Tuesday, September 30, 2014

No Crust Required

I'm sticking with my mission to provide easy and relatively quick weeknight recipes to help take the pressure off all you busy people.  I go about my menu planning for the week in a variety of ways but sometimes it's all about using up what we have an abundance of.  We belong to a CSA for our beef and pork (and occasional chicken).  Each month we pick up our insulated bag of goods and see what we got.  Since we aren't eating beef and pork everyday (as no one should) sometimes we have a little stockpile going.  At the moment I have three roasts in my freezer!  Anyway, last week I dug around to see what meat and veggies we had stored up in the freezer and decided to make a fritatta for dinner.  A fritatta is basically a quiche without the pastry crust.  This makes it easier and healthier right there.  What I love about this dinner is that you can use anything you like, whatever is on hand. Change up the veg, change up the meat, or skip the meat all together.  If you like a little cheese, use whatever strikes your fancy.  Here's what I came up with...
I started with a medium onion and half of a red bell pepper chopped.  I cooked them in a tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet until softened.
While those were cooking I thawed and chopped some kale, about 2 1/2 to 3 cups worth.  Until recently (last week) none of us were crazy about eating kale.  We love it in our smoothies but couldn't get a taste for it otherwise.  After this dinner, I served it up again in....something....I can't even remember what right now but I do remember being shocked that we ate kale twice in one week and we all liked it!
 I also chopped a couple of tablespoons of parsley and grated a little sharp cheddar.
Next I beat 8 eggs with a splash of milk (1/4 cup) and salt and pepper.
Then I added the kale and about a cup of chopped ham steak (from the CSA) and continued cooking until the kale softened a bit. Then pour the eggs in and give it a stir.  Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of that part but just let it cook it until the eggs start to set but are still runny on top.  Top with a little cheese and put it under a broiler on high for about 13-15 min (keep an eye on it).
Now doesn't that look good?
You just slice it up and serve.  We usually have this with a side salad but since we were in "use stuff up before it goes bad" mode, I made some potatoes instead.  Salad would've been better.  Just so you know.  This served the four of us and we had a couple of slices left over for an awesome week day breakfast.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sticking With The Plan

It's now Thursday, I'm still keeping with this week's meal plan.  I thought I'd keep you posted so you can see that it is doable to have home cooked dinners even during the busy week nights.  The salmon on Monday was great, but keep in mind, if you don't like salmon, use a different fish.  There were a bunch of veggies left over and I ate the for lunch on Tuesday.  Tuesday we had a few things going on in the evening so we had the Cauliflower Mac and Cheese for dinner.  It only took 30 minutes to get on the table.
You could even cut time down by buying chopped cauliflower or cutting it ahead of time, like when you're putting the groceries away.  You can rinse the cauliflower, cut half of it up and put it in a zip lock bag in the fridge.  I used parsley and chives this time.
 I get everything together while the water for the pasta comes to a boil.  Again, you could shred your cheese ahead if you think it will save you a few. Once the water boils I melt the cheese into the sauce while the the pasta cooks so they're done at the same time.  9 minutes!
Serve with a nice big salad.  I'm still working on the switch to whole wheat pasta.  I like it with some things but somehow I just can't mess with my mac and cheese.  I'll keep working on it though!
Wednesday morning I got up and got my chicken in the crock pot for chicken tacos.  This is the recipe from 100 Days of Real Food that is the best thing ever. Chop and onion and throw it in.
Lay the chicken on top and season.  I used salt, pepper, garlic, cumin and chili powder.  Put the lid on, turn it to low and walk away for 7 or 8 hours.  Who doesn't love a chicken that cooks itself while you're at work?
Come home to a cooked chicken ready to shred for a variety of uses.
When I pulled it out the breast detached itself from the legs and wings.  This is handy if you like to keep the white meat and dark meat separate for different uses.
The meat shreds easily with a fork or keep it in larger pieces if you like.
There is plenty for tacos, chicken salad and maybe a green salad or two.
I pulled out the bones and removed all the skin and meat.  I put the bones back in the crock with some celery, carrot a fresh onion and some salt and pepper (didn't have much for herbs on hand).
Fill almost to the top with water and turn it on low and let it go over night (if you like to make homemade stock).
I got 5 pints out of it.  I put these in the freezer and use later.
But back to dinner....Chicken and black bean tacos on the whole wheat tortillas we made on Sunday.  They were pretty good but decided the tortillas need to be rolled out thinner.  Not bad for a first attempt.
So that brings us to today, Thursday.  We're having Slow Cooker Pork with Noodles tonight.  I usually make this with a pork shoulder but I had a bunch of pork steaks from our meat CSA so I'm using those instead.  I chose this one for tonight because nobody has to be anywhere tonight (whaaat?).  Not that this requires a lot of attention but I like to add more veggies than the recipe calls for so I'll probably stir fry some carrots and pea pods to go with it. So far so good! I love when a plan comes together!

Monday, September 8, 2014

So What's The Plan?

With summer over and school and sports back in full swing, many of us are finding ourselves running around like chickens!  It's a big difference in our house because we are no longer operating on "summer hours".  During the summer we have no problem eating dinner at 8:00-8:30 at night.  It's still light out, the kids are out playing, everyone goes to bed later and so on.  It's way more relaxed and Nelsy and I cook together more often.  Now that the switch has flipped, the first full week of school has us running one or more kid somewhere 3 nights this week for sports.  We have Open House at one of their schools one night, even a school dance.  On top of all that the kids are getting used to early mornings again....Really early for my middle schooler.  With all that going on in the evenings, a dinner plan is more important than ever.  I go nuts when I fail to make a plan for the week.  I understand why people hate to cook because most of the battle is figuring out what to cook. That can be so annoying at 6:00 pm on a week night and you have no ideas, your meat is frozen, and for everything you come up with, you're missing one or more critical ingredient.  We've all been there.  We order pizza.  I've made it part of my weekend ritual to either Saturday or Sunday morning sit down with my coffee and a pen and paper and a cookbook or a few magazines and come up with a minimum of 4 but preferably 5 dinners for the week.  During these busy times I take into account the week's schedule and plan accordingly.  If you have an interest in eating real food most days, a plan is a must.
There's always a pile of papers like this one lying around.  The menu gets scribbled on the right, grocery list on the left.  This way you know exactly what you need for each dinner.  Tonight both kids had soccer and it didn't end until 7:30 pm so it was all about fast and easy tonight.  Here's how it all went down:
First thing, set up the rice.  I really wanted brown rice with this dinner but we were fresh out and I happened to have a bunch of white rice to use up anyway.  I know not everyone has a rice cooker but I love this thing because I never have to worry about it boiling over on stove (like it usually does when I cook it in a pot).  You can put the rice and water or chicken stock in there and just turn it on 30 min before you want it. In this case, I got it going right away.
Because I planned ahead, I took these salmon (wild caught) out of the freezer before work this morning so they would thaw.  There's a time saver.
I sliced a lemon and put in in the bottom of the pan.  Chopped a couple of sprigs of oregano and thyme and put a couple of cloves of garlic through the garlic press.  A quick dash or salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon on top.  I let the fish sit there for 15 minutes.
During that 15, I grabbed my random assortment of veggies and chopped them up.
That only took a couple of minutes.
Next, I heated the pan with a little olive oil and tossed a chopped onion in there.  When 15 was up I turned the broiler on high and popped the fish in the oven.
Add the rest of the veg to the pan along with a little garlic, salt and pepper and saute for about 5-6 minutes.  I had this pan pretty full.  After 5 minutes or so I put the lid on and basically steamed them the rest of the way.  There's plenty of water in zucchini so no need to add any.
After 15 minutes, the fish is done, the rice is now done and the veg is done!  30 minutes, no measuring, no following recipes, and nothing processed (ok, my white rice, just pretend it was the brown rice that I really wanted).
Kids were fueled up and on their way! I'll continue with the rest of the week as it comes.  I plan to have cauliflower mac and cheese tomorrow with salad and maybe another veg.  Tomorrow we have to be in three places at once so a plan is mandatory!  Did you make a plan this week or are you winging it?