Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wouldn't it be nice: October

I'm back on the resolution wagon- so much so that I'm already declaring October a success!
Somewhat due to the kitchen remodel, but also in large part to laziness (or at least a supreme lack of energy attributed to pregnancy, a full time job, AND the kitchen remodel), we've been eating out quite a bit over the last few months. And I wish I could say it was a lot of fancy, romantic date nights, but more often than not we found ourselves swinging through a drive-thru on the way home from work, or a semi-weekly Lowe's run. It's been my goal for a while to meal plan, grocery shop, know, be a grown up! But we never seemed to be able to get into a rhythm, so many nights ended with us looking at the clock, realizing it was after 7, and just cobbling together whatever we could to avoid starving.

When I think about what I'd like for my family as we start to raise kids, it's important to me that we have dinner together as much as possible...And that dinner be somewhat homecooked, and eaten from chairs, not the couch. It's a FAR cry from where we are now, so I realize I need to start making some changes, if I want my future fantasy to ever be a reality. I'm definitely a "systems" person, so I've been trying to come up with something that inspires me to meal plan, and makes the entire chore of daily feedings easier (our grocery list is a start...but shopping is only half the battle). For some people this may come easily, but I'm much better at event planning than the day to day. I have hundreds of recipes torn out of magazines that I'd love to try, and whenever we have people over, or I have to bring something to someone else's shindig, I really enjoy trying new recipes. And over the years we've compiled a binder of "go-to's"- things that we've tried, loved, and would (in theory) make regularly. But for some reason, I can't seem to get my act together on a daily basis, so our planned meals are few and far between, and quesadillas, mac&cheese, and fast food become our stop-gap staples.

I could blame a lot of things- long working hours, difficulty cooking for two people, busy evening schedule, etc. and so on. But as reasonable as those excuses are, they're not enough to keep me from knowing we really could do better. I may never be June Cleaver, with a piping hot, made from scratch dinner waiting on the table for my husband, but between the two of us we can certainly make an effort to be more intentional about our weekly meals.

SO- We're starting the process of change. The first step in my pregnancy nesting-brain was to prepare some meals for when the baby arrives. I figure if I can't pull it together to cook now, I'll have no shot when we have a newborn in the mix. It's not a permanent solve, but having a fully stocked freezer feels like a good head start for our new, responsible eating filled, life.

Dustin and I set aside pretty much the whole day and attacked some freezer-friendly recipes, with great success. In one day we managed to turn this:

into seven different meals for storage. (And bonus- all of the recipes serve at least four, if not eight, so really we have weeks of ready made meals waiting in the wings.)

Our menu:
  • Zucchini Lasagna (we managed to refine the process since last time)
  • Artichoke Chicken Bake
  • Soft Taco Pie
  • White Chicken Chili
  • Macaroni and Cheese (you know I'm always up for a new version! Becase we're freezing it, I didn't try it yet, but based on what I had on hand, I substituted goat cheese for gorgonzola, and parmasean for gruyere. We'll see how that all turns out!)
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Stuffed Shells
And if that wasn't enough....We also prepped some food for a little "Yay! The Kitchen is Done!" get-together we're throwing tomorrow. On the list there:
  • Skyline Chili Dip
  • Tomato/Mozzarella/Pesto salad
  • White Trash Puff Balls (pepperoni, and pineapple/ham)
  • 7-layer Mexican Dip
  • Stuffed Mushrooms (I made these a few years ago on trick or treat night....for us, not the neighborhood now they are forever linked to Halloween in my mind and I get a craving for them ever year around this time)
  • Zucchini Nut Bread Cookie Sandwiches (FYI- the first round used wax paper and almost burned my house down- but the cookies looked great. The second round used non-stick spray, which was much safer, but the cookies look like giant flat blobs of goo. Good news: They all taste just fine.)
It was a loooooong day, but I'm proud of all we got done. We are set for a big day of eating tomorrow, a few weeks of meals later, and we even had enough random leftovers from the process to make a couple dinners for this week! And besides that- we got to use our new kitchen! I mean really use our kitchen. The new work table was a game-changer- we have twice as much "counter" space as before, the old refrigerator we moved to the basement stored all our frozen meals, and party prepped dishes (we dubbed it "party fridge") and the new double ovens allowed me to make three trays of cookies at once (meaning I could burn down the house in half the time as before!) I can't wait to show off our new digs...but right now, it's time to eat!


  1. the menu planning thing is STILL a work in progress over here. In fact, I have my calendar in front of me and I've been filling in what's for dinner either before/during/or after it was all said and done, for about a month (incidentally, I have NOTHING written on last week and I know we ate something there...sigh).

    that said, I'm trying to shop from my pantry this week and only pick up staples. Oct/Nov/Dec are HUGE shopping months and I tend to go to the grocery store WAY too much then.

    anywho- I support your mission and think it's fabulous that you have a stocked freezer!
    I cannot believe she's almost here and you'll meet the little unknown in your belly. can't wait to see pics and know all is well.

  2. ps I've been enjoying Joy in My Kitchen's posts of late.

    she's been focusing on 31 days of cooking from scratch. not something to necessarily undertake at this point in your life, but great recipes there (including Waffles of Insane greatness and Pumpkin Spice Granola-YUM)