One of the nice things about the changing seasons is the different fresh foods that are available and that we might grow or find on great specials. I am a really seasonal cook and love to see the fresh produce that comes with each season. If you eat this way over a year your diet has a lot more variation in it.
In winter I cook a lot of soups, casseroles, roasts... hot stuff! Long slow cooking, hearty warm things. I love soups. I love walking into the house and it smelling of cooking when it is cold and stormy outside. Winter food is more about comfort and warmth.
In summer we have a lot of BBQs. Lots of salads and cold meats. It gets hot here. I avoid using the oven and making the house hot. Also in the evenings we go swimming and eat outside most nights at the garden table. It is light outside up to about nine pm. It is just entirely different to winter and meals are easier and lighter.
By the end of a season I am ready to change over. I start to look forward to it. But the same thing always happens. I have kind of forgotten half of my good ideas and favorites from last season. One of the biggest helps in the kitchen is having a list of meals that you know everyone loves and that are easy and work well in the budget. It avoids those moments of wondering what on earth to make for dinner and what to shop for. Wendy, Cath and Tania all plan well ahead their menu plans. This does take a little planning but like all planning a little time spent saves a lot of time overall. You know what you will be making and you know what to buy. There is no panic. So much stress is avoided! I have heard people say they can't decide what to cook so they got take away. A menu plan and easy things stop that happening.
Mainly I shop by what is on special and what is marked down. This works out that I am buying fresh and seasonal things. Then I plan what I can make. Otherwise I am looking for things that will give us healthy and yummy meals that are simple.
Just this weekend our weather really warmed up. I needed a reminder and some inspiration so out came my recipe scrap books which hold all my best recipes. Plus notes I have written and a few torn out magazine articles etc with new things I want to try. Then I write up a list of meals I want to be making and remind myself about for the coming months. You can ask too. Ask the family what would they like to see on the menu.
I keep this list on the fridge, pick things from it each week and make a shopping list from that. It avoids those times when we feel totally uninspired or have brain fade and just don't know what to cook! We have all had that moment standing in the supermaket thinking "what will I make for dinner?"
This is my current summer meals list....
BBQs. This can be chicken, lamb, beef, pork, bacon, sausages or a mix. Plus vegies like onions, sweet potato, asparagus, broccolini, carrot etc. Mainly I cook extra that will become a lunch and a cold dinner for another night. I try to keep on hand things to become salads... some fresh ingredients and some from the garden. Things like pickles, relish, dressings... and some tins too like pineapple, corn, beans... so one way or another I have things to make salads. This means BBQs are a big variety of meals.
Some nights the BBQ might become hamburgers, steak sandwiches or BLTs.
BBQs are one of the biggest helps in summer. No heat in the house. No mess in the house!
Quiche, flans, tarts, zucchini slice, impossible pies. I group these together since they all use the same things and can include anything you have lots of! Perfect for making for picnics and taking to the beach. I would always make double at least. One for the meal then another for lunches, going to the beach for dinner or something like that.
Wraps. ie flat bread, turkey, cranberry, lettuce... or lamb, cheese, tatziki, lettuce, onion, tomato, cucumber... or chicken, mayo, lettuce, bacon... etc. I often cook lamb or a chicken in the crock pot. It becomes wraps, rolls, and cold meat for a cold meat dinner. If I am making these I will make spares for lunch the next day.
Fritters. ie left over lamb or corn or zucchini and halmoui. And a salad.
Cold meat and salads. This could be roast meats now cold, deli meats, a cooked purchased chicken.. a combination. Andy loves cold meat and salads. He would have this every night. So easy.
Simple pasta. If I have lots of produce like onion, zucchini, tomato etc I cook it up lightly in a fry pan. Throw it over pasta, add a handful of chopped basil and herbs from the garden. Sprinkle of cheese.
Antipasto type platter. This can be a great way to use up all kinds of things.
Haloumi and salads.
Warm chicken salad. This is some kind of chicken ie crumbed and cooked, roast and sliced, fillet fried... sliced and over lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, cucumber etc with croutons and dressing. There are variations and crispy bacon is good on this. Left overs can be a filling for wraps.
Lamb, hummus, haloumi or baked feta and salad.
Baked ricotta with crisp toast and greek salad.
Pizza. Now and then. I cut a whole heap of fresh herbs, rocket, lettuce and pile over the top after cooking.
Salads. Favoutites are pear, rocket, cheese, walnuts and balsamic, Beetroot and fetta, Greek Salad.
I love to make up salads that will last several days. I made a big amount then that will be our salad and we always eat these up. Some actually improve over a day or two. They include rice salad, potato salad and salsa or bean type salads. They also travel well ie to a picnic. Some of these recipes are here.
I use the crock pot (other than the BBQ) mostly for cooking. So I might cook a chicken or leg of lamb then use the warm meat the first night and have cold meats for other nights. Also if we are having a BBQ I might fill the crockpot with baby potatoes in the morning and then at dinner throw over chopped onion, parsley and dressing. All the leftovers become a new salad for the next couple of days. Or you can get corn on the cob going in the crockpot, that is good too.
We don't eat desert every night. But in summer we have a lot of fresh fruit. Beyond that if I am having visitors I might use berries on a pavolva or parfait or something like that.
If I have lots of fruit to use up I make my anything fruit cake, muffins etc so that I can freeze a heap of these and get to eat that fruit later on (as well as enjoy an actual cooked desert).
Here it is covered in peaches..
And with plums...
The recipe is here.
So that is my menu so far which is about twenty things with a lot of variations. ie a BBQ is just about never the same twice nor is cold meat and salads or a platter. And there is nothing that we eat in winter it is entirely different. Just now I am really looking forward to it. But by the end of summer I will start thinking of soup and stew and hearty things have a sit down and plan the winter meals just the same.
This little bit of planning can save so much stress. I can make a quick list and also whatever specials I might find I will plan around those. Last year we had so many free peaches. They became our deserts, cake, salads. And it is flexible. I might discover something new to try and add that.
Today I am going grocery shopping. I always watch for meat on special or marked down. These buys go into the freezer for BBQ nights. And I need to build up my supply of things that help me make an instant dressing or salad. Then I am set for a very easy few months of cooking.
What is on your menu plan for the new season or tips on how to always have ideas with meals?
When the girls were at school the last thing they would always ask me as they got out of the car was "what is for dinner tonight?" I would tell them and they would always say "Yum!" lol Now the grown up version of this is Andy always sends me a text from work. One of these invariable says "whats for dinner?" Well, I love that our families look forward to and get excited by what we are making. After a long day dinner is important. It is a beautiful thing.
Have a wonderful week! xxx