Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 - 15, 2011

A few professional-life changes lately have thrown us for a bit of a loop, so dinner (and eating actual meals, really) has taken a backseat to getting the school-related ducks in a row.  But I'm attempting to plan a menu for this week, with the disclaimer that I might not actually cook any of this.  But I'm going to try...

We'll grill a little chicken on the rotisserie.  Probably just very basic -- a mixture of olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and minced garlic rubbed under the skin.  Pop it on the rotisserie and let it go for an hour or an hour and a half (it really is a very little chicken).
Broccoli from the garden -- steamed
Baby boiled potatoes

The garden is going crazy, and we haven't had time to use anything for a while.  So we're using as much as we can tonight -- veggie omelets!  Probably with feta cheese.  Chop and saute as many veggies as possible (zucchini, grated carrot, mushrooms, onion, pepper, broccoli, tomato) then remove from pan.  Whisk eggs with a little bit of milk, add some chopped basil, add to heated and oiled pan.  Swirl it around to get best coverage, add salt and pepper.  After a minute or so, add the veggies back on one half of the egg.  Sprinkle feta cheese.  Flop the other half of the egg over the veggie/cheese mix, and slide onto a plate.

Flatbread pizzas on naan, with whatever's around -- veggies, sausage, mozzarella, pizza sauce.

Minestrone with chickpeas:  An old favorite!

Chop about a cup each of eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash.  
Chop half a cup each of red bell pepper and onion.
Mince a few garlic cloves.

Put it all in a big soup pot and saute until onion is tender.

Add about 28 oz. vegetable broth, 1 28 oz can of tomatoes, a bay leaf, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer 15 min.  Remove bay leaf.

Add some chopped parsley, 1 tbsp (or more) pesto, some oregano, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 2 cans drained and rinsed chickpeas.  Cook 5 minutes or so.  

Stir in about 2 c chopped spinach, serve.

You can sprinkle parmesan on top.

Grilled salmon
sauteed veggies (whatever's in the garden -- probably zucchini!)
Boiled baby potatoes

So a pretty basic week, but right now it's feeling kind of ambitious.  But it would be good to eat something besides granola bars and sliced peaches (my go-to portable foods for the last few weeks) so I'm going to try really hard.  Have a good week!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It's Finally Time...

Time to start acting like I need to be organized again. I'm anticipating doing school-ish stuff all week, so I need to get my head wrapped around the idea of being planful with my food again. So, my first "transition back to school" menu...

I did my long run today for my marathon training, and when I run long, the thing I crave the most after is protein. So Phil pulled some giant t-bones out of the freezer. Way more than I'll be able to eat, but I'm sure the leftovers will go to good use!

Grilled t-bone steaks with horseradish sauce
Grilled corn on the cob
Pan-sauteed zucchini (we are up to our EARS in zucchini right now -- the freezer's already full of diced and shredded -- ready for a winter of soup and bread -- and we still are eating it every day. Geesh.)
Delicious crispy whole grain bread


Craving seafood lately -- so we're going there a few times this week:

Clams with wine sauce: Saute some garlic, onion, and tomato. Add white wine and bring to an easy boil. Add clams, put lid on & turn heat down to a simmer, cook for 5 - 8 minutes until the clams open up. Pull them out and reduce the rest of the sauce a bit, then pour the sauce over the clams.
Crispy bread for dipping
And, let's face it, probably zucchini (or maybe green beans -- if we're feeling zesty)


Fajitas -- maybe with leftover t-bone, maybe with chicken breast, maybe with shrimp
Cook up some onion, garlic, red peppers, and zucchini. Add the protein and fajita spices (basically, anything orange in the spice cabinet -- chili powder, cayenne -- and I also add some cumin, and maybe some salt and pepper. Simmer it for a few minutes until sauce thickens.

Heat tortillas and put mixture in.

Top with yummy toppings: shredded cabbage, salsa, sour cream, chopped avocado, cheese


Horseradish crusted salmon (we're also up to our EARS in horseradish in our garden, so we're looking for ways to use it.)
Sauteed baby carrots
Maybe some zucchini :)


Mini flatbread pizzas: Naan flatbread, pizza sauce, veggie toppings, some sliced chicken sausage, chopped fresh mozzarella. Cook on the grill with indirect heat (turn off the burners underneath -- use the other burners to heat and cook it, but that way it won't burn the bottom) until the cheese is a bit browned and delicious.

And just because I'm doing this -- it doesn't mean summer's over. I just wanted to put that in writing. It's NOT over yet. :)

Have a good week!

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's the Middle of August... Time to Start Planning Again?

Not quite. But as I'm getting all my "going back to school and having to be hyper-organized" ducks in a row, I'm feeling the tug of sitting down with a notepad and stack of cookbooks once again. Not so much as to do it for this week, but I'm thinking about it, and that's the first step.

It is squash blossom time, and I got a quart of them at the farmer's market on Saturday. A quart of squash blossoms is quite a lot, really -- over 30 -- but only comes in at 7 ounces.

So the recipes I found that call for either 4 squash blossoms or an entire pound? Didn't help me so much. But we used them for Sunday night dinner, and had squash blossoms two ways:

Way #1: Stuffed fried squash blossoms:
* Mix together some cheeses: I used some goat cheese, a bit of shredded Monterey Jack, and a touch of cream cheese to hold it all together. The goat cheese had some spicy seasoning -- maybe a bit of cayenne? -- so I didn't add any more seasoning.
* Washed out some blossoms, stuffed about a teaspoon of cheese mixture into each one.
* Made a really thin batter with a bit of flour, cornstarch, baking soda, an egg, and part of a beer, seasoned with salt and pepper.
* Dipped each blossom in, shook off extra batter, and pan fried on medium/medium-low-ish heat in some olive oil.

Way #2: Pasta
*Chopped and sauteed the rest of the squash blossoms, just to wilt them. They smelled fabulous. Removed from pan.
* Cooked a bit of bacon, some garlic (fresh from our garden -- first time ever!), and a few chopped green zebra tomatoes. Added a bit of white wine for some liquid.
* Added in some pappardelle noodles (already mostly cooked) and the squash blossoms, stirred it all together.
* A bit of grated parmesan on top.

It turned out fine, but we encountered a few bitter stem ends on the blossoms -- not something we noticed when making them in the past, but we just avoided that part of the stuffed blossoms when eating them.

The stuffed blossoms kind of look like chicken wings. But they're from zucchini plants, I promise!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Almost Chocolate Town

So, one of our favorite up-north places to eat and drink is Short's Brewery. We visited recently for the first time this summer, and were sad to find out that our favorite sandwich had been taken off the menu. We asked, and they said they just keep the menu offerings rotating on and off -- so we have hope it will be back!

But we were both really craving it, so we decided to try it for ourselves. It wasn't as fabulous as theirs, but we thought it was a good first effort. And we plan to keep trying -- changing ratios of ingredients, the way we layer them on the sandwich, etc.

So, their sandwich is called Chocolate Town, and it features blue cheese, bacon, and barbecue sauce. I know. It's just fa-a-a-bulous.

Here's our attempt:

We started with baguette, which we toasted a bit.
Then, on the bottom half, we sprinkled blue cheese.
Next came the bacon.
Then some black forest ham.

On the top half, we spread barbecue sauce, then more ham.

Toasted it all a bit, then added sliced tomato and lettuce.

Put it all together, served with coleslaw.

Not bad for a first attempt. I think we'll need to try this 20 or 30 more times, though, to get it just right...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Not planning. Not now, anyway.

So, in the summer, it's much harder for me to make long-term dinner plans, just because I don't really want to... If I have a bit more time and flexibility, I'm happy to go with the flow and decide each day what sounds good, or plan based on what's ripe in the garden.

But we're still making some good stuff, and I like to keep track of recipes that work.

So last night we had lovely gazpacho, along with grilled chicken and salad.

The gazpacho was easy and yummy:
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 tomatoes, diced
1 sweet onion, diced
half a red onion, diced
handful of basil leaves, thin sliced
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
bit of salt and pepper
dash of sriracha

Mix it all up, put batches of it in the food processor, and blend until it's the consistency you like. I made mine still a little bit chunky. I left about a cup unblended, and just stirred the bigger pieces in with all the rest. Refrigerate.

This is some gazpacho with goat cheese on baguette.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

June 12 - 16

Last week of school! Woo hoo!

It's Sunday night, I'm sitting in the sun on my deck smelling the gorgeous smell of dinner cooking on the grill. Trying to keep the squirrels and bunnies from tearing apart the garden so we can enjoy some of it ourselves, we've been out here a lot lately. Not sure if it's helping, but I'll always take an excuse to sit on the deck.

As it's the end of the school year, and my exhaustion level is impossible to predict, dinner this week is simple stuff. But I'm excited, nonetheless.

We're breaking out the rotisserie for the grill for the first time this year, and are cooking a chicken (actually, we're cooking two -- I got one out of the freezer, and later, Phil got one out -- we both remembered we'd like to grill chicken this weekend, but didn't really communicate well other than that, and both were partially thawed before we realized. A silly misunderstanding, kind of like an episode of Three's Company, right?).

So I rubbed between the skin and the meat of one of the chickens. My flavoring was this: three big cloves of garlic, chopped, and an ice-cube of pesto (that's how I freeze the pesto when I make it) and salt and pepper and olive oil and white wine vinegar. Mix it all, moosh it all around under the skin.

Phil flavored his more barbecue-y -- tangy and sweet and a little spicy. But we're learning to go easy on the sugar with these things -- we once made a rotisserie chicken resembling a football, because the sugar in the rub kept flaming up and it turned the skin into a black crisp. But the inside was juicy...

And we'll roast potatoes and have some fresh Michigan asparagus with.


I got a whole bunch of peas at the farmer's market yesterday. Fresh peas are such a treat. We're having risotto.

Salad (we'll be eating salad a lot lately -- strangely, none of the little critters are going for the lettuce in the garden, so there's plenty of that.)


Grilled pork chops
Grilled tomatoes and vidalia onion


Fried rice with stuff in it (if you're a frequent reader of this blog, you know the drill -- saute lots of veggies, one at a time, maybe some chicken, add pre-cooked brown rice, soy sauce, sriracha, then make a well in the middle and add some egg. Scramble it up and mix it in.)

Have a grand week!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June Food (June 4 - 9, specifically)

And now it's June... and stuff is starting to show up in the garden, which puts me SO in a food mood. Granted, the garden is coming in dribs and drabs, but just the joy of going out to pick a little bowl of lettuce for salad, or mint for a mojito, or strawberries for dessert is exciting in a way that isn't entirely appropriate.

So we've been using those little bits that have become ready, mixed in with lots of other good food. Our menu:

Lamb burgers (1 pound ground lamb, chopped shallot, red onion, mint, parsley and salt and pepper) on whole wheat buns with a bit of feta on top
Salad (from our garden, yahoo) with mushrooms, lemon juice, and olive oil
Sweet potato chunks roasted in foil on the grill

Grilled chicken breasts with pesto on top
Grilled asparagus
Grilled vidalia onion, cherry tomato, and mushrooms (done in foil) with a bit of parmesan on top at the end

A guy at the farmers market was selling lovely steaks on Saturday, so I had to buy some:

Grilled filet mignon
More grilled asparagus (I plan to eat it daily until it's not in season anymore)
Grilled mushrooms and onions

Fajitas: when cleaning out the freezer, we found some chuck roast that we had slow-cooked and shredded, saving it for a time when we'd need some quick cooking. Then we forgot about it. So we're putting it in fajitas tonight, and the rest of the plan is pretty slap-dash: onions and mushrooms, of course, and probably corn and red peppers from the freezer. Seasonings (cayenne, cumin, chili powder, jalapeno) and put it all in a tortilla. A bit of guacamole and salsa.

Another freezer find: spaghetti squash! I cooked up a bunch last fall, shredded it so it looked like spaghetti noodles (so fun!) and froze it in single-serving bags. But at some point this winter, I lost total control of our freezer inventory. But control was regained this weekend, and I know what's in there again, so we're using stuff. So tonight is sauteed veggies with pesto and spaghetti squash. Maybe a bit of bacon for fun, or maybe just parmesan cheese. If it was a tough day, maybe both. And probably some fresh basil from the herb garden, eve though there's already pesto. Just because it's fun to pick things.

Have a grand week!

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Been a Month...

I can't believe it's been over a month since I've posted on this. Which means it's been over a month since we've lived with a weekly dinner menu. Which means it's been over a month since we've been planful or careful or choosy about our dinners. Our lives have been a bit of a cooking desert in the last month, but I think we've crossed to the other side. I need for us to have crossed to the other side of that food desert, because I can't face many more evenings of scrounging around for something sort of edible or just ordering pizza.

We all have those months, right?

So I'm baby-stepping back into this. We got back from the holiday weekend at about 7:00 tonight, only to find that the Thai food we wanted to order was unavailable... they took Memorial day off? What?

So we ended up with chicken quesadillas (Phil's had Monterey Jack, and mine had goat cheese) with whole wheat tortillas. We also made a warm salad-type thing: sauteed red onion, red bell pepper, black beans and corn, seasoned with chili powder, cayenne, cumin, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Amazingly, we had one usable onion left in the house, and one chicken breast in the freezer, and bits of random cheeses, and chopped peppers and corn in the freezer. So it sort of worked.

With that under the belt, I'm ready to try a mini-plan for the rest of the week:


Pasta with morels, bacon, peas and goat cheese: We had LOTS of luck hunting morels up north this weekend, so plan to use our share like this:
1. Chop and saute bacon pieces. Remove from pan to drain, wipe bacon drippings from pan.
2. Cook pasta (linguine?).
3. Saute morels in olive oil, a bit of butter, and some chopped garlic.
4. After they're well-cooked, add the bacon and the pasta with a little bit of pasta water to make it all stick. Add a handful of peas and some goat cheese and swirl it all together.

Salad on the side.


Grilled pork chops
Grilled potatoes (dice some redskins, put in foil with some olive oil and onions, put on the top rack of the grill for about 30 minutes)
Might attempt a rhubarb sauce -- we have tons of it in the garden -- for the chops.


Roasted sweet potatoes

If we can make it through this, we might be back on a dinner track that I'll be happy about. Wish us luck!

Monday, April 25, 2011

April 24 - 29

Happy Easter! Happy Spring! This is my new attitude -- I'm going to pretend it's warm and springy and maybe it will be, eventually. So the electric blanket got put away, along with the tall boots and the thick black tights. I'm wearing open-toed sandals in 40-degree weather, but I'm sure that if I think warm thoughts, the weather will follow, right?

And I'm carrying that philosophy into dinner, too. Enough with the slow cooker and the soup for a while. (But I love soup, right? So I'll probably be back to it soon, craving heavy all-day-cooked stuff in, say, July. But oh well.)

So this is the plan:

Dinner is mainly to recover from brunch. Oh, that damn dessert table!


City Slicker Omelets: There's this little breakfast place up north in Alden, MI, that has these lovely omelets. They're called City Slicker omelets, but they're basically just filled with tomato, onion, and feta cheese. I get a little crazy and have them add mushrooms too. So tonight I'm having a City Slicker omelet. Can't speak for what Phil will choose to put in his, but I'm pretty sure tomatoes won't be there. :)


Grilled chicken breasts (maybe with barbecue sauce!)
Grilled green beans -- put them in foil with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Leave the top of the foil open so they don't just steam, then put on the grill for 10 minutes or so, tossing them from time to time so they can get sort of browned and lovely.


Sole with capers: Put a piece of sole on foil, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper (yes, just like yesterday's green beans -- it's my fall-back grilling method) and sprinkle capers all around it. Grill it on fairly high heat so the bottom gets a little brown and the edges a bit crispy. Drizzle fresh lemon juice at the end.

We'll have grilled zucchini and tomatoes to go with, and also salad.


Probably a leftover night... nothing too exciting!


Don't usually post Friday night dinners, because it's often random take-out, but I'm planning this one already. I have my last really long training run (in preparation for the Bayshore Marathon) on Saturday, and my pre-race/pre-long run dinner is pizza... (as many carbs as spaghetti -- or so -- and more delicious!).

And I'm loving the crust that I make in my Kitchen Aid -- it's my best crust ever -- so I'll be making homemade pizza Friday night.

The crust is crazy easy: Dissolve 2 and 1/4 tsp. yeast in a cup of warm water, then add a half teaspoon of salt, 2 tsp. olive oil, and then 2 and 1/2 cups of flour (I do an even mix of white and whole wheat flour). Mix for about 4 or 5 minutes in the mixer with the bread hook, then put in a greased bowl to rise and cover for about an hour.

Punch it down and spread it on a baking stone (I put a bit of oil and cornmeal first) then add toppings:

  • pizza sauce
  • Italian chicken sausage
  • red onion
  • roasted red pepper
  • mushrooms
  • spinach
  • any other available veggies (asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, etc.)
  • mozzarella (my favorite is to get a ball of it -- someday I will learn to make this! -- and slice it in thin pieces and spread it all over.
Bake for about 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 17 - 21

I'm so ready for it to be spring for real, but it just doesn't seem to be sticking. So as I'm sitting on my couch watching the wind whip around the bare branches in the yard, I'm thinking that a week full of grilling might not be the best plan. But deep down, that's what I want.

and so, instead...


Pasta! I'm craving fat noodles (at least linguine, if not pappardelle). I'll make a sauce like this: Saute a chopped onion. Add some Italian turkey sausage, cook until browned and crumbly. Add some sliced mushrooms, garlic, a bit of red bell pepper, some canned tomato. Season as needed (salt, pepper, maybe some red pepper flakes for a bit of bite). Stir in a bit of pesto (ours is in ice-cube squares -- we make a bunch in the fall and then freeze baggies of the cubes) and some spinach leaves. Mix in the cooked pasta with a little bit of pasta water (the starchy water helps everything stick together) and let it cook down for a minute or so.

That's it.


This is one of my new favorite things, and I bought a bunch of sweet potatoes last week, so why not?

(The recipe is for spinach-stuffed baked potatoes, but I use sweet potatoes, just because orange food is fun.)


Okay, I have to let the grill have a little bit of action. Couldn't handle the thought of a whole week cooking on the stove...

Grilled salmon (there will probably be a bit of barbecue sauce on it, because that's been happening a lot lately)
Sauteed veggies (onion? mushrooms? red pepper? green beans?)
Rice pilaf


Fried rice with chicken and veggies:

I'm sure my fried rice method is far from authentic, and equally far from what happens at take-out places. But I like it:

Cut up a whole bunch of veggies (red onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, mushroom, zucchini, maybe cabbage or some edamame). One ingredient at a time, saute them in a big pan. I start with the toughest veggies (onions, carrots, celery) and work my way to the most delicate. Get some tiny pieces of chicken in the saute at some point as well. When everything's cooked, add some pre-cooked brown rice, some soy sauce, some chile paste or Sriracha. Maybe a bit of rice wine vinegar for zip. Chopped green onions on top to garnish.


Big old salad night! Woo hoo! With yummy toast for dipping, and maybe feta cheese and sunflower seeds in it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April 10 - 14

Our menu is back on track! (We hope, anyway...) A few weeks of crazy nights, then broken internet, then vacation means I haven't visited this page in a while. But after a week in Florida eating tourist food (you know -- things that come with french fries and cole slaw), I'm ready for some actual cooking and actual veggies.

It's gorgeous and around 80 degrees, and so we'll put the grill to work tonight.

Chicken kebabs (marinating chicken breast chunks in white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sriracha, salt and pepper -- will skewer it up and grill it!)
Grilled veggies (we're making lots of extras, so we can put them on salads and things all week... baby portabella mushrooms, hunks of zucchini, giant sweet onions, grape tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, and lovely asparagus)

Big old salad topped with lots of leftover grilled veggies from last night. We'll also add some cannelini beans and parmesan. Balsamic vinegarette.

Bacon and Cabbage soup (from Irish Farmers' Market cookbook)
It's an Irish cookbook, so the measurements were in grams and ounces. I've listed the ounces in the recipe, but I'm figuring I'll just eyeball everything, like I usually do with soup anyway. Just keep adding good stuff until the pot is full!

2 oz butter
3 1/2 oz diced bacon
4 1/2 oz potatoes, peeled and diced (Karen's note: I don't peel potatoes. Just because.)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 1/2 oz onions
10 fl oz hot stock (chicken or vegetable)
10 oz chopped fresh tomatoes (though I'm thinking I'll use canned since it's December and fresh tomatoes taste like straw)
10 oz cabbage, shredded
salt and pepper

Melt butter, stir in bacon, potatoes, garlic and onions (can you imagine this smell?). Cook about 10 minutes on medium heat, covered.

Add stock and tomatoes, bring to a boil. Add cabbage, reduce heat and cook for about 5 minutes until veggies are tender. Season with salt and pepper and serve with gorgeous bread.

Corn, black bean, red pepper, green and red onion salad

Spinach salad with strawberries, grilled chicken, red onions, and blue cheese

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Why I Have This Blog

So, I've been doing this dinner blog for a couple of years now. And the idea came from a conversation with friends over dinner (Them: "We hate deciding what to cook." Me: "It's my favorite thing to think about!" Them: "Then just tell us what you're making!").

But the bigger idea of blogging in the first place? The willingness to put my too-full-of-dashes writing out there for anyone to see? That came from someplace else.

Four years ago, I joined the National Writing Project by taking part in Oakland Writing Project's summer institute. And everyone said it would change my life. And I pooh-poohed that, because, really, most life-altering events don't seem to take place in a conference room between the hours of 9 and 3.

But the thing about Writing Project is that it has a way of affirming the fact that the best kind of professional development is teachers learning from other teachers. That even though we haven't published books or spent time on the national speaking circuit, we still have lots and lots of valid and important things to say. And the whole process works in such a way that it's kind of this snowball effect: you're learning more about the world around you, and you're learning to express your thinking about it through stronger writing, and that pushes you to learn more and think differently and seek out new resources and better practices.

And it changes your life.

And so, while most of my Writing Project-related personality flourishes show up in my day job at school, I also came to embrace the idea that if I'm writing about LOTS of things I'm truly interested in, I'm going to be a stronger writing teacher. So this blog is my little non-education-related outlet for that.

So I'm sharing this, instead of this week's menu, because this weekend the National Writing Project is holding a Blog for NWP weekend. At first I wasn't going to participate -- most of the blogs are about smart things going on in classrooms. But when I thought about it, I realized that this silly dinner blog is here because of NWP too.

See, despite the evidence that NWP is a program that works, a program that raises achievement of students in classrooms of NWP teachers, funding has been eliminated at the federal level. And I understand the need to cut back and save money -- I do. But it makes no sense to me to remove funding for this program that offers such a HUGE bang for the buck simply for the sake of bragging about cutting earmarks. Doesn't it make more sense to invest in programs that have the best return on that investment? Huh...

So, anyway, this is my contribution to the weekend of blogs. I'll return to my regularly-scheduled dinner commentaries and recipes soon (trying a pad thai recipe tonight I'm excited about). But I wanted to get this out there. If you want to know more, is a good resource. And it wouldn't hurt to let your legislators know your thoughts, either.

Have a good weekend!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wishing for Spring...

We're sort of tired of winter food around here. At the same time, I'm feeling a need to do some spring cleaning, and when I went through the freezer, there was a LOT I had forgotten about. So the theme this week is "Getting rid of stuff that's been in the freezer for a while." So when the spring weather really DOES show up, we won't still be trying to use up soup bones and stuff like that.

Chili. It's snowy, and blowy, and cold. This is our favorite chili recipe:
and we'll have some kind of bread for dipping.

Fried rice with veggies: Yummy, and per-er-er-er-fect for using up lots of odds and ends:

Saute veggies, one at a time (cook one, then add the next) in a bit of oil: onions, celery, mushroom, garlic, red pepper -- and whatever sort of makes sense from all those bags of frozen veggies hiding out (you know -- the ones with about a half cup of veggies left in the bottom). Add pre-cooked brown rice. Add some soy sauce and chili paste or sriracha. If we're feeling sassy, we'll scramble an egg right at the end and add it in.

Sort of inventing a recipe here, but it's based on pretty basic stuff:

Lamb and lentil soup

I'm thinking:
Brown lamb bones in a bit of oil, add to slow cooker. Add chopped carrots, celery, parsnip, onion, garlic. A jar of tomatoes, some water, some lentils. A few bay leaves. A bit of salt and pepper.

Cook all day.

That evening, pull the bones out, chop any lamb that needs chopping, and mix it all together. Season if necessary, and eat. I'm thinking it will be good.

Spaghetti squash with pesto and veggies and maybe scallops: saute veggies (whatever's around, but I'm sure onion and tomato and mushroom will be involved), add pre-cooked spaghetti squash (another thing from the freezer: cooked a bunch in the fall and froze it in 2-serving packages), some scallops, some pesto (again, from the freezer... starting to think I might have a hoarding issue) and mix it all together. Top with a bit of parmesan cheese.

Grilled salmon with barbecue sauce
Roasted sweet potatoes
Sauteed green beans

And next weekend? Admire all the open space in our freezer...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Quick Dinner Week!

Not much cooking going on this week... Sunday night was leftover salad from Rachel's baby shower, and Monday we went out to the Union Woodshop in Clarkston. (Fabulous, by the way. You should go. And invite me to come along.)

So this is what I'm planning for this week:

I've got some barley cooking right now for Barley and Sweet Potato Salad, from Amy Pennington's Urban Pantry, a book that's right up my alley. It's a mix of recipes, good ingredients, preserving your own stuff and just being efficient in the kitchen. Here's the deal with the salad:

1. Toast a cup of uncooked barley in a dry pan for a few minutes, then add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for 50 - 60 minutes. Drain and cool.

2. Cube a sweet potato and saute in oil with a bit of salt and pepper.

3. Mix the potato, barley, and about a half cup of chopped fresh herbs. Dress with a bit of olive oil and champagne vinegar or lemon juice.

We'll have some green salad with this.

Big salad with all the veggies still hanging out in the fridge (I'm especially excited about the roasted red pepper, cucumber, a little feta -- not a veggie, I know -- and mushrooms. I like to cook the mushrooms a bit before adding them to salad.)
Fry an egg and put it on top
Oven roasted potatoes on the side

So, a tiny little food week. But it should be good, nonetheless.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 14 - 17

Happy Valentine's Day! We're cooking food we LOVE -- Pizza!

(Really, it's because we were gone this weekend, and haven't had a chance to go to the grocery store, and we can make pizza with pretty much anything around the house. But also we love it. So there's that.)

Pizza with homemade crust:
Make crust with my lovely KitchenAid mixer -- half white, half whole-wheat flour
Sauce it and top with whatever's available. I know we have half a red pepper and some onion. We also have half a ball of mozzarella, so that'll be yummy. And I bet we can find more stuff to put on it when we start searching.
Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes.

Stuffed portobello mushrooms (from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen)
Saute chopped onions, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes. Mix with chopped parsley, basil, bread crumbs and keep cooking. Add half a cup of broth, stir and heat. Stuff into mushroom caps and drizzle a little more broth on top. Put in a baking dish, cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes on 400 degrees. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

I'm thinking I'll make a little pasta and serve this over pasta and tomato sauce.

Lentil soup -- I'm choosing between an old favorite recipe and a new one that sounds good. Will update when I decide.

Grilled sole
Roasted veggies

Have a good week!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

February 6 - 10

Happy Super Bowl! Phil and I have been batting dinner/snack options around for days, but, in the end, we're feeling a little uninspired, so we're going basic this year. But basic can be good, and we hardly ever make burgers, so it'll still be kind of a nice little treat.

Burgers on the grill -- probably venison. Lots of good toppings -- sliced tomato, onion, maybe blue cheese or feta. Mmmmm.
Oven-baked sweet potato fries (slice sweet potatoes, coat with olive oil, chili powder, salt, and spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake at about 425 degrees for 20 minutes or so, depending on thickness of potatoes)
Coleslaw (shred cabbage, add diced onion, a little bit of tiny-chopped red bell pepper, then mix with some mayo, white wine vinegar, a tiny pinch of sugar and a little salt and pepper. Better if you make it and let it sit for a while in the fridge.)
And probably some good beer. I had a Founders Dirty Bastard last weekend, and really liked it, so I'll be looking for some of that today. Or we can just go with whatever's in the fridge.

Because I can never get enough sweet potato...

with leftover coleslaw on the side!

Grilled salmon
Succotash-ish (I sort of make up my own -- I'll mix lima beans, corn, red pepper, red onion, saute it around a bit, maybe add some crumbled bacon. Season with red wine vinegar, salt and pepper)

(I'll cook this on Wednesday, but we'll still be eating it on Thursday)
Broccoli-Meatball-Spaghetti: I copied this from a blog post just over a year ago. Like I said below, I crave it about once a year. Last year it was January 17, so I'm off a bit...

Meatball Broccoli Spaghetti: This was my favorite thing to cook in high school, and I usually crave it about once a year. This is the lucky day. I'm revamping a little bit so my arteries don't shriek, but here's my latest variation:

Sliced mushrooms
olive oil
2 c. broth (I'll probably use chicken, as I just made a bunch last week)
1 lb (or a little less, if I can find a small enough package in the freezer)ground venison or buffalo
1 c broken whole wheat spaghetti
3 c chopped broccoli
salt, pepper
parmesan cheese

1. Saute mushrooms in a bit of oil.
2. Add broth, bring to a boil. (This is rhyming so far!)
3. Make little meatballs with burger, salt, pepper. Drop in broth, simmer about 10 minutes.
4. Add spaghetti. Simmer 10 more minutes.
5. Add broccoli. Simmer 10 minutes, or maybe less -- depending on how done you like your broccoli.
6. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle some cheese on top.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 15 - 20

I don't usually include weekend meals on this list (because, frankly, how much can one say about take-out pad thai?) but we had a lovely Saturday night dinner that we made ourselves, so I wanted to share. And also, the rest of the week's plan...

So, another fun Christmas present: A beeeeeautiful, white, solid, tough, KitchenAid stand mixer. I've coveted one from afar for so so long. We've used it three times now, twice for making pizza dough. And it makes very good pizza dough. I've been avoiding making my own dough since our breadmaker finally bit the dust -- I tried mixing it in the Cuisinart, but the consistency was never good. And I'm not a patient kneader. But I'm in love with this dough hook. The dough is easy, and only takes an hour to be ready to bake (which was WAY faster than the stuff the breadmaker would do):

About 2 1/4 tsp. yeast, mixed with a cup of warm water and stirred until it dissolves.
Add 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups of flour (I mix white with whole wheat).
Mix in the mixer for about 5 minutes (speed 2), adjusting flour or water to get the consistency right. Put in a greased bowl, spray top of dough ball with cooking spray, and cover to let rise (about an hour). Flatten (I'm still trying to toss it in the air like pizza guys, but I'm afraid I'll drop it or rip it) and lay out on a baking stone. Top (we used pizza sauce, red onion, marinated red pepper, mushrooms, pesto chicken sausage, some leftover asparagus, mozzerella) and bake at 450 for 15 - 25 minutes.

Lamb shank and Cranberry bean soup (from Chez Panisse Cooking):

In olive oil, on low heat, slowly brown a lamb shank (ours is about a pound). The recipe says to cook it for 30 minutes, but it also calls for about two and a half pounds, so I think this whole meal will be more about "guessing" than "measuring".

Remove shank, pour off fat, then add some more olive oil to the pan and brown diced carrots, onions, and celery. (Again, measurements will be sort of random -- sorry, Alice Waters -- probably about 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 celery stalk.)

In a little cheesecloth square that I'll tie into a bag, put about 1/4 cup of peeled garlic, 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs parsley, some thyme, and tie up. Add it to the pot, along with a can of tomatoes, a tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and about 4 - 6 cups of water. Put the shank back in, and bring to a gentle boil, uncovered. The recipe says to let this cook for 2 hours. We'll see. Meanwhile, cook about a cup of shell beans (I'm using cranberry beans). When the lamb seems done, remove from pot, let cool, and remove meat. Turn the heat up on the soup to let it bubble gently for 15 minutes. Skim fat and orange-ish foam. Add meat back to the soup. Drain beans, add them to the soup.

Serve with a gremolata (mix chopped parsley, 1 very finely chopped garlic clove, and lemon zest) on top.

Got another new cookbook recently: The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. We're trying some pasta from it tonight (though I can't promise the meal will stay vegan -- I imagine some grated Parmesan cheese might show up)...

Penne with Porcini Mushroom Sauce

Soak an ounce of dried mushrooms in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Chop the mushrooms after, but strain and keep the water.

Saute (in olive oil) a chopped onion, a bit of oregano, basil, and sage. Add 8 oz chopped fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms, and 2 chopped cloves of garlic. Cook for a few minutes, then add the mushroom soaking liquid, a can of tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, a tiny pinch of sugar, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Put it all together!

I'm wanting grilled salmon. It might snow. So we'll grill, if the weather is okay, or probably broil, if it's too yucky.

Runner's World had a recipe for brussels sprouts that we'll try for a side: (2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp grainy mustard, salt: whisk together, slice sprouts in half, toss with the sauce, roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes)

Beef stew (from the freezer: we froze leftovers in individual portions, so we'll use some of that today)

Potato-spinach soup (another Runner's World recipe -- lots of good stuff this month!)

Saute a chopped onion, add 4 c broth, a box of frozen spinach, a chopped potato, a teaspoon cumin, salt, and pepper. Simmer until potato is tender. Puree in a blender or with a stick blender. Add lemon juice and half a cup of plain Greek yogurt.

Have a good week! Stay warm!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 9 - 13

Phil is to thank for me keeping my cookbook-using resolution on week 2 of this attempt to cook more from cookbooks. Without his perusal, and finding of Sunday's dinner recipe, I'd be off the resolution train already! But he was looking through Scots Cooking, by Sue Lawrence -- I bought it during our second trip to Scotland -- and found this recipe:

Roast Venison with Raspberry Sauce
(The real recipe is for black currant sauce -- but it gets that flavor mainly from 3 teaspoons of black currant jelly, and I didn't want to spend eight dollars on a jar of jelly that I might not use unless we made this recipe again -- and my mom gave us some lovely homemade raspberry jam, so we're using that instead.)

Melt 2 oz butter and 2 tsp jam in a pan. Add the venison roast (about 3 lbs) and brown in the butter/jam mixture. Season with salt and pepper, then put it in the oven at 425 degrees. Cook between 12 - 15 minutes per pound (so 36 - 45 minutes, if you have a 3 pound roast) -- closer to the 12 minute side for rare, closer to the 15 minute side for medium-rare. Take it out, cover with foil, and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Pour off most of the fat from the pan, then put it on the stovetop. Add 3 tablespoons red wine, 2 tablespoons sweet vinegar (the recipe suggests black currant or raspberry vinegar, but I think we'll use balsamic) and scrape up all the bits from the pan and bring to a boil. Add a teaspoon of jam and about 10 oz of hot beef stock and some thyme and simmer until it's a nice consistency.

We'll have boiled little redskin potatoes and peas with this. And bread.

Breakfast for dinner:
Banana and peanut butter pancakes
Scrambled eggs

The halibut recipe from last Thursday -- we never had it. Both of us ended up having surprise meetings that night, so we pushed it back to this Tuesday.

Roasted cauliflower

Another copy from last week, but this one I actually tried:

I absolutely loved, loved, loved this. I used a sweet potato instead of a baking potato, and added some mushrooms and tomatoes to the spinach viniagrette saute, and it was fa-a-a-a-a-abulous. So I'm doing it again.

Pasta (probably whole grain fettucine) with artichokes, shrimp, spinach, and pesto: That's the basic recipe. Cook some pasta. In another pan, saute artichokes, shrimp, spinach. I'll probably add some onion, because I love onions. Some pesto at the end, when I add the pasta to the saute mixture. A little bit of the pasta water to help make a thick sauce, then simmer it all together in my big pan for a minute or so. Mmmmmmm.

Have a good week!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

After two weeks of flailing around, dinner-wise, it's time to get back to a bit of a plan. Not that a banana and some candy canes can't make a perfectly lovely dinner, but enough's enough. I got lots of fun cooking-y-type stuff for Christmas, and I'm sure I'll show some of it when I get around to it. But I've spent the morning with some cookbooks and cooking magazines, and I think I'm ready to be ambitious and plan again. And a New Year's resolution (I just came up with it about half an hour ago) I'll try this year is to actually cook from more of my cookbooks. I love to read them and dream, but when it comes to choosing actual recipes, I fall back on whatever cooking magazine just arrived, or I'll search back in this blog for an old recipe. So I'm trying to actually use some of my gorgeous cookbooks. We'll see how I do!

It's going to be a combination lazy/busy day -- we're staying close to home, but we plan to put away decorations, get ducks in a row before the big work week hits, etc. So easy dinner:

Vegetable and beef soup: I don't have a recipe for this, but this is what I'm thinking I'll do: Brown a beef soup bone. Remove it. Saute some sliced onion, garlic, carrot, celery, parsnip, mushrooms (not all at once, but add one at a time). Add the soup bone again. Add a can of stewed tomatoes, some water to cover everything over, and boil. After it boils, reduce it to a simmer and let it go. At some point, add some diced potatoes. A little while before it's done, add some frozen peas. I'll season along the way with salt and pepper, perhaps add a bay leaf. This might also need some red wine or Worcestershire sauce. Remove bone at the end, pull off any meat that's still attached to it, and stir it into soup.

We'll have salad and baguette with this.

This is from one of my lovely new Christmas gifts: Nigella Kitchen, by Nigella Lawson:

Sunshine Soup (Roast two yellow bell peppers in the oven with a bit of oil, set aside. Bring a quart of veggie broth to a boil, add about 3 1/2 cups of frozen corn, let simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove about 1 cup of the corn. Add peppers to pan, use stick blender to mix it all in, add cup of corn back to soup. Season with salt and pepper.)

Salad and bread too!

This is from an older cookbook, that I love to read but have been a bit intimidated by: Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger.

Grilled ham and cheese sandwiches: Grate some fontina cheese, mix with an egg yolk and some pepper. Spread the mixture on bread, top with a slice of ham, then other slice of bread. Brush bread with olive oil and grill.

Stewed peppers with balsamic vinegar: In a large pot, add a chopped onion, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, and a chopped carrot with some olive oil. Cook until onions are soft. Add 2 - 3 sliced red bell peppers, half a cup of tomato pulp (chopped, peeled and seeded tomato), a bit of parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for up to 20 minutes, adding some water if it gets dry. Put in a serving dish and cool for a bit. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.


Roasted cauliflower

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