The Power of the Menu

The Power of the Menu

Creating a weekly menu for 6 people that everyone is going to eat (happily) can seem overwhelming.  Especially if there are picky eaters or special diets to contend with.

For picky eaters, and children in general, it is helpful to create a menu that can be posted.  This sends a different message to the household, and it also gives away some power, meaning that rather than think, “Why isn’t Mum home yet? I wonder what’s for supper?”, they can simply check out the menu and say, “Oh, I guess this is what we are having” and the argument just doesn’t happen.  It also  removes the “We never have anything good” from the equation, because everyone can see that we are having spaghetti on Wednesday and pizza on Friday (yes, there will be spinach salad with the spaghetti and Greek salad with the pizza).  

When deciding what we are going to eat, I often start with “Meatless” Monday, Turkey on Tuesdays and then Fish on Fridays.  I also make Saturday or Sunday a bigger meal, with a roast that will be used for another meal, or for lunches.  Other ideas are to offer one day a week to the kids to plan.  When it is my husband’s turn to cook, I usually plan for chicken breast or boneless pork chops on the BBQ with salad and potatoes (he decides how to cook them).  The person assigned to making the salad, gets to decide what goes into the salad, as well as what dressing they are going to make.  Unless it says Greek salad, of course, which is a favourite in our house, so there are never any arguments about what to put into it.

Yes, there is repetition, but that is okay.  Everyone likes predictability, especially kids.  If you have a few healthy meals that everyone likes, include most of them in your weekly menu.  Maybe agree to try one new meal a week.  Recently, we added No Weigh Jose Mexican Lasagne to our rotation and it is a huge hit.  We also enjoy a baked veggie casserole (no pasta) and roasted vegetable pasta, that includes eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms, and I catch the kids stealing mushrooms off of each others plates.

I also include who is making salad for each day, who is setting the table and who is clearing and cleaning up.  Yes, it takes some planning, but if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

One last thing, I always include dessert options on the menu.  Typically it is fruit and yogurt, but I like to make sure there is something there.  It is another way to make sure everyone is getting their 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables in the day.  One of the faves in our house is a leftover protein pancake with warmed berries and Greek yogurt, or a Flax seed Energy bar, made with peanut butter and dates.  When the weather is warm, I use leftover fruit and yogurt and make frozen yogurt popsicles, with chunks of fruit in them. Just a little something sweet to end the meal. 

This week’s Supper Menu:

Sunday: Roast Chicken (2, one for supper and one for lunches); spinach salad with Balsamic Dijon dressing, baked Yam slices and raw veggies (sliced cukes and tomato; carrot and celery sticks – make enough for lunches and snacks during the week).  For dessert: Strawberry-Rhubarb crumble with lemon yogurt drizzle

Monday: Vegetable soup and Cheesy Quinoa Bites.  For dessert: warmed berries with leftover protein pancake and yogurt

Tuesday: Turkey Hamburger soup with leftover salad (by the way, any leftover yams from Sunday supper went into the soup).  For dessert: fresh berries

Wednesday: Spaghetti and Green Salad.  For dessert: Flaxseed energy bars.

Thursday: BBQ chicken pieces, green salad and Simple Quinoa.  For dessert: fruit salad (made by the kids, with whatever fruit is left)

Friday: Pizza and Greek salad.  For dessert: Dessert pizza with fruit and yogurt. (Make chicken for wraps for Saturday)

Saturday: My son’s class campout!  So I guess it is Hot dogs and Hamburgers for supper (Any Moms attending this weekend, if you want Greek chicken wraps, email me, that is what I am bringing for me!)




The Birthday Bread machine

My husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, (which was back in February, by the way).  I told him that I had been thinking that a bread machine would be a really good addition to the kitchen.  Sometimes, we can go through 4 loaves of bread in one week.  (now that is combined us and Daycare).  It is not so much that good bread is expensive, but also that good bread is hard to find.  I have often made my own bread, but then something will happen and I run out of time, and we are left without.

So, given that he likes when things are simple, off he went to shop for a bread machine.  Given that he is one of the larger consumers of bread in our house, he has his specifics of what he likes in bread (usually the Country Grain loaf from Cobs suits him nicely).  So, he didn’t ask me what my specifics were for a bread machine, he just went shopping.

He came home with a Black and Decker “All in one” bread maker.


He chose it because it had the whole grain loaf option as well as the “standard” bread pan.  (Which means the loaves are standard loaf shape rather than square and up and down like most bread machines).  I don’t know if I would say, “Standard” is totally appropriate when describing the size of the loaf, which comes out reasonably tall, but it is certainly more like a conventional loaf of bread than any bread machine loaves that I have seen.

The first loaf I made was the whole grain loaf from the book that came with the “Robot boulangere” as it is called in French (so Rob has nicknamed it “the Robot”).  The loaf was very nice, but the recipe left a bit to be desired in terms of a whole grain loaf goes.  2 cups of whole wheat flour to 4 cups of white bread flour, plus added flax seeds and sesame seeds.  However, it was low salt, no preservatives, low sugar.

Then I started to play.  I began with the dough recipe that comes in the book.  This is so you can make the dough in the machine and then bake it in your own oven.  I took that one from its all white flour recipe to one with 1 cup white and 3 cups whole Spelt flour.  It was beautiful.  And the buns were delicious.  I sliced them in half lengthwise and we used them with Sausage and peppers one night instead of pasta.

I did some searching on the Web for whole grain bread machine recipes.  I found lots.  I chose three that used only whole grain flours.  I tried each of them.  Let’s just say that we won’t make them again.  Each one tasted good.  And would be fine served along side some soup (to dip the bread in !).  But you couldn’t use them for sandwiches.  They were just way too heavy.  Each time, the kids were like, “Mum, can’t you just buy bread?”

I went back to the recipe that came with the machine, and I started playing around with the ingredients (now that I was more familiar with the machine).  First, I made one with half and half, whole wheat to white.  It was very good (almost the same as the original one).  Then I upped it again, to 4 cups whole wheat, 2 cups white. Finally, 5 to 1.  Then I started subbing in other flours.  I also did some reading about vital wheat gluten, which is the protein from wheat flour, after it has been hydrated and then the starch has been washed away.  What is left is simply the wheat gluten.  Typically, Bread flour has a higher protein content than regular all purpose flour, so if you are substituting other flours for bread flour, the recipe is more successful when you add 1 tsp of vital wheat gluten per cup of flour used.

And now, here it is, the final recipe, which has been kid tested and husband tested, and passed.  And still pretty healthy and clean (and definitely better than store bought!)


Whole Grain Bread Machine Loaf  ~ makes one 2lb loaf.

Put these ingredients in order into your bread machine pan:

2 cups buttermilk (or soured skim milk = 1 7/8 cup skim milk + 1/8 cup vinegar or lemon juice), room temperature

1/4 cup warm water (80-90F)

1 1/2 TBSP oil (I used Canola, as Grape seed left a taste)

2TBSP Maple syrup

1 1/2 TSP salt

1/2 cup ground flax seed

1/2 cup Oat flour

4 cups whole wheat or whole spelt flour

1 cup All purpose flour

Make a small bowl in the top of the flour, and place 3 tsp active dry yeast in it.

Sprinkle 4 -5 tsp vital wheat gluten over the top of the flour.

Set your bread machine on the setting for Whole grain loaf, and for a 2lb loaf.



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