barefoot contessa

Weekday Dinners

Weekday Dinners

capability mom.com blog chicken dinner easy weeknight recipesThe summer of no-cook dinners is over and it is time to pull it together and actually use my kitchen to cook. Sigh. Well, I have a few tricks to making weeknight dinners easier and I will share them with you, because I am generous like that. Also, because I am pretty happy that I figured out to do this and am bragging a little bit. Let’s not get carried away, I didn’t split the atom, I just made easy dinners. Still.

First, plan a menu for the week. Hate to do that? I know, me too. Okay. Plan two days out and make the third day an easy default recipe (something you can make with your eyes closed). Here is my Monday-Tuesday solution.

Buy two whole chickens (on sale at Whole foods for 99 cents per pound) and roast them both at the same time. Make one your Monday dinner with roasted veggies. I added potatoes and apples to the pan, any root vegetable would be great or some squash (use a separate pan for squash and apples). Note, the apples will be mush if you leave them in for the whole time, they only take about 30 minutes. Check out Martha for the best recipe, I just tossed them in whole because I’m lazy. My go-to recipe for Perfect Roast Chicken is from The Barefoot Contessa. I ran out of time for the gravy but all was devoured without. Serve with a big green salad.capability mom.com blog chicken dinner easy weeknight recipes

The next night use the second chicken for a fun Make Your Own Burrito Night. We always have tortillas, cheese, avocado, rice (we used frozen brown rice) and beans in the house, so all that is needed is some lettuce, salsa and sour cream if that’s how you roll. Feel free to sautee up some onions and peppers if you want to or add some of the roasted veggies from Monday.

Set up a station on the kitchen counter and let everyone build their own. Carve up the chicken and you are good to go. For little ones, put small containers on the table filled with the choices you most want them to eat. Have cut up some carrots, cucumbers, celery and peppers on the table for maximum veggie intake.

But Wednesday? What about Wednesday? No, I won’t leave you without. I made pork chops (again from Martha) but I think I am a little in love with Whole Foods for this:

Image from Whole Foods

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Mini Turkey Meatloaf and Maple Green Beans Sheet-Pan Dinner

I haven’t tried it yet (found it while I was trying to make sure the Whole Foods whole chickens were still on sale). Yum. My family are recent meatloaf converts and I am running this. Only one pan? I’m there.

Note- we didn’t use all the chicken for Burrito Night so I chopped up the rest for chicken salad. Also, if you are still looking for meals, take the chicken carcasses (never a pretty word), place in water and/or boxed chicken broth with some veggies to make a soup. Add pasta or rice. I use my pressure cooker for this quick soup. So very frugal of me, don’t you think?

How to throw the perfect cookie swap

I don’t know because I did it, but because I have been to one, well, more than one, but this was exceptional. No pressure on the hostess for the next cookie swap I attend intended!

First, invite a good number of people and have it at the time of day that works best for you. Our hostess today had it right after school drop-off (8:30am) and her warm and welcoming, and beautifully festive home smelled of coffee and a Christmas Morning Breakfast (baked gorgeousness with eggs, sausage and sourdough bread – this is not her exact recipe – it is a variation). There were huge bowls of fruit; grapes, clementines, and bananas for healthy snacking (to offset the breakfast of cookies) and in addition to tea and coffee there was cider and orange juice. these are darling ornament placeholders/labels from cookie swap for the holidays from capability mom Pretty holiday mugs were perched on a tray near the coffee and tea on the kitchen counter. Fruit and egg deliciousness (I offered to be the first to dig in to it – I am useful sometimes if not self-serving – no pun but kind of if you want to take it that way – go ahead) on the kitchen table and pretty sideboard. The cookies reigned in a place of honor on the dining room table which meant we had to move around and not all gather in the kitchen the whole time (which always happens). Great space planning – sort of like when you think about where to put the bar at a cocktail party to make the flow of the party work.

There were extra platters for people to use for their cookie displays, (we are all not so experienced) and there was saran wrap, foil and holiday tins (a huge gorgeous assortment to choose from (she gathers them throughout the year) to take home your loot in if you failed to bring a container large or secure enough. Brilliant, really, and so easy to do. Little tags were attached to these darling ornament placeholders identifying cream, milk, coffee, etc. Perfect.

Hand-knitted stockings (one just like the one my mother knitted for me – same pattern!) hung on the mantle and the beautifully decorated tree was lit and added to the spirit of the morning.

The mix of women was wonderful and fun and our hostess was able to fully participate because she wasn’t cooking or explaining which pitcher has the cream in it ten times over. Some of us see each other daily and some only catch up at a fun gathering such as this one. What a lovely start to the day, including how much sugar I consumed before noon…grin.

The cookies I made (my granola bars) were an epic fail because I ran out of parchment paper mid-way through and used waxed paper which does not share all of the properties of parchment paper. Basically, despite heavy buttering, the wax paper remained on my granola bars. Flash forward to ten o’clock at night I was still hand peeling the paper off the back of the bars when it occurred to me to toss it all and make more cookies – in the morning. So, at 5 am, I made Barefoot Contessa butter cookies. I used adorable cookie cutters from IKEA capability mom uses IKEA cookie cutters– $5.99 – cute and practical – the smaller cookie cutters nest inside the larger ones.

Homemade Granola Bars from The Barefoot Contessa and tea are my idea of a great gift

…because that is how I roll. Here’s the scoop – Pragmatic Mom and I brainstormed (translation – got all sugared and hopped up on coffee at L’Aroma) the other day and decided to help out with the 12 Days of Shopping for those hard to find/fit/figure out people on your list – pretty much everyone and you are welcome! It started out as five days but Pragmatic Mom scheduled it out and it is now twelve. Added bonus for you – good thing she takes great notes and is super-organized! See Pragmatic Mom‘s post here about Nigella Lawson’s granola – really delicious, and from what I have been told, a coveted teacher gift.

If you don’t believe that a granola bar can be absolutely delicious then you have clearly not tried these.  Let’s be blunt, I like anything chocolate and donuts  so I am no healthy dessert person but these are fabulous – and there is no chocolate in them – go figure!

I give them stacked in a plain brown coffee bag (from The Container Store) or in clear cellophane bags (Container Store, Target) or even in a Holiday Tumbler like this one from Target. holiday tumbler from Target makes great gift holder for granola bars or cookies an dtea If you want to add a fun simple craft project, have your children decorate the bags with stickers or crayon drawings. Truly charming. This is a favorite gift if you are going to a friend’s house for coffee, for a teacher gift or to have on hand for a last-minute gift.

capability mom thinks that tazo teas with homemade treats make a wonderful hostess or teacher giftI pick up boxes of my favorite tea (usually TAZO) but there are tons of great teas to choose from – include some of your favorites. L’Aroma Cafe is my go-to for tea and tea related presents.  Don’t worry if the intended recipient isn’t a “tea person” – it is the holiday season and it is always nice to on hand for an unexpected get-together or drop-in guests! capability mom fills these 1/2 lb coffee bags with delicious treats for holiday gifts like granola bar (homemade, of course) and assorted teas.\ Barefoot Contessa Granola Bars an dTeas from TAZO are particular favorites.

Homemade Granola Bars from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, 2008, All Rights Reserved

Ingredients

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup sliced almonds (use what you like – my family does not care for coconut so that is out for them – I have substituted nuts and dried fruit for what is on hand – still lovely)

1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Homemade Granola Bars

2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, All Rights Reserved

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. (I have also added flax seed or anything else that I like – sesame seeds, poppy seeds – it’s all good).

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium
heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and
cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into
squares. Serve at room temperature.

Copyright 2010 Television Food Network G.P., All Rights Reserved
Check in for more ideas:

Sat, Dec 11:  Kids Make Gifts CRAFT (ModPodge versus Clove Fruit)

Sun, Dec 12: Personalized Gifts

Mon, Dec 13:  Father-in-Law/Dad and Mother-in-Law/Mom

Tue, Dec 14:  Tutors/Teachers

Wed, Dec 15:  High Tech/Low Tech

Thu, Dec 16:  Hostess/Doing Good and Getting Something

Fri, Dec 17:  Sanitation Engineers, Mail Carriers, Hairdresser, Delivery People, Babysitter, Cleaning People, Dog Walker/Dog Trainer

Sat, Dec 18:  Husband, Me (Our Own Wacko List)

Sun, Dec 19:  Dog/Cat

Mon, Dec 20:  Quick Gifts from Whole Foods versus Gourmet Food Store

Tue, Dec 21:  ‘Cause I Am So Together,  Last Minute Home Made Gifts

Sunday Night Supper – Shrimp Scampi with Pasta

Sunday Night Supper      A fast and furious but warming dinner to chase away the gray days we have had.  Ah, Spring in New England! Really, this is easy (and takes about 15 minutes to cook) but I used a lot of pans because we had whole wheat pasta (for someone) and I also made sautéed spinach that next time I would just cook in the same pan as the shrimp. I also added scallops and they were lovely. Serve with a green salad and bread of choice. Great Sunday night supper.

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • 1 1/2 lbs of linguine (1 lb white pasta, 1/2 lb whole wheat – you will need two pots)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
  • 5 tablespoons good olive oil 3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
  • 2 pounds large shrimp (about 32 shrimp), peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 lemon, zest grated
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons) (I do love lemon but family prefers less so next time I will use only 2 lemons and add pasta water)
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds (did not have, did not care, were not missed)
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (did not have – left out )

Directions

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon (I used less) of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Pay close attention as the garlic burns easily.  Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.  Here is where I would throw some more butter and more (!) garlic into the pan and add the spinach. I liked it mixed in with my pasta but some prefer it to stand-alone. Makes about 6 servings.

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi,2002, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, All Rights Reserved

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