Monday, July 14, 2014

Meal Plan Monday--Summer Edition

I've talked about the joys of making a plan and the elation of making a list.  But I have to admit, summer meal plans are tricky for me, even though concocting a weekly meal plan is usually one of my favorite games!  In general, I think that it's beneficial and makes sense to take an inventory of your pantry and freezer towards the end of a week, make a general plan, and have the supplies and plan ready to go by Sunday or Monday.
But summer is so hot.  And normal routines and schedules are put on the back burner (where my mashed potatoes should be!).  There are baseball games to go to and pools to stay in until sunset.  Who wants to call everyone away from the fun at 5:30 to pull a meal together?
Despite the heat and lack of motivation, there are some wonderful things about summer eating that we need to focus on:  fresh produce and grills!  So to stay on task and inspired, I've given myself a rough outline of what a week's worth of meals should look like in the summer:
1.  Serious grilling.
2. A form of taco.
3. A form of pizza.
4. Silly grilling.
5. A form of breakfast.
6. A meal that uses up ingredients (most likely from Serious Grilling day).
A quick breakdown:
Serious grilling will most likely involve a wonderful cut of meat you've found on sale: rack of ribs, pork loin, london broil, or whole chicken.  Just add two sides or so. The beauty of this meal is that not only are you feeding the family some high quality delicious food, you will most likely have leftovers.
Taco dinner can change every week, but it gives you a jumping off point.  Traditional beef tacos, carnitas, fish tacos, shrimp quesadillas...there are so many variations on this simple theme to keep dinners interesting without spending a ton of time or money.
Pizza dinner works in very much the same way.  The possibilities are endless.  I keep a pizza dough from Trader Joe's in the freezer most of the time, and when we have random ingredients in the fridge you've got your pizza theme.  Bacon cheeseburger pizza, spinach and mushroom pizza.  Plus you can change it up by grilling pizza one night, making mini English muffin pizzas, or a French bread pizza.
Silly grilling is not really silly at all!  But it is a safe and easy bet, if not the healthiest choice.  Think burgers, hot dogs, kielbasa, grilled chicken for sandwiches or salads.  Less hands on than Serious Grilling, usually faster to hit the table as well.  Pair with a pasta salad and fresh tomato slices, and you're done.
A form of breakfast.  In the winter, so many cozy meals can be served as "breakfast for dinner".  In the summer, it is just too hot for breakfast casseroles and such.  But poached eggs over asparagus...wonderful!  A quiche with local produce is a fast and easy meal too.  Pioneer Woman's Migas recipe will make use of the corn tortillas left over from Some Form of Taco night.  Ah, I love it when a meal plan comes together!
Finally, Make Use of Ingredients night.  Just a few examples:  if you serve a Beer Butt Chicken on Sunday, then you can debone the chicken and make Chicken Divan or Chicken Salad.  It's so much tastier with grilled or smoked meat.  If you serve a pork loin over the weekend, then make Cuban sandwiches with the leftover slices.  A perfectly cooked flat-iron steak makes great steak sandwiches or a version of a black-and-bleu salad later in the week.  You get the idea...
I only outlined 6 of my "form of..." meals since I figured you may be able to reinvent your leftovers more than once, you may get to eat out one evening, or maybe you take turns collaborating meals with family and friends.  This week's meal plan in the Vortex turned out pretty well.  It looks like this:
Skirt steak, baked rice with mushrooms and onions, roasted parmesan asparagus. (Serious grilling)

Meatballs subs (I made this recipe and served it over vermicelli a couple of weeks ago.  The rest went in the freezer to have subs.  Homemade meatball subs make me so happy.  It's almost too hot for a hot sandwich, but I'll sacrifice just this once.  I guess this qualifies as "Make Use of Ingredients" night.)
Traditional tacos.  I'm taking the easy uninteresting way out this week.  I'll get fancy next week.
Steak sandwiches with a spinach salad to use up the rest of the sub rolls and that gorgeous steak from last night. (Another Make Use of Ingredients night).
Spinach and bacon quiche. (Form of breakfast).
Nacho night!  This should be a form of pizza night, and usually Fridays are. But when we have traditional ol' regular tacos, I usually have enough left over to make a tray of loaded nachos (or a taco salad if you want to take a healthier route. I choose nachos.)
I still have Form of Pizza and Silly Grilling to consider for my 7th night!  Oh, it does feel good to not have to think about dinner anymore this week.

Happy heat of the summer cooking!

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