Sunday, February 28, 2010

Menu Monday- My Menu Planning Binder

March 1st! How can it be? Another month beginning already! It seems we were just packing away our Christmas decorations.

We have been so busy with our kids' basketball teams and activities lately. It's been so good to have an "anchor"- AKA, my menu plan! Today it was time to turn to a new month and so it was time to plan out the month's menu. I know that sounds like a lot (well, it used to to me before I started menu planning) but now it's really not hard at all. And it makes it so easy to go through our days and weeks, knowing what I need to shop for and prepare.

I've shared here and here about how menu planning has become such a sanity saver for me. I was not always organized in this very important area. It continues to be a journey for me (as all areas of organization are for this natural-born procrastinator!) This week I thought I'd share how I do my menu planning binder. It keep it right in my kitchen on my island/bar, propped up on an iron cookbook holder. It's so helpful, always accessible, an invaluable resource to me, and it was really easy to put together!

First of all, don't be impressed with the cover (or the pages.) I have found that a cheap package of pretty paper from the dollar store or the sale table at the office store and some cheap page protectors makes even the most boring print-outs look "fun." A few years ago when I put this binder together, we had purchased this "bamboo" looking paper for some letters we were sending out for a mission trip to China. The green matched my kitchen so I used a couple of sheets. :)

At the beginning of the year I printed out monthly calendar pages from (Oh, if you haven't been to her site GO THERE. Forms for EVERYTHING!!) I printed all 12 months at once on some dollar store paper, three-hole punched them and wah-lah. They were ready for the binder. So. On the right I've got my monthly pages and on the left are the recipes I'll be needing for the current week.
This particular photo was taken at the end of January, so you can see my checkmarks for the meals that actually happened. If they don't, then I know I can bump that recipe to another night the next week/month/ whenever.
The current month stays in the very front, but the other months' pages go behind this sheet, one of my favorite resources I created. This is a "quick reference" I typed up of my family's favorite recipes. (You can click to enlarge.) Again, it's really not rocket surgery, and it looks like a bigger deal than it is because it's on pretty paper and in a page protector. I simply categorized my family's favorites and beside each one put where the recipe is located. So when I sit to plan my month, if I'm not cooking from a new book or trying some ground-breaking new recipe, I can scan this list easily and plan a chicken, a beef, a meatless, an Ethiopian dish and a soup. There. It's all listed. Each week I try to do that type of variety, so I can simply choose from each category of "tried and true" recipes. It's so helpful, and it really didn't take that long to type up.
This particular list continues on a "page 2" which is on the other side of the page protector. At the end of this year I'll add new recipes to the list that we enjoyed during the year, since I'll have my year's worth of monthly pages. If we love a recipe I'll put a star on it, or I'll notice as I go through the pages to make my binder in January if I kept making something repeatedly, it'll get bumped to "favorite" status.

So, there it is, one of my most helpful resources in my monthly menu planning. There are many (and better!) ways to do this, but this has helped me tremendously. I'd love to know what works for you, as I'm always looking for ways to improve. If you have something, please let me know!

And now for our menu for this week:

Monday: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, rolls

Tuesday: Mini Meatloaves, baked sweet potatoes, green beans

Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Ye Doro Alicha Wet (mild chicken), chick pea paste (yummy and so healthy!) and injera bread

Thursday: Senior Night at the basketball game, and out to eat with the team afterwards

Friday: YO-YO (you're on your own!) leftovers, etc.

Please, please if you have a menu planning binder idea do share it with me! If you have a menu you'd like to share, or want to visit more weekly plans to get some ideas, hop on over to Laura's at She's such a great resource for getting organized (one of my major endeavors at the moment.)

Have a yummy week!

*S*N*O*W* Much Fun!

After living his first 10 years on a continent that never gets snow and then moving to Texas, which almost never gets snow, a couple of weeks ago our little African boy got his wish... SNOW that he could play in! And since our other two have mainly traveled to the beach and to sub-saharan Africa, the record snowfall in our area was a first for all of them. We had two days of SNOW much fun!!

His "snow buddy," Haley. He would throw snowballs up in the air and she would catch and eat them. That totally cracked him up!

Our first class of the day was "Snowman 101." He thought it was so cool how you could roll a snowball and it would get bigger. It bothered him when there was a strip of grass showing after we rolled a snowball, so he would go get a shovel and fill it back in. (That was before it snowed the rest of the day and covered it back up. I hated to tell him that's always how Texas snow is...)

Our first snowman in the backyard. Another snowman and woman were forthcoming in the front yard later.

Catching snowflakes with your tongue. Everyone has to do this at least once! I just love how it looks on his hair, too. :)

Snow + Half-n-half+ sugar= snow ice cream. Yummy!

He wanted to make a snow angel but couldn't stand the snow falling in his face. You can click on the photo to make it bigger and see his face. So funny!

African Snow Angel

Snow ball fight... you wanna piece of this??

Bring it on!

Wait, not on the camera (wo)man!!

Daddy and daughter. Looks like Dad may be watching for oncoming snowballs. For good reason!

Ethiopian snowman with his Ethiopia hat and flag.

Time for a snow-woman. Since Valentine's Day was in a couple of days, we decided on a Valentine theme for her attire...

Candy hearts for eyes and mouth, blow pop for a nose. She was trying to catch the attention of the cute African snowguy next to her. :)

You might be from Texas if you're hauling snow on a boogie board!

A good hill at the park.

He spent most of his afternoon IN the snow. As in, laying in it. Loved it!

A great way to warm up after a cold afternoon. I kept the hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies coming, and ran the fleecy blankets in the dryer so they would be toasty warm when everyone came in to thaw out. It was a great day!

Fun memories!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Monday's Menu Tuesday

I often think of Tuesday as Monday's "do-over." That's because many weeks I need it to be! So, it's not at all unusual for me to do my Menu Monday post on Tuesdays when I need to. :)

I figured since it's Valentine's week and this is a kitchen-y post, I'd snap a quick photo of my kitchen table this morning. Yes, those are our baskets of books in the background. In fact, just after I took this picture with my phone, my sweet Ethiopian son and I sat down for breakfast together and as we were chatting we went through some of the "Planet Earth" geography flashcards over breakfast. Some of those photos are fascinating! He has never seen those things, and it's also really fostering more English vocabulary. So, there's my kitchen... as theme-y as I can make it, but mostly very utilitarian!

Before I share this week's menu I have to tell you about a fun idea we did for my sister-in-law's baby shower this weekend. We made brownie sundaes in big martini glasses. They turned out so cute! So cute that I don't even have a picture! However, I did find these Grasshopper Sundaes on Rachel Ray's site, and there is a photo. Instead of crumbling the brownies I made them into small muffins that fit right in the bottom of the glass. They turned out great! Oh, and the cooking time for "mini brownie muffins" using just boxed brownie mix is exactly 20 minutes on 350. My family was happy to be the brownie testers for me last week as I experimented with cooking times. :)

A meatless recipe I made last week that turned out great was this Enchilada Casserole. But OH my GOODNESS I didn't think it was going to be good at all! When it came time to put the cornbread batter on top, it immediately sank down into the mixture (which had been in the crock pot for about 4 hours). I thought it was the worst looking conglomeration I'd ever put in the crock pot. I was already mentally planning "breakfast for dinner" as a back up. It was awful-looking! But after awhile, the cornbread cooked up and it turned out really yummy! So, I encourage you to try it!

This week I only need to make one "portable dinner" for a basketball game. I'm trying some calzones tonight. We'll see how they turn out!

Monday: Out-to-eat for a missions fundraiser at a fun hamburger place in town

Tuesday: Calzones, fruit

Wednesday: Ethiopian food night! Yetekekele Enqual be Misr (boiled egg and spicy lentil stew), Yeatakilt Wet (cabbage and potatoes)

Thursday: Crock Pot ham, green beans, roasted carrots

Friday: Tomato Barley Soup, Cheese Paninis (<--- you know this is a fancy way of saying "grilled cheese" right? LOL)

I hope you have a Valentines week filled with love! For more menus or to share yours, visit Laura at

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Thankful Thursday

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lam. 3:22-23

It's a cold, rainy, dreary day. It's the end of a week that has seemed to stretch on and on. My daily tasks have exceeded my energy level. I have spent most of today feeling achy and icky. So, what's the perfect thing to do right now? Give thanks! If we are to give thanks "in all circumstances" then certainly "blah days" are the perfect time.

Off the top of my head, I am thankful for:
  • the healing of the husband of a friend. He had complications following sinus surgery and they were quite serious and unexpected this week. God worked in a miraculous way.
  • healing and less severe injuries than were expected in one of my daughter's teammates , who suffered a concussion during a game this week. She was hit by another player who landed on her and she fell on her head and neck, coming down quite hard on the gym floor. It was a very disconcerting thing for all of the team members and parents, as she progressively got worse, the ambulance was called, the sirens approached, and the paramedics came and took her. We all came to grips with how serious some injuries can be. She experienced God's hand of grace that night. I am thanking God in advance for her full recovery.
  • time yesterday with a cherished aunt and uncle of mine. My Uncle Jerry and Aunt Lois are such a huge part of who I am. I love them so much. They braved the weather to fly out of South Carolina earlier in the week to be here for a funeral. God granted that we should have a few moments together this week and it was such a precious time.
  • a daughter who is a careful driver in all of this rain. She is also so respectful, and texts me when she arrives at her destination and before she leaves to come home. I just got a text that she was heading home from her part time job. I am thankful for a hard-working, mature teenage daughter.
  • respectful sons. Just now that sprang to mind, so I called upstairs to my oldest (13 yo) son. Upon hearing his name he answered "Ma'am?" That may just be a southern thing, but I love it. We have our "typical" mother/teenage boy moments, but in the end he remains very respectful of me. I am not taking that for granted! He now has a younger brother who is learning from him how to respect his parents and it is such a blessing.
  • the smell of dinner in the crock pot. It isn't simply a reminder of another task I can check off the list... it's the scent of God's provision. Food. Appliances. Electricity. Warmth. Fellowship. With the winter storms to the north and east, the situation in Haiti, and the many circumstances we have seen all over the world, I don't take any of those for granted either.
To share what you are thankful for today, or to read others' "Thankful Thursday" posts, visit Iris at Grace Alone. Have a blessed weekend!