Saturday, September 25, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: September 23, 2010

Slow cooker chicken dinner.

You know how sometimes you start a project without realizing just how involved it's going to be, but then once you've started you can't stop?  That's this dinner.

In response to my pathetic whining all the time about being rushed in the evenings, my mother tactfully presented me with a new slow cooker cookbook

I looked through it last weekend.  It's a beautiful book, filled with artistic pictures and the earnest insistence that Crock Pot cooking is not careless or sloppy.  The author believes it can be just as delicious and even artful as the best cooking, as long as you choose your ingredients carefully and do the right prep work.  Maybe I should have sensed that the author's goals and my goals for a slow cooker are not the same.

Immediately, I saw several recipes I wanted to try, and I vowed to be organized enough to put up dinner in the slow cooker at least once this week.  (That's the thing about the Crock Pot.  You have to put food in it in the morning, or even the night before, which means you have to think far ahead of when you want to eat it.  Is the meat defrosted?  Are the vegetables in the fridge not rotten?  Is it safe to chop onions before you've had your coffee?)

Anyhow, I went and bought the ingredients for the chicken dinner recipe:  chicken parts, potatoes, carrots, onion, celery.  Then, I figured, on Thursday morning before work, I could assemble them in the crock, and we would all come home, at our various times, to a lovely dinner.

I should have known when Step One was "make a spice rub" and the recipe emphatically suggested pre-boiling the potatoes.  (Why, when they're going to boil for the next eight hours, I have no idea.)  But I had already unwrapped the chicken, which was approaching a week in the fridge anyway.  Too late to stop, I thought.

So I stupidly pressed on and forty minutes later, there I was in my dress, with my apron on, browning chicken and vegetables, watching the clock.  Slow cooking indeed.  I grew resentful as I cooked.  Is there any point at all to a kitchen convenience device if using it is wildly inconvenient?  (Deanna came over to watch Eli and about burst out laughing when she saw me.  Working hard to keep a straight face:  "Do you usually wear an apron?"  Oh dear.)

At least there was an upside. 

The flavors were delicious, the chicken and veggies were tender, and the cooking liquid reduced into a rich gravy.

But maybe the slow cooker is best for busy weekends, when you have the mornings to set the thing up.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What My Mom and I Made for Dinner: September 21, 2010

Spaghetti and meatballs.

Oh I thank God all the time that I have my parents and they're around a lot.  I could not do without them.  For example, this evening.  Between 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. I needed to supervise homework-accomplishing, get Alex some new shoes, and make dinner.  That's like nothing!  Totally doable!  I didn't even have to do the soccer-practice run tonight!

But then, Eli's toe.  Oh dear Eli's toe.  Poor baby dropped a Stanley "FATMAX" industrial-strength tape measure on his own poor toe sometime this afternoon. 

(Seriously, Stanley Black & Decker, Inc.?  FATMAX?  That's honestly the best your branding people could come up with?)

His toe, it was okay with ice on it but then he tried to run and it hurt too much and he sat down on the floor and cried.  He put his blankie over it and wouldn't let me see it.  He flinched when I touched it.  He asked his grandma to kiss it to make it feel better so she kissed it and asked if it felt better and Eli said yes but you could tell it did not.

While I figured out what we should do, my mother made meatballs. 

I did not want to go to the ER.  In my experience, when a person has a broken toe, the ER doctor looks at it and goes, "yeah, it's broken" and then tapes it to its neighbor toe and then you have to pay $300.  Not Worth It in the extreme.  My mom agreed.  Our pediatrician's office, open for a crucial four more minutes, confirmed that unless the toe turned interesting shades of black, tape would take care of it (tape and a stiff shoe!  Who knew?). 

While I taped the one toe to the other toe, my mother busily browned meatballs and Italian sausages. 

Then my mom and I took Alex to get shoes,  Josh went to practice, and my dad stayed with the newly-taped and feeling-much-better Eli.  ("I think his toe feels better," my dad remarked when we returned.  "It's pretty hard to make him sit down."  Tell me about it, Dad.  Tell me about it.) 

See?  I couldn't manage without my parents.

We got back from the shoe store in time to make a quick tomato sauce.  It's not as good as one that simmers for several hours, but it's pretty good anyway.

Quick tomato sauce

One can good-quality whole roma tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 Tbsp. minced garlic, more if you like
1 medium onion, quartered
salt and pepper to taste

Browned meatballs or Italian sausages, or a combination (optional)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Put the tomatoes in a pot, squeezing them through your hands until they're pretty well squashed up.  Add the remaining ingredients except the butter and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or longer if you have it.  Remove from the heat, remove the onion pieces, and stir in the butter.  Tonight, I also added a large bunch of oregano and basil from the garden, removing it before serving.  I have made the sauce without any herbs and it's just as good.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: September 20, 2010


Monday night paella with chicken, chorizo, scallops, and shrimp. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: September 13, 2010

Chicken Caesar salad with tomatoes.

I like that my kids will eat salad for dinner, even if Alex just eats the chicken and croutons and picks around the pesky vegetables.  I like to pretend he eats some vegetables accidentally.  Everyone likes a Caesar, and it's a good way to use up cold cuts or leftover chicken (or ham or whatever) if you have them.

There's not that much to say about evenings at our house these days.  There's at least one kid's activity every weeknight, with the intermittent one-two punch of extra meetings and events on top of activities. 

I hate to keep complaining about our schedule, because it's tedious and also seriously?  That right there is a first-world problem if ever there was one.  "I hate to rush dinner because I have to drive my child to his soccer clinic."  Wherein "dinner" is a well-balanced, nutritious meal and "drive" refers to my own nice car and "soccer clinic" speaks for itself.  I also hate to complain because I realize, or maybe just assume, that everyone else maintains a similar schedule.

So I will not complain.  But I will ask, if anyone is reading:  How the hell do you manage?  How do you ferry everyone to and fro and keep them, and yourself, calm, sane, and nourished?   And I will say this:  Taco Bell cannot be the answer.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: September 12, 2010

Artichoke dip; grilled Italian sausage, peppers and onions.

The three-cheese artichoke dip seemed like a really, really great idea at 5:00 this afternoon.

Several hours later, my stomach is telling me, "YOU WERE WRONG."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: September 11, 2010

Eggplant parmesan.

Ohhhhhh cheesy goodness.  It was a pain in the ass to make, but worth it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: September 7, 2010


My goddamned refrigerator broke today.  I don't want to talk about it.

Over the long weekend, I made a lot of great stuff, but none of it for dinner.  I made applesauce from the four hundred apples my mom and dad picked from their trees.  I made honey challah for Rosh Hashana dinner, which thankfully we're having at my sister's house.  I made a yeast-rising apple coffee cake with honey glaze, also for tomorrow night.

Luckily, the challah and the cake don't need refrigeration.  The applesauce is in the deep-freeze in the garage, which appears to be working although at this point I'm taking nothing for granted.