Monday, December 01, 2008

What About Those 10 Meals?

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I mentioned in my last post that my family has about 10 or so meals that we eat fairly regularly and Matriarchy asked me to share what they are. Here's a list plus my usual long-winded explanation about the whys and wherefores of what I do.
  • Roast chicken, usually with roast potatoes or steamed rice and some other roasted vegetables. In the interest of saving time and energy, when I use the oven I try to fill it with multiple items. Often I will cook some things I plan to serve the next day, like sweet potatoes that I'll mash and reheat or beets that I chop up for salad.
  • Roast beef with roasted veggies. The leftover meat is great for sandwiches, salad, or soup.
  • Pan-fried or roasted pork chops, with steamed or roasted vegetables. I have different quick pan sauces or marinades I use with pork, citrus-ginger, balsamic-honey-mustard, blackberry-bbq, etc.
  • Roast or grilled salmon or halibut with roasted or steamed vegetables. We eat a lot of these two particular fish because I can buy frozen fillets in 10-pound boxes from Azure. I am looking for sources of alternatives such as tilapia, cod, and mahi mahi that don't require a trip to the grocery store.
  • Quiche/Bread Pudding/Strata. Eggs and milk and/or cream combined with cheese, veggies, and sometimes a bit of prosciutto or bacon. When I have baby fingerlings from our garden, I just put those in the buttered quiche pan and pour the egg mixture over them. If I decide to make quiche with a crust, I make and freeze extra dough. When I have enough bread ends in the freezer, I make bread pudding or strata. I suppose these could qualify as different types of meals, but they're all pretty much the same with varying types of starch. They all make fantastic leftovers. For a lighter meal with no leftovers, I make frittata.
  • Soup made from leftover roast chicken or roast beef. I make broth with the chicken carcass or using beef bones I keep in the freezer and mirepoix vegetables (that is, celery, onion, and carrots, the classic French combination of aromatics used to flavor stocks, sauces, etc.) I always have on-hand. My family's favorite soup is Chicken-Corn Soup, which practically makes itself it's so quick and easy. The kids love this with noodles and when I have time, we'll make egg noodles from scratch.
  • Twice baked potatoes. I love these and practically lived on them in college. So easy and filling. I wash four russets, sprinkle them with kosher salt while they're still wet, then bake them for an hour or so. When they're just barely cool enough to handle, I scoop out the flesh with a soup spoon, mash it, then add grated cheddar, yogurt, steamed broccoli, asparagus, or some other leftover green vegetable. I put the skins in a glass baking dish, fill them, and bake for another 30 minutes. Another great leftover.
  • Lentil soup, with rice or alphabets pasta. Again, I make a big batch and freeze what's left.
  • Fish cakes made with leftover roast salmon or halibut, with steamed veggies.
  • Fried rice made with leftover meat and veggies (or frozen green beans and corn), a couple eggs, and miso.
  • Pasta with bolognese sauce. I make a big batch of sauce, then freeze it in quart-sized containers so I always have some on hand. If we make noodles for soup, I make enough for pasta night.
You may notice a pattern...almost everything I cook is good (or even better) the next day, uses leftovers, or can be added to something else. All four of us are home for lunch most days and I rarely make lunch--I just pull leftovers out of the refrigerator and reheat them. I say this as someone who used to have a serious aversion to leftovers and still turns her nose up at a lot of things (yuck on any leftovers with green beans). Now that I've figured out how to cook things that can be used in another meal or that actually improve overnight in the fridge, I love leftovers.

I don't rotate through these 10 meals every 10 days. Ideally, dinner each week follows a pattern of roast on Monday, eggs on Tuesday, soup on Wednesday, vegetarian(ish) on Thursday, fish on Friday, Italian on Saturday, and easy or fun on Sunday. Leftovers from dinner provide us with lunch the next day. A hypothetical week of meals would go something like this:
  • Monday: Oats for breakfast, egg salad or fried eggs for lunch if there are no leftovers from the weekend, roast chicken with potatoes and Brussels sprouts for dinner. Bake bread and make bagel dough in the morning. Roast chard for tomorrow's quiche while roasting dinner. After dinner, pick meat off the bones and start stock with carcass.
  • Tuesday: Boil and bake bagels first thing in the morning. Bagels & cream cheese for breakfast, chicken salad for lunch, and quiche with cheddar, chard, and prosciutto for dinner.
  • Wednesday: Oats for breakfast, leftover quiche for lunch, chicken-corn soup for dinner. Every other week, pick up raw milk and make Neufchatel cheese and yogurt.
  • Thursday: French toast and bacon (cook extra for dinner), leftover soup, twice-baked potatoes with broccoli and bacon.
  • Friday: Oats, leftover potatoes, roast salmon with cauliflower and wild rice.
  • Saturday: Pancakes with blueberries, fish cakes, pasta with bolognese.
  • Sunday: Big late brunch, no lunch. I'll cook a casserole or start something in the slow cooker early in the day if we're going to be out. If not I'll make something new or special, like sushi!
So, within that framework and those 10 basic meals, there's a lot of possibilities for variety, but I don't have to fish out recipes or buy special ingredients. Anything on that list I could make today assuming I have defrosted or already cooked the meat involved. This is the beauty of having a thoughtfully stocked pantry, fridge, and freezer. I never go to the grocery store anymore at five o'clock in search of some ingredient essential for that evening's dinner. I also don't have to make elaborate meal plans every week before I go shopping because 1) I don't go shopping every week and 2) when I do shop for fresh produce, I just buy what's in season that we like and work it into my basic plan.

During the summer, we grill instead of roast. Like the oven, I tend to fill the grill to capacity and have a plan in mind for using whatever we don't eat that evening for another meal. Instead of soup, I made salad with leftovers. We also eat a lot more raw fresh vegetables during the summer and a lot less meat.

For the pantry challenge, I'm going to experiment more with using vegetables that I've fermented. Think borscht and choucroute garni. I also want to cook with beans more often than I do now. My kids love beans and I do make batches of black beans for them to have for quick lunches (or for Annabel to eat instead of potatoes as she inexplicably doesn't like potatoes), but I haven't gotten into making bean-based meals for the whole family. Anyone have a favorite bean dish to share?

1 comment:

Matriarchy said...

Thank you! I have a longer response to your post, but I am having a very strange day. I will comment tomorrow, and link your very useful list from my blog.