0318 An Off Week for Cooking

I don’t really know why we haven’t been cooking much this week, apart from the fact that we were gone on Tuesday. Maybe it’s the nice weather and trying to exercise after work? Maybe I’m just not feeling inspired by the recipes we picked while feeling simultaneously overwhelmed by the weekend’s leftovers? I don’t really know.

Tonight I prepped at SELMA, while Shane stayed home to exercise and chill out. As it turned out, he made dinner – a simple pasta with sauteed onions, garlic, and tuna – while I picked up fast food on the way home. I had planned to have dinner at SELMA, but the combined forces of wanting to get home early and also feeling woozy conspired against my desire to eat the souffle that Lisa and young Charles were working on when I left.

We’re going to visit friends and family in Cleveland for the weekend, so I think I’m going to give myself a pass on updating unless we eat something really excellent.

0317 Grilled Tilapia with Golden Rice

0317 Grilled Tilapia with Golden Rice

Dinner prep tonight made an awfully big mess for two relatively simple dishes.  Two tilapia fillets, grilled in the hot hot cast iron grill pan with just a little salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime juice added at the table.  A savory rice dish from Moosewood that would’ve been boring on its own, but paired nicely with the buttery fish.  From those recipes, we had nearly every inch of counter space covered with following dishes: 3 pans, a bunch of food processor components, cutting board, zester, and at least one knife, plus our lunch dishes and a few things left from the night before.  This pile often feels insurmountable, and that is WITH a dishwasher.

I digress.

This dinner, while not especially quick, was especially easy.  I soaked the rice for ~10 minutes while sauteeing the onions and prepping the carrots.  We didn’t have any ground cardamom, so I substituted a bit of cumin and coriander for spice.  When everything went into the saucepan, I started heating the grill for the fish.  From start to finish, I think dinner took 45 minutes?  And then Shane was so hungry after his workout that he’d finished his entire dinner in the time it took me to take the photo.  On a related note, I’m not sure how I feel about this photo.  I’m trying to learn more about how our camera works, and tonight I tried something different.

Recipe:
Golden Rice from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

0316 Snacks on the Road

So instead of making dinner tonight, we did this:

Go Cavs!

Shane got a pair of tickets to the Pistons – Cavs game for $25, so after work, we hopped in Richard Simmons, grabbed some ice cream, and headed to Detroit.  It was hard to tell which team had more fans in the house – the dudes behind us were chanting L-B-J and M-V-P, but somehow Shane was the one who got popcorn thrown at him?  It was a great game, but the Cavs pulled it off in the end.

On our way home, we stopped at a gas station for a soda and I perused the snack offerings while Shane hit the bathroom.  The trip to/from Detroit isn’t enough to justify really quality road snacks, but we did share a mint 3 Musketeers – delicious and not terribly bad for us.  Most road snacks, however, meet only one of those two characteristics – the delicious part.  I know, I know – you can pack fruits and veggies, drink lots of water, all of that good stuff – but nothing says ‘road trip’ quite like the radio turned up loud and your hand in a bag of something salty.  I haven’t given this much thought, not nearly as much thought as I gave the candy selection last night, but in a pinch and in no particular order, here are our top 10 road snacks:

  1. Chex Mix.  I could take up the rest of this list by ranking the flavors, but I won’t.
  2. Combos.  Always solid.
  3. Chicken McNuggets.  Our enjoyment of nuggets is balanced though not justified by the guilt about factory farming that we feel when not eating nuggets.
  4. Jerky in a variety of forms, some of which we should explore making on our own.
  5. Dried fruit, especially pineapple, regular apple, and apricots.  And other fruits that include an ‘ap’ sound, though I can’t think of any at the moment.
  6. Munchies – a beautiful mélange of Cheetos, Doritos, pretzels, and Sun Chips, each noteworthy snacks on their own.
  7. Gummy candies – Swedish fish, gummy peaches, etc.  Good because they take time to eat.
  8. Coffee and lots of it.
  9. Granola/protein bars.  A few years ago, I set out to conclusively decide which bar offered the best balance of calories, flavor, and protein.  I’m not sure if I decided anything other than that I don’t like eating protein bars all the time – but we do like Clif Bars in general, and the chocolate chip bar in particular.
  10. FRUIT AND NUT, which came into our lives thanks to our first trip to Bonnaroo with Mark and Mike.

I think I need a snack.

0315 Mediterranean Chicken Stew

I actually made this stew for dinner last night, but I think I’d rather talk about its incarnation as tonight’s leftovers.

Leftovers are an important part of our weekly meal planning.  We both brown-bag most days, and leftovers make up most of those lunches.  It’s never really made a lot of sense to me to buy separate food for lunches, apart from extras like string cheese, granola bars, small pieces of fruit, and the occasional treat, especially when we’re putting so much effort into main dishes in the evening.  So instead of sandwiches, Hot Pockets, or Lean Cuisines, all of which have previously made up substantial parts of our lunches, we take jars of soup or thick slices of meatloaf with fresh bread, with small containers of grapes, crackers, or other snacks to eat throughout the day.  As a result of this, meals often make multiple appearances in our house.  Soup made over the weekend may show up in 3-4 additional lunches, as will be the case this week.

This stew, made for last night’s dinner with our friend Marla, was supposed to produce 4 portions, but instead resulted in at least 6.  We enjoyed the stew with warm polenta last night, the bitter escarole nicely balancing the sweetness of the polenta and the savory chicken.  Like Saturday’s soup, it was hearty and warm, but not so hearty that we fell stuffed after.  But when I had a portion for dinner tonight, I felt decidedly ambivalent.  The chicken was boring and a little chewy.  The greens were limp and unpleasantly bitter.  The broth was watery.  I had no desire to finish my bowl, much less the 2-3 portions still in the fridge.

So what to do?  I hate throwing away food, but I also hate wasting calories on things I really don’t enjoy.  What do you do to rescue meals (or leftovers) you no longer want to eat?

Recipe:
Mediterranean Chicken Stew from Whole Living

0314 Pi/e Day

I had good intentions of making a pi/e in honor of pi/e day.  Very good intentions.  Last year I took home the grand prize at my library’s pi/e day competition with Smitten Kitchen‘s Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie, a delicious departure from the home-y pi/es I usually prefer.  If you like maple and are into the pi/e making, I highly recommend it.  It’s a show stopper.

Alas, this year there was no occasion nor excuse for making a pi, a pie, or a pi/e. Instead we had waffles:

Sunday breakfast

Delicious out-of-focus waffles, made from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe.  On top? Peaches and blueberries that I preserved from last summer, simmered down into a compote and topped with whipped cream.  That’s sort of like a deconstructed pi/e, right?  Either way, it was good enough for me and Shane Bee.

Recipe:
Buttermilk Waffles from Better Homes & Gardens

0313 Beef, Leek, and Barley Soup

Dinner really couldn’t have been easier, which is such an amazing thing to be able to say when the dinner in question is hearty, healthy, and delicious.  The recipe?  Prep your ingredients, put ’em in a pot, and let ’em simmer away for 3 hours.  That 3 hours is the worst part, as within 30 minutes your kitchen will smell amazing, and it will be all you can do to stay away for the remaining 2:30.

0313 Beef Barley Soup

At least that’s what happened with us and this soup, which was just the right thing for a rainy and cold Saturday.  I had good intentions of documenting it as well as Smitten Kitchen did – but then I got hungry and forgot.  A word of caution, though – this makes DRAMATICALLY more than any two people could possibly eat, with 8 cups of soup left after generous dinner portions.  Some will go into our freezer,  some will go home with a friend, and the rest will be lunches for the next week – all of which are good things, though next time I’ll probably just halve the recipe.

Recipe:
Beef, Leek, and Barley Soup from Smitten Kitchen

0312 Breakfast update

While I’ve been in a bit of a delicious oatmeal rut the last few days, I have persevered in trying some of your breakfast suggestions.  Since we last checked in, I have had:

  • Toasted flatbread with half an avocado – not local, but definitely delicious and full of healthy fats.
  • Scrambled eggs and flatbread toast, courtesy of a morning when Shane was up earlyish and I slept in.  Really good, since I go to work sometimes an hour or more before he leaves, it’s unlikely we’ll get to do this often.

For the last week and change, though, I’ve been hooked on regular ol’ oats.  I’ve been soaking a half cup of rolled oats in 3/4 cup of milk overnight – we bought a carton of whole milk last weekend for ice cream, and I’ve been using the extra to make my breakfast a little bit richer – and then microwaving it for about 2 minutes in the morning while the cats run around like nutters and I put their food together.  Depending on what’s available, I usually stir in a generous teaspoon of brown sugar and some dried cranberries, though this morning I added the last of a jar of apple butter, which made it deliciously cinnamon-y.  I’m almost out of oats, though, so I might have to get creative next week if I don’t remember to pick some up at the store this weekend…

Weekend

Friday nightFriday

Signs of springSaturday

Sunday breakfastSunday

After a totally lovely week, it’s been cold and rainy all weekend.  I’d like to see the sun again soon, but I’ve been making the most of the dreary weather.  To wit: baths, big pots of soup, tiny cookies, lots of coffee, movies, reading in bed.