I cook almost every single day. To people who know me well that doesn’t come as much of a surprise but anytime I meet someone new they marvel at the thought. How do you have the time? Where do you get the energy? Don’t you ever just want to call takeout? The answer to that last one is yes – for sure. Everyone has days where the thought of putting something in a pan seems impossible. However, I have to say even on rough work days, or at the end of a busy weekend, I am usually happy, even eager to cook. Sure I have to check my blackberry while cooking but trust me I have mastered simultaneously stirring and typing.
Stop looking at cooking as a chore and start thinking of it as a creative outlet and a way to decompress. The key to changing that mindset is setting yourself up for success by menu planning. When building the week’s menu I go through recipes I want to try and think about what we already have in the fridge that I can incorporate. We have some standbys that show up often but generally I like to make something new at least a couple of times a week (because I am a masochist). If you are just trying to get in the groove of weeknight cooking go with tried and true meals you feel confident making. I also put thought into the week as a whole. Sure we might have chicken multiple times a week but no one needs to have it two days in a row so I stagger the proteins. I also mix it up when it comes to cuisine – if we are having beef tacos one night I wont make turkey chili the next day. Ok so now you have a couple of meals planned – next you have to make sure to have everything on hand.
I loathe grocery shopping. Part of it has to do with the quality of grocery stores in Washington (seriously Safeway you are out of milk??) but it’s also a total bummer after a long day of work having to wield a huge cart down ridiculously narrow aisles, just to get home and have to put it all away and then start cooking. That is why I try to shop once a week, usually on the weekend, and make it last. When considering produce, use the most perishable items early in the week and leave the heartier stuff towards the end of the week (or frozen) to ensure that you have fresh veggies each night. Also buying in bulk is your friend, especially when it comes to meat. We head to Costco, buy meat for a family of 18 and then vacuum seal them in more reasonable portions to be defrosted for weeknight meals. My freezer (ok freezers, we have 2) are stuffed to the gills but it makes shopping and cooking much easier (also means you are ready for last minute dinner parties and the apocalypse).
I started to put our dinner menu on a shared google calendar so I could keep track and so Patrick could see what he will be eating each night. When I decided to start the blog my friends Dave and Ashley lobbied in the best DC way to get our menu calendar on the blog – so here it is. Every Friday I will update the menu calendar page with some weeknight meals for the following week and post a shopping list for the ingredients you will need on the blog. Some assumptions will be made (you all have salt, pepper and olive oil right??) but it should set you up pretty well to not have to think at all and still put several healthy, homemade dinners on the table. Once I have a good inventory of recipes on the blog most of the dinners will circle you back to a previous post but for now most of them will take you to other sites. Even if you don’t want to make the recipes provided it will give you a sense of what types of things really can work on a weeknight and some ideas of sides etc to round out a full meal.
Let me know how you like it and if it’s getting you cooking more during the week. Its been a month of A Capitol Contessa and over 1,600 visitors – cannot thank you all enough for reading and following. Please send the blog along to friends and family – the more readers I get the more good ideas for posts I have! And don’t worry – I havent forgotten that its Fiesta Friday. I will not leave you high and dry without some inspiration. We tried the Mi Vida from Food and Wine several weeks ago and were very happy indeed. The smokiness of the mezcal goes really nicely with the grapefruit and the pink peppercorn and sugar rim takes it to the next level. If you don’t have pink peppercorns just do sugar – black pepper wouldnt work as well and wouldn’t be as cute! I also cheated and used Tropicana grapefruit juice instead of fresh and it was still delicious. Happy weekend!
Shopping List for June 8-12
- 4 chicken breasts (Mon)
- eggs (Mon)
- breadcrumbs (Mon)
- grated parm (Mon)
- salad greens for 4 (Mon)
- 3 lemons (Mon/Wed)
- 2% milk (whole if fine too) (Mon)
- instant dry polenta (Mon)
- cream cheese (Mon)
- 2 pounds cod fillets (or other white fish) (Wed)
- white wine (Wed)
- mixed olives (Wed)
- parsley (Wed)
- baby spinach (Wed)
- 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes (Wed)
- 2 poblanos (Fri)
- 1 onion (Fri)
- frozen corn (Fri)
- light sour cream (Fri)
- 1 1/2 pound skirt steak (Fri)
- white rice (Fri)