“What’s for supper?” the witty Simcha Fisher asks.
“These menus!” respond ever-so-many with-it women.
It’s inspiring. Even though I bragged in my “Bio” page that I’ve arrived at a place in my life to be able to “concoct a few company-worthy dishes,” I’m still a very mercurial meal planner. Either I will spend more time than is reasonable scouring cook books and assembling a list of gourmet meals to attempt in a given week or I will fail to plan entirely.
Two moments of shame motivate me to at least try to become more consistent:
(1) Shortly after I gave birth to Sweet Potato, my incredibly generous and culinarily gifted friends engineered a meal train for our family. I’m talking multi-course meals — salad, meat, veggies, fruit, dessert, etc.! The Oilman didn’t know what to make of it. Two weeks into the train, he’d gained five pounds (and, if you know the Oilman, you know he never gains weight! Something about working out every single day keeps the weight off, I guess.). Naturally, when we’d see said friends, we’d thank them for their eminently edible offerings. On one occasion, the Oilman actually said, “Yeah, thanks so much! We don’t normally eat dinner, so this has been amazing!” In case you didn’t catch that, he said: “We. don’t. normally. eat. dinner.” Embarrassing.
(2) On another occasion, we ate dinner at my parents’ house. Now, my mother does not particularly relish time in the kitchen — she, too, would rather read the news — but she is an experienced cook and reliably turns out delicious fare. The Oilman ate ravenously on this particular evening and said, innocently and sincerely, “This is delicious! We normally just have cereal for dinner, so this is awesome!” Hmm. I guess “cereal” is an improvement over “no dinner.” Still, embarrassing.
Eventually, my perfect-is-the-enemy-of-the-good, all-or-nothing approach to meal planning came to a head. I sat on the bed, surrounded by cook books, overwhelmed and anxious, and the Oilman sat on the couch adjacent, sympathetic but hungry. Together, we came up with an “Emergency Two-Week Meal Plan” — a plan I could turn to when I was out of ideas and weary of thinking of food. I’ll share it sometime, but, not tonight, because, tonight, we actually ate supper and it wasn’t a meal from my emergency meal plan.
Tonight, we ate these scrumptious White Chicken Enchiladas from the Pioneer Woman herself. OK, full disclosure: We ate leftover White Chicken Enchiladas. I made them a few days ago, but they were easy, made a heap and are just as yummy left over as they were piping hot out of the oven!
Normally, when I cook, I like to listen to the “Mambo Italiano” station on Pandora, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t turn it on as I boiled the chicken for these enchiladas. When it was time to debone it, I turned to Sweet Potato and said, “See the chicken’s skin and bones?” And, of course, that made me think of the Coldplay song, “Yellow.” (When I was in high school and college, I thought I was highly original and intellectual for liking music that, er, everyone else I knew also liked, so, you know, I had to like Coldplay.)
The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that Chris Martin et. al. really did write the song about boiled chicken. Consider this stanza:
Your skin / Oh yeah your skin and bones / Turn into something beautiful / And you know / For you I’d bleed myself dry / For you I’d bleed myself dry.”
Can you think of anything more beautiful than homemade chicken stock? Or anything more like bleeding yourself dry than cooking (except, perhaps, writing)? And, of course, boiled chicken is “all yellow.” Yes! It all fits! So romantic.
So encouraged was I by this insight and the hope that I might have others similar to it that I planned menus for the remainder of the week.
Tuesday: Grilled chicken Caesar salad and sweet potatoes
I’m cheating on the “grilled chicken,” as I caved and bought Tyson Grilled and Ready Chicken Strips after a long stretch of preparing chicken properly! And I’ve already prepared the sweet potatoes … in the microwave. I just wrap ’em in a damp paper towel, microwave ’em two-at-at-a-time on HIGH eight minutes (turning once) and then lather them in butter, salt and pepper. Pretty tasty. When I remember to bake them in advance, I follow these tips and they taste even better.
Wednesday: Crockpot red beans and rice with steamed asparagus and rolls
If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel on feeding a family, check out these awesome family meal planners by my brilliant cousin. My go-to red beans and rice recipe comes from her “My Family Meal Planner: Crock Pot Only.” Love it! When I say “rolls,” I’m talking about Sister Schubert’s, of course.
Thursday: Spaghetti with spicy turkey meat sauce with steamed green beans
This is a new recipe for me. I have ground turkey in the freezer because we intended to make turkey burgers on Labor Day but ended up dining with friends instead.
Friday: Dinner reservation with the Oilman to celebrate our upcoming third anniversary!
Oh, how I’m looking forward to this! I can count on one hand the number of nights we’ve gone out alone since we had Sweet Potato. I hope the restaurant is every bit as swanky and lavish as advertised!
Weekend: Chicken divan and leftovers
Gotta use up the rest of the boiled chicken in the freezer! I use a family recipe for this; it’s one of the Oilman’s favorites.
Also, because I’m hosting book club this week, I’m planning to make this pumpkin-honey-beer bread. My friend assures me my Kitchen Aid mixer will do most of the work!