Two weeks to go, guys! This week we're going to focus on meal planning. When you signed up, many of you asked for help in this department. Posts this week will focus on tips for planning menus including shopping tips, suggested menus for a dinner party, and how to stretch dinners into left-over lunches. This is a practice run for planning your graduation dinner party in a few weeks.
Tomorrow I'll post some menu suggestions based on seasonally inspiration about the U.S. (international readers, write in your suggestions!), but in the meantime, here's the assignment to get you started on this meal-planning business...
First our usual note on participation: Do your best, and pace yourself, but march forward. The Kitchen Cure never gets too hard. Many assignments can be on-going through the Cure. Document your progress with photos and discussion on the forum, this way you'll stay in touch with the community and the group will help keep you going. Losing steam? Ask for help!
I'm the "prep cook" and my boyfriend is the chef in our relationship. I can pretty efficiently keep the kitchen clean before, during, and after he makes an amazing meal, and help out with the "mise en place", etc. BUT I would love to be more confident when it comes to putting together a meal on my own.
Week 5 Assignments
1. Plan a Meal: You're going to plan a meal, using the new skill(s) you picked up as part of last week's assignment.
I have mastered cooking and baking in a countertop convection oven. In Celsius! The roasting part was easy, but I ruined several cakes. It takes longer, since it's so small, but I can do anything I could do in a bigger oven.
Plan your meal on screen or on paper, make your shopping list (surprised at how little you need now that your kitchen is stocked?) and cook, ideally using your new skills learned as part of last week's Cure assignment. Take photos as you go.
Things to think about when planning a meal:
- What is in season?
- What are you craving?
- What is your budget?
There are two basic ways to go about planning a menu:
- Start with your favorite cookbooks or recipes (we have over 400 original recipes in our recipe archive), making a list of ingredients from there, and then shop.
- Stroll through your local farmers' markets or grocery stores (if shopping in a supermarket, talk to the produce manager about what's in season and where it comes from), and pick up ingredients that call out to you, then search through recipes for inspiration and figure out a way to use what you bought. This second option may sound scary to many of you, but it's what we're trying to encourage you to do. Try it.
I'd like to improve planning for "cooking once - eating twice" especially in preparing lunches to take to work or cooking for the next day's dinner without eating the exact thing multiple times, e.g. lentil pilaf becomes lentil soup...that sort of thing.
Here are some online tools for meal planning and a great post about using leftovers:
We have a series of posts about cooking without recipes based on various cuisines. These might help you plan a meal based on ingredients on hand or a cuisine you favor or crave.
- Cooking By Feel: Asian Flavor Combinations
- Cooking By Feel: Italian Ingredients and Flavors
- Cooking By Feel: Indian Ingredients and Flavors
- Cooking By Feel: Latin American Ingredients and Flavors
- Cooking By Feel: French Ingredients and Flavors
2. Preliminary Party Planning: Put a date on the calendar for your dinner party - ideally in the next couple of weeks when the glow of graduation is still bright - and send out invitations.
These are the tulips my mother-in-law brought me on Saturday from her garden! They'll be on our family's dinner table all week if I can remember to keep the stems trimmed and the water fresh.
3. Buy or Cut Fresh Flowers: Each week during the Cure, and hopefully beyond, we're encouraging you to keep fresh flowers in your kitchen. Also, many people have expressed concern over allergies, so try a potted herb. If you have a pot or windowbox, it should be tended each week: watering and using your kitchen herbs once they're big enough. Here's some info on how to plant a windowbox.
4. Stay in touch! We have an exciting community of over 800 people currently signed up for the Kitchen Cure. Smart people. Fun people! And you can meet them all if you get active on our Cure Discussion Page. Also, don't forget to check in every day with the Kitchen Cure Page where all the Cure-related posts live in one neat little package. While assignments are posted once a week on Mondays, related posts are going up every day and there is a lot of conversation to be had in those posts comment threads as well.
Reminders about photographs:
• If you'd like your progress to be showcased, please take "before" and "after shots" and submit them directly to The Kitchn. Make sure to explain what's going on in each image.
• We also have a 2009 Kitchen Cure Flickr Group. If you post your photos to this group, please include captions so we understand what's going on in each image.
(Grocery Bag image by Flickr member timsamoff licensed for use under Creative Commons, Refrigerator Meal Planning and Notebook Meal Planning images by Flickr member petit hiboux licensed for use under Creative Commons, Indian mis en place image by Sabra Krock for The Kitchn)