Saturday, October 24, 2009

Finding my 'go-to'

Don't tell my husband, but I think I might have a few too many cookbooks. Just maybe. I lost count at 120 ... I'll worry about thinning them next year! I'm sure I'll need a mid-winter project, after all!

One of the problems of having so many great cookbooks and recipe websites, and so many favorite meals is deciding just what to make. Often I am limited by the ingredients I have on hand, but since I am blessed with a well stocked pantry and freezer, there are still a lot of choices! Sometimes I think I am a bit scatterbrained!

Making my monthly menu helps a great deal - I have two menus for cool weather when meals are most likely made in the oven or crock pot, and two warm weather menus, featuring meals that are likely to include fresh garden produce, a salad of some sort or something grilled. Flip flopping the two menus makes for a nice variety and keeps me focused when it comes to grocery shopping. If I'm not following the menu plan, we often don't eat as healthfully or enjoy the variety that we do when we stick to the plan.

There are times when I am not well or just plain tired and than we usually eat something simple, use a meal from the freezer, pick up a roasted chicken, or do the take-out thing. I really need to do a big cooking day again soon and re-stock my freezer, since we have used all of the dinners that I previously prepared. Our supply of pork and beef is dwindling nicely which will leave room for some meals, and give us a bit of a break before the next slaughter time. We've already spoken for another hog or two and quarter of beef since it was very economical and wonderful to have such quality meats on hand all spring and summer. I don't know when we've ever enjoyed such lean and flavorful meats.

Our weekly family meals are really not the problem. The problem is when we have company, take a meal to a family in need, or when I need to take something for a potluck. That's when I seriously ponder the cookbooks and struggle to make up my mind. I must say, this is one area where my husband is no real help. I don't know how often I have heard, 'Heath - anything you make will be great! Do what ever you like or feel up to.' Arg! See what I mean? Very complimentary, but his answer doesn't help me narrow down the selection in the least.

When I grow up, I'd like to be 'known' for a signature dish, like some of the women of my grandmother's generation. I really would. 'Did you see Heather brought her _____________ ( fill in the blank) again? I'll have to tell my husband. He'll be the first in line!'. I am not an ambitious woman, and I don't generally seek accolades, but it's just one of those things I'd like to do when I grow up. Come to think of it, I'd better get to it soon!

My own sweet Nanny was known for her love of all things lemon. Lemon meringue pie that made your upper lip sweat, lemon sponge cake that floated off the plate and her lemon loaf - with a sticky sweet-tart syrup poured over it while it was still hot, it was the most moist loaf at the luncheon. My Mum is known far and wide for her shortbread. She has literally made at least 400 pounds of butter into melt in your mouth shortbread over the years - and that's a conservative estimate! When I was a girl, I loved the ones shaped as holly leaves with green sugar sprinkles and the wee red candy at the end to represent the berries. For years she hosted a Bible Study in her home and served all manner of muffins and coffee cakes - all well received. My husband's mother could be counted on for a nice big dish of homemade macaroni and cheese and a generous slab cake. Her mother made an amazing black walnut cake and served it on a square Fostoria cake pedestal that I now enjoy using from time to time.

Finding my own 'go-to' has been far more difficult. So many great recipes, so few church suppers!

This week a family from our home school co-op was in need of a wee blessing. The mom had surgery and was out of commission for several days. We decided a meal might be most helpful, but it took me forever to figure out what I wanted to make. I narrowed it down to Baked Ziti, homemade Italian Rolls, Fall Apple Salad, and a spicy pumpkin struesal cake. I asked before I planned, and there were no food allergies or strong dislikes to work around, so it was pretty easy - except for the deciding part!!!

What I want to do is have a standard 'go-to' meal for 'meals on wheels' deliveries - one for spring and summer and another for fall and winter.

It needs to include:

  • a salad
  • some type of bread
  • a main dish
  • a dessert
It must be:
  • easy to transport ( not sloppy)
  • generally well liked by children and adults alike
  • tasty
  • using everyday ingredients that I can keep in my pantry or freezer
  • seasonally appropriate
  • economical
Do you have any suggestions? Are you known for a 'meals on wheels' supper that you bring to those families in your circle of friend who are in need of a blessing? Do you have a signature dish for potlucks?

Please do share - I want to get this thing narrowed down and typed up. I'll post it inside my cupboard door and than I won't have to think about it again!

Thanks for your help!


  1. I just wrote Stephanie yesterday that I was making "our" cookies. They are the cowboy cookies on my recipe blog. She has to stop before adding the chocolate chips and dried cherries (I also use dried cranberries) to take out enough batter for David's cookies... he can't have the other goodies.

    She told me she didn't take them to a church potluck once and was "strangled" by one of her friends.

    I like to take vegetable beef soup to a family if it is anytime other than the middle of summer. She has taken chicken pot pie, which everyone loves.

  2. that is one area where I struggle too -- what to take to a family??? I'm still working on it. :) And I often have trouble deciding what to make for company too. I'd love to be known for a signature dish -- but so far not. My kids know me for whole wheat flour. Yesterday we had some company and the girls stayed on for the afternoon. WE had pancakes before church and one said, "these taste different than at our house." So Rachel chimes in, "That's because these are whole wheat. That's what my mom makes." :) I actually think they taste pretty good -- SO much better than the whole wheat nasties we had as pancakes as children. :)

  3. I'm a new visitor and have enjoyed what I've read thus far. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life in this way. I signed up for the meal ministry for my church a year ago, and I wanted to have a go-to type meal as well, but over and over again I've encountered allergies and preferences that have made it necessary to think creatively for each meal I've made and delivered. I don't mind that too much, I guess. It's probably par for the course these days. But I could share that my meatloaf was probably met with the sweetest response. I made meatloaf, baked potatoes, and just brought mixed veggies in a microwaveable container for the family to heat up, but the man of the house said something like "Oh wow! I'm so glad that you made meatloaf! Everything's been great, but it's so good to have something other than pasta for dinner tonight!" So, that told me that unless the family mentions pasta, I usually try to come up with something else. Thanks again for your blog. I'll be back regularly.


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