Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Margin through Meal Planning

If there's one thing that is constant in our house, it's the question "What's for dinner?" 

It used to come only from my sweet husband...who sometimes had the tendency to ask several times a day. That fact is a family joke now, and a bit endearing to me. :) But now that they care, our kiddos ask the question too...usually right after breakfast. Especially Hadleigh. She likes to know the plan of the day.

I have to be honest...some mornings I have NO clue what to answer. If I ask them what they want to eat, these are their usual responses:

Hadleigh: "Chicken Enchiladas. They're my favorite."
Nathanael: "Something with Brussels Sprouts. Or we could go to Buffalo Wild Wings."
Madeleine: "Chicken Pot Pie. No Brussels Sprouts."
Brent: "Food."

So the first week of 2013, I was in a slump. Because who wants to go to the grocery store after vacation? Thankfully, I have a husband who enjoys cooking when he can & who knows it's a blessing to me to have a break from the kitchen periodically. So he filled in. Shopped. Cooked. Yum.

After that week, I knew I needed a plan, and so I sat on two different afternoons, surrounded by cookbooks and charted out meals a week at a time. Calendar and grocery lists. Shopping. Done. And so, the last few weeks (if you follow me on instagram, you know this!) I have been cooking up a storm.

There are two things that motivate me to cook: 

1) Having all the ingredients already in my house keeps me sane.   While I love having a Wegmans store within distance, I don't love shopping every day...nor, with homeschooling, do I have the time to do so.  I plan for a week & buy for a week. (This is what's working for me right now. In the past, I've planned for a month and then made one big trip at the beginning, with weekly trips for produce & dairy.)
2) I love trying out new recipes. When I'm in a cooking slump, it's usually because I'm relying on standbys that, while easy, don't excite me. I received several cookbooks for Christmas and really enjoy them so if you need some fresh ideas, pull out an old favorite or new cookbook!

These days, I hear the word "margin" thrown around a lot. I think it's the new popular buzzword in certain circles...and it's a good one.

When I have a plan for our meals, specifically dinner, I have some margin...for the day and the week. I don't have to spend time thinking or running out to the store or deciding what pantry staples can combine to make an edible meal. I can quickly answer the "What's for dinner, Mom?" question and then enjoy the spare moments that follow. 

There are often many times that I don't want to take the fly by the seat of my be more spontaneous (like this week!) But I know that the need to plan dinner won't change anytime soon--or ever--and so committing time to organizing a good plan is one way I can use my time wisely to create a bit more margin in our life.


As it's Wednesday, how about a recipe to add to your list for next week? This is a yummy one! I adapted (ever so slightly) from Smitten Kitchen's new cookbook. I increased the grapes and olives, as my grapes seemed much smaller than hers...and because we love olives in our family.

Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives and Rosemary

3 pounds chicken parts (thigh drumsticks and breast with skin and bones)
Salt and pepper 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 cup small seedless grapes 
1 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
Two small shallots thinly sliced 
1/2 cup dry white wine 
1/2 cup chicken broth 
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1. Preheat oven to 450° with the rack in middle. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel and season generously with salt and pepper. 

2.  Heat oil in ovenproof 12 inch heavy skillet (cast-iron if possible) over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Working in two batches, brown the chicken skin side down first, turning over once, about five minutes per batch. Do not move chicken until the skin releases itself and has a nice brown color to it. 

3. Return all chicken to the pan skin side up and pour in the grapes, olives, and shallots.  Roast the chicken in the oven until it has just cooked through and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. 

4. Transfer the chicken, grapes, and olives to a platter and cover with foil.  Then add wine and chicken broth to the pan juices in the skillet; bring the liquid to a boil, scraping up any brown bits until it has reduced by half, about 2 to 5 minutes.  Strain sauce, if desired, then pour it over the chicken. Garnish with fresh rosemary.  Enjoy!

And in case you're curious if your little ones will enjoy?

I'll let the picture speak for itself:

Today, I'm linking up with Edie over at Life in Grace for her once-a-month series this year on using our Time.

Let me know how you like the recipe & if you have any ideas to share about how you meal plan!


Rachel said...

Oh, I get in slumps too! But when I take the time to plan like you're talking about for a week, it gives me so much margin!!! Thanks for the yummy recipe!

Laura said...

Hopped on over for a visit from Edie's link up- glad you joined in! The chicken looks uh.maaaa.zing! I am slowly pushing towards more adventuresome eating with my offspring and fine farmer husband, but we have yet to venture into olives. This recipe makes me want to try!
Hoping that meal planning and the pursuit of margin enriches your life.
Very nice to meet you :-)

Keshet said...

Yum, this looks delicious, KL! I have to try it!


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