By Joe Cowan
Director of Operations
Hello 2021! With the new year finally here, we are starting our meal planning guidance on a weekly basis. Here’s how you can prepare for this week’s first meal plan, to be released Thursday!
Before we start, I’d like to share with you how I approach meal planning with my own family. Each week I start out with a general menu, beginning on Sunday. To prep for Sunday, I need to have a good idea of the week’s meals by Thursday at the latest. This gives me time to plan out my shopping list and catch the farmer’s markets on Saturday, or head over to my favorite farm or local grocery store. Additionally, I spend Saturday on some of my prep list items, i.e. sourdough pasta, bread, tomato sauce, etc. We have a saying in our house; “pasta next week!” The reason for this is because making really good-shaped pasta using a stiff sourdough starter takes planning and time. It is unreasonable to try and attempt making pasta the same day as whatever is going on top of the pasta, in addition to my work and life schedule. So, it must be made a few days in advance on a free afternoon. Also, on Saturdays we frequent our favorite local restaurant, have a relative cook, or eat leftovers from the previous week.
Our weekly meal plan structure is based on how I plan my own family’s meals:
A few notes about recipe adaptations. Many of my recipes are inspired by the cookbooks that I own: Julia Childs recipe books, The Escoffier, the Tartine cookbooks by Chad Robertson, just to name a few. One book, however, is more significant to my approach: Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. If I find a recipe I like that includes something out of season, or an ingredient that is processed or otherwise not healthy, I change or omit that ingredient based on the principles that I understand from Sally’s book. I highly recommend owning a copy of that book and incorporating its principles in your and your family’s diet.
Portion sizes are also a question many people may have. I cook for myself, my wife Emily, and our 20 month old son, George, regularly. My son and I are big eaters, and I like to have leftovers as often as possible for lunch the next day. These recipes are almost all made for 4 adults. If you are cooking for fewer or more people, simply change the ratios accordingly, starting with the largest part of the recipe. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 lbs of chicken thighs and you only want food for two, then cut the quantity of chicken in half and the same goes for rice, pasta, or any carbohydrate in the meal. For spices and smaller components, you are your best judge for how much you want in the dish. You can always keep the same ratios and adjust each ingredient individually, but sometimes an ingredient is necessary, like chicken broth, to ensure that there is enough liquid to cook the meat through.
I find one of the biggest blessings of summer is the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables. Whether perusing a farmer’s market, local farm stand or nearby orchard, it’s inspiring to see what’s growing locally, and then deciding what I’m going to preserve. The month of July is a bountiful one, with gardens growing a plethora of veggies, and orchards offering their first fruits. Here in Michigan, we grow some of the highest quality cherries available, and this blog will be focused on what to do with the cherries that we’ve picked.
We are all accustomed to the idea of preparing food in advance. My freezer is stuffed with bones for making bone broth, already prepared meals that I’ve forgotten about, and dubious looking ice cubes. Other less suspicious items include frozen trays of butter balls, made with ashitaba, wild ramp, and salt and pepper. The seasoning changes slightly depending on what I’m cooking, but on the whole, it’s a basic seasoning I use for simple dishes like rice or scrambled eggs.