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Archive for the ‘Deliciousness’ Category

Let us rejoice! The dinner party is over!

I think it went well! People stayed until nearly ten, so that’s a good sign, right?

The biggest success of the night was using Meaghan’s GENIUS idea to put a plastic tablecloth down for the kids and then just scoop it up and throw it away once the kids were done.

Dinner Party Kids' Table

Unfortunately, I did not have a real cloth tablecloth long enough for the table-with-leaf. But that’s okay. We put down placemats instead. And I forgot to put the flower arrangements back on the table after we turned it. But OH WELL I think it was still okay.

The biggest flop of the night was the kids’ sandwiches. I think the ham and cheese sandwiches went over slightly better than the BLTs, but even my bacon-loving child refused to eat the bacon.

I don’t know why! It was good! It seemed like maybe three of the seven children ate ANYTHING. My child – for whom, you will remember, I made the sandwiches in the first place – ate only fruit. But what the sandwiches lacked in appealingness-to-small-children, they made up for in adorability. Also I will never make them again because it does not take a small amount of time to cut out a million circles of bread and lettuce.

 

Dinner Party BLTs 3

Let’s talk about the grown-up food.

It was a good idea to do a signature cocktail, I think. We made Dark and Stormies. Rather, my husband made them for people, and those who had one enjoyed it. (I had a gin gimlet.) We also had plenty of beer and wine.

Dinner Party Bar

We had a TON of appetizers. The hummus – from Costco – was barely touched, despite (or maybe because of?) the lovely paprika-oil I sprinkled on top of it per Lauren (I think I could have been more artful in my drizzling; next time) (my husband says the hummus was just Not Good). Barely anyone ate any of the veggies (which I bought and cut myself, except for the carrots; there were NO VEGGIES TRAYS to be found during any of my three trips to the grocery store!). Several people seemed to enjoy the cranberry relish (I sure did) and one of the guests brought chips and salsa, but we didn’t put much of a dent in that either. Basically, the appetizers weren’t a huge hit, I guess. Oh well. We had a whole bowl of cranberry relish to ourselves the next day, which isn’t a bad thing.

Dinner Party Cranberry 2

I know this combination of ingredients sounds weird, but it is SO GOOD.

The problem with having a secret blog is that it’s a little weird to take out your phone and get pictures of all the food before you serve it. Also, I wanted to get things on the table. So I have Before Pictures, but only one After Picture (courtesy of my husband).

My main panic of the evening was timing. (This is always my main panic. When do you start cooking something? When do you take it out? How forcefully do you push people to sit down? When do you clear the table? When do you serve dessert?) Everyone arrived about thirty minutes late. Which… fine. We all have small kids, things happen, not a big deal. (Except that in my plan, people arrived at one time, the kids would eat 30 minutes later, then the adults would eat 30 minutes after that. HA.) Of course, then the kids wanted to play, so they were really hard to wrangle for dinner. And then they kept slipping away from the table instead of eating their adorable but unappetizing sandwiches. Sigh. I have no idea what time we finally got them out of the kitchen and flipped the table, but by then the chicken was WAY overcooked.

Dinner Party Chicken

Not cooked at all yet… So much potential for nice, juicy meat… 

I ate it – even though I am still Avoiding Chicken – and it had a good flavor. It was dry though. I put it in the oven a bit early because my oven tends to take a little longer than recipes say it should… but that extra time plus the tardiness of the guests plus the herding-cats of children issue led to dry chicken. I wish I had thought to pour the pan juices into pitchers so people could use it as gravy. But I didn’t. OH WELL.

The potato salad was dry, too, which was hugely disappointing. I guess my potatoes weren’t cut into small enough pieces? It didn’t prevent people from eating it, at least. I am a little fearful that our guests (especially the four who’ve never been to our house before) might think that I am A Cooker of Dry Food, but… what can you do. It is how it is.

Dinner Party Potato 1Dinner Party Potato 2

The salad was very good and got compliments. I did not take a picture of it because I assembled it right before serving.

Carla had asked me to make a treasure hunt, so I did. That’s what the kids did while we were eating dinner. They had a BLAST, with only a couple of argumentative incidents. (Future Me: Do NOT tell Carla about the treasure hunt until it is time to BEGIN the treasure hunt or she will tell the other children and they will sneak around trying to find the clues without context and mess things up.) The actual treasure was: 1. Little rabbits that you put in water and “grow” from the dollar section at Target. 2. A washable Melissa & Doug tattoo. 3. Two mini Hershey’s kisses. 4. A fruit snack.

Dinner Party Treasure

The kids — ages 3 to 7 — really enjoyed this treasure hunt. And they did a great job of working together to figure out the clues. I made them go up and down as many flights of stairs as possible in hopes of wearing them out. I hope they slept well for their parents.

The fallen chocolate cake was the best part of the dinner. (It wasn’t terrible to cook, either, although I had an Egg Incident that necessitated me buying another dozen eggs and tossing eight perfectly good eggs that I’d screwed up during the separation process.) It fluffed up just as it was supposed to, and fell while it cooled just as promised.

My husband made whipped cream and I piped it into the middle of the cake and topped it with raspberries. It was delicious. Moist and chocolatey with a nice crunch to the outer crust. The whipped cream and raspberries were the perfect complements.

Dinner Party Cake 5

At least SOME cake was left to photograph.

I had to double the recipe to make enough for a ten-inch springform pan, and I made cupcakes for the kiddos with the leftover batter. The cupcakes turned out a little weird: the bottoms somehow evaporated, so that when you took the wrapper off, there was only the top half of a cupcake inside. Oh well. The kids enjoyed them anyway. I put a blop of whipped cream and a raspberry on each one. Absolutely the only issue with the cake was that I was afraid to “frost” it before the guests arrived; it was a good thing, too, because the whipped cream fell and we had to re-whip it. But piping it and topping it with raspberries was a little stressful. Overall, WORTH IT.

Dinner Party Cupcakes

I did not get a photo of them with their whipped-cream-and-raspberry toppers before the children descended upon them like locusts.

Next time, I might do the following things differently:

  1. Have fewer guests. (Although, really, it worked out FINE.)
  2. Find something (the only option is tacos) that Carla will eat that I can also make and serve to company. Or maybe pasta (as long as I save plain noodles for her)?
  3. Fewer appetizers????

For future entertaining, I would definitely repeat:

  1. The plastic tablecloth over a real tablecloth option for big groups/two seatings.
  2. The treasure hunt (but a SECRET treasure hunt, next time).
  3. Signature drinks.
  4. The cake.

That’s that, Party Planning Committee! Thank you for your service and for attending this postmortem. Next time, we’ll do even better!

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Artichoke 2 7

A couple of you (hi Lee! hi Kate!) have requested  that I share how to cook an artichoke and I am happy to comply because it means eating another artichoke! Woo!

When I was a kid, artichokes were a Treat Food. You have these, right? Something that your parents would make or buy very occasionally, usually for some special circumstance. And because of the rare, special nature of these foods, they became, perhaps forever, a Treat.

It’s funny to think back on the Treat Foods of my childhood:

  • “Real” Coca Cola: This was something that we only got when we were home sick. It was usually served warm and flat, to settle the stomach. (Is any of this even based in any sort of physiological reality? Who knows!) For a long time after I was living on my own, I’d order Coke at a restaurant because of that special thrill it gave me, of having something normally forbidden.
  • “Real” Sprite/7Up: With exception of the aforementioned Sick Days Coke, my parents didn’t keep full-sugar soda on hand. So on the very rare occasions I got to go out to dinner, I’d order a Shirley Temple. Oh man, was that a special treat! Sugar swirled with sugar topped with sugar disguised as a fruit! YUM.
  • Lobster Tail: I mean, even NOW that I am a grown-up who can buy Coke and artichokes any damn time she wants to, lobster tails remain very oooh-la-la. Once in a blue moon, my parents would order lobster tails from Omaha Steaks or one of those other mail order companies and we’d have them for dinner. My mom prepared lobster tails for my junior prom — and we even got to eat them in the Fancy Dining Room! — which made the evening even more special.
  • Cracklin’ Oat Bran: As a kid, the only cereals my parents would buy on the regular were Rice Krispies or Shredded Wheat – and we’re talking the big hay bale type of Shredded Wheat, not Frosted Mini Wheats. Once in a while, they’d bend the rules and buy a treasured box of Frosted Flakes or Kix. Mayyyybe some Corn Pops. Oh, how I longed for all the sugary, kid-friendly cereals advertised on Saturday morning in between episodes of DuckTales  and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  (heroes in a half shell, turtle power) (why is it that I can completely forget to take Carla to her weekly ballet lesson, but I have the entire lyrics of this cartoon theme song firmly locked into my brain?). Cocoa Puffs, Trix, Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, From Loops, Cookie Crisp, Golden Grahams — they all sounded so decadent and magical! But no. Those cereals were not permitted in our home. Instead, to prevent us from growing bored of Rice Krispies and Shredded Wheat — though I can assure you the boredom was instantaneous — sometimes my parents would buy a box of Grape-Nuts or Raisin Bran. (I’d rather choke down a pillow of dry Shredded Wheat than eat a raisin.) However, possibly because the name makes it sound much more respectable than it is, they would occasionally be persuaded to buy a box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran. Which is DELICIOUS. I bought a box for Carla the other day and told her it tasted like cookies. Which is 100% true.
  • Crab Rangoon: I totally get why these were a Treat Food: they are SUPER hard to make. My mother would make her own – make the filling, fill the wonton wrappers, fry them in oil on the back porch — and we’d have them on very special occasions. She would even make a plum sauce to dip them in. Oh man were they tasty. Whenever I see them on the menu somewhere, I order them because they are still so reminiscent of Special Times.

Anyway. Artichokes were on the list of Treat Foods, too. My mom would steam them and then serve them with tiny cups of butter for dipping. They seemed daunting, when I was a kid. Finding them was tricky. In our rural northern town, they weren’t available very often. And when they were, I imagine they cost a pretty penny. Plus, after you ate all the delicious leaves, you had to deal with the choke. YUCK. I was so disturbed by the choke that I never ate the heart – which, it turns out, is the BEST PART. Well. I know better now.

Living in a Major City now, in a day and setting where you can get anything at anytime, it is much easier to get my hand on artichokes. And I’ve discovered a very easy way to make them. And they are DELICIOUS.

Artichoke 2 8

I will tell you that they aren’t quick. Prepping them takes maybe… five minutes. But you have to cook them for 30 minutes, so they require planning ahead.

Here’s how you do it.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large cookie sheet with foil or a Silpat or whatever.

Artichoke 1

Trim your artichoke stem. You can absolutely eat the stem of the artichoke, although it can get pretty tough after cooking so long. So I like to cut it to about an inch or so in length. (Stem not pictured above.)

Wash your artichoke. I use a veggie spray that may or may not do anything, but it makes me FEEL like I’m cleaning my veggies more thoroughly than with plain old water.

Veggie spray

(I used to use a different kind of veggie spray, which is cheaper on Amazon and gets better reviews, but I can’t find it anymore at my local grocery store. And I like how the Rebel Green seems like actual soap. Which I acknowledge may be a turnoff for others.)

Trim your artichoke leaves. Some websites say to cut the top quarter or so of your artichoke off, and you can definitely do that. Or you can use kitchen shears and snip off the sharp end of every leaf. Or you can come to my grocery store where someone does it for you.

Cut your artichoke in half vertically.  You’ll need a nice big knife for this.

Artichoke 2 1

Remove the choke. The choke is the fuzzy part in the middle. I use a big spoon to scoop it out, and then I rinse the artichoke to get any bits of fuzz out. It’s okay if you throw away some of the inner leaves, too – they are hard to eat because they are so small. The heart of your artichoke will discolor almost immediately once you remove the choke. I’ve tried rubbing it briskly with a cut lemon, but that doesn’t really help. And you’re going to roast it so it will turn nice and brown anyway.

 

Use a pastry brush to apply olive oil to your artichoke. I use about a tablespoon, and add it to all sides. Then sprinkle both sides liberally with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. You can squeeze a lemon into the inside of your artichoke too, if you please. Or even nestle a slice of lemon inside the empty space where the choke was, but it’s totally up to you; it doesn’t make a huge difference, taste-wise.

Put your artichoke halves on your prepared cookie sheet, cut side down. Roast for 30 minutes. You’ll know that your artichoke is done when you can pull one of the outer leaves and it comes off easily. (Choose a leaf from the bottom third of your artichoke, but not one closest to the stem. They don’t pull off easily, and the artichoke will be hot, and you’ll burn your fingers and also incorrectly assume the artichoke isn’t done cooking.)

Artichoke 2 5

While your artichoke is cooking, make a dipping sauce. I like lemon juice plus melted butter (1 Tbsp melted butter, zest and juice of half a lemon), or lemon juice plus Greek yogurt (2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt, zest and juice of half lemon or more to taste). I usually add salt and minced garlic to both sauces, and sometimes paprika to the yogurt. A chipotle yogurt mixture would also be delicious.

Artichoke 2 6

You eat an artichoke in a Leaves First fashion, scraping your teeth against the bottom part of the leaf to remove the meat. As you get deeper into the artichoke, the leaves have more meat until sometimes you’re eating half to three-quarters of the leaf itself.

Artichoke 2 11

The heart is the best part. In the picture, I am eating it with a knife and fork like a proper human. In reality, I often leave the heart in one piece and dunk it in the sauce with my bare hands. Decadent!

Enjoy!

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Just as a general note, if you or anyone you know need a Girl Scout Cookies hook up, Carla is selling cookies between now and February 2. If you don’t know any Girl Scouts and you want cookies, want to donate cookies to U.S. troops, or want to support an Internet child you don’t know, let me know and I will send you a link to her online order form.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Last week reminded me that I enjoy shrimp. In small quantities. So I am going to try not to lean on it too much while I am avoiding chicken. Hence the Zero Shrimp Recipes below.

Also, we didn’t eat all the meals I’d planned (one night, my husband had a surprise – to me, not to him – meeting, so we ate leftovers, and another night we spent all day Going Going Going, so we went out to eat instead), so I’m recycling two:

Note: I think one of the reasons this is a leftover item from last week is that I am scared of the spinach. I don’t particularly like spinach, and I have never cooked it before. But I am getting sick of green beans, zucchini, and broccoli, which we rotate practically every three days.

Follow Up: This was SO GOOD. The cod was lemony and delicious, and super easy to make. I think next time I might even skip the flour, just sprinkle the fish with a little paprika, salt, and pepper, and drizzle it with butter and lemon juice. Very simple but really yummy. I also had a few baby potatoes and a red onion and some mushrooms lying around, so I chopped those up and roasted them with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and some fresh thyme. I was afraid the spinach would be gross, so I wanted to have a backup vegetable. But the spinach was AWESOME. I used this Ina Garten recipe (I love you Ina) and it was so simple and really delicious. All in all, an excellent meal! Definitely will do this again.

Note:  I am also planning to do a homemade tartar sauce for my husband. (I prefer a bit of mayo mixed with sriracha, myself.)

Another thing is that I think maybe I need to be more… honest? is that the word? about how many days per week I am willing/able to cook. Especially when it’s a new-to-me meal.

This week, I am going out one night with my dear friend/mentor. And I think I’m going to give us a second night for leftovers/going out/what have you.

Here’s what’s on the meal plan for the remaining three days:

Note: I don’t think I have ever cooked flank steak. And my husband isn’t a huge fan of asparagus. So this meal could be a big loser, we’ll see. (But it’s NOT CHICKEN.)

Follow Up: This was pretty good! The marinade was easy and tasty and overall this was very simple to make. I was a little wary of using boiled asparagus in the quinoa, so I roasted it, Ina Garten style (a little splash of good olive oil, some salt and pepper, roasted for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven). It also turns out that we were out of quinoa, so I used couscous instead. Honestly, I prefer couscous so it worked out nicely. I think the biggest objection to this meal was the cut of meat, which was a bit fatty. Next time I could try a different cut of meat.

Note: This is a recipe I’ve made before, so I feel fairly comfortable fooling around with it. I am going to swap the chicken for pork tenderloin, and the carrots for parsnips andcarrots andred onions because I don’t really like carrots. Cooked carrots. Raw carrots are A-okay.

Follow Up: This ended up being good… if I scraped the mustard sauce off of the pork. I think in terms of mustardy pork tenderloin, I much prefer this mustard balsamic version from Jo Cooks.

My husband admitted that he does not care for cooked carrots either (a revelation), and Carla tried one — and one parsnip — and agrees that she does not like either. So we will be foregoing the cooked carrots in future

Note: I have some tilapia in the freezer from the last time I made this. So all I have to buy is broccoli and some shallots! Woot! Also, don’t let the “en papillote” thing deter you. This is SO EASY. And very delicious.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it when you tell me what YOU are eating this week, so please. Spill the beans. (Or chicken. Or spaghetti. Or whatever it is you’re planning for dinner.)

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We are all sick. My poor husband has gone back to work and Carla and I are draping ourselves pathetically across various pieces of furniture. I have given up trying to ban Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse from our home, and it plays endlessly in the background, rotting my child’s brain and fueling my nightmares.

I have managed to drag myself off the couch long enough to write 80% of the thank-you notes for our Christmas gifts. Carla needs to write three separate thank-yous to her teachers, who got her a book for Christmas, one to her babysitter for an unexpected gift of Play-Doh, and one to her grandparents for whom thank-you notes are Super Important. (I have taken their Supreme Importance to heart, as you see, writing them from my deathbed and all when I haven’t even been able to make Carla a breakfast heartier than “dry Wheat Chex in a bowl.”) She is signing the other cards, which I think is plenty. Getting her to write all the notes she needs to will be… a lengthy process. Please fill in the ellipsis with your own of all the other words I considered and rejected.

Even before this illness – which began Sunday as a scratchy throat and has snowballed to its present state of misery – felled us, my plans for dinners this week were… relaxed. It’s hard to get back into the dinner swing, post elaborate holiday meal planning. Plus, I am back on the calorie counting wagon, which makes me feel spiteful about dinners anyway.

Here we go. Perhaps in a few days I will feel well enough to plan meals for an entire week.

Dinners for the Partial Week of January 2 – January 7

Note: I am making this tonight because it is so easy. Nearly no effort, which is the most I can muster right about now. My husband and I pair this with basmati rice  (which I made last night) and caramelized onions (also a low effort item), and he also adds sundried tomatoes and feta cheese to his plate. Nothing green with this meal, but you could add a quick side salad if you were so inclined.

Note: I think this was on my meal schedule a couple of weeks ago and we ended up not eating it. Such flexibility is the benefit of having lots of chicken breasts in the freezer.

  • Mulligatawny Soup

Note: WordPress spell check is claiming that “soup” is not a word. It is, right? A word? And a food? Have I stumbled into some weird delirium? In any event, this mixture of meat and broth and other things is another super easy meal. Although I don’t think I have any pre-cooked shredded chicken in the freezer, which means I need to roast some before I make this. The recipe we use is adapted from Joy of Cooking, and it requires sauteeing mire poix (which I have pre-portioned in the freezer; you can buy mire poix from Trader Joe’s and just portion it out into freezer bags, or you can do a big batch on a day when you have time) with a couple tablespoons of flour and curry powder, adding chicken stock, shredded chicken, some thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaves, and rice, and then cooking for awhile. You can add warm milk at the end if you so choose. Very simple but hearty and delicious.

That’s it. On Saturday, we’re going out to dinner with friends. Sunday, we may have some friends over – if that happens it will be last minute and very casual and I am trying VERY HARD not to freak out about that, because I am neither a last minute nor a casual kind of person. Monday… well, we’ll figure it out when it gets here I guess.

What are you eating this first week of 2019?

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Merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

This is the first year that we’ll have Christmas just the three of us. I am rather enjoying the quiet coziness of it all. We are all still in pajamas. There is lots of lounging going on. I tried to win Carla over to the joys of Home Alone, but it turns out it’s a bit old for her yet. Elf is on the agenda for later. My only job today – aside from copious cuddling, and perhaps finishing my book – is to make some rolls for dinner Friday; I will freeze them after I make them.

Family arrives on the 26th. We are not doing a special dinner because we will all have already had a big Christmas supper the night before. Thursday we go out to celebrate a birthday. And Saturday half of the family leaves, so the rest of us will either get take out or munch on leftovers. Sunday, the rest of the family leaves, which means that I will probably head to the store or scrape together some sort of Franken-meal from what we have on hand.

Still! There are meals to plan and make, so the post will go up!

Dinners (and Assorted Other Meals) for the Week of December 24-December 29

Christmas Eve: Avgolemono from America’s Test Kitchen (paywall)

Note: We have never eaten this before, much less tried to make it. I admit that I am deeply suspicious of a soup with egg in it, as I am no fan of eggs. But neither of us much wanted to make Mulligatawny soup, which was my Christmas Eve tradition growing up, and it would be fun to have our own soup tradition. We’ll see. It may end up that my husband eats it and Carla and I eat bagels or chicken nuggets. I mean, Carla has never once eaten soup as it is, so I’m not holding out much hope that tonight will be the night.

Follow up: This was NOT good. I can’t pinpoint why; maybe because it tasted heavily of chicken? Maybe because the lemony egg mixture you add to the soup gave the whole thing an unpleasant lemon-curd-with-chicken taste? In any case, I am not a fan. Even my husband, who eats pretty much anything, could not give this a thumbs up. I made a few of the rolls I prepared and ended up turning one into an impromptu pepperoni sandwich for my Christmas Eve meal.

Christmas Day:

Note: Neither of us has ever made a frittata. And, let’s be honest, it’s really for my breakfast-loving husband’s benefit. I don’t really like breakfast food, so I tend to defer to him. Usually for Christmas Day breakfast we make the Pioneer Woman’s overnight French toast. Last year we also made a savory strata. But that’s when there are more people at the breakfast table than the three of us. Carla will eat the sweet stuff, but nothing savory. So probably we’ll end up making her pancakes as per usual and my husband will end up eating most of the frittata and we’ll come up with something else for next year.

Follow up: This was delicious! I don’t normally like eggs, but this was very egg-light, with plenty of other tasty things. Our only complaint was that it seemed very salty. My husband and I agreed that next time we make it, we’ll add an extra potato, reduce the salt by at least 2/3s, and decrease the amount of bacon.

Note: Carla sometimes eats steak, so we are hoping that she’ll at least have a few bites of this Christmas dinner. When I grew up, our family tradition for Christmas dinner was a porterhouse spice roast, homemade Caesar salad, and lemony steamed broccoli. I LOVE that dinner. But a porterhouse roast seems overly ambitious for a group of three. Also, no one makes Caesar dressing like my dad, so I don’t really even want to try. Instead, we got a baby tenderloin and some mushrooms and we’ll be trying a new recipe. Who knows? Maybe it will become a family favorite!

Follow up: The beef tenderloin was wonderful — and super easy! You just smear it with some mustard and herbs and throw it in the oven. It cooks low and slow for a long time and then it is perfectly cooked and butter tender. We will definitely do this again. My mom’s mashed potatoes were, of course, amazing. And we ended up skipping anything green because we couldn’t agree on how to cook the beans.

Note: My husband loves dessert, and he is always super interested in the desserts featured on the Great British Baking Show. So we are trying a British-style dessert this year, just for fun.

Follow up: THIS WAS SO GOOD.

Wednesday:

  • Brunch: Bagels & Lox

Note: With cream cheese, capers, lemons, and onions. And fruit for the kiddos.

Note: Someone at my husband’s office has brought in this cranberry salsa a few times, and my husband is in love with it. I am deeply suspicious but I’m willing to try it.

Follow up: This was actually quite delicious! It’s super weird — a combo of flavors that don’t seem like they would work. But they DO and I found myself unable to stop. We ate this with Stacy’s pita chips, which are delicious in and of themselves.

  • Dinner: Tacos

Note: Easy and delicious. So what if it’s not typical Christmas fare? (For us. I don’t know your magical taco-eating life.) If my mother-in-law and husband hadn’t insisted on simplicity over fanciness, I would have made this pork roast from Food & Wine and possibly Ina Garten’s chocolate creme brûlée. Well, there’s always next time.

Thursday:

  • Breakfast: Pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, leftover frittata – whatever we can scrape together.
  • Lunch: Cold cuts and leftover smoked salmon
  • Dinner: Out

Friday:

Note: The BBQ pork is one of my all-time favorite SUPER EASY recipes. I throw a pork tenderloin, a roughly chopped white onion, and a minced garlic clove or two in the crockpot, then douse with my favorite BBQ sauce and a few healthy squeezes of Sriracha. Cook for 4 hours, shred, and eat. I eat my pork with a potato (which I liberally drench in sauce), but my husband prefers making little sandwiches, hence the rolls and coleslaw.

Follow up: The dinner rolls were easy to make and froze nicely. But they are NOT Parker House rolls, which is kind of what I was expecting. They are denser and… squishier than I anticipated. Still good though. Would definitely make these again.

Saturday:

  • This is where I completely give up on the pretense of cooking, not that I’ve been doing much of it. I can promise I’ll have been doing a lot of dishes anyway.

Follow up: Three loads of dishes EVERY DAY our guests were here. How is that even possible…?

Sunday:

  • Takeout????

If you’re bored this Christmas week, let me know what your traditional Holiday Meals include.

It’s beginning to snow – hooray! Happiest Christmas, Internet!

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Last week included one night during which Carla had a bout of stomach virus (why must barfing inevitably happen at night?) and I slept a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes, one night during which I spent NO JOKE $9 (NINE) American dollars on mangoes because three of them were rotten on the inside and yet it was my anniversary and I had a beautiful piece of fish and I REFUSED to make something different than the recipe I’d planned (yes, I know it’s probably my own fault for buying non-local, not-in-season produce but I need my fresh fruits and veg, people!), and a night where a (tiny, non-threatening, and probably very cold) caterpillar crawled out of a green pepper and made my dinner very one-sided, pepper wise (I like to have an equal amount of red and green peppers).

So I think you will empathize with me when I say that I feel really crabby about making dinner (and just in general). Despite the crabbiness, dinner doesn’t make itself.

One day this week we are going out to dinner with friends, and another day we are going to an afternoon football game so I’m not sure if we will eat at the stadium or not. Either way, I’m not going to want to make a Real Dinner when we get home, so I am planning something that will easily meld into future weeks if we decide not to cook it.

Oh and look at that: this takes us right up to Christmas Eve, so I will need to figure out what I am serving for dinner on the 24th, 25th, and 26th. Sounds like a separate shopping trip, if you ask me!

Meals for the week of December 18 to December 24

  • Tacos

Note: I think tacos are my favorite food.

 

Note: I may end up swapping the zucchini noodles with the side for a different meal… the flavor profiles might be way too different for this to be a good pairing.

Follow up: Indeed, I swapped out the Asian zucchini noodles for the roasted green beans.  Also, this meal is good but it is REALLY oil-spitty. My whole stove and counters and floor and microwave were covered in oil splatter and the whole house stank of salmon for two entire days. Yuck. Maybe if there were a way to oven roast this… Also, the salmon took WAY longer to cook than the recipe suggested. All in all, this made me very cranky to make even though it tasted good, and even though my husband really liked it.

Note: This is one of my three favorite stir fry recipes. SO GOOD. As with literally all stir fries, I make it with red and green bell peppers. I also throw in some broccoli and some zucchini if I’m feeling fancy.  I also like to throw in some peas, but my husband is not crazy about them so I usually leave them out. By the way, you can make this without kaffir lime leaves — just squeeze some lime in at the end. I can get them at a local Asian supermarket, and I love the subtle citrusy essence they add to this meal.

 

Note: Over time, I have HEAVILY adapted this recipe. I use boneless skinless chicken breasts. I put in a whole head of garlic, and I sauté the garlic and onion before adding them to slow cooker. For the liquid, I use 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup wine, and I also deglaze the onion/garlic sauté pan with an additional 1/4 cup of wine and 1/2 cup chicken stock. The sauce is pretty yummy and I usually like to sop it up with some couscous, per the Martha Stewart recipe linked above (although all that link says about the couscous is to “prepare it per the package instructions.” Gee, thanks.).

Follow up: Man I enjoy this. Mainly I like the garlic cloves (which I halve before cooking), which get soft and sweet and I’m sure make me a real pleasure to be around for weeks afterward. We used leftover rice instead of couscous, which was DEEPLY inferior. And the chicken sure gets dry. Although that could be because I cooked this for six hours when really it would be ready in three or four. My bad. Thankfully the sauce helps counteract the dryness.

We will also be making zimtsterne over the weekend, which are delicious almond-y (and gluten free, if that matters to you!) cookies that my husband discovered last year. Santa gets hungry, yo.

Follow up: These cookies are GREAT. For future, I need to put more of the remainder egg/powdered sugar mixture on top of each cookie than I think. I was stingy with the first batch and had more than enough leftover. The last batch had a nice thick layer and it is by far the best. Also, you can’t really tell when these are done. I kept peeking at them after 15 minutes for the first batch, and ended up keeping them in for 20 minutes, and they are CRISP. The last batch I did for a scant 17 minutes and they are chewy and marvelous. Also, I could not achieve pure white glaze, like the example picture in the recipe link. Even the cookies I baked the least amount of time have a brownish tinge to them. So that’s kind of disappointing. Still delicious though. Oh! Last year, I bought bleached almond meal even though the recipe specifically says non-bleached almond meal. They were good then, and very good now with the non-bleached almond meal. The non-bleached just gives them a little bit more of a texture… like… you are chewing on a cookie that has pieces of almond skin in it (which it does). That doesn’t sound pleasant but it IS. But both ways are good.

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Aha! My favorite/least favorite day of the week: Meal planning day! Let’s get to it.

A couple of commenters kindly mentioned recently being impressed with the variety of recipes I post and cook for my family each week. First of all, *blush*. Secondly, these first couple of weeks are giving you a false impression of my typical cooking style. Well, maybe not TRULY false. But I promise there will come a day when my meal plan looks like “tacos, spaghetti, soup, chicken paprikas, stir fry” for several weeks in a row.

For now, this “posting about my dinners” is novel and it’s inspiring me to be a bit more creative in my meal planning. Also, my husband and I are trying to watch what we eat in a way we hadn’t been for a few months, and that forces me to be more thoughtful and creative in what I cook. (I could – and probably will, at some point when the novelty wears off – just do some variation on “chicken + vegetable” every day. But that gets tiresome quickly.) Also also, I get SO BORED of Our Regular Fare that sometimes the boredom alone is enough to spur me to choose more varied options.

I totally get that meal planning doesn’t work for everyone. For me, it is purely an efficiency thing: going to the grocery store is a huge time suck and I hate it. But I do admit, there are days when NONE of the meals on my list sound appetizing and I have to come up with something else on the fly. Last week, there was a day I didn’t feel like cooking, so I scrounged around for something in the fridge and my husband got Panera.

That means that I have a meal from last week to carry over to this week. Also this week are a) my husband’s work holiday party and b) our TENTH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY, for which we are going out to dinner, so I have fewer meals to plan for. Woo hoo!

Meals for the Week of December 11-17

Note: This is the holdover from last week, which means I still have all the ingredients at home. I hope the parmesan is holding up okay (it is… many weeks old).

Note: My husband and I pair this with basmati rice and caramelized onions, and he also adds sundried tomatoes and feta cheese to his plate. Nothing green on this plate, but you could add a quick side salad if you were so inclined.

My notes from the last time we ate this said to use lettuce instead of cabbage. I am also going to omit the avocado from the salad and the half and half from the crèma; I found it was liquidy enough with just the addition of the lime juice.

Also, I will tell you a secret: Using chipotles in adobo sauce is one of my favorite ways to add kick to meals. But I hate the texture of the chipotle chiles. So I puree a can or two of in the blender and then spoon a tablespoon of the puree into ice cube trays. Then I have a plastic baggie of chipotle ice cubes I can add to ANYTHING – chile or crema or chicken marinade. Super easy and delicious.

Follow Up: My husband says this is too spicy. I don’t know what to do with that information.

Note: This recipe is new to me. I am a little wary of the big chunks of celery (outside of tomatoes in all forms, there is almost nothing worse than slimy cooked celery) but otherwise it sounds good.

Note: This is a Regular Stand By. My husband and I also add one each of a red and green pepper, and I chop up a jalapeno on mine.

Note: My notes from the last time we made this say, “This was pretty good. Husband liked it more than I did.” So. Hmm. I am not sure what to do with that. Maybe I will use regular paprika instead of smoked? I can tell you one thing, and that’s that I will definitely be omitting the parsley, which I hate. I also have baby Brussels sprouts leftover from last week, so I will be roasting those little guys with a couple of shallots.

Follow Up: I did indeed replace the smoked paprika with regular, and liked this much better. It was quite salty, made saltier because I think I over salted the Brussels sprouts as well (and burnt the everloving souls out of the poor things). Also, the whole meal desperately needed acid. Next time, I should make this with lemon broccoli, and/or maybe just squeeze a lemon over the chicken when it comes out of the oven. Oh, I also used thyme instead of oregano because I went to three grocery stores and there was NO OREGANO and it worked just fine with the thyme.

All right, off to the grocery store! Hope your dinner plans this week are tasty!

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