Monday Menu and Recipe Review

Thankfully, yesterday’s storms passed over us without any damage to speak of–just some chairs and garbage bins toppled over. For a time, I worried that the heavy wind and rain would prevent some of the musicians and audience from making it to our concert, but things had settled down by show time and there was a good crowd in the church. Today I’m determined not to get sidelined by post-performance depression (it’s totally a thing, at least according to Google), so I’m catching up on the laundry and trying to get myself organized for the week. I even started my Christmas shopping (online, naturally)!

This week

 

Last week

  • Sausage, Potato and Apple Bake (a classic busy-night, no-mess meal)
  • Fish sticksAsian Winter Slaw (swap with Jen). The fish sticks were fabulous, but I’ve had better slaw. 
  • Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes (quick pan sauce), salad. A great way to use up cherry or grape tomatoes. While the pasta cooks, heat olive oil and several cloves of sliced garlic for a couple minutes, then add halved tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook gently until the tomatoes wrinkle and start to burst. Stir in some chopped fresh basil or parsley. Toss hot, drained pasta with the tomato mixture, adding more olive oil if necessary. Pass the Parmesan.
  • Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes. I didn’t really follow a single recipe. I used lean ground beef (break it up really well at some point during the cooking), onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, a chopped roasted red pepper, a little brown sugar, a few squirts of mustard and ketchup, a bit of cider vinegar, oregano, chili powder. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve on toasted buns with cheese.
  • Cincinnati Skyline Chili (from Jen). I’d never tried this version of chili before, but now I’m a fan! The kids loved it, too.
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Monday Menu and Recipe Review

Apparently the only blogging I can keep up with these days is my weekly menu plan. Getting through November is not for the faint of heart. Am I experimenting in the kitchen? No. Am I whipping though exciting DIY projects? I am not. I have gotten everyone to the dentist (last one today!), plus new tires for one car and a new fuel pressure sensor something-or-other for the other car. This week revolves around multiple chorus rehearsals and all the kids’ regular music and sports activities, flu vaccines, and a dinner party. I’m some 15,000 words behind on my crazy writing project (or in a glass-half-full view, I’m 3,500 words further along than I was last month). There are rumors of impending snow tonight and we haven’t raked a single leaf yet this fall. I just put “Rake leaves: 1:30-2:30” on my calendar for today. No kidding.

But enough about my calendar–you have your own busy week to consider. We ate out several times this weekend as we traveled to Indianapolis for the 100th birthday celebration of our favorite great-aunt, so I’m ready to return to cheap eats at home this week. I will have to run to the grocery this morning, but I might be able to get through the “10 Items or Less” line (we’ll ignore the grammar issues in grocery signage for now).

This week

Last week

  • Cevapi (we buy them ready to grill at our local market), pita, tzatziki, salad. I need to learn to cook the cevapi at a lower temperature so they don’t dry out. 
  • Peas and ham, cornbread, fruit salad. The peas and ham dish was not a huge success at our table as a main course. “I’m not saying it’s bad, but it would make a better side dish at Thanksgiving,” is how Mr. Ten put it. Miss Eight said, “I like split pea soup better.” I’m willing to try it again–as a side dish–and leave out the cinnamon.
  • Pasta with Guiltless Alfredo Sauce, chicken and vegetables (swap with Jen). Though I have no trouble with butter and heavy cream once in a while, this is a flavorful but lower fat alternative–it must be the garlic! No complaints about the zucchini, sugar snap peas and carrots that I added, either.

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

Once again, it’s one of those weeks when there are too many activities each day to fit in the squares on the calendar. This morning I’m sitting at the car dealership getting that “check engine” light checked out and hoping the car will be ready in time for me to pick up Little Five for his dentist appointment. At least they have free wifi and comfortable chairs in the waiting room!

Anyway, this week is all about quick or make-ahead dinners–anything I can cook early in the day and reheat in between karate class and choir practice. And though we’re not going completely meatless, we’re not making meat the centerpiece of most meals, either. I know it’s healthier, but honestly, I’m mostly motivated by cost. It’s a good thing, because I’ll be sitting here again for car repairs later this week!

This week

Last week

  • Spaghetti al Tonno (quick uncooked tuna sauce in the food processor). Another cheap, quick meal to have in your repertoire. In the food processor: Can of good tuna in olive oil, handful of walnuts, lemon juice, 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, parsley, olive oil. Stir into hot spaghetti and thin with a little pasta water.
  • Tex-Mex Meatloafoven fries, salad. I didn’t have any chorizo this time, and I missed it. The sauce is fabulous, though. I only glaze the meatloaf with a little of the sauce, and then heat up the rest and serve it on the side–it’s too spicy for the kids, even though I only used one chipotle pepper.
  • BBQ Pulled Pork PizzaOne last meal out of that bag of pulled pork! 
  • Green Bean, rice and almond salad, Bread and Garlic Soup (from The Family Meal by Ferran Adrià) (swap with Jen). The salad was yummy–makes a great filling lunch, too. We loved the soup…I’ll have to post the recipe soon. In the meantime, you should make some homemade chicken stock and put it in the freezer!
  • Chorizo Sweet Potato Chili (from Jen). I liked the chorizo in the chili, but it was a little too spicy for the kids–we had hotdogs, too. 
  • Peanut Butter and Hot Fudge Pudding CakeMr. Ten mixed up this cake, which is designed to be baked in the slow cooker. If you’re hesitant about letting your kids use the oven on their own, this is a great recipe to give them some independence in the kitchen. We used natural peanut butter and it was plenty sweet. In a 6-qt. Crock Pot, it took 2 hours–he made it right after school and it was ready to eat in time for dessert.

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

We hung the bicycles back on the garage ceiling (except for Miss Eight’s–as long as it isn’t snowing, she’s riding her bike), mowed the lawn for maybe the last time, stowed the patio furniture in the shed, and put soup on the menu three times in one week.

In many countries, a soup course is an everyday part of dinner, but here in middle America, it’s a little weird. Not that fear of a little weirdness ever got in the way of dinner at our house, but I am cold and the mere thought of soup warms me up. Soup is ideal for making ahead and reheating later, and can be incredibly frugal. That bread and garlic soup on this week’s menu? Didn’t have to buy a thing. The ingredients are bread, garlic, olive oil, paprika and chicken stock. I made chicken stock (in the crock pot) from a frozen chicken carcass. There are always bags of slightly stale good bread in our freezer, and garlic and olive oil in the pantry. Making something delicious out of scraps always gives me a little thrill. That’s probably weird, too.

This week

Last week

  • Black Bean and Chicken Quesadillas. I like using the giant burrito size flour tortillas to make a couple large quesadillas that I can slice and serve to everyone at once.)
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs (from the freezer), Wilted Escarole Salad. This might be the first time I’ve bought escarole. It’s perfect for a hot dressing because the sturdy leaves don’t wilt too quickly.
  • Lentil SaladRoasted Eggplant and Olive Spread, pita, green salad (swap with Jen). I also dug a small container of falafel out of the freezer. I didn’t follow the recipe above, but just made Baba Ganouj from the Moosewood Cookbook. 
  • Stromboli, kale salad. A giant pizza roll, according to Mr. Ten. I used this pizza dough with a little bit of whole wheat flour. It worked great, but would have been easier to work with if I’d chilled the dough before rolling up the stromboli. I baked it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. A fun twist on pizza night!

What are you eating this week?

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

This weekend was so brimming with activities that I am actually looking forward to this week for some quiet time. I don’t even mind the chilly weather, so long as the rain holds off until I can mow the grass in the morning. In between birthday parties and band fundraising and church, the Hub baked scones and banana bread, and Little Five sacrificed the small pumpkin he brought home from Friday’s field trip so that I could make a pie. I’m not feeling very ambitious in my meal planning for the rest of the week, so we’re going to use what we have and I intend to CLEAN OUT THE FRIDGE. You heard it here first.

The highlight of our weekend was a drive into the city for an exhibition of works by one of our elementary school art teachers. The weather was crisp and sunny, lunch was delicious, and the art was beautiful. The kids loved talking to their teacher and telling her which piece was their favorite. They also fully appreciated the snack table. We should plan outings like that more often.

I’m off to the library and Goodwill.

This week

Last week

  • Fried green tomato BLTs with fennel mayonnaise, fruit salad. These were as good as the Hub thought they would be. The boys even ate them!
  • Chili, cornbread, salad (swap with Jen). The cornbread recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box is pretty good, especially if you add some corn kernels to the batter.
  • Split pea soup, croutons, salad. This is a delicious slow cooker version of split pea soup, and the croutons are a great way to use up all those bits of slightly stale bread cluttering the freezer.

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

Ah, Columbus Day. The kids are home from school, and Mr. Ten is playing with the junior high marching band in Chicago’s Columbus Day Parade. We’re excited to watch them on television this afternoon. In the meantime, I have big plans to buy foam for a headboard DIY (taking advantage of those Columbus Day sales), if we can all get dressed and turn off Hannah Montana for a minute. Miss Eight would like to invite a friend over or go to the pet store to buy a hamster. Little Five would like to remain in his pajamas and play Super Mario Bros. all day. My magic eight ball says that someone is going to be disappointed.

This week

  • Fried green tomato BLTs with fennel mayonnaise, fruit salad. We’re making this up as we go.
  • Chili, cornbread, salad (swap with Jen). The cornbread recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box is pretty good, especially if you add some corn kernels to the batter.
  • Lentil salad, hummus, pita, cucumber and tomato salad
  • Split pea soup, croutons, roasted carrots

Last week

  • Easy Sliders. Mr. Ten saw me getting out the pretzel rolls, gave me hug, and said, “Thank you for making these!” I only assembled 12 sliders, which was plenty for dinner and lunch the next day (for a lunchbox, cut the sliders in half and heat them wrapped in foil, then stuff the hot foil packet into a warmed thermos jar). The rest of the meat mixture went into the stuffed peppers.
  • Seco de chancho (Ecuadorian pork stew), yellow rice. This sauce is great no matter what meat you use, and the leftovers are good in tacos or stirred into scrambled eggs.
  • Slow Cooker Stuffed PeppersI used leftover meat from the sliders, rice and a can of tomato sauce for the filling. I didn’t plan ahead, so I baked them at 350 with a little water in the bottom of the baking dish. The kids ate them!
  • Sesame noodles, stir-fried garlic green beans.
  • Garlic and Thyme Roasted Chicken with Mustard CroutonsDeeeeelicious. There’s your Sunday dinner plan, right there.

Just today, this little blog made it to 200 followers! Thank you for reading–your support means a lot. We’ll have to celebrate!

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

After a good long stretch of Indian summer, fall is finally really here. We’re getting out the sweaters, taking the wool coats to the cleaners, and thinking about Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to more soups for dinner and cups of tea in the afternoon. (I can’t be the only one falling asleep at 2 p.m. Or noon.) I even bought three little pie pumpkins so the kids can enter the “decorate a pumpkin like your favorite character from a book” contest at school. Miss Eight has already decorated hers to look like Fancy Nancy, but I’m kind of hoping the boys will just let me roast their pumpkins and make pie.

This week

  • Easy SlidersMy dinner swap pal Jen has been making these for parties, and now people expect them and descend on the hot tray like so many vultures. If you don’t have onion soup mix (I sure don’t), just toss together a homemade substitute. I’ll make them early in the day and have Mr. Ten put them in the oven while I’m shuttling his siblings to piano lessons. (The little pretzel rolls are key!)
  • Seco de chancho (Ecuadorian pork stew), yellow rice. I’ll use cubed pork shoulder and no beer in the sauce. (Swap with Jen)
  • Slow Cooker Stuffed PeppersI really don’t know whether any of the kids will eat these, but I think they’ll like the filling. I might make some apple crumble to motivate them to try the peppers!
  • Sesame noodles, stir-fried garlic green beans.

Last week

  • Mexican Pizza, salad. Very good! Next time I’ll dial down the chile powder just a bit, and maybe have some more toppings on hand–guacamole!
  • Salmon with herbs, potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Finally! Everybody ate salmon! Don’t leave out the sauce on the side–garlic mayonnaise, or a lemony-herb yogurt sauce.
  • Quiche (I’ll use this crust, but the filling will probably be caramelized onions and bacon), salad. Make this crust. Don’t pre-bake it. Quiche can be a weeknight meal! (Also breakfast and lunch the next day.)
  • Winter squash soup with croutonsThe kids still aren’t squash lovers, but they’ll tolerate this soup because of its savory spices. Roast the squash and add a little more cream than called for to make it more soupy than baby food.

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the Hub is “relaxing” in the kitchen:

I’m fairly confident there are half a dozen projects I ought to be working on, but the only thing I’ve really accomplished is cleaning and adjusting our sometimes fickle espresso machine. I never would have bought it for myself, but when we received it as a housewarming gift from my parents almost six years ago, we soon found we couldn’t live without it. Why would I darken the door of Starbucks when I can froth milk and dispense espresso like a barrista while still in my pajamas? It does require some maintenance, though, and I am very pleased with myself for tuning it up with nothing but the vacuum cleaner and a hex wrench. We’re going to need a good cup of coffee to go along with those cream puffs.

This week

Last week

  • Fish cakesSuccess! And now there’s a bit more space in the freezer.
  • Chicken with Bacon-y Brussels Sprouts, thin egg noodles. One skillet, so good. In the past, I’ve used chicken broth as the liquid, but this time I used a little white wine, which really brought out the sweetness of the Brussels sprouts. The kids may have accidentally eaten a few bites while they were mining for bacon bits among the noodles.
  • Crispy Fried Eggplant, Tomato Salad and MozzarellaOh, these were good. Try to slice the eggplant fairly thin, and keep the temperature at medium so the breading doesn’t burn before the eggplant gets tender. (The kids ate bean and cheese quesadillas–more eggplant for me.)
  • Tabbouleh and grilled cevapi (swap with Jen). I love this tabbouleh recipe, and fill it with whatever veggies are in the fridge. If you’re out of lemons, red or white wine vinegar works fine. 
  • Spaghetti with meat sauce (from Jen); garlic breadTasty comfort food. Toasting the unpeeled cloves of garlic for a few minutes in a dry skillet removes the bite–but not the flavor–from the garlic bread.
  • Pork and Green Chile StewServe it over rice or with warm corn tortillas. We should cook with chiles more often!
  • Breakfast Oatmeal Skillet CookieMiss Eight helped make this for Saturday breakfast (swapping almonds for the walnuts and vanilla for the maple extract)–a big hit with the whole family. Next time I intend to experiment with reducing the butter and sugar a little.

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

My Facebook feed was filled with photos of friends picking apples this weekend. As the lucky recipient of an entire trunk full of apples, I skipped the apple picking and moved straight on to the peeling, coring and applesauce making.

Though I peeled and chopped nearly 20 cups of apples, I barely made a dent in the apple supply in my basement. I made one small batch of Apple Almond Honey Conserve from Food in Jarswhich tastes like fall when spread on homemade bread (see my breakfast, above). I also made one batch of chunky applesauce in the slow cooker. My goal is to process a bag of apples every couple days, so that maybe I’ll be finished sometime next week.

I’m going to need more jars.

This week

Last week

  • Cheese and Chicken Quesadilla PieBig hit with the kids, and definitely a 30-minute meal (most of it is baking time).
  • Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Warm Spices, rice. I’ll be using brown lentils, and following the suggestions to streamline the recipe. My new favorite lentil soup–don’t forget the squeeze of lime. So glad there was enough to freeze for another meal!
  • Yogurt-Marinated Shrimp, pita, some kind of fruit salad. Mmm…shrimp. The marinade (Iemon-garlic), plus leaving the shells on, kept the shrimp from drying out under the broiler.
  • Black Bean Burgers, roasted potatoes, salad. In a reverse-vegan move, I replaced the flax seed with an egg. My only complaint is that these turned out a little crumbly–maybe I will make thicker patties next time.
  • Tortellini Soup. This is strictly for lunchbox thermoses. Quick enough to cook during breakfast and ladle into thermoses. Two out of three kids ate it up, and I had some for lunch, too. Homemade broth is the key, even if you have dried tortellini (I like the Trader Joe’s brand).
  • Maple-Bourbon Banana Pudding CakeThe Hub made this Saturday night, and it was superb. It only takes one overripe banana, and the rest you probably have in your pantry. Regular granulated sugar and 2% milk work just fine.

What are you eating this week?

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

Suddenly it’s fall.

It’s been pleasantly gloomy in the house all day, an intermittent drizzle falling gently outside. Squirrels are everywhere, always with a fat acorn crammed into their mouths. I’ve been puttering around, doing Sunday things like reorganizing my sweaters, scrubbing burnt sugar off the bottom of my stockpots (one down, one to go), more laundry, more dishes. The kids have been gorging themselves on old iCarly episodes and running out to play in the rain. I started looking around for banana cake recipes, but I think I’ll just bake muffins instead.

This week

Last week

  • Sausage, Potato and Apple Bake. I have to scale this recipe up a little, and I used fresh brats instead of Italian sausage. Always good.
  • Chicken Milanese, cherry tomato and arugula salad. Four fat chicken breasts, pounded flat, made enough chicken cutlets for two families.
  • Cherry Tomato Cobbler, roasted beets with vinaigrette, (mac-n-cheese from the freezer for the tomato haters). Incredible, from the jammy tomato and basil filling to the tender cobbler topping. No, the kids didn’t eat it, but then there was more for breakfast for the adults. I used a scrap of hard sheep’s milk cheese instead of ricotta salata–I’m certain you can substitute any flavorful cheese you like. Try this for brunch, maybe with a runny egg on top.