Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Whirlwind Menu Week

With the girls home every day this past week, we killed time by going food shopping almost every day, which makes menu planning more flexible.  It was also hot, so we grilled every day.
 The meals this week were the following:
Mon: Left over chicken legs in a "5 Ingredient Asian Sauce" I found on the Cooking Light web site. This is because I wanted to use this ingredient I had only used once, this "Sambor Timbor blah blah blah" stuff of which the name I can't remember.  On the side I roasted broccoli for the first time, starting from frozen! Used garlic powder, even easier! Will be doing this again (and I usually never let broccoli pass my lips).
Tues: A real simple "Real Simple" recipe: Grilled Zucchini on White Bread with Fontina and Tapenade.  A Tomato and Hazelnut Salad on the side, which was surprisingly delicious. We now have fresh tomatoes from our garden!
Wed: Grilled Trout with Coriander and Lime from Cooks Illustrated July/August Issue, which turned out good but lackluster in my book. A side of Panzanella salad using tomatoes from our garden.
Thurs:  I turned on the grill for the first time in my life, and I made the best turkey burger recipe I have found since my search began: "Turkey Burgers with Feta and Ricotta" from the Make Ahead Cooks Illustrated Cookbook.  I did make them ahead, and then grilled them MYSELF. We had sides of baked potatoes.
Fri: Our classic Grilled Pork Chops with Fennel. Sides of Panzanella Salad (again - must use tomatoes. A terrible problem! and the fresh bread).
We paired most meals with a chardonnay, of which my favorite was the Sterling Vineyards Chardonnay, 2012 (not the Sterling Napa Chardonnay).  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Grilled Peach Pizza with Prosciutto

Tis' peach season here in North Carolina, and I decided to add a few peach focused recipes to my menu this week.  We started out with Grilled Peach Pizza with Prosciutto, a recipe I found in the Charlotte Observer a few weeks ago.  My folders are filled with  newspaper clippings of recipes, and I am always glad when I am able to try one out, especially so soon after publication.  It usually means that it is a keeper, and this recipe certainly is one!

The husband and I (well, really me, and the husband follows orders) began our grilled pizza experiment a few years ago, the summer our second daughter was born.  A few You Tube videos made my husband an expert at flattening out the dough for the grill. A "How Too" article with pictures, also found on the Internet, assisted.  Our first attempts were muddled by inexperience, and old grill, and screaming babies.  A few years later, we now have more experience, a new grill, and whiny children.  But, the whiny children at the pizza!


Since we were in detox from the night before, we paired this with seltzer water, but the sommelier in me would pair this with a Margaret River Riesling or a South African Muscat.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Gone Double Nap

The era of the double nap is gone. It has been nothing short of soul crushing. The era when both girls would sleep two, possibly three, hours, and I would do whatever I wanted. Or, check off tasks that needed to get done, that I didn't really want to do.

Sadly, my three year old dropped her nap. and my world has never been the same.  After about seven months of no nap, I still remain in deep mourning and I am working on creating a "new normal" for me and R.  This has only happened after a process of loss and acceptance, and involved considerable whining, many tears, some screaming, and loads of cartoons. It is still a work in process. Here is a picture of the new normal afternoon:

First, I put C down for her nap.
Second, I eat my lunch and give bites to R.
Third, I read R a book (this has been being rejected recently).
Four, I try to get her into bed to "just to lie down for a bit."  This gets rejected every time.
Fifth,  I give into her requests to watch the new favorite cartoon.
Six, I prepare something for dinner, and she helps. (She wants to chop. She can't. She wants to stir. She can't. She gets her fingers dirty. She cries. She wants to help more.)This is a post on its own and has been the most difficult to accept. My cooking time is MY time. Her intrusion has been heartbreaking.
Seven, we argue about juice.
Eight, we argue about whether to wake C.
Nine, there is usually a time out.
Ten, R is back in front of the TV, and I am imagining my husband coming home and making me a Gin and Tonic.

As you can see, it is a truly well thought out plan.

Good Bye Double Nap. No more RIP.  


Friday, August 7, 2015

Our Meal Schedule and Blue Apron Dinners

We occasionally do Blue Apron dinners.  I felt the need this week, mainly so I can have the freedom in my head that comes when I don't have to plan dinner. Otherwise, I feel that I am a better meal planner, and make quicker (though less complex) meals.

 Planning dinner is an intricate decision that is made with the following in mind:
1) What is in the fridge? (in my case, usually not much)
2) What recipes have I been hankering to do?  (usually time consuming, and I won't be able to do until the kids go to college).
3) What wines have I been dying to try?
4) What have I eaten so far this week?
5) Can I get the kids to eat some?
6) Is there gas in the grill?
7) What is the "scheduled" main for the evening?

In order to cut down on the decision making, I created a schedule

Monday: Chicken
Tuesday: Vegetarian
Wednesday: Fish
Thurs: Pork/Lamb
Friday:  Ground Meat
Saturday: Out
Sunday: Pizza (in or out).

This schedule is not set in stone. If I end up buying fresh fish on Monday, we will eat it, and have chicken later.  If we eat out on Wednesday, we will eat in on Saturday.  Anyway, it keeps boredom at bay and cuts down decisions.

I have been trying, throughout the years, to come up with a book of solid recipes I turn to that can eventually become, "Putnam Family Classics."  That is eventually the goal, to at least print out a cookbook for ourselves, eventually, in many years.....  Hopefully this blog/writing exercises will help.

The next few weeks will be all kids all the time, as camp ends and then we have three weeks until preschool. At least we will have two weeks up north with my family.  There will probably be no time to write.  Hopefully I will find time to pray and read every day. Hahahahahahahah!

It is amazing that I have sat down every day for the last three days with something in mind to write, and then wrote some thing else...... Will have to work on that.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Monasteries and Meals

When I was studying abroad in Rome during my Junior year in college, I lived in a convent on the Aventine Hill.

Thus began my journey into learning more about monasteries and convents, and admire the daily patterns of their community life.  (When we were on our honeymoon in Greece, my husband joked we should get a bumper sticker that said, "I brake for monasteries." He was only half kidding.)  

Though  we lived separate from the nuns, our little school of fifty students studied, socialized, and ate together for four months, all within that building above.  Most of us (including me), also slept in one of the guestrooms.  This was also before cell phones, so we all got to know each other quite well.

The food at this monastery was prepared by the nuns, and it had a lot to be desired. We had the same "nun buns" and coffee for breakfast. Lunch was hot (five hours later.....the 8 guys in our program were starving!) and was almost always breaded chicken cutlets with a side of lettuce.  Dinner was similar but even smaller, almost a snack.  This was quite a change from the never ending options of our college cafeterias.  

So, yesterday, at the Habitat ReStore, I was surprised to find this book:

My perfect combination: monasteries and recipes.  I was also surprised to find out there was good food to be had in monasteries. Apparently, nuns and monks truly pride themselves on spoiling their guests with gourmet food.  A recent google search for "monasteries, NC" took me to a job listing for a sous chef at a local monastic retreat center.  Where was the sous chef in Rome? In the best city for eating in the world?  

I really don't see how with two children under four I will be able to visit these monasteries anytime soon, and with these communities going into quick decline, there might not be much time to wait.  But, in the meantime, I can take in some of their spirit and prayers by cooking:

Chicken with Orange and Walnuts and Cheese Pie from Pendle Hill Quaker Center in Pennsylvania
or a Huguenot Torte from the St. Christopher Conference Center in Charleston.  

and praying:  

Bless our hearts
to hear
in the breaking of the bread
the song of the Universe.

(Father John Giuliani, Benedictine Grange, West Redding, CT).  

I will keep you all updated on how (of if) these recipes turn out!  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Quick Dinner with Roast Chicken

The husband does not like a "put together" dinner. He needs something simple, with a main and two sides - a meal that doesn't have to explain itself.  My schedule driven husband has to eat this type of meal at the same time every day. It is always my goal to try and break this habit.  

I have opposite habits. I don't mind having a few cheese and crackers, a bowl of cereal, a cookie, and a glass of Rose (or 2) for dinner. This dinner usually happens at around 5:30, when the kids are eating (whining), and I am puttering (having sips of wine instead of screaming at the top of my lungs). I can only eat this dinner when my husband is not home for dinner, which is never.

Last night, I had dim hope I would be alone for dinner, sipping rose and eating Wheat Thins out of the box, when my husband announces that he is going to come home for dinner before leaving for the evening. #&$*(*&#$*(&.  What did I have?  A roast chicken from the Teeter, after R had begged for "white chicken" for three days.  I asked him, "Would you like some Roast Chicken and Avocado? or would you like me to make a chicken salad?"  He answers, "Oh! A Chicken Salad."  &*#($)&*

I knew I had curry and grapes. I googled, "Curry Chicken Salad," and came upon this Betty Crocker Recipe for which I had every ingredient, including the slivered almonds.  It came together fast, served with some leftover pitas and iceberg lettuce from last week. I added some scallions for a bite.  The husband pronounced it "good", and went on his way. I have to agree.

Curried Chicken and Grape Salad