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Monday, August 15, 2011

Mini Lasagnas: Too Cute To Eat, Too Twee To Live


This week has been productive as fuck. We finally finished painting all of the downstairs walls (just the trim to do, now), Jeffrey a.k.a. My Hero got on a very tall ladder and did the 30 foot walls in the entry AND put together ikea shelves - which are two things I hate doing, so, round of applause for Jeffrey. Finally started hanging art, finally unpacked our books and board games. Ordered a dining room set. It's really feeling like a home, now.

Last night we cleaned ourselves up and took a break to go wish our friend Nestor a happy birthday and drink some whiskey and eat some cake. May I recommend Berkshire Mountain Distiller's bourbon? It is tasty and immensely drinkable. I have tried almost all of their gins, and like them very much. I am pretty sure they have a small distribution area but if you can get it, do.

Before we headed over there, I whipped together some Muffin Tin Lasagnas. I may never make a regular lasagna again! They are so easy and the cook in a fraction of the time. I couldn't get a decent picture of the ones I made, so I suggest clicking the link and oohing and ahhing. I'm into the idea of making a bunch of muffin tin mini casseroles and freezing them for school lunches.

I did manage to take a picture of my pretty Greek Salad.



Not my best post, but I may have had more than one glass of that bourbon last night. I promise something with an actual recipe, later.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chicken Tostadas


You know what I love about Americanized Mexican food? It's all the same ten ingredients in different presentations. Take my Tostadas, for example; basically an open-faced taco.

This is a great meal for a busy weeknight. We needed something quick and filling before we went to the Britney Spears concert (it was awesome, don't judge) and these took about ten minutes to make and five minutes to eat.
Please enjoy the background of IKEA items that clutter my counter.

You can pick up pre-made tostadas like these (I find them in any grocery), or you can just fry your own corn tortillas. Then you pile on the fixings: meat, beans, sautee'd veggies, cheese, taco sauce, salsa, guac, you name it. Apollo Grill (aka my favorite) does one with goat cheese and sweet potato that is super good. Our filling, last night, was ground chicken with peppers and onions.


Ground Chicken for Tostadas and Tacos and Burritos and Stuff

1# Ground Chicken
1 red onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
2T chopped garlic
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
2T seasoning*

Saute' onions, peppers, garlic until soft. Add chicken and seasoning, cook through. Add black beans, toss to heat.

*I am leaving this at the vague "seasoning" because in this case I used a Trader Joe's spice blend and not everyone has access to it. I used the South African Smoke blend, which upon closer inspection appears to be smoked paprika, sea salt, garlic, and basil. I also added about a teaspoon of ground cumin. You could go with a packet of taco seasoning and just make life easy, or just dump in whatever you've got hanging around in the chili department.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Slow Cooker Beef Curry/IKEA trip

That's right, I'm using my slow cooker in summer. What.


We've been through this before, I know. I lapse on my updates and I come back and ask for another chance. Come on baby, you know I love you. I just got a lot going on right now.

BOY do I have a lot going on right now. The last time I updated was March, and now it is August. In the past five months I have bought a house, been to the West Coast and back three times, decided to go back to school, and gotten engaged. It has been a beautiful, crazy year - and it is fixing to get busy. Not in like, the sexy way but like, augh where does the time go. I function better with a schedule, so I am looking forward to September. August is being spent doing projects and planning our Housewarming/Engagement party. I bought a turkey fryer. Shit is going to get real.

Yesterday, I dusted off the slow cooker because the kids had morning dentist appointments and then I had to go to IKEA and then I wanted to go to Crafty-Craft-Times and I knew that I wouldn't want to also cook dinner plus we had just had pizza. IKEA is my favorite, but it is also an hour and a half away - so we really have to make a day of it. We picked up all the staples from the food market (meatballs, almond cookies, caviar) and we like to buy at least one thing that we've never seen before or have never tried. This time, it was crab spread.




I'm a sucker for packaging. It's in a TUBE. Also, look at the crab. Look at him. Adorbs. According to the handy recipe cards that IKEA now supplies, this is eaten on rye flatbread with boiled egg. Sounds good to me! EDIT: It's frigging delicious, if you like that sort of thing.

Back to the slow-cooker. I skipped a month of our meat CSA share, because we were in California, so pickings are getting slim in the ol' deep freezer. I had a few pounds of stew beef, and I was afraid that stew or chili would be too heavy for muggy hot August. The curry came out nice and light and fresh-tasting. We ate it with couscous, which doesn't really require use of the stove because you just boil water and let it soak (and you can boil water in a microwave, if necessary).

Slow Cooker: Summer Beef Curry

2# stew beef
2 cans light coconut milk
2 tsp red curry paste
heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 head of garlic, chopped
1 large red onion, diced
1/2# carrots, sliced
salt to taste

1 c chopped scallions
1 c chopped thai basil
chopped roasted peanuts

Brown stew beef and garlic in a hot skillet, then transfer to slow cooker. Add carrots, onion, and brown sugar. Stir curry paste into coconut milk before pouring over other ingredients. Cook on low for ten hours or high for six hours. Before serving, stir in basil and scallions. Serve over couscous or rice, with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.

This comes out a little 'soupy' - easily thickened by adding a can of rinsed and drained garbanzo beans, or two diced potatoes at the beginning.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Muffin And A Crumble Walked Into A Party

I was invited to a party, I was told there would be chili, I volunteered corn bread, I also made dessert.

Elka and Eric threw their second annual pre-PAX shindig last night, and though I am skipping PAX this year I am always up for a party. They provided chili and rice and baked pasta and salad and strawberries and cocktails, so the least I could do was bring a thing or two.

I think I've mentioned that I don't really bake from scratch so much, but I am a big fan of "hacking" mixes (my favorite being pretzels and caramel on top of brownies. Good stuff.). I took Bob's Red Mill cornbread mix and added a generous cup of shredded smoked cheddar and a small can of roasted green chilis and it was really tasty, I mean really. The mix was almost five bucks at the grocery store, but it makes 20 good sized muffins so I feel that it's worth it. Plus, it's all natural and Bob's is employee-owned, so you can feel good about supporting a stand up company.

I also made McIntosh Maple Crumble With Candied Bacon. I did it a little differently - I chopped up the candied bacon and mixed it in with the apples. If you like bacon, I highly recommend trying it candied sometime. I will also warn you that I used maple syrup and the result is really sweet, so if you're looking to tone that down I would use maple liqueur instead. We ate the crumble with Burnt Sugar & Butter ice cream. Incredible.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eggs For Dinner


The other night, in the midst of my funk, I asked my Twitter friends/followers what they have been cooking lately. The number one answer was curry, followed by various stews, and one frittata. Yesterday morning when I woke up, all I wanted was frittata. Our fridge was barren save for the door full of condiments and some moldy ricotta cheese (I was gone for a week, don't judge) so I hit the store and then made frittata for dinner.

Frittata is like a crustless quiche. It cooks faster, is less delicate, and is a great way to use up leftover bits of veggies and meat you may have kicking around. I pulled the prosciutto and artichokes out of my freezer, and added things that I thought would taste good with those. Big hit with the family - the kids didn't realize they were eating artichoke hearts and Jeffrey said, "This frittata is frincredible." A high compliment.

I served with fresh multigrain bread, and mixed greens tossed in olive oil, lemon vinegar, sea salt, and cracked pepper.

Weeknight Frittata

6 eggs
1/3 c half and half or heavy cream
2 c chopped cooked vegetables and meat (or not meat, whatever) - I used swiss chard, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, and grape tomatoes
1 tsp thyme (or any herb that will go with your ingredients)
1/2 small onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 c shredded or crumbled cheese
1 T butter
olive oil (about 2T)

Preheat the oven to 400°. You'll want to use a skillet, such as cast iron, that can transfer from stove top to oven. Beat the eggs and cream together. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Heat the skillet to medium high, and saute' the onions and garlic in the olive oil. Add the rest of your veggies and lower the heat to medium, the same temperature you would normally use to cook eggs.

"...but I always burn my eggs!" you say. Here is what I learned about eggs; you need your pan to be the right temperature, and you need to cook them in butter. You know how eggs always stick to the pan? Right. Your pan is either too high or too low, and you're probably using oil or pan spray. (Obviously the exception is non-stick pans, but I don't use those because I'm a snob.) If you are using a gas range, you want the flame to be just touching the bottom of your pan. If you are using an electric range, it's going to take a little trial and error since they wildly vary. On mine, the setting is "6". Start there and tweak as necessary. Anyway, back to the recipe.

Add the butter to the filling and toss to melt. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the filling. Sprinkle with cheese. Now you're going to let it set. That means don't touch it for a couple minutes, but watch for bubbles in the center and for it to start firming up the sides of the pan. Transfer to oven, let bake for 10 - 15 minutes. The center will feel firm to the touch, when done. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blah

I have been so uninspired in the kitchen. As happy as I am that comfort food is no longer a secret shame, I am actually getting tired of macaroni & cheese and short ribs. Every restaurant I go to, every magazine I pick up, every website I visit is prominently featuring heavy, rich, meaty and cheesy dishes. Not that there's anything wrong with it - but that's in my wheelhouse already. There's no challenge in it for me.

This is also an icky time of year, food-wise. It's impossible to get decent vegetables, since they're all shipped from California and taste like cardboard. (Except winter squash, but one can only eat so much of that.) I'm yearning for all this snow to melt, to see the grass turn green, for the farmer's markets to open. I'm actually looking forward to the April mud.

It took me hours to plan our next week of meals, but I think I managed to incorporate enough different flavors to keep it interesting. Hopefully the family will agree and I won't be chucking five pounds of leftovers come Sunday. The lesson here is to always freeze extras right away. They say that they'll eat them, but they never do......


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spinach Salad


I have three incomplete recipes/blog posts from over the past week saved as drafts. Sometimes I start writing the posts in the morning, well before I start cooking dinner, because evenings can be busy and I don't always have time to sit and do a whole post at once. In the case of two of the drafts, I didn't feel like the recipe was as good as I wanted - so I will tinker with those before final posting. In the case of the third, life got in the way and we ordered pizza that night.

Today's post is completely different than I originally planned. I was going to post a recipe for a blood orange and jicama salad that I made to go with tacos. I have made a few versions of this salad over the years, and it's quite tasty. However, last night's salad was not. It was pretty gross and I ended up throwing it down the garbage disposal...which is a thing I never do. I absolutely hate wasting food and will usually just deal, but this was just nasty. The jicama was kind of funky tasting and ruined the whole thing. I'm going to try it again another day, we'll see what happens.

Anyway, for dinner tonight I had made tuna casserole and a spinach salad.

February 8, 2011 - Spinach Salad

1 lb spinach - washed, dried, stems removed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
1/2 red onion, julienned
1 avocado - peeled and sliced, then tossed in 1 tsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp salt
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered or sliced
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

Dress with a basic vinaigrette: 1/4c vinegar (I used cider) 1/2 c olive oil , 1 clove grated or pressed garlic, 1 tsp fancy mustard, 1 tsp sugar, s/p to taste

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BACON WHAT LOL (I've been near the Internet too long)


I swear I'm going grocery shopping today. Unfortunately, there is a forecast of two inches of snow. This means that the grocery store will be packed, because people are afraid of being snowed in and having to resort to cannibalism. I'm going in. If you don't hear from me in a day or two, it's because I cut a bitch in Whole Foods with a broken bottle of organic gluten-free beer and I'm in jail.

Spaghetti Carbonara is not exactly "healthy", per se, but it's tasty and filling and cheap. It is also made of things that I always have lying around the house: bacon, eggs, and pasta.

It can be a little tricky; the hot pasta cooks the eggs on contact. This means that you have to drain the pasta and immediately toss it with the egg mixture before the pasta starts to cool off. Now normally you want to get the pasta really drained and dry as to not water down your sauce, but in this case it's good to have some cooking water in there. Really the biggest hassle of this whole recipe is cooking the bacon. I have switched to the oven method and I am never going back. I heat my oven to 450 degrees. I line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and I lay the bacon out on the paper. I pop the bacon on to the middle rack of oven for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it while it cooks. Cooking time depends on your oven, the thickness/fattiness of the bacon, and how crispy you like it. Flip the bacon strips halfway through, if you like. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, transfer the bacon strips to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

The benefits of this method are as follows:

1) You can cook a whole package of bacon at once. More than one package if you need to!
2) No splatter mess, and your hair/clothes/house don't get that grody cold grease smell.
3) Easy clean-up; Let the pan cool and the drippings solidify, and you just grab the parchment from the pan and throw it away. I don't have to drain hot grease into a jar like my mom used to, I don't have to scrub a pan.

I'm telling you, it's the best.

Okay, so here's what you do once you've got your bacon cooked up and ready to go:

Spaghetti Carbonara

1# dried spaghetti, linguini, or fettucini
1/2# cooked chopped bacon
4 large eggs
2T cooled melted butter
1c grated parmesan cheese
1 c chopped fresh spinach
s/p to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions, just in case you are unsure of how to cook pasta. I am not here to judge. While pasta is cooking, beat together eggs, cheese, and butter in a large bowl. Set aside. Right before draining pasta, reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain pasta, and add to egg/cheese mixture. Toss to coat, adding reserved cooking water a little at a time. The eggs will cook on contact, the cheese will melt, and the cooking water will thin it out into a sauce. You want to use the cooking water as opposed to regular hot water because the starch left by the cooking pasta is what holds the sauce together. Toss/mix in the bacon and the spinach and serve!

I was a little skeptical as to how this would taste as leftovers, but I reheated some in the microwave and it's still totally tasty.




More soup? Sure, why not.

Lately, all I want to make/eat is soup, so here comes another one. I know, my kids are just as thrilled as you are.

This recipe is one of those last minute meals that ended up working out really well. I was kind of slack on doing proper planning last week, and our meat stash had been whittled down to a few steaks and a package of sausage. Sausage is much more forgiving of the microwave defrost cycle so I started there. A rummage around the pantry, and I came up with;

Slow Cooker Black Bean & Sausage Soup

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package of italian sausage, crumbled and browned
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
1 lg onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1T chopped garlic
1T Italian seasoning - or - 1/4c fresh chopped herbs such as rosemary, oregano, thyme
8 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 28oz can of chopped tomatoes (in juice or puree, your choice)
a couple handfuls of leafy greens - such as spinach, kale, or chard - chopped

Throw everything except for the greens in your slow cooker and set for appropriate amount of time. Something like this, it doesn't matter if you set it high or low or how long you let it simmer. Right before serving, stir in the greens. If you add them at the end they won't get all manky. No one likes manky greens.


I served with a drizzle of basil oil and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. On the side we had warm crusty bread, and strawberries and goat cheese.

Sorry for the lack of photos, I've been spacing on it until we're already eating and I'm like, "Oh hey I should post this recipe but I'm so hungry NAM NAM NAM"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Squash Soup & Pizza Stones

I'm going to be honest with you; I like snow when it's falling and for like, a day after that. Then it becomes an immovable mass that makes getting around rather annoying. I cleared a path from the front door to the driveway, but our driveway is so narrow that one ends up knee-deep in snow before getting into the car anyway. As I get older and my upper back gets more jacked-up, I am starting to be envious of all the old people on my street with snowblowers. When we buy a house, we are getting a snow blower. End of story.

It is soup weather, bitches*! That is just fine with me. I think it may be some kind of law around New England that 60% of non-ethnic restaurants must serve Butternut Squash Soup. The best that I've had is at Apollo Grill and since I used to work there in a former life I remember the recipe. Mwah-ha-ha.

BUT since I don't think Casey would appreciate me broadcasting the recipe for one of his key menu items on the internet, I'm going to give you a different version that I think is just as tasty. It is also super easy and CHEAP. In season, butternut squash runs about 39 cents per pound. If you have a farm share, you probably have a ton of it lying around anyway.

I cooked the squash in my crockpot. Slice the squash lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. I quartered it to fit, and cooked with 1/4 c water - high for four hours.

You don't have to puree' the final result, but I like a silky textured soup. This will serve four if it's your main course.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash, roasted, skin removed
3 c broth (I used chicken, or strong veg stock)
1 onion, diced
1 T chopped garlic
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2T butter
2T olive oil
1 c heavy cream or half & half (or milk, it will just be thinner and not as creamy)
s/p to taste

Sautee' onions, garlic and celery in the oil and butter. Add squash, nutmeg, and chicken broth. Lower heat and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree using immersion blender, stir in cream, season to taste.

We like to have it like Apollo serves it, with crumbles of blue cheese and shredded pear (or apple).

I also made pizza, using my shiny new KitchenAid mixer (best boyfriend, best Christmas gift) for the dough. So good! I like a big, bready, chewy pizza crust. I always use Red Star yeast and Hecklers' unbleached flour when I bake bread, and I recommend both. I started using a pizza stone years ago, and I'll never go back to pans. I have one round stone that I've probably had for ten years now, and then my friend Gary showed up with a stack of quarry tiles from Home Depot and I was all whaaaaaaaaat and he was all "duh". Quarry tiles are unglazed terra cotta tiles used for flooring. You can also use them as pizza/bread stones because guess what - it's the same material.

Here's the thing: Pizza stones are expensive. Quarry tile is cheap. A pizza stone comes in a size. If you want to make more than one pizza at a time, you have to buy more pizza stones. Quarry tiles are generally 6x6 squares and a box of ten or so is like, three bucks. I can line both of my oven racks end to end with quarry tiles and bake four small pizzas at once for less than ten dollars.

Like with a pizza stone, quarry tiles should be seasoned to prevent the dough from sticking. Just rub them with a little vegetable oil before popping them in the oven, the first few times you use them.

*Bitches like, "my bitches" - a term of endearment. You are all my bitches, and I love you.








Friday, January 14, 2011

Sharing Time

Image taken from the fantastic site "A Year Of Slow Cooking", linked below.

I just have to pass along this recipe. I made it with pork ribs, and I lined the bottom of my crockpot with crinkled tinfoil. That kept the ribs from stewing in their own juices (lovely, but not what I was going for). Then I transferred the ribs to a serving dish and poured the pan juices right over them.

So so so so good, and so easy. I served with mashed potatoes, and a frozen veg mix called "soycutash" - edamame, corn, and red peppers - to which I added butter and sautee'd garlic and shallots. Everyone ate everything, even the vegetables.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Never Slurp The Stroganoff


It snowed yesterday, and everyone freaked the eff out. Seriously, it's New England. We've seen snow before. The first major snowstorm of the winter always has people acting like fools. We took full advantage of the snow day, and laid around the house in a way only rivaled by the cats.

I had already planned Lamb Stroganoff for dinner, and it ended up being perfect for such a cold night. This recipe can be made with any ground meat, or even a vegetarian protein like seitan.

Easy Lamb Stroganoff

1# ground lamb
4 oz portobella mushrooms, sliced or chopped (I chopped mine to hide them from the kids)
1 diced onion
2 T chopped garlic
1 splash white wine or cooking sherry
1 c chicken broth
8 oz condensed cream of mushroom soup (I like Trader Joe's if you can get it)
1 tsp dried dill
1T fresh thyme
1 c frozen or fresh peas
1 c plain yogurt or sour cream (Greek yogurt is nice and thick and gives the dish a little tangy bite)

Brown lamb in a large skillet. Add mushrooms, onion and garlic. Saute' until onion is translucent and mushrooms have released their juices, about five minutes. Deglaze the pan with wine or sherry, add chicken broth and herbs. Bring to a boil. Add peas, boil for about two minutes. Reduce heat to low, stir in yogurt, heat through. Remove from heat. Serve with wide noodles. I tossed whole wheat egg noodles with minced garlic, olive oil, chopped parsley. cracked pepper and sea salt.

As a side dish, I steamed green beans. A traditional spinach salad would also go nicely. Stroganoff is pretty heavy, so you want to team it with some light vegetables to balance out.

I leave you with what I assume is the only song with the word "stroganoff" in it. They even manage to find a rhyme.



Do I get this stuck in my head every time I make stroganoff? Yep. Now I'm sharing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pee Poop (I'm five)

While searching for this image I was subjected to Anne Geddes' photos of Celine Dion, dressed as a flower, holding her baby. YOU'RE WELCOME.

Here's the thing about pea soup: it looks like poopy. Baby poopy, really. I'm not even going to post a photo of the soup I made last night, because it is not a beautiful thing. It is a delicious thing, and you should not think about the poop factor.

Pea soup is easy, especially in a slow cooker. If you can't get a ham hock, get a bone-in ham steak and drop it on top of the other ingredients., then carefully remove it before you puree'.

Slow Cooker Pea Soup

1 bag dried spilt peas
6 c chicken broth
1 onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs thyme - or - 1 tsp dried
1 bay leaf
1 smoked ham hock
2 c (or so) chopped ham

Drop all ingredients except for the chopped ham into the crock pot, and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Don't worry, there is no such thing as overcooking this soup.

Remove the ham hock, bay leaves, and the thyme sprigs. Pick any meat off the hock, discard everything else. Puree' soup with an immersion blender. You could also use a regular blender, but for goodness' sake be careful with the boiling soup! Stir in the ham bits, and enjoy!

I served this with warm crusty bread, goat cheese, and sliced Honeycrisp apples.

I went out for our weekly Stitch & Bitch after dinner and drank a wonderful beer - Berkshire Brewing Company's Nitro Coffee Porter. It was the perfect beer for the weather (cold cold cold), but also would have gone so well with our meal. That's not something I would say about many dark beers, as I tend to like then on their own and not as an accompaniment.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year! Resolve To Cook Dinner.

I enjoy Googling phrases like, "cat in chef hat".

The Holidays are OVAH. Done done done. I love holidays, I love presents, I love the big deal of it all. I do not love how stressful it becomes for us to do business between October and January. I also do not love not having time to cook.

....but now I do have time! ...and I have been cooking! It is exciting - for me, to not be chained to the office and for the family, who is tired of pizza. Think about what I just said; My KIDS are tired of PIZZA. I know, right? This is the second week since I have gone back to planning our meals ahead of time and shopping with an actual shopping list.

As it is a new year, and some of us like to make resolutions and get re-organized and start fresh, I am going to reiterate my advice to you busy people out there; planning ahead is invaluable. I sit down on Sunday with a cup of coffee, my laptop, and maybe a cookbook or magazine if something has caught my eye. Since we have a share in a local meat CSA, I have a base to start with. For example, this week I knew I wanted to use a whole chicken, pork ribs, and ground lamb. I look at our family calendar and figure out which evenings I have time to prepare, and which evenings it would be best to come home to dinner already made in the crockpot. I try to work in at least one Tex-Mex dish (everyone's favorite) and one pasta (budget-friendly and versatile). As I choose recipes, I make a grocery list.

We have a whiteboard in our kitchen, on which I've drawn out a weekly calendar. On Sundays I update the calendar with everyone's appointments and activities for the week. Each day also has a space on which I write the dinner menu for that day. This serves a few purposes. It's a reminder for me of what we're having on which night, it keeps the kids from asking, "What's for dinner?" every day, and it makes me feel obligated to cook........because some nights I am sorely tempted to let them eat Trader Joe-Joes* from the can while I knit and watch Lie To Me.

Why yes, that is a cat with Miley Cyrus' face.

This system also saves me money. With proper meal planning and a grocery list, I spend an average of $150 per week on groceries (including the meat share). This is for a family of four, three meals a day (brown bag lunch for Eliza, Cammy likes to buy lunch at school, Jeffrey and I eat leftovers). We always have snacks in the house, and we usually have ice cream, and we drink nice organic coffee. I am no spendthrift when it comes to food, I just plan ahead and shop smart.

Here's our menu for this week, as example:

Monday: Crockpot Split Pea Soup, crusty bread

Tuesday: Turkey Burgers, Fries, Caesar Salad

Wednesday: Lamb Stroganoff on Whole Wheat Noodles, Sautee'd Green Beans

Thursday: (crockpot) Orange-Chipotle Pork Ribs, Mashed Potatoes, Soycutash (edamame, corn and pepper blend from Trader Joe's)

Friday: Butternut Squash Soup, Foccacia

Saturday: Black Bean & Sweet Potato Enchiladas, Fruit Salad

Sunday: Roast Chicken, Pasta w/ Olives, Lemon & Thyme, Spinach & Strawberry Salad

With the exception of roasting the chicken and the crockpot recipes, which are throw-it-in-the-pan-walk-away, none of these meals will take more than an hour to prepare. I looked in my chest freezer and my cabinets and took stock of what I had, then kept that in mind. The lamb stroganoff is because I had nearly all the ingredients already. The burgers are because the kids demand "kid food" one night a week, and Tuesdays are tough because E gets home from school at 5, but C leaves the house at 6, and Jeffrey is usually at the office until late. We have an hour together, so some kind of grilled cheese or burger or quick pasta is usually the best bet.

At least half of the week, I will make enough for leftovers. If it can be frozen (i.e. the soups, the enchiladas, the stroganoff), then I break it down into single servings with my Seal-A-Meal and pop them in the freezer. Single servings work best, because there is not usually enough left over for an entire second meal for four people......but I can grab a piece of frozen lasagna, take it to the office, and nuke it for lunch.

As for the salads, it's easier to just make what you need for the meal - but sometimes I will make lunch salads as I go so that it makes the next morning a little easier.

I'll be posting recipes this week, I promise! Now I am off to the kitchen, bag of split peas in hand. Have an excellent Monday!

*Trader Joe-Joes are the Trader Joe version of Spaghetti-o's. E eats them cold, from the can, for breakfast, like a hobo. Since they don't contain any HFCS or funky ingredients, they are better than actual Spaghetti-o's - or at least that's what I tell myself.