A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Weeknight Meals

Here is the thing; on the weekends we have time for fun cooking. Making dinners like Mario Batali’s seared tuna can be fun, relaxing and enjoyable. Try it during the week and its unlimited stress. Halfway through reading the recipe I realized that I needed at least 2 other recipes to make the dish- blood orange vinaigrette and a recipe for the garlic. OK, I can handle that on a Saturday, Monday night no way!

So for the past few days I have been cooking from some “weeknight meal” cookbooks. The problem with these is often that the flavors are meant mainly for adults not children, so then you still have to make 2 dinners. Another factor is that when you get right down to the actual cooking it may be fast but the prep time and cleanup is still a factor. Then there is taste.

Prompted by many e-mails that I have had from moms complaining that they make the same thing over and over again because it works, I thought I would give some Ideas about how to vary your dinner plans a little and still be able to feed everyone.

Soups on! - Make a soup, my kids love pea soup, other kids prefer a pasta soup, most soups can be make with pantry items like pastas, rice grains and frozen veg from the freezer
The super market prep cook- when shopping you can buy pre sliced mushrooms, peeled carrots, cut celery- it sounds lazy and expensive but, bear in mind that you do not have a helper in the kitchen and most chefs have a large staff. I find that I tend to buy only what I need when I buy food this way rather than buying extra which might go to waste.
Finding new flavors in old favorites- I introduce new flavors slowly to my kids for example, they love panko crusted chicken so this week I added a little fresh ginger to the breading. Not a big deal I admit, but if they like it they you have another flavor with which they are comfortable
Eggs and pasta- for these main courses you can keep them basic but I like to use them as a canvas adding in ham, chicken, and new vegetables. It is also easy to make two variations of a dish with 1 pound of pasta, just use different sauces. Eggs are great because you can go French in style and make different omelets, or Italian with different frittatas and Spanish with torte. Add in ham pr pre cooked potatoes and top with cheese and you have a very hearty meal.
Work in some fruit at dessert- stewed berries can be spooned over pound cake or fresh fruit over yogurt or use a delicious cheese like mascarpone – even Greek yogurt can be sweetened with a little honey – top the desserts with new fruits like poached pears and a little biscuit cookie or biscotti.
Roast a chicken- I love roast chicken and often season it with different flavors but during mid week the cleanup is a mess, so instead use a chicken that has been cut up by your butcher- it will cook faster and save you a lot of cleanup.
Stock the pantry- honestly there is nothing worse than having to run out mid week and for odds and ends- a well stocked pantry will save you a lot a of extra work
Use your freezer- I always keep mine stocked with pizza dough, frozen peas, pearl onions just to name a few things
Do Fondue- this sounds like a pain but actually I do it often, lots of cheese and chunks of cooked ham or chicken and fresh vegetables, or a nice chocolate fondue for dessert with fresh fruit- I don’t bother at all with the whole “light the fire under it to keep it warm” thing- just warn the fondue in a “le creuset” style pot on the stove and place it on to a trivet to serve. Many grocery stores now carry Fondue packets for both cheese or chocolate so there is really no work at all
Crepes- you can even buy pre-made crepes at gourmet store or make them ahead and freeze them- then just stuff and bake!

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