My 4 Strategies for Choosing Recipes for Meal Planning
Choosing recipes and recognizing good ones has become second nature to me over the years, and I want to share with you some of what I look for when I'm reading a new recipe for the 1st time, to determine whether or not I want to try it, and if I think it will be a success!
1). Besides reading the title (obviously) of a recipe, the 2nd thing I almost ALWAYS look for is how many people it serves. I do this because I am almost always cooking for a certain amount of people, and I don't want to have too little, or WAY too much. This often will tell me if the recipe has actually been tested, if someone has taken the time to figure out how many people it may actually feed.
2) I then do a quick scan of the ingredients. If there's anything unfamiliar in the ingredient list, and I'm in the mood, I will take the time to read the recipe notes, or look up the ingredients. After that, the recipe will go into one of two categories for me, either a) one I can probably whip up on a busy weeknight because I have everything I need, or it's easily "gettable", or b) a "weekend recipe" pile, where I save recipes I will make on the weekend, or ahem, one day.
How Much Time Do I Have?
3) I also be sure to look at how long the recipe will take to prepare. If the recipe doesn't have that information, I look to the instructions, and try and piece it together. I will read the instructions FULLY anyways before trying any recipe, as often I have come partway through a recipe, and it has told me "now marinate for 24 hours", and I wanted to eat in 20 minutes. There's no worse (hungrier!) feeling.
Choosing Recipes to Serve Together
4) When I'm choosing recipes to make and serve together, it's part brain work, and part intuition, based upon experience. I'll start with parameters (weeknight dinner vs. company, how many people are eating), and ask myself questions such as: What will the weather be like? Is it a weeknight or weekend? Will we be eating inside or outside? How much time will I have to cook? I also try not to choose dishes that include A LOT of the same ingredients, and I almost always try to include a green and/or raw vegetable in my menus.
Bonus: Choosing Recipes For Thanksgiving
While these pointers can apply to all holidays, I am focusing on Thanksgiving because it is such a food centered holiday. The number one thing I look at when choosing recipes for Thanksgiving, is ARE THEY COOKED STOVE TOP or IN THE OVEN? I have heard so many "horror" stories over the years of cooks picking out the perfect Thanksgiving menu, only to realize when they go to execute that three of the four recipes they choose have to be in the oven at the same time at different temperatures. Nothing is more of a bummer when you discover this AFTER you have already bought all the ingredients!
If you are planning on roasting a turkey in the oven (it's generally an all day affair), I would suggest planning no more than one other dish that needs the oven to cook. Even that can be stressful, planning it's cooking time AFTER the turkey comes out of the oven. For a STRESS-FREE Thanksgiving, dishes that can be prepared in advance, and/or require only stove top cooking (besides the turkey) are the way to go!
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