Sniff. Sob. Waaaa.
No, that’s not K, darling child that she is almost sleeping through the night. That’s me, mourning the end of yet another football season. Continue reading
Recipes and cooking tips for foodie families.
Oh happy day, our friends came to play. Which means something so different than what it meant in pre-kids days. Even with the 4 kids running around underfoot though, we can still manage to have good food, good wine and good conversation:
“How’s your book coming along? Nicholas PUT THAT DOWN.”
“Jo Jo stop moving the furniture. Great, almost done”
“I can’t wait to read–WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH”
Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon and boiled potatoes. A cheap cut of meat simmered in wine and bacon all day. Yeah, it didn’t suck. It could also all be made ahead so I wasn’t spending too much time in the kitchen, unless I was trying to escape the chaos.
I also made breakfast ahead so when the kids woke us up at 5:30am after a big night of visiting, we didn’t need to worry about cooking. Just turn on the oven and pop in the Southern Breakfast Strata. An hour later it’s done.
So, the menu for an effortless weekend of entertaining with 4 kids?
Southern Breakfast Strata
After Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner is probably the most well orchestrated and planned meal of the year. But what about Christmas Eve? You’ve got a huge meal planned the next day, but it’s still nice to make something special that night before. Something special that:
1. Is easy clean up, since you’ll likely be making a huge mess the next day (or have already started cooking on Christmas Eve)
2. Is relatively light to prepare yourself for the gorging that is to come the next day
3. But is still warm and hearty to get you in the Christmas spirit
What could possibly fit all of those criteria? Cioppino! A seafood stew native of San Francisco (where my mom also happens to be a native of) that consists of a fragrant tomato-y broth and basically whatever seafood you can get your hands on. It’s also reminiscent of Zuppa di Pesce, an Italian fisherman’s stew–one of my dad’s favorites.
Dan and I are often in charge of the Christmas Eve dinner, and this year is no exception. My mom has been experimenting with her own sourdough, so this year we have freshly made sourdough bread as an accompaniment.
I love making an event out of dinner. It’s often the one time of the day that the whole family is together…and my oldest is only 3. I can only imagine how hectic it’s going to get later. But over dinner we can sit and talk and ask each other about our favorite part of our day. Playing with Legos for Nicholas. Walking through the door after work for Dan. Then the dog barks, Katie starts crying, and Nicholas spills his drink. Despite the chaos, the time we spend together at dinner is my favorite part of the day.
I like the idea of passport meals–you know, make an entire theme night out of something a little different than the norm, for us: Indian food. Play Indian music, find India on a map, everyone come to the table with one fun fact about Indian culture…
Ok, seriously, who am I kidding. Like we have time for that. The reality is, we walk past an Indian restaurant on the way home from Nicholas’ school and it smells so darn good that I was inspired to try to make a couple of our favorite dishes at home. And over dinner we talked about how great it would have been to have done all of that stuff.
I still love the idea of a passport meal–go ahead, try something new. You don’t need to be an expert, just follow a recipe. And if you can do all that other stuff, you are truly inspiring. I’m going to keep it on the list as one of the great ideas that we’ll get to one of these days. Meanwhile, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that we all get to sit at the table and talk for a few minutes every day.
Nicholas’ birthday falls during this time as well. At this age, it just means figuring out how many pizzas to order at the local bounce house venue, but when he gets older I’m sure it will mean cooking vats of chili for teenage boys who want to watch the game together. Wow, I just leapt ahead 10 years.
Anyway, this week I’m serving up a couple of menus that are great for weekend or weeknight entertaining, plus a great crockpot meal for the night you’re not on the go but too tired to cook!
Menu #1: Open house gathering
Even if you’re not entertaining, this is a great weekend meal that you can use the leftovers for later in the week.
Wine: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Menu #2: Elegant gathering with close friends
Salmon Pot Pie
Steamed Green Beans
Menu #3: Crock Pot Comfort
After you’ve had your fill of entertaining and just need a comforting crock pot meal, give this one a try. I found it on Recipe Girl’s blog, and it looks amazing.
1 3-pound filet of salmon, skin on
3 to 4 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces (drumsticks, breasts, thighs)
fresh or dried thyme
2 pounds assorted potatoes
cocktail pumpernickel slices
blue cheese, crumbled
This week is all about cooking one day and then having plenty to eat for the rest of the week. Even though this is 3 meals, you could probably stretch out some of the leftovers for another day or two.
Menu # 1: Grilled Ribs
I actually like making ribs in the winter. Most of the cooking happens inside, with just a quick toss on the grill at the end to get a good crust on the ribs. Make a double recipe of the mac and cheese, omitting the tuna from the recipe. Serve some now on the side of the ribs, and save some for later in the week.
Add tuna to the leftover macaroni and cheese and place in a casserole dish. Top with some extra cheese and bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or so.
Use the leftovers from the ribs to make this super quick fried rice.
Pork & Pineapple Fried Rice
Steamed Green Beans
pork spare ribs–4 pounds
2 6-ounce cans of solid white tuna
red bell pepper
whole wheat elbow macaroni
frozen butternut squash
frozen mixed veggies (broccoli, carrots, asparagus are all good options)
Sometimes the best gatherings are the ones that aren’t planned. You don’t have time to stress about food or the menu, you just scan the fridge, grab a couple of things from the store, and make it work.
We no longer live around the corner from some of our closest friends, but thankfully have a tradition to meet up the day after Thanksgiving and go on a hike near our house. Their holiday travels bring them through town so we have a chance to spend some quality time together before the real chaos of the holidays settles in.
This year, at the last minute, we learned that other mutual friends were passing through as well. They live across the country or on the other side of the world depending on the week, so we jumped on the chance to catch up with them.
I had a bunch of random stuff in the fridge, including: oranges, onions, capers, and polish kielbasa. So, Nicholas and I grabbed a big piece of salmon from the store, and Dan went out for peirogies and booze from our corner market. Katie bounced in the jumperoo while I prepped for 1/2 hour or so, and then everything went in the oven when friends arrived. Our friends brought a delicious salad. Voila, a quick, easy and elegant brunch was born!
Needless to say we didn’t make it on our hike this year, and that was just fine with us!
Turkey, turkey, and more turkey. I bet you’re getting sick of talking turkey by now. But if you’ve got leftovers, your turkey days aren’t over yet! Here are some recipes for the week that will help you move on from Thanksgiving and finish up that turkey…one classic recipe, one *hopefully* new one, and one that has no turkey at all (but it uses up some of that turkey stock you made)!
Make this on Sunday for a football fiesta!
Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
Corn Chips or Cornbread
The recipe calls for ground beef or turkey. Just omit the beef or turkey, and add in 3-4 cups chopped, cooked turkey at the same time you add the beans. Delish!
A great way to use up all of those leftovers…just put them in a casserole and bake. This is easy to assemble the night before. Then when you come home all you need to do is throw it in the oven and 45 min later you have dinner. For this one, you can also make a Stage 3 baby food version of Shepherd’s Pie.
Baby Food: Shepherd’s Pie
Menu #3: Hump Day Help
Here’s a good one for a cold, rainy midweek meal. You’re sick of cooking, sick of eating turkey, but you can come home to a warm nourishing meal nonetheless.
This recipe is for the stovetop, but making it in the slow cooker couldn’t be easier. Just dump everything in the crock pot (you don’t need to soak the beans), set on low, and 8 hours later you have dinner.
5-6 cups cooked, chopped turkey
polish kielbasa or other smoked sausage
cubanelle or poblano peppers–3
1.5 oz dried New Mexico chiles
1.5 oz dried ancho chiles
chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
28 oz can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
chicken or turkey stock–3 quarts
kidney beans–14oz can
pinto or black beans–14 oz can
garbanzo beans–14oz can
dried navy beans–1 pound
1 oz dark chocolate
yogurt or sour cream
Cheddar or jack cheese
frozen green beans
A couple of years ago Dan and I took a vacation to Portland, Oregon. It was our first extended time away from Nicholas–he was with the grandparents–and we pretended like we were adults again. We went out to dinner, sometimes even after 8pm!, went wine tasting, and visited with friends until the wee hours of the night. The whole time talking about how much Nicholas would love it and how much we wanted to take him there. So much for being kid-free!
We had the best food guide in the world while we were there (thank you Joel!), and ate at some of the most amazing places.
Not one of which have I ever seen featured in Food and Wine. Some of the highlights include:
Olympic Provisions–order everything on the menu…we did
Slow and Low–pork gone gourmet, just the way it should be
The Red Fox–the world’s best burger. Made better when chased with a bacon wrapped hot dog topped with jalapeno salsa.
In honor of that amazing trip, and because pork loins were on sale last week, we had an impromptu Pork and Pinot dinner party. Roasting the pork couldn’t be easier even when you’re entertaining kids and guests. And we broke out one of our “reserve” bottles from our pilgrimage to Willamette Valley to really dial up the fun.
Wine: Oregon Pinot Noir
So, if you’re looking for an alternative to turkey this weekend, or just want an excuse to bring friends together this holiday season, put on a Pork and Pinot party!
Thanksgiving is on Thursday. I bring this up because, if you’re like me, you may not be aware. It snuck up on me. I thought I had an extra week in there somewhere. Recalibrating…
Ok, this week’s menu is all planned around the fact that you are going to eat a big meal on Thursday. If you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner and don’t have all of your recipes picked out, or if you’re bringing a side dish and need some inspiration, I’m including a Thanksgiving dinner menu. Either way, the last thing you’re going to want is overwraught, heavy meals all week.
So, on the menu: a slow cooker vegetarian meal with a side of cornbread, leftovers to be used for Thanksgiving stuffing. A make-ahead salad, where you could potentially make other Thanksgiving sides at the same time–mashed potatoes or green bean casserole. And of course, the main event, the bird.
If you’re making cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to make plenty of cornbread to go along with this soup. You’ll want to give it a couple of days to get good and stale before making your stuffing.
Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup
Cornbread (make from recipe on box)
You can get a jump on your Thanksgiving cooking by cooking a bunch of potatoes and pre-make your mashed potatoes. Then on Thanksgiving warm over a double boiler, or bake in a casserole for a new twist on mashed potatoes. You can also steam extra green beans here for the classic green bean casserole
10-12 pound turkey
1 ham hock or ham bone
collard greens–2 pounds
green bell pepper
solid white tuna in water
1 lb dried black beans
14oz can diced tomatoes
chicken or vegetable stock–2 quarts
Goya Sazon seasoning
dried thyme or fresh thyme
cornmeal or cornbread mix
white wine vinegar