Monday Menu and Recipe Review

On Friday the kids only had a half day of school, so I ended up taking them out to lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. It’s their very favorite restaurant, and it’s because they have unlimited choices: a giant salad bar, half a dozen kinds of soup, three different foccaccia toppings, pasta, fruit, muffins, and soft serve frozen yogurt for dessert. It used to be a little crazy when they all needed help getting their plates filled–we’d spend the entire meal jumping up from the table–but now that two out of three are self-sufficient, it’s a pleasure.

The very best part: they all began the meal with giant plates of salad. We talked about what items they like best on the salad bar (pasta and chickpeas, crunchy lettuce, blue cheese crumbles, shredded carrots, eggs), and how we could translate those things to their lunch boxes. Maybe they can also begin to assemble their own lunches…

This week

Monday: Cod in Parchment Packets, green beans and yellow squash, barley with carrots

Tuesday: Corn, Scallion and Potato Frittata, green salad

Wednesday: Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich (Banh Mi), fruit salad (swap with Jen)

Thursday: Turkey Burgers and Quinoa salad (from Jen)

Friday: Homemade pizza

Last week

Sunday: Hoisin-glazed salmon, new potatoes, broccoli, arugula salad with toasted walnuts and goat cheese

Delicious. The kids aren’t fans of the sweet sauce on the salmon, but Mr. Ten ate a good portion. Leftover salmon made a great salmon salad: flake it with a fork and mix in mayo/plain yogurt, chopped mint, lime juice, pepper.

Monday: Crock-Pot Chicken, Rice and Green Chile Casserole, green salad (from Jen)

Tasty. Only one child turned her nose up, but she has a thing about sauce. The rest of us cleaned our plates.

Tuesday: Skillet Lasagna with Italian Sausage

A weeknight favorite. It’s soupier than baked lasagna, but good.

Wednesday: Silky Tortilla Soup, fruit salad

We loved this recipe. I only used 3 chipotles instead of 4, and it still had a kick but wasn’t too hot for the kids. I also skimped a little on the butter with no ill effects.

ThursdayTurkey Kibbe Kebabs with two sauces (but I plan to make them into meatballs and skip the skewers), pita, salad (swap with Jen)

Confession: I messed up half of these by trying to substitute barley for the bulgur, because that’s what I had in the pantry. As soon as I did it, I realized that they would take much longer to cook until the barley was tender. My solution: I cooked them in tomato sauce (half a bottle of Bloody Mary mix, actually) in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes. They were good, but a completely different meal. I bought some bulgur and mixed up the rest of the turkey, and these were great. Now that I have a big bag of bulgur in the pantry, I’ll make them again soon!

FridayBlack Bean Quesadillas, guacamole

Black beans seasoned with onion, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper; queso fresco, roasted orange peppers, arugula on corn tortillas. I brushed them with olive oil and baked them, but they would be crispier fried on the griddle.

 

Monday Menu

I’m pretty certain there aren’t enough hours in the week for me to finish everything on my list this week, but I’m trying to get a small jump on things by planning my menu on Sunday night. There’s lots of fun planned this week–sleepovers, birthdays, visits with friends–but isn’t it funny how much work there is to get ready for the fun? I already warned the kids that tomorrow is Clean Your Room Day, or we won’t be having that sleepover with the cousins…

Monday: Ham and cheese quiche

Tuesday:  Dinner at Grandma and Papa’s house 

Wednesday: Fried rice, edamame

Thursday: Homesick Texan Carnitas, slaw

Friday: Turkey burgers, corn on the cob, peach-raspberry pie (following this recipe)

Now if I can just manage to clean off my desk before falling in to bed! Are you as ready for September as I am?

 

Last week on Home Baked

Monday Menu

The Week in Review

 

Monday Menu

Summer vacation has begun, with its visions of long, lazy days. The reality is that too many lazy days make us all cranky (I’ve already intervened in three arguments just while writing this post). If anything, I need to be more diligent about meal planning and scheduling our time so that we can enjoy our days without scrambling for dinner or wasting precious hours running to the grocery every day–never a good idea with three hungry kids. I also need to lay in a supply of snacks and park a cooler on the porch with ice water and cups. This week is going to be all about preparation and trying out some new routines (scheduled computer time, library time, daily school review time, play outside time, swimming lessons). We might need to bust out some poster board and make a chart! That should eat up about 30 minutes today…

Monday: Grilled artichokes and spaghetti with cheese and black pepper

Tuesday: Turkey burgers, sesame noodles

Wednesday: Grilled chicken, tzatziki potato salad (for the children who hate cucumbers but love tzatziki!)

Thursday: Pork fried rice, stir-fried green beans

Friday: Nachos and mango sorbet (with frozen mango chunks)–It’s Family Movie Night!

Breakfast and snacks: Blueberry muffins, granola bars, whole wheat cheese crackers

What are your favorite easy summer meals?

Mindless housekeeping, Part 2: Ready supplies = no excuses

I’m still trying to find a cleaning routine that works for me. But one project that I thought might help make some new cleaning routines stick is storing cleaning supplies right next to the job at hand.

In the past nine years, we’ve had babies and small children to worry about, so I’ve been careful to store cleaning supplies high up on a shelf. I do have a bin upstairs and another downstairs, but now that the kids are old enough not to drink the toilet bowl cleaner, if I store the essentials within reach in each bathroom, they can also help with the cleaning.

After a week, I think it’s working. I bought an extra spray bottle and stocked up again on Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day (the lemon verbena scent is our favorite). Each bathroom now has a bin or bucket with a spray bottle of cleaner, a bottle of toilet cleaner, and several clean rags. The older kids have been instructed on how to clean the sinks, mirrors and toilets, and Miss Six has already earned some cash. Little Four likes to wipe down the sink in the powder room, usually after a prolonged splashing session. (Mr. Nine has been studiously avoiding this chore, preferring to be the Garbage-Can-and-Recycling-Bin-Bringer-Inner.) I’ve been wiping down the master bath most every day after my shower, since it only takes a minute and the supplies are RIGHT THERE.

Now I’m pondering what other supplies could be placed more conveniently. I’m still having visions of a powerful little hand vac to keep upstairs…

The Spring Fling: in the closet & under the bed

 

A little more spring cleaning around our house this weekend, mostly prompted by my husband cleaning out his closet.  I got on board today, finally, and organized my stuff–the toppling stacks of sweaters, the dangling straps of extra purses and the stuff that doesn’t even belong in that closet have all been sorted, tidied and put away.

BEFORE

AFTER

I bought a new bedskirt, so we used that as an excuse to rotate the mattress, wash the mattress pad and vacuum under the bed. The kids’ rooms got a quick vacuum, too. (Does anyone else in a multi-story house wish they had a vacuum for each floor? I dread dragging that heavy thing upstairs. If we had the storage space, I might consider it.)

I find that a little organizing begets a little more…so I found myself sorting through the shoes that had multiplied in the hall closet (people have been wearing boots one day and sandals the next). I put away the winter boots and all the slippers that the kids aren’t wearing anymore. I even recycled a bunch of magazines from the basket in our bedroom.

We have a new pile of things to donate, but it’s all bagged up and waiting for the next Amvets pick up. In the meantime, I just might find a few more things to add to it.

Sesame chicken

Hereafter known as Clean Your Plate Chicken, this sesame chicken recipe from Tyler Florence was a big hit at our house. I can’t comment on its authenticity, but it should satisfy all your Chinese takeout cravings. It’s not a 30-minute meal, but it’s not that difficult, either.

I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe. First, I reduced the sugar in the sauce to 1/3 cup (my kids don’t like super sweet sauces on their meat). I only added 1/2 teaspoon of chili sauce (I used Sriracha) to keep the heat down, and I skipped the extra salt at the end. Finally, instead of filling my Dutch oven half full of oil, I fried the chicken in a mere inch of oil, flipping the pieces over when they were brown and crispy on the first side. Fry in small batches, and keep an eye on it. My chicken did not take six minutes per batch, but closer to three or four. One last hint if you haven’t made sauces thickened with cornstarch before: you’ll need to bring the sauce to a boil before it loses its milky color and begins to thicken. The recipe as written doesn’t make this clear.

The recipe makes a generous amount of sauce, so you’ll have plenty for rice alongside. I chose to drizzle only about a third of the sauce on the chicken before serving, and put the rest in a pitcher for people to add at the table. We had jasmine rice and garlicky broccoli as sides. It was the most pleasant meal we’ve had all week, without complaining from one side of the table or coaxing from the other. Totally worth the extra effort!

Fruit crumble

I like to bake cakes, but what I really like to eat is pie. And though I’d be the first to tell you that pie Isn’t That Hard to Make, sometimes (just about any evening during a hot and sticky summer) you just want dessert with the smallest amount of effort possible. This is it. You don’t need any special equipment, you don’t need to wait until the ingredients are the perfect temperature. Just chop, mix, bake and eat. Come to think of it, this crumble is the perfect recipe for a vacation, when you’re cooking in an unfamiliar and perhaps poorly equipped kitchen. It’s also perfect when you have an eager helper whose enthusiasm eclipses his coordination. It’s a great stand-in for pie because the crumble has the quality of short pastry rather than the fluffiness of a biscuit topping. One evening I threw it together with some overripe peaches just as we were getting dinner on the table, and it was ready by the time the plates were cleared.

The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, and it’s everything that’s best about his recipes. It highlights fresh ingredients, it’s simple, and it accommodates variation and experimentation. It’s just a formula, and you plug in the variables. (Pardon my unlikely math analogies.) Try it–you can’t go wrong.

As you can see, my helper and I used strawberries and rhubarb, and brown sugar on the fruit. I almost always substitute half the flour with oats. I’ve used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour. Some fruits might welcome a bit of lemon juice or zest, or maybe a bit of ginger or cinnamon.

Fruit Crumble
from Jamie Oliver

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt

1 lb. fruit, washed and prepared
3 T. sugar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix up the crumble ingredients however you like–in a food processor, a mixer, with a spoon, or–my favorite–just rub the mixture between your fingers until the butter is evenly distributed. Put the fruit into a shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the sugar. Spread the crumble over the fruit. (I like to squeeze the dough into little clumps, but that’s just me.) Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream or yogurt (and call it breakfast).

After school brownie muffins: The Recipe

A commenter noticed that I never posted a recipe for these muffins that I posted about way back when I started this blog (not so long ago, really). When I started, I wasn’t sure I was going to include a recipe in every post. But let’s face it, that’s what I want when I see something that looks good–gimme the recipe so I can try it for myself! So, without further ado, I’m sending you back to the original post, now new and improved, recipe included. Click on the link below!

Sponge roll with chocolate glaze

Here’s a cake I hadn’t tried before, but will definitely make again. Looks so fancy and complicated, but it comes together very quickly. (A little hint: even if your squabbling “helpers” distract you and you forget to add the flour to the sponge cake batter, the final result will still be edible. Next time decline “help” until the decorating stage.) The sponge cake is really just a vehicle for the filling, something to spread the chocolate on. I’ve got some other flavor combinations swimming about in my brain…lemon sponge with berry jam and whipped cream, something with peaches and pecans….

Anyhow, there are a lot of directions here, but don’t be discouraged. Just read them through a couple of times beforehand. It’s actually quite a simple procedure once you try it. The kids helped with the decorating and it still turned out pretty professional looking, so you can do it, too! (Chocolate and powdered sugar look good in any form, right?)

Sponge cake:

1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp. sifted all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
confectioner’s sugar

Chocolate glaze:

6 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
3 Tbsp. prepared coffee
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. rum
1 cup chocolate shavings (use a swivel vegetable peeler to shave curls off a bar of chocolate–any kind but unsweetened–work over a piece of wax paper and refrigerate the shavings until ready to use)
confectioner’s sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a jelly-roll pan (mine is 17″x11″) with foil and grease it well with butter or baking spray.

With an electric mixer, beat 3 Tbsp. of sugar (reserve 1 Tbsp.) with the egg yolks at high speed until they are cream colored (about 5 minutes).  Add the flour and beat on low, just until incorporated.

In a second bowl, with clean beaters (or the whisk attachment on a stand mixer), beat the egg whites and pinch of salt until they begin to thicken. Add the reserved tablespoon of sugar, and beat until the whites hold their shape, but are not yet stiff and dry.

Fold one-third of the whites into the yolk mixture, then another third, and then the final third. Do not mix more than necessary. Quickly and gently spread the batter into the jelly-roll pan and smooth it into the corners. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly pressed with your finger.

Remove the cake from the oven and immediately sift confectioners sugar generously over the surface of the cake. Cover the cake with a long piece of wax paper, and then cover the wax paper with a cookie sheet. Holding them firmly together, flip the jelly-roll pan over onto the cookie sheet. Remove the pan and peel the foil off the bottom of the cake. Then roll the warm cake and the wax paper tightly together from the narrow end. Let the cake roll stand on the cookie sheet until cool.

While the cake is baking and cooling, make the glaze. Melt the chocolates and the coffee in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until smooth. Add the butter and stir until it is melted and completely incorporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Let it cool to room temperature.

When the cake is cool, put the pan of glaze into a larger bowl of ice water and stir constantly until it thickens slightly. Reserve 1/3 cup of glaze for the top of the cake. Unroll the sponge and spread the glaze evenly to the edges of three sides of the cake; leave an inch or so unfrosted on one narrow end. Reroll the cake (without the wax paper inside this time!), and then spread the reserved glaze over the top and sides with a small spatula. Sprinkle the chocolate shavings over the glaze (you will have to gently press them into the sides), and then refrigerate the roll for 30 minutes, or until the glaze is firm.

Remove roll from the refrigerator, transfer to a serving platter, and sift confectioner’s sugar generously over the top. Serve at room temperature, birthday candles optional.