Sunday, January 30, 2011


We had a very successful week here foodwise last week. In my personal life, can February please be better? Menu below, and lots of happy dinner results from last week beyond that.

Monday: Pork Ragu over noodles, salad (will probably do pears and walnuts with shallot dressing from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything...feeling fancy)

Tuesday: Sloppy Joes from a recipe in the coupon circular. I am on a real "use what's in the fridge and pantry" tear and this is helping a lot.

Wednesday: Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Thursday: Plum Chicken, rice, broccoli

Friday: Leftovers. Or maybe out. We'll see how I'm doing by then.

I've been really lucky lately with the new recipes. The sausage bake was insanely quick, easy, and delicious on the coldest night in two years. It honestly took ten minutes to prep, if that, and the times were loose and the ingredients easy. My husband loved it. My kids wouldn't touch it, which surprised me, because hello, pig. But we enjoyed it enough to finish almost all of it.

Tuesday's recipe was awesome as well--Smitten Kitchen's mushroom bourguignon. Fortunately, though, I started making it on Monday. Creminis were on sale around here and I thought they would be great, but oh, the slicing--much easier on portobellos. In my mind, I thought I could leave the creminis whole. But--no. If I make it again, it'll be portobellos all the way. Once all the slicing was done, it wasn't hard, though the kids would need to be watching TV or something while doing it--there's some scooping and switching and adding and things that are hard to do while also coaching spelling words, say. But it really fit something I've been looking for--a meaty winter meal that doesn't really involve meat. There are nights that meat just grosses me out. And now that I'm buying only the guilt-free (free range, humanely slaughtered, oxymoronic though that may be, etc. etc.) meat, it's pricey. (Not that creminis aren't.) So this was a great find...and while I honestly think it would be a little better with meat, it was yummy anyway.

It was "bring an appetizer recipe" night at my moms' group so I brought an old favorite (hot pizza dip) and took the opportunity to try a new one--Minty Peas. The minty peas were ok but somehow not right for a winter's night. I will try again in summer. The pizza dip, of course, was almost all gone by the end of the night.

Then it snowed again--another top-ten-ever--yawn--this is getting dull as four of the top ten ever in our city have been in the past five years. But we had my usual "it is snowing--I must cook meat" thing here and a great recipe--Belgian Beef Stew from Dinner: A Love Story. It was delicious, easy, and fast. This will go in the winter rotation for sure.

I did not get to the pesto minestrone. I had made the Armagnac chicken again for another family and my son begged me to make it for us. Such requests are rare, so I hopped on it. Still delicious, though now that I am out of the Trader Vic's Flaming Brandy (circa 1963), I am not sure how it will taste next time!

Have a good week, wherever you are. And check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more yummy ideas!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

MPM--Monster Post on Some Things that Worked

Greetings, all. The menu is on top but a TON of links and reviews are below. You can tell it's winter--everything has potatoes and there's a lot of meat (or meaty things) involved! I'm also continuing to use things up...the beans from the can-can sale, the mysterious drawer full of carrots...

Monday: Baked Sausage with Apples, Potatoes, and Onions

Tuesday: Mushroom Bourguignon over egg noodles

Wednesday: If the kids are better: Wednesday Spaghetti! But since I like the people at WedSpag, I will spare them our germs if the kids are still not totally better. Backup plan: Pesto Minestrone or avgolemono from the Time for Dinner cookbook

Thursday: Belgian Beef Stew over mashed potatoes

Friday: Leftovers

First, last week. We went pretty much according to plan, and after so many sick weeks, it was a joy to see my older son snarfing down two huge tacos. He still wasn't 100% but at least his appetite came back!

I'm in a seemingly eternal search for how to recreate my favorite sweet potato burrito from a food truck with a maddeningly inconsistent schedule near where I used to work. I knew their pico had a lot to do with it, and so thought maybe I'd try using my favorite one from the little gourmet shop near us. It worked! And the very kind friend who made us dinner (more on that in a minute) told me about the Moosewood sweet potato burrito recipe. I followed the recipe (because it was the first time, and I'm just like that) and it was excellent, but I'm even more excited because I think I have the answer to how to fake my favorite takeout burrito now. The Moosewood recipe is here, and I do recommend it. I didn't read carefully enough and did not dice my onions small enough (I thought they'd be going in the food processor), so be warned about that but otherwise--easy and so good. (And again, I didn't bake them off--I just made them in to a burrito with sour cream or yogurt or something, pico with avocado, and the filling. Heaven.)

Meanwhile, this kind friend I mentioned made us dinner on Monday night because--surprise!--my husband's ankle *is* broken after all. Hello, stylin' new boot. And the very next day, just to keep the giggles coming, we had an ice storm. Fan-freakin'-tastic. And this awesome friend called and offered me one of two dinners for the week. Since I already had sweet potatoes at home, I tried the other one, and it was terrific too. I really need to just go tag along in her incredibly healthy and homey kitchen for a month and apprentice myself. The dinner was noodles in a peanut sauce with some tofu mixed in, with snap peas on the side. To be honest, I wasn't thrilled when she mentioned it but I thought, beats coming up with your own dinner, and it was actually great. Both grownups really enjoyed it (and she says her kids like it too...mine were too suspicious...did I mention the little one cries when I mention kindergarten "because they serve grapes at kindergarten parties and I don't like grapes?" true story). Anyway. It also reminded my older one that he likes snow peas, so that was a bonus as well. And as if that weren't kindness enough, when the snow came after the ice storm, we woke up to a cleared sidewalk and driveway, with our paper right outside our door...funny thing was, I thought my husband did it...he thought I did it...Turns out his soccer buddies, the ones who he was playing with when his ankle was broken, had organized a shoveling crew and come over to dig us out before work. It has been such a hard month for us, this still makes me smile every time I think of it. They are threatening to do this every snowstorm until the ankle is clear. I just stocked up on hot-drink cups and cocoa. We're not missing them again if they do come, that's for sure.

Back to meals: I skipped the slow cooker recipe when I found this recipe for (faux?) butter chicken. As the curry keeps not happening, I thought I could do *something* Indian, so we gave it a try (plus I had all the required spices and was on a quest to finish my cumin, since the lid was broken). And this was a clear home run for me. The chicken was great but it also was very similar to my favorite sauce for malai kofta (veggie "meatballs") from my favorite Indian place so I am already plotting how to use it for that next time. Now really: how could it not be good with that much half-and-half? But still: an excellent base to experiment.

Finally, I realized I didn't ever post some of the things we made while the computer was down. There's more than this, I think, but these were sort of the attention-grabbers during the busiest baking season of the year.

While the wheels fell off some things (I didn't bake any Christmas cookies other than the magic five layer bars), others went well. My niece and her husband came to visit and cook, and we tried some new recipes and taught each other some old standards.

My personal favorite new recipe was the Smitten Kitchen Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce. I also loved her Mushroom Lasagna and her Creamed Mushrooms on Toast, so it wasn't surprising that these were great too. We tried them at home, then I took another batch to Christmas--they were worthy.

We also did the Food52 overnight steel-cut oatmeal, which was a big hit with all but my picky younger son (odd, since it's beige!). We even trotted out the almond butter and I really liked it, but most of the others just stuck with their usual add-ins. (And have I mentioned how fun it is to have a foodie niece half my age who found the same blogs on her own? Love it. Love it. Love it.)

I also made yogurt again, which was a big hit, and went very well with the Trader Joe's granola...yum.

There was an interesting discovery while making the Barefoot Contessa Coconut Cupcakes from the box: First, they were excellent, even though they were a little past the date. They are definitely worth making again. Second, it said the recipe would make 10 cupcakes but in my pans, which were my mother's, they would definitely have made 12. This was a good lesson: first, no wonder cupcake recipes and muffin recipes don't always come out well for me, and second, what an up-close example of how food in America is just getting bigger.

A less successful experiment was rosemary-olive bread in the bread machine. It worked, but it was heavy, so I need to figure out more here. And the olives practically disappeared, which was not a desired outcome. I have a lot to learn here.

Finally, how easy is this: Rosemary Bacon Chicken. I mean, it's a no-brainer, right? Right. Super easy, felt healthier than the rollups I usually make with the same ingredients *and* cream cheese, and bacon is one of the only foods all four of us eat. So that was a win. Even the rosemary didn't scare off the younger eaters. This will enter the rotation.

So. There's more than you ever wanted to know about my family's eating habits these last few weeks. What are you up to? Post your recipes at I'm an Organizing Junkie, or look there for more ideas!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

MPM--Winter Break, Take 2

This post gets chatty again, so first, for the wanderers-by, the recipes for this week, with updates after Friday:

Monday: Fancy tuna casserole, inspired by the Bitten Word, leftovers for everyone else

Tuesday: back to Taco Tuesday. We skipped it last week because my taco eater was really, really sick (see below) but we're back to it. I'm having mine with sweet potatoes rather than meat, just because I miss the sweet potato burrito guy where I used to work.

Wednesday: I've never tried a Rachael Ray crockpot recipe, but this seems like a good place to start: honey-lemon chicken. And I've learned my thighs lesson (see below) and will us breasts instead.

Thursday: spaghetti night, with leftover taco for the one who no longer eats spaghetti.

Friday: bingo night at the elementary school. But since no one eats pizza anymore, I'll be packing something.

Happy MLK Day to all! We will be serving by keeping up with resolutions of sharing. We are delivering toys to the family court waiting room, books to a Head Start library my moms' group created a few years ago, food for the hungry, and then my son will be doing projects at his school.

We'll see how it goes, though. He was so sick last week--first, a late-diagnosed ear infection, then a fever after the amoxycillin was started, then spots all over his body--he looked like a leopard. Now we know: he is "reactive" (NOT allergic) to -cillins, which I find sad, as I truly consider them one of the wonders of the last century. But the -mycin seems to be doing its job and he's on the road to recovery. But he was home four of five days last week, missing the late start for snow, the class party, and a few other fun things. But a four day week certainly won't hurt him this week

Given the snow and the sickness, we were pretty homebound, so we tried a bunch of new things last week. There was yet another "plowable" snow, which this time meant 8 inches, but it really was a perfect storm. It started after rush hour, ended before the morning rush, left the world looking lovely and yet only a 2 hour delay of school. Perfect. It did, as usual, inspire me to a meat-fest. I tried a bunch of recipes, from the Real Simple chicken over white beans to the others below. Happily, there were lots of successes.

The Real Simple chicken wasn't a total hit--I just can't make myself love chicken thighs, alas, but I enjoyed the beans and we did rediscover the yumminess of the cooked grape tomato, and I was inspired by its relative ease. But the big winner of the week, by a mile, was the Dorie Greenspan Armagnac chicken. I read about it at the Tipsy Baker website and (as I commented there) was happy she'd included a picture of her white chicken, because mine ended up that way too. Normally I'd shrug and think, hmm, good thing I don't like the skin. But when the instructions actually pause to say "Admire the perfect brown color of your chicken," I start to get verrry anxious. But, I thought, if the Tipsy Baker's came out white and still delicious, maybe mine can too. And wow, did it ever. I honestly don't remember the last meal the entire family ate, but this was one of them. Of course Little Picky was not about to try any of the vegetables, but he tucked away the chicken without once asking for dipping sauce, which is an unusual day here. I also loved that it used the CSA potatoes and carrots that were hanging around here, and even with the disadvantage of making it with a truly ancient bottle of Trader Vic's Flaming Brandy, it was unbelievably good. And there were some leftovers, but my favorite was taking the sauce and the veggies from the bottom and spooning them over some quinoa for a very comforting leftovers dinner. Yum.

There was a call at the Dinner: A Love Story facebook page for favorite DALS recipes, which was fun to peruse. After the first dozen or so DALS favorites were ringing in with this pork showing up frequently, and since I had half a head of cabbage still, again, as ever, in the fridge...and, just as excitingly, leftover red wine and pomegranate juice in the fridge...and voila, another incredible-smelling dinner. (I took the 'braise at 350' option). Like my slow-cooker pork, it shredded rather than sliced, but otherwise, it was quite good. I enjoyed the cabbage better cold the next day, and my kids were grossed out by the cabbage overall. But it was a winner. It's not displacing my slow cooker recipe, but it was still good, and enjoyed by all, and went a long way to clearing my fridge too, which always scores bonus points.

Semi-successful: shaved Brussels sprouts salad. Big success: using the food processor blade to shave. A whole new opportunity just arose in my kitchen. I was skeptical about the raw Brussels sprouts, and that may have gotten in my way; I didn't like at first but after an hour or so, it bloomed. I'm also a dressing girl and I thought it needed more dressing--like double the amount--to jazz it up. But that may have been a function of small lemons. It's hard to tell.

Final semi-successful: these apple-quinoa muffins. I overbaked them a little (and of course I'm still using my apparently-antique muffin tins, whose smaller size makes some recipes hard to gauge), which didn't help, and the quinoa flour retains a slight hint of the bitterness. But I loved how the turbinado sugar held its shape so gave little bursts of sweetness in the otherwise somewhat dry muffins. Butter really helped these, too.

This week was also week 1 of take down/organize Christmas decor and I'm pretty well in the middle of that. I consolidated the wrapping accoutrements, which is huge for me, and got lots of things put away for the church baskets next year. And then my husband wrenched his ankle so I took down anything that I could reach, and the rest, which isn't too much, happily, will wait for something closer to recovery from that. Baby steps.

For more inspiration on meal planning or organizing, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie. Have a good week!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

MPM--Let It Snow, Round 3

Hello! It's not quite as crazy here as it is in some places, with school canceled before the first flakes fall. But suddenly, all the weather people can talk about is "plowable" snow. Where that term came from, I have no idea, but it's quite the word du jour.

So, I'm stocked up on milk (for hot chocolate), pet-safe ice melt, the sleds are ready, and the new-to-us Lego kit is ready to go. And while I'll be shopping the freezer this week, I also have some hunker-down food ready to go.

Monday: leftovers (chili, noodles, soup, etc.)

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday (of course)

Wednesday: roast chicken (hat tip to the Tipsy Baker), salad

Thursday: leftovers/freezer meal

Friday: probably pork roast, but we'll see when we get there. I was supposed to go out that night but the event was postponed, so I'm having trouble getting over it and planning around it. I'm also still in mourning over the pizza. I need to move on.

Last week, I got in to a few new recipes. I tried this rustic cabbage soup from 101 Cookbooks. No one else in the family was interested but I really enjoyed it. It felt substantial enough for a winter meal but light enough that it didn't weigh me down. This week, I'm also trying some apple quinoa muffins (which seems like a good thing for a snowy week) and our traditional cakes for the kids who taught my son this term, which now I need to rush in before the snow. So that should be busy but fun.

And I did well on my resolutions...I froze some of the soup for Aid for Friends, I have cut down on the amount we're throwing away as opposed to recycling, and I had one of my best ever coupon/sale shops...I gave my coupons and cards at the end and watched a $185 bill go to $99. That felt good! I also used lots of what I had in the house to make a riff on Bossy's shake...usually not following a recipe exactly gives me hives but the green food (which I know, is the whole point) was mucho dinero, and I only had chocolate almond milk, but I had most of the rest of the items in my freezer and cabinets. And it was pretty good in the end. It probably wasn't the nutrition bomb it could have been but still, I was happy with it.

Finally, I'm also doing the 52 Weeks of Organizing with OrgJunkie too...week 1 for me was the computer desks, which went pretty is totally clear, the other is mostly also pointed up some other spaces that need clearing so I can completely clear the desktop. The next two weeks are to take down Christmas and get it organized. We made a good start already; all the bedrooms are cleared, the outdoor tree is down (but not the front lights; the ground is still frozen so it may be a while...) and most important, I'm trying to put it away in a way that makes it easier to get out next year. Check back in November to see how it went.

So. What are you making this week? Inspire me, please! And check out OrgJunkie for the best lists around.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

MPM--Really This Time

Well, I got off track with my anti-Apple screed last time. So here's this week:

Monday: chicken breasts (with Jane's Crazy Salt, nice and easy), roasted potatoes, cannelini beans with grape tomatoes

Tuesday: we'll try taco Tuesday again. I tried that in November, and even my taco-loving son got tired of them. Oy.

Wednesday: veggie curry over rice

Thursday: Leftover buffet

Friday: Not sure. It should be pizza night, but now my big pizza fan has decided he doesn't like pizza. (Insert .gif of me hitting my head on the wall here.)

Nothing thrilling, but it does keep me on track here. Wishing you a new year full of whatever you are hoping for!