Busy Week Dinners

Busy week.  S at a business dinner on Monday.  I’m out tonight.  Going to the mountains for some skiing (hoping for some decent snow) on Friday.  Nonetheless, dinner still needs to be made and eaten.  Here is my plan for the week, some of which has already been consumed:

Monday – Cauliflower Mac ‘n Cheese

Tuesday – Grilled Boneless Pork Chops (Niman Ranch), Broccoli Rabe, Mashed Butternut Squash, Orzo Pesto
Canned Organic Peaches

Wednesday – Leftover Delight: Chicken from Sunday, Broccoli from Tuesday, Rice

Thursday – Turkey Chili with Rice

Using the cheese sauce as a little bit of a foil to hide cauliflower with the pasta is always a hit. But, Monday’s Mac ‘n Cheese was one of those rush jobs that we gobbled down, but was certainly not my best effort or showing.

Last night, on the other hand, was very good and very quick – about 1/2 hour from start to finish. I took 4 boneless chops and rubbed them with a little olive oil. Then I put on some wonderful seasoning salt called Borsari and S grilled the chops to perfection. Meanwhile, I put a few pots on the stove: (1) water for the orzo, (2) water to blanch the broccoli rabe, and (3) water for the butternut squash (I cheated and bought the fresh pre-peeled/cut version). While the orzo and squash were cooking, I blanched the broccoli rabe for about 1 minute. Then drained it. Rinsed the pot, put it on the drying rack. Whipped out a big saute pan and put it on the fire, threw a little olive oil in it, sliced a garlic clove into the oil, added the broccoli rabe, some salt, black pepper and some red pepper flakes. When the squash was cooked through, I drained it, mashed it with a fork, added a little butter, salt and pepper, and a smidgeon of cinnamon. Orzo pesto is always a big hit (pesto from Trader Joe’s – one of the only prepared pestos that doesn’t have walnuts in it. It is not as good as fresh, but works well on sandwiches and last minute pastas…). With canned peaches for dessert (a real treat), I redeemed myself from Monday’s “ehhh” dinner.

Tonight, S and the girls will enjoy the chicken with proscuitto, sage and cheese from Sunday and the leftover broccoli from last night.

I’ll make my sister’s Turkey Chili for Thursday – lots of good vegetables and I added some new ones to her recipe. Something to stick to our ribs before the weekend of skiing.

Is there anything I can take that will prevent the soreness that I know awaits me after the first day of skiing? My muscle memory is as bad as my regular memory. I’m not aging gracefully. Maybe I should make some cookies to bring for apres ski…..

Candy for Fun

My daughter, L, had a friend over to play last Friday.  They are both a little bit shy and usually look to me to get ideas for fun things to do.  We have a candy making kit, that someone gave my girls, that is supposed to be a sort of “science” experiment kit.  The girls decided on chocolate caramels because they liked the sound of it in the book of recipes that is part of the kit.  The book has some good ideas, but the recipes and the equipment are, in a word, useless.   Their recipe for chocolate caramels had an enormous amount of molasses in it – I mean, on the order of a cup of molasses.  Given I don’t make candy too often and don’t have any candy specific cookbooks, I went to the classics.  First, The Joy of Cooking didn’t have anything that caught our eyes.  Then, I went to another favorite “mom” type of cookbook, The New Settlement Cookbook.  This cookbook is truly old fashioned and homey (my “new” copy is from 1991, the original version was printed in 1901) and says on the cover “The First Classic Collection of American Ethnic Recipes”.    It is a gem.  Great, simple, easy to follow recipes.  I found Chocolate Caramels in the index.  The girls and I made a couple of substitutions, and halved the recipe.  The results were delicious, but you wouldn’t want to eat any of these if you have loose fillings!

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Chocolate Caramels

Adapted from The New Settlement Cookbook, 1991

makes 36 1-inch squares

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup (we used light corn syrup)

1/4 cup heavy cream

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Butter a piece of foil and set in a small baking pan.  Fold foil to create a square 6 in. X 6 in. X 1 in. Combine all ingredients except chocolate and vanilla extract in a heavy saucepan.  Cover and boil for 5 minutes.  Uncover and boil to the firm ball stage, 247°F (next time, I’d go a little below this temperature for a slightly softer candy).  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, and then the chocolate.  Pour into the buttered foil “pan”.  Let cool completely.

Turn the cooled caramel square onto a cutting board and remove the foil.  Mark out 1-inch squares onto the big square of caramel and cut with a greased chef’s knife.  This is not that easy to do, it is pretty sticky business, and you may need to re-shape the squares a bit with your fingers.  Wrap the candy in squares of waxed paper.

Kids Cook II Recap

Just finished the meal and it was good, but not as good as I’d hoped for a couple of reasons.  First, the girls were just not that into the cooking.  Raw chicken, not so appealing to 10 and 11 year olds.  Second, we started a little late, everyone was hungry (and cranky), and we didn’t have time to put together a salad, so not as many vegetables as I’d like.

The Blueberry Crisp was a hit in terms of preparing and, certainly, eating.

Blueberry Crisp 2
Here is the recipe for the Blueberry Crisp:

Blueberry Crisp
3 pints blueberries, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350 F (convection, if you have it).

Place berries in a large souffle dish or other casserole that will fit the berries in a fairly deep layer. Mix the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Sprinkle over the berries and then mix gently until all the berries are coated. Dot the top of the berries with 1 tablespoon of the softened butter.

Put the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl and cut the butter, with a pastry blender or two knives, into the dry ingredients until you have a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the blueberries.

Bake in preheated 350 F oven for approximately 45 minutes, until the topping is golden and the blueberry juices are bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 1/2 hour, preferably longer. Eat at room temperature (with vanilla ice cream, if you have to).

Kids Cook Sunday II

After last Sunday’s success, we are trying Kids Cook Sunday again.  And, our friend LF is staying for dinner. J promised to help us cook this time.  J & L decided on the following menu:

Chicken Breasts with Proscuitto, Sage and Cheese

Fusilli with Broccoli and Parmesan

Blueberry Crisp

Actually, I decided on the blueberry crisp.  I went to Trader Joe’s to pick up the ingredients that I needed for the rest of the menu and saw huge boxes of blueberries for $5.99 for a 24 oz. package..  I couldn’t resist.  Yes, they are from Chile and that is a total no-no, from an environmental perspective.  But, there they were and here they are.  And, they are delicious.  I sampled them as soon as I got home. 

For the chicken, we’ll use Jack cheese because I have some very good, local (so something’s from a little closer than South America), cheese that I got at the Farmer’s Market.

Soup Lessons

While I was obsessed with the inauguration, it certainly didn’t keep me for my cooking.  On Wednesday, I gave my friend LH a cooking lesson.  She does not have a repertoire of soup recipes and wanted a lesson on soup.  Turned out to be the perfect day for it.  After 2 weeks of ridiculously beautiful weather, we had our first rainy (drizzly, actually) cool day.

Here are the soups we made:
Red Lentil and Barley
Creamy Tomato
Zucchini with Leeks

The Red Lentil and Barley soup is based on a recipe that I got with a package of organic red lentils and barley (combined) at the fabulous Phipps Farm in Pescadero, CA.  This old style farm has the most incredible selection of beans that I’ve ever seen.  Their recipe is too salty for me and adds some items that I don’t care for.  It is a very hearty, earthy soup – a bit sweet from the carrots and tomatoes.  Definitely a “health in a bowl” type of soup, especially if you use a barley that retains some of its fiber (though regular pearled barley works just fine).
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Inauguration Week Menu

Because school was out Monday and it was our day of community service, and because S was away, and because I was tied to the television on inauguration day, and because I’m still trying to figure out this blog thing….well, I haven’t written out the week’s menu.  Here goes:

 

Monday          OUT for Thai with girls and RF

Tuesday          Leftover delight, Cauliflower, Barley “Risotto”

Wednesday    Lentil Soup with Grilled Ham & Swiss on Whole Wheat Sourdough

                        Baked Apples with Berries

Thursday       Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Turkey Italian Sausage

                        Strawberries

Friday             Challah

                        Roasted Chicken

                        Roasted Carrots, Potatoes & Artichokes

                        Green Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette

                        Homemade Applesauce and cookies

 

Is that not 5 meals?  Does Sunday count, when we had kid’s cook night?  Maybe we’ll eat-in this Saturday.

 

The Lentil Soup was mmmm mmmm good….though, not from a red and white can.

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Day of Service

No dinner at home tonight.  Went out with the girls and my good friend RF.  We were out most of the day today on the coast.  First volunteering, then enjoying the beauty of our California coast and tidepools on this balmy January day.

We went at 11:00 to Half Moon Bay to a senior center to volunteer for the day of service that Barack Obama called for in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.  We signed up, via www.usaservice.org, to do gardening for low-income seniors and had a phenominal experience.  The woman who organized the group of volunteers was exceptionally organized and competent.  All of her communications to the volunteers were complete, well written, and we all knew when and where to arrive.

L, J & I helped 2 different women with largely the same chores.  They each lived in a small 1 bedroom apartment with a garden in the back.  The senior facility (which I would imagine is subsidized living) is having its annual inspection by federal inspectors this week.  So, we were doing some basic maintenance, such as cleaning windows and weeding gardens, but there were other chores, such as heavy lifting, major tree pruning,  fixing televisions, and etc., that the 20+ volunteers were asked to do.  Both elderly women were so appreciative and so welcoming to us.  They couldn’t have been kinder.  I think the girls really felt like they made a difference today and certainly understood the meaning of what we were doing and why.

My cookies went uneaten by the seniors that we helped because they were both diabetic!  Still, we brought them in for the volunteers to enjoy.
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