Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Perfectionist Tries to Plan Meals - a plea for help

Some of us grew up helping Mom in the kitchen. You know who you are.

You're the woman who goes to the grocery store without a list, and can plan a week's worth of suppers and a beautiful Sunday meal based on what looks good in the produce aisle.

It would be wrong for me to hate you.

So instead I'll just appeal to your bountiful sense of goodness, your abundant compassion, and your giving nature...


I might look like a woman who can bake up a loaf of fresh whole wheat bread before Martha Stewart can even get her apron tied, but that's just a genetic mistake. God gave me the cozy, domestic Mom-look, but with the analytical tendencies of a NASA engineer - minus mathematical ability, sadly - and the grandiose aspirations of explorers and inventors throughout time.

Know what that means? It means that Rachel Ray gets a lot more done in the kitchen than I do.

Don't get me wrong. I can cook, and bake. It's planning menus that stymies me.

The dreamer in me imagines meals fit for kings, and my mommy instincts only egg it on. But when the engineer part sits down to plan out the menu...

"Hmm," says the engineer in me, as I make a list. “I will factor in the season, budget, our family’s schedule, the government’s RDA, and a healthy carb/protein ratio. Combine that with the coupons in my organizer and arrange my trajectory according to the layout of the store aisles...”

Need I say more?

I'm looking for a book or website that has good menu plans.

Not with unfamiliar combinations like Alaskan Smoked Salmon Frittata with Snow Peas in Caper Sauce, just good ol’ American classics that will kick the engineer entirely out of the process. A little risotto won't kill me, but I'm not looking for gourmet, or fru-fru. Not twists on the classics. Just something like:

Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans.
Turkey, Yams, and Fruit Salad.
Ham, Blackeyed Peas and Cornbread.

I need help. And I need it soon. Because tomorrow is grocery day.

Any ideas???


Anonymous said...

I think you are a very capable meal planner.
Your Hubby

Carolyn Erickson said...

Awwww. Now my heart is all melty!

You're doing that on purpose, aren't you? :D

Mysti said...

If you are doing a weeks worth of meals, follow a simple guideline.

Monday: Chicken Salsa Fiesta
2/3 C bisquick
2 tbs water
1 egg
1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 C chopped onions
3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 C salsa
1/2 C Tortilla Chips, Crushed

1. Heat oven to 400°F Spray a 8 or 9-inch pan with pan spray. Stir together Bisquick mix, water & egg. Spread in the pan then sprinkle with 1 1/4 cups of the cheese.
2. Using a skillet cook & stir chicken in oil over medium-high heat until outsides turn white; drain. Stir in salsa & chopped onion; heat until hot. Spoon over batter in the pan to within 1/2-inch of the edges.
3. Bake 22-25 minutes or until edges are dark golden brown. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 1-3 minutes or until cheese melts; loosen from sides of the pan & serve.

I find this goes great with a salad topped with a flavor-filled dressing such as a spicy ranch (ranch with salsa.)

Tuesday: Meatloaf Roll
1 pkg. (10 oz.) chopped broccoli or spinach
2 lbs. hamburger
2 eggs
3/4 c. soft bread crumbs
1/4 c. catsup
1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. (3 oz.) smoked ham
3 slices Mozzarella cheese, each 3x3 inches, cut diagonally into halves

Rinse frozen broccoli under running cold water to separate; drain. Mix hamburger, eggs, bread crumbs, catsup, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the pepper and oregano. Pat hamburger mixture into rectangle, 12x10 inches, on piece of aluminum foil, 18x15 inches. Place broccoli on hamburger mixture to within 1/2 inch of edges; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Arrange ham on broccoli.

Roll up rectangle carefully, beginning at 10 inch side and using foil to lift. Press edges and ends of roll to seal. Place on rack in shallow roasting pan. Cook uncovered 350 for 1 1/4 hours.

Overlap cheese on top; cook just until cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute longer (center of meat loaf roll may be slightly pink due to ham). Garnish with celery leaves, if desired. Serves 8.

This meal goes well with mashed potatoes if you want to increase starches for the meal or a salad for the additional vegetables. Don't be frightened by the vegetables in the meatloaf. It's one of my favorites!!

Wednesday: Tuna Casserole
2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni
12 ounces of tuna in spring water
2 small cans of concentrated cream of chicken soup
1 small can of sweet green peas
1/2 cup of milk
1 small pack of shredded mozzarella cheese

In a medium pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add noodles. Let cook until noodles are tender.

Preheat oven to 350.

Flake tuna in a casserole dish. Then add in soup, peas, and milk. Mix all ingredients till they are blended well. Then add an even layer of cheese across the top.

Bake for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot and enjoy.

Thursday: Pork Chops, Potatoes and steamed vegetalbes (broccoli, cauliflower, squash and zucchini)

Friday: Tacos/Burritos with Spanish rice

Saturday: Family Fun Night - Make your own personal pizzas.

Shortening (to grease 2 baking sheets)
All-purpose flour
1 pkg. biscuits (10 pack)
1 (8 oz.) can pizza sauce
1 (4 oz.) pkg. shredded mozzarella cheese

Toppings of your own choice:
1/4 lb. sliced pepperoni
1 hot dog, sliced
1/2 c. chopped green pepper
1/2 c. sliced black olives
1/2 c. chopped onions
1/4 lb. sausage, cooked & sliced
1/4 lb. ham
1 can pineapple

Grease two baking sheets and set aside.

Sprinkle flour on a cutting board. Use a rolling pin to roll each biscuit to a 4 inch circle.

Place biscuits on baking sheets. Spoon 1 1/2 tablespoons of sauce on each biscuit. Sprinkle each biscuit with 1 1/2 tablespoons of cheese.

Let each person put on their favorite toppings.

Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Sunday: Roast (Beef or Pork) with potatoes, onions, carrots

Although I'm sure some of these recipes are new to you, they are family favorites in my home, which is why I shared them. I hope it will help you find a few new things that pique the interest of your family!! Happy planning and cooking!

Carolyn Erickson said...

MYSTI -- You are so my hero! :)

Those are awesome meal ideas, and complete with recipes!

I used to have something that worked for us. It was a rotating menu: week 1, week 2, etc. and then I would repeat it.

But eventually it got very boring. I still make a few of those meals, but I've wanted to change up the routine.

And I haven't even left for the grocery store yet. You're brilliant! :D


Sirena said...

Here are a fwe more, sorry that my recipes aren't exact but I'm one of those women and to top it off, I learned in my mother's resteraunt.

Crock Pot Roast

One roast
two or three carrots chopped up
1 medium sized cooking onion chopped
3 or 4 garlic cloves pressed or diced if you don't have a garlic press
a bit of garlic, salt, pepper, sage and oregeno.
One or two bay leaves for the water
Oxo cubes or if you don't have oxo a package of powdered gravy.

Throw everything into the crock pot, add water to until the crock pot is almost full and cook all day. (optional) add potatoes)

Barbeque (I hate this stuff but my husband loves it)

Another crock pot idea

Take a pork roast place it into the crock pot and add a container of low fat garlic barbeque sauce. Simmer all day and add to buns.

Vegetarian (or if you're not a vegetarian, meat and veggie) Gyros

2 red peppers
2 green peppers
2 yellow peppers
1 red onion
(optional, mushrooms, or any type of vegetable you like)
meat (I usually use beef but pork or chicken is fine too)

Sautee the meat in virgin olive oil, add in the veggies and cook until tender. Add in basalmic vinegar to taste (this is optional and you can cook it with no sauce if you want)

When it is cooked add it to pitas, garnish with lettuce, cheese (the recommended is Feta but we use other ones) tomatoes, etc. Add humus or tzatsiki sauce (my spelling is horrible) and serve with rice and salad.

Chicken Ceasar Wraps

Makea grilled chicken ceasar salad, you can buy ceasar kits at the store. Serve with a variety of veggies. I usually put out shredded radishes, carrots, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and olives to garnish the wrap with and then I add shredded cheese. Wrap all the items in a fahita (the green veggie fahitas are the best with this recipe) I find this is a meal in itself and does not need anything else.

Last but not least, good old shephard's pie (another one I hate)

1 to 2 pounds of ground beef
can of peas and carrots
1 medium sized cooking onion
oxo cube or pack of gravy powder
salt and pepper

Cook the ground beef thoroughly and drain. Also cook the peeled potatoes. In a cassarole dish put in the can of peas and carrots and the diced onion. Add the ground beef adn then mix. Add the oxo cube and cornstarch and water (if you do it that way) or the gravy and a cup of water the other way. Mash the potatoes in a seperate dish, place over the ground beef, add dallops of butter to the potatoes and bake at 350F until the potatoes have browned.
Serve with gravy and a bread if you want.

I have tons more but you should email me if you would like them. LOL. Ignore my spelling tonight. My brain isn't working. I remember going grocery shopping one time with my son (he usually goes with me) and he aksed me, "Where is your grocery list?" I told him, "In my head." He laughed for a few minutes and then said,"No really, where is it." So I try to use lists now, if only to make the children happy. VBG.

Carolyn Erickson said...

Ooh, Sirena, the Gyros and Caesar wraps look wonderful and perfect for those fall days that suddenly turn hot!

Mmm. Love Pot Roast, and the BBQ roast, although I usually use beef. I'm going to remember to try Pork. What do you usually serve with them? I can only think of raw veggies and chips...

But then again! That's good enough, isn't it? Kick out the engineer, who wants 20 different optional combinations!! :D

Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'm going to be ready for NaNo, ya know?

Cooking is easy -- it's the planning that takes me so much time.

You guys are the best!


Nicole Bovey said...

I would check out for a look. I really like their format and lots of wonderful recipes. All rated by the readers. I have a printed version of their five star recipes and I use it all the time. Happy cooking.

Carolyn Erickson said...

Thanks Nicole. I LOVE for recipes. But does it help you plan meals (Main dish and a side type thing)???

That would be great. I'm going back there to check.


Sirena said...

No problem Carolyn. Oh the pork dish is pulled pork or barbeque. When the meat is fully cooked you pull it apart with a fork until it is stringy. I usually serve it with chips and fresh veggies. Sometimes I will add some type of cold salad like pasta salad or potato salad. According to my husband, I make the best potato salad in the world.

I'm so picky that most of hte stuff I make, I hate. You can make the humus by hand if you want. I suggest finding a good humus recipe before you start because you can mess that up really easily. I use chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil and something else, put it in the blender until it is a mushy texture. I can't stand the stuff so I never make it.

A good site for building a meal plan is They have a meal planner and recipes. You just put in what you want for meals, vegetarean, low fat, low carb, etc.

Best of luck getting your plan together.