One thing I hate: being hungry at 5:30, not having enough ingredients in the house to make something, and having absolutely no inspiration. Blah. Grumpy.
Since school's started back up, and I'm working more, and our schedules are full, I decided I needed to be proactive so this doesn't happen so often. Also, I was recently irked that whenever I go looking for a recipe, I pass one (or two or three...) recipes that I've never made and want to try. But I always forget about.
I came up with a solution for both. Now, every-so-often, about once a week, I sit down with a little slip of paper, a pencil, and my recipe collection. I list the next 5-7 days, and create a menu. This has been brilliant for me for several reasons:
- This acts as a simple planner...Thursday - Liz - mac n cheese (meaning, don't forget Liz is coming for dinner). Friday- Annika's - leftovers (which means to me, we're going to Annika's for games, so just have quick leftovers before we leave)
- When I create this list at a moment of inspiration, I think of the foods we've mentioned we feel like having, and stick them down on different days.
- Then I'm left with a few blank spots. Here's where I go to my recipe places (electronic OneNote, recipe box, books..) I thumb through it until I find one I want to make. I decided I want to try at least one new recipe a week this fall.
- Since there's still plenty of time between when I'm picking the meal and we're actually eating, there's no hindrance about what ingredients are included (as long as I can find them in Prague...) This makes me braver to try new things.
- While I'm choosing recipes and have my recipe books open, I make a shopping list for at least the first two meals coming up.
- I keep it simple: pencil, sticky note, scribbles. What I don't need is a system so elaborate I can't keep up with it. No rules about starting on Sunday, no rules about not leaving anything blank, no rules about changing my mind about when I cook something.
Last week I made my sister-in-law Caren's recipe for
Chicken Tikka Masala
...this was certainly a lesson on order and timing. It was an ordeal, but it was WORTH it! I think it was the best meal I've ever made. And while it was on the longer / challenging end of the spectrum, I found it manageable because I juggled the timing just right.
While the chicken is sitting with the rub, make the yogurt mixture and set it aside. Then get out all the ingredients for the masala, and chop the onions. While the onions are cooking, chop and measure everything else in the sauce. By the time it's ready to sit and simmer for 15 minutes, you can take the chicken out of the fridge and put it in the oven.
I've never cooked chicken under a broiler like this, and certainly never with a yogurt rub on it. It was the tenderest chicken I ever made.
Here's the recipe; I don't know where it originated from, so I can't give credit. But someone deserves it!
1. Combine Cumin, Coriander, Cayenne, and Salt.
1/2 tsp Cumin
2. Sprinkle on both sides of chicken.
1/2 tsp Coriander 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper 1 tsp Salt
3. Refrigerate 30-60 minutes
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken
Whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt 2 Tbs Vegetable Oil 2 Garlic Cloves Minced 1 Tbs grated Ginger
1. Heat oil in Dutch oven. Add Onion and cook 8-10 minutes.
3 Tbs Vegetable Oil 1 Onion Minced
2. Add Garlic, Chile, Tomato Paste, and Garam Masala. Cook 3 minutes
2 Garlic Cloves Minced 2 tsp Grated Ginger 1 Serrano Chile (remove seeds and ribs) 1 Tbs Tomato Paste 1 Tbs Garam Masala
3. Add Tomatoes, Sugar, and Salt. Bring to boil. Simmer 15 minutes.
1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes 2 tsp Sugar 1/2 tsp Salt
4. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Cover and remove from heat.
2/3 cup Heavy Cream
While Sauce Simmers:
1. Set your oven rack to 6inches from broiler.
2. Dip chicken in yogurt & arrange on rack with a tray to catch drippings below the rack
3. Broil 10-18 minutes flipping halfway.
1. Let chicken rest 5 minutes and then cut the chicken into 1inch chunks.
2. Stir the chicken chunks into the warm sauce.
3. Stir in Cilantro and season to taste with salt.
1/4 cup Chopped Cilantro