It’s a Fun Friday when kids cook

Screaming Eagle cheese steak sub

Son #2 flagged the NY Times recipe for Friday night's dinner ... and picked up a knife to help. Truly Fun!

Son #2 wields a mean knife. As in turning out thinly sliced mushrooms, perfect for our first endeavor together on Screaming Eagle cheese steak subs.

The plan kicked off last Sunday when the guys spotted the recipe in the New York Times magazine – a piece about greasy yet beloved sandwiches you can spot on any college campus. Always a fan of cheese steak subs, they decided we should make the Screaming Eagles ( a fave of Boston College) for dinner by week’s end. Son #2 compiled a grocery shopping list and joined me in the kitchen.

I was thrilled. Not only to have help in the kitchen but to get the guys going on my big goal — to cook for themselves.  (This goal was recently documented on a parenting website where I was quoted.  There’s no turning back now.)

We focused on two basics of successful cooking. I explained the value of reading the recipe completely two or three times so we’d have our game plan organized and slicing up all the veggies before we approached the stove. Along the way Son #2 picked up a couple of knife skills. He also got a chance to chastise me for asking him to slice the steaks across the grain, rather than with it as the recipe advised.

“Mom. you didn’t read the recipe.  That would have been a lot easier!”

Love it!

 

 

A pool of puree for another day

Too much green

Turkey meatloaf with feta and sun-dried tomatoes

“It’s good but don’t ever make it again.” Son #1’s assessment of tonight’s vegetable side dish was lukewarm at best. This is what happens when you force a meal theme. I usually love Thermal Thursday because it’s yet another excuse to use my pressure cooker to blast together a meal in minutes. Running a close second in my favorite kitchen helpers is a hand-held immersion blender.  So Lorna Sass’ recipe for broccoli-potato puree let me play with both.  The result, however, tasted far better than it looked.

“This is like soup,” Son #1 explained. True.  The smooth green puddle on our plates did little to enliven the turkey-feta meatloaf with sun-dried tomatoes.  I  served the two atop a bed of arugula in hopes of bringing some interest to the plate. Too much green. Not enough color and texture to pull it off.

We decided to relegate the puree to that category of foods you need when you’ve just had dental surgery.

Whole grain intentions fall flat

Last fall I came up with the idea of a theme for each weeknight meal to help inspire creativity in meal planning.  Overall, the plan works but some weeks it’s just too much effort to get inspired on Whole Grain Wednesday.

Pork loin w/mustard seed crust

Pork loin w/mustard seed crust

I actually soaked a cup of wheat berries with the goal of working them into tonight’s menu. But that was two days ago. Smelling quite sour, those babies were tossed out with dinner scraps last night. Ok, I tried. On to pork loin with mustard seed crust, mashed yams, and a romaine salad with avocado, pecans, shredded carrots and Gorgonzola.  It’s a strange combo but it all went down okay.  The guys didn’t blink at the absence of Whole Grains.  After all, the industry group reports 40 percent of teen-agers eat NO whole grains.

Actually, I’m wondering if those mustard seeds might just qualify as whole grains.

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Savory start to the week

Apple cheddar cornbread

Apple cheddar cornbread - a recipe from Momofuku Milkbar

The week got off to a fabulous start on Sunday with my husband at the stove and me nowhere in sight. Though my husband took over the cooking on Sundays a few months ago, he has been often apologetic about the results (unnecessarily so … I’m grateful for the reprieve and he’s a decent cook in any case).  But last night’s meal was delicious:

Baked true cod with a bacon-onion-dill pickle crust was the main attraction. To go with, a recipe from the Momofuku Milkbar in New York for apple cheddar cornbread.  Then a simple braised kale recipe from PCC that was extra special with soy and mirin blended in. All the recipes are listed over on the Guys Cook Sundays page. Confession: Getting the guys into the kitchen and me out of it has been my sneaky motive all along 🙂

So all that good karma carried over to Meatless Monday, a theme that is usually greeted with some level of skepticism and even disdain.  Tonight, however, plates were cleaned so fast we barely had time for family dinner talk.  Lorna Sass’ Mediterranean vegetable couscous was a winner all around.  Especially with me.  Despite 20 minutes of chopping, the pressure cooker was only fired up for about five minutes. Now that’s the way to start the week off right!

Mediterranean vegetable couscous

Zucchini, fennel, mushrooms, red bell peppers, bit of goat cheese make Mediterranean vegetable couscous a winner

 

Posted in Guys Cook vegetarian mains by Therese. No Comments

A kid-pleasing meal plan derailment

Just as I was feeling so proud of a grief-free Meatless Monday, we fell off the meal plan on Tuesday. A poor night’s sleep the night before drove me to Costco in search of  new pillows. There we stood at 6 p.m., cart loaded with memory foam and synthetic down options plus red microfiber for the rec room (the token impulse item). Chicken enchiladas would have to wait. I turned to Son #2 for help with an instant meal for Tasty Tuesday.

Enchiladas w/bulgur salad

Bulgur with zucchini, corn & cilantro for an enchilada dinner on Whole Grain Wednesday

His choice? Bacon mac ‘n’ cheese in the cooler case. I added a box of Earthbound half spring mix, half spinach in an effort to offset the calories. The mac was delicious with all natural ingredients. The boys were thrilled. I glanced at the label — 250 calories, 15 g of fat per serving. Terrific. But something didn’t seem quite right. The folks at GoodFoods Group assumed 10 servings in the 40 oz container.  We managed to get only five out of the box. That’s what we call funky math!

By Wednesday we were back on plan with enchiladas from Sunday’s leftover roast chicken.  In keeping with the theme of Whole Grain Wednesday, I added steamed bulgur to sauteed zucchini and corn with cilantro. A labor-intensive meal for a Wednesday, but worth it. I’ll make up the time on Thursday when St. Paddy’s Day corned beef dinner does its thing in the slow cooker.

 

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Lip-smacking surprise on Meatless Monday

Thai chickpeas with basmati rice

Thai chickpeas with basmati rice - a hit on Meatless Monday

Unbelievable. There we sat on Meatless Monday, the boys’ most dreaded meal plan theme of the week, and Son #1 was dipping his finger into his bowl of Thai chickpeas to scrape up the remnants of the sauce. “So you liked it!” I exclaimed in wonder. “I bet it was the sweet potatoes.” Not that you could actually see the them. The chunks of yam broke down as soon as I lifted the top from the pressure cooker and gave the chickpeas a good stir while adding fresh cilantro and Thai basil. The result was an orange velvety smooth sauce coating the chickpeas that had been cooked at high pressure in coconut milk.

“Sweet potatoes are good,” he said, studying the bowl for any missing licks. Ok, yams, I am. I’ll start slipping those guys into our meal plans more often.

Posted in vegetarian mains by Therese. 3 Comments

Shrimp, chicken cacciatore = tasty bookends

Shrimp skewers, Caesar-style
Shrimp skewers with caesar-style romaine salad and citrusy chickpeas

It’s amazing how fast good intentions for the family dinner can go sideways. All it takes is after-school sports practice in a school district two cities away, in rush hour traffic, and you have the perfect detour for the best-laid meal plan.

We started off last week with a lovely shrimp salad, Caesar-style, on Meatless Monday. By Tuesday, the notion of making beef goulash was a lost cause when we walked in the door after 7 pm. I traded pressure cooker for can opener to slam together the speediest dinner ever — beans ‘n franks. Really!

Chicken cacciatore w/pasta

Chicken cacciatore with pasta - a comforting end to the week

By Wednesday we veered back on track to prep the beef goulash that a loyal reader insisted I try some weeks ago through a comment on the DishesMenLike Facebook page.  While the dinner hour was still running late, the trusty pressure cooker saved the day. A one-pot meal — beef goulash with carrots, potatoes, green beans — was just the ticket on a day that ended with hail and biting cold winds. March is here.

Thursday was worse, time-wise. Home again after 7 pm, we resorted to take-out pizza and a frozen banana cream pie to celebrate Son #1’s 15th birthday. Ouch. This is the stuff that puts you in the Mom Hall of Despair. Chicken Cacciatore with pasta was bumped to Friday night. Another winner in the pressure cooker. A comfortable ending to a crazed week.

 

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Salty and sweet, Florida-style

Image posted by MobyPicture.comOne goes to Florida for Sunshine. Disney. Beach. Dolphins. Not food, I’ve decided.

Somehow every meal on our recent vacation was either too salty or too sweet.  Or both, in the case of the grilled fish and sweet potato fries pictured here.  Those fries were actually dusted with powdered sugar.

On the flip side, I’d love to indulge in another martini from Todd English’s Blue Zoo restaurant at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel. The Serendipity martini was fragrant with rosemary and lemongrass and incredibly delicate with a hint of elderflower. Truly divine — a restorative fix after a red-eye flight just hours before.

– Posted using MobyPicture.com

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Menu mantra: color, temperature, texture

Brown rice w/sauteed vegetables; smoked salmon

Short-grain brown rice "colored" with sauteed vegetables and a bit of smoked salmon.

A young man in his last semester of high school recently told me about his plans to attend culinary school this fall.  What inspires him?

“My Mom’s a great cook,” he said. “She rarely follows the recipe; adapts everything to what we like. She likes to explores new tastes.”

Mom as role model in the kitchen — good stuff. And on those rare occasions when he does cook?

“I like Asian cooking; it’s much more colorful on the plate. More texture. Lots of veggies.”

Looks matter when it comes to menu planning, as noted on About.com:

Color is probably the most important consideration to think about in meal planning. Nutritionists advise making your plate look like a painter’s palette. The more different colors on your plate, the more varied and healthy your diet will be. Temperature and texture should be varied to add interest and make the meal more pleasing to the palate. Choose some cold foods, some served at room temperature, and some hot. Crisp, crunchy, smooth, chunky, and tender are all textures you should think about.

I recalled our conversation recently when planning a simple brown rice dinner with sauteed peppers, mushrooms, onions and spinach. Smoked sockeye salmon prepped by a friend was a bit cooler than the rest of the plate. Colors were vibrant, and textures were interesting enough to pass the color and texture test. Son #1, only a few years younger than the aspiring chef, gave the plate a thumbs-up (not his usual reaction to vegetarian mains).

It was great synergy — a Deborah Madison recipe that followed (loosely) the color-temperature-texture mantra of nutritionists everywhere.


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Away we go…

Taking a break for a few days to snag some sunshine with Mickey, Marmaduke and family.  Random pix of our eats may appear. You also can follow us on Facebook and Twitter too!

Posted in travel by Therese. No Comments