January 24, 2010

Meal Planning Made Easy

We all have good intentions of making LOADS of healthful and tantalizing meals for our families each week. However, it's easy to get overwhelmed with work, appointments, and life's little hiccups and succumb to ordering takeout. Here are a few ideas that might help you turn over a new leaf!

• Organization is the KEY to make cooking less stressful. If you have a well stocked kitchen and preselected recipes, you are less likely to make excuses not to cook.

• Sit down with a couple cookbooks, cooking magazines, or recipes from your favorite blog the night before your grocery trip. Select several recipes for the week that vary in flavor and in cooking time. This way, you have options! You can cook what you’re in the mood for, or what you have time to cook.

• Write down your weekly “menu” including where you found the recipe and the page number. Then post it somewhere (on the fridge or inside a cabinet door.)

• Using the recipes you selected, make your grocery list, checking your cabinets to make sure you have everything you need.

• At the grocery store, get everything on your list. If you can’t find it, make a substitution or stop at another store on the way home. You’re more likely to cook your meals if you don’t have to go back to the store later!

• When putting your groceries away, wash all your produce before they go in the frigde. Let them air dry for a few minutes. Then wrap them in a paper towel to absorb excess moisture and put them in a plastic zip bag. This keeps your produce fresh and reduces prep time throughout the week.

• ALWAYS keep a “running” grocery list available in your kitchen. Every time you use a common ingredient (olive oil, butter, flour, spices) and discover it is almost gone, IMMEDIATELY write it on your grocery list. That way, you won’t forget about it later!

• When you’ve used a recipe and like it, SAVE IT! Keep a notebook, or put tabs in your cookbooks.

Here is a wonderful (and wonderfully easy) soup recipe. It has a smooth creamy texture without adding any cream. Just pureed produce! You'll feel so good about feeding it to your family you won't mind indulging them with homemade biscuits!

Butternut-Apple Soup And Savory Herb Biscuits

2 Tb. butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tb. curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 large apples, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
¼+ cup apple juice
Salt and pepper
*Garnish with sour cream or diced apples

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and curry powder. Sauté until onions are softened—about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, squash and apples and ½ tsp. salt. Sauté another 2 minutes, then add the chicken stock. Raise the heat and bring to a boil. Cover and lower the heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Once the squash is very tender; puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (Open the vent on the lid and put a dish towel over the top of the blender. Hot soup in the blender can be dangerous!) Pour the soup back into the pot and add a little apple juice or water to thin it out. Salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4-6.

There's nothing like the light, buttery layers of a homemade biscuit! The goal is to make sure they come out of the oven as little pillows from heaven--instead of hockey pucks! I have decided I prefer to cut mine into squares with a knife; rather than the traditional method of using a round cookie cutter, then scraping the rest of the dough together to cut again. The less you mess with your dough, the lighter the biscuits (scones, shortcakes, cookies) will be. Don't adulterate your baked goods; let them rise to their full potential!

Savory Herb Biscuits

2 cups light all-purpose flour (white lily)
1 Tb. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
5 Tb. chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 Tb. vegetable shortening, cut into cubes
¾ cup milk or buttermilk
3 Tb. fresh chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon, chive, sage, thyme, rosemary)
2 Tb. Melted butter OR egg wash (1 egg + 1 Tb. Water)

Heat oven to 450* with the rack in the center. Using a food processor, pulse all the dry ingredients together. Add the butter and shortening, then pulse until it resembles course chopped nuts. Add the milk and herbs and pulse again until it forms moist clumps.

Dump the wet dough onto a well floured surface. Flour your hands and press the dough into a 6X8 inch rectangle. Using the melted butter or egg wash, brush half the dough and fold the other half over it. This “glues” the two layers together so your tops don’t pop off in the oven.

Press the dough into another 6X8 inch rectangle. Flour a sharp knife and cut the biscuits into 12- 2X2 inch biscuits. Place them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and brush the tops with butter or egg wash. Lightly sprinkle them with salt and bake for 10-12 minutes. Makes 12.


  1. Yummmy, I'm going to put these ingredients on my shopping list this week. I love Butternut Squash Soup and Pops loves the Biscuits. And you blog is looking great!

  2. Sommer-

    What a wonderful blog! Can't wait to try this great looking recipe. We love butternut squash soup and the biscuits sound delicious. I'm so inspired by your food energy--it's defintiely contagious!

  3. I am so excited to try these biscuits and the soup sounds DELISH!

  4. Hi Sommer! Congrats on the blog! I've had one for just over a year and it's so much fun:)

    I made homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner last night and whipped up a batch of your yummy herb biscuits to go with them at the last minute. Everyone loved them! Thanks for sharing:)

  5. This soup sounds wonderful with you savory herb biscuits. I love the photo of the soup with sour cream. Very nice!

  6. This soup was fantastic! I kept the skins of the apples on because they add fiber and it takes out the step of peeling them. Once you blend it, you won't even know! I also added 2 tablespoons of flour to thicken it! Perfect! Thank you!


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