Sunday, November 8, 2009

MPM--Like Septa...Or Not

Happy week, all!

For those of you who don't follow national transportation news, last week shortly after I wrote my post title, Septa (our local transit company) went on strike. Almost a million commuters were out of luck.

And so it went with our meal plan. Oh, I kid, I kid. Kinda.

One experiment: vegan African Peanut-Pineapple Stew with Kale. It gets tremendous points for ease, vegan-ness, for having the ingredients in the house (why I had 20 oz of crushed pineapple, I have no idea), and adventurousness. And in general, I have enjoyed African food. This was not a winner, though; try as I might, I am not a kale convert. Too much work for a taste I'm not crazy about, though I do keep trying. They did not say to serve with or over rice or millet, but I would do that next time. And there might be a next time, when our vegan friends roll in to town. But this is not the kind of thing that will convert anyone to give up meat.

A more successful vegan effort was the 101 Cookbooks Cashew Curry recipe. Not being a fan of tofu, I left that out and added more cashews (yum) and also was a little light on cauliflower as I had thought I'd make this a while ago and, well, I didn't. But it was super-easy, delicious, and again, I love cleaning up afterwards without feeling like I'm dealing with toxic waste. My kids? Of course, would not touch it. But my husband thought it was great and tasted like a side dish that could have come from takeout. Nice! (And, as a double bonus, it used a can of coconut milk and a bag of cashews that have been hanging around.)

Another experiment was a two-part dinner on a rough night at home. One son had a swim lesson, which was a huge session for a six year old. I ran them home and baked an easy chicken for them, with a "recipe" from a friend--also a mom. Mix mustard and mayo; dredge chicken breasts; coat in bread crumbs (I used Italian but any would be good); bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes. The boys gobbled that down with carrot sticks on the side. I then rotated them upstairs for bed and came down to start dinner #2: the cashew chicken recommended by The Bitten Word, originally from Everyday Food. It was the closest I've come to capturing the flavor of (good) takeout and while it felt like a lot of oil, I could tell in the end it was less than I'm used to in cashew chicken. And in a nod to my changing taste buds, I think I would try for less chicken, more ginger, and more cashews next time. I think I would also add celery (sacrilege!) or something else to up the crunch factor a bit. But I did really like the flavor. However, this was not a family friendly meal. Too much chopping, too much raw chicken, too much minding at the stove. (Does anyone's chicken really cook all the way through in just five minutes? Am I too paranoid?)

This week, I caved. I went to one of those pre-made meal places and splurged away. Can't wait to have this many nights of easy dinners! I have not been following my menus--too tired, too harried (the kids gave up naps so my prep time is gone)...I replaced two of last week's nights when one son asked for turkey. So rather than knock myself out on Yet Another Thing My Kids Don't Like, I roasted up a breast and they ate complaint-free for two days. Heaven.

This week:

Monday: finally, really, the braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. I'll probably do the creme fraiche ones again, because I have the creme fraiche leftover in the fridge, but next time, I'll stick with sour cream--just as yummy and way cheaper. The search for amazing mashed potatoes continues...I may have to break down and get a ricer but I'm really trying to move stuff out of my kitchen, not in.

Tuesday: Leftovers. Some hot dogs to finish up, bits here and there of turkey breast, cashew curry, African pineapple peanut stew. Will augment with freezer food (chicken nuggets, etc.).

Wednesday: Leftover ribs and mashed potatoes, or defrost something from Dinner A'Fare. I'm most interested in their pork chops, so that'll probably be it.

Thursday: If I have leftovers Wednesday, it'll be the pork chops and the cheddar broccoli side dish. If not, I will defrost the pizza dough in the freezer and we'll do a homemade pizza.

Friday: well, at least two of our nephews' teams made the playoffs! And even better, they are playing each other tonight, so we are all over that game in the Cousin Bowl B 2009. One cousin in each band, and one on a football team=a family affair at the ball field. Yay!

Saturday should be fun: a girls-only 50th birthday party for my sister-in-law! (Or, as she likes to say, the 12th anniversary of her 38th.) It's all cocktails and finger food. Another of my ultra-clever sisters-in-law is bringing Cocktails of the Ages (1959 (Manhattan) 1969 (whiskey sour) 1979 (vodka martini) 1989 (pina colada) 1999 (cosmopolitan)) I have some ideas (Pioneer Woman's bacon bundles, anyone?) to say nothing of the huge stacks of Trader Joe's irresistible frozen appetizers in my freezer, that seem like they'd be great for any occasion but end up at none. But ideas for easily transported, yummy appetizers would be appreciated!

Have a great week, everyone. For great dinner ideas, go see I'm an Organizing Junkie!


Domestic Goddess said...

Dood? Bring the Trader Joe's stuff. Trust me when I tell you it all gets scarfed down wherever I bring it. And they're always all, "TJ's? NO WAAAAY!"

If that doesn't do it for you, 320 makes amazing homemade (storemade) nachos and Pico de Guaco. It is out of this world.

Mom24 said...

Sorry about the Kale. It's one of those things I really want to like too, but just can't.

Bad news, the ricer does make a big difference. I LOVE mashed potatoes made with mine, but my hubby misses the lumps so I usually just mash away with ye old potato masher.

Have a wonderful time at your SIL's party. Take tall, italian breadsticks, spread butter on the top 1/2 or 1/3 depending on how big they are. Spread with butter, sprinkle with parmesan (the good stuff), then wrap thinly sliced prosciutto around the butter/cheese mix. Serve in a tall glass or vase, delicious and easy.

I've also been loving pizza pinwheels or roll-ups lately, and Pioneer Woman's jalapeno poppers, although I have not tried the poppers.

Whatever you take, have fun!

jennifer said...

I am impressed with your meal planning. And those cans of pineapple? How great to have used up these random dust-gatherers to nicely.

Wonderful Cocktails of the Decades idea.

brandy101 said...

I think the key to mashed potatoes is finding the right variety of potato that creates a smooth (not mealy) but not too-gooey texture after boiling and mashing. I had luck with some little brown potatoes from a cheap 5lb bag (they looked like mini baking potatoes. I peeled and diced them but I did notice they took a LONG time to soften in the boiling water. After draining them, I mash by hand (never a blender) and add 1 - 2 tbs butter and allow that to melt. Then I add 1/2 C regular sour cream (NOT lite!) 1-2 tsp. garlic salt, some black pepper, and fresh chives if I have them. I mix by hand with a large spoon. They always turn out smooth and creamy (no lumps) but again, besides using the right potato, the key is really boiling them long enough.

Rona's Home Page said...

I think I heard about a transit strike in Philadephia. Is that the area you live in? Bummer.
Looks like your family is going to have a delicious week.