04 September 2013

Making it Up As I Go

I don't know how it works in your family, but at the Shifflerhaus, my habit of not exactly following recipes tends to generate a fair bit of good-natured eye rolling. "I prefer to be inspired by the recipes, not shackled to them!" I insist. "Mmhm," Matt replies, raising an eyebrow skeptically at the mess on the stove.

Sometimes it works spectacularly, like with the other week's yet-to-be-replicated wonderfully soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes, not so much, like the mess of scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and string beans Little Bear and I had for dinner while Matt was out hunting. Well, Little Bear liked it, but it definitely wasn't grown-up food. Most of the time it turns out just fine. Nothing to write home about, but no cause to worry about food poisoning. We're hoping tonight's dinner falls into this category.

Why not aim for spectacular? Because I do know my own limits, and dredging frozen steak in seasoned flour and tossing it in the crockpot with dry minced onions, vegetable broth, and worcestershire sauce at 9 am will most likely give us a decent supper but definitely won't work miracles. 

The fly-by-night approach won't work forever, as Little Bear gets older and maybe acquires siblings, and other things start competing for places in our schedule. I'll have less time to cook, most likely less meal budget flexibility, and will be more tied down to set time frames and recipes than I am now. And I know it, and I know that I should be cultivating better habits now so that it's not as difficult an adjustment later. I do plan a menu every week, shocking as that may be; I just don't necessarily stick to it, or at least I rearrange meals at the last minute.

My biggest problem seems to be making sure the meat is thawed in enough time to make whatever I wrote on the menu. Meat is crazy expensive here, so I try to only buy it on the rare times when it is on a good sale, putting extra in the freezer. We also hunt and fish to provide a good deal of the meat we eat, again storing the wild game in the freezer until the day I plan to cook it. Which means that, if I am busy or distracted in the morning and forget to pull out the meat for that night's meal, there is no meat in the refrigerator when I go to start cooking... which is when I start shuffling things around on my carefully planned menu, or just making things up on the spur of the moment.

This week's menu, as written Saturday:
Sunday: quesadillas
Monday: burgers all the way
Tuesday: Norwegian pot roast
Wednesday: chicken pot pie
Thursday: (dinner with my family)
Friday: islander salmon
Saturday: moose steak stirfry w/rice

This week's menu, as amended so far:
Sunday: scrambled eggs, cheese, beans
Monday: burgers
Tuesday: chicken stirfry w/rice
Wednesday: crockpot moose steak
Thursday: (dinner with my family)
Friday: salmon pirozhki
Saturday: leftovers/fast day

Not a huge difference in main ingredients, but quite a few changes overall.

When you need to pull something out the night before or first thing in the morning, what helps you remember? I would love to get a good pattern established, so that we could actually stick to the menu plan all week!


  1. I used to put it right on my meal plan. For example: (it usually takes 2 days to thaw meat in our fridge)
    Sun roast chicken (take sauce and chicken breasts out of freezer)
    Mon spaghetti/meatballs (take ground beef out of freezer)
    Tues chicken cutlets
    Wed hamburgers

    Now I use Remember the Milk for my household chores to keep things organized, and put it on there.

    1. I plan the weekly menu in the sidebars of my planner/organizer, and do occasionally write down "take out X to thaw" in the daily list of chores... I guess I just need to do a better job of writing it every time!

  2. You should open a restaurant called "Shiffelhaus".

    1. I don't think customers would appreciate the every-so-often "there is NOTHING in the fridge tonight!!!" specials... Last night's dinner is surprisingly a keeper, though.

  3. I put a "Check the menu" note on the cereal box and move it around from time to time-milk, coffee pot, jelly jar-something I will see. Ten I peek at the menu and defrost if necessary.

    1. That is an excellent idea! Having it right in front of my nose first thing in the morning would definitely help.