Our dinner story…

Happy Sunday all!

And around here that means time to write our next week’s dinner story. Menu planning is really so much more than just menu planning, isn’t it? I find it to be more like writing the next chapter of your family’s life. Too much pressure? Well, that perspective actually makes me feel like I am doing something creative and purposeful… it’s all about our perspective, right?

So when I do our plan for the week (well, really the next ten days…) I try to make it an event. If time allows I set myself up with my laptop, my bullet journal, and, this time of year, a cozy beverage. And if I’m lucky, someone has built a smoldering fire in the fireplace for me to cozy up to. Then I make sure that I have all the websites and apps I need. These usually include my family calendar so I can see which nights are family meal nights and which ones require on-the-go meals, the email from our grocer telling me the week’s fruit and vegetable list, the grocer’s website so I can add meats and other fruits and vegetables we may need, Pinterest for recipe inspiration, and amazon.com, as well as my grocery list app, in case any purchases need to be noted for the week’s shopping. Armed with all that support, I am ready to write the story of how we nourish our bodies and souls, and remind ourselves what it is to be a family.

Tonight my husband has taken the reigns with a meal of brats and sauerkraut. He gets the kraut warming in a big pot before boiling the sausages in beer and onions. Here is when he cracks open another beer for himself and a hard cider for me! While it only happens a few times a week, sharing a cocktail with him while making dinner is one of my favorite parts of the day. It elevates the whole process… Once the sauerkraut is warming and the grill is lit, briefly sauté the onions in olive oil in a large pot. Add the beer and brats, bring to a boil, letting them cook for about 15 minutes. He then finishes the sausages on the grill to get a nice char and I ring the dinner bell. (if you don’t have a dinner bell, I highly recommend it! One loud ding-a-ling and all the kids come a-runnin’. I love our dinner bell so much that we have one for the inside and one for the outside. Can’t recommend them enough…)

Tomorrow being Monday it is generally another calm night at our house and this Monday we can fit in another family dinner. We’ll celebrate Meatless Mondays with a bean soup. I love Moosewood Restaurant’s Black Bean Soup recipe as a go-to, but I’ve used up all our black beans (both canned and dried) and my monthly Costco trip isn’t planned until Thursday of this week, so I’m planning to try cranberry beans in a bean soup from Food and Wine. That and some corn bread (I’ll try to post my go-to corn bread recipe here very soon…) should hit the spot…

Last week I came across a Jalepeno-Turkey Burger recipe posted by our grocer that I’m excited to try. Tuesday is a busy night with a piano lesson, a musical rehearsal, a robotics club meeting, and a fine arts college night all on the docket, so I feel like the burgers can be mixed and formed earlier in the day, cooked in the early evening for the first dinner shift and warmed later for the second shift. I think I will serve these sans buns with a salad as those of us who are approaching 40 are trying to lose a few pounds by avoiding refined grains… *shrug*

Wednesday I am looking forward to a belated birthday celebration honoring my dear friend Melissa. Yay Girls Night! For the rest of the fam, I plan to throw together a Tuna-Rice Casserole earlier in the day along with a bowl of green peas from the freezer to eat when they can, post swimming or musical rehearsal or soccer practice. This will mean making a white sauce adapted from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook, using olive oil in place of the butter and vegetable broth instead of milk. Combine the white sauce with a few cans of tuna and rice whipped up in the rice cooker in my giant cast iron skillet, top with panko and some pecorino ramano, and bake at 350 until bubbling around the edges. Make sure that a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot is handy… tastes like my childhood!

Hopefully on Thursday I will fit in my monthly trip to Costco. Among many other things (I usually fill a flatbed…) I plan to get many, many bags of their most sustainable fish. Using whatever whitefish I can get my hands on, I’ll make this Brazilian Fish Stew from dizzybusyandhungry.com. It is a genius recipe that combines heart healthy fish and eye-popping flavors into a recipe that comes together in less time than it takes to order and pick up carryout. I’ll add some broccoli with orange zest for some green in both color and vegetable. We won’t be able to squeeze in a dinner with more than five of us together that night, but no matter who eats when that night it will be healthy, filling, and heartwarming.

Friday night is almost alway carryout pizza from our favorite local pizzeria. And Fridays also mean gathering with our best friends from across the street. The kids will start their trek to one of the houses right after school for xbox and running around in the yard. Then around 6:00 the adults will congregate and the wine will flow. A salad of odds and ends from the fridge rounds out the meal and at some point somebody finds a bar of dark chocolate to share among the grown ups and some cookies for the kids. It is a reprieve that marks the end of the exhausting weeks and the beginning of the busy weekend and I love it.

This weekend holds both a soccer tournament and a robotics tournament for the family and so together we will divide and conquer. With only half the family at best, being around for dinner Saturday night, I think a sheet pan dinner of sausages and veggies will do. Any type of sausages and whatever veggies are on hand will do, laid out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. I’ll bake it at 350 to start and switch it to a broil at the end for some caramelization. I believe that the nine year old will get to choose a movie for the two of us to watch while the rest of the crew is off on their own adventures… I can only hope that it is not Star Wars…

With any luck we will gather again on Sunday for dinner and our weekly family meeting… It looks like I will have some time during the day to prep the food and am eager to try a recipe from the cooking section of the New York Times called Kalpudding. It is described as “meatloaf with cabbage” and with some roast potatoes, it looks and sounds like a perfectly cozy way to wrap up a busy weekend. *fingers crossed* I’ll be sure to let you know if its a keeper…

And with that I leave you, hoping that this has inspired you to write your own dinner story this week… or to use mine as a touch point for your own family… a meal is so much more than food for the body. Like I said, it is a way to nourish both the body and the soul.

Cheers! -Lauren

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