Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend planning

Some weekends I spend a fair amount of time cooking. During the weeks that follow I almost only use the microwave, clean-up is pretty quick, and if I'm not home the family manages to eat without any instruction from me. It is super easy and low stress. On the weekends that I don't do that I am increasingly finding that found I'm much less happy at the 5:30pm hour. Recent cooking expeditions to follow - these were not all done in one weekend but 2 non consecutive weekends, with more stressful non-cooking weekends in-between.

Weekend 1-about 3 weeks ago.
Saturday I roasted two heads of cauliflower and a bag of broccoli tips. Sunday I also actually planned out meals on a piece of paper before going to the grocery store. This is a step above normal for me, but I didn't want to be thinking at all. I ended up buying a lot of frozen fish and making my bill really enormous.

I decided on a night of mushroom pizza, which I make for Dave and myself on Natasha's night to choose (it's usually frozen white crust pizza unless she convinces us to go out for sushi or Peruvian chicken) and I purchased the stuff for the nights the kids get to choose (assuming they don't change their minds). I also made a big batch of sautéed greens. I did a lot of sautéeing because the veggies keep and reheat really well, and they tend to make a splattery mess, and take some time the night of. Not a huge deal, but I had no chopping, garlic pressing, pot monitoring or olive oil splatter clean-up to do for a few nights - and the house won't have that fried onion smell. And when making the mushroom pizza it really helps to have the mushroom mixture done in advance - that way it really is a 15 minute meal.

One night during the week I made the seafood stew. I was craving it and decided to make it even though it's kind of messy and takes a while for a weeknight. I cooked all the frozen fish into a fish stew. I looked up three recipes and decided the main ingredients for the broth were tomatoes, white wine, clam sauce or fish stock, some sautéed veggies, and something spicy.  Then you basically dump in a lot of sea food and let it simmer. I also put in potatoes and a bag of frozen spinach. I put a bag of frozen chopped spinach in basically everything I cook that is a bit spicy and saucy. It turns off the kids but makes the dish much heftier and more nutritious, and they don't eat spicy food anyway.

Weekend 2 -
This past weekend I made a huge pot of bolognese sauce for Dave and Natasha. I don't really love it but they do. I got on a sauce-making kick because Mark Bittman and Jamie Oliver are always telling me it's so easy and when I look at the labels of the store bought sauces they are filled with added sugar and oil. I barely add any oil except to saute veggies and no sugar is necessary, even with canned tomatoes. It is a bit of a mess, although not a huge one, and takes some time so I decided to make a big batch this week. Ingredients include sauteed onions, garlic, green pepper, ground beef, then simmered with pureed tomatoes, beef broth and at the end some red wine. It's pretty rich-tasting and frankly kind of wintery. But the hubby loves such Northern Italian dishes. And if I never said this explicitly we kind of come to an understanding about food. He really wants home cooked food all the time and I feel like I should provide it for him, as it's one of the only consistently nice, thoughtful things I do for him. But he has to be willing to eat home cooked left-overs with some regularity, which he is, and on the not-too-often occasions I make him eat some frozen TJs dinner he can't make a big deal about it. Sometimes mommy doesn't have her act together or needs a break. We have never actually discussed this in such detail but 11 years later that's about how it has worked out.

Natasha eats it like soup, probably because she wouldn't want to let me "win" by eating the whole wheat elbow macaroni I made for it, or maybe because she just likes soup. She told me it was too thick. Of course it's too thick it's not soup! But she ate it all up, chopped up green pepper, onion, etc. in there and all. Last time I made this both kids refused it so this time I chopped up the veggies much smaller and I think that actually made a difference. I should use ground turkey until I get my sustainably raised Polyface farm beef delivered, but used the factory meat instead. I really cannot bring myself to eat that any more (Mainly thanks to Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma) and don't love the idea of Natasha eating it. Supposedly this kind was not administered hormones or antibiotics but it was from Giant.  I froze some of it for future dinner emergencies. The moral of this story is that it is just as easy to make a big batch of a many-ingredient sauce as it is to make a small batch and most sauces freeze beautifully.

At any rate, the elbow macaroni for some reason gave me a hankering for spicy peanut noodles, so I found a nice recipe on the Bittman app and made that as well. I threw in some black beans - Alex actually liked that. Since the kitchen was already a disaster and it was too hot for me to have any fun outside, I made the mushroom/onion/garlic topping for mushroom pizza (we eat that pretty often). I also made a big batches of plain quinoa, black beans and broccoli and have some leftover ginger/carrot salad dressing.

Finally I made some crunchy mustardy cole slaw. It came out of an attempt to make non-green lettuce salads. I bought a bag of shredded cabbage and thinly sliced a fennel bulb. I was going to make a non-creamy dressing - something asian, but after browsing lots of uninspiring recipes I somehow ended up making that buttermilk ranch dressing again, only I used less buttermilk powder (next time I'm using none) and I added mustard. I added it to the crunchy veggie mix and felt it needed some apple, in kind of a Waldorf salad kind of way. I skipped the walnuts. The result is very crunchy, sweet, salty, and satisfying and Dave calls it coleslaw, which, despite the addition of some more exciting ingredients, it basically is.

This week should be easy!

Hopefully I won't cook anything all week except the big bunch of bok choy I have sitting in my fridge.

Sorry I didn't post actual recipes or pictures. The red sauce looks like red sauce, the peanut noodles like peanut noodles and the cole slaw looks like cole slaw! If you want recipes just let me know.

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