Weekly Menu Plan

March 1, 2012

You all know you’re supposed to plan your weekly menu, make your grocery list, and go shopping once a week. You spend less and don’t go nuts when you realize it’s 5:30 and you have nothing but rutabaga in the house.

But, as I’ve said before, I’ve come to hate making dinner. The kids are always hungry and hanging  on me and whiny. And often complaining about whatever it is I’m cooking.

So in a fit of brilliance I came up with this posted weekly menu. The dinner plan for the week is clearly posted, so the kids can check the wall rather than bug me. And I can plan the week much better.

First I made a sheet that had the days of the week on it (and I made it look a little like a diner menu to make my 50s-kitsch-self happy). Then I brainstormed all our dinners, because we don’t actually make that many different ones. There are kid favorites on there, like macaroni & cheese, but also more grownup dinners like Indian Feast or Mediterranean Platter. I tried to be a little more vague so that each item could mean several different meals (like “Pasta”). I also made one called Fancy Dinner, which means I get to make something that no one else will likely be excited about (tofu in mango sauce, or something like that) and everyone has to try it. If they eat it, they get dessert (Fancy Dinner is the only night we get dessert). Fancy Dinner also covers holidays and birthdays.

After I made up the big sheet and all the dinner ideas, I laminated everything and stuck Velcro squares* onto them. I keep all the meal ideas in the (sad, needing-to-be-replaced) envelope taped to the wall under the menu plan. Every week we eat almost the same exact plan, but I do change it a bit sometimes.

The kids still complain and get frantically whiny at 5:00, but it’s definitely calmer now that we all know ahead of time what we’re having for dinner.

P.S. Be sure to notice my gorgeous Stacey Cramp calendar next to our menu. It makes me so happy.

*I feel like half my life is organized in terms of laminated paper and Velcro squares these days.


Vegetarian Trial

October 10, 2011

So, as long-time followers of World of Julie know, I am sick of making dinner for people (children) who burst into tears when I put dinner in front of them. I am sick of making a seemingly kid-friendly meal, like spaghetti and meatballs (something I don’t particularly care for) only to have everyone burst into tears and reject it.

So a while ago, I mostly decided to completely ignore what they might want to eat, and just make what I want for dinner. If they’re going to get mad about it either way, it might as well be stir fry. (Note that I forget this sometimes, and still stupidly make something that none of us likes.)

For the month of October, we’re going vegetarian. If I didn’t have these meat-loving kids (except Henry, who isn’t that into it), I would be vegetarian all the time. So we’re trying it out.

Eli: “We need to get some of those meatballs.”

Julie: “Actually, we’re going to try to be vegetarians for the month of October.”

Eli: “WHY?!?”

Julie: “To see how we feel. To see if we feel better.”


So I made bean and hominy pot pie for dinner. Either the girls are starving, or they are warming to our new eating plan.

Zuzu helps herself to raw squash.

Ramona helps herself to raw onion.

Yeah, honey, when you eat raw onion, it's going to make you cry.

How do you all do it? Do you eat what you want? Do you make five different dinners?


Roasted Broccoli: Where have you been?

March 4, 2010

photo courtesy of JA Coulter

Ok, so maybe this will make you all just fall asleep from extreme boredom, because you’ve all been roasting broccoli for years. If you have, why on earth didn’t you tell me about it? Broccoli is our go-to vegetable, the one we serve five days out of seven. I steam it, sauté it, and occasionally microwave it, but until a few weeks ago had never roasted it. Then suddenly it seemed like all these “eat in season” lists were saying “and of course roasted broccoli” so I figured I might as well try.

And now! I roast the broccoli 90% of the time. Any time there’s something else in the oven, broccoli gets roasted. I got the recipe from The Amateur Gourmet, but once you make it once, there’s no need to consult any recipe (although I do recommend reading through his recipe for the fact that he calls it “The Best Broccoli of Your Life” and also for his advice on not washing the broccoli).

Basically, it’s this: heat the oven to whatever temperature you need anyway — the Amateur Gourmet does it at 425, but I’ve just put it in at the temp that the other thing in the oven needs. I’ve roasted it anywhere from 375 to 450, depending on biscuits or corn bread or squash or galette or whatever, and it’s always worked just fine. Cut the broccoli into big stalks (cut up like twice as much as you normally do! otherwise you will be sad, wishing you had made more!). Spread it on a pan, drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil, and throw in some slivered garlic.  Roast it for 20-30 minutes (depending on temperature), until it looks a little brown. Take it out, and toss it with more olive oil, some lemon juice, and, if you’re feeling especially decadent, parmagiana cheese. Or not. If the kids are biting at your ankles because they want to have dinner now, then it’s still amazingly tasty straight out of the oven.

I swear it’s like candy it’s so good.


Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

August 28, 2009

I’ve recently added these cheddar cheese biscuits into our usual protein/veggie/starch rotation, because I was getting a little tired of corn bread (and everyone loves rice but it always results in a sticky rice explosion that means I spend my after-meal time scrubbing the floor with a wet dishcloth). The original recipe was in that section of Bon Appetit where people write in and say they had the best such-and-so at some restaurant when they were visiting their niece in City X, and would love the recipe, and then the magazine somehow tracks it down.

So maybe because it was originally a restaurant recipe, it included roughly seven sticks of melted butter, and also called for a large-sized twelve-muffin tin, which I don’t have. Also it required superfluous mixing bowls. Below is my adapted recipe, with less butter, and halved to fit in the standard muffin tins that we all have. What I love: you can mix it in a few minutes in the food processor, and you don’t have to shape or roll out the biscuits, since they bake in the muffin tin. Plus they’re really good.

You will note also that I am now so insane about getting good light for my dinnertime food photos that I am taking dinner outside and putting it in the grass.

Cheddar Cheese Biscuits
1 3/4 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour if that’s what you have)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease muffin tin. Using on/off turns, mix first 4 ingredients in processor. Add cubed chilled butter. Using on/off turns, process until coarse meal forms. Add cheese; pulse briefly. Add buttermilk and process until dough comes together. Divide among prepared muffin cups.

Bake biscuits until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 5 to 10 minutes, then remove biscuits from pan and transfer to rack to cool slightly. Serve warm.


CATEGORIES: baking, Food

Polenta with green beans and mushrooms

June 23, 2009

There is a reason I don’t usually take photos of the good dinners I make. Tasty dinners are often kind of ugly, plus the lighting at night is just awful and it makes the food look even uglier. But, knowing that, I took a photo of this anyway, and I’m telling you about it, because it was a completely delicious vegetarian dinner (not at all vegan, though, since the butter and heavy cream — though not an outrageous amount — helped to make it so yummy). But look at it. Ech. But ohhh it was good.

I got the recipe from the June issue of Bon Appetit. You’ll probably see a few more recipes from there here soon; it’s a pretty good issue. You can click the link to get the original recipe, or read my revised one below (mainly, I leave out leeks because I have no tolerance for leek de-dirting) (also, I cut down a few steps that seemed superfluous and time-wasting). I will warn you that this is one of those recipes that uses six pots, fourteen pans, two bowls, twelve colanders, and a chafing dish.



  • 3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 cups milk (I used skim)
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 3/4 cups polenta
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white vermouth (I had about 1/2 cup left, which I mixed with water to make 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (such as crimini, small portobello, and shiitake), stemmed, caps cut into wedges
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley or cilantro, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme


  • Blanch green beans 1 minute in boiling water. Add peas and cook until both beans and peas are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set beans and peas aside.
  • Bring milk and broth to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low. Cook until polenta is very thick, whisking almost constantly, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.
  • Meanwhile, combine green onions and vermouth in medium saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in butter, allowing each addition to melt before adding next. Add cream and whisk over very low heat to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until almost tender, 5 minutes. Stir in onions, 1 tablespoon parsley and cilantro, and thyme. Sauté until mushrooms are very tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans and peas, tossing to coat.
  • Rewarm polenta and spoon into large shallow bowl. Top with green bean mixture and remaining 1 tablespoon parsley or cilantro. Rewarm leeks over low heat, whisking constantly; spoon evenly over polenta.



Perfect Picnic

June 17, 2009

Today is Henry’s last day of kindergarten. I’m really looking forward to having him home again, to having long leisurely days, and to having him have time to do all the elaborate art projects in his head (and to work on our summer jar, of course). And to more days like the day a few Saturdays ago: the neighborhood posse was blissfully absent, and Dave was cleaning out the garage while I cleaned out the shed. I unearthed our beach umbrella. Henry stuck it into the yard, and I offhandedly said it looked like a good spot for a picnic. Henry then worked for two hours to set up a picnic: tablecloth, plates, silverware, glasses with milk or water, strawberries, mangoes, peanuts, and buttered bread. By the time he finished it was 5:15 which meant…that he had made dinner! I was giddy. It never even occurred to me that I could train them to make dinner at age 5. At any rate, it was a terrific picnic, and I’m hoping this summer inspires other activities like this (note: I do truly mean “other creative Henry activities” and not “other times when he takes over the dinner duties” although I won’t complain if that happens also).



Tallying up success

May 1, 2009



Dinner: savory pattycakes

April 28, 2009

Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with making savory vegetarian burgery cake things for dinner. I don’t know where this came from, but every time I see a recipe and accompanying photo in a magazine, it looks like the best thing ever to me. They’re never quite as amazingly delicious as I think they will be, but they are good, and the best part is that you can mix it all up in the morning and then just pan-fry them at dinnertime, serve them with some broccoli or on a salad, and you’re done.

I made chickpea patties (sort of like smooshed falafel, and recommended for the Greek yogurt dressing that you make to go with it), corn cakes (pictured), and millet cakes, which prompted the following conversation when the children wouldn’t eat them (shock of the century there, I know! don’t all kids love millet cakes?):

Julie: C’mon guys, eat your millet cakes!
Dave: I think that in order for them to like millet cakes you really have to have brought them up eating them.
Julie: What are you talking about? They’re children now! See them there, with the millet cakes on their plates? That’s me, bringing them up eating millet cakes!
Dave: You needed to start even earlier.
Julie: Well. I like them.
Dave: They’re the best millet cakes I’ve ever eaten.
Julie: Hush.
Dave: You guys want me to make you chicken nuggets?
[General screams of relief and love from the boys. Zuzu, who at 10 months old, is, in fact, being brought up on millet cakes, ate her darn millet cake, thank you very much. Ok, she ate a weensy part of it. Still.]



Silly me, I’ve been treating them like children

March 6, 2009

As you know, I have dinner issues. One ongoing source of frustration is when I cook something that should be a big hit by kid standards, like macaroni and cheese, and it is rejected. This past week I made spaghetti and meatballs, and neither boy wanted any part of them. Henry ate the spaghetti without sauce. It was at that point that I decided to forget trying to make kid meals for everyone. Considering they’re fine with, say, tofu stir fry, why have I been trying to please them with spaghetti and meatballs? From now on, I’m making what I want to eat.

Day One of this plan was a perfect example. I made Roast Chicken with Carrots, Onions, and Prunes (photo at right), which should send your Average Child screaming just from the name alone. My boys took one look and declared, “YUM!” and ate it all. (I would also add a YUM of my own. Somehow the ingredients all work perfectly both in taste and in texture and you will obsessively try to spear everything on your fork to get it all in one mouthful. Also, I started to make it the day before, and then Dave reminded me that we had scallops I needed to use. So I will also say that this is a recipe where you can prepare everything and then dump it into a container in your fridge, let it sit for a day, and then throw it into the roasting pan and into the oven, and it comes out more than fine.)

Last night I made Soba and Tofu in Ginger Broth, and again the boys didn’t bat an eye but just tucked right in to their plates and slurped it all up.

The embarassing thing is just how long it has taken me to realize this. You’d think I would be able to pull out of the fog long enough to make a simple observation about what is getting eaten. I think the problem is that I keep reading from this Parenting Your Regular Kid manual they give you in the hospital, and I haven’t made the switch yet to Parenting Your Oddball.

I should have at least realized that they eat adult food when I brought Eli in for his 3-year appointment last week, and the doctor and I had this conversation:

Doctor: How does he eat?
Julie: Great!
Doctor: How about protein? What does he like for protein?
Julie: Protein. Let’s see. Eggs, cheese, chicken nuggets. Meatballs. Hot dogs. Any meat, really.
Doctor: Good.
Julie: Yogurt. Milk! Lots of milk. Tofu.
Doctor: Great!
Julie: Sardines, salmon…
Doctor: What? Seriously?
Julie: And peanut butter.
Doctor: Eli! Good boy!


CATEGORIES: Food, Parenting
Tags: ,

Waiting for the Dinner Bell to do the bell thing.

January 23, 2009

Not long ago, Henry and Eli became obsessed with “Dinner Bell” by They Might Be Giants. After listening to the song approximately three billion times, they secretly conferred and then came to me wondering, “What is a dinner bell?” This led, happily, to my mom bringing us my grandmother’s old dinner bell. Now, most nights (and some mornings), we ring the dinner bell when it’s meal time.

Turns out there are lots of dinner bells available for not too much money, and I’m honestly highly recommending them for everyone. (You could get a ranchy chuckwagon triangle, or just get a regular one like we have.) The first best part is that the children don’t stand three inches behind you asking when dinner is; at least, not after you’ve reminded them that dinner is when they hear the dinner bell. They go off and play and await the ringing.

But the other day I realized the other great dinner bell use: calling the kids home. Since I have a voice that seems to carry about as well as a mouse’s, it’s very handy to have something louder to send out the “it’s time to come home” alarm. Henry was playing in the backyard of the kids across the street and one house over, and when it was almost dinnertime I opened the front door and rang the dinner bell. And then, to my great satisfaction, I heard Henry say, “Oh! That means it’s time for dinner!” and he was home in less than a minute. SO much better than me squeaking, “Henry! Henry! Dinner!” and having him ignore me/really truly not hear me.

And I hope you’re all appreciating the truly stupendous all-day-long bed head that Henry has developed. That little bent-up winglet is a force to be reckoned with.

Tags: ,
1 2