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