Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I am currently recovering from a no-sleep week, so this week's menu reflects a little bit of that laziness! This week's menu is also a nod to the cooler weather we have in store for this week. Finally, comfort food sounds good again. Hello, fall food! I've missed you.

Beef and Peas over Savory Herb Noodles

Baked Potatoes
Salad with homemade croutons

Chicken Pot Pie

Hot Chicken Salad

Baked Mac n Cheese
Corn Dish


Chinese takeout, hopefully!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spicy Orzo

A girl I know had cravings for Long John Silvers' hush puppies when she was pregnant. Ordinarily, this wouldn't seem odd. But she had, in fact, never eaten a hush puppy before in her life, so the sudden desire for them was inexplicable. It turned out that she loved them. Go figure.

I am no longer pregnant, but I can totally relate with the inexplicable-craving phenomenon. I once craved sweet-n-sour sauce even though I'd never had it before, and I, too, loved it. It was as if my taste buds had become ready for it and let me know when it was time. A similar thing happened with this dish: I woke up one morning craving orzo. I'd had orzo before, and all it is is rice-shaped pasta, so it was strange that I would crave orzo and not a pasta more familiar to me, like farfalle or rotini. But there it was: I HAD TO HAVE orzo.

Wouldn't you know it? I couldn't find orzo anywhere. I didn't think it was that uncommon of an item until I was craving it and couldn't find it in any store I visited. I even visited stores I don't usually frequent in the hope that they would carry these tiny little bits of pasta that were driving me slowly insane. They didn't.

Then some WEEKS later, when the craving had subsided, I was making my routine pass through the pasta aisle, and there they were, plain as day. Maybe they had been there all the time. I will never know. But I was still ready for them, so I purchased three boxes. I didn't want to be caught craving them with no recourse.

I still didn't know what I wanted to do with the orzo, but garlic sounded good. And butter. And my garden was exploding with basil; that sounded pretty good, too. And you know what else? Heat. Heat sounded good. When all is said and done, this recipe is probably closer to authentic Aglio e Olio than my actual Aglio e Olio recipe. But I think it works better here in this application with orzo than it would with any other pasta. The resulting dish is creamy, reminiscent of a risotto, with a lot of heat and flavor. AND it only takes about 12 minutes to make! Now, not only is the original orzo-something-or-other craving satisfied, but I've created a new item for me to crave. Let's get started, shall we?

Spicy Orzo

3 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely chopped
1/8-1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes (depending on your preferred heat level)
ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. uncooked orzo
2 c. chicken stock or broth
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. finely chopped fresh basil, or 1 Tbsp dried basil

Melt butter in a saucepan and add garlic, dried red pepper flakes, black pepper, and he dried basil (if using--if you're using fresh, WAIT.). Saute over low-ish medium heat for about 30 seconds, just to infuse the butter with the flavors, then add the orzo. Saute for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Slowly pour the chicken stock into the orzo mixture, and bring to a boil. After it comes to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 8 minutes, or until the stock is nearly absorbed and orzo is tender, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, stir in parmesan and fresh basil (if using), and serve immediately. You may add a tablespoon or two of olive oil if you wish to keep the grains more separate or don't plan to serve it in the next three minutes.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Menu what?

Hello mom! Yes, I have not posted plans in two weeks. Last week, I was simply too lazy to come up with one, but here were some highlights: Scalloped potatoes with ham, Taco soup with cilantro-lime rice, and pot roast with carrots and garlic and dill potatoes. Also, we had a County Fair meal which I will blog about later. Fall is here, no matter what the thermometer says.

This week is a different story. This week a deadline I had not been thinking about presented itself. Also, I have a bushel of corn shoved into my fridge awaiting its time for freezing. Yesterday afternoon, I babysat for a friend's kids. And last night, I was up until 1:45 with kids who were having sleeping/obedience issues. So far this week's meal highlights have been take-and-bake pizza, frozen pizza, frozen chicken nuggets, and Kraft mac'n'cheese, and I sense that similar things will show up on the menu later this week, too.

But after the craziness subsides, I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things with some smoked and grilled spareribs with my homemade BBQ rub, chicken pot pie, steak and smashed potatoes, fruit-glazed pork filets with herbed noodles, and Korean braised short ribs. I also need to make about 12 more batches of pesto to freeze, and we'll probably have a chicken/pesto cream sauce/pine nut/parmesan pasta dish to use some of it up. And I've been dreaming about a chicken gyro I had at the fair, and the delicious oregano/garlic/butter potatoes that came with it. I'll probably try to tackle those soon, too. Oh, man. I can't wait.

But I have to wait. I have other things to tackle this week, and I wouldn't enjoy cooking with guilt.

Back soon, and I've got some recipes up my sleeve, including a really tasty tzatziki sauce and a spicy orzo dish that is my new favorite! I've also noticed some gaping holes in my recipe collection that need to be plugged with some of our family favorites, like taco soup and chicken pot pie. So when time allows it again, I'll get those up! See you then!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Magnum Opus

Last night, I went nuts and made a meal for our history books. To quote Abe, "I love it when we have ribs, grilled chicken, red potatoes and green beans, baked beans, fresh corn, corn muffins, and a peach and blueberry tart...on a Thursday."

It started out simply--I had a rack of ribs that I wanted to smoke on our charcoal grill, and I thought I'd pair them with some baked beans, fresh corn (because I'm freezing bushels of it this week), and corn muffins. Then I decided to invite Abe's sister's family over, so I added the other stuff to the menu. It is probably Abe's favorite meal of all of the meals I have prepared for him thus far.

Along the way, I tried some new recipes (like a bbq rub and the potato and green bean dish, and the ribs themselves) andd perfected some old ones (like the barbecue sauce and grilled chicken) and I will be posting them shortly! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Post-Labor Day Menu Plan

Labor Day. It's a funny holiday, really. It was first conceived to honor workers who labor for the union (like my hubby), but in recent years, I've seen lots of Happy Labor Day commercials that honor mothers who have gone through labor (me--three times). In reality, it's really a farewell-to-summer celebration and has nothing to do with either of the above anymore. Do you ever take a moment during YOUR cookout to remember your local Union leaders? Probably not.

This year's labor day, for us, featured a lot of actual labor. My house was a mess and people were coming over, so I labored all morning to get it picked up. And my hubby had several friends and family members over to help him labor on the house--namely, putting up the trim on the windows, a step that precedes siding installation. And there was no cookout. We had Subway sandwiches for lunch. And really, we had Subway sandwiches for dinner, because "lunch" didn't happen until about 4. Then our renter and his fiancee had a grilled pizza/nacho fest in our backyard that night, which we totally crashed. So no cooking for me yesterday! Viva Organized Labor and ambitious renters!

Without further ado, here's the plan for today and the rest of this week.

Tuesday (it's gonna be a hot one today)
Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Caprese Salad

Strawberry Grilled Chicken Salad with feta, almonds, onion and raspberry vinaigrette over Organic Herb Mix greens

Ribs (forgot to thaw them last week)
Baked Beans
Peach Cobbler

Oven Fries tossed with fresh dill


Pasta Salad with leftover chicken, basil, shredded mozarella, and grape tomatoes