The week ahead

Obviously — I think — I like to cook. When I first got interested in really cooking, I tied myself pretty clearly to a handful of cookbooks early in the week, made a menu, and then stuck to it religiously.  As I got more comfortable with my favorite ingredients and was less befuddled about how to adjust on the fly, I got out of that practice and mainly asked that we had a handful of things around that I could always use in a pinch (things like plain yogurt and cream, which are not really “standards” in most homes).  With the switch to vegetarian for TPE, I think I’m going to get back into that habit.

That means I need to spend some time today looking up recipes I like (I always like the comfort of a trusted author nearby as I cook).  I also have to figure out what I need to start keeping in the pantry/fridge for those days where I don’t have time to plan like I’d like.  Anyway, here is a short list of ingredients that I’m sure I’ll use this week: tofu (second attempt), another round with quinoa, an avocado (second attempt for TPE), some edamame , carrots, red onion, summer squash, and maybe some flaxseed (we’ll see).

How do you do your menu planning?  Do you stick to it? What are your go-to-ingredients in your veggie, or not, pantry?

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  • Dave peterson  On May 31, 2010 at 11:47 am


    I found that grilling tofu is the best way to go. Take a block, slice in half and then make into quartered triangles. Rub with peanut oil, the grill for a while. Flip fairly frequently, once there ate well defined grill marks, turning as you do so that the grill marks cross. It gets crunchy and chewy.

  • suzanne  On May 31, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I have a really great quinoa recipe I’ll scan and email to you. It always goes over well at potlucks. Suzanne

  • Lara  On May 31, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    For me our favorite (and pretty quick) stand-by tofu recipe is broiled tofu. Press extra-firm tofu (two plates, the top one weighed down with something heavy like a knife block, tea kettle, etc.) for about 10 minutes. Make a marinade with a bit of canola oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and hot sauce (although the other ingredients are the important ones). Slice the tofu into THIN filets (about 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick) and lay flat in a baking dish. Pour marinade over and broil about 5 minutes on each side.

    I don’t know if your picky eater can (or will?) eat all those ingredients, but the recipe has gone over well even with non-tofu eaters. It has a good texture, and is well-flavoured so that it does not get that bland, smooshy sensation from plain softer tofu.

  • sdmcclurg  On May 31, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Excellent comments and ideas all! Keep them coming!

  • Heather  On May 31, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    We always keep lentils, walnuts, cranberries, plain yogurt, ghee and tortillas on hand. Also, we love the frozen Dr. Praeger’s spinach and broccoli cakes. You can get them at a place like Sunflower Markets. They are great in breakfast burritos with a little egg, potato, cheese and veggie sausage. :>

  • Laura Hatcher  On May 31, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    On the issue of what I keep in my fridge just in case… Go to vegetable that is always there: baby spinach. It keeps for longer than a lot of other greens, and can be chopped for soups, stews, put into a spinach lasagna, eaten with fruit (with a vinaigrette dressing, a little goat cheese or some other mild cheese, and nuts, if you want them — just play with it, lots of things work). Unlike kale and some other lovely wonderful greens, spinach just seems to have a wider range… Other go-to’s include a bag of lentils, a bag of chickpeas, and cans of black beans, and white beans. The reason the black beans and white beans are in here cans is in case I don’t want to go through the soaking process — they’re so easy. Just put them in a blender, add some spices and peppers, and you’ve got all sorts of dips/accompaniments to salads… Throw them in a pan, and you can have a chilli, a stew, or a soup if you add some vegetable broth and whatever other vegetables you have lying around. Heat them up with some fresh herbs and spices, put them on a bed of brown rice, and serve with a nice spinach salad, complete with raspberries, goat cheese and almond slivers (I usually use a little olive oil to “dress” the spinach, then add the fruit and nuts). Easy and versatile, and endless combinations…

  • sdmcclurg  On May 31, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    @Laura…that all sounds pretty wonderful and up TPE’s alley. We have mainly stuck with canned beans so far for convenience, but I’m actually getting her to look at groats even.

  • Jen Wilton  On May 31, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Scott, we keep lots of beans (canned, mostly) on hand. Also carrots. Lentils, and lots of rice. I cook up the rice and freeze it to use later, but you can get it pre-cooked and frozen at Trader Joes and the like. We often make veggie ‘burgers’ and ‘meatloaf’ out of a mix of these items. Here is a site you will love: . Fun and everything we have made (we have made MANY combos) has been good. I usually spread tomato paste and mozzarella over the top, and use GF breadcrumbs if I go that route.

  • Lara  On June 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Another time I’ll think about what we keep for staples. But I will throw out another idea, ’cause I heard canned beans mentioned a few times.

    It is QUITE easy to throw dried bean (a whole package) in a crockpot to soak overnight. Then rinse in the morning and cook 5-8 hours depending on the bean and you have beans to freeze for about 8 servings. This way you have total control of how much salt and don’t have to deal with BPA issues, etc. And I have three boys, so it always happens on the fly and sometimes the beans end up working better for dips. But mostly I will have a quick-thaw bean salad in about 10 minutes, from freezer to table.

    Anyways, really enjoying seeing all the ideas!

  • sdmcclurg  On June 2, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    @Lara…they freeze well then? Time is definitely the main issue with the beans, but if they freeze well I can do them on the weekends.

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