Hi everyone! Happy Valentine's Day!
Please tell me it is balmy and breezy where you are. Tell me of kids giggling outside and coming in shaking sand off their sandals. Speak to me of perfumed air.
And I will tell you about this winter. It has been magic, but it has been a problem. Kids come in drippy and red cheeked and exhausted from the effort of just moving their bundled bodies through space. If you are in Minnesota, or Canada (or the part of Canada that, you know, gets snow, unlike, say, poor Vancouver), or Utah, do you build room in your streets for the plowed snow to go? Because we don't. This has been breathtakingly beautiful, and something I hope is once in a lifetime. And it has been a ball, and useful, as we not only used up stores in our freezer but also our craft boxes. A four day weekend turned in to a six day weekend, with, heaven help us, the chance of a seven day weekend depending how much snow flies tomorrow. It's been fun, and each day a real blessing, but when our outside time is so curtailed, it has thrown me off and drained my indoor fun resources. But in the better moments, I'm downloading "Blessed" by Martina McBride and singing along at the top of my lungs, happy to have electricity, heat, good things to eat and my boys to spend the days with. I have been blessed.
And when it is this cold, there is nothing better than yummy foods bubbling away in the kitchen and good smells of sweets or savories drifting through the house. And with my trusty sous-chefs at my side, we've had some fun and learned some new skills in the kitchen. Did you know there was such a thing as whole-milk mayonnaise? The Tipsy Baker did, and we totally stole from her. Read on for this week's menus, and below that, last week's triumphs and trials. Thanks for stopping by!
Sunday--out to dinner--more on this next week!
Monday--to the beach--I'm setting a slow-cooker pork roast before we go, and serving with mashed potatoes and broccoli when we get home.
Tuesday--Shrove Tuesday--wish I liked Cajun food more but we'll have pancakes and bacon for dinner instead. And donuts! (Should be Fastnachts, but I do not fry in my house--too scary--so I'll let Dunkin' Donuts do the honors.)
Wednesday--Ash Wednesday--freezer meal or cabinet meal for sure. Probably soup for the grownups, and chicken nuggets for the kids.
Thursday--leftover pork, or the Frugal Foodies' recipe for chicken rolled with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes, with either potatoes again (mashed or baked) or a millet recipe if I can come up with one, and a green vegetable tbd.
Friday--it's Lent, which makes me less eager to go out for dinner, though if we do, it's pizza, which is (for me, anyway) at least already meatless. But I might try to eat at home with a fish recipe; it will be penance on earth if I do!
Now, as to last week...
Sunday, of course, was The Big Game, and that was the last time I was regretful that I do not enjoy Cajun food, because I was really with the Saints in spirit. Really, both cities could use a pick-up but Katrina was just SO monumental it was hard to not be excited for them. So, without a true New Orleans thing to eat, we made my favorite easy crockpot chili, but I did not use an envelope of seasoning and instead tried chili mix from cooks.com. It was excellent, used a bunch of spices that were just hanging around, taking up space, and tasted great. We enjoyed it all week.
Monday was the only decent weather day, so we rescheduled my in-laws for that night. I made the Frugal Foodies' bacon wrapped roast chicken, which was divine and so easy it felt like cheating. It didn't even really taste that bacon-y, but the meat was succulent and I was sorry I didn't leave myself time to make gravy. Next time. (And there will be a next time.) I did try to make the gravy later but it didn't work; I think the cooling and reheating did not help the gravymaking. But otherwise, this was a very easy meal. Essentially, you take a whole bird, cover it with salt, pepper, and 1/4 lb. of bacon, cut up three onions in quarters, with 3 quarters in the bird and the rest around, and roast at 400 for 30 minutes and 350 for 30 minutes. Poof--done. I also stuck some little potatoes I had around it and they were yummy too.
Since my father in law loves onions, and it is winter, I ended up with two different onion (or at least allium) dishes on the side, too. One has been on my list forever, and that was the Smitten Kitchen caramelized shallots. They were delicious, and easy. I did not so much as dip my tines in the astoundingly great looking liquid but the shallots themselves were really yummy.
The other allium dish was a caramelized fennel & onion recipe from the Philadelphia Inquirer. (Note: the link makes it look like it's the middle of the ingredient list but the only part cut off was the title and "serves 4-6.") So easy, and truly delicious, with a vidalia once and a smallish regular onion the other time. I almost liked it with the smaller one better. But both were good, and it was an awesome "make ahead and reheat" thing. And, had I but realized, I would have reheated it in the pyrex I stored it in and just flipped it over for an awesome presentation. Next time.
I also felt like throwing down a little bit (and--sing it with me now!--continuing to clear the freezer) so I tried the Smitten Kitchen walnut jam cake. But not only did I not try and test it first, I actually made it while the guests were here. And it was as easy as she said. It was fabulous, in a grown-up, not-too-sweet cake kind of way, and even the kids liked it, enough, with the jam. I used a seedless raspberry I had with some lemon juice and oh, mercy, that's a flavor I could eat every day and not get tired of it.
As you might guess, chili and a roast chicken stood us in good stead for a snowy week, especially when you consider I added a take-out pizza (since I knew we wouldn't be able to actually get to the kids' favorite pizza place in the weather AND a pack of hot dogs for the first time since we put away the grill. But I did make one more thing for variety: on the worst of the snow days, I made Eating Well's Flemish Beef Stew. I broke two of my rules for this one: first, I loathe spending lots of time precooking things that are going in my slow cooker (totally defeats the purpose in my world) and I bought a new spice (caraway seeds) for it. But for a snow day? Totally worth it. The pre-crockpot effort was time rather than challenge (since I bought the meat pre-cubed), and over noodles or mashed potatoes, it was perfection as far as hearty winter meals go. It didn't have quite the complexity I'm always looking for but the caraway was a nice change and the beer added a good note.
And in one last "gotta try it" moment, with the last of the whole milk I'd bought for real hot chocolate (mmmm), I saved 1/3 of a cup and my youngest and I made milk mayonnaise. Next time, I will definitely add way less oil and a little more lemon. And I have no idea what to serve it on. But it was super fun to watch the emulsification happen--one minute, we had oily milk, and the next--pudding. Or really, mayonnaise. And it was yummy and magic to watch it happen and watch my son watch it happen.
And, just for kicks, I made the Bittman Spiced Red Lentil Dal, mostly for myself. Alas, the lovely red lentils turned a rather uninspired yellow, whether due to the mustard seeds or it just happens to red lentils, I don't know. But because I used jarred ginger and jarred garlic, the hardest thing about this was chopping the onion. It was lovely. I found it hard to get it to a "saucy, not soupy" consistency but maybe since lentil soup is pretty saucy itself it was hard to quite get there. It will be a great lunch for me this week and should help clear out those sinuses. (And, bonus, without the butter at the end, it's vegan too.)
So...don't forget to visit the loooong list at I'm an Organizing Junkie! of meal planners to see what they are up to. And have a great week!