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).




Memorial Day Weekend treats

Somehow I decided to buy an ice cream maker.  It started when the new King Arthur Flour catalog came and featured ice cream makers on the back cover.  I told Dakota Guy, “we certainly don’t need an ice cream maker.”  And then I read about the cinnamon ice cream in the King Arthur catalog.  And then I looked online at some other ice cream recipes.  And read a lot of the posts/recipes for ice cream on one of my favorite food blogs Annie’s Eats.  And read that she hasn’t bought a single container of store bought ice cream since investing in her ice cream maker.  We don’t buy store bought bread.  We don’t order pizza any more.  We find homemade things generally superior to store bought.  So, this got me thinking maybe I DO need an ice cream maker.    Then the question became which ice cream maker.  I considered the kitchen aid attachment and the Cuisinart freestanding model.  The Kitchenaid has the advantage of working with a mixer I already have.  But it was more expensive.  I turned to my favorite source for such things, the reviews on Cook’s Illustrated.   The Cuisinart won the “best buy” designation preforming only slightly less well than a $330 maker.  This settled it for me and I ordered it.

I also ordered the book The Perfect Scoop by by David Lebovitz.  Which is fabulous and well worth the $15.

Since then I made a batch of Philadelphia-Style Vanilla Bean ice cream which Dakota Guy and Boy both love.  They also talked me into making brownies to eat with it.  I used the Fudge Brownie recipe from the Better Homes and Garden’s cookbook and they are apparently “perfect”.

We got more apricots in our Bountiful Basket.  Since I’d split an add on amount of apricots with a friend two weeks prior we weren’t really excited about eating more plain.  And I made freezer jam two weeks ago as well using my bread machine.  So, I made Apricot Sorbet which is also really good.

Next in line is a mint chip ice cream made with coconut milk.  I’m somewhat concerned that the new kid around here, our now 1 month old, has milk protein intolerance like his older brother did, so I’m trying a couple weeks of eliminating dairy.  This ice cream looks delicious, so at least in that respect it won’t be too difficult.  With Dakota Boy I was able to just eliminate actual dairy not “hidden dairy” in baked goods and other things.  Hopefully this will be the case this time too.  Or in 2-4 weeks when I try cheating a little he’ll do ok.

In preparation for summer we also had carne asada tacos with sirloin steak from our family’s farm and tortillas from Bountiful Baskets.  Delicious!!!  We season the steak with chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and salt then marinade it in lime juice with some garlic and jalapeños in the marinade.  Then grill about 10 minutes per side and cut into thin strips and serve with sauted onions and green peppers and other taco fixings.  It’s delicious.

Meal planning – Week of January 21

Monday Jan 21 – Potato soup and sour dough bread

Tuesday Jan 22 – Leftovers or something for boys, meeting for me

Wednesday Jan 23 – Pulled pork sandwiches, homemade buns, veggie

Thursday Jan 24 – Mac n Cheese or Beef and broccoli with wine sauce

Friday Jan 25 – Pizza

Saturday Jan 26 – plan as we go

Sunday Jan 27 – plan as we go

Meal Plans – Jan 14-20

Monday Jan 14 – Beef and broccoli with savory wine sauce
This is a recipe from the American Heart Association’s One-Dish Meals cookbook.  I don’t always do it as a one dish meal.  Sometimes it works better for us to cook the pasta separate.

Beef and Broccoli with Savory Wine Sauce
1 lb ground beef
4 oz button mushrooms 
1 cup frozen pearl onions (I typically used diced regular onions)
2 cloves garlic, minced1 1/2 C no added salt beef broth
1/2 C red wine
2 tsp low sodium Worchestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 pound broccoli florets
4 oz dried pasta (penne)
1/2 C light sour cream

In a large deep skillet (or dutch oven works too), cook the beef over medium-high heat for 7-8 minutes until browned.  Pour into colander and rinse well and wipe skillet of excess fat.  (Our beef tends to be VERY lean so I often can skip this part).
Cook the beef, mushrooms, garlic over medium-high for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the onions (if I use diced I add with the garlic), broth, wine, worchestershire sauce, bay leaf, and pepper.  Simmer.
Sitr in broccoli and pasta.  Reduce heat and simmer covered 10 minutes or until pasta and broccoli are tender (sometimes the pasta needs to be added before the broccoli, especially if I use more than 4 oz).  Remove from heat.  Stir to cool slightly.  Stir in sour cream.  Replace on heat cooking on low to warm through.  

Tuesday January 15Brisket and Brie tacos again.  We loved this meal!

Wednesday January 16 – Leftovers or Pork Chops with black beans and rice

Thursday January 17 – Evening meeting at work for me, frozen chicken pot pie or breakfast burritos or leftovers for the boys

Friday January 18 – PIZZA!!!  I’ve been making sourdough crust on the morning I feed my starter and then throwing it in the freezer for Saturday.  I LOVE this crust.  So easy to shape and work with.  This week I think I might try a bacon cheeseburger pizza (cause we haven’t had enough beef this week?) and a cheese pizza with provolone.

Saturday January 19 – my sister is going to be in town!  We’ll see how we feel about meals and go from there I guess.  Might be basket day too if I order again.  Weekend meals are easier to plan as we go.

Sunday January 20 – Soup of some sort, again easier to plan as we go on the weekend.