October 13, 2010

Menu Planning

Monday through Wednesday, I spend a fair bit of time (what little I have spare, since we get back so late on Tues and Wed) planning out cooking for Thursday through the next Monday.  I like the result, but it can be a chore.

It's pretty necessary, really.  We do a lot of our shopping in Des Moines, as the local grocery stores in the small town we live in can't be relied on to have much in the way of specialty items, and sometimes are iffy even on some basics.  Plus, we have so little downtime on weeknights, and usually have so many other things that have to be done on weekends, that we want to use our time as efficiently as possible.  Then there's the fact that usually at least one of my menu choices involves something that has to be marinated or otherwise prepared a night in advance.

So, planning is important.  But it can also be tedious.

Here we see a not-atypical scene: I was looking through several cookbooks, old cooking magazines and my newest issue of Cook's Illustrated for some ideas, and had to get up to look elsewhere for another recipe I've been considering.  I came back to find Juno less than pleased with me getting up all the time, not to mention with me messing with books when I could be petting her.  When I sat back down she kept turned away from me - atypical behavior for her, and when I tried to pet her, she jumped off the couch.  Earlier she had shown her displeasure by chewing on the corner of a legal pad while I was writing on it. 

From Monday through today, I've consulted at least nine different cookbooks - some in depth - and probably a half-dozen cooking magazines, plus several of the cooking blogs I follow and the Cook's Illustrated website.   Plus I've checked weather forecasts, which can impact my planning.  It looks to be warm and sunny for the weekend, which means it'll probably be too hot for big pots of soup or chili, but grilling is an option.

This week's menu is finally coming together.  I've tried to base my selections as much as possible around items we already have in stock, to cut down shopping time and cost.  We've been trying to keep a good supply of basic items on stock, and it's paying off now.  I've got red curry paste, fresh basil, pineapple, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, coconut milk, palm sugar, fish sauce, lamb stew meat, tofu and a lot of the other things I'll need.  So far, it looks like we'll need to check out Graziano Bros. market for some excellent, fresh mozzarella and maybe some of their sausage, and pick up a few other things at one of the big supermarkets in Des Moines.  Everything else we can probably pick up here in town.  I have a quick shrimp curry (an original recipe) planned for Thursday, and I'm going to make some pizza dough on Thursday evening, which will make for a quick dinner on Friday.  Tentatively, I'm planning Chinese dishes for Saturday lunch, Indian for Saturday evening, and grilled lamb kabobs for Sunday's dinner.

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