I posted a while back about the joy of menu planning, and thought I'd get a bit deeper into it with an example, since I just finished the task up for the week. Different people have different ways of doing it--some rotate cooking duties around the family, some hold votes. I tend to be an autocrat in the kitchen, and I enjoy doing this by myself, but maybe when the kids are big enough I'll change my ways.
This week started off with some "knowns": Pork tenderloin is on sale, we were going to be in Maine visiting my in-laws, and I would likely be home late two nights. Well, Saturday was taken care of. Sunday would be a good time to make what I had planned to make on Friday, which takes some time to cook and got shunted aside by the cooking I was doing to take over to their place. That took care of the weekend.
I leafed through a random stack of recipes, clipped but not filed. Pan-Seared Scallops with Lemon Sauce. I try to get seafood on the menu once a week, and one "splurge" menu for mental health, and I love scallops. This one has a lot of cream--definitely a splurge. The scallops have to be bought the day of cooking, so those can be Monday, when I'll be working from home and can pop over to the store. In the same stack I found Cavatappi with Spinach, Beans, and Asiago. Hardly any cooking involved, perfect for one of the nights I'll be home late.
How about the other? Pizza? We've been getting takeout a bit too often lately, but you can't beat it for easy. A compromise emerged in the form of a purchased pizza shell with toppings that can be made ahead--roasted red peppers and caramelized onions, not something we'll find at the local delivery place. D can put it all together while I'm on my way home.
Two nights left, one of them yoga night. For that I need something really quick, or really slow. Soup? Smokey Black Bean and Vegetable Soup? I scan it, catch the words "simmer two hours." Perfect. That just leaves that pork tenderloin. The one open night left on the menu is a day I have to be in the office, so anything involving the oven is right out. I go to a file of pork recipes and sort through them until I find a couple of stir-fry recipes that sound good. Quick, simple, and not too much like anything else we're having. Comparing the two, I find they are quite similar, and discard the one that would have me buy something I would use only a few tablespoons of (and probably never use up the rest).
Done! The week will include a variety of foods, an appropriate rainbow of vegetables, few expensive ingredients, and a few things I haven't made before. Recipes in hand, I check the pantry, make a grocery list, and feel pleased with myself.
...And the kids are up. Perfect timing.