Meal planning (July 4-10th)

I’ve been a bit lax about formal meal planning as I’ve been home on maternity leave.  We’ve still mostly been eating at home, but there are some last minute scrambles to get a meal organized.  Soon I’ll be back at work and won’t have that luxury, so I better get back on the meal planning wagon.

Last night at about 4 I realized I didn’t have anything thawed or planned for dinner.  Internet surfing on my phone while feeding dakota baby to the rescue.  I thawed a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts in the microwave and made this thai peanut chicken with some rice.  I even garnished it with peanuts and sesame seeds.  It was deemed a meal worth making again, which is great because it went together super easy, and would be great to prep the day/night/morning before and make quickly after work.

Thursday July 4 – Carne Asada tacos, watermelon, homemade vanilla ice cream for later

Friday July 5 – Honey Chipotle Glazed Grilled Chicken  I’m really excited about the chipotles in adobo sauce.  I’ve seen them as an ingredient in many recipes but never used them.  Most recipes seem to call for 1-2 tablespoons of them pureed.  I’ll use what it calls for and freeze the rest in ice cube/tablespoon sized portions like I do with tomato paste.  Will have this with spanish rice.  I’ve never made it, but read a number of recipes.  Will basically melt butter in a sauce pan, add 1 1/3 cup rice, then add salt/pepper, boiling chicken broth (about 1 1/2 cup) and 1 generous cup salsa, a medium chopped onion and some paprika and cook according to regular rice directions.  (Edit – rice was GREAT!)

Saturday July 6 – Pizza (chicken bacon ranch was really good last week on vacation)

Sunday July 7 – Grilled salmon with mustard or standard panko salmon

Monday July 8 – Gyros with tzatziki sauce, homemade pitas
I’m making a meal for friends, and making double quantity so we can have some too, I’ll make the pitas the day before and the gyro meat and then bake it and prep the tomatoes and fixings before taking it over.  I’ve had bad luck getting pitas to for pockets, despite lots of reading and using recipes that seem to work for other people.  Dakota guy says they work fine anyway and taste so much better than store bought that he doesn’t care.  I still want them to work!

Tuesday July 9 – Pasta alla Vodka

Wednesday July 10 – Grilled bratwurst (or something), homemade buns (standard recipe, but refer to this for shaping and see if hot dog buns turn out better shape) and baked french fries (Cooks Illustrated technique for fries).

Make ahead – I’m going to try to make more homemade convenience food for when I’m back at work.  I have some buns, bagels, and chocolate chip cookies in the freezer.  I also have three meals worth of chicken enchiladas frozen.  This week I am going to make another whole chicken in the crockpot to make baked creamy chicken taquitos to freeze for lunches.  I wish the bountiful basket tortillas had been good last time.  My friend got them again this week and if she has good luck I’ll order them again sometime because we used the last breakfast burrito yesterday.  I should also make some chicken fingers/nuggets again to have in the freezer.  I made coconut last time, but dakota boy didn’t like them so I’ll stick to bread crumbs.  These chicken bacon stuffed pizza rolls look like another handy lunch item to keep around.  Also, for reference we have some roasts in the freezer and I want to make these crockpot sandwiches to go with homemade buns one of my first weeks back at work.


“The best brownies”


Dakota guy has feelings about brownies.  They can’t be too cakey.  The should have a bit of a skin on top.  They should NOT have nuts.  Or frosting.  So, when he declared that these brownies were the best it was certainly a win.

These brownies have the advantage (in my opinion) of being cocoa brownies.  I don’t always have baking chocolate on hand, but I do always have cocoa in the pantry.  Especially since I ordered a bulk quantity of dutch process cocoa powder.  The first time I made these brownies I used natural cocoa which is all that is available in our grocery.  The improvement was evident with the dutch process.  If you are curious David Lebovitz has a good explanation of the difference between the two types of cocoa and situations when you can and can’t substitute.

I had a great helper, and these are easy enough to make with “help”.  And, ignore my pajamas.  My kid’s dressed and even in an apron.



The best brownies
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet

10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 grams, though some brands may weigh more) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt (more to sprinkle on top before baking if desired)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (75 grams) walnut or pecan pieces (if you want to ruin them with nuts)


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.  (I just sprayed the pan with baker’s joy, and used a 9×9 because I don’t own a 8×8)

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is warm.  This time I just did this step in the microwave, checking and stirring every 45 seconds until the mixture was combined and the proper temp.  It looks fairly gritty at this point.

Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool completely on a rack.



Oatmeal Buns

I don’t remember having made these buns before, but I obviously loved them because the recipe for them in my recipe box is in the writing of the 12 year old version of me.  With a few annotations from my mom.


Oatmeal Buns

from the kitchen of grandma
Makes 3 dozen

Combine, then cool:
1 tbsp salt
5 tbsp (1/3 C) brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups boiling water

Dissolve then let stand 10 minutes:
2 pkg yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon sugar

Add above mixtures and 3 cups flour and 2 tablespoons melted lard.
Add additional flour, knead, let rise twice, shape, let rise again.

Bake at 375 about 20 minutes.

This was a recipe I copied from my grandmother.  It is interesting to me to compare it to the bread recipes I find online now.  The simplicity of this recipe makes me smile.  Clearly it was intended for someone who made bread somewhat regularly and knew what it should look and feel like.  “Add additional flour”.  I love that.  My mom wrote 2 1/2 cups in pencil with a question mark behind it after this line.  I didn’t keep perfect track but making this in the summertime I think I ended up adding about 3 1/2 cups additional flour in order to have something kneadable and not sticky.  It was still a fairly sticky dough and I think I may have let it rise a bit too long the second time but they are delicious regardless.  Just as I remember.  And they taste like a bun that should be served at a steakhouse before the meal.  Yum.

I wonder if I could make them with less yeast.  I read somewhere recently that recipes from the 40s and 50s were all about “saving time” for the housewife and to that end used more yeast than necessary.  I also used the last bit of active dry yeast in my kitchen for these buns.  So in the future I’ll make them with instant yeast as I do with most everything else.


Favorite hamburger buns


I don’t think I will ever get away with buying buns from the store again.  Shortly after I got my bread machine I got my bread machine bible .  Other than the bagels, which I thought were good until I made others I have loved all the breads I have made from this cookbook.  I can count on one hand the times I have bought bread in the last year.  Our favorite though, both for hamburgers and bratwurst and for sandwiches is this hamburger bun recipe.  If dakota boy hears the oven timer go off he comes running and asks if I’m making buns.  When we asked him what he wanted for dinner on his birthday, you guessed it, buns!  He likes the plain ones and makes sure we know he doesn’t like poppy seeds.  Dakota guy and I like them with everything on them.

Lately, not knowing how busy I will be I’ve started making my own “mix” and combining an extra batch of the dry ingredients other than yeast to have on hand in case of a bun emergency.

hamburger buns
makes 12 very large buns or 16 of the size pictured above

1 1/4 cup water
1 large egg
6 Tablespoons canola oil or butter
3 Tablespoon sugar
4 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup dry milk
3 tablespoons instant potato flakes
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Combine all ingredients in order recommended by bread machine manual.  Program for dough cycle.  When finished shape into rolls. Preheat oven to 375.   Place on parchment paper or silpat lined pans. Cover and let rise 30 minutes.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with seeds if desired.  Bake 17-22 minutes (my oven runs hot and these generally take 13-15 min).