Monday Menu

After several weeks of digging deep into the freezer and pantry to plan meals, it’s time to admit that we are nearly out of staples. (Except for flour. Plenty of that.) It’s been good to empty the freezer and pantry and know that we’re not wasting food or storing things that are past their prime. So February is going to be the Month of Restocking the Pantry. I am weirdly excited by the idea of making a list of staples, stocking up, and then organizing and inventorying the goods. Doesn’t that sound fun?

This week I’m working with the last few items in the freezer…a couple of Christmas duck carcasses, tofu, edamame, and the little post-Christmas sale turkey that the Hub roasted yesterday. A few pantry items: spaghetti, rice, barley. But after that, we’re kind of out of everything, unless we plan to survive on condiments and liquor. Probably not the breakfast of champions.

It feels good to start fresh.


Monday: Turkey dinner leftovers (yum!)

Tuesday: Duck and Barley Soup (this going to be an experiment), tomato salad

Wednesday: Turkey Tetrazzini, carrots

Thursday: Tofu Stir-Fry with Pork, rice, edamame

Friday: Penne with Vodka Sauce, green salad


If you had a completely empty pantry, what would you buy first?

Cuban sandwiches

Ah, Sandwich Night. Universally beloved in our house, the night when utensils are optional, and there might be a bowl of chips on the table (a rare enough event). Dinner is quick, but hot, delicious (there’s usually melted cheese involved), and received with appreciation.

If I have a pork roast on the menu, my favorite way to use the leftover meat is in Cuban sandwiches. You’ll also need bread (something with a little crust but not as crispy as a baguette–Mexican bolillos, hoagie rolls, or an Italian loaf sliced into generous chunks), sliced ham, mild Swiss cheese, and sliced dill pickles. Some of us like a little mustard, too. Heat a griddle or frying pan and melt a little butter on it. Add the sandwiches and press them down firmly with a heavy cast iron skillet (or a brick wrapped in foil). If you have a panini press, I imagine that would work well, too. After 3-5 minutes, flip the sandwiches and grill until the cheese is melted and the breaded is toasted. Press them again if necessary.

Go forth and have your own Sandwich Night!

Weeknight Pad Thai

We don’t get takeout very often, but if we do, it’s likely to be Thai food. And though I love a good curry, there’s something so comforting about a container of Pad Thai. Salty, savory, sweet, sour, crunchy–a little bit of everything, without any one flavor dominating the others. Now that our kids are past their toddler years (and Mr. Nine has declared himself Too Old for the kids’ menu), even takeout is no bargain–one meal can easily equal a week’s grocery bill.

But with a short trip down the Asian foods aisle of your local market, you can stock a few ingredients for a reasonable homemade Pad Thai whenever the mood strikes. You’ll need fish sauce (nam pla), rice sticks, and tamarind concentrate (but if you can’t find this your noodles will still be yummy–just add more lime juice). The rest are easily recognizable ingredients: brown sugar, green onions, limes, garlic, peanuts.

This recipe makes a large batch, enough to serve six as a main course. We ate a little more than half for dinner, and had several servings leftover for lunch. Sure beats another sandwich.

Weeknight Pad Thai

1 lb. Thai rice stick noodles

2 Tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. minced garlic

1/2 lb. ground pork (or choose shrimp or thin strips of chicken)

1/2 lb. firm tofu, diced in 1/2-inch pieces

5 Tbsp. fish sauce

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. tamarind concentrate

5-6 green onions, sliced diagonally in 1/2-inch pieces

3/4 cup finely chopped peanuts

2 Tbsp. lime juice

Other additions: bean sprouts, chopped cilantro, scrambled egg, fresh or dried chilis

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add rice sticks and cook for 7-8 minutes. Drain and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind concentrate and lime juice.

Heat oil on medium-high in a wok or large sauté pan, and add the garlic. Stir fry for a few seconds, just until the garlic begins to color. Quickly add the ground pork, raise the heat to high, and fry until all pink is gone. Add the noodles and mix well. Pour in the fish sauce mixture, tofu, green onions and 1/2 cup of peanuts (and any of the other additions you might have–if using egg, just push the noodles to the sides of the pan and scramble the egg right in the well). Keep tossing mixture until all the noodles are coated and everything is heated through, 4-5 minutes.

Serve immediately with lime wedges and a sprinkling of peanuts.