Sunday, May 23, 2010

MPM--The Merry Merry Month of May Redux

Oh, I'm so predictable. Here I think I've come up with a clever post title only to discover I've already used it. Ah well! Life's too short to worry about repeating blog titles.

This week:

Monday: Our CSA starts--woohoo! Can't wait to see what comes. So I know I'll have some kind of veggie fest, and a simple meat to go with it--probably chicken breasts or tenders from the freezer.

Tuesday: DAF Bombay burgers, rice, these Indian-inspired green beans, kale salad

Wednesday: book group for me, so probably hot dogs for the boys and mac and cheese and leftovers for my husband

Thursday: My favorite meal: party leftovers! My little one's last day of preschool is today, and they "graduate" everyone. Which is a little silly as many will return next year but it's a big fun deal for them, so we invited the relatives and will have a bunch of people for lunch. I'm ordering a sandwich tray and potato salad, and making orzo salad, quinoa salad (see below), and cookies. If there aren't enough sandwich leftovers, we'll defrost something from Dinner A'Fare.

Friday: soccer game (for the grownups! or one, at least), with pizza party. I'll bring the strawberry-rhubarb crumble because Oh My Gracious, the strawberries. They are amazing these days.

And then it's the holiday weekend! We have a niece and a nephew with a birthday so I'm looking forward to a family gathering. I'll fill you in Monday or Tuesday but if you have "cooking for a crowd" favorites, please, by all means, let me know in the comments.

This past week was much calmer than the one before, which was soothing. Between rain and a tired mommy with a head cold, we missed some of the things we meant to do but we also enjoyed a much less busy schedule, reconnecting with each other. (And--who am I kidding? Our friends at PBS Kids too.) Thanks to the internet, we watched someone I went to college with go on a spacewalk! That was thrilling. I kept humming Paul Simon--"these are the days of miracle and wonder"--as we watched live coverage of a guy I remember at parties (because we were certainly never in the same classes--I will be tactful to myself and just say I am not an engineer) as he walked in outer space. Really. We may not have Jetsons cars yet but this comes really close.

With the missed connections this week, and the idea of staying a little closer to home (and the idea of starving these ants out of my kitchen), I tried using some of my baking supplies. First up: chocolate chip muffins. We used chocolate chunks (what I had), and a top rated recipezaar recipe (because I like that they provide nutritional information). They were easy and the boys adored them (of course). Next time I will definitely use chips, though, because the chunks were too big in this particular muffin. But they certainly didn't go to waste!

I also found a recipe for a roasted carrot and avocado salad at Smitten Kitchen that I somehow missed before. Having both avocados and carrots ready to go made it a no-brainer and in the oven it went. It was a rare day when I had the sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts ready to go to so I could heat the oven once and cook four different things with it (boo-yah!). But here was the funny thing: my older son was starrrrrving before dinner and while at first disdained the carrots with "black stuff on them" (that would be char) and then before I could explain caramelization I heard him say through his chewing, "Oh. Never mind. These are really good!" and proceeded to eat half the bowl. That would be a half pound of carrots, just roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin, in one quick sitting. Beige Boy of course wouldn't even look at them, but still, a success. The next night, I used regular carrots instead of babies, and actually got the avocado to them with the lemon before they were snarfed again. (But I needn't have worried; "HOT carrots again?" asked the boy in dismay, and went for the raw baby carrots instead.) I loved how the texture was almost exactly the same between the veggies and will definitely make this again and again.

Clearly I'm on a roasting binge right now because I also made a mess of sweet potatoes, some of which became the miso mash, and others, finally, were made with Nikki's Sweet Potato Recipe from 101 Cookbooks from a zillion years ago. I'm fighting a cold so I've been unable to taste much so will have to try these again. I thought I'd love these because coconut is one of my favorite things but then I got a head cold and could taste nothing. My husband, however, thought it was awesome and gave it an enthusiastic "add to the rotation" vote. We also made the Nikki's Healthy Cookies recipe again--I'm trying to use the ingredients as much as I can, because honestly, I just don't use almond meal all that often--and they were again very nice as a bar, and I love making a cookie that I don't care if my kids taste the batter.

I'm also on a binge of avocados and grapefruit. I can't believe how I'm still obsessing over this combo but I am. I tried this cup and table recipe for one with an Asian-style dressing for which all the ingredients happened to be hanging around my house (except, alas, the cilantro, which I did miss). Oh, and to be fair, I had to buy the pistachios. Once again, I couldn't taste it as I would have hoped, but the flavors were strong enough to penetrate a bit and I loved the interplay of textures. My family wasn't as reverent as hers (not unexpectedly) but my husband was complimentary. It's been interesting; I know *my* father was very, very set in his ways that a dinner had a meat, a starch, and a vegetable, but I've always ascribed that to my husband as well. But as I've been on a veggie-to-vegan kick, he's been very willing to stretch his palate and try it all. I do think he'd miss meat without it but he's also been happy with the more prominent role of the veggies. He even tried my portobello "burger" after I couldn't resist the local 'bellos at our farmers' market this weekend. "I can see why you like this," he said, "but I'll leave the rest for you. (munch munch) Or.." and I made it easy for him by cutting it in two and leaving the bit he'd bitten on his plate with a generous margin. "Oh, yes," he said happily, "that makes sense." I faked it with what I had in the house with the recipe I linked above, but the one at the farmers' market was even better, and he just was using Kr@ft Zesty Italian with the caps in a zip-lock bag and a little tabletop grill. I'm tossing that in there since normal people have Italian dressing on hand; I'm so obsessed with oil and vinegar, I do not. But in case you do--it's totally worth a try.

Another hit that I couldn't taste was Mom24's quinoa salad. My husband loved it, and the two families I shared it with were very complimentary. And there's the only knock on it: I should have figured it out from using the whole bag of quinoa, but it made a lot. Still, I am a sucker for a "box of this-bag of that-bag of the other" recipe technique, and it was popular with my husband, who took it for lunch, so I will make it again. This has earned a spot on next week's preschool "graduation" party menu. Yum! Also thanks to her for teaching me the toasted quinoa technique--I liked it before but loved how fluffy it was after toasting. That was tricky with no sense of smell, because in general, I find it hard to gauge how much dressing the quinoa will absorb and neutralize, but worth it.

Finally, I did make the brined pork chops one night. They were good, but whether (say it with me) it was my tastebuds or the technique, they weren't quite up to the raves on Epicurious. I will say, like the one poster, I thought I could have easily brined 12 pork chops in the same amount of liquid. Mine were a little thin and did start to take on some ham-like qualities, and count me in on those without juniper berries or gin so I used some whole allspice. Still, they were really good and nicely flavored so we'll keep this in the rotation. (I also halved the kosher salt.)

Go check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for some very inspired menus!

1 comment:

Mom24 said...

Glad you liked the quinoa. Enjoy graduation. I wish ours was preschool graduation--much more in my comfort zone. :)

I love that you review the recipes you try--very helpful.