Monday, November 23, 2015

The Meal Plan | 11.23.2015 | Gluten-Free Thanksgiving

This year we travel north to the seacoast of New Hamsphire for Thanksgiving.  Long ago my mother, having a nose for antique colonials and New England salt air carried us all up New Hampshire way from Georgia.  My aunt soon followed where she married the man my sister and I set her up with and they had children so we got cousins.  Naomi and Verity think of Aunt Becca's as paradise and it's the closest they will get on this earth for a taste of Marmie's love for them.

These dear cousins of mine are gluten-free and so I'm happily catering to this restriction which really isn't much of one, until i spotted the snowflake dinner rolls on display at the grocery store this morning.  But anyway, I'm bringing chestnut soup and a flourless chocolate cake made with almond meal from Jane Hornby's, What to Bake and How to Bake It.  I'm also going to bring Heidi Swanson's baked oatmeal and breakfast sausages for the morning after.  Afterward I plan to head to Kittery, Maine to hit up some outlets on Black Friday.  But, it's so close!  

Monday:  Lentil Night:  Kusheri
Tuesday: Leftover beef stew from Sunday's batch session
Wednesday: Aperitif at my sister's abode, so wine with some smoked trout.
Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Meal Plan | The Hurried Approach | 11.15.2015

It's been happening in the car on the way home from church as of late.  A scrap of paper found, a pencil fished out from the glove compartment.  The week is sketched out and a list is made.  Then we pull in to the grocery store and make it happen.  It's not very thoughtful, but it's reasonably efficient.  Then home we head to make a big pot of something -this week chicken soup, and another dish to help us get a head start on the week.

Monday:  Lentil Walnut Loaf from Food52
Tuesday:  Pasta, an easy red sauce and roasted broccoli 
Wednesday:  Leftover Chicken Soup
Thursday:  Baked Beans and Cornbread southern style -More With Less Edition
Friday: Pizza

My sister's chicken soup recipe is fast and delicious and it's what I use.

1 Whole Chicken, or parts, at least 2 breasts and thighs
2-3 carrots chopped
2-3 celery stalks chopped
2-4 potatoes chopped
chicken bouillon

Fill your favorite pot for making soup with water and bring to a boil.
Generously salt the water and place the chicken or chicken pieces in the water.
Chop your vegetables -celery, carrots and potatoes.
Once chicken is cooked through -remove and set aside to cool and shred.
Don't dump the water.
Add your vegetables to your pot, first the carrots and celery followed by potatoes after a few minutes.
Cook through.
 Add back the chicken meat shredded.
Along the way be tasting and adding enough salt and additional chicken bouillon until it's just right.



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Meal Plan | 11.03.15 | By Batch And By Formula

For the foreseeable future things are going to be looking very 1950's formulaic.  I don't really claim to know how exactly things worked in the kitchen back then, but meals were pretty structured, right?  Spagetti night on Monday, a cassarole on Tuesdays.  Winging life these days is proving to work about half the time, like every other week, and I need better numbers than that.  So, however rigid the below categories feel, there is great freedom in knowing that something is repetitive and maybe boring though hopefully with enough salt added.  The exclamation points were added to convey enthusiasm and solidarity.  
Can't you just hear them cry:

Lentil Night! (Mondays) Kusheri -thanks sis.

Pasta Night!  (Tuesdays) -thanks to my friend Rachael for reading my mind and making a sauce for us.

We Eat Meat! (On Wednesdays)  Ina Garten's Chicken Stew over Rice

Beans On Thursdays -This way too vague but I think they will be in a soup with sweet potatoes.

Pizza Night! (On Fridays)

I also plan on relying heavily on soups.  We've been doing some great batch cooking on the weekends and I feel so darn prepared.  Until Monday strikes.  And I left out my good friend the potato and plan to insert him in there somewhere.  Risottos have also really hit the spot lately.  Oh no, the mold is already breaking.

I do hope to include pictures and recipe favorites as well.  So bear with me on that front.  


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Library Tuesdays

I have very warm feelings toward my little library right now.  And always.  But especially today because today I let Naomi walk there all by herself.  It's on our street, not even a block away which is a luxury I try not to take for granted.  She went with her bag holding two items to return -an audio recording of Ramona and Her Mother and Henry and the Paper Route with instructions to go to the counter, return said items and pick up the two books we had waiting for us on the hold shelf.  As she went off to face the world, I called down the library to let them know she was coming.  Tuesday is the day that both Joe and Lisa work.  If you knew them you too would make that your library day.  Joe is funny and personable and always has a story for you about his large, happily disfunctional family.  He teaches the girls small jokes and greetings like "see you soon, raccoon", and literally knows everyone's name - a lost art for sure.  And Lisa is so kind and attentive and thoughtful and plays the guitar at the morning sing-a-long.  She knows all the old rhymes that you want your children to know, like "here is a nest for the little bird / here is a hive for the bees / here's a hole for the bunny / and here is a house for me."  They are irreplaceable.  You know when you find something really wonderful and you are sad as you enjoy it because you know you won't have it always.  That's what the Collins Branch library is for me.    
Sure enough at the appropriate time, Naomi came around the corner with a smile on her face cancelling out any doubt that I had for letting her take such an outing.  She was flying high the rest of the day.  I know she'll be asking me to do it every day this week, but this privilege will be saved for Tuesdays.  Something to look forward to.         

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Meal Plan | 07.20.2015 | Tomatoes

I'm letting this little publication lead me through this week.  It's proving to be just the inspiration I need as I try to remember what to do in the kitchen on a hot summer day.  

Monday:  Heirloom Tomato and Vegetable Soup
Tuesday:  Pasta Tossed with Tomatoes, Chopped Basil and Olive Oil
Wednesday: Anna's Taqueria Inspired Pinto Beans and Rice Bowl with Avocado, Tomatoes and Lime
Thursday: Simple Chicken Salad on Toast
Friday: Chinese-Style Pepper Steak -see full recipe below

I'm including the full recipe for this pepper steak from ShortStack Vol. 2.  I'm very hopeful.

Here's the intro which is hard to resist:

"This is one of my favorite recipes to cook when I'm in a hurry to get dinner on the table.  It takes about the same amount of time to pull together as ordering takeout from my local Chinese restaurant, and the result is so much better.  Tomatoes play an essential role in the recipe, as they mix with the soy sauce to make a beautiful sauce for this fast, healthy and delicious dish."  See?

4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce (optional)
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch red pepper flakes
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
8 ounces sirloin or flank steak, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
cooked white rice for serving

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Heat the oil in a wok or cast-iron skillet over high heat.  Add the peppers, onion and garlic and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Add the beef and stir-fry for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute longer.  Add the soy-sauce mixture and toss to combine.  Sprinkle with basil and season to taste with salt.  Serve over rice. :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Meal Plan | 7.01.2015 | Peak Season

I'm not sure why exactly i stopped meal-planning.  I'd like to believe it wasn't complete laziness, exhaustion certainly played a hand.  "What's the point," was definitely muttered.  But mostly it was a fairly subconscious move and the slope was slippery.  For the first few weeks with my back turned toward this labor I could usually come up with an idea or two in the morning hours after a quick survey of the cupboards and icebox.  This worked well unless it didn't work well.  When I couldn't decide, time and energy together waning, I'd end up on the phone at the end of the day with a relative to steal her idea or inspiration.  Or I'd flip through a cookbook or scan the Internet at too late an hour, usually finding a recipe but without the appropriate ingredients or time.  The short-lived triumph when something would appear on the table still gave me a small amount of accomplishment.  But, there are nights when I'd like to be more thoughtful and I don't want to be bothered to think.  So, if I began my meal planning with a good amount of rigidity, I'd like to continue it with courage and diligence and adding a level of flexibility.  Because I do still believe it can help.  Of course, the hope is to make lighter the load, right?

We spent this past weekend enjoying the seacoast of Maine in the comfort of someone else's home.  It was so nice to prepare food in a different kitchen.  The old, wide hardwood floors was a nice contrast to checkered linoleum.  The large, weighty cutting block was a trade up from my plastic, onion-soaked cutting sheets.  When I was asked about the trip, I first recalled the food we ate, next the lupins and then everything else.  I know the memory of shelling lobsters and then making lobster rolls will stay with me.  Pardon me for being so idealistic, but I'd like to try to enjoy my own kitchen and it's dribbly faucet.  And I'd like to record the times I did enjoy it.  I certainly won't be getting fancy.  Enough is as good as a feast, as Mary Poppins reminded me.  I'm just picking back up -hitting restart in the season of stone fruits and tomato sandwiches.

Naomi in Maine on an anchor.

This week's menu:

Wednesday:  Real Simple's Mexican Chicken Soup.
Thursday:  !01 Cookbook's Lentil and Yogurt Salad with Basil
Friday: Homemade Pizza

Monday, June 22, 2015


A couple of weekends ago we drove to Hershey, Pennsylvania to meet up with Eric's parents.  The girls rode some rides and both walked away with a very bright and very copyrighted bear from Chocolate World purchased by their loving grandparents.  Every kid hopes for a moment like that right?  I had secretly resolved to avoid the factory tour no matter what -but the moving trolley with the singing Holstein heifers was actually pretty cool.  The rendezvous softened the fact that we aren't driving to Virginia this summer.  I'm sad for the girls to miss the time there and sad myself to miss the Blue Ridge mountains that make you feel homesick and at home in the same breath.  I'm also very relieved not to spend twelve hours in the car to and fro at summer's peak.  Instead we get to enjoy these brief and beautiful months in different ways.  There is plenty to keep us busy, and hopefully we will all get a good dose of summer boredom to make us into the creative beings that we were meant to be.  ;)