Thursday, August 04, 2005

Coffee, Chocolate and Recipes

Pictured is my favorite Food Network chef...Ina Garten. I have almost all of her cookbooks. She is FABULOUS. Her recipes are wonderful, easy, but look like they took forever to make.

I love the smell of freshly ground coffee. David and I are picky coffee drinkers. We like dark roast, really good coffee. We usually buy Starbucks beans or some other good brand by the pound and grind them fresh each day. I like to grind enough for a pot at night, set the coffeemaker for 6:00 a.m. the next morning, and wake up to the smell of fresh coffee. And I love that I can smell it all the way up in our bedroom. It's just a way we treat ourselves without breaking the bank at Starbuck's each morning. A simple little way of making the morning a little sweeter. Oh, and here's a hint: If you don't have a coffeemaker that has a timer on it, plug it into a lamp timer. (that's what we use!)

I find lots of satisfaction in making a good meal for my family. I know many people wouldn't understand that but I really do. But with most anything I do, if I've had time to plan and give it some thought, it's always better. That is why I love my cookbooks and my favorite recipe websites. Here is my strategy for enjoying cooking and not stressing out about dinner each night:

1. Once every 2 weeks I sit down with a calendar, my favorite recipes (or new ones to try), a sheet of paper, and a pen. I draw a calendar grid, mark the dates for the next 1-2 weeks, and write in any special events where we won't be home for dinner. This tells me how many upcoming dinners we are going to need.

2. I go thru my recipes, choosing maybe one or two new ones to try or something that I saw and printed out on Food Network. Sometimes I'll ask David and Noah if they have any special requests. Sometimes they do. Noah ALWAYS says spaghetti. :)

3. I pull out the recipes I want to make for the coming week. (Now some days I won't need a recipe, like for the spaghetti, of course.) On each open day of the calendar I drew, I write in a meal that I will be preparing, using the recipes that I've pulled and also adding in things like "order pizza" on busy days. I make sure to have only a couple of days with red meat, several with chicken, more with fish, some with no meat, etc. I just want it to be balanced. When only a main dish is listed from a recipe, I write in the sides we will have. (starch, vegetables, etc.)

Some people right here may say, "she is crazy! How am I supposed to know what we'll have?" But it helps so much with grocery shopping to go ahead and plan even your side dishes for buying fresh fruits and vegetables.

Your meals do NOT have to be fancy. The emphasis is on being prepared. Your calendar can include Mac and Cheese, Franks and Beans... or Beef Wellington. It doesn't matter. Just the fact that I have preplanned and prepared makes dinner a no-brainer...something I really appreciate not having to think about after a busy day. Ok...

4. Once all of the meals are written in, I begin making my grocery list. I go day by day, recipe by recipe thru the calendar I created, making sure that I have each ingredient needed for each recipe and non-recipe. (like the spaghetti) Check your pantry as you make your grocery list, since you may already have a lot of the items in your recipes. Hint: To stretch your budget, try to prepare meals based on what is already in your pantry instead of buying everything you need.

5. After my list is made, I keep all of my recipes for the week stacked together on my cookbook shelf. That way when it is time to use one of them I know where they all are. **NOTE: I hardly EVER stay on schedule with what meal we have on a certain day. I only plan it this way to make sure I have enough meals planned for the 1-2 weeks. If you look at your calendar and you are scheduled to have tacos and you don't want tacos, then get off schedule! Just mark off the meals on your calendar as they are made. I just put away recipes as I use them, too, so I know I'm finished with it and I can see what I have left to make.

Doing my meal-planning this way really DOES save me time, helps me feel prepared, and allows me to enjoy cooking. I only do big grocery shopping every two weeks. I do have to go about once a week for fresh produce, sometimes milk, and other items (toilet paper, etc.) but you can still plan the fresh vegetables and fruit on your calendar and just work that small trip to the store into your week as an errand. I don't know what made me share this information, but maybe it will help someone who enjoys cooking but just can't find the time or energy. This is also a fun, helpful method for anyone who wants to try new recipes. :)

We took Noah to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tonight. The original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has always been one of my favorite movies, so I was a little skeptical about this new version. However, we all really enjoyed it. I missed Gene Wilder, but I thought Johnny Depp did a pretty good job. The sets were amazing, Charlie was perfect, and the Oompa-Loompa guy was a hoot! But I still prefer the original because of the kids, the music, and Gene Wilder's one-liners. Was a fun family outing :)

The video that is playing is Jeremy Camp's "Take You Back." I have recently become a big fan of his music. This song talks about how much the Lord loves us and no matter how far from Him we stray He will always say..."I'll take you back." That is so powerful to me. One of my favorite blogs to read is Teri Fode's. Not only is she an amazing artist, but she puts Christ first in her life and it shows. And I know Teri would say, "it's not me..don't give me credit." So I'll just say read her blog and see how awesome God is. Her entry today was especially powerful...about the lady at Carl's Jr. :)

Well, since I pictured above one of my favorite cookbooks, I'll share a Barefoot Contessa recipe below. Her recipes are sooooooooooo good. What I love about her is that she stresses that good tasting ingredients are what make a recipe successful, not a long LIST of ingredients.

(This is a wonderful chunky recipe, not smashed)

4 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
8 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced (into small pieces)

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. Immediately add the lemon juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper. Makes approx. 3 cups.
Have a blessed Thursday! :)
- Jennifer

"God has a way of loving us and blessing us that is so much better than fair. Think of the ways God has blessed us that transcend what we deserve. Every good thing that has ever come to us is a gift of God's grace. If you and I could ever stop being self-centered long enough to be honest, we would have to say that we are not entitled to any good thing. We have no right to demand anything. And the last thing we really want is for God to just be fair with us. What we want and what we need is grace, the love that is better than fair. And grace is exactly what we ultimately receive from the God who is better than fair, even when life is less than fair." - Charles E. Poole


Diana said...

When I was younger and married the first time I was a SAHM and I did hte meal planning thing. It is so helpful. After being single with 2 teen DDs, and having to work I got out of the routine. Now I work Part Time, but I have to take my Dad for his Dr appts, drag 3 girls everywhere, and so I have never started it again. I recently started to try and get into it again. Wish me luck....

teri f. said...


LOVE hearing Jeremy Camp on your are so kind with your words today, and you're right. Credit goes to Christ.

Love your entry today...and the recipe!!!

Have a great day...

Teri :)

Stacey said...

Hello....I happened across your blog one day while looking at posts on 2Peas. I think it was a thread about blogs and people were sharing their links. Anyway, since then I have periodically come back to yours. I really enjoy reading all you have to say, the recipes, music, thoughts about Christ, etc. A bit strange coming from a complete stranger I'm sure, but thanks!

Jana said...

I love your meal planning ideas, it's one of my primary goals to become more organized & experimental w/my cooking & meals and you've given me some great food for pun intended!

Elizabeth said...

LOVE ina garten!