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.