Sunday, March 29, 2009

MPM--April Already?!

No April Foolin' here. Last week was a huge success, with some super-easy meals that ...well, not everyone liked but all the intended audiences did.

First, I switched up my days a bit and made the Noble Pig's Plum Jelly Chicken, though I made mine with chicken breasts "Italian style" (ie, the butcher sliced them thin for me). Surely, I thought, this can't be as good as the reviews say. Yup, it's that easy and yummy too. If you are looking for an easy sweet-n-sour kind of dish, this is it. Noble Pig's plum jelly chicken rocked. Go, click, find yourself some plum jelly and have a nice easy dinner. Yummy over rice, of course. And the Chinese five-spice powder that has been hanging around my house for some by-now-forgotten recipe? Delicious. I will look for excuses to use it in the future. The name implied to me that it would be spicy (duh) which I interpreted to mean "hot." Nope. Just complex and fabu.

The second huge success was something I'd tried before, which was the Smitten Kitchen black bean tacos. Here's the funny thing: she thought it was so simplistic she was embarrassed to post it. It was really simple. And the last time I tried it? I messed it up. No, really. I did. I thought the heating the tacos--ok, frying--was a bridge too far, and I think I didn't feel like mashing them, or maybe I used the Goya soup instead, which is luscious but too runny for this particular recipe....anyway, it wasn't good. But I still had half a head of cabbage and two limes in the fridge, so I cowboyed up and tried again. HUGE success. This actually did take only 10 minutes. The longest part of the recipe was the chopping, and it was a half a head of cabbage and two bunches of green onions. This time, I followed directions to the letter, substituting the cole slaw she suggests (which next time I will make without the red onion as I felt like that made it just a scootch too sharp with all the scallion flavor in the dressing already). I even siphoned off part of the substitute cole slaw to mix with the lime juice and that was ideal as I adore limes but my husband thought the original cole slaw was great. I expected him to try one of the tacos to be polite and switch back to the meat ones I made for our son who loves tacos. And instead, he sat and waited for the next batch of bean ones to be done. Hurrah! (And, it took care of the feta, cabbage, limes, packet of tortillas, box of taco kit, a bag of lettuce, some cilantro, and all the fixin's from earlier in the week with the original taco recipe. That was a good EDF tradeoff for one can of black beans.) And even the extra cole slaw did not go to waste; my husband asked me to get the local produce place's handmade tortilla chips to dip in to it and scooped it up like salsa. Woohoo! A new vegetarian dinner, and one that will help us in CSA box time to boot.

And a flier that wasn't on last week's menu but squeaked in at the last minute: this recipe from Jennifer at Mothers of Brothers (via The Wednesday Chef via the NYTimes) for roasted broccoli and shrimp. In my strange oven that defies temperature measures, the shrimp took longer than promised, which overdid the broccoli, and they are right: do not forget the last squeeze of lemon. But for an easy one dish meal (two if you make the rice or couscous, which you should), this was awesome.

And to all the local commenters: Yes, Marrakesh (the restaurant, though I would assume the city too) is still there. I see a future bloggy meetup location since it appears no one has been there in a year that starts with the number 2 but we all still have fond memories!

Another thing I tried last week was for me alone: the Vegan Lunchbox morning smoothie, ingredients listed here in her tribute to her VitaMix. I had everything already, including the pomegranate juice...with the exception of vanilla soy milk instead of hemp milk. It was also a great place to use my blueberry flavored ground flaxseed, bought by mistake at Trader Joe's. It was...interesting. Maybe the VitaMix does a better job getting the spinach really really small so it doesn't stick to her teeth. And I think I used too much spinach as it definitely did not "disappear" in to the smoothie. So, I've decided I'll try it again (I still have plenty of all the ingredients) this week, with less spinach (it was hard to measure amounts while it was still frozen, with its shape not working for the measuring cups I have, and I am not good at guessing). And, when I stopped in the health food store for dye-free jellybeans (so the artificial-color-avoiding cousins will have Easter candy too), hemp milk was on sale, which I took as a sign, and got some to try. I'm not really anti-dairy, but I'm always game to try alternatives. I felt almost dirty buying hemp milk, and was tempted to go on line to make sure it was really ok, but in the end, I threw caution to the wind, figured it would be hard to run an advertised sale on an illegal product, and popped it in my fridge for tomorrow morning's smoothie attempt #2.

I even made two desserts last week, one using a bag of frozen cherries that has confounded me since my kids have started eschewing chocolate soy milk (we used to mix chocolate soy milk with the frozen cherries for smoothies). In an old O magazine, there was a cherry clafouti recipe. I wasn't crazy about it, but my husband loved it. The other was one my oldest had seen on a rouge episode of Everyday Food for a baked pear with raspberry sauce, and while he hated the sauce, he enjoyed the pear and my husband and I had a hard time restraining ourselves from licking the plate clean.

Cherry Clafouti
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing
2 cups fresh (or frozen, unthawed) cherries, pitted
1/3 C granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 C whole milk
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. Fill with cherried.
2. In a blender, combine sugar, eggs, milk, flour, salt adn butter until smooth Pour batter over cherries in prepared pie plate.
3. Bake until puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve hot.
Makes 12 servings
O magazine, July 2006, p. 204.

A friend requested the recipe for Hot Chicken Salad, and I realized I never posted it here. I discovered this casserole at a bridal shower for a friend. It does make a ton--even though it calls for a 9x13 pan, I often also make a small one to freeze at the same time. There's not much way to make it healthier except that I do use lowfat soup, mayo, and cheese so it's slightly less of a cardiology nightmare. But served with a salad and another light veggie, it's really a nice little dish. One other note: don't get lazy like I do about smashing the potato chips. When I had this originally, I didn't even realize they were chips. I am not that patient, and it does not come out as well. Really get in there and crush 'em. You'll be glad you did.

Hot Chicken Salad
serves 12

6 Cups cooked chicken (cubed--broil or poach to cook, or the original hostess used Perdue Short Cuts) (usually this is 3-4 boneless breasts)
4 Cups chopped celery
1 1/2 Cups mayonnaise (low fat works, no-fat doesn't)
4 Tablespoons lemon juice ( juice from one medium lemon)
2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup (light works)
salt & pepper to taste
2 Cups sliced almonds
sliced Swiss cheese (from the deli or usually one pack from the lunchmeat fridge will do)
one medium bag Cape Cod style potato chips, crushed (I think Cape Cod is like "kettle" style)

Mix all ingredients together in large bowl except for Swiss cheese and potato chips.
Put in a 9x13 pyrex dish. Cover with Swiss cheese slices and then crushed chips.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes if right out of the fridge.

So, on to April. March came in like a lion and is leaving sort of the same way, except I really doubt there will be any more snowstorms, so we're crawling to lambhood here.

Sunday: grilling in the sudden spring (ahhhh), plus leftovers. Using the hot dogs and buffalo burgers from the freezer at least!

Monday: turkey burgers crusted with pistachio (recipe from the paper; I'll post it if it's good); day-ahead mashed potatoes; broccoli, fresh shelled peas (my oldest can't wait to do them--yay! he remembers that job fondly from last summer)

Tuesday: freezer/crockpot meal. No idea what kids will have but husband and I will have veggie shu mai from Trader Joe's and crockpot chicken wraps, thanks to the always inspirational Accidental Hausfrau. If that doesn't go well, we also have in the freezer two boxes of curried chicken stix, also from Trader Joe's. Probably also rice from freezer, also from Trader Joe's. Sensing a theme to my shopping problem here.

Wednesday: quiche lorraine (I know--using all those eggs before Easter!--but I'm thinking we're just a bit too far out to hard boil them and save them for Easter, which is still almost two weeks away), salad, sugar snap peas.

Thursday: leftovers, augmented by freezer meal/s

Friday: after the success of the black bean tacos, we're trying black bean burgers from Gourmet, recommended by Domestic Reflections, one of my new blog crushes, sweet potato fries for grownups, tater tots for kids, carrots and celery sticks.

It's been fun having a more-empty fridge. It's been cheaper to actually use all our food! And it's been fascinating trying all these recipes. Thanks to all who have contributed ideas! Have a good week, and check in at I'm an Organizing Junkie! for more inspired weekly menus.

1 comment:

Mom24 said...

You're really on a roll. You're inspiring me to try using up my fridge/freezer...maybe after spring break. :-)

I love, love, love that plum chicken recipe. Delicious.