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.

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Monday Menu and Recipe Review

It’s strangely quiet in the house this morning. No chattering television, no rattle of marbles or crash of Hotwheels on the hardwood floor. I can hear the cat snoring on the back of the couch and the clocks ticking. Little Five is taking a “vacation” at Grandma and Papa’s house this week, and I just sent the older kids off to school. In about an hour, I will sneak into the school assembly and applaud as Mr. Ten receives a Student of the Month award. After that, I’ll have FIVE hours in which to contemplate my overly ambitious to-do list and possibly cross a few things off. And then four more days of the same!

Miss Seven’s First Communion party was a great success: a happy girl, beautiful weather, lots of family and friends, and plenty of food left over. We didn’t cook again all weekend. And the cake–oh, the cake! I made the S’more Layer Cake from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Miss Seven picked it out, and it seemed to go well with the BBQ theme (ribs, slaw, mac-n-cheese, green beans, cornbread). The recipe is really perfect, though I scaled it up by 50% to make it a 10-inch cake. I also used a slightly different frosting method (Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Light Italian Meringue, from The Cake Bible), because I know how to make it in the stand mixer and I was confident that it would hold up nicely if I made it the night before. As you can see, it held up beautifully. The cake didn’t last the weekend, so no worries about deflated meringue after that!

This week

Monday: Indian Butter Chicken curry, roasted cauliflower, spinach salad (never got around to making it last week)

Tuesday: Chickpea and Artichoke Heart Stew, bread (swap with Jen)

Wednesday: Lazy Spanakopita

Thursday: Cumin and Smoked Paprika Chicken with Potatoes (from Jen)

Friday: Kitchen Closed!

Last week

Monday: Spaghetti with cheese and black pepper

Little Five and I were suffering from a stomach virus, so this spaghetti was quick and easy to make from pantry staples, and comforting as well.

Tuesday: Meatballs and polenta, broccoli with lemon zest and olive oil

I love this lazy meatball and sauce recipe. I doubled it and stashed the extra in the freezer for another busy day.

Wednesday: Sesame Noodles, edamame, potstickers (swap with Jen)

A stand-by. We eat this at least once a month. Frozen potstickers (gyoza) from Trader Joe’s are our favorite convenience freezer food.

Thursday: Asian Chicken Sandwiches, fruit salad (from Jen)

Such tender, juicy chicken! Kids ate it dipped in ketchup, but the adults had it with a tangy slaw on a whole wheat bun–yum.

Friday: Tabbouleh with garlicky pan-fried shrimp

SO GOOD. The shrimp turned the tabbouleh into a main course, but it would also be a great side for a summer barbeque. We’ve been eating the leftovers for lunch.

Monday Menu

It’s President’s Day today, so the kids are home from school. At 7 a.m. I thought, foolishly, that I could slip out of bed and enjoy a quiet cup of coffee and maybe a quarter of an hour to write. Instead, two out of three hungry children were already downstairs watching tv and waiting for some breakfast. I have been banished to the living room with my laptop while Curious George and Honey Nut Cheerios have taken over the kitchen. Fortunately, Mr. Ten, the late riser, is willing and able to gather his own breakfast.

The Hub spent the better part of the weekend in the kitchen, turning out two full dinners, a cake and a pie. He also made pesto from the herbs withering the crisper drawer. So in addition to eating well all weekend, we’re covered for a couple more nights while I run off to extra chorus rehearsals this week. I thought I might finish painting the bathroom today, but I’ve scaled back my ambitions to catching up on the laundry, some general tidying up, and nagging (I mean encouraging) people to do their homework and practice their instruments. Tomorrow when they’re back in school, I’ll paint in peace.

Monday: Pasta Pesto, salad

Tuesday: Mushroom Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Celery Root Mashed Potatoes (left over from the weekend)

Wednesday: Middle Eastern meatballs (loosely seasoned like these, but with ground beef), pita, tzatziki, hummus

Thursday: Split pea soup

Friday: Spanish tortilla, salad

 

Share what you’re cooking and eating this week!

 

Monday Menu

It’s been a long weekend packed with family and beautiful fall weather. We spent a few hours with pumpkins and pony rides, cider and doughnuts at Johansen Farms. We enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner (never mind the calendar–we celebrate whenever we can gather the family), and now we’re having a slow morning of music practice, homework and a second cup of coffee. Grandparents are visiting, and the kids are on slightly better behavior than usual. It’s a good way to spend a holiday!

The coming week is packed with activities and deadlines, so I’m not feeling too ambitious with the menu. Just favorite comfort foods, and using up what’s in the fridge. I also have bounty of tomatoes and peppers to preserve thanks again to Aunt Karen. I’m excited to get out the canner and stock the pantry with tomato sauce and roasted peppers.

Monday: Leftovers, baby!

Tuesday: Pasta pesto (unless someone has a creative but quick suggestion for a bag full of fresh basil?); roasted beet and goat cheese salad

Wednesday: Meatball subs

Thursday: Slow cooker stuffed peppers, mac and cheese

Friday: Sandwich night (perhaps with the waffle iron)

Saturday: Thai red curry with pork and acorn squash

 

Last week on Home Baked

Cuban Sandwiches

The garden project: phase one

Monday Menu

 

Do you preserve any garden produce for the winter?

Monday Menu

After a month of travel to South America (kids, too!), it’s good to be home. The suitcases are unpacked, but I think we’re all looking forward to getting back into a familiar routine again. I plan to share some of our adventures with you soon, but first things first: We need to eat this week! The weather is soooo much hotter than it was in the Andes that I’m drawn to lots of vegetables and not much cooking.

Monday: Meatballs, hummus and pita; spinach salad

Tuesday: Avocado Shrimp rolls with avocado dressing (based on this recipe)

Wednesday: Something grilled and Chopped Salad with Feta, Lime and Mint

Thursday: Fettuccine with Guiltless Alfredo Sauce and lots of veggies (cook them right in the pasta water!)

Friday: Dinner out!

 

Last week on Home Baked

Weeknight Pad Thai

 

What have you been cooking during this hot summer?