Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

What’s for Dinner – Old Standbys

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…[T]here is great dignity in allowing oneself to keep clear about what is good, and it is what I think of when I hear the term “good taste.”  Whether things were ever simpler than they are now, or better if they were, we can’t know.  We do know that people have always found ways to eat and live well, whether on boiling water or bread or beans, and that some of our best eating hasn’t been our most foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar.  And knowing that is probably the best way to cook, and certainly the best way to live.

– Tamar Adler

Four weeks have passed since I sought another way to facilitate meal planning.  Rather than subscribing to a third-party service or involving my children to a greater extent (both of which are among the more popular menu planning suggestions for families), I have instead tried to change the means of presentation.  I have not radically altered the way we eat (or what we eat) – all I have done is make my plans for dinner the focal point of our kitchen.  I have taken the under-utilized chalkboard the husband made me way back when, the one that takes up a third of the largest wall in our kitchen/dining room, and turned that into our menu board.  It still amazes me, five weeks later, how such a very little (and arguably simple) thing made such a big difference.

This is not to say that my children have miraculously decided that they love all of the things they used to hate or that the husband never asks me what’s for dinner.  Instead, the simple act of giving my family information a full week in advance has helped them to settle into the idea of what we’re having.  New dishes seem a great deal less foreign when they’re faced with the possibility for days at a time and can revisit what’s coming up every morning over breakfast.  We spend more time talking about what’s for dinner than we did before and it is not unusual for the youngest of my children to ask the oldest to please read through the list again.

But more importantly, I can say most unequivocally that we have eaten well these last four weeks.  Satisfying.  Filling.  Enjoyable.  Sometimes I think that food is the sort of bridge necessary for crossing the chasm of life.  If one can eat well, however they may define that, then some of the bumpier roads of our life seem less so and isn’t that what hearth and home are all about?

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With all three children coming down with the same upper respiratory illness, chicken soup seemed to be wise.  We’re going to have the Lemongrass, Ginger, and Thyme Chicken Soup from The Weiser Kitchen (pinned here).  And the bread?  These, of course.

Spaghetti and Salad is an old favorite.  Noodles, store-bought sauce, ground beef for the simplest (and cheapest) Monday evening meal.  The salad will be our favorite improvisational toss.

Red Bean and Quinoa Chili is from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family,” but you can find it over yonder.  I’ll be adding in some chopped veggies for toppings, but will also probably add in a salad to make the meal complete.

Hot dogs and mac is more about my kids than anything else, although its quick and easy nature is what attracted me to it most.  The husband and the kids are on their own Wednesday night…which is probably all I need to say about that.

Pizza will be homemade (pictures and crust recipe listed here).

Sloppy Janes is my attempt at renaming a classic.  What can I say?  With all due respect to Joe, it sounds so much more interesting my way.  I buy a pre-made sauce because the kids don’t like the one I make from scratch (sadly).  I’ll make the buns (of course) and the kids are beyond excited about the chips.  I’ve got a frozen mixed veggie to top it all off in one of those microwave steamer bags.  I’m not sure if there is a more classic American dinner.

Saturday we’ll be celebrating Imbolc (I’ve seen it spelled both ways – and spelled it both ways myself today.  I’m just too lazy busy to retake the picture.) which means we need an appropriate holiday dinner.  Guinness beef stew seemed appropriate.  Sun Bread won out over the new favorite two to one much to my oldest’s dismay.  I’m still pondering whether I’ll add anything else to the mix.  The rest of our plans can be found over here.  We may not get to them all this year.

Which brings us to the end of week five’s menu.  What about you, dear reader?  What’s on your plate?

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4 thoughts on “What’s for Dinner – Old Standbys

  1. I’ve got a dry-erase board on the fridge that serves much the same purpose. It stops the age old whining question “What’s for dinner?” I love looking ahead at the week and planning meals based on what’s going on. It’s also a good reminder to take things out of the freezer- something I’m not always good at remembering.
    Your chalk board is much more colorful.

    • Oh, that’s so very true! I used to subscribe to this traditional foods menu mailer that included a weekly schedule of the different preparation steps. It was incredibly detailed and well written, but more often than not I missed necessary steps which meant we either couldn’t eat the meal when it was scheduled or we were eating really late at night. Somehow it being up on the board in the kitchen where I see it multiple times a day helps me keep those essential pre-prep steps in mind. I’m terrible about taking things out of the freezer which is why I finally bought a microwave – it saves me from myself! :0)

      Thanks – it is colorful, isn’t it? I was going to just use white chalk, but why write things simply when you can make them pretty?

  2. The Guinness Beef Stew sounds great 🙂