Tag Archives: cooking

Menu planning system that works

A few months ago or so I saw Trish of Hey Lady showing off her new menu planning system. It was similar to this one. I thought about it for a few days, and decided finally I thought it (or a version of it) would work for us.

I’ve tried lots of ways to plan meals before, but before this, nothing had lasted even a couple weeks. We’ve been using this a month or so now, with good success. Ours is pretty scrappy, not prettified like the ones I’ve seen, but it works, so hey. Maybe one day I’ll get around to beautifying it. Or not.

Here’s what mine looks like.

This box holds the strips. It sits in a cupboard.

This box holds the strips. It sits in a cupboard.

A glimpse of what kind of information they contain.

A glimpse of what kind of information they contain. And my sloppy handwriting.

When we pick what we'll cook next, we just put the strips on the fridge. Easy-peasy.

When we pick what we’ll cook next, we just put the strips on the fridge. Easy-peasy.

Here are what the various colors mean in our system. Where I originally began drafting the idea.

Here are what the various colors mean in our system. Where I originally began drafting the idea.

This differs in quite a few respects from the original from which I drew inspiration:

  1. We wrote our strips by hand. I disliked the idea of trying to get double-sided printing to work and line up perfectly, and this let us work on the meal brainstorming / strip creation in dribs and drabs over a couple weeks.
  2. Our categories are our own.
  3. We only have one box.
  4. We don’t have all the things stuck to a board, all together. There really isn’t anywhere in our kitchen to hang a decent-sized board, and we had all the things required for this version already.
  5. We just put however many we want/need/know at a time, although we do try to make it enough food to get us through a week.
  6. When we’re done cooking it, we take the strip down and store it again.

I intended to at least cover the (half-)box with paper, and to rewrite and mount the category cheat sheet to the box, but I haven’t gotten that done yet.

The strip making was pretty time consuming, yes. We did it here and there over the course of a few weeks (or maybe even a month). I like that when I find one I forgot or want to add a new recipe to the mix, it’s quite easy. Each strip has the name of the meal/main dish on one side and a list of ingredients (for grocery store list writing), and a recipe location (book, page number; or online source), if needed.

We have some leftover strips of the colored paper left (we split a 8.5 x 11 sheet of scrapbook paper down the center and then cut strips), so we can simply write the new one down. But maybe not laminate it (which isn’t exactly necessary, but does add durability to the pieces) until we know it’s a keeper. Or you could write up the ones you want to try on a separate list, or a different color, and then rewrite them into the appropriate category after you’ve tried them? The laminated and unlaminated works for us, so far at least.

I’m so glad for a place that has all of the things we make in one place! One the the best aspects of this is that, if we’re completely stuck, we can thumb through the entire stack pretty quickly.

How do you plan the meals at your house?


Autumnal dinner party

Last night we hosted 11 for dinner in our home. The menu:

I posted the recipe for the soup a week ago; the rest of the dishes were pretty standard fare for us, although I did make the coconut- and pecan-filled frosting for the (round, layered) cake from scratch (which was a first). The meat was grilled.

It was a lot of work, but I’d call it a success. Still quite tired this morning, though.

For more Weekend Cooking posts, visit Beth Fish Reads.

Jenny’s Apple & Butternut Squash Soup


This is what you’re making for dinner tomorrow

I hadn’t planned to participate in this 2nd annual Fall Festival Recipe Exchange, but when I saw Amy’s post today I knew that I should post and what recipe to post.

I discovered this recipe at the Juniper Moon Farm blog a couple weeks ago, and within a week, I’d tried it out. It just seemed so fall-ish, warm and comfortable! and I’ve wanted to try my hand at a squash soup for years now but hadn’t done so.

Susie posted the recipe for Jenny’s Apple & Butternut Squash Soup (edited here for brevity and efficiency; if you want to read the entertaining version of the recipe, click the link):

Action shot of Paul using the immersion blender on our first (of many, I'm sure!) batch of this soup. Lame-o cameraphone capture.

Apple & Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and chopped
4 red or golden apples, peeled, cored and diced — I used gala
2 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock, skimmed of fat

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. 
Add onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 4 minutes.

Add squash and cook, stirring occasionally until it softens, about 10 minutes.

Add apples, salt, cumin, coriander, ginger, cayenne, black pepper, chicken stock and 2 1/2 cups water (just enough to cover). Bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and cook until veggies are very soft, about 30 minutes.

Puree until smooth with an immersion blender (or in batches in the bowl of a food processor or the jar of a blender and return to saucepan) over low heat. Thin with additional water if necessary. — I didn’t.

Serve hot and garnish with sour cream. Just drop a little dollop on top, or make a little cone out of paper, and use it like icing to make a cute little design on the top.

This soup refrigerates well, freezes OK (when it’s thawed it’s a little watery and loses a bit of flavor).

Serves 6.
 Per Serving: 143 calories; 3g fat; 6mg cholesterol; 27g carbohydrate; 865mg sodium; 2g protein; 4g fiber.
 2 Weight Watchers points per serving.

This recipe wasn’t created by Jenny (not linked in Susie’s post), but it’s not attributed. There are many similar recipes online, but I’m guessing this started as the Martha Stewart one. I’m planning to make this recipe again next week, but I’ll more carefully regulate (and maybe cut) the quantity of cayenne; it was a touch on the spicy side for us. Still, oh-so-yummy. Enjoy!