Week of March 11: Guest Post!!!

[Ed. note: I’m been swamped, so it’s a good thing I have a Ninja around. I highly recommend the lentil stew- it was PMM’s absolute favorite. She ate 3 servings of leftovers for lunch today, so you know the Ninja did something right].

Mom was super busy this week with work and ended up catching PMM’s cold, so lucky for her The Ninja offered to take over chef duties –  and to compose the weekly menu (sorry, I forgot to take pictures so this seems like a boring week). In deciding what to cook, the plan was to make some easy favorites, one new lentil curry from the “660 Curries”, and The Ninja’s speciality – Tom Yum Gai.

During PMM’s nap on Sunday, The Ninja took advantage of the free time to get a jump start on the menu. The lentils for Monday night were completely prepared and put in the fridge, and likewise the ground chicken was cooked with seasoning for Taco Tuesday.

Week of March 11:

Sunday: Wild caught salmon w/lemon and rosemary, broccoli, and couscous

Monday: Five-lentil stew

Tuesday: Chicken tacos

Wednesday: Pasta with turkey meatballs, marinara sauce, and salad

Thursday: Hamburgers

Friday: Tom Yum Gai

Saturday: Corned beef with cabbage

Sunday was grocery shopping, so it was a perfect day to pick up some fresh salmon. As fresh salmon has such great flavor, we just added a few sprigs of rosemary and lemon while grilling. Add a few simple sides of steamed broccoli and 5-minute couscous with just a bit of olive oil and you’ve got a complete tasty meal.

Monday was super easy as the five-lentil stew was made on Sunday and only needed reheating. As cooking time was 45 minutes, I’d recommend this approach for a quick weekday meal. The recipe called for ¼ cup each of black and green (skin-on and skinned) lentils, yellow split peas, and yellow pigeon peas. But, because most of these weren’t available at my grocery store, I used red lentils, green lentils, and green split peas instead. After rinsing the dried legumes, boil in 3 cups of water and add 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp ground turmeric, 3 chopped Thai or Serrano chilies, and 2 inches of fresh ginger – simmer and stir occasionally for 30 minutes.

Pull out the ginger and puree half of the stew. The recipe called for pureeing the whole stew, but the consistency would have been better if not all legumes were pureed. Also, I threw in a handful of spinach because it added some vegetable to the stew without affecting the flavor (although it did make it a beautiful puke-green color – whoops).

Last step is to heat some spices. Melt 2 Tbsp ghee or butter at medium-high heat in a skillet and add 2 tsp cumin seeds. Toast about 5 to 10 seconds and remove from heat. Then add 2 bay leaves and ½ tsp cayenne and stir before pouring mixture into stew. Stir in and serve, topping with cilantro if desired. PMM particularly loved some Greek yogurt stirred into this stew.

Taco Tuesday! Nothing difficult to this meal, just some ground chicken breast cooked with taco seasoning, then add your favorite toppings. Our typical taco bar features chopped up onion, bell peppers, and cilantro, Greek yogurt (we use this instead of sour cream), shredded cheese, spinach, lime, and salsa or hot sauce. PMM enjoyed her meal with some orange.

Wednesday was another super easy, quick meal. We just made some pasta and added our favorite sauce and Trader Joe’s turkey meatballs. We typically round out the meal with a salad and some fresh fruit.

Thursday was a Mom-less night as she was traveling for work. The Ninja made one of his favorites, hamburgers. Just to try and add some vegetable to the meal, we chop up a handful or two of spinach and mix it into the ground beef before making patties. Serve up with some fresh fruit to make PMM hapy.

Friday featured one of The Ninja’s specialties, Tom Yum Gai. Super easy, super tasty soup. Boil 1 quart chicken stock with 2 stalks of lemongrass cut into 3-inch pieces and 6-10 kaffir lime leaves (or a good squirt of lime juice). Bring to a boil, then add 1 pound chicken breast cut into strips, ½ Tbsp red curry paste, ½ Tbsp crushed red pepper (or less if you don’t like spicy), ½ Tbsp fish sauce, 1 bunch of chopped green onions, and 1-2 Tbsp of chopped cilantro. Simmer for 5-10 minutes (longer if you have time), then remove the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves and serve over softened rice noodles with cilantro garnish. This is the best chicken soup for when you are sick – the spicy helps drain your sinuses and the simple flavors are easy on the stomach.

Happy St. Patrick’s Saturday! Despite usually trying to avoid having red meat twice in one week, we couldn’t resist having corned beef and cabbage for our favorite Irish day.

 

Week of February 19: Especially Fast, Good Enough to Repeat

Quick, full meal

This was a strong week of super fast recipes. First a great new, super simple fish recipe. Next was a thoroughly well-rounded cherry pork loin chop with green beans and ginger-sesame sweet potato mash. Spinach tortellini sounded like an easy way to work spinach into PMM, and next up was a lentil curry. Lunch leftovers were wonderful all week.

Friday finished with a meal after PMM went to bed- shrimp in a white wine sauce served over marinara polenta. It looks fancy, but truly was finished by the time bed-time stories were done!

Fancy grown-up food, in <15 minutes

Week of February 19:

Sunday: Red snapper w/ cilantro, lime, and ginger butter

Monday: Cherry glazed pork with green beans and sweet potato

Tuesday: Spinach tortellini

Wednesday: Indian lentil curry w/ yogurt

Thursday: Breakfast for dinner, including real Farmer’s Market Bacon!

Friday: Smoked paprika shrimp with polenta

Saturday: Falafel

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Week of February 12

This week started of with unabashed decadence: bacon cooked salmon with bacon farro risotto and grilled butternut squash. The lamb was good, but after bacon cooked salmon, it’s all a bit downhill.

Bacon was the focus of Sunday's dinner

Week of February 12:

Sunday: Bacon cooked salmon, farro risotto with bacon, and grilled butternut squash

Monday: Homemade veggie pizza

Tuesday: Slow cooked Moroccan lamb w/ pine nut & spinach cous cous

Wednesday: Home-made black bean burgers, fruit salad

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Turkey sort-of picatta, grilled carrots and asparagus

Saturday: Take-out from Flavors of East Africa- the goat dish was the winner, but the chicken curry was a close second.

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Grilled Veggie Lasagna

I love this overnight lasagna recipe. I usually make sure I’m cooking a grilled meal the night or two before so the grill is going anyway when I make the veggies. The ricotta traditional to lasagna has been replaced by cottage cheese and grated hard cheeses. I’m not a huge fan of ricotta cheese anyway, but I definitely don’t miss it, and this version is substantially healthier.

I didn’t get a picture of it, because we ate it so quickly! So imagine what lasagna looks like, and that’s a good picture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2-3 zucchini
  • 4 portobello mushrooms, if you like them (we don’t)
  • 4 bell peppers, any color (I prefer red)
  • 1 jar of garlic marinara sauce
  • ~1/2 box of whole wheat lasagna noodles- avoid the ‘no boil’ kind
  • 2 cups 2% cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan/romano/similar cheese
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • ~1 cup mozzerella for topping

Step 1: Night before lasagna is to be eaten, cut eggplant into circles about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Lay on a layer of paper towels and sprinkle with salt; top with another layer of paper towels and let sit for 15-20 minutes while you’re prepping other things. Eggplant has an astringency to it that is absorbed into the towels.

Cut zucchini length-wise into 3/4 inch thick slices. Try to keep the thickness consistent. Quarter the bell peppers and clean out the seeds. Clean the mushrooms if you’re using them.

Coat all veggies with a thin layer of olive oil- I pour it into a dish and use my hands to coat them. Grill or broil veggies until they are cooked- all should be soft, but try to avoid burning them. The bell peppers can get a little char (with all their sugar, it carmelizes a bit and tastes fine), but the zucchini will burn and fall apart if it cooks too long.

While the veggies cook, mix together the cottage cheese, grated cheese, and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. Let the veggies cool to approx. room temp before starting to compile the lasagna.

In a 9×13 dish (I use pyrex) spread a thin layer of the marinara. Add a layer of dry, uncooked noodles, then a layer of eggplant, then a layer of the cheese mixture. This will likely use the bulk of your eggplant. Repeat, layering sauce, noodles, pepper, cheese. Sauce, noodles, zucchini, cheese. Add the remainder of your sauce, if there is any.

Cover (which is why I use the pyrex- it has a lid) and refrigerate overnight.

Day Two: Bake at 350deg for an hour. Sprinkle with mozzerella, increase the temperature to 425deg and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Sometimes the lasagna isn’t quite cooked in the middle. I think this is an issue of doubling the recipe, though- if you double it, remember to add a lot of extra cooking time. Even if it is fully cooked it’ll be too hot to eat for a few minutes, so make sure it’s done 15 minutes before you absolutely need to eat.

Week of February 5

I have declared this month Frugal February, and while the Ninja would laugh at me for thinking our grocery bills are any lower, I’m at least making an effort. I tried to think of ways to make cheaper food without sacrificing taste, healthiness, or much of my whim.

Hooray, Kaffir lime contact!

This becomes slightly more difficult when Perpetual Motion Machine and I see baskets of gorgeous, organic plump blackberries and raspberries at the Farmer’s Market. We bought them despite the $14 for three quarts. To make up for that splurge, PMM spun around the market looking adorable and exuding cheer, and was given a week’s worth of free oranges by various vendors. Way to go, kid.

Since the only fish she eats is salmon (and she’ll be happy enough to eat the whole salmon, if given the opportunity), I can’t scrap that for something cheaper. I am also reluctant to trade organic chicken and meat for the non-organic kind. I’ve mostly given up worrying about chemicals in me, but the idea of putting chemicals, antibiotics, etc. in my daughter’s 33lb body revolts me. Instead, we’re going to try to add at least one extra vegetarian meal a week- aiming for at least 2. Legumes are inexpensive, full of protein and fiber, and soak in all kinds of flavors exceptionally well. It’s also more environmentally responsible to eat less meat, so there’s not much of a down-side to this plan.

This week we had a veggie lasagna and an Indian style black-eyed pea dish. We’re still unrepentant omnivorous spenders, though- at the market I also found an organic meat farm from which I purchased thick cut bacon to sprinkle over the risotto I intended for Saturday (but which will be on next week’s menu).

Week of February 5:

Sunday: Tom yum chicken (emphasis on ‘yum’)

Monday: Sneaky spinach burgers, yam ‘fries’, and fruit salad

Tuesday: Grilled veggie lasagna

Wednesday: Indian black-eyed peas & brown rice

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Seafood sort-of scampi

Saturday: Farro risotto with grilled butternut squash and bacon- oops, no time! leftovers & sandwiches instead.

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Week of January 29: Half-assing it

High sodium, but easy, used up leftovers, and taste-wise totally worth it

I began this week painfully uninspired. I’ve been working on the same 3 briefings at work for 4 days and feel like I’m stuck in mental mud. Worst of all, I’ve been phoning it in with Perpetual Motion Machine. I felt like I’ve been putting one proverbial foot in front of the other, through jello, in all aspects of life.

Once I recognized the funk I was in, though, I chose to fix it.

Artistically captured food rut- mac and cheese, slightly upgraded with ham and spinach

I couldn’t revise our meals for the week because we had the groceries, but I could take us to the zoo on Friday. PMM rode piggy-back to see the giraffes, rhinos, and red river hogs. We took photos in the booth where she delights in pushing the buttons and seeing us on the screen. We scampered over the animal print foot massage chairs. Few things are more inspiring than a giddy toddler.

We went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday with license to buy on impulse- within reason and with a framework of a meal plan (chicken, salad) – to solve the pre-made components and uninteresting food rut. First thing Monday, I’ll finalize three solid presentations, too, because I’ve found my focus, drive, and interest again. Bad week, but great weekend.

Wow, this was good.

Fortunately, I have some decent staple meals in my stable (falafel, chickpea & tomato vindaloo) on which to fall back. And in retrospect, it wasn’t a bad as it seemed from the trenches. There were some decidedly bright dishes in this week’s line-up: the pork enchiladas were even better than the pork the first time around (though the sauce did come from a bottle) and the honey cardamom chicken was a new recipe that will definitely happen again.

Week of January 22:

Sunday: Tarragon lemon salmon, multi-grain pilaf, steamed broccoli

Monday: Pork enchiladas, salad, and green drink

Tuesday: Honey cardamom chicken

Wednesday: Ham mac & cheese, with kale and roasted butternut squash

Thursday: Chickpea and tomato vindaloo, with greens

Friday: Falafel

Saturday: (Guests) Roasted chicken, chive carrots, rosemary biscuits, goat cheese & kumquat salad, banana caramel tart

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