Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu Plan

As if the Thanksgiving meal wasn't enough comfort, this week, I've planned lots of comfort favorites. Let's be honest--EVERY WEEK I plan lots of comfort favorites. Why should this week be any different?

Monday
Baked Potato Soup
Salad

Tuesday
Stuffed Shells
Salad

Wednesday
Chicken Pot Pie

Thursday
Burgers
Potato Wedges
Corn

Friday
Orange Chicken
Jasmine Rice
Steamed Broccoli

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Crock Pot: Pot Roast, Potatoes, and Carrots

Monday, November 16, 2009

Menu Plan

Hmm. I'm afraid this week's menu plan feels rut-ish again. I'm just not certain what to do about it! There are several nights this week where I'll need do-ahead dinners that can either simmer in the crock pot or be reheated when we need them, and there are a few things in that category that really sound good.

Of course, next week's menu plan will be different. You know what? Maybe I'll just go ahead and do that now...

This Week

Monday
Leftovers (strange for a Monday, I know...)

Tuesday
Roasted Butterflied Chicken with Lemon Sage butter
Herbed Egg Noodles
Spinach Salad w/ homemade dressing, toasted almonds, feta, and dried cranberries

Wednesday
Chili (w/ diced onions, beans, and cheese...so, four ways?)
Cornbread

Thursday
Scalloped Potatoes with Thyme and Bay
Ham
Steamed Peas

Friday
Chicken Divan with Rice Casserole

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Takeout OR Roast Beef, Carrots, and Potatoes (crock pot); depends on how early I get up. :)

Next Week

Monday
Steak
Baked Potatoes
Green Beans Amandine

Tuesday
Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Maple Dijon glaze
Chopped Salad
Garlic Bread

Wednesday
Beef Vegetable Soup
Rolls

Thursday
Oh, I don't know...Turkey? Stuffing? Mashed Potatoes?

Friday
Travel to Ohio (hey, Mom...we're thinking of coming home this weekend. What do you think?)

Saturday
Mom decides

Sunday
Mom keeps deciding

Monday, October 26, 2009

Menu Plan

Well, we're headed to the doctor today for poor Ruby. I am also under the weather, and against my better judgment, I sent Charis to school today with the sniffles. On deck this week are meals that will bring us comfort and cure what ails us. (Sleep and lots of fluids should help, too.)

Monday
Chicken Pot Pie

Tuesday
Shepherd's Pie Skillet
Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Wednesday
Baked Potato Soup (with cheese, bacon bits, and sliced scallions)

Thursday
Two-Saucy MockZagna

Friday
Hawaiian chicken (Teriyaki-glazed chicken breasts topped with a pineapple ring and melted cheese. I'm pretty sure they don't eat this in Hawaii, but what else do you call it?)
Pineapple and Almond Rice Pilaf
Green Beans Amandine

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Takeout

Also, My hubby's dad had back surgery on Saturday, and they also found out that he has cancer. It was a swell weekend, as you can imagine. He is in the hospital now, so our life and schedules have changed quite a bit. I will either rely heavily on the Menu Plan for this week's dinners, or else it might all need to be tossed out the window as circumstances change. Don't be shocked if you see a few of these items on next week's Plan...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Menu Plan

I really did a menu plan this week. I did! I wrote it on the back of my shopping list. Which got lost somewhere between Baking Needs and Produce. I opted not to roam around the store with ny two little ones in tow to try to retrieve it, which I think was the right decision. I think it went something like this:

Monday
Kielbasa
Sauerkraut
Mashed Potatoes
Broccoli

Tuesday
Chicken cutlet sandwiches
Homemade mac and cheese
Salad

Wednesday
Hot Chicken Salad

Thursday
Pork Medallions in sage cream sauce
Stuffing with celery, onions, and apple
(I may even go one better and make pork tenderloin roulade with the stuffing in the middle and the sauce over top. Or I may may take a nap instead.)

Friday
Pasta e Fagioli soup
Crusty Artisan Bread (that one's for you, Ellen)

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
fingers crossed...Takeout.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Two-bean Chili

There's something about a crisp, Fall day that makes me crave chili. Even if I'm chilled to the bone, one bowl of chili brings me back to right and makes me feel cozy. I've tried a million recipes with varied success, but this here recipe I'm about to give you is Chili The Way I Like It. It didn't come from a published recipe, it came from tinkering with process and spices, and it's not super hot, but it does have a nice heat at the back of it. Just The Way I Like It. If you're in need of a satisfying chili recipe, give this one a whirl!

Two-Bean Chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 c. water
28-32 oz. of canned tomatoes (I used a can of stewed tomatoes and a can of diced tomatoes because that's what I had on hand, but use whatever you've got)
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder (or use 1 clove minced)
1 1/2-2 tsp. chili powder (adjust this to your taste)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 can kidney beans, mostly drained
1 can black beans, undrained

First, heat up a pot until it's "screaming hot" (as Rachel Ray likes to say), then crumble in your ground beef. Cook it most of the way through, constantly breaking it up with a spoon or spatula. Then add the salt and black pepper, along with the onion and water. Cook over high heat until most of the water has evaporated--this makes the meat nice and tender and really saturates it with the onion and salt and pepper. I could almost eat it just like this.

To the now-relatively-dry ground beef mixture, add the oregano, cumin, white pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cayenne. Stir the mixture over medium high heat for about a minute, just to "toast" the spices and bring out their flavor.

Then add the tomatoes and beans. Then toss in the bay leaf and give it a stir. Let the mixture come to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer for at least half an hour, preferably more. OR you could toss it into the crock pot and let it simmer for a long time on Low. Mmmmm good.

My favorite way to serve this is over pasta (radiatore, rotini, and elbow noodles are all favorites) and topped with cheese. Delish!

Serves 6.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Menu Plan

August 19th? REALLY? I can't believe it has been that long since I've posted anything. I am a terrible, horrible slacker.

So. My 5 year-old started school. Gone are the days of sitting at home playing with food; these days, I'm back and forth to school, and pick-up time often collides with the time I might ordinarily have spend making bread or doing other time-sensitive meal preparations. Pick-up time also collides with nap time, too, so now I do not typically have a moment in the day where the house is entirely quiet, and during which I am at liberty to cook and plan as I wish. Woe is me.

All this to say that my meal planning has completely fallen by the wayside, and we've sadly been turning to mostly quick-and-easy types of meals: tacos, spaghetti, and I'm drawing a blank here because I can't for the life of me remember what we've eaten in the past few weeks. Not good. I envisioned the spotless house and the carefully organized life that I thought would naturally flow from having only TWO children at home, but that has not been the case at all; it turns out Charis was a huge help to me, and I actually get much less accomplished without her here. Meals are no exception.

This will never do. Tacos, spaghetti, soups (soups!) and such have their place, and there are certainly days when there is no other option than a quick-and-easy meal, but I'd like to make a return to the variety we had in menu plans of old. This week, I sat down and planned not one, but TWO weeks' worth of meals. I figure a little bit of planning goes a long way.

Week 1
Monday
Eat out in celebration of our anniversary. Yay! No dishes!

Tuesday
Butterflied Korean Pork Loin (trying recipe for the first time tonight!)
Sesame Ramen Noodles
Sugar Snap Peas

Wednesday
Chili Mac
Cornbread

Thursday
Roasted Chicken
Roasted Potatoes
Glazed Carrots

Friday
Hot Chicken Salad
Green Beans

Saturday
Stuffed Shells
Salad

Sunday
Leftovers

Week 2

Monday
Schultzie's Mess
Buttermilk Biscuits with homemade peach jam

Tuesday
Country-style Ribs
Mac and Cheese
Broccoli
(OR Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole. We'll see)

Wednesday
Tomato Soup
Grilled cheese sandwiches

Thursday
Cheese Ravioli "Lasagna"
Salad

Friday
Chicken Pot Pie

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Chinese Takeout

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Menu Plan

Monday, it was:
Grilled Steak
Baked Potatoes
Buttered Peas
Fresh French Bread

Tuesday, it was:
Grilled Chicken
Grilled Corn on the Cob
Steamed Green Beans
Sauteed Vidalias
Fresh salsa
Tortilla chips

Tonight, it will be:
Sauteed Sweet Italian Sausage
Aglio e Olio with fresh basil
Tomato, Cucumber, Sweet Onion salad with fresh herbs

Thursday:
Subs on Homemade French bread (using my new French Breead pan) with homemade vinaigrette and garden-fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers

Friday:
Salad
Cumin-rubbed Pork Chops
Homemade Refried beans with cheese
Tortilla chips
Sliced tomatoes

Saturday:
Clean out the fridge

Sunday:
Chicken Pasta Salad

Food Journal 1

I just wanted to tell you about the meal we had last night. It was so good, I was practically licking my plate...and my kids' plates, too. We were invited to have dinner with Tim and Beth and family--apparently, after spending 8 days straight with us, three days without us was too much to handle. On the menu were some of my favorite summer things: Grilled bone-in chicken, grilled corn on the cob, steamed green beans, sauteed Vidalia onions, fresh salsa, and yellow corn tortilla chips. It may not sound fancy, and it wasn't, but there is something so wonderful about fresh August produce: it needs no fancy embellishments to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Chicken: Brining is very important when grilling chicken, I think. It keeps the chicken from drying out, and also seasons the meat all the way to the bone. A solution of 3/4 c. salt and 3/4 c. brown sugar dissolved in 1 gallon of water goes a long way in improving the flavor and texture of chicken. Submerge the pieces in the brine and chill for up to two hours before cooking. Normally, I sear the chicken over the high flames, then grill with indirect heat on a covered grill over a period of about 45 minutes, but last night, since we were grilling the corn, too, we par-cooked the chicken in a 425 degree oven. Also imperitave is not to let it exceed the temperature of doneness: 161 for white meat, and 180 for dark meat.

Corn on the cob: soak unhusked cobs in cool water for about 30 minutes before grilling, then go ahead and char the exterior over some medium coals. Perfection!

Green Beans: they're best if you can pick them from your garden and steam them immediately. In fact, next year, I will plant more bean plants so I can do this more often. Just make sure not to boil them--it takes away too many nutrients and too much flavor--and make sure they're still tender-crisp when you remove them from the heat. Then add a bit of butter, salt, and pepper, and throw in some toasted almods if you're feeling fancy.

Vidalia onions: I like using a cast iron or similarly heavy skillet over medium heat with a pat or two of butter and a sprinkling of kosher salt. I melt the butter, toss in the sliced onions, salt them to help draw out a bit of moisture, then sautee them until they're a pasta sort of al dente. I could eat these alone as a meal, they're that good.

Salsa: make it right before you eat it. I use my Salsa 101 recipe. The most important thing to achieve here is good balance--not too heavy on the tomatoes or anything else. You should be able to discern all of the individual flavors--tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime (and kosher salt)--without being overwhelmed by any of them. Fresh salsa doesn't keep more than a few hours before if starts getting soupy, which is reason enough for me to load my chips up with great big scoops of it. Last night, Judah skipped the chips and just ate it like a salad. Three helpings' worth. We consumed 6 tomates, 5 jalapenos, 1/2 a large onion, and a cup of cilantro's worth of salsa last night...and enjoyed every drop. I even used my chicken to sop up the salsa juice. Heavenly.

What great meals have you had recently?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Menu Plan, dadgummit

I have felt lost without a plan of attack for dinners these past few weeks. In fact, last week, we hosted a garage sale, and homemade dinners completely fell by the wayside. I am now really sick of restaurant and take-out food and ready for something homemade.

On another note, my garden has also fallen by the wayside. It is being consumed by weeds. In fact, one of my sugar snap pea plants is actually missing; I can only assume the invasive weeds ate it for nourishment. The only redeeming factor is that we haven't had much rain. Had we had more rain in the past week, I'm sure the weed situation would be completely out of hand. So this week, even though I have a lot of other neglected stuff to do, I plan to become reacquainted with my garden. Last night, I even pulled a few weeds from the onions and picked cucumbers and green beans. Hey--you've got to start somewhere.

P.S. My basil is also going crazy, but in a good way. This week, I MUST make some pesto before my precious basil goes to seed. I do wish my tomatoes would ripen up so I could have some fresh caprese salad--is there anything better?

Monday
Homemade pizza: Chicken with garlic cream sauce and spinach
Salad

Tuesday
Grilled Pork Loin
Corn on the Cob
Zucchini patties

Wednesday
Fried Chicken
Roasted Green Beans

Thursday
Dinner at a friend's house

Friday
Grilled Steak
Fried potatoes with garlic and dill
Salad

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Subway

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy

The whole idea of biscuits and gravy used to repulse me. Of course, as a lactose-intolerant kid, I used to loathe any cream-based sauce of any kind. I remember going over to the Andrews' house and being served Chicken A La King and thinking that I was going to die if they made me eat it. Heck--I wouldn't even eat Mac and Cheese. How un-American was I? Given those things, it's probably understandable that I wouldn't go for a milk-based sauce served over soggy bread.

Then college came. You learn so many things when you're in college, don't you? How not to kill your messy roommate, how to sneak food out of the dining commons, how to write a senior thesis in under 72 hours...and, most importantly for this post, how to appreciate the beauty of gloppy white sauce.

I remember the first time I had sausage gravy: we'd gone to visit a friend of ours who had recently started waiting tables at Bob Evans. We went at breakfast, because that's when you eat at Bob Evans, and Nate, our friend, recommended the Sunshine Skillet. It consisted of an open-faced omelet topped with hash browns, sausage, country gravy, and cheddar cheese, and was served with one of their fantastic buttermilk biscuits. Hello--he had me at hash browns and cheese. I ordered it.

Sweet fancy Moses, it was good.

I thought I might die of heart disease right there, but my, my, it was good.

My affection only deepened when I sopped up the extra gravy on my plate with the biscuit. Suddenly, my eyes were opened to the glory of biscuits and gravy.

For years, unless I went to Bob Evans, I stayed away from that sausage gravy in particular. It just didn't seem prudent for my waistline to eat too much of it. But a couple of months ago, we went out for breakfast as a family and I revisited it at long last. The doctor had recommended that we feed Ruby all sorts of high-fat stuff, so I decided to take one for the team and order biscuits and gravy to share with my daughter. It was the least I could do.

Well, Biscuits and Gravy has since become a staple of my Saturday-morning eating-out experience. Thankfully, we don't do it that often. It has been a few weeks since I've had it, though, and I was getting a taste for it, so last night, I made it for dinner.

Sweet fancy Moses, it was good.

So I thought I'd share it with you.

Biscuits and Gravy

Biscuits (from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. shortening (sometimes I use margarine)
3/4 c. buttermilk (SEE NOTE AT BOTTOM)

Gravy
1 lb. bulk sausage
1/4 c. flour
approx 2 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. thyme (optional)

For the biscuits:
Preheat oven to 450. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in the shortening or margarine with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in buttermilk. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times, just so it isn't too sticky. Roll to 1/2-3/4 in. thickness and cut out with a biscuit cutter (I used a thin-edged cup). Place 1-inch apart on a lightly greased baking sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes.

Notes on successful biscuit making:
1) Don't overwork the dough. Use a very light hand.
2) Brush the tops with a little melted butter before baking to achieve a really beautiful brown crust.
3) If you don't have a suitable cutter or cup to cut the biscuits with, you can always just use a knife and cut the dough into uniform squares. Who cares what shape the biscuits are?
4) Buttermilk: I don't keep it on hand, but you can imitate it with 1 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice, and enough milk to make a cup. Let sit for five minutes, then use as the recipe requires.

Gravy:
Brown the sausage to a deep, caramelized brown. Remove the sausage, leaving behind the drippings in the pan. (If you don't end up with about 1/4 c. of drippings, add a bit of butter to the mix to equal about 1/4 c. total, when combined with the drippings.) Add flour to drippings, and whisk over medium heat for about a minute, or until the roux is the color of straw. Add milk 1/2-cup at a time, whisking continually over that same medium heat so the gravy thickens nicely, without lumps. Add the sausage to the white sauce, then season with salt and pepper to taste. I recommend lots of pepper. You can also add thyme here, if you wish to have a more savory sauce. And if the gravy gets too thick, just add a bit more milk. Serve over warm, split biscuits, then swoon.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Homemade Ranch Dressing

It really never occurred to me to make my own Ranch dressing until I saw PW do it on her site. It was last summer, and I was chained to the couch by kidney stone/stent pain and my midwife-recommended bed rest. There was no way I was trying it then.

By the time I was up to trying it, many of our herbs had gone to seed, and there was no way on this earth I was going to shell out grocery store bucks to buy fresh herbs to make this dressing that my children love, especially when they like the cheapo not-even-Hidden-Valley variety just fine.

But it's a year later, my garden has herbs to spare, and fresh Ranch sounds so much better than something that was once shelf-stable. I didn't look at her recipe when I made this today, so my ratios and method ended up a bit different, but the result was still fantastic. If you've got herbs growing in your garden, this is a delicious way to use them!

Homemade Ranch Dressing

1/2 c. mayonnaise (NOT salad dressing/Miracle Whip)
1/2 c. sour cream
3 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, minced, grated, or pressed (I used the minced stuff in a jar)
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs of your choosing (but I used, and highly recommend, basil, thyme, dill, cilantro, and chives. I ESPECIALLY recommend the dill.)

Whisk together the mayo and sour cream, add the lemon juice, then add milk gradually, until the dressing is your desired consistency. Keep in mind that when it's chilled, it will thicken up a bit, too. Then add the garlic, salt and pepper, and herbs. You can taste it now if you'd like, but the flavors will be much better when the dressing has been allowed to chill for an hour or so.

Makes about 1 1/4 cup of dressing, and will keep for about 3 days, if it lasts that long.

You can also omit the milk, up the sour cream, and call it "dip" instead.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Remember Me?

Do you? I used to cook stuff and write about it? I still cook. But apparently, I have forgotten how to write. I've recently been convinced that I need to write more frequently, even if I end up churning out mindless drivel instead of meaningful content, so today represents a (hopefully lasting) shift in my bloggy persona. Today I will begin posting more often, and let the chips (and dip) fall where they may.

Today's topic: Gardening.

This year, for the first time ever, I planted a garden. We had a garden last year, but we also had a renter who took care of it. While last year, my garden responsibilities were limited to clipping basil and turning it into pesto and pesto-related treats, this year, I'm it. I'm our sole gardener.

Because I do very few things by half-measures, I am now slightly obsessed with our garden.

I really couldn't tell you what all last year's garden included, since I was on bed rest for the planting, and on infant-duty and sub-par sleep for the rest of the growing season. Besides: it was Shaun and Emily's garden, and we were just loaning them the land. Isn't ignorance what lazy landlords do best? I think there was broccoli, and I know there were cucumber plants and tomatoes and peppers and jalapenos, and two kinds of melon, and a truck load of parsley for our renter's fiancee's rabbit, Mrs. Bennett.

There were other things in that inaugural garden, but I'll be flogged if I can remember. The only thing I remember thinking was that there were certain things I couldn't imagine having a garden WITHOUT, and a bunch of those things weren't a part of last year's offerings. I remember thinking, why on earth wouldn't you plant green beans? Who plants a garden without green beans? Isn't it interesting how some people are so misguided about the vegetables they enjoy? Oh, I kid. But I knew for certain that if I were planting and watering and weeding, there were a few things I'd add to the garden, and a few things I'd subtract. In fact, I even made a Google document entitled "Garden '09 Wish List" so I could remember for this year what I thought really, really belonged in a garden.

Here's the list, constructed sometime last winter:
lettuce
spinach
green beans
tomatoes
peppers
cucumbers
jalapenos

cilantro
basil
oregano
thyme
dill

Sounds simple, doesn't it? But then planting season came around, and to those 12 must-haves, I added:
chives
radishes
scallions
onions
sugar snap peas
grape tomatoes
a potato that had sprouted in my cupboard
and a vine-y plant that spontaneously came up in our garden, and whose identity has still to be determined. I'd guess pumpkins, only we've never had pumpkins in our garden before, so we'll just have to wait and see.

And in the past couple of days, I planted four more pepper plants and two hot pepper plants the name of which I can't remember.

For those of you keeping track at home, that's 21 (TWENTY ONE) separate crops. 21 different things to manage in my first go-around as a gardener.

Am I a fool?

Don't answer that.

Tomorrow: Tending the crop also known as WEEDS.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quick and Easy Donuts





Don't they look scrumptious?

A few years ago, Vicki, a woman from church, told me that sometimes, on Saturday mornings, she makes homemade donuts for her family. Vicki is one of those women you just secretly loathe, just because she's pretty AND nice AND talented AND organized AND has perfect children AND AND AND. You know the type. So anyway, I figured she had some old family recipe that she slaved over every Saturday morning in the name of love. But then she told me that she uses buttermilk biscuits...from a can. In that moment, I loathed her a little less. Because how can you loathe anyone who introduces you to the ease and magic of making donuts at home using a 35-cent can of biscuits? I made them this morning for my kids, and it took all of 5 minutes, start-to-finish.


Quick and Easy Donuts

1 can refrigerated buttermilk donuts
vegetable oil or shortening

Optional toppings:
sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, chocolate frosting, sprinkles...the sky's the limit!

Pour vegetable oil about 1/2 inch deep in a skillet. Place over medium heat. Splash a few drops of water into the cold oil. As the oil heats, the water will pop. when the water droplets have about stopped popping, your oil is ready to use.

Separate the biscuits and poke a hole in the middle of each to give it that classic donut shape and also to make sure it gets cooked evenly. Drop donuts into the hot oil (I always try one by itself first to make certain the oil is the right temperature), frying for about 45 seconds on one side, flipping, and frying about 45 seconds on the other side. It really will be to your advantage to do a test donut first to gauge how hot your oil is running. Your time may be slightly different. In any case, don't walk away, because these little gems cook up FAST!

When the donuts are a deep golden brown, remove and drain on a cooling rack. When the donuts have cooled to the touch, toss them with powdered sugar, plain sugar, or a cinnamon-sugar mixture. Or melt a small amount of frosting in the microwave and twirl the tops of your donuts in the frosting, topping with nonpareil sprinkles. Or mix powdered sugar and a little bit of milk for glazed donuts--twirl donuts in the glaze mixture or drizzle over top. Use your imagination! Ooh...I bet if you didn't put the hole in the middle, you could use a food syringe and fill the donuts with jelly or pudding or custard! I've never tried it, but I bet it would work.

I buy my biscuits from Aldi, and they really are about 35 cents. For ten hot, homemade donuts, that's not bad!

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's Still Monday Where I Live

, so technically, this is still Menu Plan Monday. But my-oh-my, I've got to start posting some recipes on Ye Olde Neglected Blog again. I tried a recipe this past week for a Lemon Pound Cake that I thought sounded great, and which I hoped I would be able to post about. It was exceptionally labor intensive--zesting and supreming four lemons, making lemon sugar, warming the eggs separately, etc--and I had very high hopes for its success. And the cake fell short. Literally. My cake fell. Short. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a huge deal, except for the fact I was making it for a friend's wedding reception, a time when you want your food to be pretty perfect. The good news is that when it was cut up, it looked fine, and it still tasted good. The bad news is that it took me so long to make this cake that I will never make it again. It was good, but not worth all of the effort. So, long story short, I won't be posting a recipe for Lemon Pound Cake, at least until I can find a recipe that is much, much simpler.

ALSO, I've been cooking from memory and without safety nets a lot lately, not really using "recipes," and making lots of stuff that either a) needs no recipe to make, or b) I've already posted. Hmmmm. Maybe I need to spice it up a bit?

On deck this week.....

Monday
(we had the Mediterranean Chicken Pasta Salad that I didn't make on Saturday)

Tuesday
BBQ Ribs
Roasted Sweet Corn
Klondike Rose Potato Salad

Wednesday
Hawaiian Chicken
Rice Pilaf
Watermelon

Thursday
Grilled Steak Salad
with homemade dressing and croutons

Friday
Turkey Club Sandwiches
(on Naan)

Saturday
Maple Sesame Bacon Fried Rice
Homemade Egg Rolls (or pot stickers, if I'm feeling adventuresome)

Sunday
Takeout, I hope!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Last week was The Week of Garden Craziness, wherein I pledged virtually every available moment to getting my garden planted. Except for radishes and scallions, it is now planted, but now I find myself in the unenviable position of having mountains of laundry to do, dishes to wash, and floors to vacuum. Our family of five can DESTROY a house in two days...and it has been six since I did any amount of housework. I have my work cut out for me.

But we still have to eat. And life still goes on: this week, I have a choir rehearsal on Thursday, a benefit concert on Friday, and 5 loaves of quick bread to make for a wedding on Saturday. There's no rest for the weary, so there had better be good sustenance. On that note, here's what I've got planned for this week:

Monday
Grilled Thin-cut Pork Chops
Greeky-Greek Roasted Red Potatoes
Broccoli and Cheese

Tuesday
Burgers (with Vidalias!)
Salad

Wednesday
Fried Chicken
Authentic Garlic Bread
Roasted Green Beans

Thursday
Country-style Pork Ribs (Crock Pot/Broiler)
Shells and Cheese
Glazed Carrots

Friday
Leftovers

Saturday
More catch-as-catch-can

Sunday
Mediterranean Chicken Pasta Salad

Monday, May 4, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Wheee! Warm weather! This week's menu plan reflects that (kinda?). I'm into fresh produce now that the weather is nice--this week's grocery cart was filled mostly with produce for Tuesday's fiesta dinner. I'm not Mexican, but I will celebrate just about any holiday that gives me an excuse to make Mexican food. Shoot, I'll celebrate any holiday that encourages me to cook with cilantro and lime. Mmmmmm.

Have a great week!

Monday
Chicken Florentine in garlic cream sauce
Orzo

Tuesday--Cinco de Mayo
Beef and Chicken Fajitas
Guacamole
Salsa
Refried Beans
Mexican Rice

Wednesday
Schultzie's Mess (Breakfast Scramble with Ham, Onions, Green Peppers, Hash Browns, Eggs, and Cheese)

Thursday
Shredded Beef Sandwiches, toasted with sliced mozzarella
Roasted Yukon Rose Potatoes--JoJo style
Salad

Friday
Barbecued Country-Style Ribs
Roasted Green Beans
Broccoli Slaw with Homemade poppy seed dressing

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Subway

Saturday, May 2, 2009

When the Cat's Away...


...the cook will play. Abe is away for the weekend (I just talked to him--today he played 27 holes of golf), and I toyed with the idea of taking the easy way out with meals while he was gone. Last night was easy--we had pizza and a play date. Today for lunch, we had leftover pizza. Easy. Frankly, I haven't been in a very chef-y place lately, so while I actually had a meal plan this week, I cooked not one single meal off of it this week, opting instead for whatever was easiest when dinner rolled around. THEN, this afternoon, I picked up my mail, and noticed that the new issue of Food Network Magazine had arrived.

And suddenly, the juices were flowing again.

I immediately started some chicken brining and began washing veggies, and I settled on a menu for tonight. Grilled Asian-Glazed Chicken, Sesame Teriyaki Noodles, and Grilled Vidalias, Orange Peppers, and Tomatoes. Abe wouldn't have eaten the grilled veggies anyway, so it's just as well. It turned out delicious, and I feel like I'm back in the saddle again.

SO. Have you made anything especially delicious lately? Tell me about it. I need some fresh ideas.

(fyi, that's a serving platter in the photo above, not my plate. I can pack it away, but not THAT well.)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday...at last!

Well, first, it was the crazy week before my knee surgery. I didn't make a menu plan, but I sure did clean like a mad woman. Then, it was the week after my knee surgery. My mother was here and cooked up a storm, but still no meal plan. Then it was the week after that, which by now is a complete blur, and then last week, my Aunt was here. She has multiple food sensitivities, so I really had no idea WHAT I was going to cook. It worked out okay, but the words meal plan never crossed my lips.

Which brings us to the present. My knee is doing quite well, and I'm fully mobile with no house guests. I'm ready to get my ducks in a row again!

Monday
Neapolitan Pizza (Margherita for me, something else for Abe)
Salad

Tuesday
Bacon Sesame Maple Fried Rice
Homemade Egg Rolls

Wednesday
Roast Chicken
Greeky Greek Roasted Potatoes
Broccoli

Thursday
Aglio e Olio with Chicken
Salad

Friday
Leftovers

Saturday
Subs

Sunday
Take out!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

It's still Monday, even though it's 9:30 pm and one of this week's meals is already in the bag, so to speak. Weird week ahead--I've chosen a menu that will hopefully provide many leftovers so that after I have my knee surgery on Friday, we'll have some food left to sustain us until my mom arrives on Tuesday evening to feed us. So if it looks like I'm cooking for an army, that's why.

Monday (dinner elsewhere)
Broccoli Rice casserole
(And some very tasty pork steaks smothered in a rich rosemary and mushroom cream sauce. Thanks, Beth!)

Tuesday
Shepherd's Pie

Wednesday
BBQ Western Pork Ribs
Baked Mac n Cheese
Corn Dish

Thursday
Chicken Tetrazzini
Salad

Friday
Taco Soup
Rice
(and fritos and cheese for garnish)

Saturday
Leftovers/Sandwiches

Sunday
Takeout/Leftovers

Monday, next
good question

Tuesday
hope Mom gets here soon

Come to think of it, there's nary a mess tent to be found here. Perhaps I need to cook a little bit more, just to have it on hand... Maybe I can toss a pot roast in there somewhere, with some roasted potatoes. Hmmmm.... or maybe some stew. Or a turkey.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Best Pork Roast I've Ever Made

A while back, there was an amazing sale on center-cut pork loin (Beth C., if you're reading this, I apologize for the use of the words pork and loin), so I snapped up a big one and portioned it off, and froze the portions for future use. I had planned to use one piece of it this past Friday for pork chops, but we invited Abe's sister's family over for a dinner/tile laying party, so I wound up doing pork roast instead.

Before I continue, let me say that I'm hardly ever excited about eating pork roast. I didn't eat it growing up, and I usually like some sort of glaze that covers it all, as with pork chops, and pork roast doesn't really jive with those things. But after Friday's Pork Roasts, I'm rethinking pork. With this recipe, I think I'll love pork roast from now on.

I started with a recipe from allrecipes.com, and modified, modified, modified, and this is what I came up with.

Glazed Herb Pork Roast

Roast and brine:
approx. 5 lb. pork loin
1/3 c. salt
1/2 c. brown sugar
4 c. hot water

Rub:
1 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder

Glaze:
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. apricot or peach jam

In a large bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the hot water to make the brine. Submerge pork loin, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours. While the roast brines, combine the sage, salt, pepper, and garlic powder for the rub.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the pork from the brine, and discard brine. Pat pork dry with paper towels, and rub all over with garlic/sage mixture. Place roast fat side up on a wire rack above a cookie sheet lined with foil or a silicone mat (trust me on this one). I used a cooling rack sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, but you could also use a v-rack if you have one. Place pork in oven, and roast until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. (*NOTE: I used two smaller pieces of pork, and the total cooking time was around 1:15, but a whole 5-lb. roast will take longer.)

Meanwhile, whisk together glaze ingredients in a small sauce pan, then cook over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens slightly. Brush this glaze over the pork 3-4 times toward the end of the cooking time.

After removing pork from the oven, allow it to rest for ten minutes before carving. Pour any remining glaze over the sliced roast, or serve glaze alongside.

Serves 6-8.

Menu Plan Monday

April, I hope this helps. Thanks for the encouragement--until your comment, I hadn't even sat down to make a plan! Now I've got one, and I'm actually looking forward to dinner this week. Hope your plan works out!

Monday
Brats/Italian Sausage
Sauteed Onions
Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

Tuesday
Grilled Steak
Fried Potatoes with Garlic and Dill
Corn Dish

Wednesday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JUDAH!)
Chicken Nuggets
Oven Fries
Green Beans Amandine

Thursday
Focaccia Pizza
Salad

Friday
Chicken and Vegetable Three-Cheese Lasagna Rolls

Saturday
Ham and Scalloped Potatoes (we didn't have this last week)
Steamed Peas

Sunday
Leftovers

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Menu Plan Monday,

Tuesday-style.

Yesterday we had layered baked rotini and salad for dinner. Here's what's on deck for the rest of the week.

Tuesday
Beef BBQ Sandwiches
Corn Dish
Pasta Salad

Wednesday
Tomato Soup
Cheese Panini (because it sounds cooler than Grilled Cheese)

Thursday
Fajitas
Yellow Rice

Friday
Pork Chops with Brown Butter Sauce
Twice Baked Potatoes
Steamed Broccoli

Saturday
Leftovers/Salads

Sunday
either:
Baked Ham for Judah and Gideon's Birthday party
OR
Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
Salad

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

White Rice

I love rice, and sometimes I can make it turn out fluffy and perfect.

Sometimes.


For me, cooking consistently perfect rice has been the Holy Grail of cooking. Now, thanks to this method, I drink from the sacred challis of knowledge while feasting on separate, fluffy grains of rice. I learned this no-fail, pasta preparation-like technique from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, and now it's my preferred method. (I've used a lot of cookbooks, and this is one of my all-time favorites! Check it out from your local library and see if you don't fall in love with it, too.)

White Rice

3-4 qts. water
1 Tbsp. salt
Uncooked rice

It really is like cooking pasta! The beauty of it is that with this large amount of water, you don't have to measure your rice exactly; just dump in a random amount (about 1 or 2 cups...ish), and it will turn out fine. But beware: it is all too easy to make way more rice than you need.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add salt, then add rice. Wait for reboil, then cook 12-15 minutes, or until rice is as tender as you like, stirring occasionally. Drain in a wire mesh sieve.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

My mom was a Home Economics teacher for years. She will tell you that I didn't learn to cook by watching her, but I beg to differ. I learned a lot from the things she put on the table: casseroles are a great way to stretch a dollar (even if I wouldn't touch them when I was a kid), salad is a healthy accompaniment to almost every meal (even though I used to DRINK the extra Italian dressing from the bottom of my bowl), a plate should have a variety of colors (because you eat with your eyes first, and you get a variety of nutrients that way), and every meal should feature the (formerly known as) four food groups. I try to abide by all of these strictures, but I do get tripped up by my use of starches; that is, I include them, and I love them, but I have a hard time using a variety of them. I'd choose potatoes almost any day of the week.

When I make my menu plans, you can always assume there will be some sort of casserole, quite a few salads, a variety of colors and flavors, and it will be mostly balanced, but it is sometimes challenging for me to space out my potato usage ("...oh, man, we can't have potatoes three days in a row! But what the heck else can I fix?"). This week, however, I wrote out my menu plan as I felt led to do, and it all fell into line quite nicely. I am especially proud of my use of starches this week. I think my mom would give me a gold star.

Monday
Shepherd's Pie Skillet
Mashed Potatoes

Tuesday
Maple Roast Chicken
Salad with Grapes and Toasted Almonds
Authentic Garlic Bread

Wednesday
Chicken Stir Fry with Ginger, Broccoli, Carrots, Water Chestnuts, Red Peppers, and Mushrooms
Rice

Thursday
Challah BLTs
Broccoli Slaw

Friday
Pancake Wraps with Sausage, Eggs, Cheese, Onions, and Green Peppers

Saturday
Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Hard Rolls

Sunday
Leftovers

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Challah

Any idea how many times I've started writing this post? LOTS. I'd sit down with a couple of spare minutes available, then realize a couple of spare minutes weren't enough to do a challah post justice. Because challah? It's more than a bread to me. It's a recurring theme.

The first time I ever heard of challah was in a book I read in 5th grade. The book was about a Jewish family with lots of girls, and I was so enamored of it, I read it about a dozen times. Then I did an oral book report about it which was supposed to last 2 minutes. I spoke for almost 10. I loved the book so much, I wanted to become Jewish, to break a symbolic loaf of bread every Friday night. I wish I could remember the book's title, because I suspect I'd still love it, even now. It was around this time that I learned that I am approximately 1/32 Jewish, but you better believe I CLUNG to that 32nd like Israel was my homeland. I told my father that if I ever had a son, I'd name him Schloimon. I couldn't understand why he didn't love the name as much as I did.

Then, my senior year in college, a friend invited me to make challah with her. We were both English Education majors, but we loved baking that challah so much that we made hypothetical plans to open a bakery. We figured we'd combine our refined use of the English language with our love for baking, and hypothetically called our shop "We Be Bakin"." People will always need bread, we reasoned. There will never be a time when people don't need bread. That's called job security, my friends, and when you're a senior English major staring a potentially job-less future full in the face, even hypothetical jobs sound pretty good.

After I graduated, I moved to live with my aunt and uncle in Newton, Massachusetts. I heard somewhere that the population of Newton is so overwhelmingly Jewish that the town's nickname is actually "Jewton." I don't know if that's true, but most of the people I came to be friends with there were, in fact, Jewish. The day that my friend Wendy invited me to have Sabbath dinner with her family was the day I realized my fondest wish. I felt so honored to be present as they broke challah together, and was even more honored that summer when my friends called me an "honorary Jew."

So. Challah. Not only do I love it when I'm pretending to be Jewish, it also makes great rolls, BLTs, and french toast. For ages, I baked it solely in its traditional braided form, but recently, I started braiding it and baking in a loaf pan for great sandwich bread. Then, for Thanksgiving, I baked it into dinner rolls. Any way you slice it (literally!), challah is a rich, tender, flaky, delicious bread. It is perfect with hearty favorites like stew and pot pie, but it also makes the best sandwiches ever. Give it a whirl! And see if you don't feel a smidge like singing Hava Nagila.

We Be Bakin'!!

Challah
from The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking
by Brother Rick Curry, S.J.

2 pkg. active dry yeast (about 4 1/2 tsp.)
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
Mix; set aside for 5 minutes to "proof."

In a large bowl, combine:

5 c. all-purpose flour
2 1/4 c. warm water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
2 eggs

Mix thoroughly, then add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture. Beat for 10 minutes (by hand, or with a stand mixer), gradually adding flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 8 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to prevent stickiness. Place bread in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat, and cover and let rise until doubled--45 minutes to an hour.

Punch down the dough. Work in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Divide into six pieces and shape pieces into 10-inch ropes. Braid into two loaves. You may bake this on a cornmeal-lined baking sheet or stone, or you may bake the braided loaves in greased loaf pans. Or, what the heck? Shape the dough into rolls. In any event, cover the dough with tea towels or plastic wrap, and let rise again until doubled.

Glaze with a mixture of:
1/2 c. water
1 egg

And sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired. Bake loaves in a preheated 350-degree oven. Loaves will take 35-45 minutes, rolls will take less. You'll love the beautifully dark, shiny crust on these beauties!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Refried Beans

I am always repulsed by the refried beans from the can. I mean, I love the flavor, but there's something about prying the strangely-gelatinous pink mass from its metal home that sets me ill-at-ease. Perhaps it looks too much like pet food? Or perhaps it just smells too much like pet food? The sad thing is that I LOVE the taste of refried beans. And I LOVE bean dip, especially out at a restaurant. But are my options really that I have to go to a restaurant to get good refried beans or tolerate the glop from a can? There must be a better way.

So one Saturday morning, I happen to catch America's Test Kitchen on PBS. THey were making huevos rancheros, I believe, and were having the same bean trouble I was. So they figured out how to make refried beans at home without having to first cook the beans and all that. It was quick, easy, and according to them, it was much tastier than the tin-can counterpart. I thought it was worth a try.

Of course, I used their recipe as a guideline, but didn't have all of the ingredients they called for. So with some improvisation, this is what I came up with. I've made it several times since then, and I come dangerously close to gluttony when I have a warm bowl of these beans and some good tortilla chips.

Give it a try--you might be surprised!!

Refried Beans

1 lg. can pinto beans, drained, liquid reserved
1 small onion, diced finely
4 strips of bacon (OR 1-2 Tbsp. bacon fat, if you've got some)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 4 oz. can green chilies, chopped as finely as desired
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt (or to taste)

In a saute pan over medium heat, render the fat from the bacon. Then eat the bacon, leaving the fat in the pan. Cooking does have its perks! To the drippings, add the onion, and saute until it begins to soften. Then add the chilies and garlic, and also the cumin and salt. Saute until fragrant, about a minute or two.

Meanwhile, toss the pinto beans into a food processor or blender, then add the onion/chile mixture on top. Pulse until the beans are as smooth as you like them, adding the reserved liquid until they're your preferred consistency.

Heat olive oil in that same saute pan, and transfer beans to warm pan. Cook over medium high heat until warmed through, just to combine flavors.

Sit down in a comfy chair with these beans and a fresh bag of tortilla chips and sigh contentedly. Then consume the whole bowl. Makes about 2 cups.

ALTERNATELY, you can use these in a Mexican layer dip, or spooned over deluxe nachos, or tucked inside tacos and burritos...I'm just saying, the possibilities are practically endless.

Menu Plan Monday

...and it's actually MONDAY! It's a triumph!!

Well, winter is starting to wind down. And while I will be ever-so-glad when the trees have leaves and all of the snow and sub-zero temperatures are a distant memory, I will sort of miss winter food. There's nothing like a warm pot pie or bowl of chili on a blustery day, you know? Oh, sure, spring and summer food is great, too; with all of its fresh produce, light flavors, and easy preparation, summer food sure is refreshing and healthy. But winter food is like a cozy sweater or a down comforter. Winter food is good for what ails you.

This week, we're stocking up on winter favorites. That groundhog says it'll be six more weeks, which means all of this yummy, stick-to-your-ribs food will soon be a distant memory, too.

Monday
Lemon Sage Butter Roasted Chicken
Saffron Jasmine Rice
Spinach and Cabbage Salad with Homemade Poppyseed Dressing

Tuesday
Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Breadsticks with Garlic-infused dipping oil

Wednesday
Pork Verde Tacos
Yellow Rice

Thursday
Chicken Pot Pie

Friday
Roast Beef
Roasted Potatoes with Garlic and Dill
Glazed Carrots

Saturday
Leftovers

Sunday
Schultzie's Mess (Breakfast)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Taco Soup

When I was a junior in college, I took a very humanitarian Spring Break road trip to Arkansas to help clean up after an F5 tornado destroyed a small town. The sister of a friend of mine lived nearby, so we stayed with her and her husband during our time there, and she introduced me to two delicious dishes. The first was queso dip. I'd had queso dip from a jar before, and loved it, but Rebecca made queso with Velveeta and this fantastic stuff called Ro*Tel. I won't post a recipe for that one; chances are, a)you already know how to make it, and b) even if you don't, you probably gleaned enough from the list of ingredients to surmise how to make it.

The second dish was a chili-like concoction called Taco Soup. Spicy, tangy, and hearty, it was Tex-Mex heaven in a bowl, and I was instantly smitten. Believe it or not, I am an introvert, and because of that, I did not ask her for the recipe for this soul-satisfying soup. But I was able, some time later, to hone its ingredients to achieve the flavor I fell in love with at Bill and Rebecca's house. My recipe has become a trifle more sophisticated over the years, but it is still the smoky, spicy soup I met in Arkansas those many years ago. That, and it couldn't be easier! I'm sure you've seen recipes for this before; here's mine.

Taco Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 small sweet onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. water or beef broth
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 16-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can yellow hominy, undrained
1 can beans (your choice--I like dark red kidney beans or black beans), undrained
1 tsp. ground oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. taco seasoning
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 bay leaf

Steamed rice
Cheddar cheese
Fritos

In a dutch oven, brown ground beef, and drain. (Make sure beef is browned and not merely gray; color=flavor!) Add in onions and saute over medium heat until onions are translucent. (Beef will continue to brown. GOOD!) Add in garlic, and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Deglaze the pan with water or broth, scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom. Add in oregano, cumin, taco seasoning, and cayenne, stirring well to combine. Then add the tomatoes, hominy, and beans. Stir to combine. Toss the bay leaf into the mixture, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Serve over rice, topped with cheese, and sprinkled liberally with fritos.

Serves 6.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Menu What?

tap, tap. Is this thing on?

Wow. It has been a long time, hasn't it? Believe it or not, last week was the first week in AGES that I have been without a Menu Plan, so it's not as if I had no content to contribute. It's just that Mondays have been getting away from me, and then all of a sudden, it's Tuesday, and writing a post called "Menu Plan Monday" seems a bit silly. So I think, I'll just post two Plans next Monday! And next thing you know, I haven't posted a LICK since December 1.

To complicate matters, my oven is on the fritz. You know, you have no idea how often you use your oven until you have no oven to use. I've got all kinds of things I'd love to bake, and no current outlet for them. Not only that, it turns out I use my oven for dinner a LOT, so my hands feel a bit tied without it. Menu Plans are a good deal more challenging to concoct when you have tied hands.

But my family still has to eat, so...

Monday
Pan-Roasted Bone-In Chicken Breasts (I'll let you know how it works out)
Stove-top Rice Pilaf
Glazed Carrots

Tuesday
Crock Pot something or other--maybe Pork Roast?
Salad

Wednesday
Chili or Taco Soup
Noodles or Rice
Corn fritters

Thursday
Brinner:
Bacon, Potato, and Cheese Scramble

Friday
Chicken and Dumplings
Peas

Saturday
Good question

Sunday
Leftovers, hopefully...


P.S. Didn't I used to post recipes on here, too? I'll have to do that soon. I think I may start with the Challah recipe I love so much. Maybe Thursday! At the very least, I'll do it before it turns to February!!