Monday, July 29, 2013

Feast of Saints Peter and Paul

Blessed are those who go to Jesus, 
For they shall see God and will be treated with mercy, for the Kingdom of Heaven shall be theirs.

Saint Peter
ora pro nobis.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Meal Planning with a CSA/ farmers market

Summer is upon us, and for many people, that means farmers' markets or CSAs (community supported agriculture or farm box) have started up, which can be a fun and economical way to enjoy local produce.  But just because you could end up with any produce in any week does not have to be cause for meal planning panic! As you can see from the list below, having the staples listed below on hand means you can cook just about any fruit or vegetable as a side or incorporated in the entree.
  • Omelettes/quiche: eggs, milk, flour, cheese, butter
  • Pasta sauce: pasta, olive oil, cheese, garlic
  • Pesto: olive oil, nuts, cheese
  • Risotto: arborio rice, cheese, chicken stock
  • Grilled: foil or skewers, oil
  • Cold soup: stock/bouillon, sour cream, butter
  • Crudités: sour cream or hummus for dip
  • Salad: oil and vinegar
  • Fritters: oil, cornmeal, eggs
  • Taco/enchilada filling: tortillas, sauce or salsa, cheese
  • Pizza topping: crust, tomatoes, cheese, olive oil
  • Stir fried: oil, soy sauce, scallions, sesame seeds, rice or noodles
  • Curried: spices, coconut milk, tomatoes, lentils
  • Fresh fruit pie: pie crust, gelatin, sugar, whipping cream
  • Fruit pie/cobbler: butter, lard/shortening, sugar
  • Pickled: vinegar, pickling spices, lids
  • Jam: pectin (I am partial to Ball Low Sugar flex batch), sugar, bottled lemon juice, lids
  • Homemade ice cream: milk, cream, eggs, sugar
  • Homemade sorbet: sugar
For more ideas, check out these websites and books:


Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1: egg dishes, Volume 2: cold soups)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Meal Planning - How to organize your recipes

There are as many ways to organize recipes as there are people to cook them.  Similar to the struggle between paper planners and online calendars, recipe organization can quickly become a confusing territory of notecards and bookmarked webpages.

The most you need is two steps in the process: somewhere for recipes you want to try, and somewhere for recipes you want to keep.

Having a place for recipes to try is the first step.  For recipes I find online, I use Evernote to organize them.  I have the browser add-on that allows me to save recipes from any website, so it just takes one click to "clip" them and put them away for safe keeping.  One bonus of this system is that the Evernote notebook is searchable (using both tags and the text of the note itself), so it's easy to find things again.  The downside of this is that it really works best for things found digitally; if you tend to get ideas from searching through cookbooks, the easiest option is to scan or take a picture of the recipe and send it to the notebook.

The old-fashioned way is to make a list of what you want to try (noting where you found it, obviously).  This allows you to combine print and digital sources.

Once you find a keeper, put it somewhere permanent.  It doesn't matter if this is a card in your box, a print-off in your binder, or a post on your private blog - just have one designated place for all the recipes you want to see again.  My mom's recipe box (above) is like the Ark of the Covenant for our family's favorite recipes.  We all know that the recipe box is the first place to look for a recipe we know and love.

Another option is to make a virtual recipe box by posting to a recipe blog.  This is an especially handy option if you want to share recipes among people who are geographically distant.  Our family's page includes lots of the Recipe Box classics (many of the frequently-requested recipes that Mom got tired of typing out for her long-distance daughters), as well as new things we've tried and liked.  Give it a cute name or just stick to something basic like; it's up to you.  Like Evernote, you can add tags to each post, so that categories can be browsed.  When I'm looking for a good recipe to use up leftover chicken, I can just click on that category to see what other people and I have posted in the past.  Hands down, this may be my favorite organizational tool.

First Friday Devotions

On the back: 
Copyright 1938, N.G. Basevi,
Litho in U.S.A

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Meal Planning - A day for everything

Even if you're making your meal plan ahead of time, the question of what to make for dinner can be daunting.  I've found that it helps to narrow down your choices from the get-go.  By that, I don't mean that you should stick to the same 5-meal repertoire (unless that works for your family, of course!).  Instead, try assigning a category to each day, and pick recipes based on that.  Rather than staring into the abyss of Everything You Know How To Cook, your search is focused on one particular category.  For example:

Monday: Soup/sandwiches
Tuesday: Pasta
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Crock pot
Sunday: Cook's choice

Do Tuesday nights consist of running out the door to activities?  Make that an "Eat out" night.  Do you have kids old enough to put together a meal?  Assign them a night.  Would your family enjoy a designated night for Mexican or Chinese food?  Put that on the schedule.

The beauty of this system is that it combines predictability (and thus, reduced effort) with the flexibility to try new recipes or stick with your old standbys.  We all know that there are weeks when you feel up to culinary experimentation, and weeks when you just need to go with recipes you've already got memorized.

If you're looking for a place where this system is spelled out in more details, there are cookbooks like this available.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Meal Planning - the low tech version

This is a system I've been using off and on for years.  Yep, it's just what you see.  I print a calendar page and hang it on my fridge.  I then poll everyone here (and page through cookbooks) for meal ideas.  It works well when I have the discipline to actually do it, but I suppose that's the downfall for pretty much any system.  The parts I like best are:
  • It's very flexible.  I always write in pencil so it's easy to erase something I know won't work on a particular day and just bump it forward a few days.
  • It's visible.  If I'm not the one home when it's time to cook, any of the other responsible cooks in my house can easily take over. Also, I can easily glance at it in the morning and do prep work in advance if I want.
  • I know I save money and waste less food when I do it.  Also, shopping takes less time, especially when I use my organized list.
Also, I have lots of cookbooks and have found it helpful to focus on one at a time.  Rather than being overwhelmed by thousands of choices, I've narrowed it down to the more manageable number in a particular cookbook.  It's much easier to write Chicken and Rice, p. 109 on my calendar square than to list all the info from a wide variety of sources that will help me find recipes again when I'm ready to make them.

I typically find that planning 5 meals per week is more than enough.  We are fine with leftovers occasionally, and it's not uncommon for most or all of us to be gone for work or appointments every now and then.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Meal Planning - leave it to a professional

I have a friend who swears by the service offered by Saving Dinner.  For a small fee you get a subscription that is tailored to your family (number of people/general dietary category) which includes menus, recipes, and a detailed shopping list, all keyed in to sound nutrition and seasonal considerations.  They have the freedom to recycle family favorites, but also get to try all sorts of new things.

Except for the number of family members, I'm pretty sure my friend could have written this testimonial:
Just wanted to let you know how Menu Mailer has improved my life…We are a household of 2 adults, both working full time jobs, no kids, so meals ‘should’ be easy. Right? WRONG!!! Since the menu mailer has come into our lives: 
  • We have cut our fast food consumption by about 80%.
  • I have cut grocery shopping time by at least 80%.  I don’t buy food that looks good in the store, but ends up spoiling because I have no real plan for it
  • I’m out of the same-old-thing for dinner rut
  • I’m feeling good about taking control of our nutrition, and cutting out the artificial garbage from processed food.
Your recipes are versatile enough to be cut in half, or eaten as another entire meal. So, I’m cooking 2-3 times a week, and having a ready-made meal waiting for the other days. The variety of flavors, many of which I’d never considered putting together before, have been wonderful.
Best of all, we don’t spend an hour playing the “what do you want to do for dinner game.” “What do you want?” “I don’t care, what do you want?” and on and on until we end up running out to grab something quick, mediocre, and unfulfilling. So, you don’t need to have a big family to find huge rewards from the menu mailer.

Try the Daily Dish offer on their home page to get a week of sample menus and shopping lists.

Monday, July 1, 2013

HELP! I hate meal planning

I could cook all day, but for some reason I absolutely hate meal planning.  It seems so simple on the surface (just take something out of the freezer), but I'm busy or gone in the morning and by the time I give it any thought, I have about enough time to plan breakfast-for-dinner.  (Good, but not every day.)  Anyway, inspired by our friend Kate, we are going to spend a little time this week on a variety of meal planning ideas. We hope you'll find some useful ideas and we look forward to your comments.

First of all, you want to check out what Kate has done.  Using google tools, she listed their 30 go-to meals on a rotating calendar that both she and her grocery-shopping husband can access.  It's easy to edit and to look ahead to see what's on the menu for the upcoming week.  Genius!  Visit her blog for details and links to helpful tutorials to set it all up.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for July

World Youth Day. That World Youth Day in Brazil may encourage all young Christians to become disciples and missionaries of the Gospel.

Asia. That throughout Asia doors may be open to messengers of the Gospel.