Holiday break is over… time to get organized again.

I’m sitting here on my last morning of still-in-a-hoodie-at-9:30-a.m.-vacation mode, trying to make a food plan so when I head back to work tomorrow we don’t immediately crumble into eating cheese and crackers for every meal.  It’s a short week to plan for, which helps immensely, and I have a stack of new recipes and cookbooks (yay Christmas!) so there’s plenty of inspiration…

Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell, is one of my favorite books.  I love her other writing too — but there’s something about the idea of working your way, with some kind of singular focus, through an amazing and challenging cookbook that speaks to my linear brain. (It’s the book where she decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking).  I could never do it with that book — the aspics are enough to send me running away — but I do love the idea of getting to know a particular cookbook so well by committing to do it all.

I currently have 61 cookbooks on my shelf near the kitchen, as well as eight magazine file boxes bursting with cooking magazines.  Most of the time, I cook something I can do from my brain, or I pull a recipe from a website — so a lot of those treasures on those shelves remain undiscovered.  I got a couple new cookbooks for Christmas, and as I read through them, I thought that I’d really like to taste everything in them.

So I’m trying it.  My lovely friend Ann got me The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime, and it’s a great mix of quick recipes, and slow-braise-perfect-for-snowy-Sunday-afternoon-recipes, and healthy stuff, and slightly indulgent stuff.  And if I’m ever going to get to know all the recipes in any of my books, I need to start holding myself responsible for doing more than just flipping through the pages on those snowy Sundays.  My plan is to keep track (by writing in the index — I tend to write in my cookbooks anyway) of the recipes I use, and be intentional about trying them all.  No time limit — and I’ll still mix in other recipes from other places — but if this goes well, I’m hoping to try it with another book after.

Because otherwise I should probably just stop buying cookbooks.  And that would be too sad to bear.

And so the plan this week, with a few featured recipes from my featured cookbook (whose author also has many of her recipes on Pinterest, so linking to them whenever I can will be kind of easy):

Tuesday:  Pan-seared cod with white wine tomato basil sauce (a Pinterest find), oven-roasted potatoes and oven-roasted broccoli (from my brain — basically coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe some other spices, like crushed red pepper, and roast at about 425 degrees on a sheet pan for 10 – 15 minutes (broccoli) and 30 – 40 minutes for the potatoes).

Wednesday:  Sesame Chicken Salad (from the cookbook!) — it sounds delicious and also very simple, which I’ll need after my first day back.  And it has oranges, which will help with leaving for work in the dark and also returning home in the dark.  The oranges will be my sunshine!

Thursday: Hamburger Soup (cookbook!).  In the description, she talks about making it on a day when it’s “ding-dang cold.”  And I just checked the weather.  And it seems like it will be appropriate.

Friday:  Homemade pizza.  Because I survived a 3-day work week!  I make my crust with the recipe that came with our stand mixer (I only use about 2-plus-a-tiny-bit cups of flour, and I sometimes do half white and half whole wheat flour, but I follow the rest of the recipe pretty closely) with sauce and cheese and whatever might work for a pizza topping that’s laying around.

Saturday:  Beef with Snow Peas (and other veggies too) from the cookbook.

I’ve already tried two things from this cookbook (Greek Yogurt pancakes and a Buffalo Chicken Salad), so after this week, I’ll be well on my way, right?  Just hoping to discover a few new go-to recipes. Here we go!


Snowy December 11…

I’ve dropped the ball a bit on making my weekly menu posts — still made menus (mostly — we had one bad week in there) but getting them to the computer has been a bit of a jump.

But it’s a really snowy Sunday afternoon, and so I didn’t go to the grocery store today.  Now I’m watching football and figuring out a menu we can make with what we have sitting around.  We reorganized the freezer in the garage today to make room for Phil’s deer, so now we have a better sense of what we’ve got on hand.  And that was a reason to thaw out a flank steak for dinner tonight.  🙂

Sunday:  Grilled flank steak (if we can get to the grill), roasted brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash, and sweet potatoes

Monday:  Fish tacos (broil some mahi mahi, serve on corn tortillas with chopped onion, salsa, guacamole, and maybe some black beans)

Tuesday:  Meatloaf (ground venison, ground pork, and whatever veggies I can find chopped small, sauteed and mixed together).  I sometimes base my meatloaf on this recipe.  We’ll have oven-roasted broccoli and roasted sweet potatoes with this.

Wednesday:  Probably leftovers.  Maybe flatbread pizza.

Thursday:  No plans at this point, partly because that’ll use all the veggies we still have in the house and partly because I think I maybe have plans…  but can’t quite remember.  Either way, probably a no cooking night.

Have a great week!



October 30

It’s raining, and I’m putting off going for a run.  So I’m reading recipes instead.  And deciding how many times I can make soup in one week.

Sunday:  In a bit I’m heading out for a nice long run in preparation for a half marathon in a couple of weeks.  Long runs make me feel very indulgent afterwards, so I’m cooking something yummy for dinner tonight:  Mussels with garlic & white wine (saute onions, garlic, some thyme in oil, add white wine and bring to a simmer — put the mussels in the pot and put the lid on, and cook until their shells open, then pull them out, cook the sauce down a bit — maybe with some butter — and pour it over the mussels) with crunchy baguette.  I bought orange cauliflower yesterday (it looks like cheese!) so we’ll roast that to have on the side.

Monday:  Halloween!  We probably won’t get any trick-or-treaters, but since we lived all those years right in the middle of the trick-or-treat action, we still feel the need to be home early and be ready, just in case.  So I’m planning something sort of time-intensive, since I’ll be hanging around waiting for that doorbell that just won’t ring:  Butternut squash risotto with pancetta!  I sort of loosely follow this recipe, but I start with sautéing cubed pancetta.  I also use a mix of frozen squash and fresh cubed squash for more texture.  On the side we’ll have sautéed kale with toasted pecans.

Tuesday:  It’s going to be warmer today, so we’ll celebrate by using the grill. Grilled mahi mahi with seasoned brussels sprouts.

Wednesday:  No plan today.  Neither of us is sure how our day is going to go, so we’re just planning to graze/eat leftovers/eat peanut butter straight from the jar.

Thursday:  Soup!!!  Sweet & sour beef cabbage soup.  First time trying this recipe, but I bought cabbage at the farmers’ market yesterday, so we’re going for it.

Have a great week!  Happy November!

Almost the End of October! (Almost…)

So, it’s conference week at school, and that means late nights and yummy (but terribly so-not-healthy) food brought in for dinners for us.  So I’m trying to do a lot of pre-cooking so I can have some better choices and not mindlessly eat crackers at 10pm or whenever I finally arrive home…  I did a lot of cooking today, and have almost everything ready to go for the whole week.  Finally have a minute to type, so here’s the plan!

Sunday:  Pork chops with blackberry balsamic glaze, sauteed apples, and roasted brussels sprouts.  This dinner is totally invented, and it’s based on blackberry balsamic vinegar.  You see, I am a sucker.  I see these lovely flavored vinegars and think, “Oh yes — I will definitely use these!  I will make interesting salad dressings and pork tenderloins and such.”  And then the bottle of blackberry balsamic vinegar sits there for FIVE YEARS.  So it’s time.  Here’s what’s simmering right now:  I seared bone-in pork chops (seasoned with salt and pepper) for a few minutes on each side, and then put the pan in the oven at 400 degrees.  I also have brussels sprouts (halved, coated with olive oil and salt and pepper) on parchment on a baking sheet in the oven.  Sprouts will take about 30 minutes, and I’ll check the temp on the chops starting at about 15 or 20.  I fried some sage leaves in butter, and then pulled them out.  I added a chopped onion into the butter, and then after a few minutes threw in about 3 thin-sliced apples.  Some salt and pepper, and I’ll crumble the fried sage back in at the end.  I also sauteed some garlic in olive oil, then added some frozen blackberries (from our yard — yahoo) and some of the aforementioned vinegar.  It’s simmering.  My plan is to put everything on a plate and put the blackberry glaze on top of the pork and maybe the other stuff too.

Monday:  I made a Sweet Potato Quiche this afternoon — we can reheat tomorrow or eat it room temperature.  I love that the crust is made of sweet potatoes!

Tuesday:  Sausage, Potato and Spinach (or Kale) soup:  the recipe calls for spinach, but I had kale.  It went in earlier in the recipe than the spinach is called for.

Wednesday:  Slow Cooker Jalapeno Chicken Chili.

Thursday:  Trying out the casserole part of my life with Tomato Basil Artichoke Baked Chicken.

Friday:  Collapse in a heap.  Probably eat crackers.


Have a great week!

October 9

Not sure what happened last week, but we couldn’t make one of the easiest dinners we had planned (Caesar salad) happen, so we’re still here with a bunch of romaine.  Hence, Sunday dinner’s already planned.  Should make the rest of the week easier.

Sunday:  Let’s try again on the Caesar salad.  We’ll use the dressing from this recipe, then marinate some chicken thighs in lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic, and grill it up.  Add some grilled sourdough garlic toast and parmesan cheese.  And some grilled onions, because they’re so yummy.

Monday:  Combining my love for soup with my craving for fish, we’ll try Salmon Chowder tonight.  New recipe for us…  we shall see.

Tuesday:  I started with this recipe for Green Pizza (pesto instead of tomato sauce, arugula and broccoli as toppings) — but we’re using naan flatbreads instead of pizza dough, and adding some spicy chicken sausage.

Wednesday:  Stuffed sweet potato:  I’ll cook a potato ahead of time (maybe Tuesday when the oven’s warm with the pizzas).  On Wednesday, I’ll saute a bunch of veggies — onion, mushroom, marinated bell pepper, spinach — and then make a little sauce with some dijon mustard, olive oil, and red wine vinegar.  I’ll reheat the potato in the microwave, slice it open, dump the veggies and sauce in, and sprinkle feta cheese on top.  Other than the time to cook the potato (which you can do days in advance), this is basically a 10 minute dinner, and it’s so yummy.

Thursday:  Grilled mahi mahi, chili roasted carrots (trying out a potential Thanksgiving side dish recipe) and baked cabbage.  The lovely Melissa at work told me about a way to make cabbage steaks in the oven.  If I can find the Facebook link to the directions, I’ll attach it here.  Or I’ll just corner her in the hall on Thursday at school and have her walk me through the directions again.

(Update:  I just copied and pasted from the cabbage directions she sent me:  Baked cabbage steaks preheat oven 400 wash and remove outer leaves trim stem off ,cut 1 to 1 1/2 inch steaks brush both sides with olive oil, garlic salt and pepper both sides bake 30 to 40 minutes I like mine at 40 min so edges start to brown delicious and calorie friendly.  Originally posted by Ely Farmers Market.)

Have a great week!


It’s October now!

We spent the weekend up north (the colors were just starting to pop out in the trees!), and anytime there’s a weekend away, we end up cutting some Sunday-afternoon corners.  You know…  do we need clean clothes this week?  Are we okay pretending the house is clean and just averting our eyes? Can we plan an entire week’s menu without hitting the grocery store?  (Answer:  no.  But we made it a quick trip.)

Here’s what we came up with:

Sunday:  A no-recipe dinner on the grill (because it’s nicer out this week!):  Grilled mahi mahi, potatoes (chop them, boil them quick on the stove, dump out into foil with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, and salt, then put on the grill) and grilled veggies (to make it fancy, we had a medley — a couple chopped zucchini, a sliced tomato, half an onion…  and a bit of parmesan on top.  Also in foil with olive oil, also tossed on the grill.)

Monday:  Spinach salad with apples, bacon, and other good stuff.

Tuesday:  Thankful for frozen shrimp…  Thai Sweet and Sour Stir-Fry with Shrimp

Wednesday:  Southwestern chopped salad with cilantro dressing

Thursday:  Caesar salad with grilled chicken thighs:  I use the dressing from this recipe, and then throw in whatever caesar-y stuff I have — romaine, parmesan, grilled chicken.

We’re not even going to think about Friday right now.  Just happy we might make it through the week with an acceptable number of veggies in our lives.

Have a great week!

September 25 and such

Oh, it’s officially fall.  My butternut squash flag can start flying proudly.

Sunday:  Grilled flank steak, roasted cauliflower, roasted butternut squash:  We’ll do some kind of dry rub on the steak, probably involving garlic, cumin, salt, maybe something spicy like ancho chile powder or a teensy bit of cayenne.  Then we’ll let it sit for a while and then grill it, rest it, and slice it in thin against-the-grain slices.  And then eat way more than we should.  We’ll also chop up a head of cauliflower, and a butternut squash, and (each in its own pan) drizzle them with olive oil, and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on them.  Keep them in the oven at about 425 until the edges get browned and wonderful.

Monday:  Forecast is cool for the next few days.  There will be much soup.  Tonight is Sausage, Potato and Spinach soup with some crusty bread for dipping.

Tuesday:  I might be jumping the gun by dragging out the slow cooker already, but I just don’t care.  And so:  Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Chili.  Maybe with corn muffins. Definitely with salad, since the veggie count in the chili isn’t too grand.

Wednesday: Avocado toast with poached egg.  I’m counting on having some bread left over from Monday’s soup fest.  I’ll toast some, grill some avocado and tomato, mash the avocado on the toast, toss on the tomato, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt, and then poach an egg and stick it on top.  These are 75% of my dream foods in one stack.

Thursday: Because we can’t go too long without a taco-type-dinner, we’ll do venison fajitas.  We’ll saute some thin-sliced venison steak, big sweet onions, bell peppers, and any other veggie that’s still sticking around the fridge.  We’ll add in some yummy taco-ish spices, like garlic, cumin, chile powder, cayenne, and let it all simmer around a bit.  Then we’ll have corn tortillas, guacamole, salsa, shredded cabbage, cheese.  Phil will build appropriately-sized fajitas, and I will cram five servings of filling into one sad little tortilla.  It will then explode all over my plate.  It will look like a terrible mess.  I will love it.

Have a great week!