Menu Monday: In a “Back-slidden’ Condition”

Heather says:

Before reading, I suggest you go ahead and check any judgey-mcjudgerson pants at the door. We all have our fail moments in one area or another.

It has been a rough couple of months around here. I’ve been adjusting to having a part-time job outside of the home, working on my start-up SpinPicks, and trying, trying to keep everything moving here at Home-Ec 101.

Recently, someone hit my car in a parking lot while I was in a coffee shop working. If you don’t know me very well, you may not know that my super power is the ability to leap to the worst conclusion in a single bound. I even bought the anxiety girl t-shirt (I’m setting the stage for the next bit). Let me just tell you, for a person like me, having a cop walk up to you and ask if you drive [description of my car] and ask if your last name is Solos is quite scary. I was so relieved that it wasn’t anything serious that the poor guy who tagged my car kept commenting “You are so calm about this.”

My desktop computer, until a few days ago, has been nothing but a giant, paperweight that pretends to act like a computer until I begin something important, then it reverts back to paperweight mode -that’s a big part of the reason for the recent dearth of recipes… no pictures, no posts.

Last week I received a letter from my publisher saying that Home-Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living will not be reprinted. Yeah, that’s a let down, but there’s nothing I can do about it. If you want to get a copy, I suggest you hurry up and order it.

So what got left behind in all of this?


Don’t worry, the kids still were fed 3x a day and almost all of the time it was fairly healthy – there was one night where I said to heck with, it gave them each an apple, and then we went out for ice cream sundaes because I was done, just done. Go ahead and feel smug, I doubt the department of social services is going to get too upset over that one.

Oh, you want to know what the back-slidden condition reference is, don’t you?

Many years ago, in my college-ish years, I dated a young man from Spartanburg, SC. Once while we were in the upstate he took me to the place where the Marshall Tucker band used to play. I can’t remember the name, just that there was live country music, dinner, lots of sweet tea, and dancing. Apparently one of the highlights of the evening’s entertainment included the owner asking the audience, by show of hands what denomination they were, “Do we have any Episcopalians, Lutherans, Catholics,” etc Finally he would get to, “How about any Baptists?” insert a pause for more than half of the crowd to raise their hands, “Currently in a back-slidden conidition.” ha ha ha

All of that was to say, my menu planning and dinner preparation is in a back-slidden condition and I’m working on fixing it.

Saturday I sat down with my sitter, who is an honorary part of the family and my life-line to sanity at this moment, and we planned out this week’s menu:

  • Monday – Patty melts, oven roasted broccoli
  • Tuesday – Baked Pork Egg Rolls, Fried Rice, Stir Fried Vegetables (hoping to get pics of fried rice preparation for the recipe index here)
  • Wednesday – C.O.R.N (I made a giant batch of etouffee on Saturday and brought some in to my co-workers)
  • Thursday - BBQ Chicken (leg quarters on the grill, cooked by indirect heat, low and slow), pasta salad, steamed green beans
  • Friday -Breakfast for dinner (She is cooking)
  • Saturday – Blackened tilapia with strawberry salsa, rice pilaf, some manner of steamed vegetales
  • Sunday is to be determined by how working the brunch shift goes. If it was anything like this week? It may be leftovers or I may load up the kids and head to the local Mexican joint and let someone wait on me. I don’t know.  Or it will be the planned Caesar Salad with grilled chicken.

What are you eating this week? What do you do when cooking turns into a chore?


Menu Planning, Revisited

Heather says:

I have a confession.

I fell off the menu wagon.

I can’t remember exactly when this cycle started, but I think it was just before we left for our trip to Minnesota. Some of you have noticed that the recipes slowed down, others were happy about that. -I can’t please everyone, which drives my approval junkie side crazy.- Our grocery bill has been creeping up, right along with my stress level.

There have been casualties, too.

Black beans for burritos, a bag of green beans, a head of lettuce, all died sad, neglected deaths in my refrigerator. Each day I’d promise, as I threw together some sandwiches, I’ll use you tomorrow. Yesterday evening I hummed Taps as I tossed them into my compost pile. -My neighbors already think I’m weird, why not be entertaining, as well?-

I hate wasting food. It’s a big, messy pile of guilt for me.

The kids? Oh, they’ve been thrilled. There’s nothing in this world they love more than sandwiches or breakfast for dinner. The problem is those things became the norm rather than the treat.

There’s a reason I host the Sunday Confessional. I try to demonstrate a good example in some areas, but that human condition always bites me in the butt. I screw up; I’m fallible. If I let myself get hung up on the idea that I always had to live a perfect example. I’d drive myself and everyone else crazy. I’m annoying enough without being a complete control freak. There is no perfect; it only exists in magazines, romance novels, and TV.

Just like a diet, exercise, or weekly chore schedule, menu planning only works if you follow through with the plan.

Today I’ll be inventorying my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and creating a new menu. If I have to squeeze in a trip to the grocery store, it will only be for produce, but I’m going to try to hang on until the Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

I’ll be switching the personal weekly menu plans to my personal site, I know some of you enjoy them, but it feels more appropriate to host them over there. In the future (January is my plan) I will be publishing weekly menus with a full shopping list on this site.

What about you?

Are you a menu planner?

Do you want to be?

I have written a series I refer to as the menu planning primer. If you have never tried menu planning, it’s worth a read. Would anyone like this in another format? Trimmed down, prettied up, and placed into a pdf for easy referral, perhaps? Just let me know and I’ll do my best.

Send your questions to

Weeknight Turmoil and Dinner

Heather says:

Today instead of the usual Menu Monday, I wanted to start a discussion with advice for those who feel there isn’t enough time on a weeknight to cook a meal.  I don’t live in a 9 – 5 world,  sometimes I know I lose sight of what that is like1 -and sometimes I really, really wish I lived in that world. Grass is greener syndrome, I guess.

Ways to cope with busy night dinners.

Have a plan. We all have bad days where we don’t like to cook, but not having any clue what is on hand makes life hard. Sit down and figure out what can be made with ingredients on hand. Coming home at 5:45 and staring in the fridge makes putting dinner on the table by 6:30 a nightmare. Doing this every night is a recipe for misery and drudgery. If you have never meal planned, I have a series on how to get started with meal planning.

Do what you can ahead of time. Yeah, you caught me, that’s another way of saying have a plan.

Brown and freeze ground beef, be sure to label it with the date and if it has been seasoned for taco meat.

Bell peppers can also be diced and frozen ahead of time, but only if they will be used as an ingredient. They will be softer than their fresh counterparts.

Wash and process some produce the day it is brought home. A handful of grapes or already cut carrot sticks added to a dinner plate takes no time and who couldn’t use that extra serving.

Grill or cook extra meat every time. Extra burger patties can be crumbled into spaghetti or pasta, extra chicken breasts served over salads. Pork can be cubed and tossed with rice and vegetables. Pre-cooked chicken is very versatile, it can used in salads, pot pies, quiches /frittatas, omelets, pasta, a million different casseroles -that’s hot dish for you Minnesotans. Really though, watch how often you reach for Cream of X soup, it’s not healthy. There is a quick homemade alternative called bechamel. It’s not low fat, but it’s better than the canned stuff.

Bake or roast extra vegetables or potatoes on the weekend. You have tried roasted broccoli, right? Any of these make excellent side dishes reheated or can be chopped and thrown into an omelet, frittata, or turned into a skillet .

Utilize planned overs.

Don’t underestimate the sandwich, in all of its forms -melts, open faced, wraps, lettuce wraps, cabbage wraps.

Make extra pasta, run it under cold water drain, toss with a small amount of olive oil and store in the refrigerator. In the morning, throw in your favorite dressing, some chopped vegetables, and it’ll be excellent by the time you get home from work. (Be sure to store it in the fridge).

When cooking on the weekend double or triple (TRUSTED) recipes and put them in the freezer. Soup, chili, and stews can all be made in large batches and frozen to thaw and reheat later

So Home Eccers, what advice do you have to share?

1For the record, working from home with three small children, homeschooling, and having a spouse who works rotating 12 hour shifts is not exactly a life of leisure.
2Yes, that’s an affiliate link, but it is a handy way to show you what I’ve been using for 6 years.

Menu Monday 6/14/10

Heather says:

It’s a little early in the year for triple digits, but here we are. I -and our electric bill- hope it’s an aberration and that we’ll drop ten degrees for at least a few more weeks. This week it’s early morning play, long naps, and late evenings. It’s not so bad once the sun drops behind the trees, until then it’s time to lay low.  The naps are for the kids, if you need me, I’m holed up in my closet / office working on that deadline.

Bolded items are those I hope to get photographed and uploaded into the recipe index, but life has been having its way with me, lately.

  • Monday – Grilled Pita Pizzas, Greek salad
  • Tuesday – Southwestern Cheeseburgers (thanks JanetLee for the idea), pasta salad, some manner of grilled vegetable
  • Wednesday – Tomato pie (I’ll make it first thing in the morning), Chopped salad
  • Thursday – Beef burritos (crock pot on the back porch with round steak and salsa), guacamole, tossed salad
  • Friday – Grilled chicken over large salads
  • Saturday – Pizza night, I just might cave and order this week. We’ll be at the wedding of some wonderful friends (in a planetarium, how cool is that?)
  • Sunday – C.O.R.N.*

*Clean Out Refrigerator Night

So, is it hot in your area? How are you coping? More importantly, what’s on your menu this week?

Menu Monday 6/7/2010

Heather says:

We’re starting to swim in produce, in a good way. I love this time of year when friends become overwhelmed with their gardens. I’m more than happy to *ahem* assist.

Feel free to share what’s on your menu this week in the comments or leave a link to your own site. A lot of you have sent emails saying this helps with menu planning and the never ending search for dinner ideas.

Some of you have asked about lunch. We are somewhat boring in this regard, it’s leftovers or sandwiches almost every day, but we do vary the type: PB&J, deli meat, pitas, tuna salad, chicken salad. I’m going to try broadening the horizons a little by reintroducing hummus. One of the kids’ favorites is what we call a “pinchy” lunch, raw vegetables, fruit, cheese, occasionally chicken, just nothing that requires a fork.

Breakfast? I won’t lie, I love grits and I love them in a major way. At least once a week we have eggs, bacon, and grits. Granola cereal is becoming the go to as it gets hot and my husband actually enjoys making pancakes (oatmeal banana, apple, buttermilk pancakes), who am I to complain if someone else wants to cook?

You may have noticed we’re switching to a salad dominated menu. Homeschooling has been tabled until the fall (whee!). Our afternoons are a little less structured and dinner tends to run later.  With the kids getting up at the crack of dawn, I’m considering throwing out our old schedule and adopting the siesta plan with later evenings to make it through. It’s not as easy as one would think to write as one would hope with three kids bouncing off the ceilings.

How does your menu and lifestyle change was we slide into summer?

If you’re new to menu planning, you may find the Meal Planning Primer Series helpful and feel free to ask questions. The Home Ec community loves to offer advice.