Tag Archives: weekly menus

let’s eat: on the menu

 Hmmm… where to start? I suppose with Sunday.

I believe there was  a big game on that day, but I watched about five minutes of the actual game, and part of the half time show, and maybe two commercials. I ran some late afternoon errands, and once I got home and everything put together for dinner, the evening had sort of gotten away from us. The girls love taco nights, and so we had tacos on the menu for dinner. I thought I’d make some fresh guacamole, but when I ran into Fields Foods for a few groceries they were making it right there in front of me. I tried a bite, and decided I’d let them have the chopping and mixing honors that day, and I brought a container home. E ended up not feeling so hot, and she couldn’t even eat dinner – which she has complained about for the remainder of the week. “Why, oh why, did I have to lose my appetite on Taco Night… instead of, you know, Caramelized Fennel and Zucchini Tart Night??” (I added that last part, but she has been whining about the taco miss.)

Monday night I made this Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Sage Breadcrumbs. Where the other favorite mac & cheese recipe falls most decidedly on the lower cheese spectrum (I suggest heaping your measuring cups a bit on that recipe), this pumpkin version leans in the opposite direction. Not so much leans, but really dives in, I think. There are twelve ounces total of two different cheeses, and the resulting casserole dish is enough to serve a table of twenty. The pumpkin and the nutmeg render the dish a gorgeous color, but I’m going to tell you that if you are worried that this is going to taste remotely like a Thanksgiving pie then worry no more. I think I’d up the pumpkin and the spice a bit next time. The bread crumbs are really delicious – I’d up them as well. I used a baguette, torn into chunks, whirled with the sage leaves and then mixed with olive oil. They came out crispy and delicious, and left me wishing for more. This is the dish that never ends, so consider yourself warned.

Tuesday was M’s half birthday and so he got a dinner and dessert of his choosing. He never really chose a dinner, so I chose for him. I made the Leek Fritters from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook (a recipe we’ve made several times before) and the Roasted Root Vegetable Salad from the same cookbook (first try). The leek fritters were delicious, especially with the lemon-garlic sour cream on top. If you love root vegetables, then I’d also recommend this salad. It’s large enough to make a main course – maybe up the quinoa amount a bit. You roast shallots in foil until soft, then you blend them with sherry vinegar and some balsamic and olive oil. You then toss the roasted veggies in the dressing, and it makes a really beautiful, hearty dish. It helped me use up some radishes I had as well – I can’t remember roasting radishes before, but they were tasty.

Dessert was the star of the show on Tuesday. When I was looking at the dinner recipes, the book first flipped open to Chocolate Silk Pie. M’s favorite dessert memory is of the French silk pie from Bishop’s Buffet in Iowa – a pie equal he swears he’s never found. It used to be made on a graham cracker crust, and most chocolate silk pies you find in restaurants today are on traditional pie crusts. Deb’s version is on a chocolate wafer crust, and it is divine. Crushed chocolate wafers (took me two stores to find the same Nabisco brand – not a sandwich cookie like an Oreo) are mixed with melted butter and a little salt – a combination that can never, ever do you wrong. The filling takes awhile to make – beating the mixture for five minutes after every addition of an egg – but it’s not hard at all. The pie sits in the fridge overnight, and then the whipped cream comes together in less than ten minutes – just enough time for you to take the back edge of a knife to a bittersweet bar of chocolate for some shavings on top. We don’t do dessert a lot around here, but no grownups complained about leftover slices every night last week.

Wednesday was tag team night, and so the girls and I put together quesadillas and also ate some… pumpkin mac & cheese. I’ve completely converted to the uncooked flour tortillas – so, so much better than the other guys.

Last week we ordered from Blue Apron again, but we got a message on Wednesday that delivery would be delayed a day due to the storms in the East. So Thursday night we made Tortilla Espanola – more like a potato and onion frittata but with less eggs (might even describe it as a gratin), with a Bitter Green Salad on the side – Radicchio, Endive and Arugula with a simple dijon mustard and vinegar dressing. We skipped the almonds and added some salted pepitas we had around. Delicious, and hit the spot on (yet another) snowy day.

Friday night we met up with a few other families and attended the Eliot Society Family Night at Washington University. We had a big dinner buffet there of the usual sort of buffet food, but also lots and lots of steamed asparagus to keep the little one happy. We watched two basketball games in a row that included two players making their 1000th career point (one women’s, one men’s) and the men’s coach winning his 600th game. Then we drove home in the snow (again) and collapsed.

Saturday night we made another BA meal – a Caramelized Fennel and Zucchini Tart with Homemade Tomato Jam and Olive Oil Crust. I used this recipe to try and push myself past my aversion to fennel. There are few things I won’t eat, and licorice is one of them – which means fennel and anise are generally a huge turnoff. I took my friend’s advice to leave the chopped fennel fronds out of the tomato jam (good call) and I chopped the fennel up smaller and cooked it longer in the skillet to really mellow it out and sweeten it up. It was delicious in the dish, and the whole thing was tasty. I’m not completely convinced that the tomato jam needed to be so sweet (quite a bit of honey), and the crust was a bit of a distraction. I might not put this on the repeat list, but I will certainly be more open to fennel in the future. Mission accomplished.

It’s Sunday now, and another week is starting. With more snow – did I mention that? It should be a busy week in the kitchen – yet another half-birthday, and some Valentines to make (edible, of course), and then Valentine’s Day itself. Hope you have a tasty week. If you ate something really good, please share.

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P.S. If the recipe isn’t published on the internet by the author then I just link to the cookbook. It’s not hard to search around and find them posted by others – I just feel very strongly about sending you to the original source.

let’s eat: on the menu

Spanish Paella

I thought I might start a weekly feature on what we’ve been eating around here, mostly because that just sounds so gripping, right? Typing that does sound sort of dumb, but I do talk about food a lot, and I also get asked about food a lot, so it seemed like it might be a good thing.

Our approach to eating has changed a lot over the years, just as I imagine it does for many people. When we were newly married we were so immersed in our house projects that dinner around these parts looked like takeout or freezer-to-baking pan fare. We had a little one, and ate at home more. She grew up and we ate out more. We had another little one and the cycle continued, and for many of those years M did the early afternoon / evening shift with the girls and had dinner on the table when I got home later from work. 

We’ve reached a point now where the four of us can arrive home at roughly the same time, and everyone can tolerate not eating at this absolute, very second. We’ve found a good rhythm, I think, of settling into dinner making versus simple food consumption. Spending an hour or two in the kitchen isn’t an option every night, but for us (on most nights) it works. There is playing, book reading, homework starting and violin practice going on at the same time. If it’s bath night and something’s roasting in the oven for a bit, we even switch up the order of things, and eat later in our bathrobes. Sometimes there’s music, frequently there’s a glass of wine on the counter, always there’s noise – the good kind and the annoying kind. There’s no television. The dinner menu isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea (I’m looking at you, E), but dinner is what’s on the table, and you have to work at going to bed hungry.

The good weeks are the ones where the menu is planned over the weekend, ingredients are shopped for and ready, and the kitchen starts out clean. One thing I’ve found is that no one likes to work in a messy kitchen, and the quickest way to take out is a sink full of dishes. Weekend travel throws us off our game some, but for the most part we’ve operated this way for at least a year, and our days of eating the same old same old seem to be behind us. I thought I’d share what we’ve been eating, links to the recipes, and how we enjoyed the end results. I’ll also feature favorite food blogs and recipe books along the way, and I’ll do my best to keep things organized so they are easy to find later. And I’ll share some more of my (very anecdotal, non-scientific findings) on what keeps us healthy and happy, and why we eat what we eat, and don’t eat other things.

Feel free to chime in at any time with your own dinner plans and favorite links.

I always start with the calendar first – Tuesday night I had a 7pm meeting and Thursday the whole family had to be at another 7pm event, so I started with quicker meals on those nights. Pesto is F’s favorite food, and this time we used a prepared sauce in a jar (and it was sort of bland). I need to be better about making some from scratch ahead of time, because it’s so easy, and so much better. We like the tomato and roasted red pepper soup from Trader Joe’s – the kind in the carton – and M makes really good grilled cheese sandwiches (secret ingredient – copious amounts of butter) and his new cast iron sandwich smoosher press I got him for Christmas.

Sunday night’s dinner was Spanish Paella courtesy of Blue Apron from last week. It was very good, and the crispy roasted broccoli rabe on top was delicious – almost like fried kale leaves, but the stalks were tough and chewy and quickly discarded. I ate on the leftovers for three days. 

Butternut Squash Farro Salad is from Smitten Kitchen – a repeat recipe that I adore. I’ve learned that the girls aren’t big fans of the pickled red onion sauce, but will eat it without the dressing. This week I used barley because I was low on farro – tasted similar. I love this for lunch leftovers.

Wednesday was the winner of the week – a new recipe from Food Loves Writing – Cauliflower Enchiladas with Poblano Cream Sauce. An epic undertaking for a Wednesday, but the perfect hump day dinner. E actually liked it, M and I loved it, and F spit it back out – go figure. She’s usually the resident foodie, but she wasn’t a huge fan. This will be a repeat for sure, with extra sides for the unconvinced.

Last night I attended a daycare fundraiser at Time for Dinner, and so we have a few meals in the freezer now. M and the girls ate leftovers out of the fridge and I skipped dinner after snacking a little at the event. Which means I’m good and hungry for a house favorite tonight – Mark Bittman’s Macaroni and Cheese – where I add crumbled potato chips to the bread crumb topping in a move that could be described as legendary. 

Happy eating!