Menu Planning ~ April 6th, 2014

With the spring holiday of Pesach just around the corner, it's time to start purging the pantry of chametz. In years past, this meant eating pasta, rice and legumes until the pantry was bare then sealing up the remains and banishing them to the garage for eight days. Now, we eat very little of those foods (aside from the kids lunches) and our meals won't change drastically during the festive week.  Perhaps our ancestors were on something during their time in the desert.

Instead of the theme being purging, this week it's baseball.  Tonight, my San Francisco Giants were in town playing Matt's Los Angeles Dodgers so we took the kiddos to Dodger Stadium.  Jamie plays a rare week night game on Tuesday and then again on Saturday. We're living, eating, breathing baseball this week and I love it but it does make meal planning a bit more difficult. We'll be making good use of the grill and crock pot to save on time.

What are you tips and tricks for getting dinner on the table when your afternoons are jam packed with sports, homework, and everyday life?


Meal Planning ~ March 31st

So that lovely eggplant from two weeks ago is still sitting on my counter, probably pushing its use-by date...I had planned on making a roasted eggplant lasagna Sunday night but Matt ended up being away for dinner and the kids asked oh so nicely for spaghetti and meatballs...hopefully we'll get around to eating it before it goes bad.
As Matt and I get ready to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary later this week, I can't help but reflect on how much has changed over those ten years.  One of the biggest changes, evolutions (?), is our attitude towards food and what our weekly menus consists of.  Back then, we barely planned - there was lots of fly by the seat of your pants cooking, last minute runs to the market and more food spoiled before we got to eat it than I'd care to admit. My repertoire was very limited; if you dined at our home you probably got Mexican food, apricot glazed chicken or a pasta dish. I'm proud of how we've grown and cannot wait to see what the next ten years will bring.

Between our anniversary celebration, a friend's birthday dinner tonight (kids will have mac n' cheese) and Zoe's class being featured at the synagogue Sabbat dinner this Friday, we're out more than home this week.


Menu Planning - March 23rd

Do you ever impulse buy something at the market and have no idea what to make with it?  Zoe came to the market with me on Friday and insisted we buy an eggplant.  I have no idea where she learned what an eggplant is or if she'll even eat it but she was very adamant that it get added to our cart.  Eggplant, our aubergine as it's known in other parts of the world, has never called to me like it did to Zoe.  I'll order eggplant Parmesan or moussaka every once in a blue moon but I have never cooked with it. I make a pretty good lasagna and have taken to alternating between pasta and zucchini noodles to add a little more green to the dish.  I think I'll try adding an eggplant layer as well... Do you use eggplant in your regular cooking? If so, what's your favorite recipe?  Would love to try preparing in it a way that highlights the flavor instead of (literally) burying it between layers of other flavors.

Extras - sauteed onion and bell pepper egg bake, Smiten Kitchen's Kale & Quinoa Salad, extra roasted sweet potatoes.  Matt is traveling the first half of the week so I need some good grab n' good breakfast, snacks and lunches handy.


Meal Planning ~ March 16 (BACKLOG)

Oops, three weeks into this re-commitment to blogging and I've already fallen off the posting bandwagon.  I suppose I could blame it on the craziness of the week but every week seems to be extra crazy these days so no excuses. At least I got a meal plan thrown together.

Here you go, our plan for the week (which is more than half over)...


Light, Flaky, Buttery Hamentashen!

Jamie and I have been making hamentashen together for about five years and to be honest, they usually don't get eaten. We would try a new recipe each year hoping to find the "one", tossing most of our creations into the trash. 

This year's recipe is a definite keeper- not only is it an amazing hamentashen recipe but it's probably my new favorite sugar cookie recipe as well.  During the week leading up to Purim we made, no joke, five batches of these cookies! My children, who usually don't like what we make (it's about the process and dough for them) keep asking for more. They are that easy and yummy.

This recipe is from Tori Avery's Shiksa in the Kitchen. I adapted it ever so slightly to use Meyer lemon zest instead of orange since our tree is producing an over abundance of fruit...plus I love lemon and am not a huge orange fan.

We used an assortment of fillings - strawberry, raspberry, Nutella and dark chocolate/peanut butter spread.

For Tori's recipe, plus useful tips on folding perfect hamentashen please follow the link to her site.



Crock Pot Ranch-Pesto Chicken

Perhaps I should have saved this dinner for Monday night, St. Patrick's Day, but it turned out so good I'm glad I didn't wait.  The pictures don't quite bring out the green color of the pesto or the vibrant, tangy flavor but believe me this tasted like spring.

There are various versions of this recipe floating around on Pinterest.  Below is how I made the dish, incredibly easy.

1 package chicken breasts (pounded thin or buy the thin cut breasts)
1 6 oz jar Trader Joe's pesto sauce
1/2 to 1 package dry ranch dressing, depending on how salty you like your food
1 jar water (or chicken broth)
pasta, quinoa, rice, or some other starch to soak up the saucy goodness.
Parmesan cheese

Put chicken in the bottom of the crock pot and sprinkle with ranch dressing.

Slather chicken in pesto sauce.

Fill pesto jar with water or broth, replace lid and shake to loosen any additional sauce.  Pour water/sauce mixture on top of chicken.  Make sure all the chicken is covered in sauce and cover crock pot.

Cook on high heat about 3 hours then reduce to low for another 2-3 hours.  You can also cook on low for 4-6 hours (depends on how hot your crock pot runs).  Matt happened to have been home and noticed that the chicken seemed done and turned down the temperature for me since I was out.

Use a fork or tongs to shred chicken.  It should fall apart easily.

Spoon chicken mixture over pasta/rice/quinoa and top with Parmesan cheese.


Meal Plan March 9, 2014

Last week as I was doing my weekly Sunday morning Trader Joe's run, I realized just how much I detest the grocery store on Sunday mornings.   Don't get me wrong, I don't hate the market, I just hate it on Sundays.  In fact, since becoming a mom, going to the grocery store alone is one of my greatest joys (pathetic, I know) followed closely by a solo trip to Target but going on Sundays has become painful. Couple the angry, rushing crowds with the world's most poorly designed parking lots and Sundays at the grocery store has lost its appeal.  As I fought my way to through the crowds then made my way back to the car, praying it wasn't totally dinged up, I realized that I don't have to go to the market on Sundays.  I'm fortunate that my current client allows me to keep flexible hours and there is no reason forcing me to shop on Sundays.

This past Friday, I hit the market after dropping the kids off at school and it was heavenly.  The parking lot and store were empty but the shelves were fully stocked.  There was no fighting over the last package of kid lunch essential applesauce pouches or pushing a cart as if participating in a vicious round of bumper cars.  I was able to take my time, pay extra attention to labels and provide my family with a fully stocked fridge and pantry for the weekend and coming week.

When do you do your shopping and how often do you go to the market?

Extras - butternut squash and spinach breakfast casserole and hamentashen for kids lunches and our fabulous neighbors