Discussing cool-weather recipes over lunch one day, a co-worker in our group explained that he liked to make posole during the weekend for sharing with friends and family who stopped by to watch football on TV.
"Posole," I chimed in, "that's one of our favorites, too."
What I didn't add, though, was that we didn't make it for a crowd; we made it for the week as part of our "simpler living" effort. But I wasn't sure that would sound appetizing to the others. They probably would have preferred the "Monday night meatloaf" menu plan.
Monday night meatloaf had nothing to do with football. It was the centerpiece of the weekly menu cycle that evolved in our home when I was in junior high school.
With my brother and I taking part in various after-school activities and my parents teaching college classes at different times each semester, we usually weren't all home simultaneously to share weekday dinners.
But my mom wanted us to have a hot, home-cooked meal, so she came up with a basic menu of items she could make or set out in advance. Then, whoever was home first could put the meal on to cook in time for those who were there to eat early (and dash off, if needed). And it would be there waiting for those who came later to enjoy whenever they arrived.
I remember coming in from a chilly cross-country practice and being grateful for the ready-to-eat plate of food kept warm under a steel mixing bowl in the oven (in the premicrowave 1970s).
Even though we came to joke, "If it's Monday, it must be meatloaf," the routine worked. And we didn't mind the weekly repetition (meatloaf, spaghetti, burgers, chili pie, fish sticks).
When my two stepsons were growing up, I adopted a similar menu plan to make hot dinners as easy as possible. We soon ended up with a cycle highlighted by "Thursday night hot dogs" and "Friday night burritos."
But last year, in our now usually-empty nest, my husband and I discovered that it was even simpler to eat the same dish for three or four dinners in a row, and we didn't mind the more frequent repetition since it meant less cooking and dish washing on already rushed weekday work nights.
So we adopted the "Sunday night soup" cycle: We make a large crockpot of soup or stew on Sunday, which then usually lasts us (with sides of salad and bread) at least through Wednesday.
During the early months of the effort, we regularly browsed cookbooks for new slow-cooker selections, tested them, and then noted our favorites (such as posole and minestrone) for repeat meals.
While it may not be the most creative way to cook, we've found our soup plan certainly simplifies mealtimes and in the hot summer months is easily converted to the "Sunday night salad" plan (same concept but with a supersize salad bowl).
And when the boys stop by to eat? We often revert to "Monday night" meatloaf and baked potatoes (now a treat rather than a routine), "Friday night" burritos, or the posole – one of their new favorites. But on those nights, we need a backup plan (or a second crockpot), since with a crowd, there won't be enough left over to last until Wednesday!
1 pound pork, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
1-1/4 pounds skinned and deboned chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-1/2-inch chunks
1 large onion, diced
3 medium bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chiles
3 cans (15 ounces each) hominy, drained and rinsed
7 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon chili powder
5 cups chicken broth
Shredded green cabbage (for garnish)
Chopped radishes (for garnish)
In a 6-quart slow cooker, mix together the pork and chicken pieces, onion, peppers, chiles, hominy, garlic, and seasonings. Pour in the chicken broth. Cover, cook on high heat for 1 hour, and then on low heat for 5 to 6 hours more. (Check if meat is done.)
To serve, garnish with shredded cabbage, radishes, and a sprinkling of lime juice. Note: For extra lime flavor, add zest and juice of half a lime to the crock.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.