Crazy week menu planning and promptly ignoring the menu.

So I created a menu on Sunday as normal, sounds good right?  Not so much.  This week has been crazy and has left me drained, tired, and sad.

Sunday (Easter)- Ham, baked potato, and asparagus, Strawberry, Kiwi pavlova
Monday- Swedish meatballs, mashed, veg
Tuesday- Chicken Sharwma
Wednesday- Cabbage soup
Thursday- Pizza
Friday- Easy
Saturday- Freezer meal

That was the plan and it didn’t happen. Here is what did happen.

Sunday on plan s far so good. Monday lifted heavy and the backhoe guy came out and dug the big hole. All I wanted was pizza for dinner bumped that up. Tuesday was the day we put Big Doc down. Everyone was tired, sad, and drained. Ended up making BLTs as bacon was popped into oven and all I really had to do is toast bread. Wednesday we actually did have the soup. Thursday no desire to cook at all settled on tomato soup from a can and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Friday is going to be steak as we got our half a cow. Saturday will be a freezer meal.

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Wine Braised Pork Shoulder and Weekly Menu for 4-13-14

Finally getting around to the pork shoulder on Monday, remember that was on last weeks menu. Pulled it out on Saturday but it was no where near thawed on Sunday so we had some soup from the freezer instead.

Just because you plan a menu doesn’t always mean you know exactly what you are having. While I do base it on what we have right now, sometimes you don’t. Menu’s are not set in stone and can change depending on mood, how one feel, or you just don’t want to cook. Don’t become rigid in it, its a guide.

Saturday – Turkey and rice casserole, green beans with tomatoes
Sunday – Freezer Soup and rolls
Monday – Tuff Pork, polenta, broccoli fritters
Tuesday – Chicken or Costco
Wednesday – Quesadillas, pork
Thursday – Spaghetti and garlic bread
Friday – Easy Night, brats
Saturday – Panini as requested

Finally we get to the pork shoulder. There’s not a lot of extra cooked meat in the freezer so made extra. That extra will give us something for lunch the next day and extra for BBQ Pork sandwiches. Braising meat is easy. You pop it in the oven and let it cooke while you go about your day. This can also be made in a crock pot but I find the oven gives you more flavour.
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Wine Braised Pork Shoulder
3 to 6 pounds pork shoulder or any tough cut of pork you like
2 cup wine (red or white, use what’s open)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon herb of choice, I used thyme.
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile salt and pepper meat, heat an oven proof pot and put oil in it. Brown pork well on all sides. Pour wine and water over pork and add your herb. Bring to a boil. Put in oven and cook for 2 to 4 hours. You know it is ready when you can pull it apart with a fork.

Malibu Turkey Burgers and the Weekly Menu 4-6-14

Here it is this weeks menu. This was an easy week to put together, pulled a few meals off the waiting list and going out for Chinese for my birthday filled in the last spot. This week kind of got re-arranged and originally the Tuff Pork was going to be featured, haven’t made it yet. I’ll get to it on Saturday most likely as we had the freezer meal earlier in the week. Aspen pollen in out and I’ve been sneezy and foggy.

Sunday – Sweet and sour chicken, rice, broccoli
Monday – Pork Chops Milanese, roasted butternut squash, and green beans almondine
Tuesday – Tuff pork, sweet potato gnocchi, and green beans
Wednesday – Turkey Enchiladas
Thursday – Chinese, eating out for birthday.
Friday – Easy night Malibu turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, and birthday cake!
Saturday – Freezer Meal, thinking soup.

So what the hezmna is Malibu Turkey burgers? They are based on Sizzler’s Malibu Chicken which is a fried chicken patty with ham and swiss cheese. Not something that I make at home and a take on Chicken Kiev. I started doing this with turkey burgers for easy night and it really transforms them from an good dinner into one we really like.

I like Kirkland’s turkey burgers since they don’t have a bunch of weird stuff in them. This is a good example on how to turn a pre-made product into something different. Turkey burgers can be a bit bland and boring, this perks them up. Everyone enjoys this version.
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Malibu Turkey Burgers
Turkey burgers, cooked
Ham, sliced
Harvarti or Swiss, sliced or grated
Buns if you want them

Put ham on first turkey burger and top with the cheese. Pop under the broiler until cheese is melty. Dinner is ready!

John B.’s Chicken Fajitas and the Weekly Menu for 3-30-14

Pork and cranberry stew was supposed to be on this weeks menu. Its been on the let’s make list for ages now. It seems like we never have all the ingredients, this week was the lack of oranges. It shall just have to wait for ye another week.
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In the next month or so we are getting half a cow so eating out of the freezer for prepared foods is a priority, plus it gives me two low maintenance cooking nights. I also ended up with two jars of salsa open so the fajitas will kill one of them. Dad requested Beef and Barley that got put on the menu this week. Its nice when someone else has an idea besides me.

Sunday – Spaghetti (freezer) and garlic bread
Monday – Chicken Fajitas
Tuesday – Pizza
Wednesday – Sweet and sour chick thighs with carrots. Orzo or basmati
Thursday – Beef and Barley soup
Friday – Easy night, thinking burgers
Saturday – Freezer meal, Unstuffed Cabbage

This weeks recipe comes from John B. who was my boyfriend in the early 20’s. Originally it was salsa, beer, and Lawry’s seasoning salt. The seasoning salt got swapped out for spices and a lower salt content. It’s not a traditional fajita recipe but that’s what he called them and I kept the name. I made these for a couple of friends who were on a speaking tour in the 90’s with the African National Congress Youth Tour and they were so excited. Clayton exclaimed, “They had not had food like this in the U.S.” It was a big hit.
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You want to use a good quality salsa in this recipe as it is one of the layers of flavors. Mushrooms may seem a bit odd but they help make the recipe. Vegetarians can easily make the fajita recipe using a mix of mushrooms and have it be satisfying meal. The recipe also works well with steak but you will need to add the juice of half a lime. The steak variation needs the lime juice or it just tastes flat.

John B.’s Chicken Fajitas
2 -3 cups salsa (I used Kirkland’s and used to use La Victoria)
1 12 oz bottle beer (Corona is what’s on hand)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 packet (a pound) chicken breasts or tenders, cut up
5 to 10 mushrooms washed and sliced
1 -2 teaspoon Coriander, ground
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste.
Olive oil

Sautee chopped onion in the olive oil until soft and add half the beer, half the salsa and all of the chicken. Cook for a few minutes and add coriander and cumin. Cook until chicken is not pink and add the mushrooms and the rest of the beer and salsa. At this point it will seem like there is a lot of liquid. Put the heat on high if it isn’t already and let it reduce. When the sauce has thickened you know its done, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Fixings
Extra salsa
hot sauce
grated cheddar cheese
shredded lettuce
avocado slices
tomatoes,diced
tortillas
or anything else that sounds yummy.

Beef Braised with Caramelized Onions and Beer

Beef braised with caramelized onions and beer is a staple in my menu repertoire. It is easy to make and it freezes well. Having this in the freezer saved me when some friends on their way home to Utah surprised us with a phone call saying they would like to stop by. Oh course you say yes and than try to figure out what the frack you are going to feed them.

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We ran through a few ideas and ended up keeping it simple by pulling this and some rolls out of the freezer. Since it was summer we had a salad from the garden and I whipped up a batch of Ruby Bars and viola we had a nice lunch ready for surprise guests.

This recipe hails from the now defunct Gourmet magazine. I miss Gourmet dearly, loved that magazine so much. It also goes by the unattractive name of Onion Beef on menu’s and when we talk about it. Leftovers are used for making French Dip sandwiches. Even if you only have onions leftover freeze them for French Dip jus or to add in gravy.

The onions are the key to this recipe, take the time and let them caramelize. They get all lovely and buttery. We tend to have Corona for beer and that’s what I use in this. Use whatever beer you like or if you don’t drink beef broth would work too.

Beef Braised with Caramelized Onions and Beer

3 pounds onions, peeled and sliced
1 – 5 pound chuck roast
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 bay leaves
2 – 12 oz bottles of beer
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper and than brown beef in 1 tablespoon of the oil. Make sure you brown all the sides. When roast is browned set it on a plate. Add the rest of your oil into pan and make sure you have your burner on low. Add the onions along with the bay leaves and place a lid on your pot. The lid helps the onions sweat so they do not burn. Stir onions occasionally. Once they are nice and brown and smell sweet you know they are done. This step takes time but it is worth it, do not rush the onions. Preheat oven to 350. Put roast back in your pot and add the beer and vinegar. Cook for 3 1/2 hours.

Creamy and Easy Stove top Mac-n-Cheese and Weekly Menu

This weeks menu kind of came together over the course of the week. I had plug in stuff and than made changes or modifications. I’m sick of the winter food and really want some more spring like entrees but its cold and snowy, its a conundrum. Besides the fact some weeks menus are just hard to come up with. This week was a hard one but in the end I think its turned out more inspired than it started.

Sunday – Alfredo Pasta and chicken asparagus
Monday – New England Boiled Dinner
Tuesday- Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese, broccoli
Wednesday – Corned Beef hash and toast
Thursday – Chicken, spinach, avocado, mushroom sandwich oven fries
Friday – Easy night
Saturday – Freezer Soup, rolls

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The featured recipe this week is Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese which is really easy to make. There is no rue and all you need is the pot you cook your pasta in. Which I love who wants to dirty a ton of dishes making dinner. I know I don’t. This recipe is a great alternative to the boxed macaroni and cheeses out there. There are three of us and we get about 1 dinner, a side, and a bit of leftovers from this recipe.

Stove Top Mac-n-Cheese
1 pound macaroni, uncooked
2 1/2 cups milk or milk substitute
Half pound to a pound Cheddar and Gouda, grated
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil macaroni (or pasta of your choice) until al dente according to directions on the bag. While pasta is doing its thing get your other ingredients ready and set them out. Once past is done dump it into a colander and set aside. We are using the same pot to make the sauce.

Put 2 cups of the milk into your pot on medium high heat. Combine the remaining half cup of milk with the flour, you want to get this fairly smooth. Whisk milk and flour mixture into the warm milk. Add the the mustard and whisk again. When milk looks like heavy cream turn heat down to low and add the cheese. Stir well and let the cheese melt. Once cheese is melted add pasta and combine.

Cucumber and Apple Smoothie

This blend makes a pleasantly cucumbery smoothy and sometimes its nice to have a smoothie where the veg shines instead of the fruit. The apple gives it a nice hint of sweetness and body, while the cucumber still shines through. You could use green tea for the base if you want I found a sachet of roobios lurking in my cupboard and decided to use it up. My cukes were in the freezer, if they start to go bad on you cut them into chunks and freeze them. They work great in smoothies since you are blitzing them up.
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Cucumber and Apple Smoothie
2 cups cukes, cut up
1 granny smith apple, cored and chopped
large lemon slice, peeled
2 cups roobios

Put cukes, lemon slice, and apple in blender with your roobios.  Blend it all up. Take about 2 minutes for my blender.

BTW did you miss out on this week newsletter?  Its free, weekly, and you can sign up here.

Stuffed Zucchini Recipe and Weekly Menu for 3-16-14

Menu schmenu, this past week I banged out a menu on Saturday and by Sunday I didn’t like it anymore. Haven’t really made any of the dishes that were on my menu other than freezer soup and the stuffed zucchini. I did attempt to make a scheduled meal last night but the lamb shoulder wasn’t thawed enough and I kind of space caked putting it into the oven. Yeah, I started on a move furniture project and forgot.

Sunday – Stuffed Zucchini
Monday – Ginger Pork chops, rice, and asparagus (not the planned meal)
Tuesday – Freezer Soup
Wednesday – Costco
Thursday – Lamb Shoulder, gnocchi, and asparagus Tacos
Friday – Easy
Saturday – Corned beef and cabbage

I keep trying to get the family on board with my tomato sauce over these. There is much resistance so I keep using the tomato soup from a can. Its just how it is sometimes. This recipe is easy to customize use your favorite grain instead of rice (I had leftover rice makes it so easy.) Don’t want meat leave it out. Change up the herbs if you want too. I’ve been on an Italian seasoning kick as of late so that’s what I used.
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1 pound ground meat of choice, I used beef
2 to 3 cups rice
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
3 oz. feta
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 4 zucchini, depends on size
2 cans of tomato soup or 1 quart homemade tomato sauce
2 cans of water

Brown meat and while that’s happening slice zucchini into boats and scoop out the innards. Rough chop innards and toss them in with the meat when its browned. Finish browning meat scoop off fat if needed. Saute your zucchini insides until soft and add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper.

Put meat in medium bowl with rice and pine nuts and mix. Add about half your feta and stir that in. Place zucchini in 13×9 pan and put stuffing in the hollow. I just pack it on, the best stuffing is what is not in the actual zucchini.

If using the soup option dump it into the bowl with two cans of water and mix it up and pour over it all. If using your own sauce just pour it over. Sprinkle the rest of feta on top and cover with tin foil. Pop into a 400 degree oven and cook for an hour. Check zucchini for softness, you want it to be fairly soft. If you your fork won’t go through cook it longer. Thick zucchini takes longer. So give yourself plenty of time.

There Will Never Be A Perfect Time

I’m a planner and a researcher. I like to know the ins and outs of what I’m doing but sometimes all that planning and researching starts to get in the way. That’s not a good thing. When I start getting hung up on getting things just right so I can get started. I stop and take a deep breath…
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And stop getting ready to do. Because there will never be a perfect time in your life for anything. There will never be a time that you magically start exercising because its the absolute perfect time and that hour you needed for it appeared. That doesn’t happen. there is not house elf who stocks my fridge with healthy food ready for me to eat.

There’s never, ever going to be a perfect time do or start on anything. The choice to just start has to be made and made over and over again. Will it be the perfect time. I doubt it. So what do you do?

You start, just start this very second. No you do not need to jump up and exercise this very second, just today sometime. Even if its just for five minutes.

Research is not going anywhere, if anything its being added to. Starting and still learning is good. After decade plus of yoga I am still researching it and learning.

To steal a line from Nike, “Just do it.” Schedule it, yes I am big on scheduling your exercise time and treating it like an appointment.

Try things. You can read all you want but what works for me might not work for you. Try other peoples strategies and keep what works. Two of mine are carrot and celery sticks and freezer meals.

The perfect time will never happen no matter how long you plan, strategize, think, research, etc. All you can do is start now and try things out. Get started and stop waiting

Weekly Menu for 3-2-14 and Chicken and Dumpling Recipe

Not much to say this week, the cooking dinner slump is starting to resolve itself which is nice. Tried a new recipe it was the pork shoulder with tomatoes, not a favorite. It had a bitter taste to it from all the paprika and it was just okay. If a recipe is just alright I know we don’t really love it enough to make again. Often the second time round got it a no. Life is too short for mediocre food.

Sunday – Stuffed Shells & garlic bread
Monday – Steak baked potato, veg
Tuesday -Turkey Tacos
Wednesday – Chicken and Dumplings
Thursday- Pork shoulder with tomatoes, noodles, green beans
Friday – Easy
Saturday- Stove top Mac-n-Cheese, spinach

This week recipe is a family favorite. The soup part is improvised depending on mood and what I have on hand. We are out of celery, used the last of it in the spaghetti sauce I made last week. So I subbed celery seed in this to give it more flavour. The dumpling recipe is originally from Fanny Farmer but I’ve modified. I also double the dumpling recipe. This recipe will freeze fine if you do not expect to have actual dumplings intact. They disintegrate and create a pleasantly thick soup. Dumplings are also an easy way to perk up leftover soup. Just make sure you have enough liquid.
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Chicken and Dumplings

Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 packet chicken breast or tenders (about a pound), cut up
2 cups carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 pound greens (I used collards)
2 quarts stock
parsley.

Saute onion until translucent add garlic celery, and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes and add chicken, let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add stock and greens, bring it to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes meanwhile get the dumplings ready. Turn heat down before adding dumplings. You want it simmering.

Dumplings
1 cup flour
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (1 slice bread)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup milk or milk substitute

To make the bread crumbs use your immersion blender and use the bowl for the dumplings for blitzing. The immersion blender works like a dream. Otherwise use your blender. I use our everyday bread from Wheat Montana.

Put flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl with bread crumbs and stir. Add the egg, butter, and milk. Stir until blended. You can do the dry ahead of time if you want to and add the liquid before cooking.

Use a spoon and plop dumplings into soup. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Do not check, do not take lid off, its hard not to look. Put heat on low and let cook undisturbed.