Remember my 10 rules for meal planning success? I've noticed that several of them have been touted recently in the blogosphere. I didn't invent the concepts behind the rules and others who write about the concepts are not quoting me. The rules are just my take on sensible guides that can help you go from feeling crazy after you prepare a meal - or too afraid to even try making one because it seems such a daunting task - to confident meal preparation that leaves you smiling as you sit down to eat.
Am I overselling the rules? I don't think so, but you be the judge.
Meal planning rule # 1 - Be realistic but brave
Have you ever begun a project and quit mid-way through because you got so discouraged? I have - with a quilting project that drove me to the brink of madness because I picked a pattern way too intricate for a beginner. Luckily a friend who is an expert quilter came to the rescue. If you've never prepared a complete dinner by yourself before, don't start with a complicated recipe for beef baked in a pastry shell combined with a scalloped potato casserole and green beans almondine. Duh, you say? It may be obvious what you shouldn't start with, but how to find recipes that are simple but appealing?
Of course I hope you'll check out the recipes on this site, but what about the recipes you find elsewhere? If you eat meat, consider starting with dishes that use chicken pieces or chopped meat. They are easier to work with if your'e not familiar with those ingredients than whole chicken or large cuts of beef. Look for recipes with limited ingredients and simple, detailed instructions. Note that some recipes have numbered instructions, but include several procedures within a single "step."
If you've found one main dish recipe that suits you, at first make the other parts of the meal simple. For example, lettuce salad (which can be prepared in advance) and a one-step starch/carb like rice or noodles allow you to concentrate on the main dish and still have a 3-part, balanced dinner. Or make a one-dish meal like lasagna or by adding vegetables to peanut noodles.
Even if you're looking for simple recipes, you can be brave. Look for ingredients that you've enjoyed eating but have never cooked or find a dish that is simple to make, but may have an intimidating quality when presented. Whole roasted cauliflower is an easy yet impressive main course for vegetarians. All it needs is bread and salad, perhaps with a lovely cheese or two and some fruit to make a fabulous dinner. Home-cured lox is a simple way to present salmon that makes an elegant brunch. Whatever meal you're planning, you can explore a new technique or ingredient but stay sane.
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