Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Menu Planning

The question I get asked the most is "how do you do it all?"  In the interest of full disclosure, I do not work full time out of the house.  However, I do work very part-time running a non-profit, run a very small supplemental consultation business, and have 3 minis that keep me busy with swimming, baseball, yoga, soccer, strength training, and therapy appointments.  And, I spend some serious time researching, cooking, and writing for this blog.  So, yes, the McGhee household is very busy and Monday-Thursday we come home from activities after 6 pm.  And that makes dinner tough.  However, I am very committed to feeding my family a healthy, balanced dinner every night.  In order to do this, I can't wait until 5 pm to think about dinner.

The theme of the day is planning ahead.  This is an  organizing blog that I started following a while back that has fabulous ideas on how to menu/meal plan.  I will say, while I love reading Jen's suggestions, I have never actually done any of Jen's suggestions.  I recently saw this on pinterest and think it could be a great tool.  You store your tried and trusted recipes in the pockets and each week, select seven recipes to make that week.

This is a simpler concept, mainly to be used to record what your menu plans are for the week.

I use a very simple method of menu planning.  I have a day planner that I use to keep track of all of our schedules.  I have a running list of recipes I want to try.  There is no organization to my list, if I see a recipe, I write it down.  Once a week, I go through my list and write down a menu item on the calendar for each day.

Sounds easy, right?  Except every day, I am gone from 3-6pm, so making those dinners for 3 hungry minis gets tricky.  I try to always have a soup or stew made each week because that is an easy dinner.  I make a huge batch and we can usually get 2 nights out of it.  One night I will pair it with grilled cheese and fruit salad, another night I will pair it with a spinach salad.  I also love breakfast for an easy dinner night.  And on a real rough night, I resort to PB&J, fruit salad, and a spinach smoothie.

With all that being said, the recipes I am sharing with you today are NOT for nights when you come home at 6pm and need to make dinner.  But on those Sundays, when you are home catching up on laundry, paying bills, and shooing the minis out of the room so you can watch your DVRed shows.....these are the recipes to try.  Make two of the chickens, you can use the leftovers all week long for dinner.  Make double of the vegetables, you can pack them in lunches all week long.  If you live with someone that doesn't eat leftovers, tell them they are making life much more difficult than it needs to be.  

Roasted chicken (For the first night, you can follow this recipe and for a later night make the vegetable dish below).

  • 1 3-5lb. roasting chicken
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup or so of grapeseed (I use roasted garlic grapeseed oil)
  • kosher or sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

  • 1. Two hours before you begin, take the chicken out of the refrigerator to bring it up to room temperature. Tip: Always start cooking meat from room temperature as it ensures even cooking throughout.  **This is how the recipe is written, I never remember to do this**
    2. Dry chicken inside and out with paper towels (alternately you can leave it in the fridge uncovered for a day as well and really dry it out) and season the cavity with coarse salt and pepper.
    3. Put 4 cloves of the squashed garlic and 1/2 a lemon into the cavity. Set the bird on a platter breast side up and rub with oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip the bird over and repeat on the back and legs.
    4. Preheat your oven for 425°F. 
    5. Place chicken in center of roasting dish, back side up. That’s right, back side up (as in breast side down).  Roast in 425°F oven for 25-35 minutes (more towards the 35 minute mark if the bird is closer to 5 pounds), then turn the oven down to 375°F and roast for an additional 60-120 minutes (depending on the size of your bird).  Chicken is done when internal temperature (measured at the thickest part of the thigh) reaches 165°F.
    7. Remove the chicken from the roasting pan and set on a wooden board to rest for 20 minutes. 

    This is just to show you how you want to put the chicken in the pan....breast side DOWN.

    Quinoa salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Kale

    I feel the need to tell you all, this *may* be the single-most amazing veggie dish I have ever made.  AMAZING!!!!

    • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
    • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • 3 cups kale
    • 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
    • 1 cup uncooked black quinoa
    • 2 cups water
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • crumbled goat cheese (optional)
    1.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Place sweet potatoes and red onion slices in a medium bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Toss together and put them on a large baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.  Stir a few times while baking.
    2.  Drizzle kale with 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet.  When sweet potatoes and onions have been in oven for 15 minutes, put the kale in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes or until kale is wilted and starting to crisp.
    3.  Prepare the quinoa, following instructions on package.  
    4.  When the vegetables are done roasting, let them cool to room temperature.  In a large bowl, combine quinoa, sweet potatoes, red onion, and kale.  Drizzle the salad with the remaining three tbsp of balsamic vinegar.  Add in the dried cranberries.  Go crazy and toss in some crumbled goat cheese.  And don't be chinzy with the cheese, load it up!  Season with salt and pepper.

    I can't describe how delish this is!  I will tell you that I made a double batch at lunch time and I am concerned there may not be enough leftovers for Mr. McGhee and the minis at dinnertime!  

    This is a delicious Sunday night dinner and a great way to start your week.  Make sure you make extra chicken because tomorrow I have a recipe to share, using the chicken!