Once a week I usually lay out what I plan to make for the following week with a list so I can gather all of the ingredients in one go. Then I get completely distracted by farmers markets, sales at the grocery, or the arrival of my Food and Wine mag so my plan evolves, or devolves. Either way, it’s usually delicious and generally pretty economical. Here’s what evolved this week. What’s your favorite weeknight cooking tip? Continue reading
Tag Archives: menu
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.
With 2 kids, date nights are more important than ever. Life gets so crazy that Dan and I sometimes forget to look at each other and say “hey, how are you doing these days?” But getting a sitter, making a reservation, dressing up, can make date night out feel like it’s more effort that it’s worth. It’s a sometimes occasion, but not something we do too regularly.
What we do do regularly though is make a nice dinner after the kids go to bed. Add a nice bottle of wine and maybe a movie rental, and you’ve got an awfully nice evening that didn’t need to be strategized and coordinated like a presidential campaign.
I have a ton of recipes for this kind of meal, but one of my favorites is grilled steak, creamy polenta, and a great salad. It’s a special occasion meal that I often have all of the ingredients for in my house: steaks I bought on sale in the freezer, polenta in the pantry, and salad fixings.
Wine: An Oregon Merlot was on sale so I grabbed that and it ended up being a perfect match. Since the filet doesn’t have a big sauce, it’s a pretty mild dish so a typical steak-y wine like Cab or Zinfandel would probably overpower the meal.
The steak is so simple you don’t even need a recipe. Just get your 6-8 ounce filets to room temp while you’re putting the kids to bed. Season well with salt and pepper. Then put on a VERY hot grill for 3 minutes per side for medium rare steak. Let them sit for 10 minutes before serving. Done.
The tomatoes take awhile to roast for the polenta, so get them started while kids are eating dinner. The polenta actually keeps fairly well sitting warm on the stove, so you can start that relatively early too, and then just stir it up, maybe add more liquid to get it to a nice creamy consistency, right before serving.
A low stress, inexpensive, relaxing evening will get you saying “hey, how you doin’?”
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
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
We go to a Thanksgiving potluck with family every year. Actually, not sure it was intended to be potluck but you can’t stop people from bringing stuff. As the newest member of my husband’s family–I just earned my 10 year pin–I’ve had trouble finding my annual dish. Appetizers, pies, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles were claimed when I was still playing with Barbies.
And the Thanksgiving dish is important. I only see most of these people once a year. This dish defines me for the next 364 days. I need to make an entrance with my perfect 2 children, effortlessly set a dish on the table that needs no attention, play the part of the perfect guest complimenting the house, the food, the weather, and then blow people’s mind when they finally dig in to my casserole of awesomeness. All the while saying, it was nothing, oh it’s so easy I’m so embarrassed to have even brought it.
One year I made Martha Stewart’s cornbread dressing. Dry as cardboard. It was also one of four dressings. The only one that had leftovers. Ouch.
Another year I begged for a shot at the mashed potatoes. They’re so boring, I wanted to put my own twist on it so it would be truly memorable. I peeled and roasted 40 cloves of garlic and mashed them in with 3 pounds of potatoes. It was memorable alright. The potatoes were returned to their rightful owner after that.
Then I offered wine. Then I priced buying wine for 20 people. Did not bring wine again.
Finally I settled on vegetables–a perfect fit for me. Not sexy. But pretty good for you and never out of place at a table full of food.
I don’t always bring the same veggie, and that’s ok. In fact, that’s perfect. As it turns out I don’t actually like to be defined by one dish. So after 10 years, I’ve got a whole category of dishes to play with. Roasted butternut squash, swiss chard gratin, collard greens, they all go great with a big Thanksgiving dinner and let the turkey be the star. You may have forgotten during my quest, but this is about Thanksgiving. I kind of did.
So, this year is collard greens.
And here’s a menu of the basics if you’re the one hosting. Hopefully you can assign some of this to the guests and hope they don’t emotionally attach themselves to their side dish.
Thanksgiving Basics Menu:
The week starts with Ina Garten’s Lentil Soup–which is amazing. It’s chock full of carrots, leeks, celery and delicious French lentils. The recipe also makes a TON. Way more than we can eat before we get sick of it. So I used some of the leftovers, strain the broth, and serve on the side of grilled salmon for a classic combo that comes together in a couple of minutes. Any remaining soup can be pureed with cooked brown rice for a healthy stage 3 baby meal.
Finally, on Friday’s we love to make pasta as an end of week treat. So I’ll roast up some cauliflower and toss it with rigatoni, capers, and red pepper flakes. Add an interesting Italian white and voila! A week of delicious, and fairly healthy, eating!
Ina Garten’s Lentil Soup
Grilled Chicken Sausage
Salmon with Lentils
Wine: Pinot Noir
Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower and Capers
Wine: Medium bodied Italian white (like a Soave)
4 6-ounce salmon fillets, skin on
1 pound French green lentils–Whole Foods sells these in the bulk foods bins
1 pound swiss chard
red wine vinegar
3 quarts chicken stock
red pepper flakes
pecorino romano cheese
crusty Italian bread