Menu Plan Monday ~ Week of January 3, 2011

Menu Plan Monday LogoAsk anyone who knows me well and they’ll tell you I’m a planner. I use a combination of iPhone applications, my Outlook calendar, and spreadsheets to keep my world organized. If I don’t have a plan I’m like a fish out of water. To that end, I’ve been menu planning for years, but I’ll be the first admit when things get crazy or stressful during the week, my menu plan goes quickly out the window in favor of take out or a visit to a local restaurant. In addition to the toll abandoning my plan takes on our budget, food goes to waste and eating out all the time simply isn’t healthy. As part of my continuing priority to cook more at home in 2011, I’m going to take my menu planning to the next level and begin participating in a really great weekly activity called Menu Plan Monday and organized at the wonderful Org Junkie blog (her menu plan for this week looks great). My hope is that by sharing my plans with others I can not only be helpful to those struggling with planning, but hold myself more accountable to sticking to my own plans. And while I’m hoping to cook more at home, expect to see plans to visit some of my favorite spots in Austin because supporting the Austin food scene is also a priority for 2011, but I have to find balance between the two.

As a general note, my kidlet eats breakfast and lunch at school because their food is actually tasty and nutritious, and my husband fends for himself for breakfast and has lunch catered at the office (he’s lucky that way). That means I’m on the hook for all of my personal breakfasts and lunches for the week, breakfast and lunch on the weekends for the whole family, plus dinner for the whole family every night. We’re a pretty busy family so I have to take classes, work, and other activities into account. My meal plans will reflect this reality. I think we’re not so far off from other families with one or two working parents and active kids, so hopefully my attempts to manage our busy schedules will be useful.

Of course, the first week of 2011 can’t cooperate and be straightforward from a meal-planning perspective. My husband is traveling on business and I have three days of all-day work meetings that include two dinners out along with breakfast and lunch at work for three days. Even so, I have some new recipes to try and some blog cooking to do, so I’m excited about this week’s menus.


I’ll raid my freezer stash to make breakfast and lunch back at work on this first day back after a vacation easier. However, things get a little complex on Monday nights because my daughter has three different classes and eats quickly during breaks between them. I’ll take this opportunity to try a new recipe from the January 2011 Bon Appetite for quinoa pasta since I’m on my own for dinner while she’s at class.

Raiding the Freezer

  • I have a stash of pumpkin muffins in my freezer so I’ll reheat my breakfast muffin at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and grab it on my way out the door.
  • I’ll use braised chicken from my freezer to put the chicken salad together quickly on Sunday night.


Things are really interesting on Tuesday because I’ll be at a work activity and my husband will be travelling home from his business trip around dinner time. I’ll have a healthy breakfast of oatmeal and a light salad at lunch because I’m sure my work dinner will be neither light nor healthy. My daughter will love dinner tonight because she can have her favorite pasta with brown butter along with some Brussels sprouts that she’ll put together with the supervision of our nanny.

  • Breakfast
    • Oatmeal with dried walnuts and cranberries
  • Lunch
    • Mixed green salad with chicken
    • Pita triangles
  • Dinner
    • Kidlet:
      • Whole wheat pasta with brown butter
      • Steamed Brussels sprouts
      • Fresh fruit
    • Adults:
      • At work

Raiding the Freezer

  • I’ll use the rest of the braised chicken from my freezer package to toss with my salad so none of it goes to waste.


The whole family will be back together but I’ll have another work function to attend, so the kidlet and her dad will be on their own for dinner that evening. To make things easy on the two of them I’ll wrap some uncured beef hotdogs and cheese in crescent roll dough for pigs in a blanket. This dish is a rare treat so they’ll enjoy it. They can easily a salad and some fresh fruit to the mix to round out their dinner. I’ll also be eating both breakfast and lunch at work which saves me some prep time in the morning.


Come Thursday we’ll be more or less into our normal routine. While I’ll still eat breakfast and lunch at work, we’ll all be together for dinner for the first time all week. I’m making a new pork tenderloin recipe also from the January 2011 Bon Appetite that will cook quickly but taste special. Because I know I’ll be tired on Friday evening after this hectic week, I’m going to take a little extra time on Thursday night to make marinara sauce in the slow cooker and prep the ingredients for the carrots we’ll have on Friday night.

Prep Ahead

Filling the Freezer

  • The marinara sauce recipe makes 6-7 cups so I’ll save enough for the meatballs on Friday night and freeze the rest in 1 cup portions to pull out for future meals.


I’m pretty sure I’ll feel like I rolled into Friday at a head-long pace and I’ll be happy that I don’t have to fend for myself for breakfast or lunch yet again. Friday nights are often a big Achilles heel for me because I’m tired and tend to say “Let’s just go out” because I can’t quite face the kitchen. My hope this week is with most of the prep work done by Thursday night, I’ll be much more amenable to assembling sandwiches, carrots, and salad for a quick family meal.

  • Breakfast
    • At work
  • Lunch
    • At work
  • Dinner

Raiding the Freezer

  • Last time I made turkey meatballs I tripled the batch to have for quick meals like this one. I can drop the cooked, frozen meatballs in the marinara sauce and reheat them in a few minutes on the stove top.

Prep Ahead


Not surprisingly, I put more time into cooking on the weekends because I have the time. On this Saturday morning I’ll be testing a variation on a French toast casserole we have frequently and enjoy and I’ll be trying a new lettuce wraps recipe from the Cuisine at Home Slow Cooker Menus magazine I picked up a couple of weeks ago. I’m also planning to cook one of my favorite long-cooking winter menus that pairs succulent short ribs with rich polenta for a cool winter evening. What’s great all about all of these recipes is they don’t take much hands-on time so I can set them to cook and go do other things with the family.

Making Extra for Lunch and Filling the Freezer

  • The slow cooker lettuce wraps recipe makes six one-cup servings. I’m going to double the recipe and put aside a serving for lunch next week and then freeze the rest for lunches over the next couple of months.


On Sunday morning I’ll make a new batch of a cranberry-orange muffin I feel in love with last year and try out a new whole-grain blackberry spice muffin in the hopes of adding another muffin recipe to my repertoire. For lunch I’ll make a cold pasta salad that’s quick, easy, and perfect for lunch next week as well. And finally, I’ll be making Sunday supper from Perfect One Dish Dinners by Pam Anderson, who I had the great pleasure to meet at BlogHer Food 2011 last summer. I’ll be writing about her book later this month so I want to test some recipes and of course shoot some photos for my post.

Filling the Freezer

  • With all of my other holiday cooking I depleted my muffin stash which is my healthy breakfast secret weapon. I’ll reload my stash with double batches of two kinds of muffins so I’ll have breakfast on hand for weeks to come.

Making Extra For Lunch

  • The Spicy Soba Salad keeps beautifully for days and is very filling. I’ll make enough for three lunches so I can take it to work a couple of times next week.

Shopping Local

  • Saturday will be the first chance I’ll have to get to farmers market. While I’m there I’ll pick up local bacon and sausage to have with our breakfast.


  1. Your menu looks so good. That Chicken Salad in a Pita sounds really good. Thank you for sharing and you have a great week!

    • Natanya /

      Thanks so much Helen! That chicken salad is a go-to for me and it’s easy to modify based on what’s in the crisper or fruit drawer.

  2. I love how detailed your menu plan is.
    I’m going to try and take inspiration here and make my next one much better.

    • Natanya /

      Thanks Kia. My confession is if I don’t write all of that down, I’ll forget it 🙂 I think it’s the only way to keep track and actually cook through my plan.

  3. I love all your different uses for our Applegate Hot Dogs!! My husband is British and I we love to make “pigs in a blanket”. Renee and the Applegate Crew