Monday Menu & Recipe Review

This is the first year since my kids have been in school that Easter has coincided with Spring Break. The big kids went back to school today, but when I went to drop Little Five off at preschool, I discovered when we got there that there’s no school on Easter Monday. April Fools’ Day on me. Guess I should have looked at that calendar that was stuck to the back of the “W” worksheet in his folder. So I dragged a reluctant five-year-old to the store and bought groceries. Luckily, it was a short list because we have plenty of nice food left from our Easter feast. I’m back at my post on the couch with a cup off coffee, surrounded by empty plastic Easter eggs. The sun is streaming in, and I’m very glad about it, despite the inconvenient spotlight on the dust lurking under the piano.

We had a beautiful Easter. The bunny filled the baskets (contents procured in one fell swoop at Aldi: kites, water bottles, a little bit of chocolate, Peeps, egg-shaped gumballs in a tiny carton), and we made it to church only two minutes late for 7:30 mass. We even got our regular pew. Go early and avoid the crowds is our motto. Dinner was relaxed, and the weather was nice enough for an extended walk to the park before dessert. After our guests left, I played Forbidden Island with Miss Seven and Mr. Ten, which I confess I enjoyed very much. It’s a cooperative role playing game where you work together to gather the treasure and escape the island before it sinks. Near the end, Miss Seven was quivering with the tension of whether we would all survive or not. Little Five was in charge of sound effects every time a piece of the board fell into the abyss. We escaped to play another day, in case you were wondering.

So here’s the rundown of last week’s meals and what’s on the agenda for this week.

Last week

Monday: Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken, (courtesy of Jen, my meal exchange buddy!), rice, broccoli

This was really tasty, and the kids ate it all up without a fuss. It would be good as a lettuce wrap, a taco filling or on buns like pulled pork, too.

Tuesday: Passover Seder with friends (I brought the charoset)

Toasted walnuts, a little brown sugar and a drizzle of honey made this the best charoset I’ve ever made. Double the recipe if you have more than four people.

Wednesday: Baked Pasta Shells with Chicken

I was going to make gnocchi, but didn’t start dinner in time. Instead, I improvised a baked pasta with some shredded roast chicken I had in the freezer, a quick homemade white sauce with wine and mushrooms, and some peas and parmesan. It was good.

Thursday: Baked Potato Bar with Sloppy Joe Sauce, salad, carrots and dip

Baked potatoes with self-serve toppings are popular with the kids. Instead of frying bacon, I pulled some sloppy joe sauce out of the freezer, which made the potatoes seem more like a meal. My family liked it on their potatoes, and Mr. Ten’s friend had his on a bun, with a potato on the side. To compensate for those who didn’t eat an adequate amount of salad, the next morning I stuffed their blueberry smoothies with a lot of spinach.

Friday: Black Bean Burgers, Smoky Red Pepper Spread, sweet potato oven fries, kale and radish salad (Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)

This meal felt both virtuous and very satisfying. It was colorful, and turned out to be a nice balance of flavors and textures. The burgers took some time, but I doubled the recipe to feed two families, and still had enough to freeze for a third meal. Next time I will keep a little of the bean liquid to make the burgers a bit more moist, but that’s my only complaint. They have great flavor. This recipe would work well as a freezer meal. Don’t skip the sauce: roasted red pepper (I used jarred) and feta in the food processor. (We thought it might make a good pasta sauce, too.) It was the third time we’ve made a version of that kale salad, and everyone we’ve served it to has asked for the recipe.

Saturday: We went out to dinner and the kids had pizza with the babysitter. That was good, too.

Sunday: Roast leg of lamb with garlic, rosemary and anchovies (from Jamie Oliver), Risotto with mushrooms,  green beans with almonds and mint, deviled eggs, Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake with berries

The lamb was perfect, and we have plenty of meat for several more lamb meals in the coming weeks. The risotto was also just right; I’ve always followed this recipe, but it’s most successful when you’re not feeling rushed or distracted. I had a glass of Prosecco and friends to talk to while I stirred the rice, and nobody was rushed for dinner because we had plenty of deviled eggs to snack on. The green beans are my new favorite version. I had fairly mature, fat beans, so I added about 1/2 cup of water to the pan, covered it, and let them steam until crisp tender. After a hike to the park and some heavy work on the playground, followed by an Easter egg hunt in the yard, we all recovered our appetites to do the lemon pound cake with sliced strawberries (and a cappuccino) some real justice. I baked it in my flower shaped pans, but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. I wouldn’t change a thing.

This week

Monday: Mexican Rice Casserole (swap from Jen), guacamole and chips

Tuesday: Chicken with Lemon, Cumin and Mint, farro, Greek salad (doubled, to swap with Jen)

Wednesday: Ali Baa-Baa Sandwiches, Greek salad

Thursday: Baked Potato Soup

Friday: Pasta and Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion

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Monday Menu & Recipe Review

First day of spring break, and it’s snowing. It has taken me nearly three hours, what with all the interruptions (“He stole my Zhu Zhu pets!” “When can I use the computer?” “I need help getting dressed!”) but I’ve finally planned meals for the rest of this week. This afternoon I will brave my list of errands with all three children in tow. Spring Break at home requires some planning, maybe more than a vacation away–certainly more than I want to plan. But if we are to avoid some nasty Lord of the Flies scenes, I’m going to have to face the music.

I’ve got an Easter craft planned that should occupy Miss Seven and Little Five for a little while and create a flurry of paper scraps to clean up. We’ll have lunch at Ikea one day (kids eat free all week!). I’m declaring this Smoothie Week, and we’re going to try some new variations. The weather is supposed to improve later in the week (sunny and mid-40s), and I vow that at least once we will get out the bikes and scooters and ride to the park. I’ll probably have to play some board games. (My board game aversion is legendary.) I’ll try to encourage some cooperative Lego building. Mr. 10’s closet needs to be reorganized and everything could use a good spring cleaning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the tree guys will come and grind out all the stumps in our front yard–that will make for some good noisy entertainment.

Many plans. And it’s already time for lunch.

Last week

Wednesday: Creamy Spring Turnip Soup, mint limeade, scones (with multigrain flour, rosemary salt, and no cheese)

I finally discovered what to do with a turnip. This soup was lovely, green from the leeks and slightly sweet, creamy but not heavy, and everyone liked it. The bacon and greens made it feel more like a meal, but it would be a nice first course. As predicted, the limeade was a hit, too.

Thursday: Roast chicken, roasted vegetables

I defrosted that chicken for four days, and it was still icy in the middle, so it took far longer to roast than I planned. I still love Jamie Oliver’s method the best: high heat, stuff the bird with garlic and herbs and lemon, and roast a big pan of veggies (extra turnips!) and potatoes alongside. I need to remember that what looks like too many raw veggies is, in fact, not quite enough. I had visions of leftovers that were sadly disappointed.

Friday: Shrimp Scampi with angel hair pasta, tomato salad

Garlicky pasta with shrimp? We all had seconds.

This week

Monday: Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken, (courtesy of Jen, my meal exchange buddy!), rice, broccoli

Tuesday: Passover Seder with friends (I’m bringing the charoset)

Wednesday: Gnocchi in Tomato Broth (Smitten Kitchen Cookbook), salad

Thursday: Baked Potato Bar with Sloppy Joe Sauce (Mr. 10 is having a friend over for a sleepover), salad

Friday: Black Bean Burgers, sweet potato oven fries, kale and radish salad (Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)

Saturday: Indian Butter Chicken Curry, green beans with almonds and mint

Sunday: Roast leg of lamb, Risotto with mushrooms, deviled eggs, Lemon-Drenched Lemon Cake with berries, more sides TBD

Monday Menu & Recipe Review

Thanks to all your helpful comments, I’m going to try reviewing last week’s menu in addition to planning this week’s. If you haven’t already noticed it, you can often click on the recipe title and it will take you to the recipe if it’s available somewhere online.

Last week…

Monday: Polenta with Fried Eggs and Swiss Chard

I love this recipe and will be making it again–for breakfast or dinner! I ran out of cornmeal (polenta), so I used quick grits instead, which worked out just fine. The kids weren’t huge fans of the chard, but they each tried some. You can use any greens you have–I think they really make the meal.

Tuesday: Pasta pesto

This pesto was a “use up the odds and ends” version, so it had artichoke hearts, arugula, garlic, olive oil and lemon. Whenever you have pesto, make sure you reserve some of the pasta cooking water to mix in at the end. This is a staple in our meal rotation–we all love it and it’s incredibly fast.

Wednesday: Turkey burgers, homemade macaroni & cheese

There’s a really great but complicated Cooks’ Illustrated recipe for turkey burgers. These weren’t it, but they were fine. I always mix the ground turkey with a beaten egg, some bread crumbs, and random seasoning–garlic powder, onion powder, Worcestershire or soy sauce. I made a big pot of mac and cheese over the weekend and this was its second appearance.

Thursday: Pizza Margherita

I followed the recipe in the link for the pizza toppings, and I was underwhelmed. While I love the idea of an uncooked pizza sauce (just puree a can of tomatoes, add olive oil and salt), I found it pretty bland on the pizza and a little watery (I could have drained the tomatoes more). I used Jim Lahey’s pizza crust recipe, but forgot to heat the pizza stone, so I didn’t get a good crispy bottom crust. I still love this pizza dough, and I have two more balls of dough in the freezer for next time.

Friday: Crab & Shrimp Cakes, remoulade sauce, salad

We love these crab cakes, but I’ll admit that they’re a little fussy for a weeknight if you don’t prep them ahead of time. I made the sauce early in the day–10 minutes–and could have assembled and breaded the crab cakes, too, but didn’t. They don’t take long to fry. I’m going to share the recipe later in the week, despite the fact that I forgot to take any pictures. I just used canned crab (not the fancy kind) and frozen, precooked shrimp, but they were still wonderful. It’s a great recipe to get kids to start eating seafood.

Saturday: Korean short ribs, rice, Asian-style slaw

This is the second time I’ve made these ribs, but they weren’t quite as juicy as the first time. Maybe the boneless ribs were too lean? Maybe I had too many in the pot (I doubled the recipe)? Still, they were quite good and the sauce is delicious. The slaw was great, and I’m becoming a big fan of cabbage!

 

This week…

When I plan meals for the week, I look at the calendar first. Days with busy afternoons and evenings get assigned the easiest, quickest meals. Then I usually look at what’s already in the fridge or freezer that needs to be used up. We like to rotate things pretty quickly. This week, I already have a chicken and some shrimp in the freezer, so I won’t have to buy any meat. After that, I usually try at least one new recipe (sometimes more, especially if the Hub is planning the menu). Today the creamy turnip soup caught my eye. The kids are pretty good soup eaters, and this looks like a good candidate for trying a new vegetable. There’s bacon in the soup, and there’s a special drink on the menu to further excite them. And extra soup makes good lunches!

Monday: School Fundraiser

Tuesday: Leftover Korean short ribs–maybe shredded, mixed with sauce, and served in tacos

Wednesday: Creamy Spring Turnip Soup, mint limeade, bread

Thursday: Roast chicken, roasted vegetables

Friday: Shrimp Scampi with angel hair pasta

 

I’d love it if you shared one successful meal you made last week!

Monday Menu

I dropped Little Five off at preschool this morning and went straight to the grocery, feeling so prepared with my list and my reusable bags. But alas, not my wallet. I’m just thankful I realized how light my purse was while I was still sitting in the parking lot, and not at check out with a cart full of groceries! So I came home to write my morning blog post and empty the dishwasher, and I’ll do the shopping on the way to preschool pick up.

A comment on someone else’s blog reminded me of this great Skillet Lasagna recipe from Cooks’ Illustrated. I made it once or twice more than five years ago, and then forgot all about it. I think the kids will like it. They’re also beginning to come around to salad, which is such a relief (well, not Little Five–he’s deep into a veggie-hating phase). Mr. Ten used to say, “Salad just isn’t my thing,” but he’s progressed from eating just the tomatoes to adding a few leaves on his plate. Miss Seven doesn’t like the tomatoes, but at the Band Spaghetti Dinner last week, she asked for a bowl of salad. And then she ate it. It must be time to teach them how to make salad dressing!

Other vegetables still aren’t very successful, but I keep making them. I doubt they’ll eat any roasted cauliflower or more than a couple of bites of zucchini (I just don’t understand why they don’t like squash, but they’ll eat broccoli), but at least they always eat raw carrots and ranch dressing. Maybe in another ten years they’ll like zucchini, too.

Monday: Skillet Lasagna, salad

Tuesday: Garlicky pork chops, roasted cauliflower salad

Wednesday: Turkey Tetrazzini (from the freezer), Zucchini with Lemony Crumbs

Thursday: Olympic Seoul Chicken, rice, green beans

Friday: Fish tacos, refried beans, cabbage slaw

For lunches: Chicken noodle soup (the broth, chicken and noodles are all left from Sunday’s chicken dinner); barley with roasted peppers and feta

Monday Menu

It’s been a while since I mixed up some no-knead bread dough (instead I’ve been experimenting with other pizza dough recipes), but the Hub asked for homemade pita this weekend, so I spent five minutes and mixed it up. Now we’ll also have fresh bread this evening and pizza dough on Friday. I really need to write “Mix up bread dough” on my calendar once a week. Maybe I just need a spot on the calendar for batch cooking for the rest of the week. I’m always thrilled with the results when I remember to stock the cupboards with muffins or granola, grill lots of chicken or roast several pans of vegetables. It just makes the rest of the week’s meals so much easier.

Lucky for me, the Hub made tonight’s soup over the weekend, so my only job tonight is to bake the bread and make a salad. I think I can manage that between Little Four’s tap class and my choir practice!

Monday: Beef Barley Soup, salad, bread

Tuesday: Thai-style Ground Pork, Coconut Rice

Wednesday: Fish tacos

Thursday: Slow cooker Indian-Spiced Lentils and Chicken

Friday: Pizza

Last week on Home Baked

Big girl’s bedroom inspiration

Monday Menu

 

Do you have a routine for cooking large batches of food for the coming week? Please share!

Monday Menu

We got through last week relatively unscathed…on time to all activities, dinner on the table every night. Homework was done, bedtime was reasonable. As a bonus, we watched a couple episodes of Mad Men on Netflix and I kept the desk in the kitchen clear enough for homework (Miss Seven likes working at the desk; Mr. Nine moves between the kitchen island and the dining room table). Cue the applause.

I thought I’d share three things I learned last week about fitting home-cooked meals into a busy evening schedule.

  • Any prep you do ahead of time is a good thing. Even if you’re just making a quick pasta pesto, if you fill up the pot with water, set out the pasta and the food processor, and set the table earlier in the day, it makes an enormous difference in how smoothly the dinner hour goes.
  • It may seem obvious, but save your most labor-intensive meal for a night you’re staying home. Less obvious (at the planning stage) is the possibility that you’ll be exhausted and feel less like making an effort on an evening that ought to be more relaxed. Give yourself permission to plan something simple for leisurely nights, too, or at least have an easy backup pantry meal.
  • Do all the dishes. Every night. Don’t slow down the next day’s meal prep with dirty dishes to clean up first.

Monday: Split pea soup, tomato salad

Tuesday: Pork soft tacos (still working our way through pulled pork in the freezer)

Wednesday: Stuffed cabbage, mashed potatoes (this will be a new one for the kids!)

Thursday: Chicken and mushroom skillet meal (if you need a recipe, use the method in the link–mine will have shallots, cremini mushrooms and red wine), egg noodles, pan roasted asparagus

Friday: Lasagna (from the freezer), salad

 

Last week on Home Baked

Musical chairs and Hidden Treasure (cleaning out the jewelry box)

Monday Menu

 

What’s your biggest stumbling block to getting dinner on the table?

 

 

Monday Menu: the grilling edition

Summertime was made for grilling. Keep the heat out of the kitchen and outside where it belongs, right? I’ve been trying to grill as often as possible, so I decided to center this week’s menu around the grill. I like how quickly things cook and how few pots and pans there are left to wash!

It’s taken me a few years to gain confidence at the grill. I’m certainly no Grill Master yet, but I’ve learned a few tricks (if only where the hot spots are on our gas grill). I have two pieces of advice to anyone hesitant about their grilling skills. 1) Don’t walk away from the grill! It’s easy to get distracted by other kitchen tasks, and before you know it, your burgers are hockey pucks. 2) Get a grill basket! Now you can cook all sorts of things (especially vegetables) alongside your meat.

Monday: Southwest turkey burgers (add crushed tortilla chips, salsa, cumin, etc. to ground turkey–serve with cheese, avocado slices and more salsa), corn on the cob (grill that, too!), green salad

Tuesday: Grilled salmon, Asian cabbage salad, grilled pineapple slices

Wednesday: Yogurt-marinated grilled chicken, grilled veggies (asparagus, fennel, onions, zucchini…toss with olive oil, salt & pepper and toss them in a grill basket)

Thursday: Take a break! Leftover cabbage salad with strips of leftover grilled chicken. Grill up some toast! (Or just bask in the A/C.)

Friday: Pizza on the grill (leftover grilled veggies make a wonderful pizza topping)

 

Last week on Home Baked

Cleaning carseats

Kids’ travel neck pillows

TGIF (Or, Happy Hour at Home)

 

What’s your favorite grilling standby?