After watching the stock market slide into oblivion, it seems more important than ever to plan our meals carefully. I spent a couple hours at it this weekend, taking careful inventory of the pantry and freezer and building a shopping list accordingly. And here we go:
Sunday: Nuyorican Beans and Rice
If you're not already familiar with Cheap Healthy Good, bookmark it. It's a terrific resource. I adapted this rice and beans recipe by choosing dried beans over canned, which end up being about half the price and don't really require much more effort, especially if you plan ahead. I skipped all the prepared seasonings and just spent a little time chopping onion, garlic, and fresh oregano and cilantro. I also chose brown rice for the extra nutritional punch. We'll be eating this tonight with a little chopped salad of lettuce, tomatoes, and avocado with a dash of lime juice--a fancy version of the pile of veg that accompanies your combo plate when you go out for Mexican.
Monday: Thai-inspired tofu and vegetable green curry. I use the recipe from Martin Yan's Quick and Easy cookbook, which I recently checked out from the library for the second time (it might be time to invest in it permanently). It's a great, simple Pan-Asian collection and I have fond memories of watching Yan on PBS as a kid. The curry is full of green beans, Asian eggplant, and tomatoes, and it's even better the next day for lunch. We'll have it with jasmine rice and a tangy salad of cucumber, mint, and bean sprouts.
Tuesday: It's my workday at Daisy's preschool, so I'll put together a crockpot full of chicken/sour cream enchilada casserole early in the day. We'll have a little of the leftover rice and beans on the side (most of the leftovers will be frozen for later in the month), and some kind of salad.
I really can't live without salad for dinner, by the way. My "house salad" is mixed greens, red onion, tomatoes and a quick balsamic vinaigrette with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds, but I adapt it to whatever we're eating that night, adding and subtracting ingredients and changing up the dressing to suit the meal. I almost always make my own dressings. I found this glorious little carafe with its own mixer at a rummage sale for fifty cents, and while it doesn't make the process easier (because it already was so easy!), it delights the kids, who love to do the mixing part and then pour their own. Salad greens are one area in which I'm very sucked into the packaged products, because the novelty of being able to buy one bag of seven different types of lettuce for three dollars has yet to wear off. As much as we eat salad, we still don't eat enough for me to get away with buying several different types of lettuce and mixing it myself. Hopefully as the kids learn to appreciate salad more, this won't be the case--plus, I'm planning to grow my own next year.
Wednesday brings the first Build Your Own Baked Potato night of the season--hurray for cooler weather! I'll be baking up a batch of russets and setting out an array of toppings--fresh bacon bits, chopped scallions, grated cheese, sour cream, and steamed broccoli.
On Thursday I'm going to make a big pot of 15-bean stew with ham, and I'm planning a side of brussels sprouts, a food I only learned to enjoy as an adult. I feel sorry for my younger self, that it took almost thirty years for me to discover how delicious a brussels sprout can be! Even sorrier that Molly and Daisy still haven't discovered it, but I feel like they'll come around eventually. I'll probably just halve the sprouts and pan-sear them with a sprinkling of grated parmesan to add a little crusty goodness. At least half, possibly two-thirds of the stew will be packaged and frozen for future meals, making a $1.50 bag of soup beans and a $4 ham steak go a wonderfully long way.