Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Thirty-One Nights of Different Dinners

So let me first of all wish you all a very happy new year!  How does your family ring in the new year by the way?  A big party?  Bang some pots and pans?  Get together with good friends?  

Our new years was a little on the low-key side, we stayed home with the girls, had a comforting dinner, toasted with some apple grape sparkling cider and played puzzles and games all night, which culminated into banging pots and pans and lighting a few sparklers when the clock struck 12am.  They were so excited to be allowed to stay up until midnight.  We've also been fighting off a couple of cold and flu bugs that have been making the rounds through our family, so we rang in 2013 warm and cozy, and keeping our germs to ourselves (you're welcome).

We also have another silly tradition I started sometime back in college.  We call it, "the first flush of the year".  It's the symbolic and silly "flushing away" of the old year and getting a clean, fresh bowl for the upcoming year.  This year was pretty uneventful, as the girls were basically confused on why we were doing it, but gleefully flushed along with us.  Here's a pic (and an explanation) of a few years back, my friend and my husband in what looks like a very odd picture.  Only they are innocently celebrating the first flush of the year.

This picture seems so jarring if you don't know the back story.  We crack ourselves up.
But I wanted to share with you the one gift I have given to my husband every year for the last four years.  It's something he looks forward to with great anticipation.  I always tuck it into the top of his stocking (the morning after Santa comes) and he gets so excited about it.  He brags about it daily on facebook actually.  What do I give him you ask?  Well we've affectionately started calling it

The 31 nights of different dinners for the month of January

That's right, what started out as a causal wish a few years ago that we should try new recipes and not have any left overs for dinner for one month, became a challenge.  Could I really not repeat any meals over the course of a month?  How could I not have any left overs?  It's so nice to make a big batch of something and "live" off it a few times during a busy week.  So let me break it down, here are our ground rules for the 31 nights of different dinners.

1.  Each night in the month of January, a different meal will be served
2.  New recipes will be tried and see if they fit in to our regular rotation
3.  Not everything has to be from scratch.  I reserve the right to serve pancakes
    or fish sticks, or go out for burgers one night if our schedule is tight.  The only 
   rule is we then can't have hamburgers or pancakes more than one night that month.
4. If there are leftovers it is perfectly ok for hubby to take them to work for his
    lunches.  The only rule is that I can't serve that meal again for a dinner.
5. The kids are rather picky, they should try the new dishes, but I will try to have
    an alternative or vary the recipe so they will eat it too.


So that is it.  It's way more challenging than I thought at first.  Here are some of my issues I have had to work through:

First, This helps me cook less.  I come from a big family where everything was made in a 9x13 pan.  I am currently only cooking for me and my husband, and the girls tend to eat like birds.  Learning how to cut recipes in half has been an eye opener for me.

Second, This helps me create a menu. In every day life I normally have about 1-2 weeks of meals in my head I know we have on hand.  They are not for any particular night, I just pull them out when needed and what the schedule calls for.  For this challenge I really don't want to end up serving two of the same type of thing back to back (Two chickens, or two meats, etc.)  I want to spread them out and mix them up a bit.  Even adding vegetarian options here and there in the forms of soups and salads (Shhh, don't tell hubby).  I tend to write out every meal we like, then make a list of things I want to try. Then I try and space them out evenly so we get a variety.

Thirdly, This makes me resourceful. I really try to go through our pantry and see what kind of meal I can make out of what we already have. One year I tried champagne risotto because someone had left a mini bottle of champagne (and we don't really drink) behind in our fridge and I though what the heck. Thank goodness I wasn't blogging then, let's just say I'm going to have to try that one again, as it turned out I didn't have enough chicken stock to make it work.  Good flavor, but dry.  This year will be extra challenging because our finances our extremely tight, so making the occasional "fancy" meal is going to be extra tricky as well

Fourthly, This makes me plan ahead. I'm still very busy and I needed to find tips and tricks to make some meals quicker.  I now tend to cook the proteins once but double the amount so it's enough to make two meals and freeze the other half.  So if I know we are going to have taco salads one night, I will make 2 lbs of taco meat and freeze half.  Then, a week or two later I can make my three-cheese Mexican soup by just defrosting the other half of the meat and adding my soup ingredients.  This way I can still get quick meals to the table on those nights when we are extra busy.

So that is the challenge I have given myself for the first 31 days of 2013.  It's really turned into a great idea because we have added a ton of new recipes to our regular meal line up through this project.  So I might not post every day what we are having for dinner, but do a weekly round up of things we have made.  If I try a new recipe though, I will post it here and share with you.  Thank you so much, and have a wonderfully blessed new year!



Archie said...

That sounds like a winner! Such a fun idea for adding new things to the menu to keep from getting stuck on "Taco Salad" every thursday.

The Husband said...

Hey! I love Taco Salad Thursdays!

Brenda said...

I miss Taco Salad Thursdays..... :-(

Jenn said...

fear not people.. it's Thursday... and tonight... it's TACO SALADS.

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