How I Menu Plan
Zodiac’s season is about to get underway and its time to start menu planning.
For me it takes a good deal of time, it’s not just about thinking of different meals to serve and making a grocery list, it’s a balancing act of proteins, starches and cuisines. The majority of our overnight trips are three days, I serve 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners and dessert on the last evening. I start off with a blank table:
Then I slowly fill it in, I usually have a dish or two in mind that I want to make so I make a list of those items and I take note of any holidays, like May 5th is Cinco de Mayo so I’ll want to do Mexican food for lunch on that last day.
Mexican on the 5th
Carrot cashew soup
Green chili egg puff
Asian rice bowl something
I also try to keep the season in mind, it’s spring so let’s do something fresh and green.
Lemon roasted chicken with green onion chimichurri
Sometimes my idea for a meal will come from the side dish I want to eat like my grandfather’s version of garlic bread with parmesan and paprika. Sounds like I should make a big pasta dish to go with that and since this is a high school trip I can stick to something familiar like spaghetti Bolognese rather than going fancier like braised lamb with butternut squash and orange. I find that adults will notice and appreciate my efforts more than students do and it’s nice to change up my menu tailoring to what I think the passengers might like the best.
Now with a little list going I start to fill things out on the table and find where my holes are.
|x||Carrot cashew soup, ? sandwich||Lemon roasted chicken with green onion chimichurri, ??|
|Pancakes||Asian rice bowl||Spaghetti Bolognese, big salad, papa’s garlic breadDessert:|
|Green chili egg puff, English muffin bread, fruit||Mexican||x|
Now I’m mostly there, there’re no major holes, just ideas to finish fleshing out, I like to plan all the details and in a way I have to. We are out on the water, there is no more shopping once the boat leaves the dock so I need to have everything I need for the three days. Sure I can leave a few things loose, get enough vegetables for the meals and not know exactly which I’m serving with what, but I like to know, just makes life easier in the long run even if that means a few more minutes spent figuring it out now.
There are certain things I always serve together, soup always needs a sandwich or a fancy bread, students like grilled cheese so let’s go with that. I don’t believe in plan grilled cheese, I believe in flavor, the recipe I’m using as inspiration to make the soup has coconut milk and cumin in it, so maybe we can make an Indian inspired grilled cheese. How about a tomato chutney spread inside the sandwich with fresh cilantro, simple but a little different.
If we are having bread as our starch for lunch, I don’t want to serve another bread item for dinner and the following day’s lunch is rice so I can’t do that either. Dinner the second night is pasta, so the hole is telling me to serve potatoes and to keep on that fresh spring vibe lets do a medley of spring veggies.
Now I’m left with a breakfast and two lunches to finish up, they just need a few details. Let’s do the Asian rice bowl with pork because we haven’t used that protein as a main yet, which leaves the Mexican lunch on the last day to be chicken. My reason for picking chicken rather than beef is because there are more meals in-between from when I previously served chicken.
Oh! Don’t forget dessert, I like to pick something that matches the theme of the dinner, so I’m gonna have a go at making cannolli flavored ice cream.
Not every menu can be as perfectly balanced as I’d like it to be, it used to really stress me out and I’d try moving things around or think of new ideas to fix it, but I’ve learned to let it go. Well only a little.
|x||Carrot cashew soup, tomato chutney grilled cheese with cilantro||Lemon roasted chicken with green onion chimichurri, garlic potatoes, brown butter peas, snow peas and asparagus|
|Carrot cake pancakes, sausage, yoghurt and almond granola||Fermented black bean braised pork, steamed rice, broccoli with oyster sauce||Spaghetti Bolognese, big salad, papa’s garlic breadDessert: cannoli ice cream|
|Green chili egg puff, English muffin bread, fruit||Chicken tinga tacos, lemon lime coleslaw, black bean corn and tomato salad||x|