Menu planning Help please!

Discussion in 'Kitchen Chatter' started by DebbiGall, Jan 7, 2018.

  1. DebbiGall

    DebbiGall Santa's Elves

    I've been on the boards here since they were over at organized Christmas,
    I have A.D.D. I have been treated for it since I was a child with medication.
    Menu planning is a constant worry for me I agonize over it for months before a holiday.
    I would like to have a menu plan for Thanksgiving Christmas and Easter I save my menus and use them and the grocery list over and over.
    this past Christmas was a disaster, I had 3 pasta dishes, I tried 2 new recipes and the person that was going to bring the broccoli and rice brought pasta too,
    any help with a workable menu would be awesome.
    I have turkey on thanksgiving and ham on Christmas and tamales on Easter. it's the sides that trip me up.
  2. Ahorsesoul

    Ahorsesoul Santa's Elves

    I serve the same things for each Holiday. I do not vary my menus much. Each holiday has a different menu. A few years ago I dropped some of the sides because it was way too much food. No one has complained. When we have guests I tell them what I am making and ask them to bring something they would like to make that means something special to them. If they want to know what I'd like them to bring I ask for fresh veggies with a dip or cold shrimp. Both are things they could make or just buy ready made at the store.

    Turdurken--this has stuffing inside
    Mashed potatoes with spinach (sounds icky but is great)
    Baked swt potatoes if my stepmother is attending
    Sometimes I make a veggie.
    Rolls or French bread
    Pecan pie and another dessert

    Prime rib
    Stuffed mushrooms ...this counts as our veggie
    Baked tiny potatoes with sour cream
    Then one or two desserts

    Baked swt potatoes or mashed swt potatoes
    Green beans or asparagus
    Rolls or French bread
    Sometimes I do a pear bunny salad or make deviled egg chicks

    That's about it. Everything is made gluten free and if a guest has a food allergy I'll adjust the menu if needed.

    Keep your menu as simple as you can so you can enjoy the meal, the guests and the holiday.
  3. jampss

    jampss Well-Known Member

    I also keep to the same dishes ... turkey/ham, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese .... pumpkin pie.

    I don’t like coming up with weekly menus.
  4. teachermomof2

    teachermomof2 Santa's Elves

    Like Diedra, I have the same menu each holiday, each year. It keeps it simple and thought free. The family also likes the tradition of it and knows what to expect each time. I'd suggest doing a menu for each holiday of the things you usually serve and stick to it.
  5. luludou

    luludou Well-Known Member

    I have the same menu for NY's Eve too.... A long time ago I did changes but now I'm sticking with what I have, works great.
    Veggie juice with crackers as an entrée
    Tourtiere with gravy for main meal
    Salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers.
    Store-bought cake for mil's bday (31st) with ice-cream

    Evening buffet follows that
  6. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    For any "big" meal I am hosting I follow a basic plan:

    - One cold as in veggies + dip, a cheeseball or other chilled dip with crackers or even shrimp cocktail; Then one hot - either something prepped ahead and frozen for popping in the oven or a hot dip of some kind...Artichoke Dip is easy and always a crowd pleaser and can be kept warm in a small crockpot too.

    If a really large group, I'll either do two hot and two cold or sometimes I'll specifically ask people to bring an appetizer to help out.

    Main Dish - Sounds like you have this one down - Turkey is a great choice - we always do ours in a roaster oven - cooks it great and leaves ovens free for side dishes! Roasts, ham or special pasta dishes like lasagna or stuffed shells are also mains I lean towards.

    Side Dishes:

    I try to balance the following categories...

    - Starches - Potatoes, Bread Stuffings or Corn based dishes, usually no more than 2 in this category

    - Vegetables - At least one of these, often green bean or asparagus based. Roasted baby carrots are good too. Or I have a Roasted Butternut Squash with Pecan Parmesan that is to die for! Could go with any main!

    - Salads - Depending on the main this might be a tossed salad with a homemade salad dressing, or a pasta salad. Broccoli salad is another good one too.

    - Bread - Dinner rolls can be simple or fancy. Rhodes frozen bread rolls are a favorite of mine, just a matter of getting them rising in enough time to be baked up at the last minute. I also have a recipe for Make Ahead Butterhorn Rolls that are really good as well.


    If I know there will be a lot of kids I try to make sure I have something they'll like - brownies, cookies, something like that. People often bring desserts too, of course.

    Beyond that, the sky is the limit. One thing that I can recommend if you don't want to make your own are the Edwards brand frozen pies. The Key Lime is made with real juice and it is fantastic. The chocolate one is also great. You just put them in the fridge a couple of hours before serving. Brew some good coffee to go with and dessert is DONE!


    I make sure we have plenty of ice, fresh brewed iced tea and water. Beer for the guys :) Then either wine or a punch for the gals. Pop or juice for the kids.

    Main Course Menu Examples:

    If I were serving turkey I would probably choose PW Mashed Potatoes (can be made ahead and reheated in the oven), stuffing, a green bean casserole (basic recipe but I add sharp cheddar and Velveeta), simple tossed salad with Creamy Parmesan Dressing and Rhodes rolls served with real butter.

    For a ham main course I often do scalloped potatoes but mashed work great too, some sort of cheesy scalloped corn (either in oven or crockpot), Roasted Asparagus with Browned Butter Sauce and Herb Cream Cheese Crescents (made with frozen puff pastry - can make ahead and pop in oven when it's time)

    For a pasta main I will pair with a tossed salad + Creamy Parmesan dressing and either garlic bread or I also like to make Garlic Butter pull apart rolls using Rhodes roll dough as a base - you partially thaw the rolls in microwave, cute in half then dip in the butter then toss is a mix of shredded Parmesan/Asiago/Romano before setting to rise. You can make a wreath shape or any shape you want but it bakes up really nice and is always a hit! Other nice options are plain bakery bread, sliced and warmed in oven served with a dipping mix + olive oil. Marinated mozzarella balls or prosciutto wrapped melon slices are good too for appetizers with this type of meal.

    Pulling it all together:

    I am more than happy to share any recipes I've mentioned or help you brainstorm something else! I really LOVE meal planning :)

    Do you have any go to side dishes you've made before that you really love? Or are you still working on building a roster of things you can pick and choose from?

    What flavors do you and your family really love? Are you looking for things made from scratch or recipes that use more shortcuts or is a mix of both fine?

    Do you have crockpots?

    You are ahead of the game by starting your planning now! Plenty of time to flesh out a menu for Easter and based on how that goes you can probably finish tweaking your planning for the other big menus for the year!
    jampss likes this.
  7. DebbiGall

    DebbiGall Santa's Elves

    Aunt Jamelle this was so helpful thank you so much.
  8. DebbiGall

    DebbiGall Santa's Elves

    and still building
  9. DebbiGall

    DebbiGall Santa's Elves

    Roasted Butternut Squash with Pecan Parmesan
    Broccoli salad
    stuffed shells
    Creamy Parmesan dressing
    Garlic Butter pull apart rolls
    would love these recipes, I love making recipes for the holidays
  10. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    Ask and ye shall receive! :D

    Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale Almond Pecan Parmesan

    I've made this with or without the kale, both ways are good!

    2 to 2.5 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed into 1 inch chunks
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2-3 T finely chopped fresh parsley, or 1 to 1.5 T dried
    1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
    1 cup de-stemmed and roughly chopped kale

    Almond Pecan Parmesan:

    1/4 cup slivered almonds, chopped
    1/4 cup chopped pecans
    1 T Parmesan cheese (the kind out of a can works fine)
    1/8 tsp kosher or sea salt
    2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

    Preheat oven to 400 and lightly grease a casserole dish. Toss squash cubes with minced garlic, parsley, olive oil and sea salt. Do not add kale yet. Cover casserole with lid or with tin foil with a few holes poked through. Bake 45 minutes.

    Meanwhile mix the Almond Pecan Parmesan ingredients together.

    After about 45 minutes or when the squash is just fork tender (and it will be smelling GOOD!) remove from the oven and reduce temp to 350. Stir in the chopped kale and Almond Pecan Parmesan. Bake for another 5-8 minutes or until the nuts are toasted - watch so they don't burn. Remove and enjoy!!! Oh my word is it good!
  11. Ahorsesoul

    Ahorsesoul Santa's Elves

    Thanks AJ
  12. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    Broccoli Salad

    1.5 cups mayo
    1/2 cup sour cream
    2 T sugar
    1 bunch broccoli cut into small florets
    1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets (you could omit this and increase broccoli but it is really good either way)
    1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
    1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
    3 oz (or more) bacon bits (either buy them or I usually just cook up some bacon - add more bacon to taste)

    In large bowl combine mayo, sour cream and sugar, mix well. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.

    Cheesy Chicken Alfredo Stuffed Shells

    These are really good! We like mushrooms so I either pan saute fresh mushroom slices a bit before stirring into the filling or I just use cans I have drained. Completely optional!

    Copykat Carrabba's Creamy Parmesan Dressing:

    I typically triple this!

    1/2 cup mayo
    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (I recommend using a micoplane type grater to get the cheese shreds super soft and fine so they melt into the dressing)
    1/4 cup buttermilk
    1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
    1/2 tsp minced fresh parsley or you can use dried, same amount
    1/2 tsp lemon juice

    Combine and chill well. I typically put everything but the cheese in a quart Mason jar, put on a lid and shake it up real good. Then I put in the cheese and shake again. Then I just pop the jar into the fridge until it's needed!

    I'm going to have to pull out my recipe binder for the Garlic Butter Pull Apart Rolls. It is a photocopy of a recipe that Rhodes put out years and years ago but I haven't seen it around anymore. There is a trick to thawing the frozen rolls just enough in the microwave so you can cut them in half with scissors before dipping in garlic butter and cheeses then arranging them before setting to rise. I'll try to pull it out tonight!
  13. Ahorsesoul

    Ahorsesoul Santa's Elves

    Thanks AJ
    AuntJamelle likes this.
  14. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    I have to share one more stuffed shell recipe - this one isn't as fancy I guess but I can't get enough of it!

    Gooseberry Patch Chicken Stuffed Shells

    About 30 jumbo pasta shells (going off memory I think I normally use about 22-25 when all is said and done but I really stuff my shells with alot - it will vary by that)

    6 oz package of stuffing mix (chicken or herb flavor, turkey would work too I'm sure) + ingredients to make it per package

    2 cups cooked chicken, diced or shredded

    1 cup mayo

    2 (10 3/4 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup + 1 can's worth of water or milk (I've always used milk)

    Grated Parmesan to taste

    Cook shells per package directions to al dente. Prepare stuffing mix per package directions. Stir in the chicken and mayo. In another bowl mix soup and 1 can's worth of milk (or water). Pour half on bottom of lightly greased 9x13 baking pan. Stuff shells with stuffing mixture, place open side up in the pan. Pour remaining soup mixture over the top. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Cover and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes.

    This is actually a great weeknight meal if you have leftover chicken or cooked shredded chicken in the freezer. I would also make this with leftover turkey + turkey flavored stuffing mix.
    teachermomof2 likes this.
  15. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    Found it!!! :D

    Garlic Butter Cheesy Wreath Rolls

    18 Rhodes Dinner Rolls

    ⅓ cup butter

    ½ tsp garlic powder

    ¼ tsp garlic salt

    1 T dried rosemary leaves (can sub dried parsley if desired)

    1.5 cup fresh shredded Parmesan, Asiago and Romano mix (can use just one type of cheese if needed)

    Fresh parsley or rosemary if desired

    Thaw rolls in microwave - place 7 rolls on plate and cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Microwave for 20 seconds. Flip rolls over, cover loosely with plastic wrap again and microwave another 20 seconds. Repeat for all rolls. For the last four reduce microwave time to 10 seconds on each side to avoid over zapping them!

    With scissors, cut rolls in half horizontally. In a small bowl combine butter, garlic powder, salt and rosemary (or parsley). In another small bowl, combine cheeses. Dip rol halves in butter mixture and then in cheese, tossing to coat. Arrange, cut side down, on a large sprayed baking sheet or pizza pan or baking stone.

    To make a wreath shape: Place 24 halves in a thick circle for the base of the wreath, then place 12 halves on top.

    You could make other shapes as well - a long log, a football, a heart shape - whavever!

    Sprinkle any remaining cheese over the rolls.

    Cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray and let rise until double. TIP: Putting in the oven with the light on can work well but if ovens are in use for other things and the kitchen is cold I “put the bread to bed”. I take an old, clean towel and wrap it around a heating pad. I plug in the wrapped heating pad on low and set it on a flat surface. I set the pan with my rolls on top. Then I take another two old, clean towels and make a sort of nest around the bread, getting the towels up as high around the bread as possible without risking them laying over on top of the dough as it rises. This works very well! It will still take at least 3-4 hours for it to rise to the point where it has doubled. If it rises too much before you are ready for it stick it in the fridge.

    When ready to bake, remove plastic wrap. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and let cool slightly. Brush with additional butter and garnish with fresh parsley or rosemary as desired.
  16. sweetpumkinpye

    sweetpumkinpye Well-Known Member

    WOW some amazing ideas on here.

    For Christmas my mum and I stick to the same thing every year as it is what works for us and is what the family look forward to.
    (remember it is summer here so the menu is primarily cold food)

    I make a punch out of 1 bottle lemonade, 1 bottle ginger ale and 1 litre of fruit juice, tons of ice. Easy
    We also have sparkling cider on the table and plenty of cold water.

    Roasted Turkey, baked ham, roasted chicken, and either roast beef or pork what ever we decide for this year. All roasted and then served cold.

    Pasta salad with peas, corn, bacon, red onion and a dressing that my brother and I make up, potato salad, coleslaw, tinned corn, beetroot and pineapple.
    We have a green salad and olives. We have apple, cranberry sauce, mustards and we make home made mayo and a sour cream dressing. Bread rolls and butter.

    Hot fruit pudding served with cream, ice cream and custard.
    Trifle filled with peaches, jelly, coconut, custard and cream.
    Plus one more dessert, might be a cheesecake, a pie or a pavlova.

    Easter we just have a traditional "English" roast meal of hot roasted meat (often chicken or beef). Roasted potato, pumpkin, sweet potato and peas corn and carrots smothered in gravy. We would eat a hot chocolate sauce pudding with cream and ice cream. It is usually getting colder here so this is a great warming and filling dinner for us.

    Not too exciting compared to other menus but my family loves and looks forward to these celebratory meals.
  17. Lolwlias

    Lolwlias Active Member

    I also serve pretty much the same things from year to year.
    I would recommend keeping new things to a minimum. It also helps to try them out on your family at a random meal to see how they like it. (I like to have "guinea pig" night frequently. That is when I try new recipes. :) Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.
    I keep my holiday menus in my Christmas binder. I also usually keep the recipes right in there. Everything in one central location.
    I think if we keep things simple, it makes it a lot less stressful. Hoping your 2018 holiday meals are the bomb-diggity.
  18. Ahorsesoul

    Ahorsesoul Santa's Elves

    I made the Cheesy Chicken Shells tonight. It is great. I’ll try it again using Italian sausage. Thanks
  19. Ahorsesoul

    Ahorsesoul Santa's Elves

    Made the Cheesy Shells today. I used Italian sausage instead of chicken.
  20. AuntJamelle

    AuntJamelle Well-Known Member

    How did you like it with the sausage subbed in for the chicken? What kind of sausage did you use?

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