Saturday, March 17, 2012

boring menus, and meal inspiration

No one who knows me would be surprised to learn that I do the menu planning around here. Shocked? No? Good. Sunday or Monday evening I sit down and think through what we're going to eat for the rest of the list. I look through the fridge, I think about what we've eaten recently, about what flavours I've seen on tv that I want to try and I try to come up with a guideline for what we're eating for the next week.

Bunny has some say, but has told me that if I want to run the show it's mine. So I run the menu by him, ask if there's anything he doesn't like the sound of, anything he wants to change or replace, and if we need to add anything else to the menu. Mostly he just says "that's good".

It's hard sometimes not to fall into a rut. Not to have chicken breasts with sauted spinach and mashed potatoes three weeks in a row. We have either a stir fry or a fried rice almost every week, lately we've been alternating these with curries as well. Soups make constant appearances, so we try to change the flavours.

Some weeks, I look at the menu plan and get really, really sad. Because shit, didn't we eat exactly that last week? Don't we ever do anything interesting? How many roast beefs and pastas-with-alfredo sauce can we eat?

Then I look at it a little bit more. And sometimes, sometimes I see things differently. I wander around the living room and catch sight of the new stir-fry book Bunny bought for me. I see a sad bunch of droopy green onions and think about something new to do with them. I open up the "Sheryl's Recipes" tab in my bookmarks and look for word or recipes that I haven't made yet to jump out at me and say HEY! MAKE ME! USE ME!

Wheels start churning, and I start salvitating. "Chicken with sauted spinach and mashed potatoes" doesn't look boring anymore, but it's not going to work, because suddenly I am thinking about a soy-ginger glazed chicken and who wants spinach with soy-ginger glazed chicken? Stir fried baby bok choi is a very good substitute for spinach, in keeping with the dark, leafy greens. Mashed potatoes can be replaced with basmati rice, or glass noodles.

The whole dish transforms in my mind, while the basic structure of it is the same. Just as easily it could have transformed into an orange chicken with spicy green beans. Or seasoned heavily with paprika and served with a shredded cabbage and roast potatoes.

So when I'm uninspired and bored with all my meal ideas, I still put them down on the menu. Because it's a place to start.

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