Sunday, October 24, 2010

MPM--Something Fallish This Way Comes

Something about the colder temperatures is so inspirational for cooking, isn't it? I had really lost my mojo there for a while and a few fall days brought it right back. I set off to use use use what we had, and made some lovely things. You must know, I have a new resolution: whenever Catherine Newman posts a pork recipe, drop everything and make it immediately. The pork roast with cider-cream gravy tasted like something from a restaurant and is super-easy to boot. That's the "best of" in a sentence from last week. But there's lots more reviews after the new menu.

This week is crazy with something almost every night, so this will be a little dull:

Monday: JV football night! Hoping the hot dog stand is open. If not--chicken nuggets for kids, DAF meal from freezer for grownups, CSA veggies for all. Though I am having a big craving for a cheesesteak, so we might scrap the freezer stuff.

Tuesday: Even crazier gymnastics-then-football-then-meeting night. Can't be any more grateful that this is the last one of these. Back to Bittman for the turkey breast with cabbage two ways, beets, salad.

Wednesday: I hate to say no to the WRH but I can't pull off a night out right now. Leftover turkey, sweet potatoes (by request!), salad.

Thursday: Miraculously, the last football practice. I have really been glad that my son had the opportunity to play, and there's not really a better time. But wow, getting evenings back will be nice. Chinese carnitas, rice, cauliflower.

Friday: Town Halloween Parade--we'll be going to hear my kids wonder why, again, their store-bought costumes don't win. Trying to use veggies and making this curry, with potatoes. And the kids will get pizza, and we might too, but the curry is happening to finish the crisper.

Last week was a really fun one, food-wise. Maybe it's the weather, or that both kids are back in school, but I'm finally getting things back in gear.

I surprised myself by having a big bowl of the nutmeg version of this 101 Cookbooks cauliflower recipe, which, with the nutmeg, was just right for fall and so nice and warm on a just-turning-cold day. (And I like cauliflower but am not in general a fan...making a small portion helped, so I didn't feel swamped under a mountain of cauliflower.) I used our CSA leeks and freezer peas and leftover sauerkraut to make my wierd soup again. I was inspired to try other soups, not that my kids eat them, but others do, and we had some people to cook for this week, so I made Alton Brown's potato leek, and Crockpot 365's spinach bisque. Yep, I even bought Velveeta for this one. (Despite my skepticism that you can call a soup with Velveeta "bisque.") It must be fall. Well, that and we're desperate to get veggies in to our younger son and so were trying this recipe, so I bought one block and split it between. The soup was ok. I served it as a dip to my husband with corn chips during the baseball game and it went well. But the broccoli bake? Total fail. My older one won't eat cheese. My younger sobbed that he was afraid that the taste of the broccoli might never, ever leave his mouth again if he allowed it to cross his lips. And yet he'll eat sand at the beach. My husband and I enjoyed the taste of our childhoods with the Velveeta and butter-soaked Ritzes. But we really try not to eat like that much, so I don't think we'll try that tactic again anytime soon.

We jazzed up spaghetti night with Trader Joe's garlic bread, which, alas, was meh. I was hoping for a home run here but really--this is better done ourselves. Sigh. I know, it's so easy I have no reason to complain. But a girl can dream of saving even one MORE step.

As for the was fun! In an "I don't even know who I am anymore" moment, I made my own pumpkin puree (thank you Pioneer Woman) and made chocolate chip pumpkin muffins with them. Next time I'm going to put some demarara sugar on top, and I did add a whole cup of chocolate chips, but otherwise I followed it exactly.

I made the Ina Garten peach-raspberry yogurt. I drained it overnight and laughed when I saw that this meant instead of four cups of yogurt, I now had two. It was pretty funny but good--and in another I-don't-know-who-I-am-anymore moment, I used the whey to make no-knead bread. (Not for brunch--not enough time, but we all love that bread.) With the whey, the bread was excellent and devoured by all in 24 hours. Alas, the yogurt wasn't nearly as good and I don't know why. Not sweet enough, for one thing, but the honey was overwhelmed and I couldn't add any more peach juice without totally overwatering it. I can't believe Ina let me down but it appears to have happened!

That's it for this week. Tune in next week for still more pumpkin muffins, that's for sure! What are you making? Go share with I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Monday, October 11, 2010

MPM--Fall Fest

Happy week everyone!

Finally, we're settling in to fall. School, football, soccer, Phillies playoff games, all in a bit of a rhythm here. I made a bit of a breakthrough last week and skipped the pork roast because we still had lots of grilled meats. I made a steak salad, and we all had a very iron-rich week.

This week:

Monday: pork roast, finally, mashed potatoes, something from the CSA box

Tuesday: baseball playoff night so football is switched. I'm working this night so boys' night in, which will mean spaghetti, whether I plan anything or not. I found some Italian sausage in the freezer so I might make my husband happy and throw that in the crockpot with some tomato sauce all day.

Wednesday: Tonight is football night so something fast. Probably leftover pork for all with roasted potatoes (less hands-on time than mashed).

Thursday: Freezer meal for football again. Nuggets for boys, not sure for grownups. We'll see how the week goes.

Friday: Fall Fest at the elementary school! Woohoo! Learning from last time: bring change. It's a fundraiser. We ordered pizza and will buy from the bake sale for dessert.

And just for of the last football games for my son is this weekend in the district where his cousins all live (that is, the ones who don't live in ours). So I'm hosting a football tailgate brunch in our car. I'm making granola, Ina Garten's peach-raspberry yogurt, crockpot breakfast casserole (vegetarian), and, if I'm feeling ambitious, sausage sandwiches (easy-peasy--get the little teeny soft Pepperidge Farm rolls, and tuck a sausage in each--and I'll make the sausage the night before and store in the thermos). That plus coffee and cocoa and we'll be ready to roll!

In my epiphany about too much food in the fridge and freezer, I really focused on not following whims (yep, pork roast, I'm looking at you), and just making what's there. We revisited lots of old favorites from the CSA I made a carrot and turnip mash, which I liked and no one else touched (OK, not fair, my husband is on board and had some). I forgot to copy the recipe except it was close to this one, though I just boiled them all together. I also roasted a bunch of CSA potatoes and did the lemony smash for some of them and left the rest as ersatz French fries. My son who eats potatoes had both. Finally, the apples were overwhelming so I found a recipe for an easy apple pie, using pie crusts from the freezer. I skipped (ok, forgot) the butter and lemon juice and it was still awesome. My kids were happy just dipping the raw apples in cinnamon and sugar, which I have filed away for less enthusiastic apple days. But I was really excited; frozen crusts or no, it was my first apple pie, and it felt like getting a mom badge.

Given all this, I'd love to say I didn't buy anything, but that's not true; I didn't need much, though, and stumbled in to some awesome sales ($1 for my favorite elbow noodles, half price cheddar = cooking for holidays time! Woohoo!) and was giving myself a pat on the back for walking out of the store with $65 of groceries for $40. I know people can do much better but I'm usually in the 10% range, so that felt great. I'm feeling like we've emptied the freezer a decent amount so I can start filling it with things for the holidays, and make the call then about whether to keep it going through the winter.

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menus on Monday, and have a great week!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

MPM--In Which Mark Bittman Saved Me Hundreds of Dollars

Happy Monday all!

Remember last week, where, inspired by Mark Bittman's appearance at our city's library, I was using my freezer to make dinner?

Good thing, as it turned out.

Whether the last person in the freezer (who could have been anyone, really) didn't close it all the way, or whether it pushed itself open from freezing over, I'll never know.

But yes, my freezer defrosted itself again.

It wasn't a total tragedy this time. I really think it was the permafrost just gently tipping it open, because it was only the stuff on the doors and the popsicles that were lost. For the most part, the meats (thank goodness) were still frozen completely solid. But it did change the meal plan last week. The shrimp--I was unwilling to take the chance. But some tilapia were still frozen, so we ate those, plus some sides, and a Trader Joe's pizza for the kids, and since many of the Dinner A'Fare meals all said "Defrost" anyway, I just cooked 'em up and ate 'em all week. So it wasn't what I thought I was doing, but it's a good exercise.

I'm ready to write the thing off. My husband wants to give it one more try. I have the feeling if we got rid of it, I'd miss it, because my kitchen one is so small. BUT it might be a worth experiment as there would be less impulse buying. Plus, there are probably ones out now that are far more energy efficient.

But this week continues the theme: Things We Can Eat from the Fridge.

And as you might guess, I never made it to Mark Bittman. BUT--thank you to the Free Library of Philadelphia--you can listen to the podcast here. (It's free, though I try to donate to them once a year in the annual giving campaign at work to keep it coming!)

Happy Columbus Day to all!

Monday: Grill leftovers (primarily steak) with CSA veggies

Tuesday: Happy birthday to my oldest! The traditional birthday tacos will be squeezed between gymnastics and football.

Wednesday:Can't resist a good pork roast recipe: must try this one. Mashed potatoes, and something else from the CSA box.

Thursday: Leftovers in a hurry before practice.

Friday: Game night!

So in the cooking frenzy that was last week, in addition to the freezer eat-down, I tried a new soup with the delicata squash that were hanging around (really, I just like an excuse to use my immersion blender). I went with this recipe because it was easy and I have everything but the cream. Now, let's be honest: Anything with that much cream should be frozen and served on a cone, but it does make the soup awesome too. This was a little bland, though, so I experimented (! shocking for me, but there was a ton of soup) with herbs. Rosemary was ok but a little overpowering. But still--on the chilly cold damp days--bliss. I also made the sauerkraut soup with the defrosted peas and the CSA leeks. I never thought I liked sauerkraut except with tons of molasses under a pork roast. But that was the fakey stuff in a bag. I'm really addicted to the "just cabbage and salt" old school versions in the glass jars. Yum.

And of course it wouldn't be a week if I didn't try a new DALS recipe, so there I was, raiding the canned goods (see, I'm keeping the theme here) to try the Six Kid Crowdpleaser of chicken in creamy tomato sauce. For some reason, both of my chicken eating kids flat out rejected this one, but I thought it was amazing and rediscovered mascarpone ... oh, yum.

Here's to a better week all around...go see I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menus!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

MPM--Welcome October

Wow, last week had it all. In addition to the wonderful adoption finalization, we had business trips, death, hospitalizations, floods, and a raft of friends with their own calamities. It was a nice September in parts but now overdue for departure, so I was glad to see the new month roll right in on time.

This week:

Monday: Mark Bittman is speaking at the Philadelphia Library. I don't think I'm going but in his honor I will Use My Freezer and make things that are already in there. I found shrimp and corn and will probably make my favorite skillet meal from that, augmented with the CSA box.

Tuesday: crazy gymnastics/football day. With great trepidation, I'm trying "homemade" pizza again, this time with a tube of dough I'm hoping is already flattish enough that I don't end up with a glob like the last several times. Regular for the kids, sauteed red onion for us since they are piling up from the CSA (which is fine).

Wednesday: a little easier. Chicken tacos, since I'll have the time to cook and I found ground chicken in the freezer.

Thursday: back to school picnic! We ordered a (fundraiser) pizza, and will augment with bring-along carrot sticks, chips, dip, and fruit leathers.

Friday: probably a football game but we'll see how the weather goes. (yeah, we're that kind of fan, now that we only have one nephew in the band, and it's his 6th year).

Here's hoping your week brings you smooth fall sailing! Go visit I'm An Organizing Junkie for more meal planning inspiration!