Menu plan #20180220

This week’s menu is arriving a bit late, largely thanks to Presidents’ Day and the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Three cheers for three day weekends!

  • Monday was Presidents’ Day, and it was not my day to host our weekly Friends Dinner so it was like having a double vacation. We were served breakfast for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed a feast of pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, and fresh fruit.
  • Tuesday will be baked fish with tartar sauce and plenty of lemons to squeeze on top, Caesar salad and pasta will be on the side.
  • Wednesday is going to be a coconut chicken curry with plenty of cauliflower, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, and any other veggie I can cram in there. I’m making it with this green curry paste from Aroy-D and serving it over rice.
  • Thursday we are going to skip Stirfry Stursday, which is difficult because I love that name so much. Instead, we’ll have pork chops, green beans, and heavily-buttered boiled potatoes.
  • Friday is Darian’s 9th birthday! We’re celebrating with a hotel overnight and dinner out.

So there it is, plus or minus a few celebration-related-cakes which may or may not include a chocolate layer cake. The birthday boy will determine the cake selection.


Menu Plan #20180212

We’re at the point in winter where I’m dreaming about grilling recipes. Here in Minnesota it’s still well below zero, and while I can technically still fire up the grill, it takes a lot longer, eats up a lot of propane, and it’s just plain not as pleasant to be outside tending various meats. Here’s my current I-want-to-grill-this-list:

  • Boneless leg of lamb with a caper and mint sauce. It’s fresh and savory, and everything I want lamb to be.
  • Lemon pepper chicken wings. It’s nothing more than sprinkling on the lemon pepper seasoning (I like McCormick Perfect Pinch Lemon Pepper Seasoning), grilling the wings on high heat, then tossing them in melted butter before serving. Oven baked wings are never as good, and they aren’t nearly as speedy.
  • Steak with Chimichurri. It doesn’t get any better. I like this recipe, but I don’t follow the measurements on the herbs too closely. It’s tasty with olive oil, but I’ve been really happy with avocado oil as well.
  • Grilled corn on the cob, which is really good when you can get fresh, local sweet corn. If you can get it on the grill within a few hours of it being picked in late July here in Minnesota, your life will be forever changed.
  • Grilled Naan pizzas! Pre-made naan, topped with sauce and your favorite toppings, grilled briefly with the lid closed. It’s about 10,000 times better than any frozen pizza.

I could go on and on, but since I won’t be grilling until the snow melts, I’ll move on to my weekly menu plan.

  • Monday It’s our weekly friends dinner, and it’s not my night to cook.
  • Tuesday Cheeseburgers, toppings vary depending on the person. Mine will need caramelized onions, mushrooms, and provolone cheese. We’ll have salad on the side with romaine lettuce, red cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and a quick homemade vinaigrette.
  • Wednesday Vegetarian burritos loaded up with black beans, fajita-style peppers & onions, cilantro lime rice, sour cream, guacamole, and a few different salsas. After assembling the burrito I toast it up in a little bit of canola oil, which takes it to a whole new level of deliciousness.
  • Thursday Is Stirfry Stursday! Yes, I’m still trying to make that a thing. Say it fast and don’t think about it too much. This week will be chicken in a Thai-ish-peanut sauce, broccoli, pea pods, a healthy shake of toasted sesame seeds, and served over white rice.
  • Friday There has been a formal request for a sushi night. I’m not confident in my rolling skills, but I hear the only way to get better is to practice and my crew is happy to be test subjects. I’ll be researching a few different combos throughout the week, and will have a few sides like edamame and beef skewers to bulk up the meal.

So that’s the plan! This will be our first free Saturday after Basketball season ends, which is bittersweet. I may or may not pack up the crew and make them play basketball at our local YMCA to celebrate.

Shocking #20180205

I have done it! I have successfully followed a new recipe without changing anything. (pause for applause)

I have been using the buttermilk pancake recipe from my old, beat-up copy of Joy of Cooking for many years. I’ve never been impressed with it, and so I tried the “light and fluffy pancake” recipe from my not-really-new, pristine-because-I-rarely-use-it copy of The New Best Recipe from Cooks Illustrated. I followed their (very specific) steps completely and wasn’t tempted to alter the recipe, and was rewarded with the best pancakes I’ve ever produced. I will probably always double or triple the recipe for my crew, who all gave the pancakes high praise.

I’ve mentioned my inability to follow recipes before, but I’m encouraged enough by the results of this pancake recipe to actually try following a few more recipes in this book. The cookbook is filled with detailed instructions, explanations about why things work, and a few line drawings. It has none of the glossy photos or charm present in most of my other cookbooks, but now that it’s proven to be a valuable resource I will do my best to a few other recipes.

In further shocking news, here’s another menu plan!

  • Monday is yet another friends dinner where I don’t have to cook! I have a love/hate relationship with being surprised by what I’m having for dinner. I love not having to cook it, but I’m usually overly anxious that it will be exactly what I plan to cook for another dinner that same week. Please note that my fears have never been realized, so I should probably just get over it and enjoy dinner 🙂
  • Tuesday Baked lemon pepper chicken drums, garlic bread, and Caesar salad.
  • Wednesday Fettuccine Alfredo with broccoli and smoked sausage.
  • Thursday Teriyaki chicken, green beans and rice on the side. Perhaps some potsickers from Trader Joe’s if I’m feeling fancy. I’m thinking of dubbing this Stirfry Stursday. I understand that Stursday is not a real word, but if you say it quickly enough I think it works.
  • Friday I’ll be making calzones with The Best Pizza Dough recipe, because we did not end up making them after snowboarding. Fillings will be various cheeses, pepperoni, and probably some Italian Sausage. Marinara dipping sauce and some kinda green veggie on the side.

So there it is, are you shocked? Is shocked too strong of a word? Pleasantly surprised maybe? I’m shocked. Let’s keep this new-recipe-and-menu-planning-train rolling.


UPDATED- Meal plan #20180129

Two weeks in a row for meal plan publishing! It’s either a trend or an anomaly, only time will tell.

  • Monday is our weekly friends dinner- if I’m not mistaken, we’be been going strong for more than 2 years now. We rotate hosting with five other families, and this week is one of those just-show-up-and-eat Mondays.
  • Tuesday Teriyaki chicken with rice and broccoli. If I don’t make this every few weeks the young ones riot. I’ll be making an extra large batch of rice to have leftovers for tomorrow’s dinner. Nope, the chicken wasn’t thawed in time so I just made cheeseburgers and green beans.
  • Wednesday Vegetarian burritos with black beans, rice, and all sorts roasted veggies, salsa, and rice. I’ll also pan fry them after assembly with a little bit of cooking spray because browned burritos are the best burritos. Nope, jazzed up ramen with extra veggies.
  • Thursday Crockpot meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Easy peasy. Teriyaki chicken with rice and broccoli. If I don’t make this every few weeks the young ones riot, and since it didn’t happen on Tuesday it has to happen now.
  • Friday Pho Ga is definitely happening, it’s been far too long. I’ll make a broth with Chicken Better Than Bullion and a bit of green curry paste (I prefer this one from Aroy D). I’ll blanch some fresh rice noodles, dish them into bowls of broth, then add broiled (then sliced) chicken thighs and let each creator go to town on their other additions. Garnish/ingredients to add will include chopped cilantro, sriracha, hoisin, chili garlic sauce,  and various-pre-cooked-veggies like broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage. Rescheduling for crockpot meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans.
  • PS Pho Ga will definitely happen, just over the weekend instead of during the week. I’ll make a broth with Chicken Better Than Bullion and a bit of green curry paste (I prefer this one from Aroy D). I’ll blanch some fresh rice noodles, dish them into bowls of broth, then add broiled (then sliced) chicken thighs and let each creator go to town on their other additions. Garnish/ingredients to add will include chopped cilantro, sriracha, hoisin, chili garlic sauce,  and various-pre-cooked-veggies like broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage.

My goal for next week will be to find ONE recipe to follow for one of my weeknight meals. I have a tendency to smoosh together at least three different sources whenever I try something new, and still usually end up making a change or six depending on how things go.

Chicken #20180119

Winner, winner, some-kinda-chicken-will-be for dinner! I didn’t plan out this week, so now I need to decide what to make with chicken for my family tonight. I have both boneless skinless breast and thighs, so there are approximately 2,534,368 different options. Here are a few that will appeal to my crew, in no particular order.

  • Bourbon Street Chicken. The recipe isn’t really a recipe. It’s the McCormick bourbon street seasoning and Teriyaki sauce, per the poster on the wall of any Golden Corral restaurant. Served with rice or mashed potatoes, and a side of broccoli.
  • Pho Ga! My super-cheater-not-authentic method is a big hit with my family. I slice then broil the chicken, seasoned simply with salt and pepper, then make a broth with Chicken Better Than Bullion and a bit of green curry paste (I prefer this one from Aroy D). I chop up some cilantro for garnish, put out the sriracha, hoisin, and chili garlic sauce, then everyone customizes their own bowl with blanched rice noodles, chicken, and various-pre-cooked-veggies like broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage.
  • This Lemon Garlic Cream Chicken recipe, but made with dried basil (added with the broth) because I don’t have (and won’t go to store for) fresh herbs. I pound the chicken pretty thin to speed up cooking, and it’s really tasty. Served over mashed potatoes or some kinda pasta, with (surprise!) broccoli on the side.
  • Chicken alfredo casserole, still with broccoli on the side.
  • Good ol’ chicken stir fry over rice. Assorted veg. This happens 8/10 times I have chicken and no particular plan for it.

My current goal is for 2018 to be when I make my triumphant return to meal planning. It wasn’t in resolution form, but more of “hey I should start doing that and it’s halfway through January” form.

Recipe smoosh: Keto Friendly Crockpot Zucchini Meatloaf #20170718

I seem to be unable to follow just *one* recipe.

Yesterday, it was my night to host our weekly friends-dinner. The weather forecast was hot n’ humid, and since I was going to have zero time after work I pre-made the mashed taters, cut up a bunch of veggies, and made a couple of crockpots full of meatloaf. The first meatloaf was this basic recipe but with about 1/3 cup of ketchup in the meat mix, and topped with even more ketchup. The other meatloaf was a recipe smoosh, described below.

Here’s a little background: A few of my friends have been following a ketogenic diet, and after doing much research and being *really* dedicated they have had great results. The rest of us do not have that kind of dedication, but we all generally find keto recipes tasty, and I enjoy cooking challenges so I hit the interwebs. I started just researching ketogenic meatloaf recipes, but didn’t want to buy or make almond meal in place of breadcrumbs. I considered just making meatballs instead of a loaf, and found a recipe that used zucchini instead of breadcrumbs or almond meal. It was a lightbulb moment, and it set me off on a whole new Google search.

The first recipe I found was ok, but called for lean ground beef (a keto no-no, they want the fat calories), and had tomato sauce on top (which is high in carbs, even if they are from a fruit). The second recipe I found was tailored to a ketogenic diet, but I didn’t want chunks of zucchini in my meatloaf and I didn’t want to use the oven. Without further ado, here’s the recipe!


Keto Friendly Crockpot Zucchini Meatloaf

Here’s the master list of all ingredients for this recipe:

  • 1 small-to-medium yellow onion
  • 3 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, mine was about 5 oz
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBS crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 2 lbs of 80/20 ground beef
  • 2 large eggs
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Now with more detail!

I prepped these ingredients the night before, but it doesn’t need to sit overnight. That’s just what I did to get a jump-start on my prep.

  • 1 small-to-medium yellow onion, chopped to yield about 3/4 cup
  • 3 TBS of Olive Oil
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (started as one 5 oz zucchini, which I shredded, salted lightly to draw out moisture, then it sat for 15 minutes while I did other things, and I squeezed it dry)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed to remove the skin then chopped up (size between a mince and a chop)
  • 1 TBS crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp whole fennel seeds that I ground in my mortar and pestle. If you have pre-ground fennel seeds I’d say use a scant 1/4 tsp.
  • Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 oz low moisture, part skim mozzarella (Grated freshly to avoid the anti-caking agent found in pre-shredded cheese. It makes a difference! I used the “normal” size grater, not the “fine” grater)
  • 3 oz Parmesan cheese (I used the “fine” size grater for this one, not the “normal” grater. Once again, grated freshly to avoid the anti-caking agent found in pre-shredded cheese)

Chop up the onion and saute it over low heat in the 3 TBS of oil, stirring occasionally while you shred your zucchini, then grate all the cheeses and chop up the garlic. Set the cheeses aside in a big bowl (larger than a standard cereal bowl, you’ll need the space). When the onions are translucent, add in the garlic, crushed pepper, black pepper, and salt. Stir for a while, then decide to go squeeze the extra water out of your shredded zucchini. Panic after squeezing out two handfuls of zucchini, and go stir your garlic/onion mixture before the garlic goes past golden. Turn off the heat, breathe a sigh of relief that you caught it in time, stir a bit more til it’s done sizzling, and go squeeze out the rest of your zucchini. Dump all the squeezed-dry zucchini into the glorious smelling onion/garlic/spice mixture, turn the burner back on medium low, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is just starting to turn a bit clear but is not fully cooked. Turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature while you go chop up veggies for other things. After the veggie mix is all the way cool, combine it with the cheeses in the bigger-than-a-cereal-bowl, toss to combine, cover with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. Make sure you have two pounds of 80/20 ground beef defrosted and ready to go tomorrow.

To assemble your meatloaf:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Veggie mix from yesterday/whenever you made it
  • 2 lbs of 80/20 ground beef

In a large mixing bowl, crack in and whisk up the eggs, then throw in the veggie mix and the tsp of salt. Stir that all together with your hands (after you wash them, please), then regret not taking out your meat and go wash your hands again to get it out of the fridge. Add the meat into the egg/veggie/cheese mixture, and mix thoroughly.

At this point, you could bake it at 350F for as long as you would bake any other meatloaf, or you can be like me and cook it in the crockpot, lined with foil, on high for 3 hours. After it beeps, use a large spatula and pair of tongs to maneuver it into a baking dish, spoon some of the juices and fat over the top, then cover it with foil to let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Alfredo-ish Sauce

I served the meatloaf with a quick “alfredo” type gravy, whisked together in a sauce pan:

  • 1 and 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parm (another three ounces or so)
  • 1 finely grated garlic clove
  • Two dashes of nutmeg
  • More black pepper
  • 2 TBS of salted butter

I whisked all of that together til the cheese was melted and let it bubble away for a bit. Even after whisking it was a bit chunky, so I blitzed it with my immersion blender before serving in a gravy boat alongside the meatloaf. It was a delicious addition!

Since my friends are truly dedicated to their Ketogenic diet, I plugged the ingredients into MyFitnessPal as a recipe so that they could see some basic nutrition facts. I’m not sure how accurate the fat grams are for the meatloaf, since it gave off quite a bit of fat and liquid during cooking, but I wanted to be sure to respect their need to avoid carbs. Here are the results:

  • Zucchini Cheese Meatloaf
    8 servings per recipe
    Simplified nutrition facts per serving
    Calories: 408
    Fat (g): 28.9
    Carbs (g): 2.3
    Protein (g): 34.1
  • Alfredo
    10 servings per recipe
    Simplified nutrition facts per serving
    Calories: 71
    Fat (g): 6.4
    Carbs (g): 1.1
    Protein (g): 2.6

So there you have it. A very long, drawn out, oddly written, but original-ish recipe. I hope you’ll try it!