MINIMAL WEEKLY MENU

 

 

We’re reaching the end of our summer schedule, and I’m slowly beginning to prep for the fall semester.  Between random barbecues, picnics, and visiting friends, we’ve had a very spontaneous schedule that makes pre-planning and eating healthy a little complicated, so I’m looking forward to getting back into a more regular routine.  Thankfully it has helped to have a very minimal menu that we use every week that helps keep things simple no matter the time of year.  I love cooking and baking, so the most difficult part of dinner for me always seems to be deciding what to make.  If I don’t have a menu, I tend to wander around the kitchen sifting through cookbooks as the time ticks closer to dinner with food yet to be made.

Because young children inevitably make meal time a little chaotic (at least at our house), I like to try to do anything I can in my power to make our evening meal time more peaceful.  One thing that helps keep things calm is to create a meal plan each week.  I always come back to this same basic week of meals after trying other things and wonder why I ever strayed.  I find the repetition simplistic and freeing, and it really works for us.  Obviously, there are some nights that I choose an alternative meal, and soup and bread night could mean any kind of soup or bread, but for the most part this is the schedule of what we eat every night of the week.  It also keeps our meals healthy because we avoid impulsively purchasing processed food.

Sunday: Soup & Bread

Whether it’s tomato, potato, lentil, stew, or wild rice soup, this is an easy meal for Sunday evening when we need a gentle end to the weekend.  The bread may be baguette, biscuits, or cornbread, but it’s always buttered and toasted.  Most of our Sunday evenings lately have ended with tomato soup, a baguette, and roasted carrots.

Monday: Potatoes & Onions

Cubed potatoes and chopped onions baked in the oven with at least one other chopped veggie covered in olive oil, salt and pepper is the base for our Monday evening dinners.  We sometimes add a meat or bread, but even if we don’t, it’s still a delicious mixture of vegetables.

Tuesday: Chicken & Rice

So many things can be done with a large pot of rice.  As long as I know Tuesdays are rice day, I can choose chicken and pre-mixed frozen stir fry vegetables, or I will sauté onions, garlic, and any loose vegetables floating around in the veggie basket or refrigerator, and pile it all together on top of the rice.

Wednesday: Tacos/ Burritos/Enchiladas/Quesadillas

Depending on if I want to cook meat or not, and which kind of meat I want to cook, makes the decision on Wednesdays.  Homemade tortillas can make simple ingredients like beans and bell peppers more filling, and they are much more delicious, in my opinion.  I normally make tacos and burritos with homemade tortillas and enchiladas and quesadillas with store bought tortillas.  My current favorite variation on burritos that I have been making lately is a mixture of black beans, bell peppers, onions, and jalapeño peppers sautéed and wrapped with cheddar cheese in a tortilla.  Warmed in the oven until the cheese is melted, these are delicious for dinner and as leftovers for Thursday’s lunch.

Thursday: Out

Thursday nights are spent with our community group where we simply contribute a side or a dessert.  Simple and breezy, this is practically a day off.

Friday: Homemade Pizza

This meal varies, but it almost always includes spaghetti sauce.  Sometimes on homemade pizza crust, sometimes on spaghetti noodles or spaghetti squash, or sometimes simply on the side for dipping homemade garlic bread.  The homemade crust and garlic breads I make are yeast-free because of a yeast intolerance that has forced me to learn a lot of bread alternatives.  We still do a lot of other yeast breads throughout the week for everyone else in the family.

Saturday: Waffles

This is probably the most often substituted meal of the week.  I love waffles, but I don’t always like them for dinner; I normally lean towards less sugary meals at the end of the day.  However, I enjoy making waffles from scratch, and that takes a more time than I normally have at breakfast time.  Quite the quandary.  So, while we do occasionally enjoy them for breakfast, we often end our Saturdays with a giant stack of waffles.

This is our most basic list of meals we’ve been rotating each week, and I love that it is so healthy and simple to keep up.  Currently the smell of onions and potatoes are filling my kitchen, and it’s only 4pm, so I think I can say it’s a successful menu for now.

LIGHT

 

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

 

I regularly open my eyes in the middle of the night to a shadowy form hovering over the side of my bed.  I rarely bother checking to see who it is anymore, and simply direct whoever it is that wondered in towards the pre-made pallet on the floor beside me.  But that’s because it’s become a little bit of a routine; almost all of our children take a turn every few nights, needing help and reassurance in the middle of the night.  I used to be more jumpy, and I would startle awake, grabbing for a light to reassure myself it was only one of the kids.  I would keep my cell phone under my pillow, just in case I needed it.

I’ve been doing a little study on light in the bible, and these verses are full of comfort.  With the internet we have access to all the grief in the world, and it can seem like a dark place, and the darkness can be paralyzing.  Light is important to literally see in the dark and to figuratively make sense out of life.  God is light, and when we look to Him we can see clearly the meaning of life and our purpose in it.  While everything else will change (the world, society, trends, our journey, feelings, ideas, and relationships) God never changes.  If we base our hope and peace on anything that can change, we will inevitably be let down.

Searching for hope and purpose is deeply rooted in our bones; we crave to have things explained and to understand everything around us.  There are so many answers that promise peace and a greater understanding of the world, and while many of these can bring partial peace, they can’t fully satisfy and fill our needs if we continue searching blindly.

1 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this age [the devil] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The devil, mimicking the light as best as he can, tries to convince people that a light can be found somewhere besides God.  He is jealous of our love for God, and knowing his eventual defeat, he relishes in every soul who gets distracted by his false light.

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 4:6)  We were made to worship and glorify the one who made us, and we should give Him credit for every good thing in our lives.  We should be in awe with how wonderful it is to be alive, and love Him for it.  Are we choosing to follow a false light by giving credit for our peace and our hope to another person, religion, church denomination, lifestyle, or even crediting ourselves?

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus is the true light in the darkness of the world.  We can see clearly, without shadow or confusion, the direction we should go and the path we should follow.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)  We can enjoy knowing God and following Jesus the rest of our lives, but to ignore His direction to share that light with the world is like having a flashlight on a dark trail and not sharing it with others.  This responsibility isn’t meant to be a burden.  I think it often gets treated like an obligation or a responsibility for a select few.  However, it should actually be a relief; it answers the question of purpose.  We can be relieved and joyful knowing our purpose in this world is to shine the light of Jesus Christ to others who are searching for a light in the darkness.  There is no greater purpose, so be comforted and encouraged, friends!

 

Lord, thou hast given us thy Word for a light to shine upon our path;
grant us so to meditate on that Word, and to follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shines more and more until the perfect day;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Jerome, c 342 – 420)

CHOCOLATE CAKE

 

The girls and I were craving something sweet yesterday afternoon, so we decided to splurge on a chocolate cake.  I thought I would try to cut the ingredient amounts in half so we could just enjoy a small amount of afternoon cake.  I measured out the ingredients, then walked my 5 and 7 year old through the mixing process, and they were able to whip it together with very little help from me.  It turned out magnificent, and I decided half recipes are my new favorite way to make treats.  It’s similar to the single serving cakes and cookies in a mug except for a 6 person family.  We ate it around 3pm without icing and with mugs of cold milk and then in the evening again with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries.  Absolute perfection.

This chocolate cake recipe is from an old cookbook I use all the time, and a few weeks ago I opened it up to discover I had dropped batter on the cake recipe page.  I tried to gently pull apart the pages that were glued together with batter, but tiny bits of the recipe were lost as the pages tore apart.  After searching online and offline for a copy of the same recipe, I finally gave up and used a different recipe that ended up tasting dry and salty.  This time, I went back to my favorite cookbook again, and after closely examining the pages, I was able to decipher the missing measurements by reading them backwards in faded numbers on the opposite page from the recipe.  You do what you gotta do.  I rewrote it so I would always have my trusty chocolate cake recipe.  I’m leaving the full recipe here, but if you try cutting it in half let me know!


Chocolate Cake (Full Recipe)

Mix:

2 1/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix separately:

2/3 cup butter

1 3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

Add:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate* to butter/sugar/egg mixture
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
Add:

Dry ingredients and 1 1/4 cup water to butter/sugar/egg/chocolate mixture

(Grease cake pan with butter or shortening)
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes

(*For unsweetened chocolate, I use cocoa powder mixed with vegetable oil. 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder+1 Tablespoon vegetable oil=1 ounce unsweetened chocolate)