings. Our youngest likes to pick out the pasta shape to go with our supper. Zucchini, eggplant and spaghetti squash make great substitutes for (or additions to) pasta or meat.

Marinara sauce for spaghetti or other pasta: I get crushed tomatoes in a jar and use about 4 jars to 1 pound of ground beef. (In the summer, I love to just cook down fresh tomatoes with onions, garlic and spices.) I spice it with garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, sage, and anything else that I have on hand that sounds good at the time. Salad and garlic toast make nice sides.

Baked Spaghetti: When we have spaghetti, I make extra noodles and sauce for lunch the next day (or you can freeze for next week!). Mix the leftover spaghetti and sauce and top with mozzarella cheese for baked spaghetti. The next day, I bake it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. It doesn’t even taste like leftovers!

Easy Lasagna recipes are online. My youngest kiddos like bow tie pasta mixed with cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, mozarella cheese, and some seasonings, layered a couple of times with marinara sauce and topped with mozarella cheese. It’s one of my favorites because I can fix it when convenient, then throw in the oven at 350 or 375 degrees for 30 minutes, add a side salad, and supper is ready.

We enjoy breakfast for supper or Saturday brunch. Grandma made wonderful breakfasts but I can’t seem pull it together to make a big breakfast for breakfast! However, I can pull off breakfast for supper! Or breakfast for brunch on Saturdays. Breakfast ideas include pancakes, French Toast, egg burritos, scrambled eggs, omelets, eggs and potatoes, steak and eggs, organic pastured sausage or bacon, biscuits and gravy, ebliskevers (Danish pancakes), fruit and yogurt smoothies.

And of course, there’s always Grandma’s standby from my previous entry: meat, potatoes and veggies! She fried, roasted, or baked it. We also grill and slow cook it when convenient. Simple but tasty and filling!

Leftover meat makes a great addition to the next day’s lunch or supper! When I roast a chicken one day, I use the leftover chicken for Fettuccini Alfredro, chicken burritos, chicken noodle soup, stir fry, or chicken salad. I love to stir fry left over chicken, pork or steak in some veggies and put over rice or pasta.

Last night, I splurged and fried up an organic chicken in coconut oil. Yum! However, there were no bones to boil or leftover meat for lunch today. Although I was surprised to have potatoes leftover. I boiled two potatoes per person (they were pretty small) and made gravy for a side. We are discovering that we get full sooner with real food. So I added milk to the gravy and potatoes and had potato soup for lunch today with cheese on top (and I put kale and green onions in mine).

I supplement main dishes with organic fruits and vegetables that are available at the time. Currently, I have kale and spinach coming up in my garden so I’m eating a lot of that in whatever I fix. Even if my kids don’t like it yet, I add it to my own marinara, stir fry, pasta, and salads. A friend tells me I’ll like it in my smoothies as well. I’m sure I’ll give it a try before the month is out. Strawberries and berries are ripening around the country. I prefer local lettuce to the store brand organics. I don’t have a great deal of confidence in big food business or FDA or anyone doing organic certification with the news about milk and even organic pears and apples.

Whenever I get bored with the same ole things or want to try a new sauce or discover how to make my own barbecue sauce or ketchup, I go surfing other blogs and recipe sites. I’m so glad I don’t have to do this frazzled real food journey without the internet!

Having a menu helps keep my frazzled-ness from getting out of control. My menu tells me what to take out of the freezer when, which nights will take a little more preparation than others. And, I have freedom to change it when I need to (or when I feel like it).

I hope this sparks some ideas for your menus! What are your family’s favorite meals?

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From → Foods, Menus, Recipes

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