Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why I Haven't Made Dinner: October 21-28, 2010

It's fall! Halololoween is a-comin! And we got stuff to do! Scouts parties and soccer team parties and PTA parties! Parties, people!

(Also I have been grading papers. But mostly, parties!)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 20, 2010

Beef stew.

Okay, the beef stew was, in fact, very tasty.  I'm feeling much less grouchy with a day's distance from making the damn thing.  It was really nice to have a healthy, hot meal ready for the family to eat in the twenty minutes we had to eat dinner between Hebrew school and basketball practice. 

So I can say it was worth it, although I still maintain it took way too long to assemble it last night.  (Plus, the cookbook's proviso "Like all stews, this one gets better with age, so . . . cook it a day or two before serving" is ridiculous in the context of a busy family's Crock Pot cooking.)

I will try it again, but next time I'll try a few modifications to see if I can make it more quickly.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 19, 2010

Eggs in a nest, hash browns, fruit salad.

This dinner was lovely and easy, unlike the insane project I undertook tonight to get tomorrow night's dinner ready.

Too tired to describe it now.  That stupid Art of the Slow Cooker book got me again.  At least this time, I wasn't all dressed up and rushing to get to work.  I am beginning to doubt that the author, one Andrew Schloss, has ever actually talked to anyone who uses a Crock Pot about why, and under what circumstances, a person might use such a device.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 18, 2010

Chicken salad.

So last week, when I turned officially too old to eat road food anymore, I didn't feel like celebrating.  (I really like road food, after all.)  But my family insisted and on Saturday, when we got back from Omaha, we went over to my sister's house for dinner.

My mom, in planning the menu, had asked what my favorite foods were.  If I could eat anything at all, what would it be, and they would try to make it happen.  So, you know, sort of like the last meal request for death row prisoners, which may or may not hold a metaphor for my fortieth birthday.

Anyhow, here is what I settled on, which also likely would be my last meal request if things ever went horribly wrong:  Martinis and cheese selection to start.  Main course of roast chicken and root vegetables.  Yellow cake with chocolate frosting for dessert.

Of course, my mom and my sister made it happen, and we got to bring home the leftovers.  How I love the leftovers from this meal.  (Obviously not a concern in the last-meal scenario.)  Out of the leftover chicken I got two lunches of chicken salad (the mayonnaise kind) and this dinner, which was a romaine lettuce salad with apples, artichoke hearts, sweet onion, and avocado, topped with chicken and cheddar cheese, dressed with dijon vinaigrette. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 17, 2010

Tilapia and shrimp with vegetables in packets.

We went on a little road trip with the kiddos this weekend on a visit to the fantabulous Omaha Zoo, and I am not kidding when I say the zoo makes a trip to Omaha worthwhile from just about anywhere.

But the road trip means two days of road food, and I recently became officially too old to eat like that anymore.  Jeez.  So I liked this light little meal as at least partial redemption.  The recipe says to add just white wine to the packets, but I added soy sauce and lime juice as well for a more Asian flavor, and I served the fish with brown rice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 12, 2010

Chili and cornbread.

My parents joined us for dinner tonight and with the mail we got a DVD about summer camp, so tonight's dinner conversation was all about camps we've known and loved.  I went away to camp for a month every summer from the time I was twelve until I was too old to go anymore.  I've always figured my kids would go someday, too.

I can't believe it, but Josh and Alex are about that age.  That snuck up on me.

So for Jewish children in our area, there are two main options for summer overnight camps.  Both are hideously expensive.  Hideously expensive!  There arises the first dilemma:  Even if we can scare up the cash for camp, wouldn't it be better--wiser, more prudent--to save it for something else?  I mean, there's no question:  Yes It Would.  College leaps to mind.  Braces.  Alex's grownup teeth are beginning to look, shall we say, exciting.  Cars and the attendant teenage male driver liability funds.  Bar Mitzvah parties.  Or, or, or any of the other very real, impending, and expensive needs in our children's futures.  Times three.

The second dilemma exists only if we ignore the first.  I don't know if I can ignore the first.  But anyway, which camp?  Goldman is my camp alma mater, so I would love to send them there.  But it's a little far away.  Also, it might not be a great fit for my boys--a little too religiously intense, maybe too much arts and not enough lake.  Sabra might be more fun for them, and it's about a thousand times easier to get them there, but it's even more hideously expensive than Goldman and I don't know as much about it.

Oy. Vey.

Monday, October 11, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 11, 2010

Penne with roasted tomato sauce.

Here is a fantastic, easy tomato sauce perfect for a weeknight.  (And I used up a bunch of basil and oregano out of the garden, too.)

6-8 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 T brown sugar
2 T olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

about 1/2 to one cup of fresh basil leaves
about 2 T to 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves

Preheat oven to 425.  Line a rimmed baking sheet.  Place the tomatoes, cut side up, on the baking sheet.  Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them all over with the brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  Roast them in the oven until they begin to brown, about 20-30 minutes.

Place the roasted tomatoes in a food processor.  Add as much of the pan drippings as possible.  Add the herbs.  Puree until more or less smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 10, 2010

Biscuits and sawmill gravy; broccoli slaw.

My children were ravenous this evening when they got home from late-afternoon soccer games.  Famished as though they hadn't had lunches of pizza and fruit, snacks of cheese and granola bars.  "What is going on, you guys?  Why are you so hungry?"  "We just are!  When is dinner gonna be ready?!"  No patience at all, and they both ate more than I did.

We love this dinner but I just can't bring myself to make it more than once in a great while.  I reduce the fat a little by using turkey sausage, but honestly, when there's a pint of cream in the gravy and six tablespoons of butter in the biscuits, how much difference does it really make?  Let's all focus instead on the delicious and wholesome broccoli slaw. 

Broccoli slaw (serves 6-8)

One 12-ounce package broccoli slaw (includes shredded carrots and red cabbage)
1/2 cup sunflower kernels
4 green onions, sliced thin
One 10-ounce can of mandarin oranges, drained and coarsely chopped

3 T olive oil
1.5 T lemon juice
1 T orange juice
1 t grated orange peel
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste

Combine the dressing ingredients in a sealable plastic bowl; seal it and shake it until combined.  Combine the slaw ingredients in a large salad bowl; pour the dressing over and toss.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 7, 2010

Lemon-artichoke chicken.

There used to be this great restaurant called Paradise Cafe on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence.  It was kind of a hippie place with a smallish menu, but what they had was usually really tasty.  My favorite thing there was the artichoke chicken, a tender chicken breast with artichoke hearts in a savory cream sauce, served over brown rice. 

Paradise went out of business a long time ago.  I have never been able to find a recipe that comes close to that artichoke chicken.  This one was closer, but still not quite there; maybe it needed a little more cream.

Lemon-Artichoke Chicken (serves 4-6)

4  boned, skinned chicken breast halves (about 8 oz. each), rinsed, dried, and cut into 2-inch chunks (alternatively, leave them whole and pound them to an even thickness of 1/4 to 1/2 inch.)
Salt and pepper to taste
2  tablespoons  butter
2 14-oz  cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/4 cup cognac or dry sherry
2  tablespoons grated lemon peel
2  tablespoons lemon juice
1/2  cup heavy cream (or half-and-half, in a pinch)
1/2  cup  grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350°.
Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.  In a saute pan, melt the butter and saute the chicken until well browned.  There should be crust in the pan.  Transfer chicken to a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and add artichoke hearts.

To the saute pan, add the cognac, lemon peel, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring and scraping to remove the browned bits in the pan.  Allow to simmer for about five minutes, until the cognac no longer smells strongly of alcohol.  Remove from heat.  Add cream and stir.  Pour sauce over chicken and sprinkle with cheese.

Bake until sauce is bubbling and golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 6, 2010

Bagel egg sandwiches and fruit salad.

Schlepped Eli across town to preschool first thing this morning then hauled ass all the way downtown for a doctor's appointment then drove the 35 miles to work where I met with stressed-out students all day and then the 35 miles back to temple to pick Josh up from Hebrew school and then rushed across town home in time for Alex to get to Scouts and then I made scrambled eggs which takes no time at all but now I am so tired I can't see straight.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 5, 2010

Baked salmon with breadcrumbs; gnocchi with broccoli and roasted tomatoes.

Apparently it's not only herb-preserving time here at Chez Dinnertime, it's also freezer-cleaning time.  A couple of salmon filets in this bag, a couple in that one, and ho!  what's this?  Gnocchi left over from ages ago!  Sounds good to me!

Monday, October 4, 2010

What I Made for Dinner: October 4, 2010

Strip steaks with chimichurri.

Time to preserve the herb garden!  I froze four gallon bags full of parsley, made about two pints of chimichurri (parsley, oregano, onion, and garlic in red wine and olive oil), froze several quart bags of sage leaves, and put up a pound and a half of thyme-sage compound butter. 

I have so much basil I don't know what to do with it.  I can't just let it all go to waste but we'll never eat that much pesto.