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?

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Summer ennui

For people without young children in the house, perhaps you don’t experience the change of seasons so viscerally. You go to your climate-controlled office, you come home, you go back to the office.  Things don’t change much from one month to the next.

Personally, I feel our American school calendar is for the birds. Nine months on, three months off–who needs THREE MONTHS off? Seriously, knock even one of those months off and spread the vacation days throughout the school year–or not–and we’d all be a little more balanced.

In our house we’ve all lost our momentum. The kids are bored and and snappish, and my routine is so out of whack that I haven’t planned a week’s meals in…three weeks? A month? I can’t take the anxiety of not knowing what we’re going to eat for dinner when five o’clock sneaks up on me. I can’t start some other project when I don’t even know what we’re having for dinner. Spontaneity is fine for other people, but apparently not for me.

All week I’ve been thinking about, and then avoiding, these eggplant meatballs. Saturday. We’ll make them Saturday. I finally plopped the eggplant in the oven to roast this afternoon, so we’ll be one step closer. Yesterday I didn’t know what to have for dinner, so I cooked a pot of rice (credit goes to Tamar Adler for that particular strategy). Then I got distracted by these corn cakes and decided to use up the four ears of corn in the fridge instead. With fried eggs and a handful of tomatoes from the garden, it did turn into a lovely meal (you should add a little more buttermilk to the batter, though).

I still wish I had planned it ahead of time.

Tonight we’ll be eating rice.

Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Marinara

Two weeks of summer vacation are already gone, and quickly, too. We’ve kept busy–in a good way–but I’m finding it difficult to blog, even if I have something to blog about. Someone is always hanging over my shoulder, or needing my attention RIGHT NOW, MOM, or just generally being noisy. Last night while supervising the brushing of teeth, I asked, “Why do you have to be so loud all the time?” Little Five answered, “We can’t help it. We’re kids.”

This morning’s noise involves repeatedly knocking wooden astronauts to the floor, accompanied by some maraca-like shaking of a plastic piggy bank. Also, yelling. Oh, and slamming doors. But I promised you a recipe, so I’m going to deliver.

I really love eggplant. Unfortunately, some of the best eggplant recipes take time, and then the kids won’t eat it anyway. Eggplant Parmesan, Moussaka….But in my experience, most of the time kids are more picky about texture than about taste. Maybe this is true of adults, too. (Exhibit #1: Miss Seven doesn’t like tomatoes, but will eat tomato soup. Exhibit #2: Pot roast? “Too chewy. Do you have any meatballs?” Exhibit #3: Liver and onions? “Ew.” Chicken liver pâté on a cracker? “Yes, please.”)

In short, if I puree it, they will eat it.

I adapted this recipe from an old Rachael Ray cookbook. I always found the cooking time way off, and the sauce was under seasoned, but the basic idea was great. Roast an eggplant, puree it, and swirl it into some garlicky tomato sauce. I roasted a red pepper, too. The combination gives a basic marinara a meatier, smokier flavor, and the eggplant even balances some of the acidity from the tomatoes and makes it a little creamy. I didn’t plan it, but all three–tomato, eggplant and pepper–belong to the nightshade family.

Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Marinara

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil (for easy clean up). Prick a large eggplant several times with a fork or sharp knife, and roast the eggplant and one red pepper until the eggplant is soft, the red pepper has browned all over (you may want to turn the pepper a few times during roasting for even browning), and both have begun to slump (45 minutes-1 hour). Let them cool on the baking pan until you can handle them.

With your fingers, peel the skin from the pepper and remove the stem and seeds. Cut off the stem end of the eggplant, slit it down the side with the knife, and scrape the flesh from the skin into the bowl of the food processor. Add the peeled red pepper and puree until smooth.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a deep saucepan and cook 3-5 cloves of minced garlic, just until golden, about a minute. Stir in one 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes (mine were diced, so I pureed them with the immersion blender) and bring to a simmer. Stir in the eggplant and pepper puree, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat through. Serve over the pasta of your choice with a good sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

 

 

 

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

Despite the cloudy skies, today felt like the first real day of summer vacation. The younger kids suited up and had swim lessons in the morning, and we’re going to turn off the tv and head back to the pool for a couple more hours this afternoon.

If this week’s menu seems a little fancy, that’s just because it’s mostly based on ingredients left over from the fabulous spread the Hub put on for my birthday this weekend. I should have taken some pictures, but I was too busy trying new cocktails and tasting every appetizer multiple times–just for quality control, you understand. He even made an incredible Swedish Meringue Cake with Strawberries and Orange Filling that was possibly the best birthday cake I’ve ever had. Fruity, tender, creamy, not too sweet. I’d better start planning his birthday cake right now.

This week

Monday: Shrimp salad wraps, cabbage salad with ramen noodles and almonds

Tuesday: Belgian endive and ham gratin, rice, salad

Wednesday: Chicken Milanese, salad, carrots

Thursday: Blue Cheese, Caramelized Onion and Bacon Galette, salad (swap with Jen)

Friday: Turkey Kielbasa with Peppers and Onions, blue cheese coleslaw (from Jen), roasted Yukon Gold potatoes

Last week

Monday: Salad Nicoise, bread, fresh fruit

Otherwise known as Salad the Kids Will Eat. Fresh greens, green beans, boiled potatoes, sliced tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, olives, Italian canned tuna, all piled artfully on a platter, with dressing in a pitcher on the side. 

Tuesday: Thai-style ground pork, coconut rice, edamame

A quick weeknight meal that has become a favorite (I’ve used turkey, pork or beef). I double the sauce and skip the chilies in favor of a squirt of Sriracha. Coconut rice is just basmati rice cooked with a can of lite coconut milk in place of some of the water.

Wednesday: Waldorf Chicken wraps, fruit salad

We eat a lot of soft tacos, and I often use tortillas instead of bread in the kids’ lunches, but this time I used whole wheat flour tortillas, which were flavorful and sturdy enough for a filling of chicken salad and veggies (greens, beans and tomatoes left from Monday). Also a kid winner.

Thursday: Creamy Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Pasta (swap with Jen)

I made this sauce up as I went along–it’s an easy sauce packed with veggies. The kids ate theirs on cheese tortellini, and the adults had rigatoni. I’ll share the recipe later this week!

Friday: Italian Turkey Meatball Soup, cabbage salad (from Jen)

Delicious with a little grated Parmesan on top.