A friend of mine recently converted to Judaism. It is a really touching story that started with her visit to Israel with her husband (who is Jewish). While there, they pledged that upon return they would honor the weekly Shabbat on Friday evenings. Her description of the Shabbat consisted of eating a home cooked meal every Friday night with your family and sometimes with friends. Dinner discussion should not include topics such as work and you aren't allowed to complain. Her description of this ritual and how it affected her made me want to have a "Shabbat" in my life.
I am not religious and we don't do it on Friday. Further, our "Shabbat" has merged with my interests in the slow food movement. Weekly, or at least bi-weekly, I purchase a whole chicken from a local farmer family, Farrar Out Farms . Now that fall is arriving I am alternating roasting the chicken one week and making chicken and dumplings the next. I roast the chicken stuffing it with a lemon and rosemary and I rub it down with lots of olive oil. Sometimes I roast it on a sliced onion and other times I roast it on the rack. Sometimes I make a yummy white wine gray and other times I put scrumptious vegetables in the pan to soak up all the juices.
After I roast the chicken and serve it for dinner we usually have about 1/3 to 1/2 the chicken left. I pull all the meat off (I realize that I must have been a scavenger in a previously life because strangely I really like this part). I use the pulled meat throughout the week on sandwiches and salads which has really helped us get off of industrial meats. I am going to take this one step further in the future, recommended by a fellow slow foodie, and boil the carcass to make stock for freezing.
As for the dumplings, I will post the recipe shortly. They are a Stocker family staple and provide great leftovers throughout the week. Both recipes are actually quite simple and take less time than one would think.
This ritual provides an anchor for my monthly meal planning. I'll start there and then hopefully the rest of it won't feel so intimidating!