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.

UPDATED- Meal plan #20180122

It has been approximately 10,572 since I posted a meal plan. Here we go!

  • Monday is our weekly friends dinner. We rotate hosting with five other families, so I have to cook a huge meal about once a month on a Monday, and the rest of the time I just go show up at a friends house and get to eat. We have a shared calendar to keep track of where to go, and this week is one of those just-show-up-and-eat Mondays. I’m pretty psyched. UPDATE: we got a ton of snow, so I picked up the kids at 3PM and we stayed home shoveling rather than venturing out for dinner with friends. We rewarded ourselves for shoveling with plenty of hot cocoa, then had pizza, apple slices, nachos with leftover chicken for dinner at home. There ended up being more than a foot of snow, and some school buses in St. Paul were still dropping off kids at 11PM. It was nuts!
  • Tuesday UPDATE- There was no school so we hung out, built snow forts, and had a great time. Dinner plans stayed the same and as promised we had cheeseburgers. Mine was  loaded up with sauteed mushrooms & shallots, mozzarella cheese, parmesan, and marinara. The kid had cheddar cheese, ketchup, and sweet chili sauce. Fries and Caesar salad on the side in memory of trips to The Convention Grill.
  • Wednesday Coconut curry chicken with veggies! I use this green curry paste from Arroy D and serve it over rice. Please note: chicken thighs are a must for this dish. Please also note: there will be cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, snow peas, green onions, and cilantro too. This is my absolute favorite type of leftovers, so I’ll be making a huge batch.
  • Thursday Baked fish with lemon pepper/garlic/butter sauce- I bake thawed fillets with the sauce on top in a pyrex dish at 350 for 10-15 minutes. The time is a guess, I just check to see if they’re done and cooked through while I do other stuff in the kitchen. Served with plenty of lemon slices at the table, green beans and garlic bread on the side.
  • Friday we have the day off! As long as they make snow at Afton Alps, we are going with the snowboarding/skiing club from Capitol Hill. There’s a 75% chance of us going to Culvers or Snuffy’s for dinner that night, and a 25% chance that I’ll make Calzones at home for dinner.

So there it is! As always, this menu is not contractually binding and will be changed at my discretion. At some point next weekend I’d also like to make some pie, but I’m not quite ready to commit to getting it done.

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.

It WILL hot dog #20170727

Internetainers Rhett and Link joined Jimmy Fallon, looking to answer the age old question: Will it Hot Dog? These guys are hilarious, and they bring joy to the world by coming up with ridiculous hot-dog-replacement items.  It’s a bit of frivolity that I greatly enjoy, but they pretty much design the show so that the answer “will it” is often likely to be “NO.” I’d prefer to make all the answers “YES” and I think the first step is to keep the hot dog, and just add different toppings. To start, I’m going to reimagine Rhett and Link’s “Will it” segment, but with intentionally tasty sounding toppings instead of weird-hot-dog-replacements. Here we go!

Sushi Dog Start with a sweet Hawaiian roll, add a grilled hot dog,  and then top it with avocado, diced cucumbers, ribbons of pickled ginger, spicy mayo, tobiko, and toasted sesame seeds. Sounds good to me!

Soup Dog-e-dog Well, they said it tasted like gazpacho, so we’ll take inspiration from that. The bun will be toasted on inside the split, then slathered with garlic butter, and will once again feature a plain hot-grilled-hot-dog.  Dice up a few tablespoons of onions, and take the edge off by adding salt and the juice of a lemon. Let that sit (and pickle just a bit) while you prep chopped tomatoes,  chopped red bell pepper, and seeded/peeled/chopped cucumber. Mix all that business together, then use a fork to “drain” out the onion, and add it to the mix with some from tarragon, thyme and parsley. Add a dash of cayenne pepper to the mix and sprinkle with a little more salt. This is a long, drawn out way to describe making a type of gazpacho-flavored-fresh-salsa. Add the hot-hot-dog into the garlic-buttered-bun, give it a squirt of ketchup and spicy mustard, then sprinkle the top with your gazpacho-salsa-thing.

Under Dog Well, strawberry flavored edible underwear was the flavor of this one, so we’ll keep the “adult” theme. Start with a brioche bun is buttered and then toasted (again on the inside, where the dog will go), then add a piping-hot bacon wrapped hot dog. Top it with grated Gruyère cheese, and broil til the cheese is just melted. Mix 1/2 cup strawberry jam with 2 tablespoons of Pinot Noir like they do in this recipe from Food & Wine, and then drizzle that over the melty cheese. Garnish with some julienned fresh basil if you’re feeling fancy.

Kibbles-and-I-don’t-think-I-want-to-eat-this With a name like that, why would you try? Also, dogs aren’t supposed to have a lot of salt so that ends up making things a lot less delicious. My dog goes NUTS for nut butters, so we’ll toast a bun and then spread some peanut butter on there. Add a freshly grilled hot dog, then top with some diced apples, which my dog also weirdly loves. I would also add few caramelized onions if they weren’t super toxic to pups. Honestly, this one is still pretty weird and I don’t really want to try it, but I would bet $5 that it’s more enjoyable than straight up dog food.

That’s it, that’s all the dogs they “made” with Jimmy. I’m pretty sure my versions are more delicious, but I’m also not willing to buy and eat strawberry edible underwear to make an informed comparison.