I tried a new version of advance meal preparation and planning but having learned from my last experiment, I didn’t want to spend hours making meals for the week. Instead, I decided to do a huge “mise en place” for the week. In other words, I prepared all the components I would need for lunches and dinners for the entire week. I washed and diced, shredded or sliced cucumbers, carrots, celery, bell peppers, cabbage (red and green), onions, scallions, jalapeno peppers, zuchinni and yellow squash, asparagus, mushrooms, and lettuce, cilantro and parsley. I purchased chicken, fish, and pork and wrapped it in individual portions, bought some potatoes, white and sweet, and pasta. I did not want to lock myself into any particular menu but had several options lined up–chicken gumbo, seared pork with roasted vegetables, Asian slaw with chicken breast, and a stir-fry. I have a supply of cooked brown and Japanese rice at all times in the freezer, individually portioned (my mother’s idea!) This worked out great! I love it. With my new plan to wake up earlier and walk in the morning I needed to be able to get my lunch put together faster. Grabbing a variety of fresh vegetables and tossing them into the container with the lettuce was easy. With all the shredded cabbage and carrots I was able to make an Asian slaw instantly. Coming home from work and knowing that I could make anything I wanted in very little time was very comforting. For example, making the gumbo was easy. I already had chopped celery, onions, and bell peppers, chicken stock in the pantry, and purchased a rotisserie chicken on the way home. The next night I roasted a combination of vegetables with a little olive oil and herbs at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Delicious with a piece of seared pork loin. For my husband’s meal, since it was his birthday, I made a special German dinner of schnitzel with mushroom sauce and already had the sliced mushrooms. I sliced the potatoes with the mandolin and made him some scalloped potatoes in the oven. He was very happy. We were able to eat leftovers the following night. On Friday night, usually a night when I can’t think of anything to cook and feel tired and burnt out, I knew exactly what to make. I sliced a partially frozen steak into thin pieces, marinated it in a little light soy and sauteed it. I set it aside and then stir-fried nearly all the leftover vegetables I had from the week–asparagus, carrots, onions, peppers, jalapeno, zuchinni and yellow squash. I made a stir fry sauce of soy sauce, fish sauce, and a little oyster sauce, mixed it into the vegetables, added the meat and served it with my already prepared rice. My daughter and one of my sons happened to be home so there was plenty for all four of us. It was a very tasty dish. I had enough cabbage left over to make cole slaw for a party I had on Saturday night as well. I am now a believer in this process and will do it again next week!

Steve’s birthday cake, Italian Cream Cake