Sunday, March 25, 2012

MPM--Almost There

Sorry, I'm in Princess & the Frog mode over here. How was your week? I had a great one and I'm glad it's over. I finished a big work project, which I enjoyed, but it exhausted me. This week is half-days (to ease us in to spring break, I guess), so I can work from home, which will also allow me to work at home. Which needs it. My husband almost broke his toe when a dam of books broke on top of his foot; we purged a ton, consolidated Legos (they don't look like a lot, but dang, they are), cleared under my asthmatic son's bed (woohoo!), packed clothes and toys for donation and consignment, and finished getting rid of our 40 bags in 40 days early. You'd think that would make our house look better. You'd be wrong. Like a fist from a bucket--anyone sane still looks at our house and thinks, geez, they have a lot of purging to do. I can see some improvement but it is deflating to see ... not that much different after that many things are gone. Humbling.

Meanwhile, summer broke out, which was odd. Everything bloomed. My town was a riot of blossoms, and I loved it. The kids played outside for hours every day, and they loved it. It was very hard to stay focused on dinner. But I stuck with the plan, for the most part.

I had to address a comment from last week: "not eating out" during Lent does not totally encompass "not taking out." I've tried to avoid it as much as possible (and my credit card has shown it!) but there were nights when I was just not able to pull it together either. (And there was our fabulous walk-to-town dinner, but that was when I thought the spring couldn't possibly stay that nice for long. And--I didn't get anything for myself that night and went back to eat what was in the house after the kids had something. (Because really--I could cook for myself and my husband with no problem. But the kids! They eat nothing easy.) I am looking forward to a week of detox soup and baked potatoes for lunch. I also want to try this chick pea salad. For me. As for the kids? I'll figure out something.

And I might be the only person on the east coast grateful that the weather is returning to seasonal temperatures. But I'm not ready for summer cooking yet, so a few more cool-weather meals will suit me fine...

This week:

Monday: slow cooker curry chicken, rice, creamed spinach

Tuesday: Empanadas. Hah! I kid. Tacos, of course.

Wednesday: ravioli for 3/4 of us, leftover tacos for another

Thursday: leftover chicken curry, some veggie that looks good

Friday: Frozen falafel for grownups, frozen flatbread for boys.

Last but not least, and a total departure from meal planning, but I have to tell you: one of the best moments of our week came with inspiration from these posts at 71 Toes. As I commented on one--we were having a tough night at home, and I called over my older son to talk to him. I had a pen in my hand and remembered that darling picture from the first link and started putting letters on his fingers, talking to him about what he was good at. We hadn't even gotten to finger #3 before his younger brother was over with us, asking if he could have letters on his fingers for things he was good at, too. It really turned a cranky night around and ended with the older one throwing his arms around my neck for a huge hug that I drank in like a nomad in the desert. They both just spent the night smiling at those fingers and in a much better place. I highly, highly recommend this technique. Even if it never works for us again--that night, it was like magic, and I'm totally grateful for the amazing idea.

Wishing you a wonderful week full of whatever makes you feel wonderful! Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for more great meal ideas.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

MPM--Back into a Groove

...boy, you've got to prove your love to meeeee....yeah. Like that. Happy new week, everyone. Last week, you may recall, I had lost my mojo completely. It was really sad. But--I recovered, hence this week's title. I couldn't bring myself to take the kids out for pizza on a Monday, so I used the rest of the lemons and rosemary and reprised the yummy chicken, this time with all boneless, skinless breasts, and it was a huge hit. We saved the pizza for another night, when my husband was out and it was a glorious, perfect, 72 degrees. We walked to town and one boy got pizza, the other, samosas, and because we had the dog with us, each boy had to go in and order and pay by himself. They were thrilled and felt very grown up. It was a great way to spend the evening--easy, fun exercise, nice treat, happy memories. Wishing all of you all these things. So, this week:

Monday: Happy St. Joseph's Day! Wear red, eat zeppole, and something else Italian. Lucky me, I'm in the city on Monday so I'll pick up something at Superior Pasta--probably eggplant parm but maybe some crab sauce for fun.

Tuesday: God bless Taco Tuesday, the anchor of my week.

Wednesday: A tough day with fencing after school. Probably leftovers (tacos and chicken nuggets from the weekend), kale chips (the new favorite around here; I use the Smitten Kitchen guidelines), and ... something.

Thursday: I didn't make the butter chicken last week so this week, I think it makes it to the rotation.

Friday: Man, I want to say pizza, but we'll see how it goes. I'm trying to avoid going out to dinner on Lenten Fridays but I miss it like crazy.

Not everything last week was as successful as the Tuesday pizza stroll. I tried the crock pot roasted potatoes and cabbage. I thought it had potential, as the thing that saved the traditional dish for me as a child was copious amounts of vinegar. Alas--it's still potatoes and cabbage. My husband, who is so patient with my clumsy kitchen efforts, could hardly suppress a gag. I couldn't even freeze it with the potatoes so out in the trash it went. Good thing cabbage was on sale for 7 cents/pound, and potatoes for $2/bag. For $1.50, I can experiment.

On the other hand, I was feeing as sour as the milk as I sent in the Irish soda bread with the boys on Friday. Neither one of them liked it or wanted to take it. But both came home and said in astonishment that everyone who tried it loved it, and neither one came home with leftovers. That made me smile and keeps the tradition alive. Also? I made the second batch with King Arthur unbleached white whole wheat flour and the difference was amazing--my husband called it "transformative." (Don't you just love him? It made up for the cabbage incident.)

Meanwhile, spring is in full bloom here already and I am ready to enjoy it. We did some yard work last week and this week is some more major planning. The yard is a total disaster and it's time for it not to be. And in the front, the only place with full sun, we planted seeds. Here's hoping something grows; we have basil, two kinds of peas, and two kinds of cucumbers ready to grow, I hope. I'm such a rube, I had no idea how many seeds there would be so I am casting about for other places to grow them too.  And I don't even know if these will be ground cover or need trellises. I need help.

Wishing you a beautiful spring, whether it's already sprung where you are or not! Meanwhile, go check I'm an Organizing Junkie! and see what others have planned for this great and glorious week. (Sorry, still have some St. Patrick's Day banter left in me.) See you Monday!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

MPM--Getting Irish Over Here

Well, faith and begorrah, it's that time of year again. Spring is sprung, we're in high gear already. I am crazy busy at work (for a part time job) and figuring out how to squeeze it all in without everyone feeling rushed. On my mind: my son's first communion in two months. The yard needs triage. But first: It's Irish soda bread week! Check here for our family recipe. It's easy, dense, and good. And we went to the Flower Show this week and picked up zeppole (traditional St. Joseph's Day pastries) and even though we're still 10 days out from St. Joseph's Day, they are nothing I'd ever make and I was happy to celebrate early. Traditional March foods for the win!

This week:

I am out of mojo. Wish me luck.

Monday: Pizza. Yup. I am THAT out of mojo.

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, without enthusiasm. My husband is going out and that leaves really one taco eater. Sigh.

Wednesday: butter chicken, rice, something green

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: I'll be making the potato and cabbage dish I loved from Heidi Swanson. Boys will have...something. On Saturday, I am trying this corned beef in the slow cooker because I like it, in general, but not when it's all boiled and slimy. I'm hoping this will be a good reinvention of the classic Irish dish.

Last week: the only new thing I had time for was the roasted lemon-rosemary chicken. It was outstanding and I recommend it highly. I bought two boneless skinless breasts and two legs, and it was perfect for us. I served it with rice and brussels sprouts and leftover Trader Joe's minted peas and it made me feel like a competent mother. Everyone ate the chicken, which was good. I was annoyed because it takes an hour to marinate and I have gotten so out of sorts about cooking, I was irritated that I had to Do Stuff to make the marinade. But honestly--it involved squeezing three lemons, ripping a bunch of rosemary leaves off the stem (and I'm not totally sure that was even necessary) and pouring it in a bowl with some oil. What's my issue? I'm not sure either.

We also had a bit of an interesting lesson; I took my older son, who loathes shopping, with me to Trader Joe's. He tried the samples, which were pot roast and minted peas. He loved them both and asked me to get them for dinner. I was out of ideas (and the freezer is pretty clear) so I did it. And at home? Not as good. He ate it but regretfully told us the sample was better. This happens to me All The Time at Trader Joe's and while I was sorry to have passed it on to my son, I was at least comforted that I am not alone in this.

For checking out less demoralized menus, try I'm an Organizing Junkie! And maybe next week I'll be back in the groove.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

MPM--Merry Merry March

So here we are, wind and daffodils, it must be March! I'm continuing the clean-out-the-freezer-and-pantry theme so it's a funny week:

Monday: the lemon and rosemary chicken, postponed from last week, creamed spinach, rice, salad

Tuesday: chicken tacos

Wednesday: chicken nuggets or Trader Joe's buffalo chicken meatballs for the kids, leftover chicken something for the adults, rice,

Thursday: pesto quinoa for the kids, catering by Trader Joe's for the parents (probably a flatbread and mac and cheese, and a green vegetable of some sort)

Friday: The reviews online are terrible, but a friend suggested this recipe for shrimp with lemon-saffron rice. I have a lot of these ingredients already, just begging to be used, so despite some sketchy comments, we're going to give it a shot.

Last week:

We mixed things up on Taco Tuesday again a little bit; there were still the usual for the boys, but I made the Dinner: A Love Story black bean and goat cheese quesadillas for the grownups. In a bit of a shocker, the not-picky boy ate one too. (Beans are not usually his friend, and he claims to loathe cheese, though he cheerfully orders pizza at any opportunity.) They weren't as good as the Smitten Kitchen ones but on a night when I didn't have time to fuss with slaw and other yummy things, and I had a log of goat cheese hanging around, they were terrific. (Alas, I still have a cold so take this with a grain of salt...)

And not much else to report. I have really had a lulu of a cold so between that, the concussion recovery program, and trying to cut way back on grocery shopping (the spending just crept up and up on me--a soup here, a sushi there...), I am just trying to keep things as easy as possible for the next few weeks, especially Wednesdays on.

What are you making this week? Check in at I'm an Organizing Junkie! to be inspired and to share. Have a great week!