easy dinners

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?

Holiday overlap: Passover and Easter

Last night we had an amazingly delicious meal from my friend, neighbor and co-host for the recent PTO dinner. She is a lovely, generous hostess and able to cook by using her intuition and experience rather than adhering to a recipe strictly. I also try to adapt recipes but there are people who are gifted at this and she is one of them. Her daughter is also learning this lovely intuitive way to cook and is better at it than many adults (myself included).

For example, as you know, Passover is not about the bread but she wanted to make biscuits, so she adapted, tweaked, cut it in half and made better a recipe she found on-line.  If I could figure out my scanner (which I will not attempt now for as soon as  I post this I have an Easter dinner to prepare), I would show you her notes. You will have to trust me.  If she had made it as directed we would have eaten hockey pucks for dinner.  An amazing pulled turkey in a barbeque sauce  (which I will share later) was served on top of these lovely buns with a gorgeous green salad and wonderful potato salad on the side.

Great Passover buns/biscuits

 (if you are curious it is here so you can see the recipe transformation)

Ingredients:

Makes 20 biscuits (really about 14)

  • 1 cup water
  • 5 tb. oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 100 grams (1 cup give or take) of matzo flour (matzo meal)
  • 3 eggs

Preparation:

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a pot, boil water, oil and salt. When it is boiling, remove it from heat and add matzo meal in one go. Mix well and add the eggs one at a time. Stir quickly as the water is hot and otherwise you will have scrambled eggs in water (yum).  This is evidently like making the pastry for eclairs which I have not tried – another culinary challenge awaits!

Mix well until the dough is smooth (add some meal if the dough is too sticky and create little biscuits with your (wet) hands.

Place on baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Wonderful delicious biscuits (you can mix whole wheat and regular matzo meal or spelt matzo meal which I jsut discovered this year).

Now onto Easter dinner – I am going to make a roasted turkey roulade from Barefoot Contessa’s Back to Basics cookbook.

Roasted Turkey Roulade

– serves 6 or 7 –

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Ingredients

3/4 cup large-diced dried figs, stems removed
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Calvados or brandy (not using – substitute chicken broth)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups diced onions (2 onions)
1 cup (1/2-inch-diced) celery (3 stalks)
3/4 pound pork sausage, casings removed (sweet and hot mixed)
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted * toast in pan over low heat for five minutes
3 cups Pepperidge Farm herb-seasoned stuffing mix (don’t have, don’t want, will use a nice cranberry bread cut up)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (don’t have homemade – will use little concentrate from More than Gourmet that I get at Marty’s or Whole Foods)
1 extra-large egg, beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole (2 halves) turkey breast, boned and butterflied (5 pounds)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Procedure

1. Place the dried figs and cranberries in a small saucepan and pour over the Calvados and 1/2 cup water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the sausage, crumbling it into small bits with a fork, and saute, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, until cooked and browned.

4. Add the figs and cranberries with the liquid, the chopped rosemary, and pine nuts, and cook for 2 more minutes. Scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon.

5. Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl. Add the sausage mixture, chicken stock, egg 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir well. (The stuffing may be prepared ahead and stored in the refrigerator overnight.)

6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan. Lay the butterflied turkey breast skin side down on a cutting board., Sprinkle the meat with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

7. Spread the stuffing in a 1/2-inch-thick layer over the meat, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. Don’t mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll. (Place the leftover stuffing in a buttered gratin dish and bake for the last 45 minutes of roasting alongside the turkey.)

8. Starting at one end, roll the turkey like a jelly roll and tuck in any stuffing that tries to escape on the sides.

9. Tie the roast firmly with kitchen twine every 2 inches to make a compact cylinder.

10. Place the stuffed turkey breast seam side down on the rack on the sheet pan. Brush with the melted butter, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and roast for 1 3/4 to 2 hours, until a thermometer reads 150 degrees in the center. (I test in a few places.)

11. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Carve 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve warm with the extra stuffing.

cookbook.

As I have not made this, I should get moving.  Happy Easter.

A friend, a find and flowers

Sofra - eggs and hummus and whipped feta

Today started a little shaky. Cleaning up dog puke does tend to set the tone.  I did get in a nice walk but then I drove all the way to the store to get dog food…without my wallet.  Okay.  Breathe.  Back home, a quick shower, back to the store for two hundred pounds of dog food (okay, I do exaggerate) and on to the Coffee Shop Bloggers at L’Aroma.  I love my time here and I missed last week but I had to rush off, the library event is only two days away and I left too little time for that lovely part of my week.  Luckily, and as usual, I was kept on track and got help for some technical issues, wonderful advice, inspiration and a few goals for the up-coming week.  Hopefully, I was also helpful.

On to lunch at Sofra which I cannot believe I only found out about today.  Oh, those missed opportunities to pick up Earthquake cookies!  They are only the lightest cloud of chocolate cookie (covered with powdered sugar) on the planet.  Happily, Sofra happens to be very near to my doctor’s office.  Handy.  I almost feel a sinus infection coming on…grin.  There are copper tables dotting the cozy, warm space and  floor to ceiling windows flooding it with daylight.  We sat on a sweet porch outside soaking up the sun on this rare New England spring day.  A dear friend treated me to a deliciously perfect lunch (yummy stuffed flatbread and chicken shawarma, a persian doughnut – more light amazing pastry and an earthquake cookie).  We split everything – oh, and we had a great almond/red pepper dip that I almost forgot about – it disappeared that quickly.  After we had talked ourselves out (barely), I stocked up on the most wonderful food.  Farm fresh eggs, buttered  hummus and whipped feta made it home – the cookies did not fare so well.  Sofra has amazing looking prepared dinners and beautifully packaged spices and teas.  I do travel for food but in this case I don’t have to travel that far.  The owners of Sofra also own Oleana in Cambridge which I have not yet been to but now will absolutely visit and soon.  There is also their farm, Siena Farms that has a CSA (community supported agriculture) shares that you can join.

Back to library, errands, school pick-up and a lovely gift from another dear friend – a blush pink hydrangea plant. The day had decidedly taken a turn for the better. Dinner was going to be fish but I think it will be eggs and hummus and feta. I have some great greens and a crusty bread

.Sofra Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon“>

Asparagus, pine nuts and linguine

Real Simple's weekday dinner

Just picked up April issue of Real Simple magazine and thought I’d try one of their weekday dinners, even though it is a weekend – the craziness!  The Real Simple website doesn’t have this up yet – I tried to link to it but couldn’t.  Liked it but didn’t love it but I think  it is because I took liberties with the pasta amount. It was good enough and simple enough that I am willing to try it again with the correct amount of pasta. Suggestion was made to add sausage, when I pointed out that the point was that it was veggie, it was agreed that we could add tofu or textured vegetable protein (your mouth is watering , yes?).

So here it is:

Linguine with asparagus and pine nuts

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz linguine (I used more which I think was the problem – 1/3 box whole wheat and 1/2 box white pasta)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I did add more olive oil to the pan when I saw that I would be short on sauce)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 lbs asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 cup shaved parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)

Cook the pasta according to package directions, drain the pasta and return to pan.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat add pine nuts and garlic and cook, stirring frequently until golden. Add asparagus and cook until just tender (2-3 minutes)  I found that it took longer – maybe 4-5 minutes

 Add the asparagus mixture to the pasta along with 1 teaspon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the Parmesan before serving.

http://www.realsimple.com/

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