Happy Monday Puffins!
It's a Menu Monday here at the Prairie Farmhouse and with Harvest breathing down my neck (HEY! that tickles!), I need to plan and be ready for whatever! That means suppers that can wait (and wait and wait and WAIT!) or be rewarmed and food for lunches, hot and field and cold; as the Blue-eyed Farmer is planning to take time off from his "other" job and just get the grain out of the fields. I think all the trouble some areas had getting crops harvested and then trouble finding elevators that would take their grain, has him a little anxious.
So lets start with breakfasts as he might want some.... or actually I think he needs to eat it, when he's working so hard and such long hours.
And he's a toast or cereal kind of guy. Cold cereal even. blech~ He also likes oats. I can't call it oatmeal as it's barely cooked. He boils water, dumps in the oats, stirs it for about a minute and it's "done" and this is NOT instant oatmeal! Maybe he's part horse??
So as long as I have milk and bread and some fresh cereal on hand, we're good to go in the mornings. (Oatmeal is a staple in my pantry.)
Lunches: Leftovers if I heat them up for him and if he's going to be around the place. If it's a hot field meal, it has to be "quick eating" because he doesn't like to stop too long. Nothing that requires a knife to cut up and preferable nothing "sloppy." So we'll go with pizza, hot sandwiches (burgers, brats, hot ham & cheese, chicken bacon toasted subs) and the occasional meat loaf cups and mashed potatoes (small glass baking dish holds them nicely for traveling). I'll make up some cookies, bars and puddings for desserts, get more fruit and that should get us through. If he's taking a cooler, he'll be fine with either our dried beef or some summer sausage sandwiches (buns work best), some chips (get the more whole grain kind) carrot & celery sticks and those desserts and fruit mentioned above. I like to make lunches a bit more substantial than when's non-harvest as he doesn't like to stop for "break" in the afternoon when everything is working. Occasionally he'll get a soda from the coop and I do have candy bars here I could surprise him with for a treat.
Suppers: Now it gets tricky. I never quite know when he'll be coming in. I have to plan a main dish that can be done around 7:30 ("Dark" these days) and yet still hold until upwards of 10 p.m. If it's going well and he's on level ground, or if we need to bring everything home and shed it, it gets later.
We don't like to eat too heavy and yet it's been a long time since he ate lunch or a snack. So I plan smaller pre-portioned meals. Those mini-meat loaves for example. It tricks your mind into thinking you are eating a big portion and even if you take a second one, it's still not alot. Just use your muffin tins to bake a recipe of meat loaf.
Other ideas are Sloppy Joes, Single portions of Cheesey Pasta Bake, Soup and grilled cheese, leftover homemade pizza (don't try to time the dough getting done and then baking it on harvest evenings... it only creates anxiety for the cook!), frozen processed foods. I know.. I know... But when Popcorn Chicken or Pizza Rolls will cook in 15-20 mins, that is long enough for him to shower and read the mail and it doesn't get too late. Other ideas are our usual Breakfast for Supper -- pancakes or eggs/bacon/toast or Frittata or Hashbrown Casserole; Tator Tot Casserole if it's going to be an earlier night (it's kinda rich for late night suppers); baked ham or sausage rings and scalloped potatoes (this can be a hot lunch if the ham is cubed up, but NOT mixed in with the potatoes.... we don't like that at all!)
All of the supper meals will get some kind of veggie or salad addition. Again, depends on how late it is and how heavy we want to eat. Probably no desserts and little breads at that time of night.
I realize this is not my typical Menu listing, but I have to be flexible this time of year. I can tell you that tonight will be some kind of pasta dish as I have ground beef, romaine lettuce for salads and garlic bread that all need to be used up, now! Tomorrow's forecast is for rain, so I hope to get some baking done and cooking up some ground beef and chicken and it all frozen & ready.
Speaking of chicken... just one more little tip I discovered this past week. I picked up my annual organic chicken order of 6 birds. I know... that's not many but the Farmer still is not a fowl-eating fan. And I still have 2 birds in the freezer from last year. (Eek! Gotta get those cooked up, pronto!) As I was saying, I had 6 fresh chickens to deal with. One was left whole for roasting for maybe Christmas Day (with a ham). The other 5 I cut up. The drumsticks and wings all went together into a couple of bags for cooked chicken. I'll do that sometime when I have a day to mess with it. The "odds and ends" like backs, necks, etc. went into the "Stock" bag and again, I'll make stock on a cold raining day when I have time to monitor it. The thighs and breasts are what we like best for eating as "fried chicken." But I hate thawing out even one-chicken's worth of those pieces all stuck together. Sometimes I want chicken and Mr. Farmer does not. So this year I decided after I de-boned the breasts and halved each one and removed the tenders; I would flash-freeze the pieces and then bag them up. It worked GREAT! I maybe, should have put parchment paper down on the baking sheets, but it didn't take too long to warm up the bottoms enough to unstick the pieces. All the tenders went into one bag for possible Chicken Strips. I bagged up the thighes and breast pieces seperately for if I just want dark meat or want to use the white. I think this will be a better way for me to actually make chicken for us, no waiting for a chuck to thaw. (Why does waiting for a "chunk" of beef or pork not bother me??)
So Puffins, do you cut up your own whole chickens? Do you buy organic ones? What are your go-to meals when life is C~r~a~z~y? Comment below, cuz I can always use new ideas. And stay tuned. Plum Kuchen recipes soon.
** "Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." ~Dwight D. Eisenhower