Sunday, December 27, 2009

MPM--Ringing in the New Year

Hello again! I hope everyone had or is having a great holiday with whatever brings you comfort and joy. With all the baking this week, we had some hits and misses...they will be below the menu plan for the week. There were some total winners so don't miss them! But I've had enough kitchen experiments this week and am sticking with the basics for this vacation time:

Monday: tacos. It's been forever and it's time to get back on track. My kids have been patient with lots of unusual foods and something familiar would be nice.

Tuesday: something with tilapia...either the recipe I bought it for, which was from Frugal Foodies and involves sweet potatoes, of which I still have many, or from my new Glorious One Pot Meals cookbook (hooray!).

Wednesday: freezer meal, since there's wrestling tonight. There's a Dinner A'Fare chicken thing in there that should work.

Thursday: New Year's Eve. My family's tradition was lobster tails...yum. But I'm not sure it's in the budget this year so I will probably go for the lobster bisque that never made it in my shopping bag at the fish store on Christmas Eve (sob) and something else low-key; maybe the vegan chili, or leftovers.

Friday: It's my father-in-law's birthday! So we'll ring in the new year with a bunch of different things in crockpots. (Note to self: spend this week collecting crockpots from sisters-in-law.) Regular meatballs for sandwiches; Swedish meatballs because I was too suggestible at Ikea; pork roast because it's New Year's Day. Mashed potatoes and potato salad and creamed onions because they are my father-in-law's favorites. Pizza dip and macaroni and cheese because they are my nephews' favorites. My sisters-in-law will bring veggies and fruit and other appetizers. And we will flip between the Mummers' Parade and football all day.

Meanwhile, we had some surprising successes and some epic fails over the last few weeks. No, no, just kidding about the epic fails. But the surprising success? I should stop being so surprised when Mark Bittman's salads impress me. The latest I tried, his fennel and celery salad, here, was awesome. I am so addicted to vinegar, lemon dressings can seem too dessert-y to me sometimes but not here for some reason. It gave me a good excuse to break out my new mandolin. Honestly? I didn't need to wait for the mandolin (though I am very excited to use it for some other things now too). Regular old very thin cutting would work fine too. I will say the finer the better, so try to slice thin instead of shred (ooh, look at me, throwing around the kitchen lingo! or would that be slinging the lingo?) if you try it at home. But you should. Try it, that is. I thought it was great and wasn't expecting much, but the fennel was just sitting there, and I was tired of celery the way I know how to make it (cut in smallish pieces; stuff with something interesting). I'm very happy with this one and next time I'm in the place with the cheap fennel, I'll buy enough for a family gathering.

CuisineNie's chocolate banana bread was greeted as "CAKE!" by my kids, who loved it. I forgot the trick about how to keep the chocolate chunks from settling to the bottom (toss in flour, I think?) and I'll tell you now, I'll use the whole bag of chocolate chunks next time. Because this was more cakey than bready, and was a huge hit. The batter fluffed up so well and it was delicious. Bonus: the house smelled SO good while it was baking.

The Gramercy Park gingerbread from Smitten Kitchen: My husband loved this, from the excuse to drink most of a beer to how it just got better day after day. I was proud to see it looked just like the picture!

The cranberry brisket: There is nothing like coming downstairs in the morning to that yummy smell of a good dinner already almost done in the oven. Loved that part. I forgot to cut against the grain. Did not love that part. But easy, the boys loved it, the house smelled great--we will do this again.

Really, my house smelled great all week, as you can tell. Other winners:

Christmas night was our big extended family celebration. Besides the carrot mousse, we brought a cheesesteak stromboli (purchased at Cacia's) which never made it further than the cutting board, so that was popular, and I brought the pear-cranberry crumble, suggested here as breakfast, though I brought it as a lighter dessert. And voila--the Christmas dinner was so amazing (hello, individual beef Wellingtons, where have you been all my life? I believe this was the recipe the hosts used)--we used it for both. A few people used it as a light dessert, and we took it to Boxing Day brunch. Personally, I like a little less flour in my crumble topping (and would add more oats) but the fruit was yummy. I will try more cranberries next time too. Also, I think that almost-ripe pears would be ideal for this (or maybe a non-Bartlett pear--I'll bet Asian pears would be great) since the ripe Bartletts turned tender to the point of mushiness.

Smitten Kitchen's spinach and gruyere strata: really, how bad could this be?! I used Cacia's for this too, making the bread cubes from their rolls. It was great, but not the transcendent experience Smitten Kitchen described. Of course, my oven got bumped up to 375/400 for some significant portion of baking so this too may have been a problem. I would definitely make it again, though, maybe with more cheese? or something? to bump up the taste.

I also tried making these broccoli/gruyere quiches, but had some epic fail moments with them. First, I do not have a tart pan so I used two pie crusts from the freezer. Then I don't know what happened but the custard started dripping out of the bottom of both pans...could they have had holes? It wouldn't make sense to me but there's not much other explanation. It was also hard to tell since I had to fuss with the proportions to get it to two plates instead of one. But, I left them in the hot oven with a cookie sheet below to catch the drips and then baked them off later, which seemed to work well. They tasted yummy, though the crusts stuck to the aluminum foil pan, so while the family would have been forgiving, just as well I didn't take it there. Worth repeating, though. And next time, I'll look for actual chervil, just for kicks. (I used the last of the wilting parsley and tarragon in my crisper drawer.)

Have a great week--enjoy the last days of 2009--me being me, I'll miss the "double Os" in the years (what will the novelty sunglasses people do?!) but I am looking forward to seeing what 2010 has to bring. Maybe because I loved that movie? Maybe I should see it again...wonder how I've changed since then and whether I'd even like it? But--back to the homelife for the week. Happy New Year and do check out the most inspired meal plans on the web at I'm an Organizing Junkie!

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