Lunch menus #20170313

Here’s the deal: dinner menus used to be easy. I would cook big batches for fun on the weekends, eat dinner with friends on Mondays, and really only end up cooking a full meal from scratch on Thursday nights when I alternated pasta and stirfry. Fridays the guys went snowboarding, and I’d pack them a bag-lunch-for-dinner and eat avocado toast at home with the pup. Viola. Dinner was done.

Here’s the second deal: bag lunches are big in my house. The eight-year-old will happily eat butter sandwiches, meat and cheese on the side, and apple slices daily. The thirty-eight-year-old and I both demand more variety.

The sad truth is that now that snowboarding season is over, I actually have to plan and cook more once again. Back to menu planning, double time! Lunches noted are for the adults of our household.

  • Monday: Lunch is curried chicken salad wraps, an apple (nature’s mouthwash), and crackers. It’s not my night to host our weekly friends-dinner, so I’m off the hook for cooking tonight. Woo hoo!
  • Tuesday: Lunch will be beef stew and a side salad. NOTE— the best thing I’ve done in a while is cube up a chuck roast, season, sear and cook a generic batch of stew meat. Half was already seasoned up and used for shredded beef burritos over the weekend. The other half will go into the beef stew for this day. Dinner will be pork chops, rice pilaf, and asparagus.
  • Wednesday: Lunch will be leftovers. Dinner will either be veggie Pad Thai OR veggie fettucini alfredo, depending on my mood and the input of other eaters.
  • Thursday: Lunch will be a creamy potato broccoli soup, with fruit on the side. Dinner will be Balsamic glazed chicken, green beans, skillet red potatoes with rosemary, and biscuits.
  • Friday: Lunch will be tuna salad wraps with either a side salad or fruit depending on the contents of my fridge at this point. Dinner will be semi-homemade-takeout. Beef & broccoli stir fry, rice, broccoli, and dumplings.
  • Weekend cooking
    • I want to make something with lamb! Braised or stewed, I’ll do some research, track down a lamb shank or shoulder.
    • I want to make some enriched bread! Maybe Challah! More research is needed! As you can tell, I’m very excited by my weekend cooking projects.
    • Some kind of cake will be made. I have a number of recipes I desperately want to make, so rather than try to choose I will put the decision to a household vote.
    • Cookies! Chocolate with peanut butter chip cookies, to be exact.
    • Three pounds of chicken breast. It’s not glamorous, but it has replaced lunch meat in our house and therefore must be cooked weekly. Perhaps I’ll get fancy and marinate some of it, but probably not.

That’s all for now- in my spare time I’m sifting through 4,389 lunch ideas on Pinterest, and will report back next week with any revelations.

Ground Beef Recipe Roundup | Not a menu plan #20140215

This week, I have general ideas and plans, but I’m not doing a *real* menu plan. I still wanted to ramble on the internet a bit, so here we go! Note: Grammarly tells me that I use too many unnecessary commas.  If it really knew me, it would tell me that I use an excessive amount of hyperlinks, but you already knew that.

This week, being Valentine’s week, there were many wonderful sales at the grocery store. Fresh strawberries, steaks, chocolate cakes, and all the other foods-of-love. Ground beef was also on sale. It is not a food of love. It is something that I buy when it gets to a certain price (2.99/lb for ground chuck), and then squeeze into my meal rotation for variety. Everyone other than my youngest son is tired of burgers. No one wants ground beef in their tacos, they’d rather have a burrito with sliced-meat-of-some-sort. They still maintain they are not picky.

Everyone other than my youngest son is tired of burgers. No one wants ground beef in their tacos, they’d rather have a burrito with sliced-meat-of-some-sort. They still maintain they are not picky. Here, you can imagine that I am rolling my eyes, or more likely, that I am making a face that looks like something smells bad. We call in a stink face.

So, what do I do with ground beef that is actually well received? Here is a handy dandy list:

  1. Most of the time I just make burgers and tell people to get over it. I occasionally add extra topics to try and amp up the tasty factor, but most often it’s just served with some salad and called dinner.
  2. When I’m feeling really fancy and plan in advance, I make pie crust and then make pasties. This is rare, and happens at most about every three months.
  3. Lasagna! I have yet to settle on a “real” recipe, usually, I just adapt whatever is on the back of the Creamette noodle box. This only happens if I can make it on a weekend day, and then reheat during the week.
  4. More often than lasagna, stuffed shells with meatballs happen, but I add cooked/seasoned spinach to the stuffing mix. For the meatballs, I often get frozen and am less than satisfied with the result, but sometimes I’ll actually make them with this recipe, subbing in Panko breadcrumbs and Italian herbs. I’m not sure that this method is actually any easier than Lasagna, but it easily makes a double recipe so I can freeze a pan for later.
  5. Meatloaf. I always add ketchup to the mix and on top, and I should really make this more. It’s probably happening this week.

The list of things I wish the rest of my household would enjoy is quite a bit longer. I generally try to not dwell on this too much, but I think it would be helpful to have a list of “stuff I should make just for my lunches, because I’m worth it” so here it is:

  1. Stuffed peppers! I think these are rejected because of the watery-ness of the peppers, but I think they’d be great. Here’s one recipe I’d like to try, or maybe I could find some kind of stuffed poblano recipe with a bit more research.
  2. Chili. The medium one loves it too, the big one gets heartburn, and it’s always too spicy for the little one. I really just need to make myself a smaller batch, and then freeze portions for later. My problem is that I can rarely make something that I prefer to Wendy’s chili, so maybe it’s time to start testing out knockoff recipes.
  3. I would also make some kind of “taco pie” but that usually ends up giving me indigestion 😦
  4. Cabbage roll casserole, but with the rice cooked on the side. I have a handwritten recipe that calls for ground beef, chopped onion, chopped cabbage, and Campbell’s tomato soup. It’s mighty tasty right out of the oven to me, but the texture bothers others and it doesn’t reheat particularly well.
  5. Salsbury steak, Swedish meatballs, and beef stroganoff. I haven’t ever really attempted a recipe for these, but end up really really enjoying them when I happen to have them at Ikea, some hole-in-the-wall-diner, or if I splurge on a frozen dinner. The problem with making them is that I am resonably sure that I would be the only person eating it, and I don’t prefer these as leftovers.

Welp, that’s all for now. If you have a favorite ground beef recipe please share it with me!

Cooking lately #20170202

Some things have been going *veryright in my kitchen lately. So, I decided I’d share a few of these tidbits. I don’t do affiliate links, these ones are just for your reference or for my reference.

  • Stuffed shells with meatballs
    • Cook the shells in heavily salted water per package cooking time, then rinse under cool water to stop the cooking.
    • Make the filling: mix together two eggs, two 15 oz containers of ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan, 8 oz freshly grated part-skim mozzarella, and one 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach (thawed, all the water squeezed out).
    • Assemble the night before splitting into two pans, one for the freezer and one for the next day.
    • Top each pan with one jar of pasta sauce and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. When ready to bake or freeze, add in some premade meatballs and add extra sauce to cover them.
    • Bake at 375 F, covered in tin foil, til hot and bubbly (about an hour for the fridge version, longer from the freezer).
    • Wait at least 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven to serve, then top with parmesan cheese and enjoy.
    • Easier to throw together than Lasagna, and easier to reheat. Plus, you get two dinners for the work of one. Do it.
  • Lettuce cup “sushi”
    • What do you do when you want to make sushi but realized half way through that you don’t have any nori? Well, if your local store is closed for the night, you serve it up in a romaine lettuce leaf instead!
    • Make this sushi rice recipe, and after it’s all prepared/cooled chop up some carrots into matchsticks, seed, peel, and slice up a cucumber, chop up some pickled ginger, top with toasted sesame seeds, then either top with a drizzle of soy sauce or go wild.
    • Ways to go wild: add avocado, add thinly sliced jalapeno, add some cooked salmon, add some teriyaki chicken, get some sushi grade fish and add it raw (I have yet to do this one), make a peanut/soy/rice vinegar dipping sauce and then drizzle because dipping is stressful.
    • Ways to cheat even more: make it with regular rice and top it with “Asian” salad dressing. Still delicious. Leave out rice completely for some low-carb deliciousness.
    • Not necessarily food safe idea: put leftover sushi rice in a Ziploc bag, leave it on the counter, and add chopped up lettuce and all the ingredients to a bowl for a “salad” the next day. Try it at your own peril, but I found it delicious and didn’t get sick.
  • Oreo pudding poke cake
    • It’s a recipe that’s not really a recipe, but more a method for putting together boxed stuff. It tastes REALLY good.
    • This “recipe” inspired me to try other combinations. So far, my favorite is to use the same method with this triple chocolate cake mix, top it with Hershey’s Special Dark pudding (follow directions for pie filling, two containers mix with 3 cups cold milk), top with crumbled oreos that have most of their filling removed. Better than the original, and the pudding is less sweet than regular frosting.
  • Oatmeal, made with milk instead of water. Perfect for any cold morning.
  • Jalapeno poppers, but coat the outside with BBQ sauce before baking and eat them for breakfast, or any time you want to be happy.
  • Spinach artichoke dip
    • Make sure to top it with some cracked red pepper and extra parmesan.
    • After you make it, use the leftovers on top of some (cooked) meat, and stick it under the broiler to heat up the dip/topping/goodness. Thank me later.
    • This blogger is a genius who has also adapted it for the slow cooker.
  • Pot roast
    • I have some in the slow cooker *right now* because it was on sale at my regular grocery store for $3.99/lb and that price means I make pot roast.
    • Serve it with rice, egg noodles, or some potato product. Today we’re having mashed potatoes, crusty-store-bought-rosemary-bread, and green beans.

That’s all, folks! Cooking has become a bit of “me time” that I am very happy to have. I hope you’re all finding ways to relax, get creative, and get away from your cares if only for a little while.

Welcome to the Calzone Zone

The kids have decided we will open a restaurant, and it will be called Calzone Zone. They were so thrilled with the name they came up with (all on their own), that I couldn’t bear to tell them that it had been done before. Both by Chef John (whose method I used when I made the Zones), and also by the TV show Parks & Rec. Either way, we 100% cheated with pre-made everything, it turned out 100% delicious, and I 100% did not take a picture to prove it to you. Sorry, Internet. Here’s what to do!

  1. Buy Trader Joe’s garlic and herb pizza dough, pepperoni, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, fresh mozzarella, and a single egg you should already have on hand if you’re an omnivore.
  2. Preheat oven to 500, with a pizza stone in the lower third.
  3. Divide dough into six equal parts (with your handy-dandy bench scraper), let it warm up for a bit while you do other junk, then come back and roll it out to the size of a plate.
  4. Add a layer of pepperoni if you’re using them (I used them on half, other were just cheese), then an inch high layer of ricotta (top with salt and pep), a few slices of fresh mozzarella, and then more pepperoni if you’re using it. Seal em up like Chef John said to on a well floured surface (same link as above).
  5. The oven has beeped, telling you you’re ready to bake! I have a rim-less cookie sheet that I basically use as an over-sized cookie sheet. I put a big ol’ square of parchment paper on it, bravely and quickly moved the Zones over using my bench scraper, THEN top with an egg wash (one egg mixed with approximately 1 1/2 tsp of water) and Parmesan cheese.
  6. Slide the entire piece of parchment paper onto the pizza stone and bake for about 12 minutes. The instructions said to bake for 15, but my Zones were significantly smaller than theirs and cooked faster.
  7. LET THEM COOL- we cooled them for 10 minutes and they were still way too hot. I will cook them for 15 or maybe even 20 before yelling dinner next time.

We devoured our Zones with a salad, a side of meatballs in marinara, and some extra marinara for dipping. The portion was perfect for our 7 & 11 year old kids to have a single Zone, and we parents each enjoyed two. If I was going any fancier on the stuff inside I would probably use plain pizza dough, or even make your own homemade dough, but since our ingredients were pretty simple the garlic & herb dough was perfect. The parchment paper also caught some of the inevitable cheese-splosion, which came from a poorly sealed corner of one Zone.

These have formally been requested as an addition to our regular rotation. It was a nice variation from our usual stir fry/burgers/burritos/pasta routine, I’m documenting it here so that I’ll hopefully remember to do it again 🙂

Life update: we are officially in soccer season! Darian is now in 2nd grade (and has his same teacher from 1st grade, Ms. Drake), and Kimathi is in 5th grade (with Ms. Goetzke). It’s K’s LAST YEAR of Elementary school, and it’s getting me all misty eyed. Summer was full of camping, cabin trips, swimming, going to the drive-in movies, and more good times than you could shake a stick at. I’m both relieved to be back in our school-year-routine, and thankful for all the good times we had.

Food update: My sweetie got me a grill, and I have been *loving* it. Also, cool enough now to officially proclaim the start of baking season! I baked some rosemary bread yesterday, topped with sesame and poppy seeds. It was fine, but utterly forgettable, so I’ll continue the search for a rosemary bread recipe and then document it here after a few tests. Next up- all the desserts.

Menu Plan #20160516

I honestly can’t tell you why I didn’t post the first week of May, because last week my Grandma passed away. I’m shocked, and yet not. She was 90 and was having medical problems. I’m sad. I barely started to wrap my head around family get togethers without my Grandpa who died 3 years ago, and I’m utterly unprepared to try and think of them without her. And without the house where I played dress up with cousins for so many years. My mom was one of 8 children, and all her siblings, their significant others, and the grandkids could pile into the living room for performances- some much more practiced than others, but all cheered for.

Nothing feels normal, so I’m going to get back to the routine of meal planning. I have no idea how closely I’ll actually follow it, especially since we just got back into town yesterday and I still need to do my grocery shopping.

  • Monday Brats (on buns or not), corn, and salad. It will come together quickly, fill bellies, and not leave me with much clean up.
  • Tuesday will be Kimathi’s Elementary band concert! It starts at 6:30PM, so we’ll be skipping our usual Tuesday Friendsdinner and grabbing a bite to eat somewhere.
  • Wednesday Cabbage and beef casserole, served with rice. Like this recipe, but without the green pepper and with the rice cooked separately (so also leaving out the extra water). It’s an easy casserole, and super comforting.
  • Thursday Sesame chicken, green beans, dumplings, and rice.
  • Friday I would love to make some kind of fish- just not sure how exactly yet. I’ll give myself a few days to peruse Pinterest and try to figure it out.
  • Weekend Burritos at some point. Pancakes at some point. Cookies at some point. Hopefully a bounty of fresh fruit and veg.

There! Mostly done anyway. I’d gladly welcome any comfort-food-type-recipe you have to offer.

 

Meal Plan #20160425

Spring has officially sprung, and the week is supposed to be cool and/or rainy. To warm up the house and not go completely stir crazy, I have a few extra cooking projects planned.

  • Monday Cheeseburgers, veggies, ice cream sandwiches for dessert.
    • I’ll also be making some kind of vegetable beef soup for lunches this week.
  • Tuesday Friendsdinner! Each Tuesday a group of friends and I rotate hosting dinner. This week is not my night to host, and not my night to cook.
  • Wednesday Pasta with smoked sausage, peppers and onions in a faux arrabiata sauce (plenty of garlic and red bell peppers cooked in butter with a hefty dose of red pepper flakes, plus store bought marinara).  Broccoli on the side.
  • Thursday Breakfast for dinner- I’m trying a new pancake recipe, and serving it up with bacon, fresh fruit, and soft scrambled eggs with spinach. {UPDATE: I didn’t get the pancake batter made in time, so we did french toast instead}
    • I’ll be out of soup at this point, and will make up some fresh spring rolls for Friday’s lunch. Quick pickled cucumbers, carrots and red onion, chicken, rice noodles with plenty of mint and cilantro, wrapped up in romaine lettuce and rice paper.
  • Friday Stir fried noodles & veggies, chicken skewers (kind of like this recipe but with extra turmeric and ginger in the chicken marinade), lots of broccoli, and dumplings.
  • Weekend:
    • Saturday breakfast will be french toast {UPDATE: I have not one, but *two* new waffle irons, so it’s going to be a waffle-palooza! I’ll make my classic buttermilk waffles AND sweet potato hash browns. I also really want to try mashed potato waffles at some point, but probably not until I already have leftover mashed potatoes}, smoked sausage, and fruit.
    • Lunch to go: spring time and/or summer wardrobe refresh for the kids, they’re both growing extra fast and wearing holes in pants. We’ll pack up a cooler with drinks, sandwiches and veggies.
    • Yard. Work. It’s going to take up quite a bit of our weekend time.
    • Meatloaf will happen. More soups will likely happen. Hopefully other baking will also happen.

That’s all for now folks! If you have a favorite crockpot recipe, please toss it my way.

 

Belated meals #20160330

Step one: step into your time machine.

Step two: set date to 3/28/2016.

Step three: POP! Fizz! Sizzle!

Step four: time machine is broken, so just write your meal plan three days late.

  • Monday Soy & sesame chicken, broccoli, rice and dumplings. There was a very vocal protest that this had not been dinner in the past 6 days, so it happened again. The dumpling mob has been satisfied.
  • Tuesday Friendsdinner, and it wasn’t my night. Next week is my meal, so we’ll see what happens. What would you cook for 16 people?
  • Wednesday Spicy smothered chicken, red potatoes, and green beans.
  • Thursday Cheese burgers! Fries and salad on the side.
  • Friday Chicken Parmesan, pasta, garlic bread and broccoli.

For those of you following along, I did indeed make rolls on Sunday. However… They still need work. The seasonings were 2 tsp each of rosemary and oregano, along with 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 Tbs minced onion, and 1 tsp garlic powder. The dough was a bit on the dry side, so the rolls ended up being more dense than I would have liked, and I may have overmixed them a bit. Also, rolling them in butter rather than olive oil didn’t do the crust of the rolls any favors. This Sunday I’ll mess with the ratios again and report back.