Category Archives: food

It’s working.

MENU

Alrighty, then.

It has begun.

I am nearing the end of WEEK 4 of my menu-planning journey (started HERE and then for real HERE), and I will say here and now and in front of every Enneagram Type 4 who believes it is impossible that IT IS WORKING. I, Mary Kathryn Sebeck Mulder, have been following a plan and IT. IS. WORKING.

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I have made a few adjustments, of course. We all saw that coming. It was probably obvious as soon as you squinted at the Monday through Friday calendar above… first, what if you don’t eat those things on those days? Can you handle that? No. No, I cannot. And two… that stamping is way too similar to the CURLZ font. I was annoyed every time practiced pulling out my menu sheet. You laugh, but trust me: if you don’t like it… if it’s not easy and it’s not pretty, you’re not going to use it. Do it how you want and how it makes sense to you.

Ever the LEARN BY DOING poster child, I made a few adjustments before WEEK 1 officially commenced.

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I went back and edited my original list of main meals. Each of these are numbered and (will eventually) correspond to a page in the menu binder.

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I stocked up on fun masking tape, also known as washi tape.

I bought this binder at the local grocery store in the love language aisle of school supplies. It holds a half-sheet of paper and has a clear pocket on the front. I don’t want my recipes to take up the whole counter. AND, I want to be able to see the week or the next week or even the whole month at a glance right there on the front. LOVE.

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I planned out 5 meals for 4 weeks, counting on leftovers and pizza and random nights out to fill in the gaps. Each meal is numbered and on its own mini-Post-It note so it can be easily moved and reused. No specific day delineation this time… just 5 meals so I could plan for grocery shopping and defrosting that week.

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Look. I even added a little masking tape tag to the corner so I wouldn’t rip the plastic cover trying to dig the menu board out. Seriously, people. It’s like I was this whole other person or something. P.S. You know that slightly off and misprinted ‘S’ in MENUS is killing me. I am trying to not care. It’s working. A little.

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All meals that weren’t used immediately on the front are stored inside. If I end up not using a meal one week, I just take off the Post-It note and add it to the inside list.

So. What happens is this: 

On Sundays, I grab my planner (I use this one.) and my menu binder. I look at the front of the binder to see what 5 meals I’ve grouped together for the week and jot down the meals on the blank page of my planner. I add any side dishes I want underneath each main meal. I glance over the recipes and mentally check off ingredients. I write down anything I need to buy on my sticky Post-It note (in blue on the page you see below). Now when I head to the grocery store Sunday night or Monday morning, I have everything I need right there. The Post-It grocery list comes out of the calendar/planner and goes right on the handle of the grocery cart.
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This is also when I track down any recipes I have not officially copied down and entered into the binder. Remember: my main goal in this whole operation was to have all my go-to recipes in one place. It will take a couple months to make that happen, but eventually each numbered recipe will have a numbered page in the binder. I’m just writing them out as I get to them in real-life. My second goal with all of this was to start writing things down again in my own handwriting. For years, I wrote personal notes and kept journals. This binder is my after-children attempt to use my hands again instead of my printer.

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See? Scrap paper recipes pulled off the internet and out of a cookbook… now, transferred onto card stock, numbered accordingly, and decorated a smidge.

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Except for a couple of recipes, like number 60, that I don’t trust myself to copy. Too long, too specific. Cut and paste, Friends. CUT AND PASTE.

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Some are super pretty. Number 35 is my favorite so far.

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Some are super simple. Meatballs? Here ya go. A little tape for color AND WE ARE GOOD. Abby helped me glue this. We are still working on the concept of less-is-more when it comes to Elmer’s.

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Four weeks in, and I am a fan.

It’s flexible. It’s efficient. I really love that basically I’ve already made my decisions for a whole month at a time. I also like that I can see (in the planner or on the inside of the binder) what we’ve been eating recently and what we haven’t had for awhile. Laying out these post-its and having everything numbered cuts all the questions out. The decisions are made. They can be changed if need be, but they are made… and that is half the battle for me.

I don’t know if this is at all helpful for you. I actually really love organization and calendars and tape and pens, so this was a fun project for me. I can do it in small pieces as I build up the binder of recipes. And, crazy as it sounds, looking at planners and how other people journal (on Pinterest or what-have-you) is a favorite activity for me. It calms me. I love seeing how other people do it.

I like how this is working for us. It’s cut out extra grocery store trips each week- down to ONE from two and sometimes three. It’s cut down random grocery purchases, since I know exactly what I’m cooking that week. And, come 5 o’clock I know I already have a plan.

Good day, Sunshine.

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where to start

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From this zoo to yours, Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. I managed to turn 38 over the holiday break, which many of you caught on to (thank you, Facebook), and received just the absolute sweetest kindest most encouraging words and texts and emails all day long. SO NICE. Thank you. Every year, I am reminded en-mass that I know the absolute sweetest kindest smartest most encouraging people ever. I hope to be just like you some day.

The picture above? It’s the best we could manage. There were about 7 photos to pick (see what I did there?), and Abby is doing the same (un-staged) thing in all of them, God bless her. My cake is purple. Can you see that? It was intense.

I feel like there is a whole world to write about since the holiday silence. While I am gathering my thoughts and pushing two of three children out the door to school, let’s get back to basics.

FOOD.

My overwhelming desire and heart for this year is to find and bring home a miniature donkey. This is absolutely true.

MY SECOND goal is to pick up the faded thread of this idea and weave it back to life. Remember? Let’s Make a Plan? I’m talking about basic, back-pocket meals that you’ve made before and know work for at least the adults in your family. (After this holiday season, I have decided I no longer care if the short people in this house like the menu. Their answer is ALWAYS NO, so I am no longer asking or taking their opinions into consideration.)

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I had a lot of trouble pulling the trigger on this plan because… I was scared? I don’t know. As I was pretending to plan weeks, even 2 weeks ahead of time, my brain was saying, “Katie, you don’t feel like making a roast right now. That sounds terrible.” I had to remind myself over and over (and over) again that this was simply A START. A beginning. I can change anything I want anytime I want. I can change days. I can switch weeks. I can erase meals and add newfound meals at will. I just need a place to start.

The clincher was walking down the school supply aisle one day last week and remembering that one of my love languages is school supplies. And fine-tipped pens. And paper. Ooooh, I do love paper. I went with skinny Post-It notes simply because they are reusable and also work in my planner. I revisited the original list of meals and even added a few more. I now have 54 different options to choose from… and many of those meals have options within options. Number 38, for instance: shredded bbq… this could be left over roast beef OR pork. Simple stuff here.

I didn’t list side dishes or anything else… just the main course. My goal here is to not have spaghetti 3 times a week (because we have been) and also to stop defrosting meat at 5:02pm every day. I numbered the meals as I thought of them. They are not color-coded by chicken, fish, meat, and veggie or anything like that. Again, simple stuff here. A prompt. A start. A push in the right direction.

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I filled in only 5 days per week because weekends are almost always nachos and hamburgers and leftovers. I also know (I KNOW) to expect the unexpected. Maybe we’ll go out to eat. Maybe it will be completely nuts one night and I will resort to Jimmy John’s. Lots of room here to switch things around. Any meal not used just moves to the bottom of the list and begins filling in empty spots later in the month. Maybe I plan 2 weeks out and choose from a huge pool of options. Or maybe I lay out all 54 recipes and fit them into 10 weeks. Done. We’ll see.

So. Part I of this plan was to get the meals down on some sort of calendar. DONE. I made a grocery list for this week and I’ve already set meat in the fridge to defrost for later. So far, it’s working. It’s Day 1, but it’s working.

Part II of this plan is to get all the basic recipes into one easy spot. I have a habit of scrambling at the end of the day… pulling scraps of recipes from here and there, plus referring to one I snapped a photo of on my phone, and then pulling one up on the computer while I’m actually cooking. I want all my usual stuff all in ONE BINDER. I want to see that tomorrow is #9 Tai Peanut Noodles and be able to immediately find a paper with the peanut sauce recipe on it. What I would usually do is remember, “Oh, I have that on Pinterest.” Then I’d have to pull up pinterest, find my food board, scroll forever and find that post, click on the post, and then take a screen shot of the post so I could prop my phone up in the kitchen and read off the ingredients.

People. I would do this ALL THE TIME.

Dumb.

So, no. Like I said, I want to write down each basic (tried and true) recipe and have it available. I always use this sauce. Always. Write it down or print it out, Kate, and put it in your binder. Label it #9. Now it’s there. I’d like to do this each week for every recipe, and I want to do most of it in my own handwriting. I want to be able to give my kids a copy of this later and say, “This is what I cooked for you.” OR, “This is what you didn’t eat when you were living on the farm.”

Either way. 

A passing of the torch, if you will.

For Christmas, I made my mamma and me a couple of linen kitchen towels with my grandmother’s macaroni and cheese recipe printed on it. (I used spoonflower.) Mom used this recipe when she was first learning to cook, and mac & cheese is pretty important in this house. It was a good fit. I’m hoping the recipe binder will be a hands-on memento  for the kids. It’s been so easy for me to document life digitally for the kids that I have chosen to do so in nearly every instance. I’d like for this one to be different. I think it’s worth it.

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At any rate, all that to say…

THIS IS WHERE I’M AT RIGHT NOW.

It’s a start.

 


everybody’s gotta eat

Y’all. I think mother nature and my children are working together to have me committed. This whole polar vortex thing is INSANE. I am desperately seeking order, organization, and some small form of control.

So, can I ask you a personal question?

Who cooks in your house?

Or, rather how do you plan what you cook in your house?

Do you work a week ahead? The morning of? Do you shop the sales? Make it your mission to clean out your freezer before adding to it? Only grocery shop once a week? Manage to buy everything on your list?

Please. Teach me.

meal plan

I’m in a bad way, friends. I’m in the rarely remember to defrost plan around 5pm for a 6 o’clock dinner make the same 3 meals every week kind of a situation. I’m not sure how I got here. For darn sure, winter is partly to blame. Also, I’m lazy. Also, thinking about meal-planning kind of completely overwhelms me. Sitting down every week? When? I REPEAT: WHEN?

But I was reading Miss Jessica’s post about her cousin’s plan and I thought- now HERE. Here is something maybe I can do. None of this once a week heart-to-heart with the newspaper or a menu template printable in the Curlz font. No. Her idea is simply to grab all of your basic meals and make 5 weeks of meals ready for rotation.

I wondered how many meals I actually had in my back pocket. Could I fill a whole calendar?

This is what I came up with:

  1. chicken or pork schnitzel
  2. pork chops
  3. pork tenderloin
  4. chili
  5. stew (winter) / brats (summer)
  6. hamburgers
  7. steaks
  8. fajitas (sirloin)
  9. tai peanut stir fry
  10. roast beef
  11. fried chicken
  12. spaghetti with meatballs
  13. pizza / calzones
  14. tai green or red curry with chicken
  15. tortilla soup
  16. chicken soup with dumplings
  17. macaroni and cheese
  18. green or red enchiladas
  19. ravioli / tortellini
  20. angel chicken
  21. fresh salmon
  22. fish tacos
  23. polish sausage
  24. white chicken chili
  25. chicken gyros (souvlaki)
  26. lasagna
  27. ham & potato soup
  28. baked ham
  29. chicken pot pie
  30. shepherd’s pie
  31. chicken nuggets
  32. honey mustard chicken
  33. french onion soup
  34. ham & potato gratin casserole
  35. tacos / nachos (ground beef)
  36. shredded bbq beef
  37. pancakes and bacon
  38. pork ragu
  39. baked potato bar
  40. beef stroganoff
  41. chicken fried steak
  42. ribs

That’s pretty much what we eat. And that’s 6 weeks of food without repeating! And we repeat. A LOT. My mission now is to organize this into a schedule of some sort and see if it makes my life easier for a month. Is it possible I could actually be prepared to defrost ahead of time? I need to sort out winter meals and find summer replacements. I need to get all the recipes in one place so I’m not looking things up every night at the exact time my children are hanging from the rafters. But, the more I look at this, the more I think that it’s totally doable for me. These are meals that can always be traded out for a new surprise or a seasonal fix, and they’re meals that have plenty of variation possibilities on their own.

So, I don’t know. I’m going to mess with it this weekend and see what I come up with.

Related: where in the world are all the good fish recipes? Do you have any that will change my life?

Now- talk to me.

Share your secrets of menu sanity.


Gramma K

Today I’m over at MC’s Thousand Story Kitchen with a short story and recipe from my grandmother.  Join me?

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my grandmother, Beatrice (Betty) with her cousin, Joe on his Indian


mamma’s best

People.  Have you seen this genius-ness: tea towels with recipes printed on them?  Oh my word. Brilliant.

There are few things I love more than visiting the Mother Land and having my mom cook my favorite meals for the 2 or 3 nights I’m home.  I saw a recipe on Pinterest this weekend called “Mom’s Chicken Gloria” (or near there) and it made me think of all those meals I make but have not cracked the code. The meals that Mom does her way, the best way. The meals I wait all year for, really… that are best served around the table you grew up setting.

I nearly bought a plane ticket home to Texas immediately… Curt IS gone for the next 2 weeks! But I didn’t. This week, though? This week I will be making Mom’s Chicken Schnitzel, Mom’s Chicken and Dumplings, and Mom’s Cabbage and Noodles.

I’m headed somewhere with all of this.

Promise.Mamma's best

Here’s what I’m thinkin’:

In honor of the Mom’s and Momma’s and Ma’s and Gramma’s out there, let’s gather up their best and put it together in a sweet lil’ pdf file. It  will give all of us some new casseroles, and (selfishly) it will get me moving on my Mother’s Day gifting.

Wanna play?

Dig through those recipes. Email me or scan… I think scanning will work… up to 5 of your favorite family recipes. I want the ones you ask for when you go home for Sunday dinner, the ones you make when you’re homesick, the ones that have been made in your home for generations. I’ll gather them into one file and then each participant will get a copy. Simple.

I’ll take contributions until next Friday.

Giddy up.


yums

Oh, man… are you gonna lu-huv me or WHAT after today!  Somehow, in the dead of winter, while we were chili-ed and stew-ed and casserole-d OUT, I stumbled across some major winners and it’s only fair to share. You never know who’s life you’ll change with a good avocado sauce.

Here you go. Nothing fancy, nothing skilled, nothing photoshopped. In fact, no photos at all… I’m a terrible food photographer. Just the basics, Folks! Tried and true.

cilantro-lime-avocado sauce

[from HERE]

2 T butter

2 T flour

2 cups chicken broth

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 t. cumin

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. garlic powder

1/4 t. pepper

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 avocados

1 lime, juiced

  • Melt the butter and then whisk in the flour.  Let this thicken for a couple minutes while you stir, and then add in the chicken broth.
  • Bring broth, butter, and flour to a bubbly simmer and let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally while you blend the remaining ingredients (sour cream, spices, cilantro, avocados, and lime juice) in a blender.
  • Carefully add the butter/flour/broth mixture to the blender and purée.  Be sure to pulse and then let the steam out of the top, pulse again, and let it breathe. The heat will need somewhere to go, so be mindful.

That’s your sauce. Put it in your enchiladas with chicken and cheese, put it on top of your enchiladas, use it with quesadillas, dip tortilla chips in it, use it as a dressing on your turkey wrap or scrambled egg soft taco.  I did all of these things. I ate the sauce every day for a week- often twice in one day. It’s cool and creamy and very, very happy.

peanut sauce

[I have no clue where I found this, but it’s been taped to the inside of my cabinet for more than 2 months now and I’ve used it A LOT.]

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 T rice vinegar

1/2 T chili-garlic sauce

  • whisk all ingredients together and add it to about 12oz. of cooked noodles
  • add 1/2 cup onion, 1 cup carrot slices, 2 cups extra veggies, 3 T fresh garlic, and 1/2 t. ground ginger for a whole stir fry meal

Big winner with the kids. BIG. WINNER. I had them at “PEANUT BUTTER NOODLES.”

mustard chicken

[from HERE]

1.5 to 2# boneless, skinless, trimmed chicken thighs

1/2 cup Dijon mustard (I used spicy brown mustard… still lovely)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (truly)

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tbsp. cornstarch or flour

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a 8×8″ pan with 2 layers of tin foil
  • In small bowl, whisk together mustard, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Place the chicken thighs in the foil layered pan then pour the mixture on top of it. Turn the chicken around in the sauce to coat everything well.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. [If you are using a dryer cut of meat- chicken breasts, for example- you can cut the time by about 10 minutes but check to be sure the meat is done and the juices run clear.]
  • Remove from oven and let chicken sit for 5 minutes then transfer to a plate. Do NOT discard the liquid- we’re going to use it to make a quick sauce.
  • Immediately after removing the chicken, whisk in the 1 tbsp. of cornstarch or flour into the liquid in the pan. You’ll create a nice, thick sauce to drizzle over your chicken. Do this immediately because the liquid needs to be hot in order for it to thicken properly. If it’s still not thickening after mixing in 1T, you can add a little more.

I served this over rice and happily ate leftovers all week. Even Gus Man ate this one, which is bold praise since his mantra lately is, “No Like It” if it looks like anything other than a sammich.

Carry on, Friends!

I’m in the processing of wrapping and mailing out your TXN sweatshirts. It’s taking longer than I hoped to get them out the door. I completely overestimated my ability to work with tape while having a 15-month old, a 3-year old, and a 6-year old monitor my every step.  I’ve gone through 6 rolls of tape. If you’re having 2nd thoughts about not ordering OR need to request a different size for whatever reason, these are the extras I have:

  • (1) L green hoody ($20)
  • (1) XL green hoody ($20)
  • (1) 2XL green hoody ($25)
  • (1) L grey crewneck ($29)
  • (1) L green crewneck ($31)

classic

 

This past weekend, Curt and I abandoned the children and drove to Chicago for the first time in 8 years.  We stayed at a “nice” hotel… three out of 5 stars. I was nervous. The reviews weren’t so hot.  Turns out, three stars in Chicago is nicer than where we stayed for our honeymoon… so we were JUST FINE.  We walked approximately 4,177 miles.  We ate out for every meal.  We went to the planetarium. We went to Navy pier.  We left Navy Pier after about 45 seconds and headed to Rush Street for dinner.  We went to a midnight movie. We went to a midnight movie after buying tickets and then taking a nap at the hotel, BUT WE WENT TO A MIDNIGHT MOVIE. [Skyfall? 007, anyone?  That movie is incredible.  Javier Bardem… Lawd.  That man has some wicked in him.]  I sat in a bar waiting for a table and yelling for my school to beat Alabama… and they did.  THEY DID. We ate outside on the street patio and pretended we were young and free… and we were.   We sat in the park.  I ordered Coke with my breakfast- because I could.  I bought a shirt. Curt bought a grown-up jacket.  We held hands.  We ran into people we knew on the street and chatted like we were locals.  We passed people we knew (TWICE!) on the highway and texted them like it happens all the time.  It was an amazing weekend.

Somewhere in all that, Curt asked why we never have tuna casserole at home.  After I finished choking on randomess I said, “Well, I don’t know. I guess… I don’t know. We ate it every Friday growing up. I’m sure I can make that happen.”

And so I did.

Now, this is not my mother’s tuna casserole.  There is no cream of mushroom soup (since I married a man who falls on the floor and plays dead when he sees or smells a mushroom and I HAVE ENOUGH OF THAT DRAMA IN MY LIFE) and it’s quite a bit less-soupy? I dunno how to explain it.  It’s got tuna and noodles, though, so it’s tuna casserole.

The boy declared it to be in his Top 10 of my Awesome Dinner Achievements.  I’m still not quite sure how I feel about that, but I thought I’d pass along the recipe anyway.

TUNA CASSEROLE

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • half of a green pepper, diced small
  • half of an onion, diced small
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced (wait for it) small
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cheese
  • 12 ounces tuna
  • buttered croutons for the top

Alright, Friends. Add or take away whatever you don’t like… maybe you need peas but no onions.  Maybe you need some garlic?  That’s just fine. I’ll never know.  The trick to this whole deal was the ROUX.  Watch me be fancy here: a roux is simply equal parts fat to flour and it makes a base for a sauce.  There are 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of flour (which is not equal, I know) but we use half of that butter to saute the veggies in at the very beginning.

SO. Saute your veggies in all 4 tablespoons of butter. Once everything is tender and there’s still a bit of butter in the pan, sprinkle the flour and salt on top. Doing this BEFORE adding the milk will coat everything nicely without making the sauce lumpy. Once your flour is mixed in there well enough, pour in your milk and let that simmer for just a bit until it thickens… the sauce will be barely boiling.  Now you can add your cheese in and heat until melted. Now mix in your tuna.

All that’s left to do is pour this over about 8 ounces of cooked and drained pasta, top with bread crumbs or crushed croutons, and then bake for about 40 minutes at 350°. BLAMO.  A new family classic is born. Couldn’t be easier.

What was on your family’s regular menu rotation as a kid?