Sunday, April 29, 2012

MPM--And Down the Stretch We Come

Won't you be glad when the First Communion is over? I sure will. Both for the end of the prep and planning, and for the excitement of this next stage for my son. I was so excited walking up to Communion with him today--the last time he won't be allowed to receive. But--this week is all about the prep.

Monday: grilled chicken, kale chips, sweet potatoes with miso

Tuesday: Lego Build. Can't quite believe I'm going to make it happen, but (deep breath) I am.

Wednesday: Communion rehearsal. Taco Wednesday, because it can happen fast (and we're having tacos on Saturday, so this gives some distance)

Thursday: Communion rehearsal. Leftovers from Monday.

Friday: Communion Eve. Hoping we eat out to preserve the housecleaning that will happen that day.

See, here I thought I'd be gallivanting all over the place last week--conference, Phillies game, out with friends, Wednesday Spaghetti...and, well, God laughed and my son got strep. So I was still out a lot but someone ate at home every night this week. So the plan worked well: I did a pork roast on Sunday for Monday dinner and it filled in all the blank spots all week. So did the turkey breast. I was a bigger fan of the cabbage under the turkey; I'll have to brine the breast next time and then roast it over the cabbage. I'll bet that would work.

So of course I couldn't resist Catherine Newman's chocolate cake with no eggs, no milk, and a bunch of stuff "you probably have in your cabinets anyway" (I did). I had Wednesday Spaghetti that night, so it seemed like a perfect night to break out the 9x13 pyrex and have a go. And...I don't think I'll make it again. It was ok, but by far and away the most rewarding part of this cake was letting my kids lick the bowl.

I also made the orzo pilaf (from my sidebar) again last week; that was good, though I was the only one who thought so. And I also revisited simple cauliflower from 101 Cookbooks for the rest of the head leftover from the striding ahead roast the week before.

Speaking of striding ahead, in the interest of clearing out the fridge and clearing off the counter, I roasted a pile of sweet potatoes, four lonesome beets, and a butternut squash on Sunday. I went with the untouched-squash-on-the-rack technique, which was awesome (but we'll see how it tastes) and am hoping to use them all week for veggies.

Wishing you a good week. I'm too distracted to document. Go see I'm an Organizing Junkie! for less befuddled recipes!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

MPM--Almost There

So, here we are, sliding from April to May and here's where things start to just take on a life of their own. I got a little experimenting in but nothing terribly different, as it turned out...stay tuned. For this week, things are all about multitasking. Sunday, I was driving around, nailing down details for the first communion. We have a great coupon for a hoagie party platter, but I'd never tried the hoagies. Result? Awesomely easy "test" dinner, and what says "I live in eastern PA" more than having hoagies while watching the Phils lose? (And with the Flyers win--well, it was like 1974 all over again.) So, the bifurcated menu carries the day: nothing says "First Holy Communion" like hoagies and a taco bar. (We're trying Qdoba's--who are not paying me for this but gosh that would be awesome if they did!--since locally at least they are running some great specials for the days around and including Cinco de Mayo, which is when the communion happens to be. Score!) And I take it back: the only thing that screams "party for an 8 year old boy" more than hoagies and tacos? He wanted it to have "kind of a pirate theme." Um....NO. The theme is "Happy First Holy Communion," and I don't think Jack Sparrow is invited. Nice try, though.

Monday: turkey breast (roasted over cabbage, from Bittman's How to Cook Everything. In his book, he has two different cabbage preparations but I'm skipping the one with the ginger, etc. and just roasting the turkey on a bed of chopped cabbage. Stuffing is better but cruciferous veggies FTW). Roasted cauliflower (see Tamar Adler, below).

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday. Let's see if I remember this week that I actually have it in the freezer ready to heat and eat. Because last week? Not so much (see Tamar Adler, below).

Wednesday: Oh, mercy, I was going to get Involved in something and realized it's a Wednesday Spaghetti. I could weep with joy.

Thursday: Not sure. My best friend from college is visiting (YAY YAY YAY!) and I would love to just hang with her here, but it is also Dining Out for Life, and I like to support that when I can (it was so edgy when it started and places in the provincial area where I live were iffy about joining in, so I like to throw support to those who do it). But--since it doesn't look like I'm eating at home any other night this week except Tuesday--it might be a bit over the top.

Friday: Phillies game! It was a fundraiser for one of the local elementary schools--so support a school AND see the Phils? No brainer in our world.

We'll see what next weekend brings. Baseball, soccer, fundraiser yard sale...the usual, plus the sheer panic of getting the house ready for the communion party. I don't know why I'm in such a dither about it. I'm really excited for it, it's such a big deal for my little guy, but with the exception of my aunt and uncle from CA, everyone else who is coming sees our house often and knows how we live, so I don't know why I'm feeling the pressure to go all Martha Stewart for a day.

As to last week, when I wasn't scurrying around the house getting rid of more stuff, I was playing with a few different things. I was really affected by Tamar Adler's illustrations of "How to Stride Ahead" (linked to last week). She's a fan of boiling veggies and I think I am too, but I'm not that good at it yet. How dumb is that, right? But it's either still too crispy or way too soggy so I haven't figured out the timing yet. So I am back to the roasting, which I like very much. I had to laugh, though; she described roasting cauliflower by cutting it in half, putting the cut side down, and then slicing it "like bread." This sounded awesome--little cauliflower flats, just ready to go!--but honestly--the florets do not stay in nice flat slices like bread. And I knew that. But it just sounded so good in the book. But I gamely tossed it with olive oil and spread it on the cookie sheet and it roasted up nicely just the same.

Meanwhile, I have to get used to the idea of "striding ahead" instead of "flying by the seat of my pants." I knew last week would be busy so I shopped once. I got chicken and made both the lemon and the garam masala marinades. We ate outside, the boys both "MMMMMMM!"ed like it was chocolate instead of chicken, and it was bliss. But since I was only shopping once, I got the taco meat and made the meat on Sunday and threw it in the freezer for Thursday. And of course Thursday came and I was deeply annoyed at myself for having to go to the store and (yup) buy taco meat. The point at which I remembered I already had taco meat waiting was the moment I was draining the second batch. So I let the freezer batch ride, and here's hoping I remember this week.

In another Thursday purchase, when I saw this Dinner: A Love Story miso-soy salmon glaze, I had to try it. Maybe it was the word "slather" that tripped me up. Or maybe it was the uber-delicate fancy-lake salmon at my store needs a lighter hand. Either way--I was hoping for a great miso sauce and got a bit of a gloppy one. Not terrible, but not the hit that DALS usually is for me. That's ok. I'll be back. (And, funny enough, when I was looking for something else later this week, I saw that I had made a very, very similar glaze from the Time to Eat cookbook and enjoyed it without the sugar. Maybe that's the ticket. It uses up the mirin, which I'm enthusiastically in favor of doing.)

Finally, we also made lots of cookies on Sunday, partly as thank yous for friends, and partly because, yum, cookies. I finally got to the cranberry blondies that I love (and that once again took 45 minutes to bake) and then classic chocolate chips. We made chipwiches and had a fun time baking together.

Wishing you a happy fun week. See I'm an Organizing Junkie! for less shameless eating-out-as-fundraising menus!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

MPM--Allergies Ahoy

The spring! Everything looks so pretty! Except, of course, for us, with our runny noses and red eyes sagging underneath. But it's ok; we just keep enjoying looking at the outside, and scrambling to prepare in here.

Sunday was beautiful weather and the boys (hallelujah) were at a birthday party, so it was time to break out the grill. And there was much rejoicing.

Monday: chicken grilled on Sunday, rice, edamame and tomato salad

Tuesday: wahoo! Iron Hill fundraiser for my moms' group. Anyone local who feels like eating out and having it give to a good cause--by all means, let me know.

Wednesday: Whatever We Have. I know there will be Iron Hill leftovers and probably grilled leftovers too.

Thursday: The only thing better than Taco Tuesday is a week when I can do Taco Tuesday on another day.

Friday: Friends are coming in from out of town. Not sure what the schedule is. I might make hot chicken salad for them (recipe on sidebar); we might go out (twice in a week! such joy!).

It was a good week last week, with my 10 days of An Everlasting Meal flying by (new book at the library + multiple requests after mine = necessarily quick reads). It was a funny read--sort of cookbooky, sort of essayish, funny and opinionated and interesting, but hard to absorb in some ways. But, I did enjoy the inspiration of How to Stride Ahead and used one of the chilly days to fire up the oven and try to roast everything "her" way.

I still had a butternut squash from the CSA (oof--and a kabocha, but I didn't want to do that the same way), some beets, and lots of sweet potatoes from when I just ran out of mojo on sweet potatoes. (They were a batch that was turning black upon peeling, but had too funny a shape (I thought) for roasting--small and curvy. But they did me no good on the counter, and have I mentioned the First Communion and a ton of houseguests are coming up? So in the oven they went. Tamar Adler suggests just roasting the squashes whole, popping them in the oven with no real prep at all, and letting them cool overnight, at which point she promises they will peel as easily as a banana. I haven't tried it yet, but will let you know how that goes.

The nice thing? It really was easy and by doing it all at once, it was easier to see where the rest of our meals for the week were coming from. Apparently she's on to something.

Go check out I'm an Organizing Junkie! for more meal planning ideas and have a great week!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

MPM--Spring Swing

So, here we are, T-minus-less-than-a-month to the First Communion. Over break, we got the outfit done (yay!) and the retreat done. Plus, my whirl through the house continues. I committed to the "40 bags in 40 days" thing again and was chagrined to be done with more than two weeks to go until Easter and NO discernable difference in my house. Part of my cleanout was in the kitchen; man, I have a lot of garam masala. Hopefully we get the grill going again soon so we can use it on the chicken, yum. But this is a big spinny-eye month for me with a lot going on. Here's hoping the joy of Easter (and the caffeine from the soda and chocolate I gave up and am welcoming back with happy taste buds) will carry me through to May!

Monday: last day of break for the boys! Plum jelly chicken, rice, broccoli

Tuesday: oh, how I love you, Taco Tuesday

Wednesday: Mom-Boys Night. And fencing. Lent is over, I'm crying "uncle" and taking them out.

Thursday: Lemony potato smash, leftover chicken, a green vegetable that strikes my fancy. (Quite possibly the edamame-tomato salad with buttermilk dressing on my sidebar since I have all those things.)

Friday: It's not Lent anymore but I still enjoy the vegetarian Fridays. I'm scrambling a little bit here because the go-to meal I loved for the boys (or me!) was the mushroom-truffle pizza from Trader Joe's but the last two times my younger son had it for Friday dinner, he threw up Saturday morning. It might be coincidence, but I'm not eager to take the chance.

Last week, while we were all home, I was on a bit of a cooking/not cooking binge. Not cooking because hello, vacation, and cooking because with the pressure of all those dinners off, I actually got to think about doing some fun stuff in the kitchen.

As you may have noticed, I'm a bit of a sucker for a homemade salad dressing, so I had to try the Perfect Vinaigrette from Catherine Newman. She wasn't kidding; it is perfect. Easy, came together in a snap (and would have been quicker still if I hadn't jettisoned my garlic crusher in a drawer purge), and she was right-it tasted like I always hope store-bought will taste but it doesn't because of the preservatives and stuff. This will go in our rotation. I had some marjoram in my house already from I-don't-even-know-what-project, and I can already tell you: it will be totally used by this dressing over the summer. Yay.

I also used some of my leftover cabbage (uncooked!) for the white bean, potato, and cabbage dish I never got to last week. Still a winner, at least for me, and as long as I "overcook" the cabbage. (And bonus: I used some of the beans I made in the slow cooker and froze. Yay me.) And I rescued some avocados from oblivion with detox soup. It wasn't my best batch ever but it was good, and a good use of just-around-the-bend avocados. And man, I forgot how much I enjoy cleaning up after cooking vegetarian meals--I'm not freaking out that I have sewn the seeds of my family's demise by spreading invisible toxins around my kitchen. (Yes, I should probably get some therapy.)

Also, because like every dutiful internet-trolling foodie, I was hypnotized by these videos, I got An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler from my library. I might have to cave and buy it, in an e- or print version, not sure which, because it holds out that holy grail for me: becoming an intuitive cook. She makes it seem easy (and either doesn't have small children to feed, or hers are way less picky than mine) to just pull things together and not have to think about every day as a new adventure, but instead have meals flow from one to the next--for example, boil a chicken, and use the meat and veggies in multiple ways for various meals--chicken dinner, soup, etc. This sounds so dumb and obvious but every time I do that, even with the yummy farmer's chickens from my Coop, they taste bland and are extremely unappealing. Perhaps I am undersalting my water, if the first chapter is to be believed. It's tricky because it's not really a cookbook; it's a series of essays describing techniques. They are detailed enough to make me think I know what to do, but then--I really don't. So we'll see how that evolves for me.

Try I'm an Organizing Junkie! for more inspiring menus!

Monday, April 2, 2012

MPM--From Desperation, A Winner

That's how things go sometimes, isn't it? Despair and a breakthrough? We had a recipe like that here last week. It wasn't a perfect-OMG-delicious recipe, but it was a four-star one here in that everyone ate it. It's not surprising, necessarily, but it made us happy.

Here's hoping the same desperate inspiration strikes this week. I had no freakin' clue the kids had off next Monday for break as well. I was ready to pack 'em off to the school bus and go to my 10am meeting on Monday but guess what? The district had other plans. Here's hoping some miracle gets pulled out for them as well.

Monday: Italian from the freezer from last week's trip to South Philly. Woo!

Tuesday: Out! Lego Build.

Wednesday: Out! Full court press to get friends to move to our town.

Thursday: Taco Tuesday, baby! The good news about the Tuesday Lego build? My anchor meal moves somewhere else. This is good too, because it's Egg Dying Day in my house, with seven cousins under ten. Hold me.

Friday: Nothing. Kidding. But it is Good Friday, so there won't be much.

And this weekend, I'm bringing some goodies to the Easter celebrations: mac and cheese, carrot mousse (gotta have carrots for the bunnies, right?), strawberry rhubarb crumble. I'm very excited for a neighborhood egg hunt this year--it started two blocks away and keeps growing! This is the first year we're invited and I can't wait.

As to last week...

On Wednesday, I ran out of time to do the crockpot curry chicken. So, the saving grace recipe? Baked honey mustard chicken. I know: no breakthroughs or shocks here. Both boys like honey mustard and chicken, so it wasn't a stretch. Little Mr. Picky said, "I like the chicken, but not a lot." And it's a sad commentary but I call that a win. It worked for me because I had all the ingredients in the house (Dijon mustard is one of those things that makes things feel fancy, even if it's just the sausage-apple-potato bake, and Trader Joe's' is cheap), and I didn't have to touch the raw chicken breasts. Cooking by Google = winning! I believe I searched for "fast easy baked boneless chicken breasts." Some recipes were too easy, and ergo too close to the Crazy Jane's chicken we had on Sunday. We really need to break out the grill, pronto.

Another saving grace: my moms' group just started a sub-group of working mothers and the first pet peeve (and then first project) became: Let's batch-cook for each other. I'm totally psyched for this.

On a random note...I almost never check my blog stats, because I'm a perfectionist and they distress me because they are inscrutable, though they seem like they shouldn't be. But I am always fascinated by some of the things on there. For instance, the search words that brought someone to my blog last week included "curious george noky cat," which I have to assume is really Gnocci, the semi-naughty kitty on the PBS show. What I wish Blogger would show me is WHY that brought them here. But I'm out of luck. I am also very curious about "referring sites." Some of my most popular are Gothist (like facebook for Goths, apparently?) and some "spy on your cheating spouse by installing spyware on his/her smartphone." Wait what? I don't get it. And then I feel like I am turning in to my mother, who was truly wounded when she would be spammed with ads for porn. She took it absolutely personally, asking, "But why would someone SEND me that?" And I fear that this is the next step of these websites, to find trafficked-enough-to-still-be-alive websites and just end up on the referring site list in hopes of a clickover from the confused blogger, and I am wandering right in to their little schemes.

Wishing you a week of happy memories and easy meals! Don't forget to check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more inspiration! Happy Easter and Happy Passover!