No recipe today. Just a moment instead.
We spent Saturday afternoon in the kitchen. John whipped up a gorgeous roast chicken, stuffed to the brim and lying in a bed of sweet potatoes, carrots and onion. It was simple and fresh and, after Maxine was in bed, it made the perfect date night dinner (we have dates on Saturdays, come hell or high water).
Need to cook for a crowd and want to make something ahead of time? That’s the way I prefer to cook when I have people over. That way I can actually enjoy my own gathering. I visit so many homes where the woman (because let’s face it that is more often the case than not) disappears into the kitchen so much it’s as if she’s not there.
Not fair, say I. So cook ahead and sit right down to enjoy a festive holiday drink. (And if you’re still seeking a special drink for this time of year, do check out our post last year on my husband’s Cranberry Corker. It is killer good.)
A while ago I posted about “Toddler Meals” and it’s glorious effort to beat back the dinner blues. When I wrote about it, though, the idea of making a meal for M that involved much more than breast milk was just that–an idea–and nothing more. My first kid, I had no idea what was in store for us as the year progressed.
“Toddler Meals” has become our kitchen bff. Not only does it offer up tons and tons of simple combinations that are baby-kid friendly (because M is definitely a baby-kid right now…), but it also includes recipes for the whole stinking family to enjoy. Be still my beating heart. The recipes are definitely on the bland side (we are feeding an eleven month old after all…and the book is divided into age categories), but John and I are both more than capable of adding salt and whatnot to our plates once M has noticed that we are, in fact, all eating the same thing.
And so, last week I made the Red Lentil Dhal recipe. It’s super easy, which is super wonderful and totally what I’m looking for come 6 o’clock. I doubled the recipe because I wasn’t sure if the serving suggestion of 3 meant kids or adults. Doubling it made a ton and enough for leftovers (always welcome), but if you’re interested in not stocking your fridge with dahl then just follow the recipe and enjoy a warm, hearty and healthy meal.
Red Lentil Dhal, for All
1/2 cup split red lentils
2 cups chicken stock (or water)
1/2 tspn. cumin
1/4 small onion, diced
1/4 mild green chili, diced
1/4 tspn. ginger
1/4 tspn. garlic
Peel garlic and ginger. Chop finely. Bring stock/water to a rapid boil in a medium sauce pan. Add lentils, onion, ginger, garlic, chili, and cumin, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are completely soft. Serve with couscous or, you know, in a pile on a place mat depending on the age of the eater.
We had good friends over for dinner and Susan (she of Fake It Til You Make It fame) requested enchiladas. I blithely said sure and kept this little secret to myself: I had actually never made enchiladas before.
I know, I know, it seems incredible after this many decades of cooking but so it goes. I had made tacos and burritos and even fajitas but never enchiladas. I also had never eaten an enchilada — none of which I was going to share with Susan. After all, she can still whip out the Cool Whip story on any given day in front of anyone. (See same post on Fake It Til You Make It.)
Ok, so first off, pardon the photos. I accidentally spilled a giant glass of water all over my camera in an effort not to spill coffee all over my computer (ok, probably too many beverages around valuable and expensive pieces of equipment…lesson learned). While my computer was spared (::phew::), my camera has decided to open but nothing else. Awesome. So these photos were taken on my cell phone. Better than no photos? Probably, but definitely not ideal.
What I made the other night was Eggs in Purgatory. What I will now be making probably once a week is Eggs in Purgatory. You know those bits in your fridge that are still good but instead of trying to navigate the tedium of figuring out a delicious way to use them all you close the fridge door, hoping that by the next time you open it they’ll have turned and you can legitimately throw them away? Here is your solution.
Click here for the original recipe that I found on the Food Network. The version I made followed the general form but I had substitutions for most of the ingredients (pepperoni instead of salami, different peppers, no parsley, etc.). Therein lies the brilliance of this dish. I could see it working well with mushrooms or potato, some spinach…really, just about anything.
OH! And it’s easy. Really easy. And quick, too. It’s like, the perfect recipe for weeknight cooking.
Have you ever made this dish before? A variation on this theme? What do you do with the incredible edible egg?
I’ve been craving Mexican food for a while now. There’s this restaurant that John and I really love called Juan’s Place in Berkeley that’s a staple in the area. We used to go with our friends Mona and Martin pretty regularly a few years back. Anyway, with M around and school and work and all that that entails we haven’t been in a while. They make reaaaaaally good fajitas, though, and this is what I’ve been particularly craving as of late.
Anyway, the other night with Juan’s on the brain I threw together this dinner. It was totally edible and fine, but it was so decidedly not Juan’s fajitas that I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Also, I forgot beans. Not cool.
To make this, I sliced up a bell pepper and an onion and set them aside. Then I sliced up one chicken breast and one chicken thigh. I’ve been really into the dark meat on chicken lately and thought the light and dark combo would be good. It was. I tossed the chicken in a little olive oil, salt, cayenne, dried orange peel and cumin and threw it in a hot skillet to brown before adding in the veggies. I made some rice and heated up a few tortillas and voila–a totally edible if less than exciting dinner.
Off to school. Tonight it’s leftover thai take-out (yum).
So, I had plans. Not big plans, but fresh vegetable plans. I was going to make egg noodles with green beans, mushrooms, those little grape tomatoes (I could eat these by the cup) and fresh grated parmesan cheese. It wasn’t going to be fancy, but it was definitely going to be good and I was really looking forward to it.
And then the plague happened.
Not the real plague, but our first full-on, everybody’s-down-for-the-count family-wide illness. I thought I had been sick before, but I now know that you have NEVER been sick until you’ve had a baby (ok, not really…I’m only talking about illnesses that come and go within a week’s time). I did not know what it was like not to be able to sleep all day and all night, waking only to blow your nose or pull the tissue out from your sweatpants that somehow weaseled its way in there while you were snoring (blissfully!) through two nostrils with–yup, you guessed it–tissues stuck in them. I did not know. But I digress…
The byproduct of the arrival of the plague was a complete and utter lack of desire to make the aforementioned dinner. In fact, I can’t even remember what we ate during those days of disease. What I was left with, then, was a bunch of vegetables on the brink of turning.
As I know I’ve mentioned before, we often have portions of homemade chicken stock in our freezer. As of late, I’ve been saving our vegetable bits in a bag in the freezer to, all in the name of letting them accumulate and turning them into soup one of these days. Yesterday was just the day.
M and I thawed the stock, chopped the veggies, sauteed them and combined everything. A sprinkle of that parmesan from the dinner-that-never-was on top, a piece of toast, and I am one happy eater.
(Ok, maybe M was more into her new dinosaur booties than our kitchen project, but I can dream…)
Rachel here: I made stuffed peppers for the first time last night and I will definitely be making them again. While I know they often have rice or bread crumbs, I went a lighter route and just stuffed mine with veggies, tofu and cheese. It made for a nice light summer dinner, though I can imagine making a different stuffing that feels cozy once the cold weather comes.
On a different note, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I put in my body since M is exclusively breastfed. Avoiding anything and everything with hormones/antibiotics/words-I-can’t-pronounce feels essential in terms of giving M a healthy start (ok, I just reread that and it sounds a little ummm…zealous…*sigh*) and the easiest and most affordable way to do this seems to be to eat vegetarian and vegan meals. While we can definitely get good quality reliable meat around here, it doesn’t come cheap. So anyway, while my focus on meatless cooking started with this column, I guess I’m here today to say it’s grown and now dominates our weekly eating. I made this entire dinner using exclusively organic and local ingredients and spent less than ten dollars to do so. Now that’s a meal that’s good for the planet, the body and the wallet…pretty awesome.
3 red bell peppers, tops and seeds removed (*pick peppers that stand up!*)
1 portabello mushroom, diced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 sm. heirloom tomatoes, deseeded and diced
1 crookneck squash, diced
6 oz. extra-firm tofu, broken up
1 sprig rosemary, destemmed
salt and pepper
juice from half a lemon
1/3 c. feta cheese
mozzarella to top peppers
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Sautee mushroom, onion, tomato, squash and tofu with rosemary, salt and pepper and lemon juice. Mix in feta cheese and stuff peppers with this mixture. Top with mozzarella and bake until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Enjoy!
Rachel here: As we mentioned this past Thursday, Mondays are now going to feature a vegetarian and/or vegan recipe in an effort to do our small part to enact and encourage environmentally-responsible eating. I am delighted to kick this posting trend off today with a delicious, hearty and summery recipe. Since it first crossed my mind to make gazpacho a few summers ago, it has been a staple in our house in the hotter months. I think my favorite part about it is that I’m never quite sure what all will end up in the bowl, making my ingredient decisions instead at the grocery store or farmers’ market as I encounter the produce. I accompanied the meal this time with garlic bread, although I’ve been known to forgo the oven completely (even greener!) and just put out some cheese and crackers. Either way, every time I serve it there are happy faces and full bellies around the table come dinner’s end.
1 large lemon
1 1/2 c. cannelini beans
5 small tomatoes (or equivalent)
1 medium cucumber
1 medium white onion
1 medium green bell pepper
1 ear fresh corn
salt and pepper
fresh mint leaves
Dice your tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell pepper and corn. Put in a large bowl, reserving 1 1/2 cups. Puree the reserved vegetables and add to bowl. Add the beans and juice from the lemon. Season with salt and pepper and tear up just a few mint leaves. The idea with the mint at this point is to just add the subtlest hint of mint. The leaves don’t hold up so well, though, so I get the bulk of my minty flavor when I garnish the soup right before serving it. Add tomato juice as needed to get a good amount of liquid. Make sure the soup is well mixed before placing in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours. During this time, the flavors will come out a bit more. Taste before serving and adjust seasoning if needed. Garnish with a few mint leaves in each bowl and enjoy.
Janet here: The best gazpacho, to my mind, has a bit of zing to it so when I make it, I add things like Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. (This would not go with mint FYI so I would leave that out of Rachel’s recipe.) I also like to leave mine a little crunchy so I don’t puree it all the way. Just some other thoughts to consider as you’re experimenting with this wonderful summer day staple. Enjoy!
Rachel here: The sudden arrival of warm weather this past weekend in the Bay Area left me seriously jonesing for summertime food. The other night we ate hotdogs and corn and, though the corn really isn’t all that great yet, it still felt good to eat classic summer cook-out fare. There’s something about these first warm weather meals that conjures so many summers passed. Every sense is stimulated by the sweet and slightly sticky air and I am both sitting in my backyard in Oakland and on my parents’ back porch in Connecticut. Everything smells so good and I effortlessly relax in the warm twilight. But anyway, there’s a recipe in here somewhere, I swear.
One of the meals we ate often in summer when I was growing up was chicken kebabs with couscous. For this reason, when the thermometer struck 80 yesterday, this was what I knew we had to have for dinner. We neglected to move our grill from our old apartment (oops!), but we have a stovetop grill pan that works just fine (although doesn’t get you the same smokey awesomeness that a real grill will) in a pinch. In the early afternoon I whipped up a marinade and let the chicken soak for several hours before skewering it along with bell pepper and onion. I threw these on the stovetop grill pan, made a little couscous and–voila!–an easy, delicious, and totally summery dinner. A little later in the season I’ll be adding peaches to these skewers (SO good), but they’re not ready yet. What does the warm weather make you want to eat?
Smokey and Citrusy Marinade
enough for two large chicken breasts, chopped
1-2 large chicken breasts, chopped (or another meat of your choice)
1/3 c. worcestershire sauce
1/2 c. sesame oil
juice from one clementine
salt and pepper
chili powder, to taste (the more you use, the smokier your marinade will be)
1/4 c. brown sugar
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients several hours (or the day) before you want to cook your meat. Stir every hour or so to make sure meat is absorbing all of the different flavors. Skewer with veggies and enjoy.
Janet here: Rather than add another recipe to this post as I had planned to do, I’m just going to add this little tip: I put my marinade in a large zip-top baggie and throw the chicken/fish/veggies/whatever in there to marinate. It ensures that everything gets covered, makes it easy to periodically mush stuff around in the fridge to make sure everything is equally marinated and means you can slip it into whatever little cubicle you have available in your fridge (mine is often stuffed to the gills because it is A) too small, B) I overcook and C) I don’t organize it particularly well.)
Eating outside with friends and family as dusk falls is one of my favorite ways to spend a summer evening. I hope you enjoy lots of cookouts with the ones you love this summer.