Sunday, September 26, 2010

MPM--Indian Summer

Happy fall, everyone!
We had a string of perfect days--74 to 77 degrees, lovely sunshine, cooling breezes. Then on Wednesday, it suddenly popped back up to 88 and humid, right when the the calendar should have said fall. I'm still not quite ready to let go so I had lemonade, a bacon and tomato sandwich, and a peach for lunch. But by dinner, I was trying the Dinner: A Love Story challenge and braising chicken with bacon and brussels sprouts. If I'd only had the apple cider to do it with, it would have been an ideal welcome to fall, but even with the white wine, it felt like closing a door and opening a window, even as we closed the windows and turned on the AC for what I hope is the last time. I also officially waved the white flag and made the first batch of applesauce in the slow cooker. I used this recipe, but it turned out way too watery. Plus I realized I had no pumpkin pie spice so I faked it. Still, it tasted great, even before the brown sugar, and that was nice.

Monday: dinner with friends with a new baby. I love the two-grownups-to-six-kids ratio--should be fun! I'm making the slow cooker carnitas again; it's a good fall dish and easy to transport, which is key.

Tuesday: back to football so easy dinner night: chicken nuggets from the freezer, broccoli, maybe some potatoes if I feel up to it.

Wednesday: Finally, the pork roll ups I made a few weeks ago. Rice.

Thursday: Forever Family Day for our newest nephew--yeah! We're bringing fruit salad, probably this one, just to eke out the last bits of summer that we can.

Friday: All good things must come to an end: the Friday night soccer days are over, so we'll probably head our first football game of the year.

Not a heavy cooking week--not a bad thing. I'm still kind of hunkering down here. My son was sick, I have a few friends I'm worried over, and in between I'm trying to figure out if I can spent one more year at home, or whether it's time to go back to work. Not really the moment to be focused on meals.

Hope your week is less angsty! For more meal ideas, as ever, go see I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

MPM--Finally Fall

Happy week, all. Things are falling in to place here (pardon the pun) but it's a busy week, so an uninspired menu. I'm also feeling unsettled, as all the new elementary school experiences rolling along, there are job interviews percolating, and health issues for one of my closest friends. I'm really just trying to cut to the basics and let this be a week where dinner is not on the list of things I worry about.

Monday: Boy Scout meet-n-greet picnic. I'm not sure scouting is a fit with our family, but we won't know unless we try, right?

Tuesday: pulled pork sandwiches, smashed potatoes, carrot salad

Wednesday: leftover grilled chicken or hot dogs, CSA vegetables, quick pickles

Thursday: pizza and salad--we're going to back-to-school night (#1) so this is for the sitters and the kids too

Friday: either football game (high school) or a Dinner A'Fare meal from the freezer

The good news from last week: we hosted the end of soccer season party at our house and it went well. I kept it deliberately low key for me because getting the house in shape for an onslaught was critical. I took a page from Wednesday Spaghetti and didn't go in to a cleaning frenzy (though I of course gave the bathrooms a good swipe), but mostly I just picked up to make room for everyone in the house, put the too-easy chili in the crockpot (doubled the meat and beans, plus pack-and-a-half of spices) and it was GONE. I'm glad I put out noodles to stretch it further. But it was so fun I am recommitting to doing more entertaining. We all loved it. I was thinking about the vestiges of the "When you entertain as a grownup, you use the good china and candlesticks and all sit down to a large meal" idea that hangs out in my brain from the house I grew up in, with the little voice saying, "This isn't a grownup party!" But it is. I'm keeping the china, just in case things change, but for now--this is working for us.

What are you up to? Post your menu with I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not to Scare You But...

It's that time of year.

I am of course sitting here wishing I could forget last month's electric bill so I would be willing to turn on my AC to clear the humidity...but no go.

And I'm thinking...if I start now...maybe... MAYBE ... I'll feel somewhat ready.

Doubt it will work. But hope springs eternal.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

MPM--Relearning the Basics

Happy week, all!

The school year is off and running, and I am lunch planning around this year's constellation of allergies in my son's classroom. So: no nuts, peanuts, dairy, eggs, shiitake mushrooms, snow peas, pears, cucumbers, or ranch dressing. Noted.

And in getting ready for the school year, I found myself distracted, with some varied results...see below...meanwhile, the menu for the week:

Monday: leftover chili, noodles, CSA veggies

Tuesday: football night, again, so back to the freezer for hot dogs for the boys and a Dinner A'Fare meal for the grownups

Wednesday: defrosting the pork or the chicken from a week ago for either pork rollups or bbq chicken, with potatoes or rice on the side

Thursday: leftovers, or something else from the freezer

Friday: the final soccer blowout of the year...and due to a field change, we're hosting. Hold me. I am not a carefree entertainer. In some ways I can't wait and in others, I'm having tremendous anxiety. So I will figure out something...maybe chili again, maybe pizza (always a crowd pleaser) and definitely chips & salsa, snacky things, a birthday cake, and the hot pizza dip.

I have to remember: making a recipe once does not make me an expert. For our Best of Summer Dinner last week, I used the last of our plums with the plum crumble that we (I) loved. All went well until the topping, when I grabbed Five Spice Powder instead of cinnamon. Oops. At least cinnamon is one of the five spices, right? Then I mixed the butter in instead of drizzling. All went well. It didn't look as pretty but it did work, and the five spice powder, while I wouldn't do it again, didn't ruin it either. My husband even said it made it taste Christmasy, so I'll keep that in mind when the time comes.

I did the same thing with my so-easy chili when we had unexpected guests on Friday. I took a deep breath and a page from the hostess with the mostess and did what I could and mentally let go what I couldn't. But the chili smelled not-quite-right and I realized: I forgot almost everything that adds flavor. No extra onions or garlic. No chili mix either. But I fixed it with plenty of time to go and we had a lovely evening.

So, that's what's doing here. I hope your Septembers are hitting their strides...go visit I'm an Organizing Junkie! to see what others are making!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

MPM--Summer Must Be Over

...all my short sleeved shirts have butter stains from corn on the cob.
...despite the best efforts of SPF 50 sunscreen, my boys have farmer tans.
...that "sentinel tree" at the pool is blindingly yellow.

OK, here's the sad thing: I wrote this on August 31 of last year, but it's true (again, or still, depending). The sad thing is, my sentinel tree is gone this year. I guess the bad winter got it, which makes me melancholy, because at least I had the trickled-off post to remind me: yes, it should have turned by now. But...nothing. And another of my childhood markers is gone.

I am still having my end-of-summer blues (can you tell?), still wishing the Days Away lyrics weren't so apropos right now. (And boy, did that song need to be released in May to coincide with graduations! but I digress. Again.) I did continue to attack the list as though finishing it would prolong the season, but that didn't work at all. We did have a great time, doing all kinds of things on there, from museums to free bowling to the zoo. But all good things and all good seasons must come to an end, and with any luck, they bring a whole new kind of good season. Right? Right???

Monday: Labor Day grillathon! I was not kidding, I'm making about 20 of those yogurt-marinated chicken breasts, maybe some filets, and probably my favorite corn-zucchini-tomato pie, and a salad. I have to say that Tony's Steak is very tempting. So is this Cuban one.

Tuesday: First day of school! Tacos in honor of my first grader.

Wednesday: Grilled meat from Monday, potatoes roasted with rosemary, roasted carrots

Thursday: CSA veggies, grilled meat, and the potato pizza from Time for Dinner.

Friday: the final soccer blowout! I'm bringing Roxane's sangria, recipe below, among other things yet to be determined. And that takes us neatly in to football season, and booster dinners at the snack bar. Woohoo!

We basically followed last week's plan, except I couldn't resist the chicken in plums from Time for Dinner, because I had the plums and they needed to be used asap. Personally I would like more veggies in it but it was very good as is. Also, my sauce came out a little gloppy and not as subtly tasty as I thought it would be but it was still way better than greasy takeout. On our unplanned Saturday, since most things went well and there were few leftovers, we tried to make pizzas on the grill but yet again, can't get the dough to cooperate. I don't like most of the pre-baked. I have made my own and it doesn't seem to proof. Friends rave about Trader Joe's but as my husband said, it's like working with rubber cement. (I'm sure it tastes good, but texture-wise it was almost impossible to get it thin enough without it springing back.) The toppings for two cook pizzas are ready to go, if I find dough I can work with. When the pizza plan literally fell apart, I pulled together the corn for the dentally challenged. The corn mixture was awesome but it didn't really go with pasta very well. But what's to not like about corn, bacon, and onions? This won't go on top of noodles again here but we will make it for a side dish. I also finally made the beans and kale salad with canned beans, of course. I liked it, didn't love it, but I continue to have issues warming to kale. But it's so good for you, I just keep trying.

Not as good for you: sangria. But I love this and was thrilled to find the passionfruit juice to make it right, and just in time for apple season, too. Hat tip to my friend Roxane for sharing this among many other awesome recipes with me!

White Wine Sangria

2 c passionfruit puree (I just use passionfruit juice or tropical juice that includes passionfruit)

2 bottles dry white wine

3/4 c simple syrup

1/2 c triple sec

3/4 c brandy

3 lemons

2 oranges

3 granny smith apples

It is best to mix it up early in the day and let the fruit absorb the drink for a few hours.


How are you celebrating the end of summer, food-wise? Share your ideas at I'm an Organizing Junkie!