Meals This Week

Happy Halloween, Dear Readers! This is the first week in FOREVER where we are just home. No one is going anywhere anytime soon, and I can plan for the week, but also start thinking about seriously restocking my pantry. During September and October it was never very long before we took another weekend trip, so we are down to the dregs of so many supplies.

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Monday: My husband has a work event, so I’m fending for myself. I have some frozen ravioli I bought at an Italian market my parents frequent, and some tomatoes I’m going to chop and saute and call a sauce.

Tuesday: We’ll do just what we did last year, though I’ll likely put together a green salad as well.

Wednesday: Another night where I’m not home until it’s time to eat. I can prep the recipe Smitten just posted for sheet pan sausage and potatoes (I’ll add broccoli), and it will be ready for me upon my return.

Thursday: Leftovers! (Which is great because I’m making a late night Costco run before I host a sip and see this weekend.)

Friday: I’m hoping I can pull off the risotto I made with Sous Chef Lauren at home on Friday.

 

Meals This Week

mixed floral melamine plate set ii

(Gave you seen these melamine plates from Caitlin Wilson? They’re sold out. I don’t want to talk about it.)

Monday: Trying something new in the slow cooker; Parmesan and Herb Roasted Chicken and Orzo.

Tuesday: That lasagna I talked about last week never happened, so I’m trying again this week. The meat is defrosted, and if I prep it after bedtime on Monday night, I won’t have anything to do on Tuesday.

Wednesday: The slow cooker is back on rotation for a short ribs dish. This in no way aligns with the summer weather we’re having, but I can only hold off on cooking hearty meat dishes for so long.

Thursday: Three nights of cooking in a row? Leftover time

Friday: Eek, I don’t know yet. I’m supposed to head out of town the next day, and so we’ll get creative with whatever is left in the fridge.

Saturday: Cooking up some risotto with Sous Chef Lauren! The most excited. It will likely be a hybrid of this one and this one, but with rice, not barley.

The Story Behind the Menu – Weeknight Dinner for a Friend

Who: the three of us and a friend

What: a regular weeknight dinner

When: Monday evening

Why: because she works less than a mile away from our house, and we thought it’d be a blast

place.

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The thought process: I knew I had to make a lot of food that could be made in advance, and couldn’t make a single thing that would come together at the last minute. I was going to be prepping this with Gooplet right underfoot, so I had to stretch myself to find easy recipes that still qualified as classy.

The menu:

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk – it had been so long since I last roasted a chicken. It’s one of those tasks that could not be easier, and yet every time I’m about to do it, I get anxious about it. Good news: it continues to be the easiest, and turns out just great no matter what.

Ladd’s Roasted Potatoes – Last time I roasted a chicken was probably about the last time I made something from The Pioneer Woman, so I was long past due. Let me tell you – anything dripping in butter and Lawry’s is just fine by me. (Let me also tell you these would be just as delightful at breakfast as they were at dinner.)

Sauteed Green Beans – Whenever I need to take a vegetable dish to the next level, I make green beans a la my mother in law. Saute a finely chopped onion, add some minced garlic, salt and pepper, and some haricots vert. Quickest, easiest, best green bean dish ever. Add toasted, slivered almonds if you want some crunch.

Apple Pie a la mode – A neighbor of ours just started a pop up bake shop, and she sold apple pies to raise money for a wonderful cause. I bought one to enjoy at dinner, and had one less thing to worry about.

What worked: Dinner! My theory with almost every single kind of entertaining I’ve ever done is: it’s going to work because it has to work. It can’t not work. As I had no intention of calling this friend to cancel, I knew dinner was simply going to happen. There’s something about that mindset that helps me immensely. The wine was flowing, we put the kid to sleep before dessert, and kept the party going long into the night. (Well, long into the night for us parents, which means we were done by 10 and fully cleaned up by 10:30.)

What didn’t: I don’t think this didn’t work, but I wish I had made one or two more dishes. By loading my meal with butter, I’m confident our guest went home well-fed, but when I entertain I love having too much on the table. I wish I had done an arugula salad, and maybe some garlic bread too. And I didn’t take any pictures! That happens way too often these days.

Meals This Week

Dear readers, I can’t promise I’ll share my meal plan every week, but I’m hoping that I can pop in now and again when I have it together to have one. This series was my fave, and I think a lot of you liked it too. Hopefully, seeing some real life solutions to the “What’s for dinner?” conundrum that strikes all of us from time to time will be a continued help.

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(RIP my beloved Pottery Barn meal organizer. You lived on our wall till we realized there was just no perfect spot for you anymore. I’ll miss you dearly.)

Monday – No time for grocery shopping this weekend. Thank heavens I’ve got two pot pies still in the freezer from a local market I visit every time I am in Pennsylvania. Pot pie for dinner! Meat, veggies and starch all in one dish. Pre-made food that only needs reheating. What could be better?

Tuesday – My husband is out at a meeting and I’ve got leftover pepperoni gravy to use up.

Wednesday – My husband is at a work event, which likely means avocado toast with Everything But the Bagel seasoning because it is the best, and enough of a dinner for me.

Thursday – We will be gone for the weekend, so Thursday dinner was a tricky one. We’re both home, but I don’t want to create too much mess or too many leftovers. I looked in the pantry and discovered some no-boil lasagna noodles. With some ground beef defrosted, I’ll make a quick lasagna that will feed us Thursday, and upon our return later in the weekend.

That’s it for this short week, dear readers! Thanks for playing along with our week in meals. More soon!

On Feeding a Toddler

Cari Faye requested a post about what I feed Gooplet so she could get some ideas for her own little one. Dear readers, if you would like to save yourself a lot of time, know this: by and large, Gooplet eats what we eat.

But if you have some time as you coast toward the weekend, read on, with the simple warning that this post is long.

I swore when Gooplet was born that this blog would not turn into a mommy blog, and I think I’ve done a good job with that. But this particular post is venturing dangerously close to mommy-blogger territory. So with it, a disclaimer. This is what I did for my kid. Because I’m his mom. And I know him best. It doesn’t have to be what you do with your kid. You know him best. This is working for us, so I share in hopes it gives you some ideas about what to feed your toddler, should you need them.

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And the second disclaimer is this: my kid is the worst sleeper who ever lived. The rules that well-meaning bloggers and sleep gurus everywhere list online (and they are largely the same) do not often work for him. I fully embrace that you might be in a similar situation with your child and food. You might have done all the things the internet says to do and still, it’s hot dogs or bust. I get that. It’s nothing you did or didn’t do, just like I know (in my finer moments) I am not the reason my kid is a horrible sleeper. He just is. I get it. I do. I promise.

Phew, that’s out of the way.

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Now what does Gooplet eat? Like I told you, whatever we do. But of course, it’s more complicated than that. First, let me give you some basics.

  • I try to make sure he eats a balanced diet over the course of the day, rather than meal by meal. Which means there are times when he eats all fruit in a meal, and all carbs at another. If he’s had a lot of milk to drink, we ease up on the cheese and yogurt, but if not, bring on the Stonyfield pouches.*
  • I put a lot of options on his tray, and none of them are ever dessert. If we are out and about, and he spots a cookie, he is going straight for it, and that is great. But at home, I have total control over what he eats, and so graham crackers and Honey Nut Cheerios are about as sweet as we get.
  • Once the options are out, I don’t care what he eats so much as I care that he eats. This is a personal decision. I have one mom friend who serves what she serves and that’s it. And that works for her. And it’s great. I can’t risk my kid waking up because he’s hungry, when he wakes up 800 times at night anyway, so if he’s not eating the two things I put on his tray, I will try something else…
  • ….and then I will put the food he didn’t eat back on his tray the next day. And maybe again in two days. And if he keeps saying no, I will keep putting it in front of him. But I won’t make it a thing if he still isn’t interested.
  • I feed him food I don’t like. Though I’m much less picky than I used to be, I have some serious food preferences. But where my diet may be lacking, his doesn’t have to be. Just because I don’t love blackberries doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying some for him to try.
  • And note to self, come back and post about deconstructed dinners. I am a firm believer in what Dinner a Love Story calls the deconstructed dinner. See Jenny’s takes on them here and here. See my take on them in another post because this one is long enough.

Now let’s get specific.

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Gooplet eats what we eat. But maybe not all of what we eat, and maybe not at the same time. Let me explain.

At some point during our move from single ingredient baby food jars (don’t even talk to me about making your own food) and foods that have texture and multiple ingredients, Gooplet became interested in what my husband and I were eating at each meal. So we just put pieces of it on his tray. Sometimes he went for it, sometimes he didn’t. But he kept showing interest, and even if we thought he wouldn’t like something, we figured, what’s the worst that can happen if we send some his way? (Answers to this question include: he doesn’t touch it at all; he drops it on the floor; he says, “No, no, no.”) And in just over a year of eating solids, Gooplet has gone from loving bananas, to detesting them, to loving them again. From only wanting avocados, to not touching them, to asking for, “More ah-cado.” From eating Chex by the cupful, to a preference for oatmeal for breakfast. From eating whatever meat we share with him, to not touching meat at all right now. But he’s growing, and if it’s anything like bananas and avocados, he’ll come around again. More than I want him to eat any one specific food, or type of food, I want him to continue to see a variety of foods in front of him.

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Here are our go-tos, meal by meal. Hopefully it’s obvious he doesn’t eat all of these at once, and that there are days, and lots of them, with copious amounts of Goldfish in between meals.

Breakfast: fruit, and lots of it (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas, peaches, pineapple, grapes, you name it), pancakes, toast with peanut butter, cheese, overnight oats, an English muffin with avocado, or if he’s truly lucky and I need something sweet, Nutella, yogurt, lots of green smoothies from a sippy cup with a straw (though I hate cleaning them), egg bakes in which sometimes he goes crazy, and sometimes I pick out the veggies and meat in the egg bakes and he only eats them, toast with peanut butter, and cereal by the handful when we can’t think of anything else.

Lunch: this shouldn’t even be its own category because lunch is whatever little bits of food I have saved in the fridge because he didn’t eat them at breakfast or dinner the night before. I have been known to rip apart a good cheese or turkey slice here, but nothing fancy happens.

Dinner: risotto, any sort of pasta with sauce (sometimes he just eats meat sauce), grilled chicken galore, salads, especially if they are drenched in dressing, green beans, broccoli, tacos and taco-bowl-type situations, mac and cheese (duh), Mediterranean chicken and couscous (yes, the little grains fly everywhere), pretty much anything that has pesto, meatballs, pulled pork, pizza, um, and lately we’ve had a million barbecues and he straight up eats the rolls because he wants nothing to do with hot dogs or hamburgers. Also I can’t stress enough that we eat a ton of chicken around here.

*But if you can find me a flavored yogurt without sugar as the second ingredient, I’ll switch to what you use!

Pasta Plans

During the summer I visited a local Italian market near my parents’ house. It’s the most wonderful place. The husband and wife owners make pot pies each week that you have to order in advance because they sell out so fast. Whenever I’m in town I get 4. Two to eat right away when I get home, and two for the freezer.

On my last trip, I chatted with one of the owners for a bit, and also ended up buying a bunch of short cut, dried pastas. (That’s a lie – Wooden Nickels treated me. Thanks, Wooden Nickels!) I’m thinking the rigatoni I got will be used for a Boursin cheese, bacon, and pea type of situation, similar to this, but I still haven’t found a night with 20 free minutes to make dinner yet!

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In the meantime, dear readers, I leave you with Bon Appetit’s 19 Easy Pasta Recipes for Emergency Dinners. I’m loving the sound of all of these, but particularly the orzo and pink lady apples one, and the freezer veggies + a chili lime burger!

On Not Doing it All (Again)

On the one hand, it’s a compliment to hear “How do you do it all.” Because having the question directed at you means that the asker believes you do do it all.

I try my hardest to smile sincerely at anyone who asks me that question, but in truth, my gut reaction would be to burst into hysterical laughter. I don’t do it all. I don’t even do half of it. What is it, anyway?

But I do understand where the question comes from, and perhaps I’ve even asked it myself a time or two. I think what we’re really asking when we ask, “How do you do it all?” is How do you do this one thing that I can’t seem to even begin to think about?

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For me, that thing is often entertaining. And while cleaning up from this week’s Sunday dinner, I realized one way I make entertaining easier for our family.

Last week’s dinner was a big one, with ten guests in attendance. And while I always work to keep the menu as simple and low maintenance as possible, the truth is, cooking for 10 people is a bit of undertaking no matter what you’re making. So one way life looks easier after entertaining is in my leftover game. Dear readers, I’m going to brag for a moment when I tell you that my leftover game is strong. After Sunday Dinners, I take whatever salads we have on hand (which in this case were this and this), add some shredded rotisserie chicken, and call it a complete meal. Fancy it is not, but it’s certainly worth it to avoid another big night of cooking right after having guests.

In Which We Discuss Serving Vessels

While I was reading the best reader comments on Cup of Jo the other day, I loved the one about not putting out enough chairs for your guests when they come over. It makes everyone cozy up and make friends, even if they’re initially feeling a little awkward.

whaaaaaaaaat.

(I can’t even with these pizza fries.)

Which reminded me I read a somewhat similar tip about serving food when you’re entertaining. I’ve completely forgotten the source, but they said to choose containers a bit too small, so that it looks like you have a surplus of whatever you made, as opposed to leaving something in a container with room at the top.

Peach and Prosciutto Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette - Cookie Monster Cooking

(A late summer peach and prosciutto salad is sounding just right.)

Dear readers. This is hysterical because I am notoriously awful at judging how much space there is for something. Filling Tupperware and other such storing and serving vessels is always something I miss the mark on, but I’ve been keeping this tip in mind and trying to plan a little better for our next Sunday Dinner.

Wings, Three Ways (Part 2!)

Dear readers, we’ve done it before and now we’ve gone and done it again. At a recent Sunday dinner we went wild and grilled wings three ways.

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It’s funny because if you asked, I would tell you I don’t love wings, but I think that’s because if you asked, I’d be picturing restaurant wings, fried, dripping with sauce that’s far too spicy for my liking, and tons of grease. My stomach twisted just thinking about it.

But these wings aren’t those wings, nor are they any wings we’ve made at home. Wings on the grill are a zillion times better. And this time around, everyone had a different favorite, so let me link you to all three.

Wing 1: All Recipes Grill Master Wings

Wing 2: Food Network Garlic Parmesan Wings*

Wing 3: All Recipes Detroit Hot Honey Wings

*It should be noted I snapped a picture of this recipe in an issue of my sister-in-law’s Food Network magazine, but figured I’d never actually make it. When people want wings, they want heat, and there’s none to be found here. But. I’m so glad we went for it because these ended up being faves of mine and some other folks too.

 

In Which We Finally Have Friday Night Meatballs*

Remember Friday Night Meatballs? If you’ve read the blog once or twice, surely you’ve seen me link to it before. Bottom line: a family realized they weren’t connecting with neighbors and friends as much as they wanted, and so they were intentional about making it happen more, and now they can’t imagine life without it.

I read it and we lived in someone else’s house. And then we lived in our own house, but it wasn’t finished. And then, by the time it was finished enough to start something new, we put a new baby in it, and everything I knew about routine, order, and planning was turned on its head.

But now. Now it’s time! Except now there’s this little person who is always here, and who goes to bed so early that I don’t know that Friday Night Meatballs is a real possibility. Except the great thing about Friday Night Meatballs is that it so obviously doesn’t have to be Friday night meatballs. Duh, Jennie. So we have Sunday Dinner. Want to come?

Classic bruschetta becomes a bonding activity when you turn it into a serve-yourself bar. The colorful elements also stand out at the table, functioning as decor. See more at What's Gaby Cooking »   - HouseBeautiful.com

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Here are the rules:

  • We don’t clean our house before you come.
  • We will most likely serve you with disposable plates and flatware so we don’t have to do the dishes after you leave.
  • It will be frighteningly early so we can put our kid to bed at the normal time.
  • We will absolutely take you up on your offer to bring something.

I promise, it’s a blast despite all of those things. Because like this article from my foodie pen pal suggests, eating and talking with people shouldn’t be hard. I’ll share some of our favorite menus soon.

*But really, we have Sunday Dinner.