“Is there a rhyme and reason to how you fluctuate types of food on the menu and bring back repeats? What is your theory on this?”
Drew asked me this week about my “theory” of menu planning and how I fluctuate types of food on the menu. I don’t know as I have one (yet) to speak of, but here’s how I think about it:
I’ve talked about going around the world before. This practice of looking for recipe ideas for different cultures helps keep the flavors from becoming boring or repetitive. I try not to have two meals in a given week that are inspired by the same food culture.
I also pay close attention to the weather for the week I’m planning for. (For whatever that’s worth. We live in one of the many places where people crack jokes about just waiting a few minutes if you don’t like the weather.)
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but we do tend to crave lighter foods as the weather gets warmer, and denser, richer, heavier ones when it turns cold again.
For several months there, I was making a lot of “stewps”—Tuscan White Bean, Chicken and Veggie, Bavarian Stew—but these days (today it is clear and high 60s) lighter and brighter flavors win out.
I come from a family of salad eaters. Seriously, my mother’s “first apartment” gift to one of my brothers was the legit massive serving bowl that he would always get out of the cabinet to use as his plate whenever it was Big Dinner Salad night at our house. When I go home to visit my parents, we eat salads—as a complete meal—at least once a day, sometimes twice.
(By “salad,” I mean you start with a layer of greens, then a layer of veggies, and possibly a layer of all kinds of other things—could be chicken! Could be chopped and cooked sweet potatoes! Could be beans and salsa and enchilada sauce!)
This causes me to forget that for most people, “salad” is a side dish, not a meal. While I work diligently to break that mindset, I do have to keep salads to a smaller percentage of Charlie’s meals—even in the warm months. We’ve hit a sweet spot at no more than ⅓.
While the rest of the meals are more traditionally cooked, I pair them with an acidic note (keeping in mind Charlie’s acid reflux) to keep the flavor from getting too dense (see the lemon herb chicken in this week’s meal plan).
Finally, I pay attention to what I have in the freezer. I try to keep it stocked with extra cauliflower rice, stewps, and extra meat that was cooked for previous dishes. When weeks get busy, it’s a gift to be able to pull out a bin of turkey spaghetti sauce and be halfway to dinner!
Of course, to be able to have things to pull out of the freezer, I need to be regularly thinking about what I can put in there. So every couple of weeks, I make an extra large batch of something that I think will freeze really well, and I tuck it in for the proverbial rainy day. The return on investment is massive.