Meal Plan for the Month of May

May menu

You can download my May meal plan here.

Hi, internet. It’s been awhile. Sorry! I’ve had some life stuff happening.

Rest assured that I’ve been cooking. I’ve been eating. And I’ve been planning. Oh, how I’ve been planning! In what is likely a futile effort to exert control over the universe, I actually planned my May menu in one fell swoop, complete with recipe links. And then I told myself that I should probably post it up here ASAP in case it might be of use to anyone else.

Which clearly didn’t happen.  Um… better late than never?

A brief recap of how I meal plan:

  • I only plan five meals a week. This gives me room for spontaneous life happenings… Mr. M having a sudden yen to barbecue oysters, accepting a dinner invite, etc. It also gives us time to eat through our leftovers and cobble together random meals with leftover groceries.
  • I set themes for each weeknight. The themes rotate, based on a number of factors. These factors include time of year, life events, and whatever it is that I’m prioritizing at the moment. The one fixed category is that we always eat at least one vegetarian meal per week. My May priorities include saving time and money.
  • I like to use what I already have as much as possible. Currently, we’ve got a huge bag of tortillas from Costco to use up. We’ve also got a freezer full of lamb, razor clams, and pork. That factored in to the categories I chose for the month.
  • I do love to cook and try new recipes, so I picked four new (and potentially time-intensive) meals to try. They are indicated in grey on the calendar.

Want to download my May meal plan calendar with links to recipes? Click here for a copy. 

Herb’s Clam Patties

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Grandpa and Big Sis, clam digging in 2014

Okay, I’m terrible at remembering to take photos while cooking. I promise to update this recipe ASAP with pictures of cleaned clams, ground clams, clam juice, clam batter, and clam patties.

In the mean time, however, I wanted to share a fabulous recipe. My mom reverse-engineered these patties based on her childhood memories. Her much-beloved father (the eponymous Herb) was an avid fisherman who also enjoyed that oh-so-Pacific-Northwest activity of razor-clam digging. My mom says he didn’t actually have a recipe for these patties; he just made them by throwing in a little of this and a little of that.

Thankfully, my mother is willing to give measurements when cornered and threatened. 🙂 She also advised that you can use milk as your only liquid for the recipe (omitting clam juice completely) but the patties won’t be as flavorful.

This recipe makes a TON of patties. If you’re having a big gathering, the recipe doubles well (and you’d definitely want to use 3 eggs for a double batch).

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups ground clams (we use razor clams because, well, Washingtonians…)
  • 1 1/2 cups corn meal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 or 2 eggs (Either is fine. Really.)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup or more clam juice (see note below)
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

Cleaning razor clams is a process in and of itself. You can check here for a great tutorial. I used a food grinder to grind them up afterwards.

Clams prepped? Hurray! Now it’s time for the actual recipe directions!

Mix your cornmeal, flour, and baking powder together in one bowl. In another bowl, first beat the egg/eggs. Add in milk. Combine your wet and dry ingredients together. Also add the ground clams. Stir, then add enough clam juice to make a smooth, thick batter.

Clam patty batter should be a little thicker than pancake batter. If you’re not sure you’ve reached the right consistency, error on the side of caution… leave it a bit thick, fry up a test patty, and see if it cooked through without burning the outside. If not, adjust accordingly by adding more clam juice or milk.

Note on clam juice: freshly cleaned or thawed clams will give off juice if you let them sit in a container or bowl for a few minutes. The juice looks like cloudy water. Alternatively, bottles of clam juice are often available in the same grocery store aisle as canned tuna.

April Meal Plan #2: Starting Swim Lessons

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Big Sis and me, at parent-tot swim lessons several years ago

Next week, I’m embarking on an adventure that requires a whole new level of organization and planning: early evening swim lessons for two children in the five-and-under age bracket! Pondering the post-lesson locker room antics already has me shuddering. But you know what? I’ve done this before and we somehow all managed to survive. I have great faith in our abilities!

It does mean, however, that meal planning for Mondays and Wednesdays must be simple and fast. They’ll be coming home hungry. I’ll be coming home short of patience and energy. How will I address this reality? In future weeks, I hope to employ the slow cooker… or maybe also do up some super simple skillet meals. But for now, I’m still on my Lenten pantry challenge. And I’m sticking with it, even if I’m a little light on veggies and a little heavy on carbohydrates…

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Fridge, freezer, and pantry items I’m using up with this week’s plan: pasta, bread crumbs, garlic, chicken nuggets, black-eyed peas, corn meal, rice, beans, tortillas, jar curry, frozen meat, rice

* * * * *

Swim Lesson Night #1anchovy and garlic pasta with cut fruit

Swim Lesson Night #2 – chicken nuggets with garlic-sauteed greens and cut fruit

Pantry Challenge #1smoked sausage and black-eyed peas with cornbread

Pantry Challenge #2rice and bean lunch wraps

Pantry Challenge #3 – jar curry with either pork or lamb, served over rice.

 

April Meal Plan #1: Soggy Spring Break!

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(Tea party with the kids in our hideously dark dining nook!)

Oops! I missed my usual Sunday posting. Apologies! I was very busy with nothing in particular, which is generally what happens on a weekend when you have small children (especially if it’s the first sunny day in eons). The fact that we’re officially on Spring Break around here only made it worse! To top it all off, I just didn’t feel like cooking, so our Sunday dinner involved burgers, fries, and milkshakes from a local drive-thru.

It was glorious.

But Lenten observances wait for no woman, and now I’m back to trying to clear out my pantry. (Side note: why, oh why did I buy all of these canned artichokes? Or maybe I didn’t. Maybe they are secretly breeding when my back’s turned…)

You’ll note some heartier dishes on this week’s menu. In part, that’s because I’ve got to use up some russet potatoes. But it’s also because this weekend’s brief moment of sunshine ended all too quickly. The forecast for the rest of the week is both gloomy and soggy. Again.

Sigh. So much for Spring Break.

At least our boots and raincoats had a little time to dry off. And an excuse for more hot chocolate isn’t a bad thing, right? Ah, well. Here’s everything I’m trying to use up this week… and the menu I’ll be following to do so. (Bonus: if I get really inspired, I might even make some homemade hummus. Take that, random chickpeas and inexplicable bounty of garlic!)

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Fridge, freezer, and pantry items I’m using up with this week’s plan: frozen broth, frozen razor clams, buckwheat, linguine, canned artichokes, sweetened condensed milk, potatoes, garlic, onion, lemon, giant hunk of Parmesan cheese from Costco

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Vegetarian: mushroom and garlic buckwheat risotto (I’ll throw in some spinach, too)

Big Easy 1: razor clam linguine with sliced fruit and sauteed asparagus

Big Easy 2: roast chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy, and some sort of steamed veggie

Reusing Leftovers: chicken noodle soup with stock made from boiled chicken carcass

Tea Party: I love serving well-styled odds ‘n ends to my family, and it’s one of my kiddos’ favorite meals. This time around, I’ll be making spinach-artichoke dip to serve on our favorite Dutch oven bread. We’ll also have sliced strawberries with condensed milk pound cake. I’ll serve with whatever cured meats, sliced fruits, and crunchy veggies happen to be lying around our fridge.

March Meal Plan #3: Unhealthy Without Apologies

 

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(Yes, my food philosophy includes the snack that smiles back)

This shouldn’t be so hard, I tell myself. I’m just writing a grocery list, not splitting the atom. 

Sigh. Does anyone else ever feel a slight clutch of panic before a trip to the store? Especially if you’re on a firm budget and it’s nearing the end of the month?

If you’re like me, you can turn the molehill of meal planning into a mountain of meaning. These meals aren’t just meals, I like to tell myself. They’re the way I convey love to my family. They’re the most tangible way I express our values. They provide nutrition as well as philosophy! I’m not just dishing up dinner here. I’m drawing my kiddos’ worldview.

And yeah, I can totally see that. But sometimes a Goldfish cracker is just a cracker. It’s a snack, not the signifier of all my parental philosophies. Not the harbinger of obesity, cavities, and other ill health to come.

Just. A. Cracker.

I bring this up because as I meal plan, I always try to find a balance between competing priorities. First and foremost, I try to optimize the time I spend on meal planning and prepping. It is, after all, time that could be spent in a myriad of ways (playing, reading, working, and cleaning leap immediately to mind).

Other thoughts: My family tries to enjoy food without slipping over into constant gluttony. We endeavor to balance comforting familiarity with the fun of new culinary adventures. We value health as well as flavor. And we value the ease of alone time (just the four of us) as well as the excitement of entertaining. Is it possible to address all of these points? Can we do so while respecting the constraints of our budget? Can we do so while respecting the health of our earth and the well-being of other humans and creatures? (Yeah, why not? Let’s add “thriftiness,” “responsibility” and “environmental” to the other values associated with our food.)

Theoretically, this puts a lot of pressure on the weekly meal plan. But this just isn’t the case. Why? Because I don’t have to prioritize every one of those conflicting values every week. We cook and we eat A LOT. These are just the guidelines that I keep in mind as I prepare. I figure it all has to even out over time.

Lately, for instance, we’ve been having a lot of adventure, flavor, and health in our diet. But the trade-off is that we’ve been spending more than I feel we should. So this meal plan was created with a determination to meet our budgetary bottom line… it’s very cost-effective and NOT health conscious AT ALL.

There’s certainly going to be a lot of breading, frying, and smothering in cheese this week. I have a choice about that. I could bemoan the artery-clogging I’m about to unleash on my loved ones… or I could show a little self-compassion and look on the bright side. It’s cheap. A lot of it is vegetarian. I’m mainly using resources I already have in the home. And you know what? If it really bothers me, I can promise myself that, once the budget resets for April, I can commit to 30 days of whole foods (perhaps with purposeful planning that will sustain us all month).

Yeah, self-compassion sounds like the MUCH better option here. No more self recrimination as I (temporarily) pour on the Parmesan and panko. And so it’s with a clear conscience that I present our highly unbalanced meal for the week!

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breaded thing – store-bought chicken nuggets with artichoke chickpea salad

breaded thingfried razor clams with garlic-sauteed kale and tater tots

breaded cheesy thingEggplant Parmesan

cheesy thingbean and cheese burritos

cheesy thingmacaroni and cheese

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

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Hmm. I’m rather pleased with this photo. On a sliding scale of “vomit-inducing” to “absolutely toothsome” we’re getting a little closer to that positive end goal! Sure, I’ve still got some major issues to work out (it doesn’t help that my home is seriously lacking in the natural light department). But I think it’s an improvement over this sad composition.

I’m traveling this week, which means restaurant stipends and no meal plans for me! So instead, I’ll post a recipe for lemon shortbread cookies. Warning! This recipe is dangerously easy and also freezes well. The pounds of butter required are bound to add pounds to your thighs as well… but after one bite, you’ll probably agree with me that it’s totally worth it.

I must give credit where it’s due! This recipe comes from a recent grocery store publication. (Fellow mamas: if you’re able to shop at Fred Meyer, I highly recommend it. They’ve got complimentary cookies and fruit for distracting young children while you shop. Even better: free childcare for up to one hour. I won’t lie. I’ve been known to stick my kids in there and then just go sit quietly in the furniture section for a bit of a break.)

But I digress. You’re wanting to get to that lemon shortbread cookie recipe, aren’t you? Here it is, without further ado:

Hands on Time: 15 minutes. Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes 

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon packed grated lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • OPTIONAL: sparkling sugar for coating or sprinkling

In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar; and zest and juice. Add flour and salt; stir to combine. Form into 2 logs, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate at least 2 hours until firm. (This is also the perfect time to freeze one or both logs for baking at a later date.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Optional: roll logs in sparkling sugar (alternatively, reserve sugar to sprinkle on each cookie before baking). You can also just skip this step–the cookies are perfectly tasty and pretty without the extra sugar.

Slice the cookie logs into 1/3-inch thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, until cookies look dry but are not browned.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container. Makes about 4 dozen cookies!

 

 

Personal Growth Requires Self-Knowledge

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(Image Source

Anyone trying to achieve a goal needs to know Gretchen Rubin. She literally wrote the book about habits. Better than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits is a fabulous resource that I’m sure I’ll reference multiple times here. Better yet, I’ll just urge you to go get yourself a copy.

Rubin’s book is based on a premise so logical that I can’t believe it hasn’t just been obvious to me all along. She posits that the key to adopting new habits is actually understanding how we respond to both outer expectations (public work deadlines, preschool snack day, etc.) and inner expectations (“I will write a novel in my free time!” Ahem, cough cough.) Only through understanding ourselves can we hope to work with our tendencies to manage real, sustainable growth.

Based on the common responses to inner and outer expectations, Rubin created the Four Tendencies framework. Here they are, according to Rubin (and yes, I’m now quoting directly from her site):

  • Upholders respond readily to outer and inner expectations
  • Questioners question all expectations; they’ll meet an expectation if they think it makes sense–essentially, they make all expectations into inner expectations
  • Obligers meet outer expectations, but struggle to meet expectations they impose on themselves
  • Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike

I’ve stated before that I am a hardcore Obliger. Coming up, I’ll be giving my fellow Obligers some tips and tricks for working with your tendency (instead of loathing it and wishing you were different, as many Obligers–myself included–tend to do).

But in the mean time, you can always take Rubin’s quiz to find out whether you’re an Upholder, a Questioner, an Obliger, or a Rebel. I’d love to know… what Tendency are you?