Sunday, November 29, 2009

MPM--Happy Birthday Edition

Cue the Christmas music! My kids are sullenly adjusting to the loss of "their" music on the radio but they need to learn the songs of the season, so they can have HAPPY memories of the season, right?! We had a good Thanksgiving, and I was thankful that my side dishes (green bean casserole and cauliflower gratin) were easy and well received.

In addition to Thanksgiving, it was my husband's birthday last week, so we got to go out for that; this week is mine, so out again (woohoo!). Alas, those kids still need to eat so I'll figure something out. Hope your Turkey Day was great and your holiday prep is in swing!

Monday: turkey (sandwiches or with gravy), stuffing, cranberry salad (which I forgot to take to the big day--oh well), mixed veggies

Tuesday: Paula Deen's chicken pot pie from last week. Last week, I made the chicken but by then it was dinnertime. This week, I have the chicken done so I can move on to the actual recipe. Salad.

Wednesday: Ham (Trader Joe's now sells spiral cut! Woohoo, since our Honeybaked closed!), roasted potatoes, roasted beets, salad (or if I am weak, I will get potato salad from my favorite place)

Thursday: Leftover extravaganza!

Friday: Probably tacos, but we'll see how the rest of the week goes.

The weekend is birthday parties a-go-go, so I'm not sure what we'll figure out there. Have a great week everyone! Don't forget to visit I'm An Organizing Junkie for more recipes, links, and menus!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

MPM--Gobble Gobble

And the sprint to the end of the year!

I am really excited for this week...I love this week, this start to the holidays. It is hard to imagine circumstances that would lead us to actually host Turkey Day so I can really lavish attention on what's important to me--my mom's butter-laden Pepperidge Farm blue bag stuffing, a little turkey breast for leftovers, and some wow-'em side dishes for the big family gathering. And, of course, it's my husband's birthday and I have some fun things planned for him as well.

This week:

Monday: Paula Deen's Chicken Pot Pie, care of the recipe annex of Kelly's Korner blog. (No idea how I found my way over there but every post makes me smile so I stick around as a Yankee lurker!) I am still working on an industrial sized Bisquick box from a waffle breakfast--yum--but really would like to free up the space pronto, so expect more Bisquick-riffic meals in the next few weeks. (Pancakes--the obvious--are out as my kids are so hooked on Trader Joe's mix they turn up their noses at any others!)

Tuesday: Dinner A'Fare meal from the freezer. There is a beefy thing and a chicken salsa thing. I'll probably go for the beef just to break things up a little.

Wednesday: Leftovers and/or freezer meal. I have vegan sweet potato chili in there, and I was weak at Trader Joe's and had to (had to!) try the new mushroom flatbread since I'm such a fan of their other one.

Thursday: Gobble gobble! I'll do my traditional little breast roast (with drumsticks if I can find any since my son now enjoys them), and probably the My Mother's Southern Kitchen cranberry "salad" (aka jello mold), carrot mousse, and I might do some creamed spinach as well. Just for something green.

Friday: "leftovers" that aren't really leftover at all. That's ok. Still yummy.

And, I have to say, we had a bit of a health scare in our family this week that turned out to be just that--only a scare--so I don't want to go in to it at all except to say I am thankful. We already have one cousin with a new cancer diagnosis coming to Thanksgiving dinner and one of the older generation facing unpleasant choices for back problems and even some "happy problems" in the form of new babies wreaking their own precious havoc on their families' lives, so I am so grateful that we can focus on them and not add to the pile. It was also interesting timing given the new mammogram recommendations. It made me furious at the "oh just wait 'til 50" recommendation on mammograms. We are big believers in early detection leading to better outcomes, and I loved the NYTimes' quotation of the week, which says it all. "My patients tell me they can live with a little anxiety and distress but they can't live with a little cancer." (Dr. Carolyn Runowicz, director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Connecticut) I heard some bozo MD on a local radio show this week, oozing disdain for the "extra" screenings of the 40-somethings, with some obsequious concern over all the anxiety of the false positives. Well, I'd rather need some smelling salts for the vapors (or valium for the biopsy) than have him worry his little head about my fretting over nothing. And if my insurance coverage for this screening goes away, I am going to be very, very bitter. Enough of my screed. The point of this was: I'm grateful for lots, and hope you are too.

And finally, if you aren't--if you are dealing with a loss, or a change, or anything that brings you agony instead of joy, please know that I am with you in spirit. I have been through enough years where the season only highlighted losses that were hard to bear on "ordinary" days, let alone the special ones, and the disrupted routine was more than I could stand. If you are facing the start of one of those seasons, know that I hold you in my heart and think of you this season as well, and I wish you whatever it is that you need to bring you comfort, even if it's a swift arrival of January 2.

Meanwhile, if all you really need is inspiration for your non-turkey meals this week, you can't beat the group over at I'm an Organizing Junkie. Let them inspire you. Gobble gobble!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Great Link

Thanksgiving's coming. Are you hosting the black sheep liberals? Or are you wondering what your conservative cousins eat?
Check here for Hunch's survey of food preferences by political leaning!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

MPM--The Calm Before the Storm

Happy November! I have to say that to remind myself that the holidays are around the corner as the weather is playing April Fool's--seventy degrees and finally finally hallelujah NOT RAINING so I spent less time planning and more time playing. Here we go:

First, I made basil dip and artichoke dip and a veggie tray for the party. I also sent over all my Trader Joe's appetizers from the freezer and woohoo, only three boxes came back. And now I know which ones I love and will buy again (for a specific occasion only, thankyouverymuch, I have learned my lesson well). It was a lovely evening and enjoyed by all!

Second, the braised ribs? Best thing I made all year. Do not miss out on this.

Third: This week. Oh, yeah, back to reality.

Monday: leftover party food--little quiche appetizers, chicken roll ups, crudite and dips

Tuesday: Dinner a'Fare freezer meal (pork something), rice, last of the CSA beets

Wednesday: Wednesday Spaghetti!

Thursday: Dinner A'Fare freezer meal (notice a theme? beef something), mashed potatoes (D A'F again), salad

Friday: What? No football game? Back to our favorite pizza joint. My little guy will be so pleased. Frankly, so will I, as our boys lost all interest in making their own pizzas last week when they learned I would not be spinning the dough around and throwing it in the air, and the homebaked version just was nowhere near as yummy as at least three local places could do. Cheaper, yes. But meh. I'd rather have an Amy's mushroom and olive after all that, and no flour on my counters with that.

Have a great week, and don't forget to check out OrgJunkie for more menus!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Raising Foodies: And Finally, Some Success

Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Oh--you would not believe how good my house smells right now.

I did so much wrong on this recipe and it's still one of the best things I've made in a while.

Today was finally the day for the braised short ribs. After I bought them at Trader Joe's I realized the recipe was really for bone-in, not boneless. The sell-by date came and went before I got my act together. The "fine chopping" was more than I could bear so I all but pureed the mirepoix before it went in. I didn't leave enough time for the ribs to brown properly and I'm scared of that much spattering in any container on my stove. And I was despairing as the time for preparation ticked on through a lovely, surprise 70-degree November day when clearly this is a sub-40 meal.

And it is glorious. I mean, it's not even done and this is SO GOOD I can't help raving about it. I was excited to use some of my herbes de Provence, which are taking space on my shelf and are not a favorite. I was hoping for two nights of meals from this. I am in an eternal search for layered flavors from my own kitchen. And wow, does this ever deliver. This is a serve-over-mashed-potatoes-AND-with-crusty-bread situation.

All that time I spent pulling it together, thinking to myself, accept it: you are not like those moms in the blogs who can just whip this stuff up: I don't know whether it doesn't take them as long or not. But I do know this is worth hunting down the short ribs for. It is a delight. Even with all the mistakes. It lasted us three days; the boys ate the meat and one ate the carrots (FTW!) and my husband, who is unfailingly polite and kind to my efforts, truly, truly raved. We have a new family favorite, all.

DO make the braised short ribs recipe. The mashed potatoes were fine, and I liked the creme fraiche version better this time in this combination. I won't lie: this is not a quick dish, and there is oil-spatter a-go-go to clean up. And it is all 100% worth it.

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!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

MPM--Like Septa...We're Getting There

Happy November! Here we are at the start of a new month. It's the end of the CSA boxes (just as well as they are chock full of things my family won't touch) and the start of cold weather foods. Our week of crazy is over...but that just means another begins! So here we are, plans ahoy...

Monday: leftover pork roast, creme fraiche mashed potatoes, zucchini with almonds

Tuesday: those braised ribs (finally found zinfandel, which was harder than I thought it would be), potatoes, string bean salad

Wednesday: cauliflower curry, rice, something else from the CSA

Thursday: if I'm up to it, the Smitten Kitchen chicken meatballs, Dr. Praeger's spinach patties, salad, some other freezer-emptying veggie

Friday: last football game of the season

Here's hoping all's well in your November neck of the woods.