We’re off to New York City and Washington D.C. to see the sights. YouAteThat??? will be quiet for a while with a couple of random posts to fill the void while we forge our way across two exciting cities.
Foodie favorites will be shared upon our return. You can bet our itinerary will be influenced greatly by where we’ll eat!
Friday night dinners are typically challenging. At that point I’ve run out of steam and lack the energy to even glance at the meal plan much less follow it. Last week ended with a bit more drama than usual.
Pinned to my computer all Friday, I was in no mood to enter the kitchen. But my son was having a friend over for dinner, and yes, I must feed the children. Hamburgers, that’s the ticket. So I headed to the market, but not before making a quick stop by the library just minutes before it closed. Photocopies made. Books checked out. Off I went to the PCC for natural ground beef (the only place I buy beef since the Mad Cow scare years ago). I decided to pick up a few more groceries while there and opened a bag of rice chips to sate my hunger while shopping.
Then I realized my wallet was missing. And I knew exactly where it was: Sitting next to the photocopier, locked in the library.
I sheepishly explained the situation to the PCC clerk, asking if I could pick up the goods the next day and by the way, I opened the rice chips. “Take ’em, don’t worry about it, you need a snack!” she said cheerfully.
I mulled my options on the way home. It was 6:30 p.m. and I’d be walking into a house with three hungry boys and a husband to boot. The freezer in the garage is a true gamble. It’s stocked with pizzas and other kid food or packages of meat and veggies that require forethought. But I found a package of salmon burgers and even a package of buns. With exactly five of each. Yippee! Added french fries and a green salad and we were set to go 20 minutes later. Whew!
And yes, my wallet was waiting for me the next day at the library 🙂
I realized this evening about 6:20 p.m. that noting merely “pork chops” on the meal plan is an invitation to relapse to not-so-savory habits. At that point I had only an image of dinner: pork chops, that package of baby yams gifted the night before, frozen green beans and oh, the beleaguered leftover rutabagas.
Shake and Bake to the rescue. “Beautiful,” my husband said as he peeked into the oven. And he was serious. He likes the stuff. Which naturally causes me to wonder about the credibility of his kudos on other meals but hey, who’s complaining?
Gnocchi with Roasted Cauliflower
Sometimes dinner feels more like a plate of appetizers than the main event. Other nights the whole meal comes together at the mercy of your neighbor’s pantry. This has been one of those weeks when the meal plan has shifted according to whims and whatever’s in the fridge,
Brilliant sunshine this afternoon beamed my head straight to summer. Tonight would be the time to reawaken the grill. I found a bottle of coconut-curry sauce in the pantry – the perfect foil for grilled chicken breasts. Some sort of black bean salad with citrus flavors would make a nice side. One of my old standbys — The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home — came through with a salad recipe. I was half-way through the recipe when I realized I lacked two ingredients. Never fear — my neighbor and I have an open line to each other’s refrigerators. Off I trotted next door for an orange and some scallions. I scored a package of baby yams as well. For her part, her Greek salad just wouldn’t have been the same unless I had coughed up a package of feta.
As for Monday, last week’s trip to Trader Joe’s inspired an appetizer-type dinner of gnocchi with cauliflower and sage along with roasted asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto. I could eat like this every night. Then our corned beef dinner reappeared. I added smashed rutabagas but I’m the only fan. Plenty of leftovers on that one.
It’s only halfway through the week and already I don’t feel like cooking. What will Thursday and Friday bring?
Monday: Gnocchi with roasted cauliflower; prosciutto-wrapped roasted asparagus
Tuesday: St. Paddy’s dinner leftovers; smashed rutabagas with butter, honey and a sprinkle of cloves and ginger; pear and ginger cake.
Wednesday: Grilled coconut-curry chicken; black bean and rice salad*; spinach salad with peaches and balsamic vinaigrette.
*I used Moosewood’s original recipe with olive oil. This low-fat version substitutes Italian dressing. Bleh.
It didn’t take too much encouragement from readers for me to try the Coca-cola-stoked corned beef dinner in the slow cooker. I couldn’t find a full recipe for this cola concoction on the web, so I adapted this one.
With potatoes, carrots and onions, along with the brisket, can of Coke (real, not diet, not Pepsi) and a cup of brown sugary liquid, the slow cooker was full to the brim. No room for cabbage. That turned out to be a very good turn of events. It was the perfect time to try Molly Wizenberg’s version of green cabbage braised in cream with lemon. I’ve tried this approach before, but Molly advised a gentle browning to caramelize the cabbage wedges in butter, before adding the cream to simmer. Delicious.
I found the cabbage recipe in a review of Molly’s book here. I’m editing my old recipe to make sure these techniques never go away. As for the rest of our traditional St Paddy’s day dinner (delivered a few days early), the guys gave the corned beef a big thumbs up. It was tender, just like the Trader Joe’s lady promised. I personally was far more enthralled with the cabbage. And my pint of Guinness. But I’ll keep the recipe filed away except next year I’ll try hard cider instead of coke.
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Over the years I’ve gotten some great recipe ideas from the folks working in grocery stores. These souls have a special radar that detects the slightest hint of “I’m not sure how I’m going to cook this” crossing my mind. So, as they hand over the goods, they’ll volunteer their favorite fixings.
I once got an terrific tip from a Whole Foods fishmonger for curried skate wing sauteed in butter with scallions and almonds. On the rare occasion I can find filleted skate, it’s the only way I make it. And then there was the friendly cashier at my local PCC market who offered a simple way with fresh sole fillets — seared in a cast iron skillet, topped with crushed potato chips and some other ingredient I can’t recall off-hand and then zapped under the broiler for only seconds til brown and crispy.
Today’s tip at Trader Joe’s takes the cake. Gearing up for St. Patrick’s day, TJ’s has a case full of raw uncured corned beef roasts – no nitrates. “Oh, that looks soooo good,” commented the “bag lady” as she lifted a huge corned beef roast. “I know, it’s huge. I get grief every year for lack of leftovers so I decided to supersize it this year.” I must have looked slightly uncertain at some level, because, sure enough, here it comes:
“I have THE BEST recipe for corned beef. Cook it in the slow cooker with a can of Coke – real Coke, not Pepsi, not diet, real Coke. It’s so tender that way, unbelievable.”
I didn’t see her wink. No leprechauns hiding in the aisle. Hmmm, should I try my luck?