Monday, March 12, 2012

Making Dinner Plans

Basic Planning
  • Plan for 5 days not 7. When I first started The Prep Box System I planned a whole week ‘s menu and found I had leftovers. I cook with organic produce, grass fed meats, wild caught fish and free range eggs so having too much food was very costly and wasteful. Planning for 5 days still gives me enough meals and allows for flexibility. If I find myself without a meal I go to my 911 Dinner Plans and serve “PICK UP STICKS”, an “EXPRESS DINNER” or “FREEZER FALL BACK” meal; see last post.
  • Seasonal Sides-My sides dishes are planned by the season. Fresh produce taste best and is less expensive when it is in season. We eat mostly raw fruits and vegetables or salads. I have nothing against hot sides but usually everyone is so hungry by dinner I find myself just pulling the lids off my prep boxes and everyone digs in or makes a salad to go with dinner. If you prefer hot vegetable sides just choose some vegetables from your prep boxes and steam or saute; season with salt, pepper or herbs. If desired toss with butter.
  • Cooking methods-I Change my cooking methods by the season. I roast more in the winter and fall and steam and grill more in the spring and summer. I saute in all seasons.
  • Create your plan around you activities. My easiest meals a made on my busiest days.
  • Saving plans. Plans can be made by hand or in a computer. I make my plans and store them in google documents. If I like the plan it becomes a part of my living cookbook software. This software allows me to input recipes, make menus, weekly plans and grocery list. I also put my meal plans in my google calender so I know what I am doing on what day. I name my plans by season and week. This weeks plan would be called Winter Week 11. Save plans that work!!! This is a very important time saver. Plans that work can be reused in the future. You will be over joyed when you do not have to think up a plan and you can just use an old one!!

Creating the Plan
This is the formula I use most weeks.

Day 1-Grill, crock pot meal or roast. I make this in the beginning of the week so I can use the leftovers (“planned overs”) all week.
  • I often make twice as much grilled or roasted meats than needed for the meal. I use the “planned over” roasted and grilled meats in soups, quesadillas, fritatas, omelets and sandwiches.
  • I have 2 crock pots so I can make two of the same meals on the same day and freeze one for a “freezer fall back” meal. Crock pot meals freeze great because they usually contain liquid. Prepping a double recipe is quicker than prepping the same recipe on 2 separate nights. Plus I only have to clean the dishes once!

Day 2-Soup, sandwiches and/or salads
Day 3-Stir fries, pasta or pizza
Day 4-Mexican; always a favorite in our home
Day 5-Upside down dinner (breakfast for dinner), seafood or vegetarian.

This Weeks Menu
Day 1-Roasted turkey with buttermilk mashed potatoes and maple glazed carrots
Day 2-Turkey Caesar Salad using the leftover turkey form day one
Day 3-Cheesy Bacon and Ham Flat-bread baked then topped with salad greens that have been tossed with ranch dressing and tomatoes.
Day 4 -Tacos with pineapple chunks and red pepper slices 0n the side
Day 5-Oatmeal Waffles topped with peanut butter and drizzled with maple syrup or fresh berries, slivered almonds and whipped cream.

Plan in Action and Planned Over Meals (new meals made from leftovers)
Day 1
Freeze Extra Turkey Slices for
  • lunch meat
  • make up TV dinners with turkey slices, mashed potatoes and carrots in small Pyrex containers

Freeze Turkey Chunks in 1 cup portions for
  • pot pies
  • fritatas
  • omelets
  • turkey salad (turkey, mayo, dried cherries and pecans)
  • pizza toppings
  • salad topping
  • any recipe calling for cooked “chicken”

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
  • I make the whole 5 pound bag and freeze the leftovers in Pyrex containers in various sizes. To prepare from frozen I thaw overnight and top with a pat of butter. I cover and bake the mashed potatoes in a 350 degree oven until heated throughout.

Maple Glazed Carrots
  • I do not freeze but if I have leftovers and chop them up with some chicken, turkey or pork and toss them with cheese and salsa then put the mixture on a tortilla and top with another tortilla and heat like a grilled cheese. I cut it into wedges and serve it as a snack, lunch or dinner.

Day 2-Caesar Salad; use leftover turkey from day one
Day 3-Bacon and Ham Flat-Bread is made with ham I previously diced and froze in a 1 cup portion. The bacon I pre-cooked and froze when I bought it. When I make the flat-bread I will make extras and freezer them to use as a base for our next pizza or flat bread dinner.
Day 4-Tacos; the taco meat will come from the freezer. I make 10 pounds of taco meat at one time. Taco meat works great for salads, quesadillas, nachos, baked potato toppings or can be made into quick crock pot chili. In my house I can never have too much taco meat! I also use it when I need a quick appetizer for a party. I layer it on a platter in this order, refried beans, salsa, sour cream, taco meat, shredded lettuce, tomatoes and sliced olives. I serve tortilla chips and red pepper scoops alongside.
Day 5-Oatmeal waffles; I always at least double this recipe. “Planned over” waffles are place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and frozen (IQF, individually quick frozen). Once they are frozen solid and I put them in a freezer bag and then in a Pyrex container. Next time I need a quick meal we pull them from the freezer and either put them in the toaster or bake them in the oven until hot.
“Planned over” berries from day 5 will be part of a smoothie or a yogurt parfait sometime during the week. If we do not eat them I freeze them in one cup portions for future smoothies, to use in muffin batters or dessert sauces.

Try any ideas that you like and skip one the ones you don’t! My goal is to make it a little easier to share a meal with your family no matter how crazy your life might be. Great meals and memories start at the the dinner table!!!

Remember to always take it one prep at a time!
Chef Jackie

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