Sunday, August 18, 2013 | By: Rita Hutcheson-Cobbs

Planning Weekly Menus for Supper...

Are your tired of running through the drive thru grabbing supper? Wondering what you are going to fix next for supper? Looking at your pantry as a deer caught in headlights? Planning but then never proceeding? Wait...Me, a planner? Indeed. I have always been a planner...well, of some things. I have the gift of administration, of organization, even when my house doesn't physically show it. I have always thought this subject stems from the fact I don't like to shop and never really enjoy cooking. However, I see that the truth in this is that I love to make lists and I do have the gift for being organized. Having the weekly menus for meals posted on the refrigerator, helps my family members that depend on routine for their stability, know what is coming next. If that offers them peace and happiness during their day, then I am thrilled to give that to them. This was a meal we had where I made chicken taco salad but also offered salmon as another option for those of us that enjoy fish. 

The tools for getting started in preparing a menu is fairly simple. I begin with one or two favorite cookbooks and then one or two favorite magazines. I have a nut allergy as well as gluten. So, those two things are a given in my cooking. When I was diagnosed with a nut allergy, there was no choice to create a nut free environment within our home and property.

Then I have some notebook paper and pen. I make a list of the days with the dates out beside each; for example, Sunday, 8/18. Then skip a couple of lines. between each day of the week. I make this list for two weeks since our pay days are two weeks apart. I shop for my groceries once and usually over three stores. Write down beside these days any major events that might be coming up that you will need a simple menu to save you time so that you can create a recipe quickly or for a birthday, for example.

Flip through the cookbooks and magazines and find recipes that you would enjoy making for your family. Keep in mind activities for that day to make sure you have time to make that recipe. Then write down the titles and page numbers of recipes. As you do this, have another piece of paper available to write down your shopping list, the items you will need to make the recipe. These are the items you will need to purchase or check your pantry, refrigerator or freezer to see if you have them. Something else I do, is since I do this on Sundays, I go through my coupons to see if there are any I can use based on the items I need and the sales coming up for the week. You can build on this list adding your other stock items needed, like paper products or freezer items. I keep a very good stock of staple items so that for most recipes, I already have the items. I save money this way too.

Finally, write one weeks of menus on one side of a piece of paper and the second week's menu on the reverse side. I even place the page number with the book or magazine I got it from under the recipe name. That way I don't have to go to my calendar or other place to find the location of the recipe. It also reminds me during supper preparation that I need to lay-out meats or vegetables for the next night's meal.

If you need to do this for breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, then you can follow these guidelines but use a week-at-a-glance calendar and post it on your refrigerator. Another idea if consider painting a chalkboard wall or dry erase board. Maybe make a bulletin board for the menus. I know that at some point, I will need to begin doing this for every meal due to the level of caregiving we are getting to. I do keep homemade apple oatmeal, boiled eggs, diced turkey ham, yogurts, fresh fruits, and everything prepared for salads made on a daily basis, but there is coming a time when I will need to create a board and make all the meals I mentioned.

At the end of the two week menu list is a treat for the whole family. It is Payday Pizza Night! I will bring home three large pizzas with all the toppings that my family absolutely loves. We have made this work for many years, but the best part of it is that in the past two years we have turned the menus into something healthier and rich in goodness rather than fat, butter, and salt. We eat less breads, starch and sodas. I only buy sugar for the bees now. Life has totally change for our family. We have lost weight, gained muscle and better health. Menus just create a peace of mind for us as well. In this world of busyness, why not make a simple change that can work for all of us.

Hugs, Rita
...and remember...the truth...
Commit your actions to the Lord 
and your plans will succeed. 
Proverbs 16:3
Saturday, August 17, 2013 | By: Rita Hutcheson-Cobbs

My CrockPot Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna Recipe...

I had said, I would never get into Instagram! Seriously! After all THESE years, I mean I am really OLD! Why wouldn't I learn to never ever say, "Never!" Well, I am in love with what that sight can do to my photographs in less than a minute. This may not be the latest and greatest forever, but it is what I am into today...that and cooking...

Just look at the difference in these two photos. However, one thing neither photograph can do is to tell you how amazingly delicious this CrockPot Vegetarian Eggplant Lasagna is! It is also fat-free and meatless! Imagine how much better that makes the whole thing AND it can be ready by the end of the day simply by cooking on warm. Nothing has to be precooked. So, let's get cooking...

Rita's CrockPot Eggplant Lasagna

1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
2 white onions, diced thinly
1 purple onion, diced thinly
2 gala apples, diced thinly
2 yellow squash, diced thinly
1 green bell pepper, diced thinly
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large jar of your favorite fat-free spaghetti sauce
1 medium jar of fat-free mild salsa (most are fat-free)
1 large container of fat-free cottage cheese
4 cups of fat-free shredded cheese
1 cup of fat-free sour cream 
cooking spray

First, spray the crockpot with cooking spray. Mix together onions, apples, yellow squash, bell pepper and garlic in a bowl. Then pour 1/4 cup of sauce in the bottom of the crockpot, coating it well. Place a single layer of eggplant on top of the sauce. Then cover the egg plant with half of the vegetable/fruit mixture. Pour half of the cottage cheese over the mixture. Then put half the spaghetti sauce over the cottage cheese. Put one cup of shredded cheese on top of the sauce. Repeat the layers once again. Last put the jar of salsa on the top of the lasagna. Cook on warm for six hours or until a fork inserted lets you know the egg plant is tender. Use the sour cream and remaining cheese as a garnish. Serve with tortilla chips.

Fantasticly Delicious!!! 

Enjoy...Hugs, Rita
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