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.

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.

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.

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.

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Roasted Tomatoes Recipe

Ready to get popped into the oven.
 This is an easy recipe which is mostly hands off and comes in so handy when you need tomatoes in the winter. Roasted tomatoes make a good pasta sauce, you can use them in soups, reheat and eat as a veg side, and whatever else you can think of.  


Nice and soft which means they are done.
They freeze wonderfully so making a big batch works well. You can use whatever tomatoes look the best just adjust cooking time for size and amount.  I like to use Roma tomatoes for this but this time I used a slicing tomato. I do not weigh out my tomatoes I just guess.


Ready for the freezer
Roasted Tomatoes
2 pounds or so of tomatoes, quartered if large.
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh or dried herbs such as thyme or rosemary.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Quarter large tomatoes, romas you can leave whole.  Toss with oil, salt, and pepper in a 13×9 pan. Put in oven and roast for 15 minutes.  Take out and stir tomatoes and roast for another 15 minutes. Check and see if they look soft.  If they look soft they are done, if still hard or firm looking roast for another 10 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on size and how many tomatoes are in your baking dish.

Weekly Menu 2-23-14 and Sweet Potato Fries

I’m in I don’t want to cook dinner mode. I’d rather be cooking for fun than well dinner. Trying to keep it basic and not too crazy since I don’t want to cook dinner. Everyone cycles in and out of I don’t want to cook dinner, it passes. So don’t worry when you get in that mode.

The menu that looks so neat and tidy on here is nothing of the sort. Sunday was supposed to be the steak, but OMG didn’t feel like cooking, that’s a big surprise. Pulled out the Bolgenese one night since I didn’t feel like cooking. Realized that all I had left for red pasta sauces is a lamb ragu. Which reminds me we should have lamb next week. I digress. The point is prepared for the I don’t want to cooks. Having stuff in the freezer makes getting through this much easier.

Sunday – Freezer Soup and corn muffins
Monday – Steak, bulgar pilaf, and the last of the Asparagus
Tuesday – Bolognese and pasta
Wednesday – Sloppy Janes and Sweet potato fries
Thursday -BBQ Ribs, baked potato, green beans
Friday – Easy night Malibu Turkey burgers, oven fries, spinach
Saturday – Stuffed Shells

We love these simple oven fries. I like to use a high heat to get some nice caramelization on them. If they start getting to dark drop the heat down.
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Sweet Potato Oven Fries
Serves 3

1 big and one medium sweet potato, cut up into sticks
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500. Peel and cut up sweet potatoes. Place on baking sheet and toss with oil and salt and pepper. Pop into oven and cook for 10 minutes. Stir after 10 minutes and cook for another 10 minutes stir again and set timer for 10 minutes. Total cooking time is 30 minutes. Sometimes I need to drop the heat down to 450 after the first 20 minutes.

Corn Muffins

Here’s an easy week night muffin to go with soup or any dinner for that matter. make sure you cornmeal is a whole grain for maximum taste. An easy way to make this even faster at dinner time is to have your dry ingredients mixed together ahead of time.
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These corn muffins were a nice change from the usual rolls or cornbread we have with soups. Plus they are in muffin form which makes the extras easy to freeze. The recipe says it makes 12 muffins but I got 18 muffins. What we didn’t eat got popped into the freezer for another dinner.
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Corn Muffins from the Joy of Muffins
2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups butter milk or milk substance of choice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon oil

Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, buttermilk, honey, and oil in another bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine until mixed. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake until done. Bake at 375 for 15 to 20 minutes. This batter will be runny but firms up, so don’t worry.

Weekly Menu for 2-2-14 and Chil Verde recipe

You will notice the reappearance of Chili Verde on the menu this week as it got scratched last week. I’d done a fairly hard session of weight that day after working and by the time I hit dinner it was all down hill, or is that up hill? I realized I had to go out the garage and get more stuff and than the pot I needed wasn’t clean. The pot pushed me over the edge. We had quesadillas instead.
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So it is back this week. Its kind of nice when you can roll a dinner over to the next week one less meal to think about. This Chili Verde recipe comes from the Joy of Cooking, it originally uses chicken. We didn’t care for it with chicken but overall liked it. I made it with pork and loved it that way. I usually use pork tenderloin or chops for this. You can use a tougher cut just make sure to adjust cooking times for the meat.

This recipe makes enough for a dinner and lunch. It freezes well so feel free to big batch it if you want to. A friend in Canada won a chili cook off with this recipe.

Sunday – Lamb Ragu, garlic bread
Monday – Steak, baked potato, and asparagus
Tuesday – Chili Verde
Wednesday – meatball sandwiches
Thursday- Karcho, bread sticks, Freezer soup
Friday – Easy night
Saturday – White Turkey (from freezer) enchiladas

Chili Verde – adapted from The Joy of Cooking
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup celery
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
Cook on medium heat until vegetable are tender about 5 minutes, Sprinkle with:

2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook about 1 minute. Meanwhile cut up:
2 pound pork tenderloin

Add to pot and cook for 3 minutes. While pork is cooking drain and cut up

1 cup canned tomatillo ( you can use fresh if you want to)
1 large bunch of cilantro (reserved the leaves for later)
Finely chop cilantro stems and leaves separately.
Add stems to pot with 3 cups chicken stock (use two cups if you wan less sauce.)

4 oz. green chilis chopped (I use canned)
2 fresh jalapeños (optional)
Add to pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cilantro leaves and cook for 10 more minutes.

Add 2 tablespoons lime juice at the end and correct seasons. Serve with tortillas and rice or just eat by itself.

Note: I bump up the chilis and drop the jalapeños as a member of our family does not tolerate hot/spicy food well. The recipe still turns out great.

Weekly Menu 12-15-13 and Chicken Caccatoire Recipe

Let me tell you a secret, I don’t always make the scheduled meal on the scheduled day. You can change the day you make something. I do it all the time. If you are tired or short on time and that new recipe you want to try is too much that day…

You do not have to stick completely to the plan, change it around or even change what you are making on a day. Don’t be afraid to change it up if you need to. Last week got all re-arranged to better fit my week.

Sunday – Chicken Cacciatore with polenta
Monday – Russian beef and black rice
Tuesday – Costco, something very easy ???
Wednesday – Spaghetti and meatballs
Thursday – chicken and stuffing (freezer), winter squash
Friday – Easy – turkey burgers, oven fires, veg.
Saturday – Stir fry, chicken

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Chicken Cacciatore
3 to 4 pounds of chicken thighs (skinless, boneless, your choice)
Brown chicken in about 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary and sage
Add to pot and cook for about five minutes, onions will soften up.

Add 1 clove minced garlic sauté for about 30 seconds and add
1/2 cup wine, I use what’s open.

8 to 14 oz. tomatoes chopped
3/4 cup water or chicken stock.
Bring to boil and than reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes with lid on.

Add 1/2 cup kalamata olives
1/2 cup slice mushrooms
Cook ten minutes with lid off and let reduce.

I didn’t have any mushrooms, so I left them out.

Big Batch Cooking

The other day I was talking to my fellow mastermind Ashely about how I do a lot do big batch cooking. She said she was the only one who ended up eating it. My response was I freeze it and serve it as a meal later.

Big batch cooking does not have to mean eat it this week and that’s all you are getting for the rest of the week. Most families are probably like Ashely’s and mine where one person eats the leftover big batch of food. So how do we avoid being the only one eating the big batch?
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Freeze it. I use gallon or quart freezer bags depending on what it is. Soups go into gallons even though its only a quart, its hard to pour stuff into a quart bag. I know people who have containers they use for this purpose. Bags work well for me.

Have a couple extra pans that you can freeze. I have two 10 inch round cake rounds I don’t use often for baking cakes. When I make a casserole I make enough to fill an extra pan. It doesn’t take much more time to make extra for a casserole. Cook once and eat twice, plus leftovers for lunch. That’s a win for me.

If you can freeze it make extra. I do this will spaghetti sauces, meatballs, ground meat, chicken, turkey, pork, and beef. Don’t know what to make for dinner, tired, or sick? Grab a packet out of the freezer and voila dinner!