Entries in weekly dinner menu (2)

Monday
Apr042011

daily specials 04

Preface. If someone can tell me the secret to keeping a newborn from crying while I cook dinner, then I'm all ears. Especially a newbie who only wants to be held. If ours isn't hungry, dirty, sick, sleepy, etc, then he provides us background noise as I cook away. The older two are used to it - from the car rides to the dinner prep, they can tune it out like the best of them.

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Tonight's Special is titled: Spring Vegetables and Sausage Chow Mein. Loosely based on Catherine Scorcese's "Pasta with Peas and Sausage" recipe.

Chow mein because I think Chinese noodles taste much better than boxed pasta. And if you grew up with a mom who made spaghetti with Chinese noodles then you know what I'm talking about.

I somehow found minutes throughout the day to prep the veggies (during naps, alongside homework, with the baby in the sling*). They included shredded carrots, thinly sliced celery, frozen petit peas, asparagas (that I blanched to retain the green), shredded zucchini, and a tomato (that I blanched along with the asparagus making it easier to peel).

I began by sauteing onions (that I pre-chopped over the weekend) and minced garlic in olive oil. At the same time, I started a pot of boiling water for the noodles. When the onion and garlic were nice and translucent, I added the turkey and chicken italian sausage (that was frozen from last week's grocery prep) and broke them into bite-size pieces, then poured about 2 cups of chicken broth (I used packaged low sodium) into the mix. I brought everything to a boil and allowed it to simmer on low for 1/2 hour. About half way through I added the frozen peas. When the liquid was reduced by half, I added the carrots and celery and let it stew. Then I added the zucchini. When the liquid was nearly gone, I added the peeled tomato and broke it up with my spatula. I did this simply because I was too lazy to chop up the tomato.

By the way, this was my view from the stove into the living room when I added the tomato:

Other than the mess and the crying baby in the swing, all seemed well.

Back to cooking...

The noodles only took about 3 minutes to cook so after adding the tomato I added the dry noodles to the boiling and salted pot of water. A minute and a half later, I transferred the half-cooked noodles into the wok with the veggies and meat. Along with some noodle water, I tossed the "chow mein" around to allow the noodles to finish cooking, making sure to test the noodles for doneness. At the last second I added the asparagus (don't want it to overcook), tossed for a minute and turned off the heat.

After plating, I sprinkled fresh basil chiffonade and generously grated parmesan reggiano over the noodles.

The best part? My kids ate it!

I don't know that they loved it, especially the veggies, but the deal was that I'd keep grating reggiano over the bowl as long as they ate it with the veggies. Worked like a charm.

They rested while we cleaned up.

Then on to dessert.

 

*A note on the sling: I slinged (slung?) all of my kids religiously and even call myself a "sling slut," however I don't cook with a baby in a sling on me. I'd be irresponsible and would rather hear him cry. When he's old enough, I'll ergo him on my back which I think is safer (but not by much). For now, it'll just have to be.

*A note to my favorite JLSH: we eat pasta at least once a week also!


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.