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Planning Your Menus
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Planning meals are important, especially now that Christmas is just around the corner. When you plan your menus, try to remember what makes up well balanced meals and think about providing enjoyable meals without a lot of effort. If you are planning a menu for guests, your first consideration might be the occasion for which you are planning the menu. Is it a simple family dinner? Are you inviting friends,? Are the guests people you know? When you invite people over for a meal, it is important that you consider their tastes. Do you know what your guests like and/or dislike? Otherwise, you must make reasonable assumptions. Some people do not like shellfish, some are on special diets, while others try to avoid an over-abundance of rich foods. Be sure you check if your guests are on a special diet for religious or health reasons. If in doubt, ask them if there are any foods which they cannot eat or do not like.

In any menu, you should consider the texture and ingredients of each dish. Try to avoid a menu where all the foods have similar textures. For example, avoid serving a creamed soup followed by a chicken in a bland sauce and end with a vanilla ice cream or creamy pudding. Try to match crisp or piquant foods with bland ones and combine soft textures with crisp ones. Try not to serve a pie as a main course and follow it up with more pastry in the form of a sweet tart or flan for dessert. This latter combination would provide a lot of carbohydrates. Make sure that the texture of each course as well as the flavors vary.

Try not to repeat too many of the ingredients in a meal. Do not serve a tomato soup, followed by grilled pork chops and stewed tomatoes. Some flavors may be repeated in a menu so long as the flavor does not dominate in all the dishes. Onions and garlic are two examples of flavors which might dominate each dish that you serve.

Be sure to serve hot dishes are at the correct temperature and cold dishes are correctly chilled. It helps a lot if you heat the plates, heat the serving dishes and/or place the serving dishes on hot pads or food warmers. In contrast to hot food, you might chill the dishes by refrigerating them if you are serving a cold dessert or cold soup.

Keep in mind the food value of the foods you are serving. For example, protein is easily served through meat or fish; one of these, as well as eggs, milk and cheese, can be served each day to provide the protein you need. You should add fruits and vegetables and enough filling foods (comfort foods) to satisfy hunger. 

The weather and seasons are also important in planning menus. Summer is great for outdoor cooking. It is also easy to serve many types of salads, fresh vegetables and fruits. We tend to eat lighter foods in the summer and heavier foods in the winter. Winter foods seem to be more one-dish meals and nourishing, hot soups as well as roasts and baked foods. Try to limit your cooking to one oven dish ; you must take into account the temperature. Do not try to cook a dish at, say, 400° F and simultaneously cook another dish which requires a much lower heat.

Select a menu in which the foods you serve do not require a lot of work and preparation. If you select three dishes and all of them require a lot of work, you may be too tired to enjoy the meal. When you serve a three-course meal, it is sensible to have at least one of the dishes cold. Prepare the cold dish well in advance of the meal time. When you serve a hot dish, try to prepare it in advance as far as possible. Try to avoid dishes which require a great deal of last minute attention, unless you have guests who enjoy helping you or watching you in the kitchen. If you have a kitchen in which you can chat to your guests while you add the last-minute touches, avoid doing things which require a lot of concentration. Instead, add finishing touches which are easy to add so you do not become stressed or spoil the food.

It is a good idea to work out your menu for guests two or three days in advance or plan your menu ahead several weeks in advance. You need to find how far in advance you need to plan a menu depending on your preference and style of living. Planning your menu does save shopping time, can save time in the kitchen and sometimes helps save a little money as well. When you plan your menu, you can plan it around the fruits, vegetables and meats or fish which are in season or available. You can also plan your leftovers. If you serve roast chicken, for example, you can use the remaining meat in a risotto or curry. If you are serving a potato salad in the evening and are cooking potatoes for lunch, you can easily cook enough potatoes for both occasions and then just set aside the potatoes you require for the salad.

Generally, you will find that planning menus requires a little time and effort, but will save you much time and effort later and it can save you a lot of worry or stress. A little planning helps you to enjoy cooking and serving meals rather than regarding them as tiresome, necessary chores.

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September 25, 2017

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