It’s the last week in March — one week until break. We can do this.

This week is all about just hanging on — Friday night is right around the corner, and that brings a whole week of no alarm clocks and comfy clothes and lounging on the couch drinking coffee all morning.  But first we have to make it through the week.  Keeping things simple:

Sunday:

Yesterday at the farmer’s market, Hoffman’s Chop Shop had some lovely assembled meatloafs.  Maybe it’s because it was pouring rain, or maybe because I’ve been craving meatloaf for a while, or maybe it’s because I knew that this week dinner needed to be just one step removed from Hot Pockets (simplicity-wise, not nutrition-wise).  So I got a meatloaf.  We’re having it tonight with roasted potatoes and roasted broccoli.  I’m most excited about the leftovers.

Monday:  Another booth at the market had homemade sauerkraut — I couldn’t pass that up.  So dinner tonight is grilled turkey kielbasa, sauerkraut, and sauteed peppers, mushrooms, and onions.  And probably plenty of spicy mustard.

Tuesday: Salad with chopped apples, pecans, blue cheese, and grilled chicken (maybe glazed with some strawberry jam — I just realized I made a ton of jam last summer and haven’t even opened any of it yet.  I flavored a few jars with yummy things, like mint/basil, or black pepper/balsamic vinegar.  One of those might be good on grilled chicken.  We’ll see!)

Wednesday:  School event tonight — so no dinner plans.

Thursday: Grilled flank steak (the original reason I was at the Hoffman’s counter at the farmer’s market last weekend) with roasted sweet potatoes and salad.

Friday:  Probably just cheese.  Or maybe face-plant in the couch and skip dinner entirely, just start the spring break nap…  🙂

Prepared Like a Girl Scout

Last week a friend at work was asking me about my dinners — she had checked out my blog and came away with the impression that dinners were fancy and must’ve taken a long time to cook.  But my big secret is I try to find things that take little to no time to prep during the week — fancy dinners are perfect for Sundays when I have some extra time to chop and stir.  What I try to do is mad food prep, though.  I’ve taken it to an extreme this week, because I’ll be away at a conference for a bit, and will miss my grocery shopping/veggie chopping time for next week.

Usually at times like that, the whole week falls to hell, food-wise.  When left to last minute choices, I choose pizza.  So much pizza.  A whole week of nothing planned equals way too much pizza.  So I’m trying to plan for close to two weeks right now.  It’s a mix of things I can prep ahead of time and stuff that takes no more time to cook than it does to chop a pepper.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

Sunday:  With time to actually cook, I’m trying Chili-Fried Butternut Squash Tacos with Mango-Pineapple Salsa.  We’re also grilling shrimp to have with it.  When I got home from the store this afternoon, I made the salsa and the sour cream sauce, and it’s waiting in the fridge right now while I move on to cooking for the rest of the week.

Monday:  This salad (Pomegranate, Pear, and Avocado Salad) sounds crazy fast to make, so I’m not prepping anything ahead of time.  We’ll grill some salmon to have with it.

Tuesday:  A reprisal of a lovely recipe from a few weeks back that I wanted again (plus we had the rest of the ricotta from the first time — I don’t have a lot of uses for ricotta:  Zucchini Involtini with Tomato Sauce.  This one is getting made ahead of time — I can chop and cook the zucchini while I’m chopping other veggies, mix the filling, and put it all together when the zucchini cools.  I added a bit of spicy turkey sausage to the tomato sauce for kicks.  It’s in a casserole dish in the fridge now, waiting to be cooked on Tuesday night.

Wednesday:  Trying to ease my pizza appetite without too much damage:  Mini pizzas on portobello mushrooms.  Fill mushroom caps with pizza sauce, toppings, and cheese, and then bake until the cheese is melted and the mushroom is cooked through — about 10 – 15 minutes.

Thursday:  Venison fajita salad.  We’ll basically saute venison steak, sliced bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms, then give it some fajita-type seasoning (our usual suspects include cumin, garlic, cayenne, ancho chile powder, salt…) and mix it in with some torn romaine lettuce.  Guacamole (we buy the individual serving packs at Costco and keep them in the freezer) mixed in, along with an olive oil and lime juice dressing.

 

And to prep for next week:

  • We have some leftover Pork Ragu from New Year’s Day in the freezer — it was amazing, and I don’t want it to get forgotten in the back depths of our freezer,  Plus it’s already made!  We’ll cook some fat egg noodles to have with it, and maybe frozen peas.
  • In the pressure cooker right now is some Italian Chicken Soup.  Once it’s done, I’ll cool it and then freeze it for next week.
  • No prep required for this one:  Pan-Seared Cod with White Wine Tomato Basil Sauce and roasted veggies.  Everything I need is in my freezer, my tomato bowl, or my pantry.  Easy peasy.
  • And of course, more portobello mushroom pizzas on standby if needed.

 

There it is.  My plan to stay away from the ‘We-don’t-have-a-plan-so-let’s-just-eat-takeout-all-week’ abyss.  Wish me luck!

February 12 and so on…

It’s that weird mid-winter time (the lack of snow doesn’t help) where I’m done with winter, and the sun is starting to come up on my drive to work, and I’m craving veggies madly and I start to imagine that it secretly might be spring. And so my original plan was to just have a grilling fest this week, but when I sat down to make a plan it didn’t quite happen.  Which is fine, because every year when I imagine that it secretly might be spring, terrible winter weather comes back to remind me not to get too excited. So we’ll do occasional weekend grilling, but hold off on going full-grill for a few more weeks.  Here’s the plan:

Sunday:  Pork chops (season with salt & pepper, sear in a pan and then pop the pan in the oven to finish cooking) with a sauce made of maybe maple syrup and dijon mustard (I’m just making that up as I’m typing and realizing that some kind of sauce would be lovely, so I’ll pull the chops from the pan, add a bit of white wine to deglaze the pan, and then some mustard and maple and let it cook for a few minutes).  We’ll have roasted cauliflower (see last Sunday’s menu — we’ll cook it the same way we did that) and Roasted Butternut Squash salad from the Pioneer Woman Cooks book (my continuing effort to try all the recipes in one book has stalled in the last few weeks, but I’m trying!).

Monday:   Zucchini involtini.  I’ve been wanting to make this for weeks, and it’s finally time!  We’ll make salad with balsamic vinegar and shredded parmesan to have alongside.

Tuesday:  We’ll avoid a restaurant tonight, but still have yummy food.  I’m going to try to make a Roasted Carrot Soup (from my new favorite food website, Food52) and then we’ll pan-sear some scallops and some little crab cakes (no recipe for the cakes — I just mix crab with stuff that will be delicious and make it all stick together, like egg, or mustard, and add some herbs and chopped veggies like onion or jalapeno, and dip it in some crushed tortilla chips before putting it in the fridge a bit to rest).  We’ll have roasted asparagus with it all. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Wednesday: Portobello mushroom pizzas — like making English muffin pizzas, but on portobello mushrooms instead.  Scrape the gills out with a spoon, then put some pizza sauce, toppings, and cheese on.  Put them on a foil-covered baking sheet (they will give off a lot of liquid!) and bake at about 425 for 10 or 15 minutes.

Thursday: Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore (except instead of adding noodles, we’ll put it on zucchini noodles instead).

Friday: Time to grill.  Burgers, oven fries, roasted broccoli.  Yum.

Happy Super Bowl! Let’s eat food with buffalo sauce. (And probably cheese)

So when we’re watching football, I always feel like I need to eat football-ish food.  But I’m also coming off of a week of mostly travel dining, where my produce options were pretty much the sad clementines I had stuffed in my purse and the single piece of lettuce and tomato on the boxed-lunch sandwiches.  I’m craving veggies.

And also Super Bowl-related, one year a long long time ago we went to a Super Bowl party where the theme was… soup.  Crock Pot after Crock Pot lined the kitchen counter.  It was the best idea ever.

So no soup for the game, but we’ll try a couple new soup recipes this week in recognition of this national holiday.

Sunday

Buffalo cauliflower florets (with celery and blue cheese):  Toss chunks of cauliflower in olive oil, then spread on a sheet pan and cook at about 450 degrees until there are brown and roasty bits.  Pull them out of the oven and toss them in a bowl with some Frank’s Red Hot, then serve with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing.

Chipotle chicken sweet potato skins:  This is a recipe I’m trying based on a picture from Pinterest.  The link was broken, so I couldn’t actually see a recipe, but I think I can figure it out.  I’m going to cut small sweet potatoes lengthwise and bake for a bit until I can scoop out the insides, then I’ll pop them back in the oven for a bit to crisp up.  I’ll saute onion, jalapeno, some shredded chicken, and the insides of the sweet potatoes, then season with chipotle chili powder, salt and pepper.  I’ll stuff that into the skins, sprinkle with a bit of cheese, and bake until it’s all gooey.  We’ll have some sliced avocado and salsa with it.

Monday

This is really the name of this soup:  Lentil and Sausage Soup for a Cold Winter’s Night.  How could I not try it?

Tuesday

Seared cod with bacon, braised fennel and kale, with maple-dijon roasted carrots and mushrooms.  This is in the ’30 minute dinner’ section of this month’s Cooking Light magazine, but it sounds too fancy to be fast.  So we might end up with seared cod with carrot sticks if I’m not as fast as the magazine thinks I can be.

Wednesday

Avocado english muffin with poached egg, with a big random veggie salad on the side — no real recipe, just toast an english muffin, mash avocado on it, plop a poached egg on top, a bit of salt and pepper…  and then the salad will have whatever veggies still exist in the fridge.  I’ve been madly craving artichokes lately, so there will be artichokes.  And maybe other veggies too.

Thursday

Spiced meatball, butternut, and tomato stew.  Because butternut.

Friday

Greek chicken nachos — to change it up from the regular nachos we make way too often.

Have a good week!  Every day we’re closer to spring — so enjoy the lentil soup while you can!

 

It’s January 22. Almost Spring?

Yesterday at a store the clerk asked me about the weather outside.  We marveled over the 54 degree January day, and then she asked, “Do you think we’ll get hit with more winter weather?”

Yeah.  Probably.

But since it’s warm and muddy today, we’ll pretend it’s early spring.  And next week when it’s winter again I’ll go back to making lentil soup and equally ‘hunker-down-and-stay-warm’ food.

Sunday

Let’s grill.  Barbecue chicken thighs, succotash, and coleslaw.  (Yeah, it’s sort of a July menu, but so what?)  We put a dry rub with chili powder and garlic and other mostly orange seasonings, and later we’ll grill the bone-in, skin-on thighs low and slow, and then dress with barbecue sauce at the end.  The succotash-ish is my own version, without a recipe — start with frozen corn kernels and incorporate some number of diced veggies, lima beans, and bits of bacon.  Salt, pepper, and a splash of apple cider vinegar at the end.  We’ll add a jalapeno for sure, and probably onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and maybe some basil.  The coleslaw is from the Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinner cookbook.  I had a coleslaw fail last week — loosely based on a recipe I saw on TV — so I’m trying to redeem myself. (I tried hard to follow the recipe, and got pretty close.  Here’s my version: Mayo, milk, white vinegar, hot sauce, sugar, salt, pepper whisked together, then cabbage, carrot, julienne bell pepper and diced jalapeno, then chopped cilantro).

Monday

Gonna be a busy week.  We’re taking it easy, food-prep-wise.  sautéed turkey kielbasa with sliced onion, bell pepper and mushrooms.  Fancy mustard for dipping.

Tuesday

Omelet with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, and other veggies.  I make omelets like I make burritos — way too much filling — so I’ll cook up a ton of veggies and then make a pan-sized omelet, and try to put all the veggies on one side so I can fold the omelet over and then fail magnificently.  I’ll get maybe a fourth of the omelet folded over the mess of veggies and smoked salmon, but it will be delicious no matter what.

Wednesday

Flat bread pizza — my ultimate quick dinner.  Naan flatbread from Trader Joe’s (we have multiple packs in the freezer at any given moment) with pizza sauce, other toppings from the fridge, and cheese — 12 minutes in the oven at 425 and we’re good to go!

Thursday

Kale Citrus Salad with grilled salmon — it’s a recipe with oranges and jalapeno, so I have to try it.  The salmon isn’t part of the recipe, but I think it will go nicely over the salad.

Week of Jan. 15: Continue the Plan (Fluffy Socks and Lots of Tea)

I’m sort of loving the idea of hibernating until spring.  I leave the house for work, and we even left yesterday to go see a movie.  But cabin fever hasn’t hit me yet, and until it does, I’m digging in my heels and burrowing deeper into the couch.  I cleaned out the baking/dry goods (you know, beans and rice and stuff) pantry this week and found some ingredients I had forgotten about, which turned into tonight’s dinner.  It got me thinking about other overlooked ingredient treasures, and I’m going to try to use a few of them up soon — my version of pre-spring cleaning.

Sunday:  Bean soup with arugula salad and baguette.  For Christmas, my mom always gets us a bag of farmers’ market goodies — soup mixes and handmade soaps and maple syrup and lovely stuff like that.  I’m not sure if the bean mix is from this Christmas, or last year (or maybe before???), but the beans are rehydrating nicely so I’m okay with it.  I’ll simmer the beans with some ham hocks, a jar of tomatoes, and some other chopped veggies (carrots, celery, onion, garlic — and I’m wondering about jalapeno?) until the beans are tender.  We’ll pull out the ham hocks, shred any meat on them back into the pot, and season with salt and pepper.

Monday:  This is a surprise to me — Phil is totally in charge of dinner tonight, and I don’t know what he’s planning yet.  This is a day when I get to do one of my favorite/most exhausting parts of my job pretty much nonstop all day, and so I hope to slump on the couch and be served lovely food when I get home.  🙂

Tuesday:  Taco(ish) Tuesday…  tonight’s version is venison fajitas.  We eat lots of food encased in corn tortillas.  While the protein might change (thin-sliced venison steaks tonight), the approach is roughly the same — lots of yummy sliced veggies, warm corn tortillas, guac, and tonight, venison steak seasoned with taco-ish spices (chile powder — ancho or chipotle or whatever one we see first in the spice rack, cumin, salt, garlic).

Wednesday:  From my cookbook challenge (trying all the recipes in a book I received for Christmas in an acknowledgement that I own way too many cookbooks and use them far too rarely, so let’s start getting to know them a whole lot better one book at a time), a veggie bowl with poached eggs.  The book calls it something like “carb buster” (I’ll check when I find the link to the recipe) but really, it’s a bowl of sauteed veggies with a poached egg on top and a slice of delicious cheese on the side.

Thursday:  Spaghetti squash casserole.  True confession:  we planned on having spaghetti squash stuffed with chicken and tomatoes and other goodies last week.  But I had an ice day on that day, and got to stay home.  The idea of just popping a previously-made quick dinner in the oven for a 20 minute reheat on a day when I could linger over some more luxurious meal prep didn’t appeal, so we tossed it in the freezer and made a lovely flank steak, redskin potato, and roasted veggie dinner instead.  I don’t want to lose it to leftovers-in-the-freezer purgatory (where I optimistically freeze leftovers, saying to myself, “This will be PERFECT for a day when we’re too busy to cook!” and then I forget all about it until I clean out the freezer two years later), so I’m putting it back in the rotation right away.  Also, I put it in a new casserole dish I got for Christmas, and I want it back.

Friday:  Venison burgers with bacon jam, oven fries, lemon-garlic roasted broccoli salad.  A ‘lingering ingredient’ I keep moving around the fridge is the last of the bacon jam — it’s delicious, but I never think to use it, and so the jar just keeps getting shoved around the fridge.  Doing some pre-spring cleaning and eating this bacon jam.  It’s a win-win.

Saturday:  Sweet potato waffles, Beautiful Roasted Veggies — I love the idea of savory waffles, and sometimes they work, and sometimes they’re a big mess.  But I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and I really really want to try it.  The veggie recipe comes from my cookbook challenge (see Wednesday), and it sounds pretty close to the way I already roast veggies, but in the spirit of trying them all out, I’ll stick to this plan and see if I learn any new tricks!

Have a great week, stay warm, and drink lots of tea!  🙂

It’s January 8, It’s 8 Degrees Out — It’s All Good. Right?

It’s not that I want to eat soup for every meal, but I feel like when it’s cold out and I spend the whole weekend in yoga pants, I feel like I need to be cooking soup all day long.  But that would be too much soup.

Here’s our game plan for the week instead:

Sunday:  Roasted chicken, roasted veggies.  For the chicken, my vague recipe:  chop a bunch of garlic, mix it in a small bowl with some olive oil, some lemon juice, some white wine, some salt & pepper, some herbs — basil is nice, but anything will do.  Pull back the chicken skin wherever you can get access and grab a handful of the garlic mixture and shove it in — the goal is to rub it between the skin and the meat as much as you can.  I like to also cut a lemon and an onion in half and put them in the cavity of the chicken — not sure if it does anything taste-wise, but it makes the house smell nice.  Then I put it in the oven at about 400 degrees for an hour or an hour and a half — I just keep checking it with my thermometer until it’s done.

For the roasted veggies, I’m thinking brussels sprouts (with some olive oil and salt & pepper, then in that same oven for 20 – 30 minutes) and maybe butternut squash and kale.  I usually just roast b’nut squash on its own, but in my attempt to try out all the recipes in my chosen cookbook (The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime), I’ll give this version a try instead.  Plus, we have kale.  Because I always buy it without a plan.

Monday:  Soup!  We’re going to try Tomato Soup with Parmesan Croutons from the cookbook.

Tuesday:  Fish tacos.  Our fish taco recipe is as rigid as the roasted chicken recipe (see Sunday…).  We’ll cook some fish (mahi mahi or cod) either by grilling it or baking in the oven — depends on the weather.  We’ll spice it first with some ancho chile powder, salt, garlic, and cumin.  When it’s cooked, we’ll crumble it and put it in corn tortillas, and then top with random stuff.  Here’s what we sometimes use:  shredded cabbage, chopped red onion, guacamole, diced tomatoes, thin-sliced bell pepper, pickled jalapeños, sour cream, cheese, black beans, salsa.  We won’t use all this, but as much of it as we can scrape up.  I’ll fill my taco shells way too full and make a terrible mess, requiring a big plate and a fork.  Phil will make tacos with engineer-type precision with the exact right amount of cheese shreds on each.  Both will be yummy.

Wednesday:  Spicy cauliflower stir fry.

Thursday:  Tuscan Chicken Spaghetti Squash — I’ll make this earlier in the week so we just have to pop it in the oven and heat it for a bit on Thursday night.  We’ll use chicken left over from our roasted chicken on Sunday!

Friday:  Since January brings out my stay-at-homeness even more than other months, I’m inclined to want to cook on weekends instead of venture out into the cold and muck to a restaurant.  But I still want Friday night food.  So we’ll do some homemade chicken wings, oven fries, and coleslaw.  No real recipes to share here — We season the wings and put them on a rack over a big roasting pan (so they can crisp all the way around) and bake them on about 400 until they seem done, then we toss them with a sauce — I vote for Franks’ Red Hot, and Phil is a fan of one of the five random bottles of barbecue sauce we always seem to have in the door of the fridge.

Saturday:  Please see Friday’s admission of extreme introversion, and recognize that this is the time of year when I attempt homemade sushi.  We’re going for it tonight.  Our sushi approach is similar to our fish taco approach — Let’s find good stuff in the fridge and add it in — but the rice is the thing with making sushi…  And this blog post is one that I looked at the first few times I tried to make it at home.  So that’s it — veggies, maybe some fish, definitely some Sriracha mayo, and yumminess.