Chickpeas. Wheatberries. Brown rice pasta. Not exactly kid food. But over the last couple of weeks I’ve sneaked these items into our meal plan and eureka, no complaints!
Chickpea salad with pesto - no complaints
Sometimes I wonder it’s just a matter of planetary alignment that I get fewer grumbles than usual from my sons. Maybe their growing bodies/appetites are finally forcing their tastebuds to be less discriminating. I like to think that they’ve surrendered to my passion for themed menus this fall. Meatless Monday, Whole Grain Wednesday, Thermal Thursday. They’ve realized I’m not willing to give up this effort easily. And we’re all starting to look forward to Fun Friday when a) we order pizza or b) indulge in a special meal that isn’t easy to achieve on weeknights and c) we often add a movie from our instant queue on Netflix (you can find those movie titles on the Friday night meal plans too). Themed meals are certainly making my life easier. The rhythm is easy to remember, especially when the themes are helping me achieve overall goals in the kitchen on weeknights:
Eat more fiber (explore the confusing world of whole grains)
Consume less meat (Meatless Monday is easy: We love fish; the boys will tolerate vegetarian meals)
Use time- and energy-saving techniques (use the pressure cooker, rely on a stable of simple recipes)
Pork medallions with wheatberry salad
And we’re cooking new foods along the way. Wheat berries – I’ve always loved wheat berry salads from the deli. Cooking them at home was an adventure. I ended up buying both soft and hard wheat berries, even though the recipes don’t specify which type works best. I soaked them all day ( the soaking time on recipes ranged from zero to overnight soaking). And I cooked them in the pressure cooker, which turned out just fine even if they were a bit squeaky to bite.
More to learn, I suppose. As long as they eat the stuff, I’ll keep cooking it.
I’ve not thought much about food since returning from vacation. Our adventures in Costa Rica had far more to do with adrenaline and critters than our tastebuds. I relished that feeling of moving freely throughout the day, with nary a thought of “What’s for Dinner?”
I’ve managed to persist in a non-cooking fantasy for the last two weeks. Some sort of nutrition made its way to the table most nights (check out the meal plans if you don’t believe me). But meals lacked any concerted effort until I tried to reconstruct a casado – a simple plated meal of beans, rice, salad and meat – for dinner Saturday night. My version featured BBQ ribs, which were a hit, but the rest of the meal was a disaster. The boys spurned the simple lettuce salad and merely tolerated the beans and rice. I should have known better, having failed at “meal re-creation” in the past with everything from Greek coffee to Irish soda bread. Sure enough, casado tasted better near the Equator.
So it’s back to my own version of simple food for weeknight dinners. Tonight’s was a keeper: Spiced Chicken with Couscous Salad from, you guessed it, Real Simple. Sugar snap peas and basil from our garden boosted the flavor.
(I’m laughing at how horrible the color is in this photo. My summer goal is get smart with my new digital SLR – obviously I still have much to learn about white balance!)
Chicken and couscous - boosted by snap peas and basil from the garden.
Real Simple magazine is oh-so-clever. Near the back of the magazine is a page of perforated cards with highlights from various articles. One is always a recipe. This one caught my eye: “What’s a good go-to chicken recipe that’s ready in under 20 minutes?”
Real Simple delivers with Chicken, Proscuitto and Zucchini
The answer: Chicken with Prosciutto and Zucchini. Score! Mondays are always hectic. At 5:55 I realized I’d lost all sense of time and the boys needed to be out the door in less than an hour. I don’t know about you, but it takes me a few minutes just to get acclimated when I walk in the kitchen. Twenty minutes of cooking is more like the cardio segment of a workout routine. I need a few minutes to warm up and then a cool down period as well. Nonetheless, Real Simple’s quickie chicken dish worked like a charm for a busy Monday night. With a side of buttered egg noodles, dinner was done in a flash.
Any reason NOT TO COOK on Friday night is a sound one to me. Last week’s excuse was particularly tasty one — an ad hoc potluck with the Bunco group. A silly game of Bunco is an excellent reason for the ladies in the ‘hood to catch up over wine and share some mighty fine cooking. It’s a good thing we started rolling the dice because I probably would have helped myself to seconds of the following:
Chicken Marbella — I should have known this is a Silver Palate recipe. Elegant roasted chicken with capers, olives and oregano. The recipe serves 10-12. What a great choice for a relaxing Friday dinner with friends.
Super Slaw – colorful and crunchy with red and green cabbage, carrots, peppers and cilantro and an Asian-style dressing. Lisa noted it appeared in Sunset magazine many years ago. I sniffed around and located the recipe on a clever “Tastebook” website here.
Hearts of Palm spread – I brought this easy baked spread to kick things off. One of my standbys from the Seattle Junior League cookbook. You can find the recipe online here.
Next time I’ll round up the rest of the crowd’s recipes. Maybe a special page for Bunco potlucks is in the making!
– Posted using MobyPicture.com
I’m a Costco skeptic. When people rave about the bargains, all I can think about is the horror of finding a parking space. And then there’s the phenomena of entering with four items on the shopping list and leaving with an overflowing basket and a few more digits than desired on the sales receipt.
Costco came through in a pinch yesterday. I stopped by for coffee and ink. Left with chicken thighs, bananas, a beach towel and some other things I didn’t expect. Including AmyLu’s Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Gouda.
A quick dinner with something for everyone:
Chicken burgers on Orowheat Sandwich Thins, topped with Trader Joe’s red pepper spread; a side of mini farfalle pasta with Cibo Naturals pesto sauce; and arugula salad with pears, pecans and goat cheese. Yum!
Recipe for setting off the smoke detector: Bathe chicken breasts in olive oil, roast in 500-degree oven. Doh!
You too can try this at home. “New” Chicken Parmesan dipped in Parmesan instead of breadcrumbs, roasted for just 10 minutes and then topped with fresh mozzarella (just after swinging a towel around the detector and opening the windows ). The recipe’s roasted cherry tomatoes are a perfect topping for ditalini pasta (quickly mixed with oil and bit more Parmesan). Add a salad and you’re done!
Next time we'll swap the grill for the oven with "New" Chicken Parmesan
Chives sprout early in the herb garden
One must be fickle when it comes to quality. Meal prep started this morning when I pulled chicken thighs from the freezer. But they ended up back in the freezer after a quick stop by PCC Natural Market on the way home from meetings. Rosie’s organic chicken thighs looked too good to pass up. Sure, they were pricier than the “bargain” thighs thawing in the fridge, but the recipe was simple; a better quality chicken would make a big difference.
A peek at the sink was big clue of the health factor in tonight’s meal. Mounds of broccoli, carrots, radishes, bok choy, chives, garlic littered the sink. It all ended up in the compost bucket, but not before the best bits landed on our plates.
Braised chicken with carrots, radishes and chives
Braised chicken with spring vegetables. Lovely with chopped chives, an early harvest from our herb garden, and served with long-grain rice plus …
… Bok choy and broccoli stir fry – a recipe clipped ages ago from the newsletter of a fantastic home delivery service, Pioneer Organics. The service is long gone, sadly, and so are the recipes. No where to be found online and my clippings fail to include attributions. Here’s a similar recipe at RecipeZaar. To make the Pioneer version, just steam the chopped broccoli stems florets and bok choy stems in advance. Saute the bok choy leaves in oil with garlic, then add the remaining steamed veggies. Toss with 1/2 tsp red chili flakes and 1-2 Tbsp soy sauce.
Yum. I expended all my cooking energy tonight. Tomorrow night I’ll be dining at the yacht club for my monthly business dinner – la de da – and the guys … well, we’ll see what happens.
Filed under Health, Recipes
This week’s meals were a mash-up of simplicity and duplicity with mixed results, to no surprise.
We started out easy with salmon burgers on Monday. No problem there. By Tuesday fish sauce worked its way into the ingredient list. It was noticed. Kale showed up on Wednesday and was largely ignored by the boys. Then, adding injury to insult, I substituted veggie “protein crumbles” for ground beef in the tacos on Thursday. We nearly had an all-out revolt. Fortunately I had fish sticks as a back-up (I know what you’re thinking, but they do fit into taco shells quite nicely).
So what was I thinking? Truth is that I started the week with little time or energy to think about a meal plan. Menus were scribbled on a card, scratched out and revised daily. We did end up with a couple of winners but largely, meals were spontaneously created from ingredents on hand. Here’s how it shook out:
Monday: Salmon burgers on Orowheat Sandwich Thins; spicy roasted broccoli; french fries; arugula and fennel salad with balsamic vinaigrette.
Tuesday: Thai pork chops with spicy vegetable salad*; rice. *Excellent recipe from Sheila Lukins’ cookbook “Ten” – featuring her top 10 recipes in several food categories.
Wednesday: Chicken with carrots and olives; rice; sauteed kale with garlic
Thursday (a new low in culinary depravity): Tacos with veggie crumbles or fish sticks, cheese and salsa; corn; “margarita” cole slaw (a spontaneous concoction of shredded savoy cabbage, diced carrots and a dressing of mayonnaise and Trader Joe’s margarita mix) and … margaritas, of course!
Friday: Sole with orange brown butter; polenta with goat cheese and rosemary; caesar salad.
Now that we’ve passed the 12-week mark on my commitment to maintain a weekly meal-plan for a year, it’s inevitable that some meals would begin to reappear.
For Tuesday’s dinner I was eager to recycle one recipe in particular from Week One: Sausage and White Bean Casserole. The combination of cannellini beans and swiss chard, baked with Italian sausages to flavor the pot, is fabulous. A time-saving stand-out from Real Simple’s easy recipe collection.
The guys “enjoyed” leftovers Wednesday while I headed to my monthly business dinner (creme brulee for dessert – my little secret now revealed). I ignored the meal plan on Thursday and dove into the freezer instead for a Costco lasagna. I was ready to hit the kitchen again by Friday.
Salsa Couscous Chicken
For an easy end-of week meal I retrieved the recipe often known as “Million-Dollar Chicken” because a Seattle woman won just that amount for her grand-prize winner in the 1998 Pillsbury Bake-off. (I’m still puzzled why a couscous recipe qualifies for a contest sponsored by a company known for baking products.) In any case Salsa Couscous Chicken is easy and kid-friendly. Not a drop left on the boys’ plates. It’s about time – I struck out with a few meals earlier this week
Filed under Favorites, Quick
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.