Method

We All Make Mistakes Meal Prepping

Not too long ago, I made a mistake. It was a cooking mistake, and I knew better. All you ever hear in the food world is the importance of good ingredients. Why can’t I just learn from the experts? Why do I have to fail myself? Sigh… I wasted a huge pot of food that Cooking Day.

Here’s what happened. My husband brought home a sample six-pack of beer from his job. It was cute packaging (I’m a sucker) and Friday night, so what the hey-hey, right? We opened one and promptly spit it back out. It was vile – a vanilla-scented sugar bomb that exploded at all the wrong times. But… I always save beers we don’t love to make chili out of. Without thinking, I relegated it to the chili beer cabinet and went on with my evening. First mistake.

Weeks later, I wanted to make chili. It was going to be my lunch for the week ahead. I got sweet potatoes boiling and dumped tons of awesome veggies and spices in Dutch oven. Then I went to the chili beer selection, and pulled one out. Popped the lid, in it went.

A sickly smell of peppers and vanilla started filling the air. Oh no, I remember you, gross beer, I thought. But I always use reject beer in this application. Surely my superior cooking skills can overcome this difficulty. Second mistake.

So I added tomatoes and beans. Then lentils. And tomato paste. And more spices. Onions. Pepper juice. Honey. Harissa. Another kind of beer. The chili grew and grew, but nothing could shake the completely inappropriate stink AND flavor of vanilla.

An hour and a half later, I had to admit I’d thrown good product after bad. The vanilla chili was a complete waste. All because I chose to use an ingredient I knew was not good.

Don’t be like me. Use stuff you like in your food. But also be kind to yourself. No matter how long you’ve been meal prepping, mistakes are bound to happen. It’s always worth it when we’re learning.

My brother and I learned how fun it was to shame ingredients that don’t work out the way we wanted. Like the dogs in the Facebook shame compilations, it doesn’t make them behave. But it makes us feel better.

Dinner/ Lunch

Sweet Potato-Turkey Chili

This chili recipe has quite a few ingredients, I acknowledge that. But it’s honestly very easy to make. And a lot of the ingredients are pantry staples. And it’s so good. And it gets better throughout the week. Make-ahead heaven, I tell ya.

The chili starts with veggies sautéed with spices and organic ground turkey (substitute 2 cups of cooked lentils to keep it vegan). Then it’s deglazed with the tasty addition of beer. A neutral lager is best, and it doesn’t have to be fancy.

This is the perfect time to use up the Budweiser your friend brought for Super Bowl and left in the back of your fridge. Did you know Budweiser is almost gluten-free? It’s made with rice. It’s not suitable for celiacs because it’s processed in plants that use wheat, but still. Not a bad low-gluten option for cooking.

My favorite gluten-free/gluten-reduced beer is New Belgium Brewery’s Glutiny. It’s delish, not terribly expensive, and husband-approved. Try to find it! Your local liquor or grocery store may even be able to order it for you.

You can thicken the chili with some masa harina or finely crushed tortilla chips. Either one adds a nice, subtle corn flavor.

The chili gets an extra shot of nutrition from the addition of sweet potato chunks. Sweet potato perfectly complements all the warm spices and smoky tomato goodness. Boil them in a separate pot, so they don’t get mushy while simmering the other ingredients. Then add them to the finished chili.

Top it with any Tex-Mex additions, like avocado, cilantro, red onion, tortilla chips or grated cheese if you do dairy. Reheat all week for an awesomely quick lunch or dinner. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato-Turkey Chili

Print Recipe
Serves: 6-8 Cooking Time: 45 mins.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled, 1 inch diced, preferably organic
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, chopped, preferably organic
  • 1 green pepper, chopped, preferably organic
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • ½-1 seeded jalapeno
  • 1 lbs. ground organic turkey
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. paprika
  • ½ Tbsp. cumin
  • ½ tsp. oregano
  • ½ tsp. chipotle powder or 1 canned chipotle pepper*
  • Pinch each cinnamon and cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt or more to taste
  • 12 oz. neutral beer, gluten-free if preferred*
  • 28 oz. fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • ½ Tbsp. molasses (or coconut sugar or honey)
  • 1 Tbsp. masa harina or crushed tortilla chips (optional to thicken)
  • Ground pepper to taste

Instructions

1

COOKING DAY – Add sweet potato chunks to cold water in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender, about 15 mins. Drain and set aside.

2

Heat oil in large Dutch oven or pot. Add peppers and onion, sauté until tender. Add grated garlic and turkey. Break up turkey meat and sauté until no longer pink. Add herbs, spices and salt, sauté for 1 min.

3

Add beer, scraping bottom of pot to deglaze. Let beer bubble and reduce, about 10 mins.

4

Add rest of the ingredients, simmer 15-20 mins. Taste and adjust spices and seasoning. If you still taste a strong beer flavor, simmer longer.

5

Cool to room temperature, add sweet potato, and package in containers. Lasts 5 days in fridge or 3 months in freezer.

6

SERVING DAY – Heat chili in microwave or on stovetop, defrosting if necessary.

Notes

*You can store leftover canned chipotle chiles in the freezer for future use. Just dump the rest of the can in a freezer-safe container. Press plastic wrap over top of chiles and seal the lid. Or flash freeze them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then add to freezer-safe bag. *You can substitute stock for the beer if preferred.

Method

Tips for Doubling or Tripling a Recipe

Making large quantities of several meals on your Cooking Day just makes good sense. You’re maximizing the time spent in the kitchen, plus you can stock the freezer for future use. (Economies of Scale! Thanks, Econ. 101!)

Standard recipes are typically crafted to make 4 servings. To get the most bang for your Cooking Day buck, double or even triple a recipe to crank out the amount of food you need for the whole week.

But sometimes recipes act a bit … shall we say … funny when they’re doubled or tripled. It’s not always as easy as dumping more ingredients in the pot. Here are some hints to make doubling go smoother:

  • Write the doubled ingredients out before starting to cook. If you’re going by the recipe on your Kindle, it’s easy to forget that ¼ teaspoon baking powder is now a ½. I’ve forgotten so many times. Then you end up with Franken-cakes, and it’s not pretty.
  • Spicy stuff, fresh herbs and salt aren’t always apples to apples in a doubled recipe. Try adding 1.5 the amount of these items first. Bizarrely, if one chile pepper is good, two can be too much. Go slow, you can always add more of these items to taste. But you can’t take them out once added.
  • Stovetop – Your simmer or boil times will likely be somewhat longer than the original recipe calls for. The time it takes to cook 1 lbs. of sweet potatoes is not the time it will take for 2 lbs. But it’s not double the amount of time either. Adjust your expectations and check the pot regularly.
  • Oven – If you’ve doubled a baked recipe and added a second pan, you need to rotate the pans halfway through cooking. Either top to bottom or left to right, however they are situated in the oven. Try not to overcrowd an oven either – it’ll bake unevenly.
  • Blender – If you’re doubling a blended recipe, like soup, it’s likely not going to fit in one batch. You won’t want to pour the blended liquid back into the pot with the unblended portion. Have a large bowl or second pot ready to transfer the batches of blended liquid into.
  • Food Processor – If you’re doubling something that gets food processed, your problem is similar to the blender. There’s a finite amount of space in a food processor. If you over-fill it, bad things happen. It can leak or damage the motor. Or your ingredients won’t get properly incorporated (especially bad for doughs, I speak from experience). Best to make one batch of a recipe in the food processor, then a completely new second batch.
  • Freezer – On Cooking Day, you may have recipes you would like to flash freeze (freezing individual pieces of food separately on a tray to prevent sticking). When you’ve doubled your quantity, you’ll need to clear extra space. If your freezer’s anything like mine, this takes forethought.

Don’t let any of this intimidate you though. Often the only way to see if something doubles or triples well is just to get in there and do it. Be brave, taste often – it’ll probably be fine.

Dinner/ Lunch/ Travel

Make Ahead Chana Masala – Vegan, Gluten-Free

This chana masala recipe might be one of the recipes I’m most proud of. My favorite Indian restaurant is on the other side of Nashville, and it takes some planning to get out there. Now I can make this dish on my Cooking Day and have creamy, tangy, perfectly spicy Indian any night of the week. I’ve got a sneaking feeling mine’s also probably healthier than the gloriously fatty-salty goo I always order. Sorry Sitar.

This recipe starts with tomatoes, onions, garlic and ginger whirred in a blender. Throw in a chile pepper if you like heat. Simmer this mix with tomato paste, warm spices and bay leaves. Swirl in coconut milk, then cook the mushrooms and peas right in the liquid. Add chickpeas, and you’re almost done.

When the chana masala has cooled a bit, finish it with a little maple syrup for a balancing hit of sweetness and fenugreek complexity. I’ve never had much luck buying fenugreek, an Indian herb, in Tennessee (go figure). But fenugreek has a distinct maple flavor. It’s is actually used to produce artificial pancake syrup! I reverse-engineer the process, and use maple syrup to add an artificial fenugreek flavor to my Indian dishes. It’s delish.

This recipe easily doubles and freezes well.

The secret to the authentic taste of this chana masala is a shortcut I learned from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution cookbook. And I do what Jamie says. He recommends adding a little Patak’s Mild Curry Paste to your homemade Indian food. It is a game-changer. This specific brand. No substitutes.

Patak’s ingredient list is pretty short, considering all the spices. It contains canola oil, which is unfortunate. But, because it’s concentrated, you don’t use much. It’s high in sodium, but you just adjust your seasonings accordingly. For the amazing flavor punch it adds, I think it’s totally worth it. Let me stress once again – game-changer!

Make Ahead Chana Masala

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 35-40 mins.

Ingredients

  • ½ Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 whole fresh tomatoes, preferably organic
  • ½ onion
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 in. fresh ginger
  • 1 red chile pepper* (optional, but good if you like spicy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 3 Tbsp. Patak’s Mild Curry Paste (see link above)
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 ¼ cup full fat coconut milk
  • 8 oz. sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 15 oz. chickpeas
  • 2 pinches salt or to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • Serve over rice or cauliflower rice, with cilantro and/or lime wedge if desired

Instructions

1

COOKING DAY – Heat oil in Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Blend fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger and chile (if using) in blender until smooth.

2

Pour tomato mixture in pot. Add two bay leaves. Sautee mixture until raw garlic/onion cooks out and mixture turns slightly darker, about 10-15 mins. You might have to turn on stove fan for chile fumes.

3

Add tomato paste, curry paste, paprika and garam masala, cook another 2-3 minutes until blended. Add coconut milk, swirl into mixture.

4

Add mushrooms, peas and chickpeas. Simmer until mushrooms are tender, about 10-15 mins.

5

Remove from heat, cool slightly, and add maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6

Cool completely and store in containers in the fridge for 5 days or freezer for 3 months.

7

SERVING DAY – Microwave desired portion of chana masala or heat on stovetop. Serve over rice or cauliflower rice. Garnish with cilantro and lime (optional).

Notes

The fruity spice of the chile is really nice. But chiles are unpredictable. You can leave it out. Just add cayenne pepper to the mixture ⅛ tsp. at a time until you reach your desired spiciness level.

Method

Make Ahead Salad Dressing Technique

The Make Ahead Modern Method is all about prepping elements of meals ahead of time. This gets food on the table quick. Some of the best elements to make ahead are dressings. Dressings add the flavor to your fresh stuff. They make the difference between naked lettuce and awesome salad. Plus, they don’t mind sitting in the fridge, waiting until you’re ready for them.

You’ll give any make-ahead dressing its best start in life by emulsifying it as thoroughly as possible. This simply means forcing your fats and liquids to get along and become a smooth, thickened mixture. An emulsifying or stabilizing element, like mustard or plant particles (garlic, herbs), is often added to help the fat and liquid come together.

There are many ways to mix your dressings. You can whisk the oil into the liquid by hand. You can put all the elements in a jar and shake-a shake-a. You can pour the oil into a running food processor. Or you can bring in the big guns and use a blender. All these techniques yield a thickened dressing. But will it stay that way throughout the week?

The amount of force, called shearing power, used to combine the fat and liquid will determine the stability of the dressing. In the Make Ahead Modern kitchen, I don’t like to mess with any dressing right before mealtime (I’m lazy). I need something ready to go when I am. So I prepare most of my dressings on Cooking Day in a high powered blender. The fat and liquid are well-combined. The stabilizing element, like garlic, is so pulverized, its particles keep the fat or liquid from pooling back together. You’ve got emulsified dressing for days.

If the ratio of fat to liquid in the mixture is too even, or “heavy”, the dressing may separate again, no matter how much shearing power used. That’s why I tend to use a bit less oil in my dressing than normal recipes call for. It stays combined longer. Plus, I just like dressing tangy and full of life.

Even if your blended dressing does separate in fridge, when it started well-emulsified, it’ll pull back together in a snap. Just give it a few shakes.

Remember that some fats, like coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, solidify in the fridge. That will cause some separation as well. Just let the dressing come to room temperature or microwave for about 10 seconds, and it’ll be fine. Shake to recombine.

A well-emulsified dressing clings luxuriously to your salad fixin’s, infusing every bite with all the mingled flavors. Break out the blender and embrace make-ahead dressings! It is so worth it.

Dinner/ Lunch

Kale-Brussels Salad with Best Green Vinaigrette

This green vinaigrette really is the best. It’s savory and complex with a touch sweetness. I’ve got it paired with a great make-ahead lunch salad, but the dressing could pimp out any veggie dish. Just pop a bunch of herbs and aromatics in a blender, and you’ve got magic green sauce all week.

This vinaigrette was inspired by a wonderful restaurant I worked at in college called 212 Market Restaurant in Chattanooga, TN. Since I now live hours away from the source of the 212 vinaigrette, I had to make my own.

The kale-brussels salad is so easy and comes together in a snap the day you want to serve it. If you’re using curly kale, you can finely chop it up on your Cooking Day and use as needed all work week. If you’ve got flat (lacinato) kale, save the chopping for the night before. The shredded brussels sprouts should stay green and fluffy for 5 days in a container in the fridge. The kale and brussels will have a slight sulfur-y smell in the container but will taste great. That’s just how they do.

Don’t worry about the basil in the dressing turning brown. When you whir it to liquid in the blender, it stabilizes it, and it’ll stay green.

This recipe makes a ton as written. Feel free to half it.

I love topping this salad with Oh She Glows’ Vegan Pecan Parmesan. This toasty nutritional yeast-pecan combo is a triumph of vegan ingenuity and lasts just fine at room temp all week. If you prefer, you could just top the salad with toasted pecans and shavings of authentic Parmesan. Both ways are delicious.

Kale-Brussels Salad with Best Green Vinaigrette

Print Recipe
Serves: 8+ Cooking Time: 20 mins.

Ingredients

  • DRESSING –
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 green onions
  • ½ cup roughly chopped basil
  • 6 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • SALAD –
  • 2 bunches organic kale, chopped
  • 10 brussels sprouts, shredded
  • 5 oz. dried cherries
  • 1 recipe Oh She Glows' Vegan Pecan Parmesan (see link above) or toasted pecans and dairy Parmesan to finish

Instructions

1

COOKING DAY – Add all dressing ingredients through pepper to blender and blend until smooth. Add olive oil and blend until combined. Package in container and put in fridge.

2

Shred kale (if using curly kale), package in container, and put in fridge. Shred brussels sprouts, package in container, and put in fridge.

3

SERVING DAY – To make a salad, put an eighth of the kale, brussels sprouts and cherries in bowl. Toss with eighth of dressing or to taste. Place mixture on plate, top with Vegan Pecan Parmesan or pecans and dairy Parmesan. Top with extra dressing if desired.

Breakfast/ Snacks/ Travel

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Yep, cookies for breakfast. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up on life. These cookies are healthy, hearty, vegan and gluten-free. They essentially have two ingredients – ripe bananas and oats. When these two things come together and bake, they firm up to create a simple breakfast treat. The add-ins (raisins, cinnamon, seeds, nuts, etc.) give these little cookies their character.

There are tons of variations of this banana-oat trick on the internets. But I had to put another one into the world because they’re the perfect make-ahead breakfast. They stay perfectly chewy and moist all week, and they’re crazy forgiving. I’ve changed their size, add-ins, shapes (cookie bar anyone?), you name it, and they always turn out exactly right. Just scoop onto a baking sheet and press them into a cookie shape. They won’t rise or spread, so don’t worry about spacing.

Aim for ripe bananas – like “omg, I forgot about these bananas” ripe. They’ll be easier to mix into a batter. They’ll also have more of a warm, bread-y flavor instead of a raw banana taste (important for banana haters like me).

This recipe makes a ton as written. Feel free to scale up or down depending on your needs. The basic ratio is one ripe banana to ½ cup old fashioned oats. You could add sugar if you wanted to, but there’s no need. We like hemp seeds in ours.

Make these on your Cooking Day along with some hard-boiled eggs. You’ll have an effortless, healthy breakfast all week long.

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Print Recipe
Serves: approx. 32 cookies Cooking Time: 15 mins

Ingredients

  • 6 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 pinches salt
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • ¼ cup choice of seeds, like hemp, chia, sunflower, etc.* (optional)

Instructions

1

Cooking Day – Preheat oven to 350. Mash bananas in large bowl, mix in oats and stir until well-combined. Mix in vanilla, cinnamon, salt, raisins and seeds/nuts if adding.

2

Spray or line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop by rounded 1 or two tablespoon scoops onto baking sheets. Press down with moistened hands or bottom of drinking glass to desired thickness, about ⅓-½ inch. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.

3

Cool on rack until room temperature. Store covered in fridge or at room temperature.

4

Serving Day – Serve two or three cookies, depending on their size, for breakfast or snacks throughout the week.

Notes

*Chopped nuts would also be a nice addition. Add around half a cup.

Method

Why I Go Gluten-Free

When I decided to overhaul my make-ahead game and start eating healthier, I cut out gluten. I am not a celiac. I don’t claim to have an allergy, and I don’t know if I even have an intolerance.

The reason I decided to go gluten-free was simply because I can’t control myself around it. I turn into a lion on a pasta-gazelle. Give me some pizza, bread or noodles, and I’ll mindlessly eat until it’s gone. That was a problem when wheat products were the cornerstone of my diet.

Once I started a food journal, I was shocked at how often I consumed gluten and how much. Toast for breakfast, crackers for snack, sandwich for lunch, and pasta for dinner. I knew I ate wheat products to excess when they were in front of me. What I didn’t internalize was how they dominated my diet.

I tend to be a better abstainer than moderator. So, I cleaned house. Out went the rolls, crackers, fancy pasta shapes – you name it. If it had gluten, it was gone. And the best thing happened. When I cleared out the wheat, I inadvertently made room for vegetables! My plate became full of vibrant veggies, where only piles of bread were before.

I lost weight, improved my digestion, and rediscovered my passion for healthy eating.

Some detractors out there say gluten has addictive qualities. I can believe it, but I’m not a scientist. I noticed less brain fog, but I made multiple diet and health improvements around the same time. Maybe it was a combination of factors that helped my fuzzy brain. I take no official stance on gluten. I have gluten on occasion when I’m out with friends. It’s fine. But I don’t put it on my make-ahead menus because I want to eat mindful portions of thoughtfully prepared food. Life’s just better that way.

Dinner/ Lunch

Slow-Cooker Marinara Recipe

I am a lover of red sauce from way back. I wasn’t a macaroni and cheese kid – it was p’skhetti and sauce all the way. My college years were filled with jarred marinara and white pasta, and it sadly carried over to my adult years.

This love did not disappear when I started to eat healthier. Most of the time, there’s nothing I want more than a big bowl of red sauce and noodles. And I can still have it with this recipe. It’s low in sugar and sodium, with all the big, bold flavors of long-simmered marinara. Just throw in the ingredients, give a quick stir, and four hours later, you’ve got bubbly heaven. Paired with some quinoa pasta or zoodles, it’s the perfect comfort food for this girl.

You could add some extra salt or sugar if you’d like. But the Parmesan rind releases salt and flavor. Once the slow cooker is off, I do something naughty to up the sweetness – pour in one tablespoon of Romana Sambuca. It’s an anise-flavored Italian liqueur. I wouldn’t drink it if I was dying of thirst, but it’s the secret ingredient in tomato dishes. Sambuca lasts forever in the liquor cabinet, so grab a little bottle and get cooking!

This recipe is based on the ever-inspiring Budget Bytes blog. It may be my favorite blog out there, and it’s not even strictly health food.

Slow Cooker Marinara

Print Recipe
Serves: 6.5 cups Cooking Time: 4 hours in slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 2 28-oz. cans crushed tomatoes (organic preferable)
  • 1 6-oz. can tomato paste (organic preferable)
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • 12 grinds of fresh pepper or more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. dried basil
  • Dash dried oregano, or more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2-inch parmesan rind
  • 1 Tbsp. Sambuca, or to taste (optional)

Instructions

1

COOKING DAY – Add all ingredients through parmesan rind to slow cooker. Stir. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. Remove parmesan rind and bay leaves. Cool slightly and stir in Sambuca (it smells strong at first but mellows). Store in fridge for one week or freezer for three months.

2

SERVING DAY – Reheat sauce, defrosting if necessary. I put mine in freezer bags, then just snip open the bag and put it in a Dutch oven to defrost. Add to favorite recipe.

Notes

This recipe is flexible. You can splash in some red wine before you cook it for some extra depth. You can add some white wine and clam juice after you cook it to make a seafood broth. Whir it in a blender for a smooth, pizza sauce consistency.

Method

Menu Planning As a Creative Process

So… Making a menu for your household week after week. Intimidating, right? It can be, especially when you’re just starting out. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for six or seven days?! That’s a lot of decision-making at one fell swoop. Deep breath, I got you.

The main way I tackle this task is to think of it as a creative process. I’m not writing novels or painting masterpieces here in Nashville. I don’t go to pottery classes, and I’ve not joined a book club. I’ll just say it – I don’t have an artsy bone in my body. But I still have the potential and desire to be creative. I think we all do. As I craft a well-rounded, well-constructed menu, I feel the creative juices flowing. How will I incorporate what I’ve already got in the fridge? Brushstroke. How will I make it healthy? Brushstroke. How will I make it ahead? Brushstroke.

This shift of mindset from intimidating task to fulfilling creative process is huge and will make it more fun. Here are some tips for getting started and finding inspiration:

  • Start small. If breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are too much, just plan and make ahead one meal at first. I started out only making lunches when I began working an office job years ago. I saw the benefits, and my cooking days bloomed slowly into a full production.
  • Keep the right tools around. Get a notebook to keep your menus and ideas in. I conscripted day planners as my menu notebooks. They’re perfect because they’re big and lined into sections. I keep it close, with a good pen attached. I’ll post more on this method soon. I’m sure there are apps out there that would do the job well enough. But research consistently shows we’re more likely to stick to something when we’ve physically written it. Science.
  • Watch some cooking shows or videos. Rapid-fire food images are good ways to get some inspiration. Sometimes we have to be reminded that muffulettas exist.
  • Blogs, blogs, blogs. Find bloggers whose tastes align with yours and subscribe. Nothing like some inspiration coming right to your inbox. You can start a Pinterest board for your ideas. Or even better, write your ideas down in your notebook!
  • When I need some ideas, I love taking all my cookbooks and fanning them out in front of me at a table. When I flip through them, I’m always struck by something new I want to try. Bam! Menu items selected.
  • Once you’ve been making menus for a while, go back through the old ones. You’ll remember all kinds of recipes you liked and forgot. Write your source down in your menu notebook, so you can find the recipe again.
  • If you’re stuck, walk away. Put the notebook down and go do something else. Trust that you’ll think of something if you give it some space.
  • Don’t rely solely on inspiration. Counter intuitive, I know. But I believe creativity is at the crossroad of inspiration and motivation. If you’re not feeling inspired that week, just do it anyway. Because you’re motivated to get it done. Inspiration is fleeting. The motivation to eat healthfully and feed others honestly is why you show up week after week. Build the habit, do the work.