A meal plan experiment: Cook twice, eat all week

As I mentioned a number of times on the blog, Jeff and I have crazy schedules. Trying to put together a meal plan has been somewhat difficult do to all of our meetings and obligations. Making sure we always have leftovers to bring to work for lunch has also been hard.

This week, I decided to try something different. Sunday night, I made a good-sized lasagna; Monday night, I made stew. Since I had meetings Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I wasn’t home to make dinner but Jeff and I were able to eat leftovers all week long. We were also able to take these leftovers to work for lunch. Having two of our favorite dishes made it easier not to get bored with the food. We even had stew tonight for dinner rather than making something.

This may not be something I do every week but for those weeks that are especially busy, this was a great option for us. I even made braided cheese bread which was beautiful and delicious. It’s probably the best bread I ever made. It looks complicated but it’s actually very easy. We ate that with the stew and was good even tonight. I took my slice and put it in the toaster for a few moments on low. It was wonderful.

Sometimes making a few large recipes for the week is a great way to go when you know you are going to be super busy. I think after all the take-out we ate the week before, home-cooking was a welcomed change.

Recipes? Pfff… I don’t need no stinking recipes

I hate following recipes. That’s probably part of the reason that I’m not a huge fan of baking. I have to follow a recipe when baking. It’s annoying how chemistry works and I can’t just put in things as I see fit!

This is why I like to cook. I find it challenging to create good meals when I don’t have a plan and I’m flying by the seat of my pants. I did this twice this week. I made beef stew and something I like to call chicken goop.

The beef stew went well. I browned the beef in batches which left lovely browned bits on the bottom of my Le Creuset 7 1/4-Quart Dutch Oven. I then added onions, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms. A splash of wine (I don’t measure when I’m cooking), a good bit of Worcestershire sauce and a couple good squeezes of Dijon mustard. I didn’t have any beef broth, so I used water and beef base. I didn’t cover everything entirely, which was a good thing because everything sunk down into the liquid and it wasn’t too much. I added bay leaves, granulated garlic and ground thyme. It was covered and simmered for 4 hours. I then cracked the cover and cooked it for another hour to let some of the liquid evaporate. Added some pepper and a cornstarch slurry and a few minutes later, we had stew. I had to hunt down all of the bay leaves (don’t eat those, not good eats), but it was great stew. I just threw in what I had and made due for things I didn’t.

The chicken goop has become one of my favorite recipes. It’s easy, it’s hearty and it’s different every time. I know the name doesn’t sound very appealing but I don’t know what else to call it. I throw some chicken breasts into a small crock pot. I take a can of cream of mushroom soup and some chicken broth, about equal parts I think (again, remember that I measure nothing). This time I added some chicken grill seasoning. I actually added a lot of grill seasoning, but I figured in the crock pot, it was probably needed. I even added a bunch of Parmesan cheese. Once that was all mixed together, I poured it over the chicken. Cook for about 5 hours on low (my crock pot cooks hot I think), until the chicken starts to fall apart if you try to pick it up with a fork. You can serve this over rice, mashed potatoes or noodles. It’s warm and hearty. If you wish you can even add veggies toward the end of cooking. I imagine broccoli would be good. Mixed veggies, too. I’m not allowed to put veggies in the chicken goop or there might be a husband revolt. I just serve green beans or corn on the side. This is also a good meal to serve with a salad.

I’m at the point in my cooking life where I know what flavors appear to work together and which ones do not. I’ve played around with spices enough to know that rosemary has no place in lasagna (trust me). I have made some errors in judgement before but for the most part, things turn out well. I encourage you to try different flavors and see what works for you.