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.

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.

Darian’s turning 8! | Birthday menu

My son Darian is turning 8 and has denied my request to stop getting older. He thought I was kidding, but I really really want to squish 8-month-old-Darian again, and I don’t think the laws of the universe should prevent that.

Back to business. The soon-to-be-8-year-old-Darian originally wanted to go to Golden Corral for his birthday dinner, but last night he changed his mind and decided on a semi-homemade menu instead.

  • Teriyaki chicken I use chicken thighs, and make a sauce with Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki, sweet chili sauce, and peanut butter.
  • White rice I always keep a supply of Kokuho Rose rice, it’s my very favorite.
  • “Dry” ramen Darian’s favorite is Sapporo Ichiban original ramen, but mostly drained (1 or 2 tsp water left in) with about half of a seasoning packet.
  • Broccoli steamed, seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper. He didn’t actually request this, but I’m making him eat vegetables on his birthday.
  • Dumplings from Trader Joe’s- specifically their chicken gyoza potstickers, with dipping sauce on the side.
  • Reed’s extra ginger brew will be the beverage. Probably served in wine glasses because Darian thinks that makes it fancy 🙂
  • Oreo cake, barely homemade using this recipe, Breyers oreo ice cream on the side.

That’s it! This will come together pretty dang easily since the cake benefits from being made a day in advance. The timing won’t even be an issue, the only foreseeable hiccup is if Darian eats too much of his dinner and doesn’t want any cake. I’ll attempt to give him little portions, but if all else fails we’ll just sing to him and have him blow out candles before storing his cake in the fridge again.

I was trying to decide what I would want my birthday dinner to be, and I think we got it right last year by going out to Zen Box Izakaya. Previous years, I’ve gone to Salut on Grand (steak, calamari, all the drinks) and been ridiculously happy. I think since I make so many meals at home, the key to birthday happiness is going to a restaurant that I love. I don’t really want to meet a restaurant for the first time on my birthday, but I’m happy to make a few outings in the name of research.