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Category Archives: Make My Menu Month

Make My Menu Month Check-In

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I realize I haven’t said much about this.  But that’s largely because whatever I’d have to say about how I’ve been eating would be really, really boring.  I’ve been clobbered by a) the bad news from Charleston making me feel like talking about food is just so stupid; b) the heat making me just plain not want to cook; and c) the heat also giving me trouble sleeping so I wouldn’t be able to talk all that coherently about food even if I wanted to and actually did.

can say that I’ve been keeping up my end of the bargain.  Breakfasts have been either more of the rhubarb-oat bar things, or granola with a healthy topping of berries – I made another batch of the oat bars, this time adding some strawberry to the mix, after getting a half gallon of strawberries thrust upon me from the CSA – after getting a quart of strawberries just one week prior.  And I also got a quart of raspberries.  So they’ve both been making for lovely breakfasts, and I’ve been throwing them in my lunchbox for desserts.

And the lunches I’ve been keeping on top of by just stocking the fridge with various salads and stuffing them in the lunch box in the morning; this week I’m working through a couple of Italian-inspired salads, both of which were literally thrown together; one was just a can of canellini beans and tuna, and the other was cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls.  Dump into a bowl, drizzle in some olive oil, maybe add some snipped oregano from the windowsill.  Done.  Stuff into lunchbox with the berries and some carrot sticks.

My dinners, though…okay, here’s the thing.  I live on the 4th floor of a Brooklyn brownstone, and there is only air conditioning in one room and it has been exceptionally muggy all week, so by the time I get home it feels like a Bikram yoga studio that hasn’t been cleaned in three weeks and the last thing I want to do is cook; on the way home I contemplate doing something like a cheese souffle, but then I walk in the door and all my cooking resolve sweats out of me and I end up eating a handful of raw snap peas and a piece of bread and calling it a day.  I did rally for a couple of simple pasta dishes involving Swiss chard, largely because they take only minutes to cook, but otherwise I’ve been grazing.

So this has been turning out to be a bit of a bust; sorry.  I’ll still keep going this month, but then maybe I’ll try again for content’s sake in some other more temperate month like October.

Make My Menu Month – Whining

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You guys this is haaaaaaaaard.

Harder than I thought.  Not because I can’t cook – in fact, I can, and do, and love doing it – but because I didn’t count on the cravings for things.  I’m actually not all that in the habit of eating out all the time anyway, or even doing that much takeout.  But sometimes, you just really, really want something.  And for the past three days I have been getting cravings for burgers and Thai food and pizza and diner brunches out of nowhere, and I can’t have them.  And never mind that I’ve been substituting that with fantastic food anyway – today I got a beautiful batch of rainbow chard from the CSA and am going to have that with some equally beautiful tortellini, but the whole time I’m eating that tortellini and chard I’m going to be thinking about how much I want pizza.

I’m going to try to stubborn up, though.  I already had the idea to pick up some fancy organic milk from the farmer’s market today; I got overloaded with strawberries, and decided to turn one of the three pints I got into ice cream.  But due to some completely stupid miscommunication on my part, I ended up with twice as much as I planned to get.  I tried returning it first, but then had second thoughts – “I’ll just make more ice cream,” I joked to the farmer.

But.  I not only have the means to make ice cream, I have a simple DIY cheesemaking kit in the cupboard – that teaches you how to make mozzarella.  And I have a quart of tomato puree in the freezer that I was already planning on thawing out and making into a marinara sauce, and I have lots of flour and yeast in the fridge and I know how to make dough.

So screw the craving, I’mma make my own pizza, so there.


Make My Menu Month Check-In

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So! Other than that last bobble, I’ve been sticking to the plan.  Breakfasts have all been iced coffee and the rhubarb-oatmeal bars, and lunches have been that same assortment of leftover-Sichuan-noodles-with-chicken-and-carrot-sticks or salade-nicoise-fixings.  Today I just threw a whole bunch of assorted nibbles into a bag (a hunk of cheese, a chunk torn off a baguette, baby carrots) and was done with it.

Dinners have been getting harder towards the end of this week, though not because of a lack of food or time to prepare it.  It’s because it has been getting bloody flippin’ hot.  I had the time and ingredients to make myself a cheese souffle for dinner last night, but then it went and got to be 90 degrees with something like 8023% humidity and no.  The night before last I didn’t even feel like reheating the leftover sopa de lima I had in the fridge.  So while this past week has seen homemade lo mein and a light pasta dinner, it’s also seen “ugh, lemme just make a sandwich” or “feh, lemme just do bread and hummus and cheese and a pound of raw sugar snap peas”.

The heat is supposed to break a little this weekend, though, and I need to spend a day sort of close to home waiting for the super to visit a leak under the sink.  Seems like a fine time to stockpile a couple of cool pasta salads and make a big pot of marinara sauce or something…..And ice cream.  I was already planning to toy around with some homemade ice cream this summer, I may as well start.

I’m even resisting the temptation to have a brunch at Putnam’s, even though that’s allowed in the plan – and they just released their updated brunch menu which now has a chicken biscuit with sausage gravy and this is hard you guys.  ….But I’ve decided that that’s how I’m going to pay back my slip up this week – I will attempt to make my own.

Make My Menu Month Mishap

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Bless me everyone for I have sinned.

Yesterday at work, after lunch, I washed my bento box and put it on the windowsill near my desk to dry.   And then…I forgot it there.

Which meant I could not take the salade nicoise to work I’d been planning to.  And that meant….I had to buy a sandwich from the shop in the lobby at work.

(hangs head)

I’m giving myself a pass, though, and getting back on the horse and going forward.  It’s only one fault thus far (and the past two nights for dinner I’ve been cooking at home and doing things like homemade lo mein and a linguine-and-arugula pasta dish, and I’m making this recipe soon that is a couscous salad with snap peas and pickled radishes and so I’m still hanging on to the momentum people this should count dammit)

Make My Menu Month – The First Week

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So this is why making all my own meals for this month is going to be kind of easy.

This was the first haul from the CSA this year – it’s been a little cool the last few weeks, so there are a lot of green-and-leafy things in there; two kinds of lettuce, arugula, bok choy and tatsoi.   But you’re also seeing that rhubarb, those peas and those strawberries, right?

And the radishes, over there on the right. I’m gonna be using those for sure, in another salade nicoise bag lunch.  That also couldn’t have been easier to put together – I have a sort of cheat’s bento box set, where they have little containers for everything that you just fill up.  I packed a lot of different things in each well – a hardboiled egg, some fancy canned tuna, a couple cooked potatoes and green beans, a couple cherry tomatoes, some radishes, a few olives, some torn-up lettuce – and then laid it all out on a paper plate I nicked from the company kitchen.  It was surprisingly filling, and the tuna and olives made it surprisingly flavorful.

Most of my other lunches this week ended up being a little repetitive – I’d roasted up a bunch of chicken wings and made some Sichuan noodles last weekend, and brought a few wings and some noodles for lunch, along with some baby carrots and a sliced Persian cucumber.  And I was out on an adventure for a couple nights, and dinner on those nights was just some reheated Spanish rice with some black bean salad alongside.  And breakfast was always cold cereal.

But with one exception (which I’m totally saying is okay), I’ve been making all the meals:

MONDAY: Cold cereal; Sichuan noodles and chicken wings lunch; Quesadilla, salad, and Spanish rice dinner.

TUESDAY: Cold cereal; catered lunch at my job (I’m counting this as a social function so it’s okay); leftover rice and black bean salad dinner.

WEDNESDAY:  Cereal; Sichuan noodles and chicken wings lunch; leftover rice and black bean salad dinner.

THURSDAY: cereal; salade nicoise lunch; pasta carbonara dinner.

FRIDAY: cereal; Sichuan noodles and chicken wings lunch; a big sandwich for dinner, with Italian cold cuts, tapenade, and leftover tomato.

SATURDAY: a big bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich with salad greens and a couple strawberries for brunch; a Quesadilla with more greens and a leftover garbanzo bean salad for dinner.


….And then yesterday I made up a bunch of rhubarb bars, adapted from The Smitten Kitchen’s recipe here.  I actually made them all-rhubarb, as I never seem to know what to do with rhubarb before it all goes bad and because I actually didn’t have as many strawberries as I’d like.  I ended up with a big tray of some pleasantly chewy and oaty chewy things, not too sweet, and…totally something you can eat for breakfast.  So this morning I’ve started the day with a couple of those, and I’m getting ready for a day trip upstate and will be taking a picnic along.  And there’s also a pasta recipe I know that involves nothing more than a little wilted arugula and cheese, and….basically, yeah, I got this.

About The Menu:

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I have not forgotten about Make My Menu Month!  I am doing it, I swear, I just also didn’t want to be something I posted about every day; I can be really food-oriented, but even I think a daily series of “here’s what I ate today” would be pretty damn boring.

I will say that today’s lunch is going to be a quite nice salade niçoise sort of thing, which I was able to throw together based on having a stash of blanched green beans, potatoes, and hardboiled eggs in the fridge.  I will also confess that for the past two nights running I’ve been going out to do something after work, and my dinners have therefore been….less fancy.



(okay for two nights in a row it’s been leftover Spanish rice and black beans shut up)

Make My Menu Month: Prelude

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Yay!  Tomorrow I get to start the Make My Menu Month challenge!  And already there’s a time I’m going to have to pull the “my friends are inviting me out to dinner” card – tomorrow night after work!

No matter, though – the biggest challenge for me is usually lunch.  There’s a sandwich place and a pizza place in my lobby, and it’s gotten a little too easy to pop in there and grab either a baguette or a couple slices.  Especially if I’m in a rush in the morning, and packing a bag lunch would involve a little too much work.

But! It’s due to rain today, so I made a quick grocery run and got a bunch of staples, and then spent a couple hours cooking up some quick grab-and-go items that I can use to throw a lunch together – I roasted up a couple pounds of chicken wings, hardboiled a half dozen eggs, parboiled a whole package of green beans and new potatoes.  I also made these amazing-sounding snack bars out of cereal, peanuts, and a peanut buttery-caramel sauce.  In a bit I’m going to make up some cold Sichuan noodles with the rest of the peanut butter.  And all of that, plus a couple of other random odds and ends in the pantry and the fridge – canned tuna, a handful of olives, a bunch of radishes, cucumbers and grape tomatoes – and I’ll be able to dabble and mix and match and pack and go.  And I’ll probably be just starting to run out of a couple things by Saturday, when I get my first hit from the CSA and start living on 75% plant matter.

….The irony, however, is that I had originally planned to spend the rainy day indoors writing.  Oh well.

Announcing: Make My Menu Month

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Recently, a Facebook friend bared her soul about something.  She has two kids, see, and a busy job, and between the job and taking one kid to band practice and another to cheerleading practice it just got hectic, and so, she hit up a McDonald’s Drive-Thru window rather than making dinner.  “Vegetables and salad tomorrow, I promise,” she wailed.  I indulged in a little of the kind of talking-trash that only the single and childless can get away with and say that I’ve never had to do that, and wouldn’t dream of such a thing, tsk tsk…

But then I was wondering – how true is that, really?  I mean, I do tend to avoid fast food, but could I really say I make all my own meals?  No matter what?

So I’m gonna try to earn that smugness, with something I’m calling the “Make My Menu Month” challenge.  Which means: for the entire month of June, I will be making all of my own meals myself.  All three meals, every day, for the whole month.  No TV dinners, no takeout, no nibbles at a restaurant – basically, if I have to pay someone else to prepare the meal for me, it’s off limits.

Okay, I am allowing myself a couple of very specific exceptions:

  • If I’m spending the day at a museum or public garden that won’t let you smuggle food in.  If I’m at the Botanic Garden for the afternoon, I’m not going to go all the way home just to make myself a sandwich and then go back.  But by the same token, if I am going somewhere that will let you bring food, I gotta pack it.
  • If I’m out on with friends and that involves food.  A bunch of friends saying “hey, let’s go get Thai food” is always going to win.
  • If I’m on a date.   Yeah, I could cook for the guy myself, but that’s a particular talent I like saving for later.
  • I’m also allowing myself no more than two lazy brunches at the place on the corner.  I’m also going to be getting a scoop if I’m anywhere near Ample Hills ice cream but that’s not a meal anyway and it totally doesn’t count so shut up.

Other than that, it’s all on me – breakfast at home before work, brown-bagging it to lunch, and actually preparing a complete meal for dinner, every night, for the whole month.

To be fair, this actually isn’t too far off from how I eat anyway.   In summer I have a habit of stocking the fridge with big bowls of different salads, precisely so that dinner becomes a matter of just grabbing a little each of a couple options and dishing them up – they’re cold, they’re tasty, they require no thought, perfect.  If I want something with more heft, I’ll roast a chicken leg or something.  And the same bowls feed the lunchbox I take to work.  Plus in mid-June, my roommate will be taking off for a concert gig in California and will be gone for a month and a half, leaving the whole fridge at my disposal – all the more room to stock up.  And my CSA will also be starting up the first weekend of June – and it’s probably going to be way easier to always make myself good food when I’ve got several pounds of fresh produce dropping through the window every week.  And yeah, I’m also aware that cooking only for me, as opposed cooking for me-plus-husband-plus-a-couple-tweens-maybe puts me at a definite advantage.

But….I do sometimes fall off the meal wagon.  Sometimes it’s just plain easier to get a sandwich from the Pret a Manger in my office’s lobby or get a street cart hot dog or something; making all my own meals, even the snacks, is going to be a commitment.

But that’s it – I’m still going to.  If for no other reason than bragging rights.

So starting June 1st, it’s on.  I’ll check back in with progress every so often.