Entries in meal plan (1)

Wednesday
Mar302011

daily specials

I've started a weekly dinner menu plan.

I've wanted to do this for a looooong time:  plan a week's meal, grocery shop on Sunday, prep and ziplock ingredients to use throughout the week. I've started and stopped and wasted many-a-produce simply because I was lazy. Dining out was just easier and more...exciting! After being spoiled with Lao Lao's cooking four times a week for the last two months, her departure, again, sparked a fire in me. Or maybe it was having to dine out with not two but three kids, one of which hates the car seat. (I swear we gave birth to the only newbie on earth who hates sleeping in a car seat!) This was the perfect time to start. So I vowed to follow through.

This looks kinda gross but makes cooking so much quicker.

My first meal plan is titled "That's What Friends Are For" and was inspired by my friends. Most of the recipes were given to me in conversation as we talked about what was cooking at their house for dinner.

This week's Daily Specials:

Monday:  baked penne
{inspired by Jennifer and this}
Jennifer is the mom of June29's partner at swim school. As we chatted during their lesson, I asked her offhandedly what she was cooking for dinner and she replied, "Baked Ziti". For some reason that stuck in my mind and the first meal I wanted to make was baked ziti. To make things easy, the night before I pre-made a ragu with a mix of turkey and chicken italian sausage adapted from this recipe, and combined it with a bechamel sauce. Then on Monday, I cooked some penne (we didn't have ziti in the pantry), added it to the ragu-bechamel sauce, mixed in cubes of smoked mozzarella, and topped it with bread crumbs and diced butter. Ten minutes to assemble and 30 minutes to bake. Super easy.

Tuesday: popcorn chicken + basil, roasted broccoli
{inspired by Shelly and Erik}
Shelly and I were chatting in front of the classroom before our kids were released from class, and she told me how she made the popcorn chicken that she brought to her friend's house. Now, I am not a deep fryer - it freaks me out and contradicts the healthy cook in me, but it sounded so easy and yummy and I knew it would satisfy the Hubs. Shelly said deep frying also freaks her out so she told me her technique of using less oil and it instilled a bit of confidence in me. Start by marinating the chicken pieces for 24 hours in wine, soy sauce, sugar and garlic. Dredge each marinated piece in potato starch and allow the starch to absorb for a few minutes before frying the pieces in a shallow inch of grapeseed oil. At the end, fry a handful of basil leaves for 5 seconds. This is where I nearly set the kitchen on fire. Note to self: Make sure the basil leaves are completely dry!

After my first stint at deep frying, I realize I have a lot to learn.

This roasted broccoli technique was introduced to me by my friend Hanna and her husband, Erik when we went to their house for dinner. They served a platter of broccoli that literally blew my socks off. How did Erik make it? Toss long stalks of fresh broccoli (not the packaged, shortcut kind) with olive oil, salt, pepper and a handful of sugar. Roast in the oven at 500º for 10 minutes. That's it. The sugar and high heat caramelize the broccoli and it's heavenly. It's so good and so easy, I make it at least once a week. My kids love it.

The charred florets are the best part!

Wednesday [tonight]: chicken curry
{inspired by Jenny}
Jenny, a mom from our mommy-and-me class, described how she made curry Southeast Asian-style and I wanted to run home and try it immediately. I'm used to making curry from those packaged blocks and since my kids won't eat that style of Japanese curry, I couldn't wait to try her simple, healthy version. So far, it's been the hit of the week.

The curry simmers for an hour before adding the yogurt + cream thickening sauce.

Thursday: quiche
{inspired by Eugenie}
Eugenie and I were emailing one day and she mentioned how she and the kids would be spending dinnertime at the tball field. So the night before she pre-made a meal that was transportable and tasty - a quiche. Her simple recipe - "egg base: 4 eggs to 1 cup of milk...you can put anything in it...great way to get rid of leftovers...store-bought crust" - was intriguing and inspiring! I figure I would add the leftover baked penne and that would be that.

Friday: Ah-Ma's Cooking!
Grandma's coming over and I'd take her cooking over mine any day.

Saturday + Sunday:  Where should we eat?
Traditionally our dine-out nights. This is when we get to pick the best and most popular restaurants, get there really early, like, right when they open, and not have to wait in line or need a reservation.

So far, the week's half gone and I've stuck to the plan. Momentous.

I hope to write about my weekly meal plans more often. Maybe my next inspiration will be from Dinner: A Love Story, my favorite food blog. I can't promise next week so for now I'll just say, See you next time.