Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weekly menu for December 13 - 18, 2009

Monday menu planning with the Organizing JunkieI'm trying to get ahead of the game this week, mostly by writing this on the Thursday prior to the dates in the title; as that's when I normally make my shopping list. The week is fraught with baking, shopping, and meeting friends. I suspect I'll not have much time to throw dinner together or eat for that matter; and yet I still need to make enough to bring leftovers as lunches throughout the week.

Family dinner. Apple-cinnamon cake
I'm off to a family dinner. I'm bringing a gift of truffles and an apple-cinnamon cake for desert.

Served atop flour tortillas (warmed in the stove), these are filled with a mixture of cooked chicken, bell pepper, salsa, and sour cream. Since I'm finishing off my Christmas shopping this week, it seemed safest to serve a simple meal.

Cracker and parmesan crusted fish, Steamed vegetables and basmati rice
Crispy fish, rice made with chicken broth, and a green salad dressed with homemade vinagrette. Simple, quick, and easy. This has been one recipe I keep meaning to make.

Quick chicken cassoulet, green salad and cappuchino chocolate cheesecake
This is a "fake" cassoulet, in that it doesn't have to bake for hours to be ready to eat. The desert is not, unfortunately for Wednesday night. I'll serve a small one on Thursday to guests and bring the rest to a pot-luck on Friday.

Yellow split-pea soup and soda biscuits
This is a dinner for 6, hopefully with left-overs. The recipe is an old family favourite that is a crock-pot meal. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes!

Leftover buffet
Most Friday nights I want a simple and quick meal. Since I shop on Saturdays, I also want to clean out my fridge/freezer. Often I cook without a recipe, finding bits that should be used up and making something dinner-like out of it. This is also the day of my office's pot luck; so I suspect that by dinner time I'm not going to be all that hungry.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekly menu for November 29th, 2009

Monday menu planning with the Organizing JunkieWhere does the time go? This weekend had a lot more running around than I initially thought. The menu this week is all comfort food as we both try to get over lingering aches and pains of colds and gym workouts. I aimed for simple recipes that I know fairly well (even the new ones seem familiar and should be easy to make). I hate to say it, but I'm also carefully doubling any recipe I bake and freezing half because, you know, that season is on the horizon and fast approaching.

Smoked meat sandwiches & dill pickles. Blueberry pie.
We buy packaged smoked meat from time to time. It comes in a box with four little packages. The package is boiled for seven minutes, then carefully opened. Served on toasted whole wheat with lots of mustard and a dill pickle on the side. Desert was the last slices of blueberry pie fresh from the bakery... some days ago.

Tacos. Chocolate mousse?
Served atop corn tortillas (warmed on the stove top), these are filled with a mixture of diced romaine lettuce, diced bell pepper, salsa, sour cream and cheese. He asked for it last week, so thought I'd make some up.

Tonight I have to make up a big batch of apple oatmeal for breakfasts this week. Lately steel-cut oats seem to be the only thing that keeps me from getting really hungry between breakfast and lunch.

If I have the time, I also want to make up some lentil and bulgar salad. This makes a nice accompaniment with lunch, and should help keep me full until dinner.

Parmesan chicken & steamed vegetables.
When I came across this recipe last week, I knew I wanted to make it. Crispy chicken without frying? If it's even half as good as that sounds, it will quickly become a family favourite.

Cracker and Parmesan crusted fish fillets, basmati rice & best green salad
Crispy fish, rice made with chicken broth, and a green salad dressed with homemade vinagrette. Simple, quick, and easy.

If I can manage it, I want to try making brown butter & ginger cookies; mostly so there will be leftovers for company on Thursday and more cookie dough for my freezer.

Crockpot hungarian goulash, soda biscuits and green salad
This is a dinner for 6, hopefully with left-overs. I'll serve the goulash over the soda biscuits (instead of pasta).

Meatball subs
Meatballs, cooked in spaghetti sauce, then poured between freshly baked whole-wheat bread. Friday meals should always be this easy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekly menu for November 23rd, 2009

Monday menu planning with the Organizing JunkieThe week got off to a rough start. I'm going to dart out for a few fresh supplies this week, but there's no plan to actually *buy groceries* like we normally do. I've been very impressed by Saucy Apron, who went a whole month without buying groceries! While I'm not trying to repeat her triumph, I am trying once more to eat down my fridge/freezer/pantry before buying more. Beacuse this week will be spent using up leftovers, I don't have many recipes to share. Next week I'll go back to trying to use up what I have before buying more. So, here's the plan. Lets hope it survives confrontation with my life, such as it is.

Take out
After a day of chores and visitors, there was no energy left to make food. Lunch was a bowl of reheated chili and dinner was takeout. Yummy. Yummy. Take out.

Chicken with Provencal Sauce, steamed wild rice, steamed green beans, and banana bread for desert.
It's a very simple saute recipe that comes together by the time the rice is done. It makes very little sauce, but it's well worth it. The wild rice in my pantry is the last cup from a much larger bag.

Breakfast: steel cut oats, dried cranberries & cinnamon.
Lunch: Heat and serve basil chicken with broccoli & pasta
Snacks: Crackers, 1 red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons hummus

We have dying bananas, and so I should make banana bread. My preference is to use Rick Gallop's banana bread which includes flax seed, wheat germ, and no sugar. Mmmm banana bread sandwiches with peanut butter for breakfast!

Steak sandwiches with cheese and salad
This is one of my favourite fast meals. I don't really have a recipe for it. Served on good crusty bread, the sandwich meat is quick fried and served with slightly melted cheese. The salad, topped with a bitter vinagrette is also a family favourite - this time using up some of the walnuts stored in my pantry along with my dwindling supply of red wine vinegar.

Breakfast: steel cut oats, dried cranberries & cinnamon.
Lunch: Pork (leftovers) with fermented black bean sauce (tiny jar), steamed wild rice, steamed green beans.
Snacks: banana bread, 1 red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons hummus

Hosin chicken breasts, BBQ potatoes and green salad
The Hosin sauce is low-sodium and is one of the many little bottles in my fridge. The breast marinade in the sauce and then are barbecued until done. The potatoes are the last of the summer harvest from the farmer's market and cook quickly. The salad will be topped with herbs, croutons (the last of my supply) and bottled dressing (of which I have lots).

Breakfast: Toasted banana bread with peanut butter
Lunch: Steak sandwich with cheese, salad
Snacks: fruit, 1 red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons hummus

Meatloaf with creamed sauce, polenta, steamed vegetables and cookies for desert!
The cream sauce is new, but the meatloaf is not. I made Bittman's meatloaf a while back and froze the extra. I'll serve it up over polenta with steamed vegetables and top it with a creamy herb sauce. Should make for a fairly quick and easy dinner.

I'm making cookies tonight. One batch will be (mostly) wheat free to feed to a friend with a wheat allergy (and to get rid of my barley flour); while the other batch will be made with a mix of whole wheat and white flour. I'm thinking of making either peanut butter or oatmeal cookies. Hrm. Peanut butter oatmeal?

Breakfast: Toasted banana bread with peanut butter
Lunch: Hosin chicken breasts, BBQ potatoes and green salad
Snacks: fruit, cottage cheese & crackers

Leftover beef barley soup
I made this for last Thursday's crowd and threw the leftovers into the freezer. It will be tonight's dinner for up to 6 people. I'll fry an onion and some celery to go into the mix, and thin it a bit with some broth before serving. Now, if someone brings bread -- it should make a delicious meal.

Breakfast: Toasted banana bread with peanut butter
Lunch: Meatloaf with creamed sauce, polenta, steamed vegetables
Snacks: cottage cheese & crackers, fruit

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekly menu for 26 October, 2009

Monday menu planning with the Organizing JunkieWe got the shopping done a bit late this week (finishing it off on Sunday instead of Saturday); and there were a few items I didn't like the look/price of--so my menu's changed a bit since I designed it last Thursday. This week I had decided to attack my condiments! Use them up and clean out my fridge. Unfortunately a single week of recipes just won't do it. I know these recipes will definitely put a dent in them though; and using condiments to plan a menu certainly brought lots of inspiration.

Leftover buffet
A name that inspires confidence! Essentially it was a fend-for-yourself night. The fridge is full of leftovers (soups, roast pork, roast chicken, etc...) and after a day of running around (and an amazing lunch at the Old Dublin pub), we just weren't that hungry.

Beef Sate with peanut sauce, steamed rice & vegetables.
Tonight I'm trying to get rid of my little bottle of Thai red curry paste. Hopefully I can do this without making the dish too hot to eat. Beef Sate is very easy to make and leftovers of it (with the peanut sauce) are even more amazing as a lunch.

Bittman's Meatloaf with salad.
Another great as leftovers meal. I hanker for meatloaf sandwiches, but I have a friend coming over. I'm going to use the homemade seafood sauce (ketchup + Shireah) as a topping for the meatloaf, thus technically getting rid of more condiments from my kitchen. I'll use my imported mustard to make a fancy dijon vinagrette for the salad.

Mac and cheese with salad.
I made this not too long ago and it was a big hit; so I'm making it again. Mac and cheese has always been comfort food to me. This recipe is so much better than the store-bought blue box that I find it difficult to even think about going back. It takes more work and is longer to make -- but there are no leftovers. :) The salad will be dressed with a red wine vinagrette and beans.

Chicken Thighs with Spicy Tomato Sauce with polenta and Cesar salad
I shall try to make this with Chicken breasts. This recipe won't reduce my condiment bottles--but the Cesar salad will (as I have a bottle and a half of anchovies). The polenta (or possibly wild rice, haven't decided) are much needed for this very saucy recipe.

Vietnamese Noodle Soup with Oxtail
I intend to make the stock throughout the week, then bring it to a gathering with me. Hopefully friends will bring noodles, veggies, and meats to go with the meal. I'll keep the meat to serve with the soup and probably bring some shaved carrot, beansprouts, and definitely the hot sauce -- hopefully the gathering will use it up.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I get nervous...

I cook pretty regularly. For myself and for groups. And I'm use to cooking pretty cheaply.

Last night I glanced at a recipe and made hamburger soup, substituting ingredients as I went based more on what I had than on taste. I forgot the tomato paste and hardly noticed until I was sitting down to eat a slightly thinner soup than expected. No one else noticed (especially the guys who went back for seconds). The buttermilk biscuits I made to go with it went slightly faster than the soup; which I now have a liter and a half in my fridge for later lunches. I've never been able to make "a little bit" of soup.

Some nights, though, I get nervous.
Dinner will fail. I can feel it in the pit of my stomach. I find myself crawling the web seeing that one perfect appetizer or ingredient that, if I had it -- would save the dinner I haven't even started making.

That's when I turn to Faefood for inspiration. I love the fact that she often writes about being on a budget, being limited by her pantry, and still loving what she does. I shop tomorrow and with a roast to cook tonight, really don't have time to go and pick up just a few more things for the meal. I'm determined to make do. My pantry is pretty-well stocked, but it's been a long time since I've even thought of making courses for the meal, and I worry that folk will get hungry waiting for the roast (which *should* come out between 6 and 6:30 ...). And naturally, I'm out of a few things (apples to roast with the pork, I have applesauce; but that will burn--maybe I'll coat the top of the roast with it; and Worcestershire sauce for the marinade... maybe I'll use a dash of soy sauce and hot sauce instead).

Food is luxurious. Dinner parties should be simple. If the food fails, order pizza and laugh at it. Dance your cares away before you start, and cook with love. Easily said; but tonight not easily done. I'm anxious and I'm not really sure why.

Dinner (for 6 adults and one child) will be a small pork roast with a lone onion, some wine, spices, and some herbs, a fair number of small potatoes, a smaller number of carrots, and a bag of mixed broccoli and cauliflower. The broccoli and cauliflower will be lightly steamed (from frozen) and served with a side of Parmesan and fresh cracked black pepper. Simple.

I have the rough makings (lettuce, spinach, red bell peppers, radishes) for a salad and always have vinagrette ingredients on-hand (best extra-virgin olive oil, tart red wine vinegar, fresh cracked pepper ... or maybe I'll make a Dijon vinagrette--something slightly creamy and sharp to go with the salad). I have some feta I could crumble into the salad just before serving. There might be croutons hiding in my pantry (I have to check). I have an open can of mixed beans which always adds flavour to the salad. I'll include those too.

I have cooked shrimp in the freezer. I could put out a bowl of them and make a sauce of tomato paste, some sugar, some water, chili powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper to go with it.

I have some pickles (giant kosher dills, homemade sliced beets), green stuffed olives and black pitted and sliced -- all for nibbles. Maybe I'll put out a few low trays of pickles and toothpicks. If they're not eaten before the meal, they can linger on during the meal and maybe be more appetizing then. I never quite know what to do with pickles. Personally, I love them and snack on them often -- but most folk don't seem to like them as much. Maybe I'm better off leaving them off the table.

I could make baking soda biscuits for bread to go with the meal. Or maybe a thin layer of homemade polenta to soak up the roast's gravy. I don't thicken my gravy; preferring the juice of the meat and the remaining marinade to be thin and filled with bits of darkened meat, fat, and spices. I'll add water or soup to deglaze the pan, and just stir enough to get that wonderful darkness up from the bottom and into the liquid.

Maybe the second course should be soup? I have two types in the fridge: chicken noodle and hamburger tomato. Or is that going overboard? I don't have time to make rising rolls (although that would have been a good addition); and the roast will be in the oven when I serve such a course -- so bread would have to be made well in advance. Sounds like I'd best make polenta and save the baking soda biscuits for the next time I serve soup.

I was thinking of preparing something simple for a late-night snack. Maybe banana bread? Slip it in the oven once the roast is done; and it will be ready and cooling by the time tea is served around 9. I can serve it with butter or nut butter if people want something special with it. I'll definitely make a triple batch as I know a friend who would really appreciate a loaf as a birthday present.

Argh. I have a plan.

Appetizer: Shrimp cocktail
Starter course: soup (chicken noodle or hamburger tomato) with rosemary croutons
Second course: Mixed green salad with feta and beans topped with vinagrette
Main course: marinaded Roast pork with onions, potatoes and carrots
Steamed broccoli and cauliflower with Parmesan and pepper
Desert: banana bread and tea

Now I have to execute it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Weekly menu for 18th October, 2009

Monday menu planning with the Organizing JunkiePlanning meals has been going well (even when I forget to post my menu here). This week I knew I wouldn't have time for much shopping; so I'd be eating down the fridge (so to speak). In my case there's far more sauces and condiments than actual food to use up, but we'll see. I'm hoping to free up enough space in the freeze to make ice cream on Saturday morning before I go do my shopping for next week.

Dinner out.
Take-out to be exact. The Draconis convention ended on a high note and I was exhausted. We grabbed some Lebanese on the way home (with extra hummus).

Ministrone soup and fresh brown baguette.
Tinned soup and bread. Simple and warm. It was just what we needed after a cold fall day and a very long weekend.

Sloppy Joes with the best green salad.
This recipe is always great for leftovers. It's warm and hearty with a fair amount of vegetables stashed in the marinara sauce. Sometimes I use homemade, other times I buy a bottle--it doesn't seem to change the taste very much either way. The Best green salad in my house is a rough mix of romaine and spinach with a chopped bell pepper mixed in. It's topped with a tablespoon or two of mixed beans, some olive oil and red wine vinegar. Some nights it's seasoned with pepper and oregano; other nights it's not.

Bite-sized chicken terriaki, basmati rice, and steamed vegetables.
This is another great meal for lunches, so I always make sure to make extra. The Bite-sized chicken terriaki recipe calls for thigh meat -- I use breast instead and cut it up into bite-sized pieces. I make rice with homemade de-fatted chicken broth instead of water to give it some flavour and save a bit of the chicken terriaki sauce to coat the vegetables just before serving. Delicious.

Hamburger soup and soda biscuits with Whole Wheat Banana bread for desert.
I'm having friends over; and this is a traditional fall meal in my house. The soup is a crock-pot meal, so it simmers all day long filling the house with its smell. The soda biscuits are served right out of the oven, and as soon as the

Roasted Pork with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Potatoes and Apples, Beverly's anytime salsa dip.
More friends are coming over, so I'm making a roast. To start I'll serve the family favourite version of Mexican flag dip; just in case folk arrive early or dinner runs late. I'm not preparing a desert as I'm hopeful someone will bring something.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Weekly menu for Sept 27/09

Monday menu planning with the Organizing JunkieWith the new fridge and stove now safely standing in my kitchen, you'd think I'd be baking up a storm. After 6 months of using only my barbecue and range top, I'm a bit trepidations to going back to using the stove. We'll see how it goes.

Baked fish, french fries and green salad
There's no menu for this one. I used frozen fish fillets, string fries and a home made mix of romaine, spinach, mushrooms, radishes and yellow bell pepper in an Italian vinagrette.

Beef kebabs with green salad, No-bake protein bars, Oatmeal bread
The protein bars are something I keep adding to my menu, then not making. Tonight is the night! They're supposed to be great lunch-box stuffers and, for once, I deliberately bought no granola bars, cookies, or other lunch-box stuffers when I went for groceries.
The oatmeal bread is a favourite of mine, and one I've been wanting to make again. The recipe from King Arthur Flour produces a pleasantly dense loaf -- perfect for toasting.

Gnocchi, marinara sauce with meatballs & green salad
Again, no recipe. The gnocchi is pre-packaged, the marinara sauce and meatballs are already made and in my freezer. I made both using Mark Bittman's recipes from How to Cook Everything.

Bangers and Mash with Radish slaw
Bangers (sausage) and mash (potatoes) is an old family favourite. I have two types of sausages: chicken pesto and hot italian, and baby white potatoes for the meal. The radish slaw is a recipe I found some time ago, but have yet to make it. I love cold slaw, so I'm hopeful.

Beef tacos
Tea bread & cookies
My night to bake. The tacos are made using fresh (soft) corn tortillas and lots of veggies. The tea bread and cookies shows my intention to bake something; but I'm not yet certain what to bake.

Protein poisoning chili
Another family favourite. This chili is thick and rich with sausage, ground beef and two types of beans. I've got fresh tomatoes and bell peppers (instead of the tinned variety), and it will sit all day in the crock pot becoming quite fragrant by dinner time. Served with polenta or rice.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Do I really need 5 types of mustard?

Every food blogger worth their salt has posted what should be in your pantry along with starter-kitchen lists (equipment, regular foods etc). With a pantry filled with such wonders, coming up with a week's worth of recipes is supposed to be easy.

My First Apartment - Starter pantry and staples checklist
Minimalist - The lastest must-haves
Homecooking - Pantry basics
Canadian Living - Pantry staples for busy families
How stuff works - 10 must-haves

Here's my own staple list for my pantry:

Pantry Basics

  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Barley (dried)
  • Beans (dried & canned)
  • Black Pepper
  • Cereal
  • Cocoa
  • Cornmeal (coarse)
  • Couscous
  • Crackers /Cookies/Snacks
  • Dried Herbs and Spices
  • Gelatin
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Fish sauce*
  • Flour (all-purpose, whole-wheat)
  • Flax seed (unground)
  • Honey
  • Hot sauces (chili, shriea, chipotle...)*
  • Lentils (du Puy - dried)
  • Oil (Canola, peanut, olive, sunflower, sesame dark and light)8*
  • Oyster sauce
  • Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, rotini, ...)
  • Peas (split & dried-yellow & green)
  • Rice (basmati, calrose, brown, wild, black)
  • Sesame seeds (fresh or toasted)
  • Salt (rock, kosher, white)
  • Sherry*
  • Soy Sauce (light, dark)*
  • Sugar (brown, white, substitute)
  • Tapioca
  • Taco chips
  • Tea (many types)
  • Tomatoes (tinned -- diced, paste, whole)
  • Tuna (canned in water)
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Vinegar (apple cider, red wine, balsamic, fruit vinegar, rice wine, white wine)*
  • Zahtar


  • Apples
  • Anchovies
  • Basil
  • Bell peppers
  • Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • Bread (tortilla, crusty, whole wheat)
  • Broccoli (frozen)
  • Butter
  • Capers
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (fresh)
  • Celery
  • Cilantro
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese/Riccota
  • Eggs
  • Fruits
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Hamburger
  • Jam
  • Ketchup
  • Lemons/Limes (or lemon/lime juice)
  • Mayonnaise
  • Milk
  • Mustard (old, yellow, grainy, dijon)
  • Onions (red, white, yellow)
  • Oregano
  • Parmigiana-Reggiano
  • Parsley
  • Peanut or nut butter
  • Pears (seasonal)
  • Potatoes
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Rosemary
  • Sour cream
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tahini*
  • Thyme (lemon, other)
  • Vegetables, Fresh (seasonal)
  • Yeast
  • Yogurt

Household Supplies

  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Bleach
  • Cheese cloth
  • Dish Detergent
  • Facial Tissue
  • Garbage Bags
  • Glass Cleaner/Vinegar-based Cleaner
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Laundry scouring powder
  • Laundry spot treatment
  • Paper Napkins
  • Paper Towels
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Scouring Powder
  • Sponges and Scrubbing Pads
  • Toilet Cleaner
  • Toilet Tissue
  • Zip-Lock Bags

But at what point does a well-stocked pantry become over-stocked? I've tried to keep the vast number of small bottles (Tai chili sauce, Tai red pepper sauce, fermented black bean sauce, hosin sauce, ...) off the list. Besides do I really need 5 types of mustard?

My own pantry currently suffers from having an abundance of condiments. I love mustard, but I have 5 kinds (dijon, ancient, grainy, yellow, & spicy). I have tiny bottles of things that are used by only one or two recipes (and those I've purposefully tried to find). I have sauces that I use when barbecuing (hosin, memories of seshwan, chipotle dipping sauce), sauces I use when cooking meat (mostly brown sauces like Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, light and dark soy sauce, fish sauce...), and sauces best used with salads (specialty vinegars, oils, etc.)

Most times I enjoy having this much variety; but with the new fridge I find it constraining to have so many bottles of 1/2 open sauces and preserves. So next week I'm trying to get rid of a few bottles and not replace them until I absolutely have to. Because, you see, that's the problem: I do actually use all this stuff; not all at once and certainly not regularly, but I do use it.

My list of "default" recipes includes a teaspoon of this, and a dab of that. I eat a lot of salads, and so am interested in tasty vinaigrette that are easy to make (and the easiest of all is a 2:3 ratio of oil and vinegar). I love to barbecue and there's nothing easier than grabbing one (or more) ready made sauces as a marinade. My soups sing when I add a drop of hot sauce (or chipotle peppers in adobe sauce or wasabe). Jam for the occasional breakfast, and as a cookie-sandwich filling and for thumb-print cookies. Curd as an alternate to cake icing (in the middle of a layer cake), or to top homemade mousse.

I have to agree with Organizing Junkie in that condiment bottles breed in the darkness of the fridge.

But my biggest worry is that, once the bottles are gone--I'll just go out and buy more. Some because I miss the flavourings of my favourite recipes; others because I've found all new recipes that use something I've not tried before or even because, as I cruse down the sauce isle I'm struck with that sense of wonder. I wonder how I'd use this, I wonder how this would taste...

I wonder if I'm doomed.

Menu for September 20, 2009 & starter kitchens

This is the week I'm supposed to get my new fridge (and hopefully) my new stove. I'm very excited. So excited the fact that the new couch and love seat are being delivered the same day have hardly registered. This does mean, however, that I'm cooking mostly from reserves -- trying to empty out the fridge and freezer as much as possible. I've played around with clean-out-the-fridge/pantry blog events in the past, but I actually do this on a pretty regular basis.
At what point is a pantry overloaded as opposed to over-stocked?

Sunday1/2 Bagelette with pepperoni
Steak sandwiches with cheese
Tinned soup
Frozen vegetable lazagnia
Gnocchi (packaged), homemade marinara sauce with meatballs & steamed vegetables
Snacks: popcorn, apple, cookie pack
Smoked meat sandwich on whole wheat &

Easy Black Beans and Yellow Rice

Unbaked energy bars (for lunches)
Snacks: carrots & hummous
WednesdayBBQ hamburgers & mixed green salad
Homemade ice cream
ThursdayMixed green salad & Grilled Asian Chicken for 6
Ice cream sandwiches
SaturdayChicken noodle soup

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In a perfect world (Spaghetti with sausage and vodka rosé)

In a perfect world, I'd print a recipe from the web (or find it in a recipe book), pull the ingredients out of my well-stocked pantry, and have dinner ready within 30 minutes. And the dishes would be magically done while we sat down at the table to enjoy a perfectly rounded meal at our leisure.


In reality however, you come home hoping you remembered to pull something from the freezer, struggle to find the recipe you planned to use and follow it. Get something on the table in under an hour (if you're good and/or lucky or both), and eat it in front of the TV while ignoring the dirty dishes until there's so many that you have to do them just to remember you have counter space. (No, we don't have a dish washer. Thank you. We'll rush right out and get one on your recommendation. And if you believe that ... ).

Last night had an added complication: I didn't want to cook.
I didn't want beans and I didn't want chicken. Having anything else in my kitchen right now requires some work. And I didn't want to work. It was 6:30 and I was hungry but the only thing that appealed was take-out.

I dug about in the freezer and found a package of bratwhurst. They're good sausages, but not too tasty. In the pantry I found an older bottle of vodka rosé spaghetti sauce. We have a ton of straight spaghetti (OK, ok, ... 2 1/2 packs ... slightly less than a ton.), but less than 1/2 a box of whole wheat rigatoni. (NOTE to self: Buy more whole wheat rigatoni, use up what I have for a lunch later this week. Hrm Vodka rosé on gnocchi with some kind of vegetable might be good too... nope. Not in the mood for gnocchi. Save the idea for a later lunch.)

I boiled the frozen sausages until they were thawed and barely cooked. I took them out and wiped the pan dry. I sliced the sausages into small rounds and tossed them back into the heating pan with a bit of olive oil. I thought about adding herbs at this point, but decided it was too much work.

I boiled water for the pasta.

Once the sausages got some color, it was my intention to add the sauce and scrape up all the wonderful brown stuff on the bottom of the pan. But I waited too long and the brown stuff went black. The sausage weren't stuck, so I poured them out and into a shallow pot with the pasta sauce.

I added the pasta (breaking the strands in half), and set the timer for 8 minutes.

Digging about in the rotter (... I mean the crisper...), I pulled out a box of spinach and 1/2 a head of romaine. A little rinsing, a little dicing, and we had salad. The dressing was an italian bottle of Wellness.

When the timer went off for the pasta, I rinsed it in the sink in warm water and returned it to the pot for a moment. As it sizzled, I turned off the heat on the stove top, and added the pasta and sausage mix to the pasta and stirred.

I served it in bowls brought into the front room where we watched back-to-back old episodes of Stargate SG-1.

Not a perfect world - but at least, a good dinner.

1/2 bottle of spaghetti sauce (store-bought Vodka Rosé in my case)
6 bratwurst sausages
1/2 tsp olive oil
2 servings of straight spaghetti
1/2 head romaine lettuce, washed and spun
2 cups spinach, washed and spun

  1. Place the sausages in boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until gray and mostly thawed.
  2. Remove from the boiling water and cut into slices. Dump the water and wipe out the pan.
  3. Add the olive oil to the pan and bring up to a medium heat.
  4. Add the sliced sausages to the pan and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sausages gain some color.
  5. Boil the water for the pasta.
  6. Dice the romaine lettuce and spinach, add into a bowl for salad.
  7. Set the timer for 8 minutes. Start it. Add the pasta to the water.
  8. Drain the sausages of any build up of oil.
  9. Add the pasta sauce to the pan and scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate.
  10. When the timer expires, drain the pasta into a colander.
  11. Rinse the pasta well.
  12. Add it back to the pot.
  13. Add the sauce and sausage. Mix to incorporate.
  14. Serve.

Menu for the week of July 26, 2009

Every week I try to make a weekly plan for what I'm going to eat, and then shop accordingly for those ingredients. Most weeks I make it until Wednesday before my plan fails utterly. If I'm really lucky, I am able to use up what's in the fridge before it goes bad. Once in a while I get upset at the amount of food in the fridge/freezer/pantry and try to plan most of my meals around it.

Here's this week's attempt:

Breakfast: Egg sandwich with bacon, lettuce & mayo
Lunch: Chicken grilled cheese sandwich & cup of tomato soup
Dinner: Out
Breakfast: Whole wheat bagel, peanut butter, skim milk
Snacks: 2 Apples, Yogurt
Lunch: Chicken soup with raman noodles and mixed vegetables
Dinner: Pasta with sausage and vodka rose sauce
Breakfast: Whole wheat bagel, peanut butter, skim milk
Lunch: Mixed green salad with crab, tomatoes, spinach, romaine, chicken & cheese; Italian herb dressing,
Snacks: yogurt, apple, celery
Dinner: BBQ salmon, chicken rice and steamed green beans
Make: Protein bars
Breakfast: Yogurt with granola & blueberries
Snacks: Crackers & goat cheese, apple, celery
Lunch: BBQ salmon over chicken rice with edamame
Dinner: Chicken Gyros
Make: Ice cream!
Breakfast: Yogurt with granola & blueberries
Lunch: Chicken Gyros, side of edamame & broccoli, apple
Snacks: Crackers & goat cheese, apple, celery
Dinner: Bean chili with beef over rice or hamburgers
Breakfast: Cereal, skim milk, blueberries
Lunch: Gnocchi with vodka sauce & chicken, side of broccoli
Dinner: Chicken salad & crackers, apple, protein bar
Breakfast: Egg on toast
Lunch: Fridge-fixings
Dinner: TBD

  • Apples.
  • Crackers & cheese (goat, emmental or cheddar).
  • Yogurt (with flax, or granola, or blueberries).
  • Celery, Carrots, Bell pepper (with Labneh & spices, peanut butter, sour cream onion dip).
  • Tinned tuna, mayo & crackers.
  • Diced chicken, mayo & crackers.
  • Dill pickles.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Menu for the week of July 19, 2009

My desire to cook weakens over the summer.

Breakfast: Egg sandwich with sausage patties on whole grain bread
Lunch: Minestrone soup (leftovers), scones & devonshire cream
Dinner: hamburgers, all dressed
Breakfast: Minestrone soup (leftovers), crackers
Snack: cottage cheese, apple
Lunch: Roast chicken & mixed vegetables
Snack: snack bar, apple
Dinner: The best and simplest green salad (Bittman)
Basic sauteéd chicken cutlet (Bittman)
Make: Roasted chicken stock for use later in the week.
Breakfast: Minestrone soup (leftovers), crackers
Snack: cottage cheese, apple
Lunch: Last night's leftovers.
Snack: snack bar, apple
Dinner: Grilled tiliapa with lemon, rice and steamed vegetables
Breakfast: Granola, skim milk, banana
Snack: apple, Yogurt & flax seed
Lunch: Grilled tiliapa with lemon, rice and steamed vegetables
Dinner: Chicken Cesar salad
Lunch: Chicken cesar salad
Dinner: Steak sandwiches
Lunch: Steak sandwiches
Breakfast: Out.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stir-fry chicken with vegetables

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, p386 ISBN: 0-4717-8918-6, published March 2006.

I chose this recipe because I was looking for a nice, quick, chicken recipe. Following the advice in the book, I decided that stir-fried chicken and vegetables would fit the bill. The recipe is simple, and since I cook in a mise-en-place fashion, comes together very quickly.

Mise-en-place has its detractors, namely the one in my life who does my dishes, but I find it helps me organize my thoughts and keep on track with a recipe. While most of my experiments don't fail (too badly) I was having guests tonight and wanted something warm and pleasant to ward off the chilly rainy weather without having to steam up the kitchen. I opted to serve the meal with a blue-cheese and argulara salad rather than rice. The stir-fry didn't promise to have much sauce, and we all need more salad in our lives (if not the blue cheese, but more on that later).

I don't have a wok. I do, however, have a very heavy-bottomed skillet that works very well for meals like this. The trick is to get your oil hot before you start. The oil should cause anything that touches it to sizzle. A slight shimmer of heat should rise off the pan before you drop anything into it. Not only does this greatly reduce the time it takes to cook something; but it improves the flavour (or at least, that's my belief-- your mileage may vary).

So I put the oil into the pan and brought it up to temperature. I dropped some garlic and ginger into the pan and cooked it quickly, moving it all over the oil so that their flavours mingle. I removed it once the spices stopped snapping and were browning. I took them out of the pan and back into their bowl. Then I put in the onion and cooked it quickly in the flavoured oil. The onion is cooked when it becomes translucent; I cooked it just a little longer so that there were brown spots on the bottom of my pan. This process sounds wasteful (don't worry - I reincorporate the cooked spices and vegetables at the end), but it's an important step. The garlic and ginger add a depth of flavour to the onion like nothing else can. It also adds brown bits to the bottom of your pan. This is very important.

The onion was removed and I dropped the diced chicken breasts and a bit more oil into the pan. I kept the chicken moving so it wouldn't stick; but even so the browning on the bottom of the pan continued. When the chicken was opaque, I added a handful of diced scallions, and a whole lot of mixed frozen vegetables.

These I stirred quickly and then covered to allow the steam to work its magic. I stirred up the sauce (a combination of soy sauce, chicken stock, pepper, and sesame oil), took off the cover, and added it to the mix. I scraped the bottom of the pan then. Thanks to the few minutes of steam and the sauce, there wasn't much to scrape, but the little bit that did come up was caramalized nicely. Turning everything over to coat it in the sauce and incorporate the brown bits. I added the onion, garlic and ginger (see? told you I'd use them), then recovered the pan for a few minutes, to allow the frozen vegetables to soften.

The recipe actually calls for fresh vegetables; but it's not quite harvest season here -- and frozen vegetables are still a lot cheaper than fresh. The frozen vegetables need a slightly more gentle hand, and can never come out warm and crisp in the same way as fresh; but we'll survive.

The mix came out a lot darker than I'd thought it would. The chicken and lighter vegetables It was fairly dry and tasted really good, especially when topped with some toasted sesame seeds and diced scallions for garnish.

All in all - delicious.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Spicy Coleslaw

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, p104 ISBN: 0-4717-8918-6, published March 2006.

I love coleslaw. I love mayonnaise. But I don't like the two of them together. Flipping through the book, How to Cook Everything, I came across this strange recipe that called for dijon and balsamic vinegar in the dressing. It sounded curious, so I decided to try it. The recipe title, spicy coleslaw, didn't quite match the listing of ingredients. Spicy, to me, invokes the concept of heat - from spice or from temperature, but heat none the less. There is no heat to this recipe; but there is a whole lot of flavour.

The dressing is an oil-and vinegar mix, flavoured with dijon, scallions and parsley. It is sweetened with sugar and the vinegar of choice (either sherry or balsamic). When made with balsamic the color of the dressing is a darkening brown that thickens as you whisk in the oil. I found it off-putting.

When mixed in with the mostly white mix of cabbages and red bell peppers, it almost resembled a pourable chocolate. The taste, however, was amazing. The tartness of the my old balsamic mixed with the more classical notes of dijon made this a unique salad. The coleslaw mix was crunchy and the sweetness of the peppers made me wonder just how necessary the sugar really was.

The recipe is a very quick cold salad that will last 24 hours sealed in the fridge. The dressing, however, coagulates in the cold and makes the coldslaw clump in a most unattractive manner. It is best if made fresh and eaten at room temperature, or just below. Fortunately, there was not a lot of it left to experiment with leftovers.

Quickest chicken stock by Marc Bittman

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, p46 ISBN: 0-4717-8918-6, published March 2006.

The recipe promises to be the quickest and simplest yet tastiest stock ever made. High praise for something so very simple. The complex notes of browned bones & cooked meets are not present, but the stock is very light in color and flavour--perfect for heavily spiced dishes and most soups, but probably not my favourite to use when cooking rice or polenta; where I'm more use to the complex notes of a roasted stock.

The recipe starts simple enough - wash a chicken, pat it dry and put it in a stock pot. My chicken had spent about a day too long in the fridge, so it definitely needed a bath. It was, however, completely thawed, and once washed free of the blood and inner organs - smelled much better. I patted it dry and dutifully put it in my largest stock pot. Note to self: I need a bigger stock pot.

I put the inner organs (lungs and livers) into a bag, labeled it, and put them in the freezer. The labeling is most important when freezing organ meats that, once frozen, may be mistaken for other foods (like, say hamburger). The whole oh-my-goodness-what-did-I-thaw-and-how-can-I-now-make-this-work scenario is just bad and should be avoided at all costs (especially when the cost to avoid it is about $2.43 - 1 permanent marker and 1 roll masking tape). Trust me on this. I speak from experience here.

The ingredients are what you'd expect for a stock (celery, carrots and onions). The spices (thyme, bay, salt, and parsley) are kept very light. I was surprised at the absence of pepper, but as tempted as I was to put it in, I didn't. I am so very proud.

As is my habit, I gathered all the ingredients together, prepped them according to the directions, then added them along with the water to the stock pot. I skinned the onions, even though you don't need to do this -- I decided I wanted to see how pale this stock was going to get. Adding onions skins to your stock will darken it (sometimes significantly). I just chopped the vegetables -- since they were not for serving, I wasn't careful in regards to regularity or shape. This, in part, is what makes this recipe so quick to make.

My pot wouldn't quite hold 14 cups of water; so I settled for 10 and was ready to add more water when/if the level reduced. I have three stock pots - all of which are about the same size. I've been told I already have too many pots and pans (and dishes, and kitchen gegaws, and kitchen appliances, and so on and so forth) so I strongly doubt bringing a *bigger* pot into the kitchen would garner any kind of approval. As I was preparing this I did wonder if I could make this in the crockpot instead of on the stove top (as my crock pot would easily hold the 14 cups of water + ingredients)... but my goal was to prepare the recipe as closely to as written as possible. So...

I put it on the stove, brought it to a very gentle boil, then covered it and reduced the heat. After a few minutes I realized why the instructions say cover but not completely. Once I got the over-boil cleaned up, I moved it to a new burner and started again. I am happy to say that there was no scum to remove from the top of the pot. Maybe because it was so croweded, or maybe it all came out in the overboil; I don't know. I've always hated skimming scum off the top of stock. It feels very wasteful, somehow.

The chicken boiled gently for about an hour. It made the house smell great. Because my pot was small, I flipped the chicken over at about the 1/2 hour mark and added some more water to the pot. The level of water didn't reduce as much as I thought it would; but then the gentle boil didn't produce a lot of steam.

There's lots of blog posts out there about how to make great stock. A common trend seems to be to really squeeze the vegetables when they're strained from the liquid. Following this advice, I set up three bowls. One for the stock (once strained), one for the chicken, and one for the vegetables.

I turned the left-over vegetables into a near puree inside my strainer; working them over until my hands ached and the remains were nearly bone-dry. While not very appetizing to look at, it did make discarding the vegetables easier, as by the time I was done there was very little liquid left to leak out into the trash and, eventually, onto my stocking feet; where, if there is any trash liquid, it is inevitably drawn.

I put the whole chicken in another bowl to sit and cool before skinning and deboning it. Note to self: patience is a lesson easily learned when the alternative is burnt fingers.

The chicken is still very tasty and moist and cooked through. I'll be using it throughout the week in other dishes and trying to remember to get the bits I don't use into the freezer before the week's end. Note to self: Waste not, want not.

I then covered the stock and placed in the fridge, where it quickly formed a skin. The stock is a pale golden color (I love my clear Pyrex bowls, ... and my blue Pyrex bowls, ... and well - I have a lot of bowls in my kitchen).

This recipe was indeed the simplest recipe I've ever followed to make chicken stock on the stove; but it doesn't differ very much from my method of making chicken stock in the crock pot (except there I use mostly cooked bones, necks, backs, and organ meats with a few choice vegetables and some seasonings... in other words - whatever's wilted in the fridge). For this recipe none of the vegetables were wilted--I even went out and bought fresh. For me this is pretty revolutionary.

I like having stock in my fridge/freezer. I love making soups and using it as a base for grain dishes (like the rice and polenta I mentioned previously), and in stir-frys or to deglaze a pan. Note to self: If freezing it in ice-cube trays again, this time remember to label the ice cube tray. Chicken stock in soda is ... unappealing.

Menu for the week of July 13, 2009

This week my recipes are pulled from Mark Bittman's How to Cook everything (softcover, yellow cover). I've owned this book for well over two years, but never really tried to cook regularly from it. I like most of the recipes I've tried; and yet I seem completely unable to cook the recipes as written. I'm always changing something -- adding an ingredient, replacing, etc.

Breakfast: Egg sandwich with bacon, lettuce & mayo
Lunch: Montreal smoked meat sandwiches on brown bread.
Dinner: Caribou burgers, all dressed
Breakfast: Cereal, skim milk, fruit
Lunch: Chopped Mediterranean salad with chicken
Dinner: Quesadillas (with chicken & navy beans) with Spicy coleslaw (Bittman)
Make: Quickest chicken stock (Bittman) for use later in the week.
Breakfast: McDonalds
Lunch: Quesadillas with spaghetti sauce, yogurt, fruit
Dinner: Stir fried chicken with vegetables, Angulara salad with blue cheese (Bittman) for 3 1/2.
Breakfast: Oatmeal, skim milk, fruit
Lunch: Stir fried chicken with black bean (Leftovers)
Dinner: Take-out (Lebanese)
Breakfast: Oatmeal, skim milk, fruit
Lunch: Store-bought frozen meal
Breakfast: Oatmeal, skim milk, fruit
Lunch: Salmon & rice & vegetables (left overs from last week)
Dinner: Dinner out
Breakfast: Out.
Lunch: Montreal smoked meat sandwiches on crusty brown bread.
Dinner: Minestrone soup (Bittman) for 6

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Menu for the week of June 29, 2009

So this was to be the week I ate down my fridge (EDF). The problem is that I have a very tiny freezer; I picked some meals that work their way through my staples, but I was almost completely out of produce and protein; so I went shopping. I didn't exactly save any money and now my fridge is full again.

Day of leftovers. Leftover roast chicken (deli purchase), leftover soup (from the freezer), leftover baking (energy bars, chipolte hummus, 5-layer jello).
Breakfast: Cereal, skim milk, fruit
Lunch: Chopped Mediterranean salad with chicken
BBQ hamburgers, all dressed with tomatoes, lettuce & cheese
Breakfast: Cereal, skim milk, fruit
Lunch: BBQ hamburger (all dressed), with bell pepper sticks
BBQ Memories of Szechwan chicken breasts & Southwestern colslaw
Breakfast: Eggs, bacon & toast with PB&J
Lunch: Salmon over mixed greens with cheese, crudite & hummus
Not-quite Pierce street Vegetarian chili & polenta
Breakfast: Toast, PB&J
Lunch: Chili & polenta
Seven grain dirty rice and beans
Breakfast: Toast, PB&J
Lunch: Salmon over mixed greens with cheese, crudite & hummus
Beef tacos (with salad & salsa)
Breakfast: Out.
Lunch: Freezer leftovers (either chili or seven grains)
Carne asada (tacos made with marinaded skirt steak), beans & rice

My pantry inventory (and pictures) should be up soon-ish.
Sunday - I went through and used up what I had in the house for meals. I still have a lot of staples and a few odds and ends that I really want to get rid of.
Monday - Forgot to make the salad to go with the burgers (so we'll have it Tuesday); finished off the goat cheese making lunch. I opened the bottle of artichoke hearts I've had in the pantry for ... a while. It's not quite expired. They're tasty atop salads.
Tuesday - The bottle of Memories of Szechwan has enough for several meals yet. When it's empty I'm pretty sure we'll buy more. Maybe I can hold off until we're out of chipolte slam and chipotle dipping sauce.
Wednesday - It's a holiday up here, so I have time to make stove-top chili (even if the weather's not perfect for it). It's a good way to use up the beans I have in my pantry & freezer. It won't quite be vegetarian, as I intend to use up the last of my spaghetti sauce (which has beef). Corn meal is another staple, so I'm not too worried about finishing it off. The canned fish for lunch is nothing new, but it will get rid of one more can from my pantry.
Thursday - I have guests, so rice and beans (while maybe not seasonal) fits the bill. It's cheap to make, not too time consuming, and best of all -- it tastes wonderful. It also helps me use up more canned goods. Breakfasts this latter part of the week are my attempt at getting through the jam in my fridge.
Fridays - I love tacos. Fortunately I have the ingredients just "laying around" in my pantry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A lunch-time salad

A brightly colored and crunchy salad that doesn't use lettuce. A great summer time lunch or a side-dish for grilled meats.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 0 minutes
Serves: 5 (main course), 10 (side dish)
Version: 2.0
Original: Colorful black bean and crab salad.
Posted by Just Call Me Martha on Oct 2, 2002


I was looking for a low-gi lunch salad that didin't use lettuce. I'm really not sure how well I did, but I do enjoy this salad.

The salad recipe originates on Recipezaar. I liked the idea of the salad, but not the corn or the jalapeno peppers. The sauce is very strong and not office-friendly. In future I'd cut the garlic down to 1 clove, and grate it instead of mincing. I'm currently serving the salad with an extra-virgin olive oil based Italian dressing, although it goes well with almost any vinagrette.

Equipment required

  • Cutting board & knife.
  • Measuring cups & spoons.
  • Non-reactive salad bowl & salad tongs.
  • Non-reactive mixing bowl and whisk.


2 cups cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 chili, I used a cubanello, seeded and chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, minced
1/8 cup parsley, minced
4 green onions, chopped
12 ounces artificial crab meat
1 clove garlic, grated
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sugar snap green beans, chopped


  1. Mix together thecauliflower, black beans, red pepper, chili, cilantro, green onions, sugar snap peas, and crab meat.
  2. Add the cumin and pepper to the grated garlic.
  3. Mix into a paste.
  4. Add the vinegar, lime juice and water to garlic mixture.
  5. Mix well.
  6. Whisk in olive oil.
  7. Pour dressing over bean mixture and stir well.

Menu for the week of 21 June 2009

Last week was warm, I worked late, and we ate out a lot more than we should. The past few months we've tried to use the BBQ as much as possible. The only BBQ tools I have are: a wire brush (to clean the grills), a silicone brush (to spread oil on the food/grills), and aluminum foil (to wrap vegetables to steam them). Hopefully this week will go better.

BBQ Honey garlic chicken breasts, baked/sweet potato & salad
Grilled Tilapia with Smoked Paprika and Parmesan Polenta Recipe & steamed vegetables
BBQ Memories of Szechwan chicken kababs, pan fries & salad
Chicken Breasts with Citrus Pan Sauce & steamed vegetables
BBQ hamburgers & salad
Steak sandwiches with cheese & salad

The BBQ is a pleasant middle ground between a broiler and a convection oven. If used properly, it gives meat and vegetables a pleasant appearance (grill marks), and cooks fairly evenly (barring flair-ups). Most meats I cook on the BBQ are marinated for at least an hour or so before they go on the grill. Potatoes go on about 10 minutes before the meat, and the vegetables (wrapped in tin foil) go on with the meat. Most times this works. Other times ... well, we order pizza if it can't be fixed.

I bought new lunch dishes this weekend. I finally broke down and shelled out for the glass containers with steam release valves. The covers are BPA-free. I have a box full of Tupperware that I still use. While I do still store food in them, but I no longer reheat food in them in the microwave. Nor do we put them in the dishwasher (not that we have a dishwasher... and putting them in the guy that does the dishes would be ... unpleasant I'm sure).

Meal notes:
The BBQ Honey garlic chicken breasts were from the butcher already marinaded. They are a rather unpleasant orange in color before (and after) being cooked. They are pretty tasty, but I find them to be very acidic. It's a simple enough marinade--next time I'll try making it myself.

The fish dish of the week is the same one as last week because ... last week we went out to eat rather than eating in.

The BBQ Memories of Szechwan chicken kababs is one of the easiest recipes I know. Cut the thighs into generous yet bite-sized pieces. Mix in a bowl with the sauce of choice (this time PC's Memories of Szechwan). Put the meat on skewers. It is best to pack them fairly tightly. Grill on a Hot BBQ until done. Turn once or twice. If the sauce is good--the meal will be terrific.

Chicken breasts with (any) pan sauce is another easy-to-make recipe. I like these type of recipes because they appear quite elegant when presented and very forgiving when being made. The recipe goes very well with something to soak up the sauce. I'll serve it either with leftover polenta (if there is any) or rice.

BBQ hamburgers. Classics. Officially he cooks this one (as opposed to just starting the BBQ for me). The hamburger meat is mixed with bread crumbs, an egg, worchestershire sauce, and Montreal steak spice. Yummy.

Steak sandwiches with cheese. I like mine with additional lettuce & tomato, mustard & mayo. He likes his plain. It takes about 10 minutes with the two of us working together in the kitchen. Naturally, the better (and fresher) the bread, the better the meal.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Menu for the week of 7 June 2009

I don't know what to expect this week. I got my garden basket last week, so I have a fridge full of veggies to use up. The gyros, tilapia, steak and whole chicken will be cooked on the barbecue (weather permitting). Can you tell we love our barbecue?

Sunday I made eggs Benedict for one with this recipe. It was tasty, but I didn't quite get the proportions right. It's definitely too rich to make for just myself again; but it was worth the experiment. I've not cooked much (other than dinner) of late, and Sunday's breakfast reminded me how much I enjoy cooking.

There's a couple of other breakfast recipes that I want to try; but they'll probably end up being done next Sunday when I've got the time to experiment again. I've not left an empty night from cooking this week in a desparate attempt to not. Eat. Dinner. Out this week.

Steak sandwiches (all dressed) with salad
Chicken gyros with salad
Falafal my way with salad
Grilled Tilapia & polenta with steamed veggies
Marinated BBQ steak & southwestern coldslaw
Shrimp in spicy lime sauce
BBQ Whole chicken, pan fries & salad

Monday, June 1, 2009

Menu for the week of May 24, 2009

It's going to be a very hectic week. I've got great plans for cooking, but I'm sure things will change along the way.

Steamed vegetables, Basmati rice & Beef Sate with Peanut Sauce
Dinner out at Mirada Restaurant & Bar
Dinner out at McDonalds
Sloppy Joes & mixed green salad
Memories of Scheshwan chicken & steamed vegetables
Asian Chicken with broccoli salad
Dinner out

Menu for the week of June 1st, 2009

I've been using spring pad for the past three weeks to track my weekly menu. For me, there's been a fair bit of a learning curve. I like a lot of its features, but I'm having problems getting away from the habit of having my shopping list and my weekly menu printed. The website allows me to print the pages I need, but the layout isn't quite right for my tastes; and I'm not sure how to fix that just yet. Still, it does provide a nice place online to keep the information.

I hope to be getting a food box (from my community victory garden) this week. I will probably be incorporating whatever I get into lunches and breakfasts, or snacks. I'm hoping for fruit (I get ever so tired of MacIntosh apples), but anything except beets and eggplant would be fine.

Expert chili dogs with creamy cold slaw
Aztec Couscous & steamed vegetables
Chicken thighs with spicy tomato sauce & mixed green salad - for 3 1/2
Home made Corn tortillas and beef tacos (with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, guacamole & sour cream)
Home made Corn tortillas with Refried beans (with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, guacamole & sour cream) - for 6
Steamed vegetables with sesame crusted chicken and soba noodles

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Marinated barbecue steak

This recipe probably doesn't need a recipe; but it is something I enjoy eating from time to time -- marinated barbecue steak. The exact cut of meat is (mostly) immaterial, but the marinade allows you to choose a very low-fat steak. The leaner the meat, the longer you should marinade it. I recommend marinading flank steak overnight, whereas a lean boston steak often needs no more than a few hours. We tend to buy butcher's block steak because of its lack of marbling, and consistent thickness. The former requires more marinading, but the latter helps guarantee that it will cook evenly.

2 lbs butcher's block steak
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Montreal no-salt steak spice

1. Marinade the steak in the red wine, olive oil and steak spice for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight.
2. Cook at medium heat on the barbecue until medium-well.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Weekly menu for the week following May 16th, 2009

I make up a weekly menu because I'm cheap. Breakfasts always very, as do snacks, based more on what I have in my pantry than what I write down here. Some days I successfully mix and match and other days are carbon copies of the day before.

L: Chicken sandwich with cheese, lettuce, spinach & sliced tomato
D: Out
L: Leftover Beef & barley soup with tomatoes
D: BBQ steak, baked potatoes/sweet & steamed green beans
L: Leftover Beef & barley soup with tomatoes
D: Californian brochettes* with basmati rice
D: Italian chicken thighs with spazel & a blue-cheese dressed walnut & green salad
D: Chicken soup & fresh bread
D: BBQ Lemon-herb roasted chicken drumsticks, potatoes/sweet potatoes & green salad
D: Cheeseburgers, all dressed. Green salad.

* from the butcher's already in marinade.

  • Cereal & skim milk, fruit. Water.
  • Multi-grain oatmeal & cinnamon, fruit. Small glass of milk.
  • 2 pc toast, nut butter, fruit preserves. Small glass of milk.
  • 1 egg, 2 pc bacon, 3 slices tomatoes, 1 pc toast.
  • Apples, pears, bananas, berries
  • Low-fat yogurt & flax seed.
  • Cheese & crackers.
  • Taco chips & salsa.
  • No-bake power bars.
  • Celery & nut butter.
  • Celery, zucchini, radishes (plain).
  • hummus + stuff.
  • Onion soup dip + stuff.
20-May-09 Added links.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The failure of a new paella recipe

I wanted to try a "new" paella recipe that I found on the ABC website. It sounded like it should taste good, if a bit too spicy for me. The following is the recipe with the changes I made to make it less hot. It was still too hot for me though, and something was definitely not to my taste. Paella to me brings to mind the taste of saffron and short-grain rice. This recipe lacks the saffron and uses minute-rice instead, which while absorbant, isn't quite the same.

The recipe was supposed to come in under $15 and serve 4 (which explains the lack of saffron and the specialty rice). The spices used are pretty costly when initially bought, but I had them all in my pantry and, based on the amount used, my cost should still be under the $15 goal.

Paella has a long tradition in Spain, and it's a wonderful community dish that has numerous cultural variations. Chicken and shrimp paella is one of my favourite versions, but I've also made vegetarian paella too (replacing the meat with beans and adding more vegetables).

Browning chicken in oil (with the skin on) is something that takes more practice than I have. My pieces were only lightly browned, and when served, the skin was gummy and unpleasant. It would have been better to leave the chicken in the pan to crisp more before removing it to a plate. Also, I think I overcooked it. The meat itself was very tasty, but the skin ... ug.

Medium salsa is hot for me. Hot salsa is inedible. This mix is something far north of hot salsa. The depth of flavour I was expecting might very well have been there, but I couldn't taste it. I couldn't taste much of anything--even with a glass of milk and a sour cream chaser.

Without thinking, I cooked 2 cups of basmati rice beside the dish. So now I have lots of cooked basmati rice and leftover chicken (hrm... I see chicken fried rice in my near future). Regardless, here was the failure along with a few changes for next time.


  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo (next time I'd leave this out)
  • 1 tsp red chili flake (next time I'll reduce this to 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (next time I'll reduce this to 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 two-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 med yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbsps fresh ginger, julienned
  • 2 tbsps paprika
  • 2 tsp red curry powder (next time I'll leave this out)
  • 8 whole cloves garlic, peeled (next time I'll use 4 and mash them with salt & parsley)
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces (next time I'll use 2 red bell peppers)
  • 1/2 lb kielbasa sausage, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups five-minute white rice (next time I'll use 2 cups short-grain spanish rice)
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • black pepper, fresh ground (to taste)
  • saffron (to taste) (next time I'll add this in)
  • Directions

    1. In a 6 quart saucepan, combine stock, chipotles, chili flake, and chili powder and bring to a boil.
    2. Lower the heat to a simmer, and reduce the heat to minimum.
    3. In a large 12-14-inch sauté pan, heat olive oil until almost smoking.
    4. Season the chicken pieces generously with salt & pepper.
    5. Brown them carefully and slowly until the skin is a deep, dark, golden brown. Work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.
    6. When chicken is browned on both sides, remove it to a plate.
    7. In the same pan, add the onion, paprika, red curry powder, garlic cloves, red bell pepper, and ginger.
    8. Sauté until soft and golden brown, about 8 minutes.
    9. Add the chicken stock to the onion/pepper mixture and bring to a boil.
    10. Lower the heat and allow to simmer 10 minutes.
    11. Place the browned chicken pieces in the broth and cook for 15 minutes.
    12. Add 2 cups rice and the sausage to the pan.
    13. Bring the mixture to a boil for 5 minutes, turn off heat and let sit for 5 additional minutes, uncovered.
    14. Serve with a spring green salad.

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    Weekly menu for the week following May 8th, 2009

    I'm sure this will change once I get my Victory basket on Tuesday, but for now -- here's my menu. I bought the rosemary roasted pork cold-cuts believing that I'd be making a lunch for 5, and the soup was for a dinner for the same 5 people; but that didn't turn out. So my initial menu is changed to try and eat up all the left-overs.

    B: BLT on Chiabata bread, tea.
    L: Rosemary roasted pork sandwich with cheese & salad, tea.
    D: Beef & barley tomato soup, tea.
    Snacks: popcorn, small apple, cottage cheese
    B: Cranberry & orange bread & butter, small apple, tea.
    L: Rosemary roasted pork wrap with Beef & barley soup
    D: Chicken Paella Diana
    Snacks: 10 wheat crackers, small apple, cottage cheese
    B: Multi-grain oatmeal, cinnamon & small apple
    L: Chicken paella diana, green salad, diet coke
    D: Pasta & meat balls, green salad
    Snacks: Crudité & light tzatziki, small apple,
    B: Rosemary roasted pork rolls with mustard & cheese
    L: Rosemary roasted pork wrap with Beef & barley soup, diet coke
    D: Sauteed Tilapia with Honey-Scallion dress, basmati rice & steamed vegetables
    Snacks: 10 wheat crackers, small apple
    B: Multi-grain oatmeal, cinnamon & small apple
    L: Last-night's leftovers with extra veggies, diet coke
    D: BBQ Lemon-herb roasted chicken drumsticks, potatoes/sweet potatoes & green salad
    Snacks: Crudité & light tzatziki, small apple
    B: Rosemary roasted pork rolls with mustard & cheese
    L: Last-night's leftovers with extra veggies, diet coke
    D: Dinner out
    Snacks: cottage cheese, small apple

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    Weekly menu for the week of May 4th, 2009

    It's another week, and thus another menu. When searching online for these recipes, I came to realize that about 1/2 my recipes are on another site (I seem to be forever finding new places to write, and new things to write about). I'm going to migrate posts from the other site to here (and cheat by backdating the posts). Hopefully it won't cause any problems. Fingers crossed.

    Lunch: BBQ chicken breast, basmati rice & broccoli spears (with hunan vinegar sauce)
    Dinner: BBQ beef (with Montreal steak spice), baked potato/sweet potato & steamed green & yellow beans

    Lunch: BBQ beef, basmati rice & broccoli spears (with hunan vinegar sauce)
    Dinner: Homemade tacos (ground beef, taco spice, cheese, romaine lettuce) & homemade salsa

    Lunch: Taco salad (taco meat over a green salad)
    Dinner: Sauteed Tilapia with honey-scallion dressing

    Lunch: Tilapia with honey-scallion dressing over couscous
    Dinner: Beef brochettes, flat bread & tzatziki served with green salad

    Lunch: Tuna salad
    Dinner: Paella Diana

    Vegetables & hummus or tzatziki
    Crackers & cheese
    Apples, bananas, plums
    Taco chips & salsa
    Unbaked energy bars

    Monday, April 27, 2009

    Carnitas, my way

    What follows is actually 2 recipes; the first takes a bit of preparation, and the second can be thrown together easily for a quick and delicious week night meal.

    Beef brisket

    This dish takes a bit of planning, but once made can be the source of several delicious meals.


    There are tons of recipes like this out on the internet, and they're all about the same. Cover the meat with some kind of sauce, season to taste and cook until the meat's ready to fall apart. Most briskets are really fatty--but most of the fat dissolves into the sauce while cooking.

    This recipe produces a very beefy-flavored beef brisket. It has no kick for a reason -- namely that, as the ingredient for other recipes, I wanted something fairly mild in flavor.

    As always, season to taste.

    Prep time: 20 minutes
    Cooking time: 10 hours
    Serves: 6-10


    • Chopping board and knife.
    • Measuring cups and spoons.
    • Deep frying pan with cover.
    • Wooden spoon.
    • Crock pot


    1 Onion, roughly diced
    3 cups Chicken stock
    1 Carrot, roughly diced
    1 stalk Celery, roughly diced (leaves included)
    2 cloves Garlic, skinned and chopped in half
    1 Bay leaf
    2 cups Ketchup
    1 teaspoon Cumin
    1 teaspoon Oregano
    1/2 teaspoon Salt
    1 teaspoon Black pepper, freshly ground
    1 green bell pepper, seeded and rougly chopped


    1. Combine the ingredients in the crock pot.
    2. Set on low and cook for 8-10 hours.
    3. Remove the meat from the crock pot and pull it apart with 2 forks.
    4. Reserve the liquid separately.

    Carnitas Tacos

    A great way to use up pulled beef, this quick and easy meal can be served dozens of ways (covered in sauce, fried, etc); but this is the recipe that works best for me.


    Caramelizing onions is a neat trick to add sweetness to a dish, but it's not always necessary. If you're in a rush, just cook the onions until they are translucent.

    You can use flour tortillas (or any kind of flat bread) for this dish, but I prefer corn tortillas (the non-deep fried not from El Paso kind).

    I like to add my heat at the table (thus I serve this with salsa). Feel free to add some kick with a blend of chili pepper, red pepper flakes and a few drops of choice chipotle peppers or hot sauce.

    As always, season to taste.

    Prep time: 10 minutes
    Cooking time: 30 minutes
    Serves: 4 with leftovers


    • Chopping board and knife.
    • Measuring cups and spoons.
    • Deep frying pan with cover.
    • Wooden spoon.


    1 Onion, finely diced
    1/2 cup Chicken stock
    2 cloves garlic, finely diced
    1 teaspoon Cumin
    1 teaspoon Oregano
    1 teaspoon Olive oil
    2 cups Beef brisket, pulled
    1/2 cup Beef brisket sauce
    1 cup Cheese, finely grated
    12 Corn tortillas
    2 cups Salsa (optional)


    1. Put the olive oil in the bottom of a cold pan and bring it to temperature.
    2. Add the onions and stir to coat.
    3. Cook until the onions have caramalized, reducing the temperature as needed to make sure they don't stick or burn. Stir often.
    4. Add the garlic and herbs and cook until fraigrant.
    5. Add the beef brisket and sauce, stiring to incorporate.
    6. Add another teaspoon of olive oil in a second pan.
    7. Warm a corn tortilla, flipping when pockets begin to form.
    8. Fill the tortia with 3 teaspoons of the meat and sauce mixture.
    9. Add a pinch of cheese and roll.
    10. Place on a plate, seam side down.
    11. Cover to keep warm.
    12. Repeat until the beef mixture and/or the tortilla are gone.
    13. Serve immediately with salsa.