This Week's Menu: The Habit-Forming Edition

Hey so, I started Salt & Lemons late last fall after I got laid off from my job as a magazine food editor. I was bummed about losing such a fun gig, but I also saw an opportunity to build something of my own, so here we are. As we settle into the new year (which, between snow days, sick days, Arctic cold and long weekends, hardly feels like it's had a chance to fall into a rhythm), I'm thinking a lot about habits. 

golden beets, oranges, and rosemary - about to get roasted in the coals of a wood fire. 

golden beets, oranges, and rosemary - about to get roasted in the coals of a wood fire. 

Turns out building a business, even a small, one-person one like this, is a lot about habits: building new ones, honing good ones, and ditching bad ones. So that means establishing a weekly workflow and being in the habit, on Mondays, of opening up the computer and writing this post before I do anything else in the day. It means writing my to-do lists the night before; breaking my mostly passive Twitter habit (by taking it off the phone, signing out of it in my laptop's browser) and pushing myself to be more active, consistent, and outgoing on Instagram - until it feels normal (will that happen?). 

Once tasks become habits, they require less effort, which frees me up to  - I dunno - take a longer walk, figure out a new challenge with my camera, or play LEGO with my kids. Over time I'll add new tasks (like coming up with one new recipe each week! #goals) and those will become habits too, giving me a solid work foundation to build on (at least that's what all the productivity/self-help posts I like to read on the internet tell me) until I become so productive I literally turn into a robot. 

There's a parallel to that practice-it-into-habit idea in the kitchen, too. I plan, weekly, of course. I soak beans almost every Sunday and cook them on Monday - some for the freezer, some for the week ahead (I know, beans again. I'm into them!). I make pizza dough at some point during the week in anticipation of dinner over the weekend. I used to see both of these tasks as too annoying or time-consuming, but now they're just something I do - I barely think about it. Not only do we eat better for it, these cooking routines help structure our weeks. There's a comfort and predictability about these habits that I like, both for me and the boys. And speaking of predictable...

Monday: by request - a stovetop mac & cheese made with a classic roux-based sauce (not hard to do), dosed with a little mustard and nutmeg. If it were up to me, I would've thrown in some spinach and let it wilt into the sauce. But in the case of mac & cheese, it's not up to me. I suggested topping the dish with some buttery breadcrumbs and letting it bake and get all crispy-crunchy on top. Ellis had a tantrum. So I just temper those crazy ideas. ;)

Tuesday is tacos as ever, this time with some beautiful glossy black beans and collard greens. This Mom's Kitchen Handbook post on Instagram inspired the collard filling - with plenty of avocado and cilantro,  we're leaning into all the green goodies. Tonight my hunger striker told me he hated tacos and wanted something else for dinner. I don't make more than one dinner as a rule, but I do allow a peanut butter sandwich. More smashed avocado for me. 

I'm tackling homemade fettuccine on Wednesday. I figure if we're going to eat pasta once or twice a week we might as well make it a thing. So I'm trying this week's version with rye flour (another habit) for that nutty tang. I'll serve some plain with butter, of course - but I'm also looking forward to topping mine with some diced celeriac and squash, roasted with onion until they're all caramelized, and a sprinkle of toasted walnut. And I have beets roasted with orange and rosemary left over from a recipe I'm working on, so I'll turn those into salad to finish it off. 

Thursday: Speaking of habits, I am trying to get the family to contribute ideas more regularly, although success has been limited (meat sticks! takeout burritos! CAAAKE!). This week Ellis asked for chicken nuggets, so I'll make cutlets and cut them into nugget-sized pieces. I'll serve them with a simple green salad and some baked sweet potatoes. And ketchup. 

A while back we designated different themes for different nights. We picked "Fish Friday" mainly because it was alliterative, and although we usually make pizza (anchovies count!), this week we'll pick up a whole fish and roast it whole - it's so easy and tasty and I have at least one fish-eating child who will be excited by this. And so I am excited. 

And now I have to go clean up after tacos and peanut butter sandwiches. xo