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 27 – Ladies’ Night!

It takes forever to find a date. Babysitting/husband/partner/work/travel schedules have to align. But when that night arrives, you cherish it. You know what I mean, that evening when it’s just you and your girlfriends. The talk swings from houses to hair to new business ventures to books to how to form an LLC to the best kids’ apps to wine to how to tell your assistant her skirt is too short and on and on. Make it happen. And make it happen over dinner, at someone’s house. Restaurants are great but at someone’s house you can sit on the floor with friends and laugh and get to the table and grab a bowl of soup and then head back to the floor for dessert.

But we all know that everyone doesn’t eat everything. Now things get hard. What to cook?

The answer is soup – THREE soups to be exact…one meat, one seafood, one veg. Offer a Boeuf Bourguignon Soup (made in advance) and a side of noodles; Ina’s Seafood Chowder (made day of); and last, make Potato Leek soup (in advance) for a vegetarian option. Voilà! Problem solved.

That should cover just about anything people throw your way in terms of restrictions. Also, people always ask what to bring. Get someone to bring a salad – a great winter salad of under-appreciated collard greens and life changing crispy shallots. Ask another to bring dessert (which MUST MUST MUST be these amazing lemon bars!). Stocking up on wine goes without saying. Now go send an email to those friends and pick a date. You won’t regret it.

Menu 27 - 1 28 2016

 

Tips and Notes

The Salad: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/collard-green-and-radish-slaw-with-crispy-shallots

The Soups:

http://www.marthastewart.com/296351/a-perfect-pot-of-boeuf-bourguignon-soup

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/seafood-chowder-recipe.html

http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/potato_leek_soup/

The Lemon Bars!  (I cut the sugar in these down to 3/4 of what it says)

http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-heavenly-lemon-bars-with-almond-shortbread-crust-recipes-from-the-kitchn-191597

 

Menu 25 – Almost A Week of Homemade Dinners!

The elusive homemade weeknight dinner.

We can do this.

You can do it almost ALL week. Don’t fret. Just a LITTLE prep time this Sunday and you too can exit the land of plastic container pre-made mystery food. Enlist your kids to chop. They’ll love it and feel important.

Seriously, give this a try. Below is four days’ worth of easy meals that you can have on your table within 25 minutes of taking your coat off. Do this Sunday:

  • Roast a chicken (on the larger side – 4.5 lbs.). Then cut off the meat and refrigerate. Throw carcass into a slow cooker. Roasting a chicken is easy. Do not be intimidated by a 4 pound dead bird.
  • Make rice pilaf
  • Chop an onion, carrots, celery, peppers and broccoli into bite sized pieces. Place them in separate containers and refrigerate them.
  • Steam your broccoli.
  • Make overnight chicken stock in a slow cooker

I can hear you fretting. I promise none of this takes long. A chicken roasts basically on its own. Pilaf is slightly fancier rice. Don’t like pilaf? Then just make rice. Pre-chopping is a god-send later in the week. And throw all of the remnants (chicken carcass, carrots, celery, some onion, bay leaf, cover with water) into the slow cooker and let it go all night. ALL RECIPE  SUGGESTIONS BELOW.

Then here is what happens:

MONDAY: roast chicken breasts and rice are reheated. Make a quick salad (greens, maybe some chopped veg if you want, dressing). DINNER.

TUESDAY: grab salmon fillets on your way home. Upon arrival home heat oven to 400 degrees. Salt and pepper the salmon; squeeze of lemon. Into the oven for about ten minutes. While they are cooking, sauté your already steamed broccoli with a little garlic. Serve them together.

WEDNESDAY: Bake some cheesy polenta. Cook your Italian sausages in a little oil. Remove when done. In the same pan, sauté your onion and peppers. Plate – polenta, sausages and peppers. Cheese on top. Easy.

** After the kids go to bed, make this recipe for Chicken-y Noodles. You already have the vegetables cut. You made stock the other day. After it’s made, put it in the fridge.

THURSDAY: heat up your chicken noodles. Add more broth if you want it soupier.

FRIDAY: ok enough already. Order pizza!

None of this is fancy but it’s also pretty doable. And good tasting. See what a little prep can do?

Menu 25 - 1 15 2016

Tips and Notes:

Roast Chicken: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/my-favorite-simple-roast-chicken-231348?. SKIP the trussing! No need. It’s done when internal temp is 165.

Rice Pilaf: you know, a little twist on rice: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-simple-rice-pilaf-46100. I add mushrooms to mine and cook it using beef consomme.

Baked Salmon: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-cook-salmon-in-the-oven-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-204559

Baked Polenta http://saramoulton.com/2010/11/creamy-baked-polenta/ (NOTE the heavy oven use this week. Ovens are your friend)

Chicken and Noodles: improvise from this recipe. You’ve already got most of it prepared: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/homemade-chicken-and-noodles/

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock: this is a good one, but don’t feel the need for this level of meticulous chopping: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2013/11/perfect-uncluttered-chicken-stock/

 

Menu 24 – Yes, We Can Still Ring in 2016!

I love everything about the holidays – the music, the decorations, the festivities and the ending. I love when they stop. It’s just so much of everything that by the time January rolls around I am thrilled to shut it all down and start fresh. It’s cliché but healthy to lighten up the eating, slow down the drinking, to begin anew. That is what this week is about. At the beginning of the year, we always find a need to clean out closets and drawers (partly driven by my craziness – my husband can see it coming around December 30th when I start asking how much we really like or need anything in the house that isn’t bolted down). It’s a great time to set the budget for the year (I do a monthly budget – I can’t help it, I am a CFO of a business and my house). We plan vacations for the year which come around so fast. With all of this happening, we still need to eat. So let’s do that with a nod to lucky New Year traditions. Black-eyed peas are a must and this shrimp dish is delicious and so easy. Collards go alongside to represent money. Why not? And eating ring/round shaped cookies is a nod to good fortune (these linzers look delicious!)

It all makes donating that coat you haven’t worn for six years so much easier.

Menu 24 - 1 6 2016

Tips and Notes

Garlicky Shrimp and Black Eyed Peas – Despite what the recipe tells you, this is a one pot wonder. The recipe suggests that you cook the shrimp separately from the other stuff. Here is what I do. I start with the shrimp, garlic and salt and pepper in the pot. I lightly cook them and then remove them to a separate bowl (make sure you get all the garlic out). Then I do the bacon and the veg etc. in that same pot. Why lose that shrimp taste? Seems silly. I add the wine and broth etc. and once that has all cooked, towards the end I add the shrimp back in. It’s just easier that way. This is great with garlic toast too – but I think everything is better with garlic toast.

Collards – try this straight up recipe.

Cookies – I have two discs of sugar cookie dough leftover in my freezer (you don’t?). Punch out traditional lucky New Year ring shapes. Bake. Decorate as you wish, or eat plain – they are delicious. OR if you don’t have extra, make these from the wonderful Lindsey http://hartandgarnet.com/l-is-for-linzer-and-lindsey/ . Who doesn’t love linzer cookies!

Also, take a moment and draw some stick figures. This is surprisingly fun. You can bring so much life into a little man or woman made only with a few marks. Give it a try.

Guest Menu! Michael Granne’s Feast of the Seven Fishes…

We have a number of friends who love to eat, and a handful who love to cook. Of the latter, while they are all great, there are one or two who really stand out. One is our friend Michael Granne. We know Mike through his amazing wife Rebecca and as soon as we met, we all started eating. Mike is a lawyer by day (need a lawyer? click HERE to see Mike’s bio) and a phenomenal cook by night (really, the rest of the time). He is a multi-course, challenge your senses, artful-plating kind of cook. Yes, the chef-y kind. But he does all of this at home. He will tell you that much of his craft he learned from his father (best potato leek soup maker ever) and I will tell you that his artfulness and creativity in cooking also comes from his late mother, Regina Granne. We had the pleasure of meeting Regina on several occasions. Her artwork speaks for itself (I really like the Liberty paintings – please click here and peruse) and lives on in her son’s cooking. Finally, Mike and Rebecca have two boys, twins, who are forces of nature in and of themselves. Zachary happens to also share in his family’s artistic ways and he drew a wonderful picture of his dad’s Christmas Even menu. While this is a traditional feast of the seven fishes, I don’t know why this menu couldn’t also be enjoyed throughout the year. I’ve included a number of pictures (that I stole from Mike’s Facebook page :-)) of the dishes themselves – please enjoy and be as inspired as I am by this wonderful home chef. You can see how artistry, care and craft are passed down from generation to generation.

 

Zach s Christmas Eve Menu-page-001

Not your average clam chowder
Not your average clam chowder
Fried Smelts
Fried Smelts
Squid Stuffed with Wild Arugula
Squid Stuffed with Wild Arugula