Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009


What’s for Dinner – Saying Goodbye to Spring Break

You may not have noticed it, but last week came and went without a “What’s for Dinner” post.  With everyone on vacation, I decided that mom should take a vacation as well.  We ate out.  There was junk food.  Oh, boy did they talk me into buying junk food!  Still, it was nice.  Wonderful even.  Reader, I barely did dishes.

Seeing as everyone is soon to head back to their normal routine (and how much Groceries, my oldest, missed the menu on the board), I needed a menu plan for this week.  Much like the inevitable end to one’s vacation, I’m happy to say, that vegetables are back!  It is possible that I am the only one who is celebrating this fact.

Thankfully, they’ll get over it.


I figure the end of vacation means we need to start things off with a bang.  Tonight’s dinner is Dr. Bruce’s Awesome Grilled Salmon (video and recipe) and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Sweet Poppy Seed Dressing (video and recipe) from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.”  I’ll also be serving a very simply cooked quinoa along with it.  Hmm…did I mention that I’m cedar planking the salmon and veggies?

Monday is the end of our break, so we’ll be celebrating (or bracing ourselves) with pizza at Ian’s on State.

YMCA Tuesday needs a quick and easy meal.  Cynthia Lair’s Huevos Rancheros (video and recipe) from “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents” plus lettuce, cheese, avocado,and black beans.

Wednesdays typically have a bit more time for dinner prep (at least until soccer starts) so I’ll be making a very simple grilled chicken with Millet Tabbouleh.

Another quick and easy meal for Thursday with BLTs and my Kitchen Sink Salad.

Friday’s meatless to help make up for the wild caught salmon on Sunday with Nava Atlas’ Middle Eastern Pita Bread Salad and White Bean Hummus from “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook.”

We’ll round out the week with frozen pizza and more salad so that I can devote extra time to the quilt I’m making for a contest because if you know me at all, you know I’m going to need it!

I think I hit this one out of the park.  So, dear reader, what’s for dinner?

What’s for Dinner – Daddy did it

Today’s menu is a bit late because I began the day with a bloody mary and breakfast out sans children and husband (but with my sister and parents) and then there was the requisite grocery shopping at the crazy busy grocery store (before the church people get out because they tend to be pushy).  Since then there’s been the usual unloading and putting away.




I don’t think life really ever slows down around here, although the smell of bacon cooking upstairs (and the matching BLT to go with it – darn you Hellman’s commercials!) helps just the slightest bit.  On the other hand?  I really had planned on sewing the day away yesterday and today in honor of World Wide Quilting Day.  So.  You know.

IMG_1652As part of my grand plan to sew like a mad woman (more on the pfaffness/pfaffstration later), I asked the husband if he would please make the meal plan for the coming week:

“Well, it won’t be as fancy as when you make it.”

“I don’t care.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Tonight, in honor of Cu Chulainn Day (St. Patrick’s Day to the rest of the world), we’re going to have reuben sandwiches and curly fries with a side of watermelon because I hate cooked cabbage.  Warm sauerkraut?  Yes.  Cooked cabbage?  Yech!

Frozen Dinner Monday is closely related to Frozen Dinner Friday.

Blueberry Muffin Pancakes from Minimalist Baker are a repeat.  Yes, dear reader, they really were that good.  We’ll round ours out with some breakfast sausage and scrambled eggs.

Wednesday, being the Vernal Equinox, means the husband will be home with us all day because it’s a holiday.  Seeing as we don’t celebrate Easter (because we’re not Christians, obviously), we’re going to be doing our own thing.  Macaroni and Cheese comes from Nava Atlas’ “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook” which will be topped by the decidedly omnivorous pulled pork just like that one the husband loves so much at Noodles.  Having retained editorial control over the meal plan, I’ve also added in a salad so that at least something plant like would be eaten this week.  If everything goes according to plan there will probably be a fire outside (provided the yard isn’t too squishy and it isn’t raining).

Frozen pizza is fairly self-explanatory plus more salad.

Tempeh tacos is closely related to last week’s nachos.  What can I say?  They’re tasty.

Saturday we’ll be busy, busy, busy so dinner’s out.  Location?  TBD.

What about you, dear reader?  What’s on your plate?


What’s for Dinner – More than a few rewrites

When writing out this week’s menu I changed my mind more than a few times.  I’d say more than half of the days have something crossed out and a new idea written down instead.  Part of this is because I had some familial interference – ok, it’s mostly because of that.  I also resisted the urge to rewrite the menu completely which is something I would never, ever do </dripping sarcasm>.

I’m going through a bit of a lull in the creative side of my world.  The only pictures in my iPhoto are of the chalkboard and the only reason there are so many in there is that my family needs to eat every week and the chalkboard has become a central piece to this.  Upon waking this morning, Groceries chastised me for not having written the new menu on the board yet making it hard to avoid this one little act of creativity.  Having been me for as long as I have, I know that the rest will come and periods of inattention will give way to far greater attention and focus.  Inspiration is a fickle friend, my dear reader.


Since the husband will be home with us for dinner, we’re having Bacon Mac & Cheese from Savory Sweet Life and a massaged kale salad from Nava Atlas’ “Wild About Greens.”

Blueberry Muffin Pancakes from Minimalist Baker will make their appearance on Monday along with some breakfast sausage and scrambled eggs.  The people around here are a bit over the moon about this one.

Ricotta Pasta with Peas comes from “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook” by Nava Atlas.  We’ll be having ours with dinner rolls (homemade, of course) and steamed broccoli.  Part of me feels like there should be a salad here, which I have not specifically planned, but I may not be able to resist adding when Tuesday rolls around.

Black bean tostados, mexican brown rice (video), and lime cabbage slaw all come from “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents” by Cynthia Lair.

Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a big favorite of my kids.  I’m using Pacific’s Creamy Tomato Soup (Tetra-Pak), but unlike previous appearances on our menu, the bread will not be homemade because I need a break from the bread baking.  You wouldn’t believe the teary eyes I’ve gotten about this.  Well, maybe not so much teary as contrite and apologetic.  They didn’t mean to wear me out with the bread baking.  They are so sorry if they did.  They just like it so much you see.  To which I explain that it’s not so much the bread baking as it is everything else relegated to my purview.  You want bread, dear family members?  DO THE DISHES FOR ONCE!


Tempeh nachos are my totally made up thing.  Tempeh’s just going to be replacing the ground beef in my usual recipe, but the rest remains the same (tomato sauce and my very own mix of herbs and spices).  We’ll have these with some local blue corn chips, lettuce, salsa, olives, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and the mango salsa (Cookus Interruptus video here) from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.”

Thai steak salad (Cookus Interruptus video here) will be served over soba noodles (Cookus Interruptus video here) with peanut sauce (Cookus Interruptus video here) from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.” (Yes, this is a reshuffle from previous weeks.  The poor dish, it’s a victim of life’s circumstances.)

What about you, dear reader?  What’s on your plate?

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What’s for Dinner – Oh &%(*!

At some point in your dinner journey, there will be an afternoon when you realize that you have made a slight error (Oh shit!) and might possibly have to face the hungry hordes without anything in hand to feed them.  This is particularly tricky when you have given up on canned beans for no other reason than it feels right.  Instead of panicking, let “quick soak beans” be your mantra followed by deep breathing and a good deal of frantic movement.  When it’s all said and done remember, you’re only human and that it could be worse.  A LOT worse!

There are a few repeats on this week’s menu from last week.  I consider it my testament to meal planning in the real world and a bonus for the following week because I already have a few of the meals filled in.  I’ve also pulled in several recipes from my “Savory” Pinterest board because I felt like we were falling into a new rut and I’m all about keeping things interesting.


Tonight’s dinner will be savory bean burgers and skillet potatoes from “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook.”  The dough for homemade pita bread is rising as we speak.  The salad is leftover from last week and has lettuce, cabbage, fennel, cucumber, green pepper, green onion, carrot, radish and broccoli florets.  So yummy!

Frozen Dinner Monday is closely related to Frozen Dinner Friday.

Sloppy Chicks is from Kristy at Keepin’ it Kind.  We’re having ours on top of homemade buns (maybe, um, probably, or then again maybe not) with a side of baked sweet potato fries and a green salad.

Enchiladas are from Stephanie at Trans-Planted.  I’ll be making mine with tempeh and cheese, the later making it vegetarian, not vegan.  For color, there will be a jicama salad.

Lentil Tacos are from Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes.  I usually have an aversion to serving two tortilla based meals back-to-back, but owing to a slight re-shuffling of our plans for the coming weekend and the meals I most wanted to have when the husband would join us, I have instead decided to break my own rule and just go with it.  You won’t hear me complaining.  As with the enchiladas, these will be vegetarian, not vegan so that sour cream and cheddar cheese can make an appearance.

Rice Bowls are back by popular demand.  The folks here will be able to choose from tasty toppings like bulgogi, marinated sprouted tofu, red pepper, green pepper, sesame collards, bean sprouts, shitake mushrooms, cilantro, and lime.  Everyone has their very own pair of chopsticks (including the training kind for the chopstick-ly challenged and for the younger kids).  You wouldn’t believe the joyous chorus that greeted me when the kids found this one out!

Thai steak salad (Cookus Interruptus video here) will be served over soba noodles (Cookus Interruptus video here) with peanut sauce (Cookus Interruptus video here) and mango salsa (Cookus Interruptus video here) on the side courtesy of Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.”

What about you, dear reader? What’s on your plate?



What’s for Dinner – You’re not doing that vegetarian thing again, are you?

The other week, while looking over my shoulder, the husband asked me rather pointedly (and maybe a little worried), “We’re not going vegetarian again, are we?” I pointed out to him all of the places where there was some sort of animal product on the menu – some lunch meat here, sausage with the waffles there, and ground beef in the chili.

On the other hand, I pointed out the balancing act I’m faced with. There’s a certain amount of money each week for groceries. The more I spend on meat ($4.89/lb for feedlot ground beef; $9 for conventional chicken breasts, $11 for a conventional roasting chicken), the less money I have available for vegetables. The less I spend on meat, the fuller the fridge. And seriously? Can I get a fridge just for the vegetables? I’m running out of room over here.

Did I mention that I think we need to eat more vegetables?

Well…actually it’s more like I think I need to eat more vegetables and since they eat what I eat, you get the picture. I’ve spent far too many years with a vegetable deficit because our little food budget just didn’t have a whole lot room for much else. If I have to eat another weekly rotation of macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, chili cheap-eat-a-thon, I think I’m going to lose it.

We can afford to eat better than we used to, so I’m choosing to ride that train until the very end of the line


Today’s dinner is a carry over from last week due to a little shuffling around of the menu. Black eyed peas with arame, sweet squash muffins, and braised greens are all from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.”

YMCA Monday needs a quick and easy sort of thing so that our evening runs smoothly which leads to an old favorite of mine – apple, miso, and nut butter sandwiches from “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.” I’ve seldom followed the recipe as it’s written often subbing a different kind of jelly for the apple butter and using peanut butter instead of almond butter. I’ve almost exclusively used South River Miso’s chickpea miso in the past (and you should definitely check out this video on South River Miso), but I’ll be using a standard yellow soybean miso this time around. I’m also using a spiced apple butter and a natural peanut butter on top of homemade bread. A small handful of chips (a treat around here) and some veggie strips will round out this spin on the classic PB&J.

Pineapple rice salad and cream of baby carrot soup are a blast from the past. Way back when I had one child, Nava Atlas’ “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook” was my go-to cookbook and her pineapple rice salad was a huge favorite. The recipe calls for baked tofu, but I’ll be making my own with sprouted tofu and a suggestion from Snackish that I read somewhere online the other day. As an extra bonus I’ll be using the juice from the canned pineapple to make it. How cool is that?

Szechwan tempeh is from “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents” (Cookus Interruptus video over here). I’ll be serving it with simple quinoa, braised collards, and a side salad to up the veggie quotient. Have I ever mentioned just how much I love tempeh?

Waffles? But of course! Smitten Kitchen’s buttermilk waffle recipe (minus the whole egg white whisking/folding thing), scrambled eggs, and sausage from Applegate Farms. Last time we had waffles I skipped the scrambled eggs. This time around I may very well do the same thing.

Thai steak salad will be served over soba noodles with some peanut sauce on the side courtesy of Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.”

Savory bean burgers are from “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook” as are the skillet potatoes. This time I have resolved to think ahead and actually make the homemade pita bread (or naan). Well, maybe. The salad will be our usual lettuce, cabbage, fennel, cucumber, green pepper, green onion, carrot thing with a few radishes and broccoli florets just to mix things up a little.

What about you, dear reader? What’s on your plate?


What’s for Dinner – Oh my!

It’s been a long day weekend.  No, seriously.

So, in the interests of getting Menu Sunday‘s post up on Sunday, I’m going to put this one out there without commentary.  I’ll be back next week with smart ass witty insightful things to say.  In the meantime, here’s what we’re having:


Sunday’s meal is the first of two birthday parties for a certain someone.  The birthday person chose chili and red velvet cupcakes.  I served the chili over brown rice and offered up green peppers, olives, onions, cheese, and sour cream to put on top.  The red velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting were homemade, but I wouldn’t recommend using the recipe that I chose.  I really wish I knew where my red velvet cupcake recipe disappeared to.

Hot dogs and macaroni and cheese is a carry over from last week.  I’ll either add in some salad left over from last week or some frozen veg from the freezer.  It’s the perfect YMCA Monday meal.

I’m supposed to be going to the YMCA on Tuesday night as well which makes me wonder if I should come up with a few more quick prep friendly meals.  I think southwestern rice and black bean salad from Nava Atlas’ “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook” should fit nicely.  I’ll probably cook the rice and chop the vegetables (except the avocados) in advance.  I’m going to serve ours with quesadillas and french cut green beans.

Baked chicken tenders, french fries, and buttered peas make for a pleasing mid week meal.  Sadly, I have no recipe to share with you for this one because I’m going to wing it.  I bought boneless, skinless chicken breast that I plan on cutting up and then breading with some GF breadcrumbs I have on hand plus…something else.  I’m going to bake them at 350-ish for 20-ish minutes (or until done).

Thursday the husband will be home for dinner so we’re having orange glazed tofu and broccoli with vegetable lo mein from Nava Atlas’ “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook.”  I have served the lo mein before (a hit), but the orange glazed tofu will be a bit of a stretch for certain members of my family.  They’ll get over it.

Black eyed peas with arame, sweet squash muffins, and braised greens are all from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family: Recipes for Babies, Young Children, and Their Parents.”  The folks in my library system will be happy to know that I bought my own copy of the book a couple of days ago and will be returning the library’s copy real soon.  I figure if you use a cookbook at least once a week (or so) for seven (eight?) weeks, it’s probably an indication that you should buy it.  Sea veggies?  What’s not to love?

Saturday has two meals planned.  The first is another birthday party special.  We’re going to make homemade pizza using Ken Forkish’s “Flour Water Salt Yeast.”  Yes, we will be having multiple children not related to me at our house.  Yes, we are going to be doing some kind of art project.  Yes, I am crazy.  I suspect I’ll probably  need to be checked in somewhere after the party is over so I’m taking it easy with smoothies and popcorn for dinner.  The usual yogurt, banana, spinach, apple, and berry sort of thing.

What about you, dear reader?  What’s on your plate?


What’s for Dinner – Wake Me Up When It’s Spring

I’m about sick and tired of the whole familial sick and tired thing.  This is not unusual for me this time of year and while I’d like to say that I’m used to it by now (what with the kids and all), I resent it getting in there and messing up my plans and menus.  Yes, my kids are sick less often than most.  No, that still doesn’t make me feel better.

Could someone wake me up when it’s spring?



Sunday being Chinese New Year, we’re going to celebrate with the New Year Dumplings recipe I found in “Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats” by Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz.  Well, we were going to, but then I waited until yesterday to buy the appropriate wrappers and…yeah, we’re having frozen ones instead.  We’re also going to have Rice Bowls (a carry over from last week).

Ramen is fairly self-explanatory.  Seeing as it’s YMCA Monday, keeping preparation time to a minimum is key.  I’ll be adding a frozen stir-fry veggie blend to ours even though my kids consider that sacrilege.

Minestrone Soup is my favorite recipe out of Jessica Prentice’s “Full Moon Feast.”  I’ll be serving ours with homemade bread.

I’m a sucker for waffles, as is everyone else in my family.  This week we’ll be having Smitten Kitchen’s buttermilk waffle recipe (minus the whole egg white whisking/folding thing).  It’s one of a few in our waffle repertoire.  The eggs will be scrambled and the sausage is from Applegate Farms.

I love tempeh, but haven’t had it in a very loooooong time.  We’ll be having the Tempeh Tacos in Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family.”

Hot Dogs and Mac is pretty standard fare.  I’m going to be making that for the kids along with some steamed veggies.  I have no idea what the husband and I will be eating.  Seeing as it’s supposed to be our Valentine’s Day thing, I’m contemplating Beer Mac and Cheese, but we may very well order in.

Baked Chickpea Burgers are from an old favorite of mine, “The Vegetarian Family Cookbook” by Nava Atlas.  We’ll be serving ours in homemade pita bread (or maybe with naan) topped with micro greens and avocados.  To complete the meal I’ll also be serving a green salad (lettuce, fennel, red cabbage, green onions, cucumber, and green pepper).  Yum!

So ends another week’s menu.  What about you, dear reader?  What’s on your plate?


What’s for Dinner – Let’s Try That Again

Last week sorta, kinda fell apart as far as dinner was concerned.  Then again, this sort of thing tends to happen when the primary cook (me) is ill.  I have tried to let the kids know that I would prefer they keep whatever illnesses they may find along life’s path to themselves, but so far I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to convince them.  Not to worry, it’s only an assertive little upper respiratory thing – you know, the sort of illness that makes the word hibernation all the more appealing.

I substituted a few meals last week with things like popcorn and peanut butter sandwiches.  There were more than a few complaints about the new dinner plans.  My oldest, Groceries, was the most vociferous objector regarding any deviations from the published menu.  It is possible that I have created a monster.

IMG_1494Red Bean and Quinoa Chili comes to us via last week’s menu. You can find it in Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family” or over yonder.  I’ll be adding in some chopped veggies for toppings and err on the side of carbohydrate overload by making the Sun Bread I didn’t make yesterday for Imbolc dinner.

Spaghetti is another immigrant from last week’s menu.  Newman’s Own Sockarooni with a bit of a home fashioned kick will help rescue this from the more mundane offerings out there.  It’s also a great I’ve-got-to-get-all-three-kids-to-the-YMCA-all-by-myself dinner.

Yakisoba (with fried tofu) is from Cynthia Lair’s “Feeding the Whole Family.”  For the visually inclined sorts, you can also find it on Cookus Interruptus with video!  I already had the soba noodles on hand in addition to several of the other ingredients which is largely why I picked the recipe.

White Bolognese is a recipe I found in Tamar Adler’s “An Everlasting Meal.”  We’ll be serving ours over polenta and garlic kale.

Rice Bowls are a repeat from a couple of weeks ago.  We’ll be having bulgogi, sesame greens, red pepper strips, bean sprouts, little white mushrooms, cilantro, and some lime juice all over a bowl of jasmine rice.  I suspect the family would prefer that I served this one every week…or maybe every meal.

Pizza is now on weekly repeat.  My new favorite crust recipe is from Ken Forkish’s “Flour Water Salt Yeast.”  We’ve made quite a bit of progress from that first week’s experiment.

Tomato soup and grilled cheese is fairly self-explanatory.  The soup is Pacific’s Creamy Tomato Soup (Tetra-Pak) and the bread will be homemade.

You’ll notice a slight change in order listed in the text versus the image, but that’s because I think pizza sounds like a Friday sort of food and this Friday the husband will be home to eat it with us (plus a few extra guests).  Yes, yes, I could have changed the board and the image, but I didn’t.  You’re not surprised by this, are you?  Yeah, me neither.

What about you, dear reader?  What’s on your plate?


My Food Manifesto

I’m done.

I’ve given up on the “food is the fountain of youth” way of thinking.  I’m not interested in clean-vegan-vegetarian-traditional-foods-low-fat-low-carb-paleo-healthy-if-you-ate-the-right-things-you-would-never-be-sick eating.


I’m going to cook my vegetables.  I will not buy into the raw is better, salads are preferable, meanwhile the produce is languishing in the crisper drawer freak out.  I’ll blanch my greens, roast my roots, and otherwise apply heat in such a way that renders a tasty end product.  I’m putting butter, salt, and pepper on mine because I like it that way.  Don’t talk to me about bioavailable, fat-soluable anything.  It’s my kitchen, not a lab.

I am not going to hide vegetables in baked goods, sprinkle flax seeds (or chia seeds or wheat germ or whatever sprinkle-able ingredient is currently all the rage) on everything, or otherwise try to pack “healthy” supplements into everything I make.  This sort of thinking is how we end up eating sawdust for its high fiber content.

I want to eat kale because I like kale (which I do), not because it’s the new superfood meant to turn you into that waif of an ideal that magically means you’ll never, ever, for one second have to worry about cancer, heart attack, or death.  I want to have my kale with olive oil or bacon or butter or sesame oil or copious amounts of garlic because I enjoy it.  Period.

I’m going to eat jasmine rice with nary a thought about where it falls on the glycemic index.  I’ve had enough flavorless bowls of rice to last me a lifetime, thank-you-very-much.  If I eat brown rice, it’s because the dish calls for it or the whim hits me and I’m not going to engage in the sort of high stakes, guilt-piling math that goes along with our culture’s food as medicine rubric.

I will not eat whole wheat pasta because every single box I buy smells like the wheat has gone rancid and that’s neither tasty nor healthy.

I will eat dessert on occasion because good dessert makes me smile.  I am not going to feel guilty, mentally flagellate myself, or otherwise engage in any of the usual penance driven activities.  I’ll mostly skip the cheap stuff except the soft serve cones with my family in the summer because the kids get a kick out of that and it’s as much a part of summer as warm weather and sweet corn.

I am not going to obsess over every little thing I eat and record it all carefully in notebooks or spreadsheets or online tracking programs.  Dinner time is not supposed to require a secretary.

Why?  Because we’ve been obsessing over this sort of thing for DECADES and it hasn’t exactly been a success.  Meanwhile, other cultures sit down, share a meal together, and somehow manage to stave off the dietary apocalypse.

Yes, dear food bloggers, it is January and I know those “clean” eating plans and ideas look so bright and shiny in the limited light of a winter’s day, but seriously?  How about we all (collectively) stop buying into the foolishness.  Life’s too darn short to spend it obsessing over food.  You have to eat every day of your life – it’s a biological necessity – why not enjoy it along the way?


What’s for Dinner – Old Standbys

…[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?

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?