Although I am reasonably confident that today is
Monday Tuesday, I am only now publishing my usual Thursday menu plan from last week. This is partly due to the fact that on Thursday we were visited by a series of tornadoes which struck near here and caused extensive disruption and destruction. Sam and I were heading to Detroit Friday morning to join Rob at a conference, so I spent early Thursday evening packing, thinking that I would get the menu planning entry written after Sam went to bed. In reality, around the time he should have gone upstairs the winds began to blow, the sirens howled, the emergency alerts appeared in the middle of “The Office,” the dogs and cats freaked out, Sam got scared, and we began an extended period of gathering candles and flashlights, camping downstairs, relaxing and heading back upstairs, hearing the sirens again and returning to the lower level. The evening is described quite well by my old friend greentuna.
I was in no mood to make dinner when we got home on Saturday (Thai tofu for me!) , so I planned only for Sunday through next Friday.
Here is a brief refresher on how these menu plans are created:
- I look at what I have in the house that needs to be used up: I went into this week with about a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about five pounds of round, white potatoes, two frozen “Paesano” bread rounds and frozen, leftover meatloaf from last week.
- I look at what is seasonal and can be bought from local growers. Although farmers’ market season is (alas) over, I do live in farming country, and locally grown, seasonal produce can be found by a careful shopper. Apples are cheap and plentiful, as are squash, sweet potatoes and cauliflower (among other things).
- I look at what’s on sale, mainly in terms of protein. I like to plan no more than two red meat meals a week, and to have at least one vegetarian meal.
- I consider what recipes I am dying to use. This week, I felt like using my vast store of clipped and printed recipes, and am busy enough that I didn’t want to take on anything too elaborate or experimental.
Here’s what we’re eating on Forest Street this week:
Spaghetti with Meatloaf “Meatballs,” Mixed Greens and Italian Bread
The Spaghetti was made with chunked leftover “Italian” meatloaf in the sauce. Interestingly, although Sam will not eat the meatloaf served as meatloaf, he loved the “meatballs.” This constitutes further proof that children are not, in fact, rational human beings.
Buffalo Chicken Strips, Oven Fries, Celery Sticks, and Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
The Buffalo Chicken Strips are a tried-and-true recipe from allrecipes.com. The “dip” recipe provided in the original is delicious, but it makes too much for our house. Sam won’t eat blue cheese, and Rob won’t eat it because he found that (although it tasted good to him) it had yogurt in it. I therefore make the chicken and serve it with Ranch for Sam, “real” blue cheese dressing for Rob, and “light” blue cheese dressing for myself. This time, I am actually having my chicken on a bed of greens with dressing.
- 1 large (Russet), or 2 small (Yukon Gold) potatoes per person
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- Cooking Spray
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash, dry and and thinly slice potatoes, leaving on the peel. in a bowl or large plastic bag, toss potato slices with oil, salt and pepper. Arrange potato slices in a single layer on one or two baking sheets, spray with cooking spray and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn them over, spray the “new” side with cooking spray, and cook for another 15 minutes. Watch them carefully; depending on your idea of “thin” slicing, they may be finished and begin to burn before 30 minutes has elapsed.
Lentil Soup and Homemade Anadama Bread
This would be our vegetarian meal (I actually prefer lentil soup sans meat) but Rob doesn’t like it meatless, and I already had my vegetarian meal at the Thai restaurant Saturday night. (In case it has not yet become clear to you, no one in this house besides me would care if we ate nothing but pork rinds and jerky, so no one else will ever plaintively remind me that we didn’t have our vegetarian meal for the week).
My lentil soup is “vintage,” from the beloved (original version of the) Blueberry Hill Cookbook. Although the original recipe calls for sliced hot dogs and a ham, beef or pork bone, I just use good quality stock and some chopped ham.
(Adapted from The Blueberry Hill Cookbook)
- 1 pound quick-cooking lentils
- 1 large carrot, coarsely chopped (you may peel it, but I leave the peel on for the fiber)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces chopped ham (or 8 cooked hot dogs, sliced)
- 6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Cover lentils with 6 cups broth. Add ham, carrot, onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer slowly for two hours, or until soup thickens. If lentils appear to have soaked up all of the broth, (if there is little or no visible liquid) add more a 1/2 cup at a time up to 8 cups total. When soup is the consistency of good, heavy cream and the lentils have lost their shape, let stand on back of stove for at least an hour. (I would have to say no more than an hour for food safety reasons; I usually just leave it on the lowest setting during this “standing” period). Later, raise heat and serve.
Pan-Sauteed, Marinated Chicken Thighs, Noodles and Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce
This will use up the remaining chicken thighs; I’ll marinate them in some Italian dressing or a combination of olive oil and orange juice with a little smashed garlic and then cook them 15 minutes in some olive oil, turning them every 5 minutes. While I boil the noodles I’ll steam a head of cauliflower cut into pieces and make cheese sauce. I am well aware that cheese sauce used to hide healthy vegetables is a sin, but in our house it means the cauliflower is devoured, and Sam gets a good helping of calcium from the milk and cheese in the sauce.
Healthier Cheese Sauce for Broccoli or Cauliflower (or whatever else you like with cheese sauce on it)
- 2 tablespoons Smart Balance margarine
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 2 1/2 cups skim milk
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2% cheese will work, although you’ll lose some flavor and compromise the texture)
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium saucepan melt the margarine, and whisk in flour and dry mustard. Add salt and pepper, if you like.
Slowly whisk in milk, stirring constantly until all lumps are gone. Continue to stir until mixture thickens, about 5-8 minutes. When mixture is thickened, remove from heat and stir in shredded cheese.
Thai Beef Curry, Rice and Thai Apple Salad
I’m making the same curry I usually make, but I’m substituting a bag of broccoli/carrot/cauliflower slaw for the carrots and red pepper I usually add. I’ll still use the same amount of onion. I am thinking this will add some fiber, nutrients and color. I owe the guys a decent batch of curry since I made the last one with light coconut milk and made them weep with disappointment.
Roast Chicken, Broccoli and Roasted Potatoes
This will be my standard Mark Bittman blast-roasted chicken and potatoes; chicken was on sale, and this uses up the potatoes I had in the pantry. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the broccoli, but I may toss it with some bread crumbs sauteed with a little olive oil and garlic.