First things first: when making popcorn on the stove at home, use coconut oil. That is the most important lesson of the week.
Menu for the week:
Monday: I'm out to dinner, so we'll see what the boys come up with. Kidding. I will be leaving them with CSA vegetables and noodles. My stash is really out of control and the weather isn't supposed to be so hot.
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, but Mom's Night Out for me...yippee! To bolster for leftovers tomorrow, I'm also going to try to make the easy beans & rice from Rage Against the Minivan. At 89 cents for the bag of beans, and all the rice floating around my cabinet, if it's terrible, I lose nothing. And if it's great, woohoo!
Wednesday: Leftovers, plus something new from the box, I'm sure. It's also our ice cream stroll for our moms' group so it'll be quick so we can go enjoy frozen treats!
Thursday: Town picnic! Our part of the alphabet is in charge of fruit, veggie, or side dish. Not sure where I'm going with that. Might be barley salad (see below); my town is hippie enough that it might work.
Friday: Hopefully the oven will be fixed (see below) or it will be a good grilling night. If not...hmm, dinner pending knowing what I have to work with in the kitchen. With any luck my stove will be all better by then.
Saturday is our block party, so I'll figure that out too.
My little guy is my chef. Despite the fact that he won't eat anything, he'll help me cook everything if I invite him, and often makes dessert suggestions himself. My older one has very little interest in the kitchen. But that seems to have started changing, just a little, this week. He helped his dad make garlic bread (beyond my "spread butter/sprinkle garlic salt" way). His dad taught him to mince the garlic, mix it with Italian herbs in olive oil, and spread it on good rolls. He was ecstatic with the results. So the next night, when I realized I was out of Jora's taco mix, I had him help me again. His technique is, um, rough. I am not, for example, a fan of measuring the spices in the middle of the kitchen and then walking several steps, trying to balance the teaspoon without spilling, when I could be measuring right next to the container. But, this is how we learn. I hope. And he was thrilled with how good "his" tacos tasted, and I was happy to have had the help.
For Tuesday Wednesday Spaghetti, I thought I'd use what I had (I'm learning, slowly, but I'm learning) and make these Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars. But cutting butter in to things is not a strong point for me. It never looks like crumbs; it looks like sugar and flour with some lumps of butter in it, until the clumps of butter are small enough that it just looks like flour and sugar again. Adding the egg made it better but it really didn't reach dough consistency until I had the sharp little almond pieces bumping around in there. By that time I gave up on having it for dinner (just as well, it was so hot the chocolate would have been all over) I ran out to get some bread to bring and that seemed to be a better plan. But the toffee bars were made by soccer, and they were very, very good. There is too much chocolate to make them a great summer dessert but in two months when it's cooler, or in the mountains--they will make a return appearance.
And speaking of bread, I'm in a use-what-you-got mode again and was in a frenzy of cabinet clearing. Also in the freezer: whole wheat flour, so I made this cinnamon-raisin bread in my bread maker, and alas--I hit the wrong button and it didn't bake. And then I learned my pilot light was out on my stove. And I am a weenie wuss about things like fooling with gas. And so you are seeing MPM--The StoveTop version. I digress--I took my dough to my sister-in-law's, baked it off...and learned my flour was bad. Boo. But even with old nasty flour, it was pretty good so we will try again soon.
While clearing the cabinets, I found pearled barley I'd somehow talked myself in to buying, so I perused my bookmarks for why in the world I would have bought that. And first, I found this barley salad from Dinner: A Love Story. And not unlike my son saying, hey, pesto and hummus taste pretty similar, I should have figured out that with a whole grain, lemon, olive oil, and parsley, you're going to end up with, essentially, tabbouleh. But I like tabbouleh, so that was fine. However, the big hit for me was the 101 Cookbooks Buttermilk Farro Salad, which, happily, the notes said would also be ok with barley (because really, I already have barley and millet, I am drawing the line at farro, but you know that's a substitution I would never, ever dream of making on my own without specific instruction that it would be OK). The dressing was a total home run for my tastebuds and it took an incredible act of will for me to not drink it all straight from the salad dressing shaker I used to make it. Happily, there was plenty of barley to pour it on, and I got lazy and used the food processor to chop the radishes and zucchini to sneak the veggies in to the salad. But this was culinary love for me. Also, I tried two ways of making the barley: the one "instant" (from DALS: boil in a 3:1 water:barley ratio for 50 minutes--which is about how long dinner takes me so that was ok) and the other the overnight method (soak 5 hours to overnight in a 2:1 water:barley ratio, then boil 15 min. and drain). The package said the barley would be "fluffier" by which I think they meant "less sticky." I actually liked the sticky better.
The other winners were Saturday and Sunday nights. Saturday, we learned our nephews (both in their early 20s) were alone for the weekend so we had them over for a cookout. I served the barley salads, and grilled up veggies in the new veggie basket for them. Alas, I was very disappointed in the onion-mushroom recipe, and even the zucchini didn't turn out as well as I was hoping. Any great uses of a veggie basket out there you can recommend? The winner that night though was last year's Dinner A Love Story yogurt-marinated chicken. Still totally enjoyable. I might branch out and try to fake my way through one of their other yogurt based marinades but this one is so good it's hard to leave.
And finally, by Sunday we were wiped out. We'd spent hours at the pool, playing baseball, hanging out with friends and family. So we cleaned out the fridge and freezer of berries and bananas and frozen pineapple and made several kinds of smoothies. And the boys drank all of them. Booyah. Of course, I didn't put kale in any of them.
In the non-food department...
Cars 2 was as disappointing as I hoped it wouldn't be. SO many guns, SO many explosions...every single major scene, a different family was leaving with a screaming, horrified child. It was SUCH a departure from the first one...very depressing. And I bought 3D tickets by mistake and I swear I could feel my ocular nerves jangling the rest of the day. Yeah, I'm old. And my kids liked it but even they thought it was a little over the top "with too many guns and stuff," said the one who begs me for Nerf weapons. And if he thought it was too much...it was too much.
Since this is probably our last-chance summer to do it, I am making a huge effort to get to the 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know. I'm sure there are 100 lists like this and all different--where are the Sneetches? Where is Lois Ehlert? And why no Margaret Wise Brown? and on and on and on, but this is the one I picked. So I went crazy at the library, getting out a bunch and being inspired by a few others. And oh, how fun to revisit Strega Nona and her magic pasta pot. (We have other Strega Nona books, but not the original.) And what a delight to find some new ones on there. It's also been fun discovering books the kids have read that we didn't know about--Swimmy by Leo Lionni, for example. I never heard of it until I saw the list, but my sons were verbally falling all over each other to tell us about it, so we'll just check that one off. Helping with this project: DEAR, a lovely concept from first grade. For the uninitiated, DEAR stands for Drop Everything And Read. You don't have to tell me twice. We've had lovely 20-minute stretches of just quiet reading. I almost weep with joy when it works. Some nights it's 10 minutes. That's good too. But the boys flopped down blankets and pillows and stuffed animals all over the floor to prep for DEAR and I love it every single time. I'm also using it as a time to cull through the kids' books, which is hard for me...one to donate, 67 to keep seems to be about the ratio. But I'm trying to be good about releasing those books to somewhere they will continue to spread joy.
For better ideas about food, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! See you next week...