Turn a Menu from Blah to Ahh!
My buddy, Brandy Jones gave me the idea for this post. Menus are personal. No two people will want the same thing all the time. It's all too easy to get caught in a blah dinner plan that no one wants to eat. What's the secret to whipping up an easy menu even picky eaters will like?
In my house, I have to guard against leftovers. I use them--and I like them, but it's a hard sell for Greg. If you see me list something in a leftover, rest assured, it will not be presented in the same form as it was the first time.
For example if I make roast chicken one night, when it reappears it could be in the form of a chicken sandwich, atop a salad, or inside a casserole. Greg will eat what I put in front of him, but he'll complain less if it's not a repeat of a previous dinner.
I consider a lot of variables when I make up a menu. It's not just what's on sale, but what we haven't had in a while too. The weather plays a big role too. I'm not going to serve spring rolls when it's 40 degrees, no more than I'd server chili when it's in the 90s.
Believe it or not, even health is a key to what I put on the menu. If Greg is under the weather, I make more soups and comfort foods. If I'm sick, it's every man for himself. 😮
I have go-to meals that take under 30 minutes to prepare should I be caught unprepared. I also have go-to meals that I know Greg would never refuse if for some reason he balks at what I have planned. In this house, if I switch out a menu item for steak and potatoes, he'll think I've gone senile and had forgotten about the vegetable stir fry. I won't hear one word of complaint that I didn't follow the menu.
I try very hard not to include the same protein more than twice in one week. Steak might appear once for dinner, but leftovers are saved for breakfast the next day.
If I have too many leftovers from a chicken or roast, which happens often with just the two of us, I often freeze the leftovers and use them again in some future disguise.
I guess the trick is to keep 'em guessing.
Here are my tips for creative menus:
• Check the outside temperature.
• Check to see if anyone is sick...or about to get sick.
• Mix up your proteins. Never serve a meat, chicken, or fish 3 or more times in a row--unless you're like me and don't care if you eat the same thing.
• Do themes. Do Mexican, Chinese, casserole, soup, or sandwich day.
• Have a backup plan. Life happens. If you can't make what you had planned, make what's easy and fast.
• Make the freezer your friend. Every so often Greg and I do a weekend of make-ahead freezer meals. I make meat loaves, casseroles, enchiladas, and soups in batches and freeze them. If I know I'm going to be busy that week, I am pulling out the freezer meals.
Menus can get tedious. Even I get in a rut. If I start to notice I'm making the same thing too often, I pull out my recipe folder and see what I hadn't made in a while.
Don't begrudge favorites though. Garlic-buttered pasta with shrimp is one of my favorites. If you see it on my menu, know that I'm making it especially for myself. If it's steak, that's Greg's favorite.
Do you have a favorite meal that's fast and popular at your house?