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Next Week’s Dinners and a Picnic Of a Question

I did most of my shopping earlier today, although I do still need to go out and get a few things still for next week’s meals. We discussed what we want to eat, but we haven’t picked days for anything yet, so it will kind of be hit or miss to see what day gets which meal. I can tell you that I am planning to cook:

Greek Lamb Kebobs, Rice Pilaf and Tomatoes

Popcorn Shrimp

Pork Chops Agrodolce with Herbed Bean Salad

Sicilian Steak

I also have a whole chicken and some ribs but have not yet figured out what I want to do with any of it yet. If you didn’t see the recipe from last night, I can tell you that we loved it and we’ll be cooking it again if you want to check that one out.

On another note, since it is a long weekend for most people and the start of the summer season, a lot of people will be grilling and picnicking now. I have re-blogged a few articles over the fast few days referring to picnics and grilling of you want to check them out. On my other blog, The Office of Iguana Flats, I just posed a question to my readers today that fits well with this cooking blog as well, so I thought I would ask it here as well to give you a chance to answer. The question is:

Since the summer season is upon us, if you were going on a picnic and could go anywhere you wanted, where would you go and what would you bring?

Let’s assume you could go any place you want and bring anything you want. There are lots of places to choose from: beaches, parks, the mountains, a deserted island, your rooftop, the Eiffel Tower,  it could be any place. Somewhere that you can relax and enjoy your picnic with whomever you want, or by yourself if you choose. Think about what you would want to bring – it can be anything as decadent or as light as you like, a nice bottle of wine, some fine cheese, or just some sandwiches or hot dogs, whatever makes you happy. Think about it and let me know. You can answer on here, or on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll also ask some people on Twitter and see if they respond. I’ll post my answer tomorrow.

I know it’s a short blog post today, but we’re just having leftovers tonight from the past week and I’ll be cooking again tomorrow, so check back then and see what I can come up with to eat. I have some good stuff to choose from, so I’ll see which recipe is going to be good for tomorrow (I am leaning towards the Sicilian Steak). Until then, enjoy your evening and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Cooking, Meal Plan Menu, Picnic Fare

 

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It’s Guys’ Night In, Next Week’s Meal Plan, and a Chicken

Michelle is away on a business for a couple of days, so that kind of puts the meal plan on hold for a few days until we get settled again. Sean and I are having guys’ night in tonight, which means ordering pizza, playing video games and starting a puzzle we bought. It should be a lot of fun to just hang out for the night and have a good time and not worry about cooking for the evening. It’s nice to do that once in a while. We did go over next week’s meal plan, so here it is:

Sunday – Fish Tacos, Pineapple Salsa, and Vegetable Slaw

Monday – Beef Stew (this will be our slow cooker meal for the week)

Tuesday – Bacon and Chicken Ranch Quesadillas, Rice and Guacamole

Wednesday – Lentils with Rice and Sautéed Onions (this is our meat-free meal of the week)

Thursday  – Sesame Chicken Stir Fry with Fried Rice

Friday – Fish – seeing as how it is Lent, we thought we would try to do fish on Fridays for the next several weeks. I won’t know what I am making until I go to the fish market to check out what looks good and is on sale.

Saturday – Roasted Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Broccoli

I try to make a roasted chicken every couple of weeks so we can both use the carcass to make stock and use the leftovers for lunches. It works out really well for as far as both go, although I also keep some chicken drumsticks in the freezer to use to make stock as well if I need to in a pinch. if you’d like the recipe for making the stock I make, I had posted it in an earlier blog, but you can get it right here.

Since I am not cooking anything tonight, I thought I would still post a recipe that might be good for everyone, and since I have been talking about chicken, I got this recipe in my email today from Mark Bittman, the author of “How to Cook Everything.” It’s a nice roasted chicken recipe, and to top off our week of one pot meals, it is a one pot meal, roasting vegetables and lentils with the chicken.

Chicken and Lentils

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces, or any combination of parts

1 large or 2 medium onions, sliced

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped or grated fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup chopped tomato (canned is fine; include the juices)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch fresh cilantro or parsley sprigs, tied together with kitchen string

Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks

1 cup dried brown or green lentils, washed and picked over

Put the oil in a deep skillet with a lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown it well, rotating and turning the pieces as necessary; the process will take 10 to 15 minutes. (You can skip this step if you like; heat a tablespoon of oil and go directly to cooking the onions.)

When the chicken is nicely browned, remove it from the skillet and turn the heat down to medium. Pour or spoon off all but a tablespoon of the oil. Stir in the onions, garlic, ginger, tomato, coriander, and some salt and pepper. Add 4 cups water, along with the cilantro or parsley bundle, cinnamon sticks, and lentils. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently but steadily, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender.

Discard the herb bundle and cinnamon sticks and return the return the chicken to the pan, skin side up. Cover and continue to let the mixture bubble gently until the chicken is cooked through, another 10 to 20 minutes; the chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155-165°F. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve. (At this point, you may let the dish sit for a few hours or cover and refrigerate for up to a day before re-heating and serving; you may have to add a little water to thin the sauce a bit.)

This dish goes nicely if you serve this with rice, warmed pitas, or any crusty loaf of bread. If you want to follow Mark Bittman on Facebook, you can check him out here, or try his website here to sign up to get recipes every week.

As a final note, the latest issue of Bon Appetit has some great recipes in it and some St. Patrick’s Day ideas as well (it’s never too early to start thinking ahead. You can check them out at the link to their page that I have listed on the right, or you can just click here to go and see what’s new or even subscribe to the magazine (it’s one of my favorites). That’s all I have for today. Time to get on with Guys Night. Sean has already starting playing one game, and the pizza guy is here, so I will be back tomorrow. I’m not cooking tomorrow either, but I will be back with some “guy” recipes that Sean and I like. Have a great night!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Cooking, Cooking Websites, Meal Plan Menu, Poultry

 

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Saturday’s Leftovers and Next Week’s Plan

Today is a day we had marked to use for leftovers and we do have some things left from the week. Tonight for dinner, we are going to have hot open-faced pot roast sandwiches on some bread from Rockland Bakery with some mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s all left over from last night’s meal. We’ve done a good job with any other leftovers this week, with Michelle bringing stuff for lunch all week, so there really isn’t too much left to anything with tonight other than what we had yesterday.

So that leads me up to next week’s meal plan. We’ve decided to go with all one pot meals this week to try to make things easy for clean up, and we’re also going to use the slow cooker twice this week to try to ease things as far as time for cooking. I am going to try to start using the slow cooker on Monday’s meal, since this seems to be the busiest day of the week for me with everything that goes on around here. This week, however, I will be utilizing leftovers from Sunday’s meal to make Monday’s meal. So, here’s the plan for this week:

Sunday: Roast Leg of Lamb, Baked Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Turnips

Monday – Shepherd’s Pie

Tuesday – Chicken Marsala (this one is done in the slow cooker)

Wednesday – Black Bean Stew (our meat-free meal of the week)

Thursday – Jambalaya

Friday – Beef Stew (also done in the slow cooker)

Saturday – We are marking as a leftovers day. Saturdays, for us anyway, often seem ideal as a leftover day since we usually try to just relax all day long, or we’ve done chores all day long and no one feels like thinking about meals or cooking.

The Shepherd’s Pie on Monday will use any leftover lamb from Sunday as well as the leftover turnips. The Chicken Marsala on Tuesday is a slow cooker recipe that I’ll be using, but you can also make it traditionally. I thought it would be fun to try it in the slow cooker and see how it comes out. The other meals are great one pot meals to make, even if the Jambalaya requires quite a bit of prep work as far as cutting and chopping. Thursdays also seem to lend themselves well to our seafood meal of the week since I often have the time to get fresh seafood on Thursday mornings. Some of the ingredients I am using this week are a little out of the norm for what you may have around the house, such as the lamb for the shepherd’s pie (if we weren’t having it on Sunday, I wouldn’t be making it at all), Marsala wine for the Chicken Marsala, andouille sausage for the Jambalaya, and black beans for the Black Bean Stew. Other than those items, I didn’t have to shop for anything that we didn’t already have around the house, really bringing the shopping bill down for this week, which is great. If you want to use the same meal plan layout that I follow, you can get it here:family_meal_planner

That’s about all I have to post for today. It’s been a pretty lazy day for me other than the shopping I did, so I think I’ll get back to lounging for the rest of the day :). If you have any questions, comments or recipes that you might like to see, please let me know. Any and all input is appreciated. I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend so far and have a great Saturday night!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Meal Plan Menu

 

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Calling For Some Cauliflower Soup

After last night’s elaborate meal (which was very tasty by the way; there’s not much left in the way of leftovers- a little bit of soup and steak, that’s it), we get back to an easier meal today. Today’s Cauliflower Soup is our meat free meal of the week and promises to be quite delicious. This recipe is very easy and doesn’t have a lot of ingredients to it. You can make it in about 30 or 40 minutes as well, so it works well as a mid-week meal when things can get busy.

Cauliflower Soup

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups chicken broth

1 head cauliflower, trimmed and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp. paprika

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until nearly translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and cauliflower, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. Using a food processor or blender, process the soup to a smooth puree. Return the soup to the pan. Place over medium heat, stir in the cream and re-heat to serving temperature. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, sprinkle with the paprika and serve immediately.

This recipe doesn’t make a lot of soup (this one serves 4), so if you want more, you can always double the recipe. You could also easily use broccoli in this one instead of the cauliflower, if that’s your preference. The biscuits we made the other night would go well this meal, or a nice salad of some mixed greens to add to the soup and fill out your meal. Either would go well with this dinner.

Wow, that was a really quick entry today. One pot, quick cooking and easy clean up – just the way I like it! Tomorrow’s dinner will be Oven-Fried Catfish with rice and an Herbed Salad with a Champagne Vinaigrette. I plan to go to get the fish in the morning tomorrow, so hopefully they have catfish, or we’ll be changing up the meal tomorrow night with a different fish. We also be talking about the meal plan for next week tonight, so hopefully I will be able to put that up as well. If you would like your own meal plan to follow, print out the one I use right here:family_meal_planner. We’ll be making some good hearty meals over the next few days as we have Pot Roast on Friday and Roast Leg of Lamb on Sunday, so make sure you check in for those. They are going to be good. If you have any questions or comments or something you would like to see a recipe for, please leave me a not here or feel free to send me an email at IguanaFlats@msn.com. I hope you all have a wonderful day (it’s a little gloomy here in New York today, but not cold) and enjoy your meal, whatever it may be, this evening!

 
 

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This Week’s Meal Plan

We made it home from Saranac Lake. Winter Carnival was lots of fun and we had a great time visiting everyone, but we are all pretty tired tonight, so they’ll be no cooking tonight. Tonight we rely on the delivery of Planet Wings to feed us. They have good wings and burgers and we don’t have to leave the comfort of our home to enjoy it, so that’s what we are going with today. if you want to check out Planet Wings, you can visit their website here. We did, however, go shopping and have the meal plan in place for this week. Since it is going to be a bit chillier this week, we are going with two soup dinners for the week to war us up:

Monday: Chicken and Rice Soup

Tuesday: A special Valentine’s Day meal: Riesling Onion Soup with Herbed Croutons, Rib Eye Steak with Red-Wine Sauce, Spinach Sauteed with Pine Nuts, and Warm Molten Chocolate Cakes (I know, a dessert! Well it’s a special occasion)

Wednesday: Cream of Cauliflower Soup (our meat-free meal of the week)

Thursday:Oven-Fried Catfish with Potatoes and an Herb Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Friday: Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Saturday: We have down as a leftovers day.

Sunday: Roast Leg of Lamb, Roasted Potatoes, Carrots

You’ll need a few things that you may not normally buy to make some of these recipes, like the Riesling wine for the onion soup, cocoa powder for the chocolate cakes, pine nuts for the spinach, champagne vinegar for the vinaigrette, catfish, and leg of lamb. We’re doing some entertaining this week since Sean is off on Friday, we’ll entertain for Sunday dinner, and Valentine’s Day will be a special weeknight meal, so we do have some more labor-intensive recipes this week, but none of them are very difficult or time consuming. Even though the pot roast takes several hours to cook, once it’s prepared, it pretty much takes care of itself, and you could do it in a slow cooker if you prefer. You’ll also need lots of chicken stock this week since we are really making 3 soups, so if you had a chance to make some of your own stock, you’re in luck. I’ll have to make some more stock of my own to cover everything for the week.

Well, sorry, it’s a short post today, but I am tired from all the driving (it’s a 4 hour trip back from Saranac Lake) and I am going to eat some wings 🙂 Tune in tomorrow to start off the week with a nice, simple recipe of Chicken and Rice Soup. if you have any questions, comments or just want to say hello, please do! I look forward to any input at all. Have a great night and we’ll start cooking again tomorrow!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Meal Plan Menu

 

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Serving Up Some Shrimp Stir Fry

Today will be the last meal of the Sean choices for the week. I was a little surprised he opted to go for this one, but he knows that one meal has to be a seafood meal, and he likes shrimp, so he opted to go for this one. Today’s dinner will be Shrimp with Hoisin Sauce and we’ll be having Fried Rice again, but will just be using the leftovers from last night’s stir fry dinner (which was delicious by the way, not much left in the way of leftovers for Michelle’s lunch today. I try to use fresh shrimp as often as I can. You can usually find a sale on it somewhere during the week, so buy it the day of cooking or the day before at the most. If you want to buy frozen, which I do on occasion, buy shrimp that are already deveined and shell split, it will make your life a lot easier as far as cleaning.

Shrimp With Hoisin Sauce

1 pound medium-sized fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 thin slices of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

1 clove garlic, crushed 3 scallions,

cut into 1-inch pieces

Mix the water, cornstarch, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce in a bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger root and garlic and stir continuously until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn the heat up to high, add the shrimp and stir-fry until they turn pink, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the sauce mixture and coat the shrimp, stirring and mixing; cook for about 2 minutes and serve over rice.

The cooking time for this meal is only about 10 minutes. Remember, don’t cook the shrimp too long (or any fish for that matter) or they will get tough and rubbery. if you’ve never deveined a shrimp before, take the time to do it. Starting at the head of the shrimp, make a shallow cut with a knife all the way down the middle of the back. Hold the shrimp under cold running water to rinse out the dark vein, or just pull it out yourself and rinse the shrimp off when you are all done. if you don’t want to use shrimp, you could scallops or another fleshy fish, or I think chicken would work nicely in this dish as well.

We’ll be using the same fried rice as we had last night, so if you want to check yesterday’s blog recipe for it, please do so, or you can use plain white rice instead. I think either will work well here. While I won’t be making these tonight, Sean came across a recipe for Fortune Cookies that we are going to try one night when we have a group over for dinner. It will be more fun to do the fortunes with other people around, but here is the recipe if anyone wants to try it out.

Fortune Cookies

1 cup margarine, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine margarine, sugar, egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and stir everything together to form a ball of dough. Lightly flour a wooden cutting board or flat counter surface. With a rolling pin, roll half of the dough very thin. Use a circle-shaped cookie cutter or the top of a large glass (about 2 1/2 inches wide) to cut circles in the dough. Put a fortune in each circle, off to one side. Fold the circle in half, and then in half again. Pinch the edges to seal the dough. Re-roll leftover scraps of dough to make more cookies out of them. Then roll and make cookies from the other half of the dough. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes on a baking sheet in the oven until they are lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Part of the fun of this, of course, is being creative in making up the fortunes for each cookie. They can be predictions, lottery numbers, old sayings, or just fun, goofy things. You can print out 25 or so fortunes on a piece of printer paper and cut them into strips to use for the cookies. i would suggest about 2 inches long, at the most, so they fit nicely in the cookie.

More easy recipes for the day and that wraps up Sean’s week of dinners. We had a lot fun choosing and cooking everything and they were all quick, easy and tasty meals with little clean up. We haven’t picked next week’s meal plan yet, but that will be tonight’s chore after dinner, so I will post it tomorrow. If you want to print your own meal planner, here’s the document:family_meal_planner We are off to Saranac Lake tomorrow for Winter Carnival, so I won’t be cooking for Friday and Saturday, and most likely Sunday as well since we’ll be getting home Sunday, but i do plan to post some things. I’ll be bringing Chicken Corn Chowder up to Saranac Lake with us, so I will post that recipe on Saturday. if you have any questions, comments or just want to say hello, feel free to leave a comment and I will reply as soon as I can. Enjoy your day today (it actually feels like winter here in New York for a change today) and enjoy your dinner!

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Rice, Seafood

 

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Fantastic Friday Fish & Chips

It’s Friday, the weekend is upon us, and so is February for that matter. Spring is not too far off now, even if the weather here has made it seem like spring already. Today’s dinner was picked by Sean, which surprised me and made me glad. Since we started the meal plan, he has been very open to trying new things and picking out some things we have never made before, including today’s dinner. I have had fish and chips and various places, and have been disappointed many times by it. A lot of the time there is too much breading or the fish tastes too much like the oil it was cooked in and the fries are underwhelming. This recipe, from America’s Test Kitchen’s website, seems like it will be a good balance. It doesn’t have a lot of ingredients to it and seems easy to make. I’ll be using the deep fryer again for this one, but a large Dutch oven and a candy thermometer will serve you just as well.

Fish and Chips

3 pounds russet potatoes (about 4 large potatoes) peeled, ends and sides squared off, and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch fries

3 quarts canola oil, plus 1/4 additional cup

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Table salt

1 teaspoon baking powder 1 1/2 pounds 1-inch thick cod fillet (or other thick white fish, like haddock) cut into 8 pieces

1 1/2 cups beer (12 ounces), cold (you can use any beer here, with the exception of dark stouts and ales)

Place cut fries in a large microwaveable bowl, toss with 1/4 cup oil and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power until the potatoes are partially translucent and pliable but still offer some resistance when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 6 to 8 minutes, tossing them with a rubber spatula halfway through the cooking time. Carefully pull back the plastic wrap from the side farthest from you and drain the potatoes into a large mesh strainer over the sink. Rinse well under cold running water. Spread the potatoes on kitchen towels and pat dry. Let rest until room temperature, at least 10 minutes and up to 1 hour.

While the fries cool, whisk flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, pepper and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large mixing bowl; transfer 3.4 cup of mixture to a rimmed baking sheet. Add baking powder to the bowl and whisk to combine.

In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, heat 2 quarts of oil over medium heat to 350 degrees. Add the fries to the hot oil and increase the heat to high. Fry, stirring with a mesh spider or slotted metal spoon, until the potatoes turn light golden and just begin to brown at the corners, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the fries to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain.

Reduce heat to medium-high, add the remaining quart of oil, and heat the oil to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, thoroughly dry the fish with paper towels and dredge each piece in the flour mixture on the baking sheet; transfer the pieces to a wire rack, shaking off the excess flour. Add 1 1/4 cups of the beer to the flour mixture in the mixing bowl and stir until the mixture is just combined (the batter will be lumpy). Add the remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until the batter falls from the whisk in a thin, steady stream and leaves a faint trail across the surface of the batter. Using tongs, dip 1 piece of fish in the batter and let the excess run off, shaking gently. Place the battered fish back onto the baking sheet with the flour mixture and turn to coat both sides. Repeat with the remaining fish, keeping the pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet.

When the oil reaches 375 degrees, increase the heat to high and add the battered fish to the oil with tongs, gently shaking off any excess flour. Fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer the fish to a thick paper bag or paper towels to drain. Allow the oil to return to 375 degrees.

Add all the fries back to the oil and fry until golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the fries to a fresh paper bag or paper towels to drain. Season the fries with salt to taste and serve immediately with the fish. Serve with your favorite malt vinegar and tartar sauce.

Granted, this is not the healthiest meal we have made, or the healthiest way to cook fish either, but once in a while as a treat it will be pretty good. There’s not much to cooking this one either once all the prep work is done. I think it will be a very tasty dish, just be careful deep-frying; you’ll want to use the largest Dutch oven you have for safety. Sean couldn’t really pick out a vegetable to go with this meal, but green beans were on sale at the store this morning, so that’s what were going with for tonight. I found a good recipe that braises them.

Skillet-Braised Green Beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 pound green beans, ends trimmed

3/4 cup chicken broth (I am using homemade, but low sodium store-bought is good)

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, or 1/8 teaspoon dried

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the shallot and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and broth. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer,stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender but still offer some resistance to the bite, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.

A simple, easy and a little different way to cook up your green beans, and you’re all set with your meal for the night. I think it will go over very well.

We laid out the meal plan for next week last night, so here it is. If you want to use the same meal planner we are using, here is a link to the print out to use:family_meal_planner. I decided to let Sean pick the whole menu for next week. He had taken a couple of cookbooks out of the school library and picked some recipes that he wanted me to try. Since he picked them out, he’ll be participating in the cooking all week as well. He read through a Chinese food cookbook and an Italian food cookbook, so this is what we came up with:

Monday: Chicken Stir Fry with White Rice

Tuesday: Rustic Vegetable and Polenta Soup (this is our meat free meal of the week)

Wednesday: Pork with Peppers and Pineapple and Fried Rice

Thursday: Shrimp with Hoisin Sauce and Rice

Friday and Saturday next week we will be in Saranac Lake to celebrate Winter Carnival, so they’ll be no meals to cook on those days. However, we are bringing up a Chicken Corn Chowder with us, so I will post that recipe next week. I think Sean made some interesting choices and it will be fun to cook with him. Tomorrow’s meal is a simple Roast Chicken with Roasted Potatoes and Roasted Winter Vegetables so we can bake all in one pan and cut down on dishes for the day. Tune in tomorrow to check it out and I’ll let you know how the fish and chips went. As always, feel free to add a comment, recipe, question or just say hello! Have a great day and enjoy your Friday night.

 

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Potatoes, Seafood, Vegetables

 

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Time for Breakfast (for Dinner)!

It’s in the sixties in January here in Harriman, which is unheard of for this time of year, but I’ll take it! Today there were two great articles that are food-related in the New York Times. The first, written by Leslie Kaufman, closely relates to what I am trying to do at home and here on the blog. She has her sons cook one meal a week, which includes the planning of the meal, detailing ingredients and doing the cooking. Her sons are 14 and  10 and do the actual cooking with a parent within earshot, but this is something I have been working on doing with Sean for a while. It’s a great way to get kids involved in the meals, gives them some responsibility, let’s them know what you have to go through every day to cook for them, and makes them more interested in doing things in the kitchen. I think it’s a great article, so take a look at it if you get the chance.

The second article is written by Mark Bittman, the author of ‘How to Cook Everything.” It’s a good article on how the Department of Agriculture is making schools change up their lunch menus to make things better for our kids. It gives you a good look as to what the changes are going to be, and while there may still be work to do on this, it’s a step in the right direction.

Now on to our meal for the day. Today is Michelle’s choice, but it also one of Sean’s favorites. We all love breakfast for dinner nights, actually. It gives us a chance to eat the breakfast food we love but don’t always have time to make during weekday mornings when things can be a bit hectic. We are making this meal our meat-free meal for the week as well, which disappoints Sean since that means no bacon or sausage tonight, but we’ll still have a great meal with Pancakes, Hash Browns and maybe an egg or two. Since a vegetable doesn’t really go too well this meal, we are going to opt for a fruit salad instead.

Pancakes are pretty easy to make, whether it is from scratch or from a box. We often use Bisquick ourselves when you need something done in a pinch. It tastes good and it’s quick, but today I am going to post a recipe for some homemade pancakes. The recipe I am using calls for buttermilk, but if you don’t have any on hand, whisk 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice with two cups of milk and set it aside for a few minutes to thicken, and voila, you have buttermilk. This type of buttermilk is fine for cooked applications, but I wouldn’t use it for raw recipes like the ranch dressing we made yesterday.

Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups buttermilk

1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire cooling rack over a baking sheet and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, melted butter, and then the buttermilk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour the buttermilk mixture into the well, and whisk very gently until the buttermilk mixture is just incorporated (a few lumps should remain). Be careful not to overmix the batter.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Brush the bottom of the pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Using 1/4 cup of batter per pancake, add the batter to the skillet (only 2 or 3 pancakes will fit at a time) and cook until large bubbles begin to appear, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the second side, about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Spread the pancakes out over the wire rack on the baking sheet (they shouldn’t overlap) and hold in the warm oven. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the skillet with oil as needed between batches.

If you have any leftover pancakes (which we usually do) let them cool to room temperature, then wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze. They will keep for up to a week while still maintaining most of their original flavor and texture. Defrost in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then heat in a 350 degree oven until warm, about 5 minutes. I usually leave a couple on the fridge for the next day and my buddy Liam and I have them for breakfast.

Of course, there are a lot of things you can add to pancakes or top them with. I love adding bananas or blueberries; once you add the batter to the skillet, just sprinkle a few slices of banana or a few blueberries over each pancake, or just top the pancakes with the fruit after they are cooked.

We decided to make some hash browns tonight to go with our pancakes. Hash browns go great with bacon or sausage, and we’ll do that another time I am sure, but they are fun to have any time. They don’t take long to make, and I use the food processor to grate the potatoes, sparing my knuckles the use of the box grater.

Hash Browns

1 pound russet potatoes (2 medium) peeled

2 tablespoons grated onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (optional)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Grate the potatoes using either the large holes of a box grater (watch your fingers!) or the shredder attachment of a food processor (you should have about 1 1/2 cups when your done grating). Wrap the grated potatoes in a kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly of excess moisture, then toss with the onion, parsley (if using) salt and pepper.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to brown, swirling to coat the pan. Scatter the potatoes evenly in the skillet and press firmly into a cake. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until dark golden brown and crisp on the first side, about 8 minutes. When the first side has browned, slide the potatoes onto a large plate. Carefully cover the plate with another large plate, and flip so that the potatoes are on the plate, browned-side up. Melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of butter, then slide the potatoes back into the skillet, browned-side up, and continue to cook over medium heat until the second side is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Slide the hash brown cake onto a plate or cutting board and cut into wedges.

There’s nothing like hash browns with some eggs. I prefer a fried egg or an egg over easy, but for tonight we’ll just whip up some scrambled eggs and save the fried egg for another time, maybe for a nice egg sandwich with some sausage or bacon.

Scrambled Eggs

8 large eggs

1/4 cup half and half (you can use milk instead, but the eggs are creamier with half and half)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

Whisk together the eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper. Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat the pan. Add the eggs and cook while gently pushing, lifting and folding them from one side of the pan to the other, using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, until they are nicely clumped, shiny and wet, about 2 minutes. Remove the cooked eggs from the pan quickly and serve.

We’ll get more into eggs another time when we’re using some meat with breakfast, but you can always add cheese, chives, onions, thyme or countless other herbs to add some flavor.

We’re finishing off with a simple fruit salad of what we have on hand – bananas, blueberries, blackberries, grapes and mandarin oranges, sprinkled with a little sugar and lemon juice. Of course, you can always use whatever fruits you like, are in season and taste the best to you.

Boy, for such a simple meal, I did a lot of writing today! There are lots of different variations you can do when doing breakfast for dinner. I’d love to hear what other people do when they make this for a meal. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them and I’ll try to comment as quickly as I can. Tomorrow is a leftovers night for dinner, but I have decided to write about some good ideas for Super Bowl snacking, since the game is Sunday and you want to be prepared. Let me know if you have any snacks or recipes you’d like to see to use for the big game. Have a great day!

 

 

 

 

 

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Planning Your Meals This Week (and Some School Lunches Too)

I didn’t cook today, but we did do our shopping for this week’s meal plan I really do find that the plan helps me in staying on budget as far as shopping. Sure, there are still impulse buys now and then (who can resist a treat now and then) and I do have to buy household items once in a while (garbage bags, storage bags, toothpaste, etc.), but for the most part we really do only buy what we need to make the meals for the week. We do a lot of our shopping at BJ’s Warehouse Club, so we do get essentials that last us for a while, but I have found we can also get good deals on things we use a lot of, like diced tomatoes, pasta and rice, but we also get good deals on meat and poultry and produce. I can buy ground beef or london broil and get enough to freeze for several more meals. The same can be said of poultry. I buy the larger packs of boneless chicken breasts and whole chickens there and we get many meals out of it and also use the chicken carcass to make stock later on for soups. I then supplement that with a short trip to the supermarket for things I can’t get at BJ’s (which isn’t too much) and a trip to Adam’s Farms in Newburgh, where I get our fish for the week and some local produce.

Anyway, for this coming week, this is the meal plan:

Monday – Turkey Meatball with sauce, baked potatoes, broccoli (this was Sean’s choice this week)

Tuesday – Baked Potato Soup (this was Michelle’s pick, and is our meatless meal of the week)

Wednesday – Fish. I didn’t get to the fish market today, but I will go Wednesday morning and pick something out after I see what looks good.

Thursday – Meat Loaf, Mashed Potatoes and corn (this one was my pick)

Friday – Warm Chicken Salad (Michelle picked this one)

Saturday – Peppered Steak, White Rice, Cauliflower and carrots (Michelle picked this one too)

None of the meals are difficult this week and all can be made in a short amount of time. As a matter of fact, we are making the potato soup tonight and refrigerating it for Tuesday. I didn’t have to buy anything out of the ordinary this week other than leeks that we are using in the soup and the peppers for the peppered steak. I bought meat loaf mix of beef, pork and veal that I buy either for meatloaf or meatballs. The London broil was 2 large steaks that I quartered and froze so I’ll only need one piece when I make the peppered steak on Saturday. The ground turkey I bought will be used for meatballs and a portion frozen to be used later on either for chili or turkey sausage (I do make my own for breakfast sausage; it tastes really good and I will be posting that recipe at some point when we make a “breakfast for dinner” one night). Other than that, the rest of the ingredients we will use this week are things we already have in the house, refrigerator or freezer.

Now that dinners are planned for the week, I thought I would spend a little bit of time writing about school lunches. School lunches can be a problem sometimes. Sean buys lunch from school about once a week or less often, mainly because the choices that they have for lunch are, well, less than desirable. It’s pretty rare that when I ask Sean if he wants to buy that he says yes, but I am sure he gets tired of eating either a cheese sandwich or peanut butter and jelly every day. We have thought about doing warm lunches for him in a thermos, but he eats lunch so late in the day that even the thermos wouldn’t keep it warm for him. For others of you, however, warm lunches may be a good option. There is a good blog out there right now called “The Mom With Moxie” by Bree Glenn and she has a good posting on some ideas for school lunch planning. Here is the blog if you want to check it out:http://www.themomwithmoxie.com/2011/11/04/8-resources-for-healthy-fun-school-lunch-box-planning/. She offers up a great list of sites here for some good school lunch ideas. I was able to pull a few ideas off of Good Housekeeping’s website from here also, but if you want to go to Good Housekeeping directly, here is their link:http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/healthy/ideas-kids-school-lunches. I thought the ideas of Turkey Meatball Pitas, Ham and Cheese Pitas, Chicken Noodle Soup and the Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich were all good ideas for lunches. There are several other great links on Bree Glenn’s blog about the school lunches that I think will be very helpful in getting some ideas for things to pack for the kids. If anyone has any other great ideas for school lunches, please pass them along and comment here. I am always looking for something new to offer Sean and I am sure plenty of other Moms and Dads could use some ideas as well.

I think that covers everything for today. I hope to go into greater detail on school lunches and some good recipes of my own in a later blog. I want to do a little more research and try out some recipes with Sean first before I put anything up here for you to try. Tomorrow will be the recipes for Turkey Meatballs with sauce, Baked  Potatoes and broccoli. I know, we seem to eat a lot of broccoli, but Sean really likes it so he seems to pick that one all the time. I need to find a few more recipes to find some more interesting ways to cook it. If you have any thoughts on that, feel free to share! Enjoy what’s left of your weekend, and if you’re watching the Giants-49ers game, enjoy the game! (what will you be snacking on during the game? I already plan to post some things as we get closer to Super Bowl Sunday)

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Lunch, School Lunches

 

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Enter The Meal Plan…

It’s Monday and it’s time to start off the week with a meal plan. My family meal plan started a while ago, and it worked well while we stuck to it, but then we kind of drifted away from it and things got a little out of hand again. By out of hand I mean we didn’t plan ahead on any meals. which led to a lot of meals thrown together at the last-minute or just getting take-out or eating out. In the long run, it wasn’t benefiting us as far as our health and being together as a family, so I decided we needed to get back to the meal plan.

Here is how our meal plan works. We, as a family, decide on the meals each week. While it sounds like a challenge right away by letting kids choose meals (who wants chicken nuggets or pizza every day?) I have tried to make it so that, since there are 3 of us, we each pick 2 meals for the week and the extra day we eat leftovers. Once a month we take the extra day and either go out or get take out. The stipulations on the meals are this: the week’s meals have to be one night of red meat, two nights of poultry, one night of seafood, one night of pasta/grain/vegetarian, and two nights using whatever we have as leftovers to make a meal. I also had to add in that we couldn’t pick the same meal on consecutive weeks, otherwise Sean would have us eating burgers and pizza every week. Each meal has to have some type of vegetable and some type of protein. The protein doesn’t have to be meat, but there has to be one there somewhere. Once the meals have been picked out, we go through and which one fits best on which day of the week for that week. Like any family, some weeks for us can get a little hectic and some nights are better suited to leftovers than others, so we try to work with that. Once that is done, I do the shopping list of the supplies we need for the week to make the meals, we outline the everyone’s duties for the week as far as the meals go and then we move ahead with the week. Here is the print out I use for our meal planning. I have found it a big help for planning and for shopping because I tend to stick closely to it and shop only for the things that we really need for the meals that week so we can stay on budget a little better:  family_meal_planner.

Now that the basics are laid out, we can talk about today’s dinner plan. Today is pretty simple. Sean picked today’s meal and since he is off from school today, he gets to help cook it too. It’s straightforward, spaghetti and meatballs. He chose broccoli as his vegetable for the day and we’re going to make some garlic bread as well. I don’t make my own bread, so we’ll cheat a little there and buy a loaf and make it garlic bread, but if you make your own, it will probably be very tasty.

The spaghetti itself is pretty easy and painless. I don’t eat pasta, I never have. I just don’t like the texture of the store-bought pasta. I think if I had the counter space to make my own pasta, I would probably eat it because I think the taste of fresh pasta would be much better. But hey, just because I don’t eat doesn’t mean I won’t cook it (and if you cook it and I am invited over, you can be sure I’ll eat it, no questions asked. My momma raised me right :)).Tonight, it’s just plain spaghetti (I am eating white rice) and I think most people can handle cooking it, so I am not going to spend time on it. Instead, I’ll focus on the sauce, meatballs and garlic bread.

There are lots of sauces available right out of the jar or can, and some of them taste good. They are quick and easy to use and make our lives simple, but personally, if I have the time to make sauce, I am going to make it. It doesn’t have to be labor intensive and take all day. As a matter of fact, I find that sauce cooked too long tends to lose some of its flavor (this is for a sauce with no meat in it). In a perfect world, I would use fresh tomatoes, but, as I discussed previously, the tomatoes available here in the stores are generally pretty flavorless and not ripe. I have found that using diced and crushed tomatoes for sauce works just fine for me. This is a simple sauce recipe. It’s quick, it’s easy, has few ingredients, and tastes good:

Simple Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil (if you’re using dried basil, cut this in at least half)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Salt

Cook the oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes (don’t scorch the garlic, it tastes pretty bad when you do. As soon as you can smell it, you’re ready for the next step). Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste.

You can easily double this recipe to make more sauce, just add about another 10 minutes of cooking time. Freeze extra so you have it on hand at a moment’s notice for a quick meal.

On to the meatballs. There are several brands of frozen meatballs that are good, and we usually have some in the freezer to use for quick meals or as appetizers when people are over. Like the sauce, if I have the time, i want to make my own. Sean likes the frozen ones better, and since it’s his choice tonight, we’ll probably use them, but I am going to give my recipe for meatballs anyway. You don’t have to use the beef, pork, veal mix that I do (I use the same mix for meatloaf and you can find it in most supermarkets). Chicken or turkey works just as well if that’s what you prefer. You also don’t have to use your own bread, but I find it tastes and binds better with fresh bread instead of dried breadcrumbs. Just my personal choice.

Meatballs

2 slices of white sandwich bread (I prefer Pepperidge Farm, it works well for me)

1/3 cup milk (whatever type you have will work here)

1 pound beef, pork, veal mixture

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 egg yolk

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper

Vegetable oil

Remove and discard the crusts from the bread then tear the bread into small pieces. Use a fork to mash the bread pieces and milk to a smooth paste in a large bowl. Add the beef, pork and veal mixture, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, a dash of pepper (or more if you like) to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform (I always use my hands – it gets messy but it mixes better. Take your rings off before you do this). Form the mixture into 1 1/2 inch round meatballs (about 12 meatballs if make them this big, if you want smaller, go for it and you’ll get more).

Pour the oil into a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and discard any oil left in the skillet.

Place the skillet back over medium heat and add the tomato sauce, Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and add the meatballs. Continue to simmer, turning the meatballs occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Okay, now you have your pasta, your sauce, and your meatballs. Our vegetable of choice today is broccoli, although we’ll be having salad along with it too (which Sean won’t eat, hence the broccoli). There are lots of ways to cook broccoli (steaming, roasting, braising, sauteing) and Sean prefers simple steaming, so that’s how we’re going with it today. Later on in the week I’ll be roasting some and I have the recipe for that for you. I do use a steaming basket in my dutch oven to do this, Placing the basket in with water just to the bottom of it, bringing the water to a boil and then adding the vegetables. Steam the broccoli for about 4 to 6 minutes until bright green and tender. Add some more water if you find that the water is boiling away before the broccoli is done.

Garlic bread itself is a pretty simple endeavor:

1 loaf Italian bread

4 tablespoons butter, softened (use less if you like, I often do)

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or other cheese of your liking, or no cheese at all, it’s optional)

Preheat the broiler. Cut the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, mix the butter, oil, garlic and oregano. Spread the mixture evenly on the bread. On a baking sheet, place the bread under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until slightly browned. Check frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn. Remove from the broiler and serve, or, if using the cheese, sprinkle cheese over the bread and place under the broiler for another 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown.

That’s it, you have our first meal plan. We usually only do dessert about once a week, and usually on the weekends so you’ve done it! Clean up for this one should be relatively easy, and I try to clean up as I go along to make things easier. If you have any suggestions or variations for this meal, please feel free to add them. I am always looking to try something new. Have fun cooking tonight and I’ll see you tomorrow. Tomorrow night Sean and Michelle are out for the night at a fundraiser, so I’ll be cooking for one (which makes tomorrow a leftovers night this week), so I’ll have to come up for a topic for tomorrow. Any suggestions?

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Pasta, Produce, Sauce, Vegetables

 

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