Sunday, May 17, 2009

MPM--Graduation a-Go-Go

Greetings, menu-planners! Last week started slowly with being wiped out from Mother's Day. One fun thing was my older child saying, "Mommy? Can we have waffles for dinner? I just loved them." Really, why would I say no to that? So we made waffles while the irons were out. With bacon, it made a lovely little spring meal. But I did get some other cooking in, so check below the menu for reviews and links for a few recipes.

This week starts the end-of-school-year craziness around here. I'm the class representative at my college's graduation on Monday (I'm *always* up for a good excuse to wear a cap and gown, and to congratulate kids on a well-earned rite of passage!). Both kids end school on Friday (yes, that wailing and lamentation sound you hear would be me--and, them, happily, because they both love school so much). In between, we have concerts and parties and all kinds of fun. So the theme of the week's dinners is "easy and familiar." Working for me.

Monday: chili from the freezer downstairs, baked potatoes (think I'll try this slow-cooker recipe, as long as it's a no-pressure situation, with maybe one or two of these sweet potatoes for luck), rice, toppings (cheese, scallions, sour cream...chip in with any I'm missing! ooh--chips--tortilla--good one! Anything else?)

Tuesday: sandwiches for small fry, freezer meal (probably pizza) for me; broccoli salad from Smitten Kitchen (realistically also probably for me); we're hoping to get to a play so it has to be a superquick night.

Wednesday: band concert night, so lasagne (regular this time) and maybe spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread, salad-from-a-bag (WedSpag! Kind of. Lots of family invited and time pressure to get to the concert, so not really the fun free-for-all that WedSpag is really all about, but it's such a great idea I figure it's worth linking to at any opportunity.)

Thursday: turkey shepherd's pie from the freezer downstairs, augmented with new mashed potatoes and a side of raw beet salad from Mark Bittman (c/o The Tipsy Baker, without whom I never, ever, in a million years would have noticed this recipe despite its presence in THREE of his cookbooks in my home).

Friday: Memorial Day weekend starts--woohoo! Hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill if the weather is good, just hot dogs on the stove if not. Potato salad. Regular salad. Leftover anythings.

After Mother's Day, in a pique of cleaning out the refrigerator and cabinets, I (finally) made the sweet & sour pork from Martha Stewart via the always interesting Accidental Hausfrau. Like all stir fries, the annoying part was the prep...washing, chopping, separating according to cook time...but it went ok. I should have re-read the comments and added garlic, ginger, and my newly-beloved five-spice powder to the pork while it was cooking. And while I was about to type, "but I don't like to stray too far from a recipe the first time I make it so I can evaluate it without wondering if my tweaking messed it up," that did not hold true here. I used fresh instead of frozen broccoli, and since I don't eat peppers, I tried shredded carrots instead. And then I remembered the snap peas I had and threw them in. And while looking for the water chestnuts I thought I remembered someone suggesting in the comments, I saw baby corns and tossed them in as well. So the blandness was not for lack of ingredients! Given that, the party, and our usual milk and OJ consumption, we filled three whole recycling containers--a new record for us. And that didn't even include the 2-liter soda bottles since my mother in law wanted some to protect her plants.

I also tried the black bean lasagne. I was too curious not to, and I had all those cans of tomatoes. First, I should have done something different with the diced tomatoes I used to augment the sauce I had. The casserole way overflowed the container (too watery, I'm guessing) and several of the dice wound up on the oven floor. Yecch. Stinky and hard to clean--not my favorite combo. I also made it "her" way, with the cheddar cheese and no cilantro (partly because I didn't have any, and partly in vain hope that without suspicious green things my kids might try it. Ha!). As a lasagna variant, it was fine. Not great, not too strange, just fine. Totally served it purpose here except, alas, to find one more thing my kids would eat!

We also visited our old friend The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper this week. Taking stock of what was in the fridge and freezer, I replaced one of the Italian freezer meals with Crisp Cucumber Shrimp in Retro Goddess Dressing. I really liked it, my husband ate it, and again, my kids went to bed hungry. I thought it was great, though I did add some lemon (not on the recipe! gasp) at the end to brighten up the flavors a little bit. I think I missed the cue to add "more vinegar to taste," but since I would soak virtually everything in vinegar given the chance, I don't really trust myself on that scale. But I am pleased to report that the "Giving Flavor to Frozen Shrimp" secret (boil briefly in water that has simmered with the juice and rind of one lime; dump the water and let sit covered for 15 minutes) worked beautifully. Frozen shrimp will never be as good as fresh, obviously, but this is a great trick for the times when frozen makes more sense.

Strange journey of the week: I saved the whey from my yogurt (now THERE'S a sentence I never, never, never thought I would type in my life) to make the 24-hour bread from the NYTimes, which I had made before with plain old water and enjoyed. This time, I think my yeast was dead, despite a 2010 expiration date. The thing just plain never rose. I was very sad. But then I saw that the awaited bubbles did eventually come, almost another 12 hours later when I was ready to chuck the whole thing and call it a day. So I went ahead with it. It did eventually rise, a little, and then baked up in to this huge gorgeous loaf that was hard to believe came from my oven. And since it was gone in about 24 hours also, in the end it was a success, though it certainly seemed snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Finally, anyone who's read this far: any suggestions for brunch food that travel well? We are providing a family brunch at Sunday morning, though not at our house, so it has to pack. Some prep can be done there. Coffee cakes are obvious. I just did granola, so that's out...any other suggestions for things which travel well or can be mostly assembled at home and finished off somewhere? Quiches/frittatas? Thanks for any thoughts!

Have a great week and check out Org Junkie for more menu plans!


Anjali said...

I have a fabulous recipe for Spinach and Feta quiche that I have traveled with. Soon after it comes out of the over, I wrap it in foil and put it in one of those insulated cooler things, and it's perfectly hot and ready to eat a few hours later!

Let me know if you want it!

Unknown said...

French Toast Casserole. I just emailed you the recipe.

Melissa said...

I can't help with brunch dishes that travel well. I'd be the one bringing the muffins or coffee cake. :) My sister makes a cream cheese braid that she's taken to pot lucks, but I haven't tried the recipe.

I hadn't heard of making baked potatoes in the crockpot. Thanks for sharing the link. Sounds perfect for summertime!

Christi said...

Now I want the NYT bread recipe. Sounds like its a no-fail huh! That's the kind that I need.

Susan said...

Love the idea of baked potatoes in the crockpot - thanks! Also may try the black bean lasagna (we love black beans), bearing in mind your suggestions ...

brandy101 said...

Oh, I used to make this delish oatmeal casserole...let me know if the link does not work for you. You can bake it and then take the casserole along with containers of toppings (cool whip, fruit, etc.)It is a healthy brunch dish and tasty.

kat said...

Crockpot Potatos!! I’ll be trying this soon! Stop by and visit my site for a yummy chimichanga recipe!