I've always loved the prospect of a new year with new goals and new challenges. I hear some say that making resolutions just sets one up for failure but I for one love to feel like I can try again. I've even made and stuck to some significant resolutions over the years. After years of resolving the read the whole Bible in a year, I finally did it in 2001 and then again in 2010. Thankfully, major weight loss has never been an issue for me but in 2008 I did my first triathlon, in 2009 I did my first half marathon, and one of these years, when training doesn't involve pushing a jogging stroller, I will do a full marathon. This year, I didn't even think about resolutions until we were a few days into 2012. Rylynn was sick and we were up in New Hampshire at my mom and dad's.
I've always been a big fan of practical resolutions. Eat healthier is too vague and impossible to quantify. Eat more homemade meals is better but still not specific enough for me. My food resolution for this year was to make weekly menus to help us save money and eat healthier. This resolution stems from my total respect of a friend who writes out her menu for the month ahead of time and has it sitting on an easel in her kitchen. (Yes, Beth Etheridge is my organization goddess!) When I was blogging about Gourmet magazine, I loved that I never wondered what we would have for dinner. I just looked on the menu I had written from the magazine and made what it said. You would think there would be nights I wouldn't be "in the mood" for whatever I had written weeks before but I found that I was almost always looking forward to what I had written. I didn't have to think about what I was "in the mood" for and the freedom of that took away the desire for anything else.
I found the first week I wasn't prepared to write out a menu for the whole month. I didn't have the energy to plan that out and it didn't allow for repeats. (Okay, it did but I didn't know how close was too close.) I did however write themes for the days as a guide in deciding. Monday is my planned shopping day so it doesn't make sense to put a meal that took a lot of preparation. Tuesdays work for crockpot meals as those leftovers will be good in lunches throughout the week. Wednesday is perfect for my favorite Mexican cuisine, Thursdays for pasta, and Friday I wrote soup/sandwich or something special. To be honest, I am totally comfortable veering from this schedule but it gives me a base when I get stuck.
Well, the first two weeks are in the books and I have to say that it worked well. I didn't get pictures of every night. I haven't blogged as frequently so photographing my food isn't second nature anymore. I did take some pictures and I'm a little embarrassed. It looks like we ate out of bowls the entire two weeks. We didn't but I only remembered pictures the nights we did. I have a post coming up about my remorse for food snobbery but here let me suffice it to say that Taste of Home, a cooking magazine I had previously seen as less than gourmet has become the main tome in my cooking magazine library. This magazine uses very accessible ingredients, has lots of kid friendly recipes, and has upped their use of creative menus making it a new favorite. That being said, I used recipes from Bon Appetit and Food and Wine as well. I won't list the family menu here but I will say that the four pictures represent some really good dishes. The top picture is the Texas Beef Brisket Chili from Bon Appetit's October 2008 issue. Several reviews mentioned that the brisket was greasy so I used stew beef as recommended and used the crockpot instead of a dutch oven. I love the butternut squash in this chili. It adds depth and you can see from the picture that I also added beans toward the end of the cook time. This helped make the chili more of a meal and added some extra flavor to the meaty dish.
The second picture is the Baked Potato Cheddar Soup from this month's issue of Taste of Home. This soup was super thick (you can tell from the picture) and needed a little blending (I used my food processor) that the recipe didn't tell you about but it was very good. I served this soup with a No-knead Harvest Bread from the same issue that was excellent. In the third picture I had taken great liberties with the Zesty Chicken Tortellini Soup, also from Taste of Home, but again the soup was very good. The final picture is some Cornmeal Dinner Rolls, again from Taste of Home, that I will be making again and again. They are a yeast roll with a cornmeal base that are super simple and really delicious. I'm learning how to use yeast well. (Why did I not know until now that yeast stored in the refrigerator should be warmed to room temperature before using for the best results?) These rolls were one of my first real successes and I hope I can duplicate them again and again.