Monthly Archives: February 2010

When he cooks …

Linguine with zucchini and chickpeas

… I smile. Weekends are perfect for a shift in the kitchen. I was particularly happy to see my husband take over this weekend after a rough week at work and an annoying head cold.

“Dinner’s ready” was music to my ears Saturday night.  I was cranking away on a presentation while he rustled up the recipes I provided.  I dismissed his “one day I might be able to cook at your level” comment. Sure, the pasta was a bit overcooked and not as good as I recalled the last time around. But  I’m always delighted to be served dinner, rather than making it. One never wants to discourage a husband in the kitchen. Besides, isn’t cooking for someone an act of love?  I like to see it that way.

Saturday night: Salmon with herbed yogurt; linguine with chickpeas and zucchini.

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Reality bites

While this week’s meal plan started off strong, our nutritional profile started heading south by mid-week.

It hit a new low tonight when I fed son #2 a hot pocket and bowl of ice cream before he left early for his school play performance. The timing wasn’t great.  I had just raved about Jamie Oliver’s campaign to teach kids to cook recipes that will “save their lives.” My husband quipped:  “I’m gonna call that British chef and tell him you’re a slacker mom, you food blogger you.”

Reality bites. Hectic schedules can make it difficult to end the day with a balanced dinner.  On Wednesday I headed off to chaperone backstage at son #2’s play, leaving leftover spaghetti and meatballs for the rest of the family. I didn’t have time to make the planned salad so none was eaten.

Thursday was not much better.  While I enjoyed a dinner party with friends, my husband prepped dinner for the boys.  Salmon burgers. French fries. Mayonnaise. “What about lettuce, maybe some carrots?” “Nah, I asked but they didn’t want any.”

And then tonight, after my malnourished son headed to the second night of his play performance, fortified with convenience foods from the freezer, we stopped by a sushi restaurant for a quick meal before the play. Not a veggie in sight, barring a tablespoon of shredded cabbage adorning the gyoza.

Never mind. I’m sticking to my commitment to document every weeknight meal for a year.  You’ll find this week’s posted on the meal plan page, warts and all.

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Jamie Oliver: Why food education matters

Jamie Oliver of Naked Chef fame delivered a powerful talk this month at TED about his anti-obesity project in Huntington, W.Va.

His point: Set a new standard for “fresh, proper food” at school, at home. Major brands must invest in food education.  “It’s profoundly important that every single American child should leave school knowing how to cook 10 recipes that will save their lives.”

Jamie won the 2010 TED Prize which is awarded annually to an exceptional individual and is designed to inspire collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact.  Read more to learn how to help Jamie with his wish:

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”


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Thai Tilapia on Tuesday

Tilapia received a mere shrug the last time it was on the menu. Time to spice things up a bit.

Cooking Light: Tilapia with coconut-curry sauce

A quick search revealed not one but seven “top-rated” tilapia recipes at Cooking Light magazine. The recipe for Broiled Tilapia with Thai Coconut-Curry Sauce caught my eye. A little jar of green curry paste is always in our fridge; it was a handy substitute for the  red curry paste specified. No worries. Teamed with basmati rice and steamed carrots drizzled with honey and spiked with a hit of cayenne, tonight’s tilapia was a winner all around. Son #1 enjoyed a second round of the sauce over rice. Score!

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Photo-worthy pork chops and a hippie salad

Dinner was delayed tonight by a last-minute shopping trip where I quickly lost all sense of time. A place where discretion is prized, where people spend cash to indulge their passion in confidence.

The camera store! I managed to escape with only the bare essentials to get my new Nikon up and running, just in time to include a  photo in tonight’s post. Already I see an improvement over the Blackberry shots. But I see another lens or two in my future (and a few classes to restore photography skills that have lain dormant since my newspapering days).  But I digress …

This week promises to be hectic. Erik’s play hits the stage with three performances (and I’m out for a group dinner on Thursday). I figured I’d kick off the chaos with a meal that involved a bit more effort than I’d usually muster on a Monday night.

The pork chops were easy and amazing (I’ll have to give up that Shake and Bake after all). Spiced with paprika, browned in a skillet and finished in a hot oven. Far better than they sound. The salad from Sunset magazine contained a couple of my favorite foods — spinach and fennel — but it was a throwback to the ’70s with the warm bacon dressing.  One contemporary switch: I learned recently from the local mushroom people that one should always cook mushrooms, even the cultivated ones from the store.  So I sauteed the shrooms quickly, after the fennel, before tossing them into the spinach. Roasted potatoes and parsnips rounded out the scene.

It was all delish; at this point I’m not sure the photo does the meal justice.

Paprika pork chops & sides

Paprika spiced pork chops

Roasted parsnips and potatoes

Spinach, fennel, mushroom salad with warm bacon vinaigrette



Filed under Weeknight

Sunday spaghetti with “real” meatballs

Capanile's Spaghetti and Meatballs

We had a particularly quiet weekend since our sons were away on a Scout winter camp-out.  They slept in tents in the snow, pushed a human “dog sled” around a farm and did all the other things that boys do when they’re free to roam and there’s lots of white stuff on the ground. It was a fun, but exhausting event for the guys. My husband thought it would be a nice to treat them to a Sunday dinner that fits their tastebuds, not ours. I immediately thought of spaghetti with meatballs because:

— they requested it last week but the meal fell off our “while dad’s away” plan

— I never make meatballs from scratch but …

… I had dog-eared a page in the current Sunset magazine for a recipe from the chef of L.A.’s Campanile restaurant.

My husband and I decided to team up to manage the handmade meatballs. Thank goodness or I’d still be in the kitchen.  The sauce was simple — garlic, olive oil and three large cans of fire-roasted diced tomatoes plus sprigs of fresh basil. I threw in several cloves of roasted garlic (prepped yesterday for a party) instead of fresh.  It was the meatballs that took FOREVER.  I’m still trying to decide if the effort was worthwhile.  At least the recipe produced enough to feed a small army. We have leftovers for later this week plus a batch of sauce stored in the freezer. And we entertained ourselves watching the documentary Young at Heart (about a chorus of senior citizens who perform rock cover songs in concerts – touching and funny).

The boys showed up to dig into their much-requested meal, along with a salad and garlic bread (a loaf of French split lengthwise and smeared with butter and more of those roasted garlic cloves).  Happy campers!

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Pizza and wine to the rescue

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a decent frozen pizza and a glass or two of red wine. Especially when your mate has been out of town all week.

Today I was a chaperone for my son’s play rehearsal. Being in the presence of 60 budding thespians, belting out show tunes, for three hours was a key driver in uncorking a bottle of Petite Syrah for dinner. Meal plan aside, our freezer is always stocked with Freschetta pizzas for nights like this. Served with the rest of that yummy red cabbage salad for me and baby carrots for the boys, pizza was a likable option after we arrived home at 6:30.

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Salads sneak into the menu (happily)

One of the ironies of having a meal plan is the freedom it offers to be flexible.  Knowing in advance what you’re going to assemble for dinner on busy weeknights prevents headaches and hassles.  It also seems the mere existence of a meal plan can inspire other ideas, depending on what’s stocked in the kitchen.

Tonight I had planned on caesar salad, one of the few salads my boys will eat, with grilled chicken for day 3 of the “while dad’s away” dinner plan.  Then I stumbled upon a chickpea recipe on Orangette that was similar to the red cabbage salad — both dressed with just lemon juice, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.  Thanks to leftover cabbage salad and the five minutes it took to mix up the chickpeas, we ended up with three salads for dinner.  Plus grilled chicken apple sausages, another switcheroo.

The change in plans moved me closer to one of my New Year’s resolutions: salads and veggies occupying two-thirds of my dinner plate. Tonight’s proportions were closer to three-quarters: a chicken apple sausage was lost among the helpings of caesar salad, red cabbage salad and chickpeas.

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Another kid fave on Tuesday

On night three of the “while dad’s away” meal plan, dinner was based on another kid favorite – ham steak.

Glazed with honey mustard and broiled for a few minutes, ham steak is always a hit. The boys also liked the sides: pineapple chunks and some scary orange Jo-Jo potatoes leftover from a deli stop. The “adult” side of dinner was asparagus roasted with a bit of olive oil, then drizzled afterwards with orange zest and a tablespoon or so of freshly squeezed juice from the same navel orange. I made sure the boys left room on their plate for a few stalks if for no other reason than to color the plate beyond pink, yellow and orange.

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Shrimp quesadillas, a kid favorite

On night two of the “while dad’s away” meal plan, I got a thumbs-up from Erik. “I love these things,” he explained as he asked for his third helping of shrimp quesadillas. I do too. They’re easy, tasty and one of the best ways to use those tiny pink shrimp we often see in the seafood cases here in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon shrimpmeat looks like  cocktail shrimp. Elsewhere in the country I’ve tasted tiny pink shrimp scattered on top of a salad or blended into a stuffing for fish with no cause for celebration. But here in the Northwest, our tiny shrimp seem sweeter. Perhaps it’s because they’re fresh, harvested wild just off the coast. In any case, they deserve more attention.  My favorite fixings are to feature the shrimp in a delectable tomato-based topping for a favorite snapper recipe (I see this appearing on a meal plan soon), scramble them into eggs or fold them into fried rice.  And then there’s quesadillas.

Tonight’s dinner was super simple: flour tortillas stuffed with shredded cheddar cheese, shrimpmeat and sliced red bell pepper.  Served with salsa, avocado slices, sliced black olives and a dish of steamed corn. Ahhhhh.

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