Menu 39 – Home Sweet Home

It’s Spring Break season here in NYC – so some people (not us) got away for vacation. Even if I’m not on vacation, I like thinking about it. Dare to dream.

One of the best things about taking a vacation is coming home. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Back to your own bed, all of your clothes, your familiar surroundings. And cooking. Back to your own cooking. I love eating out but every night gets to be a bit much. On those nights when we return home, we’re often excited to eat our own cooking.

But not with a lot of effort. There’s unpacking to do and people are tired. So you need an easy and highly satisfying menu to cook on the night you get home from a vacation.

Grill to the rescue! So many benefits to grilling – the great outdoors, no kitchen mess, my husband does it. Everyone wins. But wait! Are we going standard burger and hot dogs? Not tonight, we’re not! We’re going seafood and making a few things that are super tasty on their own with no work. Grilled clams to start. That’s it. Everyone forgets about grilling littleneck clams but it’s the easiest thing in the world and SO satisfying. Next, break out that package of skewers you have tucked away. Skewer shrimp/chorizo/shrimp/chorizo (make the kids do this – kids love putting things on skewers). Since shrimp and chorizo are flavorful to begin with (and you’re tired because you just got home), you can grill those and leave it at that. If you want to do more, I’ve added a slightly fancier recipe below. Last, actual vegetables. Everyone likes grilled vegetables and since we are leaning Spanish we are spiffing these up with just the littlest bit of cooking (I know, you’re tired). The grilled vegetables are topped with a super simple garlicky mix of breadcrumbs. Everything is better with breadcrumbs.

And last, you want dessert. Spanish Rice Pudding. I did include a recipe below if you actually want to cook but I have a great cheat for you. Buy the rice pudding (Kozy Shack is the BEST), and then add just a little cinnamon and vanilla. It’s basically the same and easier.

See! Now you’re unpacked. You enjoyed a really simple menu that felt like vacation but had all the benefits of arriving back home. Life, and home, is sweet.

Menu 39 - 4 28 2016

 

Tips and Notes For grilled clams, you do just that, put them straight on the grill. Take them off when they open, which is likely after a few minutes. You can stop here and just eat them. Or you can add a little pepper and a squeeze of lemon. OR if you want to get a teeny bit fancy, put some herb butter on them like this one.. http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/grilled-clams-with-herb-butter

Skewers! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/brian-boitano/shrimp-and-chorizo-skewers-recipe.html

Only the smallest bit of non-grill cooking involved here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/spanish-style-grilled-vegetables-with-breadcrumb-picada-238806

If you want to make it yourself: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/spanish-rice-pudding-351306

Menu 32 – Scandinavian Night

In 1999 I did a bike trip through Denmark where the roads are flat, the people are pretty and the beer is awesome. I remember leaving Copenhagen and saying “I know I will be back.” What a wonderful colorful city. So when I asked my mom what she’d like for a menu, I was happily surprised to hear “How about a Scandinavian menu?” Excellent! It’s always good to please your mother. And it also gave me a chance to research new cuisines, and attempt to sketch a Danish port. What could be better.

My dad always wanted to be Scandinavian. He was half Finnish and kept grouping himself with the Scandinavians but really, that is a stretch. We also share a family rumor from my mother’s side that we have Viking roots (based on some hand issue my grandfather had that a random doctor in Arizona said had only been traced back to the Vikings…I know. Did the doctor quack when he said that?). Back to the food….

This is a simple menu with nods to Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I wanted to go fancier but my mother is the QUEEN of simple (except when it comes to popcorn toppings where she lets it all hang out), and since this is her menu, I thought I would oblige. If I dare say, it’s about as Scandinavian as you can get – pickled herring, delicious roast pork with cracklings (go Denmark with the cracklings), a new way to make potatoes (hasselback, accordion potatoes!), a cucumber dill salad and Sabayon Lingonberry Mousse. I chose simple dishes as I found those were very traditional and because I’m suggesting you make something that sounds and looks fancy “Sabayon!” but is actually pretty straightforward and must be made ahead. I just love the idea of this creamy, brandied mousse layered with pretty tart lingonberry jam. Go to Ikea and grab those lingonberries (Challenge! Try to get out of Ikea with JUST the lingonberries!). Then make everyone in your family research interesting facts about each Scandinavian country. See? I took care of your dinner, your dessert and your table talk.

Menu 32 - 3 3 2016

 

Tips and Notes

To start: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/herring-in-mustard-sour-cream-on-rye-bread

The pork, thank you very much: http://sweetsoursavory.com/blog/2013/11/17/danish-pork-roast-flskesteg

It’s not summer but who cares. Maybe like age, summer can be a state of mind….http://www.outside-oslo.com/2013/06/21/cucumber-salad-for-your-scandinavian-midsummer-menu/

Potatoes http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-hasselback-potatoes-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-199763

The Pretty Pretty Dessert: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/sabayon-lingonberry-mousse-109137

Menu 29 – What to Take a Friend Post Surgery

“I asked ‘Can I bring dinner?’ and within 30 seconds got a “YES” reply.”

This was the text my sister relayed to me when a friend of hers came home from surgery. So my sister hopped to and got right into planning her menu.

My sister is a really good friend. She’s full on in the “it takes a village” camp when it comes to child-rearing and being part of her community. Her first thought is “How can I help?” When I had my first child, she came up and stayed with me (non-maternal me) for a week and helped out. She was a god-send. She didn’t ask, she just unloaded the dishwasher, took out the trash, folded laundry. She held the baby – through all the crying. She is THAT friend. You want her in your ‘hood.

And you want her to cook for you when you come home from surgery and would kill for a home-cooked meal but can’t get it done yourself.

Don’t tell me when you look at this that it’s too much work. YOUR FRIEND JUST HAD SURGERY! And my sister – mother of two rambunctious boys; pregnant lady with an incoming girl; and a NICU nurse who works nights – managed to make all of this in about half a day for her friend (to rave reviews). So there. Stop complaining and be a good friend. On to the menu…

Menu 29 - 2 11 2016

 

This is unapologetic comfort food. The ranch dressing doubles as crudité dip. Be sure to include paper plates and disposable flatware. Yeah yeah I get the environment issues but your friend just went under the knife – they don’t need to do any dishes.

DISCLAIMER: Reconsider menu if your friend has gastro issues. I don’t know what to do in that case. Maybe broth and a movie.

BONUS! You could also tuck in a bouquet of flowers or you can print this menu in black and white and let your friend have some Zen coloring time! DOWNLOAD here…Menu 29 – 2 11 2016 BW

Tips and Notes

The Pork Roast. Take in one piece to maintain juices. http://chefmommy-brandao.blogspot.com/2012/03/pork-tenderloin-with-pan-sauce.html

Hash Browns – so bad and so good.  http://www.thechildatheartblog.com/cheesy-hash-brown-casserole/

Your own Ranch Dressing Mix. http://happymoneysaver.com/diy-copycat-homemade-hidden-valley-ranch-mix/

Guilty pleasure – Stouffer’s Escalloped Apples.  Try this homemade version…http://my-extraordinary-life.blogspot.com/2010/02/escalloped-apples.html

Please, you don’t need a recipe for a Big Green Salad.

Dessert! Or Breakfast! Pound cake…http://www.chef-in-training.com/2014/05/lemon-blueberry-pound-cake/

Menu 18 – Dinner for TWO before the holiday craziness begins

Before the family arrives…before the eggnog hangover…before your house is covered in turkey and tinsel, might I suggest reconnecting with your spouse over a nice dinner for two. It’s the only responsible thing to do. You owe it to yourself as a couple. After all, you might be in the same space through the holidays but face it, you’ll hardly talk other than the occasional “Please cut Uncle Joe off and take his keys.”

But the holiday list is long and daunting (and yet “Quiet Dinner for Two” never seems to make the list). So to make this happen, you’ve got to keep it simple. Simple, but delicious. We start with oysters. A pain in the ass for ten (all that shucking); a treat for just two. Then a really tasty cod dish which marries so well with chorizo. It’s hearty over beans, and in advance of 5,000 calorie a day eating, a relatively virtuous treat. To end, let’s head to Italy and enjoy a quick and delicious dessert….espresso over ice cream. It’s so good and so easy, and let’s face it, you need all the caffeine you can get. Pick a night between now and just after Thanksgiving. You and your partner deserve it.

Menu 18 - 11 19 2015

 

Tips and Notes

Awesome Easy Cod Recipe

Eyeopener Dessert

Menu 17 – Real Weeknight Dinner

Evenings are hectic. We start with the best of intentions, but then the kids are tired, everyone’s starving, the milk spills. It’s a weeknight.

Do not be discouraged. Even with a messy house and tired kids, you are still minutes away from a good tasting, healthy meal on a weeknight. Yes, you are. The answer is not McDonalds. The answer is fish. Don’t assume your kids won’t like it. On this we must remain firm – they won’t like it if it never appears in front of them. We must try. I’ve seen mine eat it and my fully formed opinion is that they want to dislike it more than they actually dislike it. How can I expect them to develop their palates if I cave at their resistance? Besides, I have a secret weapon. Soy sauce. In general, soy sauce conquers all. Tonight, we cook a healthy fish meal that is ready in minutes for tired, hungry, backpack dumping kids (thank you, Melissa Clark).

When we get home the first thing the kids do after dumping their backpacks is open the fridge. I will be ready. Raw vegetables and dip…Asian inspired dip which you (yes) made ahead. This is a tactic I regularly employ – a bowl of cold vegetables for them to pick at while I cook. They are starved and it’s a great time to work the vitamin chain. While they eat that, I will quickly steam mild tasting flounder and greens. I usually have rice cooked ahead and tonight is no exception. If you still think this won’t work, offer dessert (it’s not a bribe…it’s an incentive.). A little green tea mochi (they are cute and fun) keeps the Asian theme going and provides a great bribe incentive for kids to clean plates.

Give this a try Monday or Tuesday.

Menu 17 - 11 13 2015

Tips and Notes

Asian Style Dip (add the liquids less than recommended – if it needs more you can always add more later)

Flounder with Ginger and Garlic Mustard Greens

For the mochi, check your freezer section. A little handheld ice cream fun.

Menu 14 – Apples All The Time!

So you went apple picking…and now you’re feeling overrun. What on earth are you going to do with 85 apples? It seemed so fun at the time. The web is filled with ideas for apple overflow (pies, sauce, butter). But maybe you want to create a meal, or, surprise surprise, a menu out of your apples! There is a restaurant near us called Applewood that hosts theme dinners where an ingredient is highlighted throughout the meal. That is what I am doing here. Bring on the apples!

We start with a cocktail. Forget apple martinis – we are going hard cider here with The Pork Chop from Miami’s Yarbird. Next, a big bowl of a crisp salad from Eye Swoon (click, it’s gorgeous – and do not skip the basil, it makes it). Because you called 10 friends to join you, you need a huge pork shoulder like the one from Pioneer Woman roasted with apples and onions, and smartly paired with wild rice (we need more wild rice in life). To finish, you’re taking everyone to Russia with a simple and gorgeous Apple Sharlotka from The Smitten Kitchen. Happy eating!

Menu 14 - 10 21 2015

Tips and Notes

But first, a hard apple cider cocktail…The Pork Chop

and then, this lovely crisp SALAD…served alongside Pork Shoulder With Apples and Onions and wild rice.

To finish, this gorgeous Apple Sharlotka

Really? You still have apples? Ok. Pickle some (http://food52.com/recipes/16743-quick-pickled-apples) and serve cold the next day with leftover pork. Chop them and mix them with breakfast sausage (more pork!) and freeze. Infuse some vodka and make this cocktail: http://www.whatkatieate.com/recipes/apple-ginger-and-cranberry-vodka-cocktail/. Mix up apple pie filling, freeze it and use in pie, a galette or over pancakes.

Still more? Jeez. Drop them in brown paper bags, create a cute drawing and give them to your dinner party friends as parting gifts (look at you the creative host).

AND then there’s THIS great idea – use the apples for the table! Look at this gorgeous table design from the super talented Little Green Notebook!

Menu 12 – Sunday Family Dinner

Sunday dinner is a THING. Or at least I want it to be a THING. I want my family to know that on Sundays, we have a family meal. Family meals happen other nights too but on Sundays, always. More often than not, we grill a steak or roast a chicken. This week we are planning ahead, keeping it classic and cooking enough for leftovers. And while it may seem extravagant to do a standing rib on an ordinary Sunday, why the heck not? It’s family – let’s make dinner special. Break out the nice china while you’re at it.

We are not raising our kids to eat like animals. They need to understand courses. Start with soup. Lucky me, my kids eat almost any soup I put in front of them. Start with zucchini soup (make ahead/easy). I’ve been dying to try this roast beef recipe – it’s a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. I’d serve it with straight up horseradish but if you want to make more of a cream, go for it. Beef is heavy – steamed asparagus is crisp. And of course, potatoes. Your oven will be occupied…this twice-baked version can be made ahead and heated when the beef comes out. And of course a little sweet treat. It’s family, after all.

Menu 12 10 7 2015

Tips and Notes

Zucchini Soup.

I’ve GOT to try THIS ROAST BEEF RECIPE– legendary. In the comments there is a consensus around leaving it in for only one hour after you turn the heat off. I would do that rather than the two hours in the recipe.

Martha, for potatoes. And for those that eat good dinners, COOKIES!

And with any leftovers, try this Beef Farro soup.