Summertime

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Summer vacation. It’s been nearly two weeks, and we’re getting into a bit of a routine.

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So far, the best thing I did was to make a list for the kids of five things that must be accomplished each weekday before spending time with tv/computer/iPod/video games (I borrowed the idea from another blog and adapted it for our own needs–thanks for the link, Lina!). It’s working well for the two older kids, especially, because their screen time is limited only by how long it takes them to finish the list (and how much we’re at home–it’s the rare day that doesn’t have a scheduled activity or three).

Little Six needs some guidance to get through the list, but he is doing it. I’m happier because I’m not nagging them to help out, and they seem to like choosing what daily chore they do (though I’m happy to make suggestions if they consult me). They are practicing their instruments daily and doing their summer math packets without my intervention. (Usually. Today Mr. Eleven reached a section where he needs some guidance, and I am proving unequal to 7th grade math. With the help of Google, we are learning it together.)

Also, the required one hour of “something else” has spurred them to practice soldering, bake cupcakes, make a menagerie of origami animals, ride bikes and of course, more Rainbow Loom. Miss Eight made layered frozen fruit pops one day, and today Mr. Eleven attempted to teach his siblings how to play chess.

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I’ve got some projects of my own to tackle, the most immediate being The Office Corner of Doom in the kitchen. I need to remove everything and just start over. Some of our vast collection of food magazines will be relocated, and some kind of simple filing system needs to happen. I also have another stack of artwork to be framed and hung in the family room. Unfortunately, my energy level is not quite back to normal after surgery, and I don’t yet have full strength in my right arm. There is definite progress, but apparently this healing process can’t be rushed. I’m trying to accept that this will not be the summer of big projects. It’s enough to get through the day with clean laundry and food on the table.

Speaking of food, last week I grilled turkey burgers for dinner one evening. Mr. Eleven declared them “the best burgers ever,” and told me to make them this way always. Since I didn’t follow any particular recipe, I’m writing it down so I can recreate them. They were moist and juicy, and because I didn’t get distracted and leave the grill unattended, they weren’t overcooked. I can’t promise that you’ll get such lavish compliments if you make these, but at least you’ll have dinner on the table.

Best Turkey Burgers Ever

2 lbs. ground turkey

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. onion powder

salt and pepper

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Stir in bread crumbs, milk, Worcestershire, onion powder and salt and pepper. Add ground turkey and mix thoroughly. Form into patties slightly larger than the buns, and press down in the middle of the patty so it’s thinner than the sides (see why here). Oil the grates of the grill and cook on med-high heat. Serve on toasted buns with all the trimmings.

 

 

 

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: Thanksgiving Week

So sorry I’m late with the week’s menu. Instead of blogging, I was busy getting my Smitten Kitchen cookbook signed by Deb Perelman herself. There were even salted brown butter crispy treats to sample. It was a pleasure meeting Deb–however briefly–and I would have liked to invite her over for dinner. (Preferably one of those “let’s all cook together” dinners.) I’m just warning you now: you’ll be seeing a lot of recipes from this book. I suggest you go get one right away. It will just be easier for all of us.

But back to the menu. Though all our attention is on the big feast (we’re having two), we do have to eat the rest of the week. It’s not a week to try new recipes or shop for unusual ingredients. Pantry meals are where it’s at. The kids are home from school all week, and it’s time to put them to work making pies, peeling potatoes and cooking the cranberry sauce.

Monday: Hoisin burgers, Asian slaw, fruit salad

Tuesday: Spaghetti cacio e pepe, green salad

Wednesday: Homemade pizza

Thursday: Migas (brunch), Thanksgiving Dinner, Take 1

Friday: Turkey sandwiches, more pie

Saturday: Thanksgiving Dinner, Take 2

Monday Menu

I like to bake bread myself, but this weekend I bought two big European style loaves from our local market, on sale for $.99 each. They were still warm from the oven, with a crisp crust and a pillowy white center. We ate some over the weekend, and I cut the rest into chunks and froze them so we can eat bread all week. Any bits languishing in the freezer will end up in baked French toast or a strata.

My other discovery this weekend was ground turkey thighs on sale at Whole Foods. I promptly scratched out my original plan for Friday night and substituted turkey burgers. It’s great to have a  menu plan and a list to shop from, but some of the best meals arise from a little serendipity.

Monday: Split pea soup with ham, croutons (didn’t make this last week–we had leftovers instead)

Tuesday: Italian Sloppy Joes, kale chips

Wednesday: Creamy Corn Soup (from the kids’ cookbook, Honest Pretzels, by Mollie Katzen), sandwiches

Thursday: Pork fried rice (I saved some sliced pork tenderloin from the pork medallions I made on Saturday)

Friday: Turkey burgers, oven fries, warm green bean salad with vinaigrette

 

Last week on Home Baked

Homemade chalk paint: a dining table makeover

Multigrain pumpkin banana bread (or muffins)

Monday Menu

 

Did you find a great sale or delicious ingredient to plan a meal around this week?