Tag Archives: batch cooking

Weekly Menus: Week of 9/22/2013

Gentle Readers, I’ve decided that Fall makes me hungry. There’s no other explanation for the number of hours I’m currently spending dreaming about my next meal. For the sake of sparing my feelings, let’s pretend this is a seasonal affectation and not a constant state. As the weather cools, I think more about warm and hearty foods.

Veggie Chili Simmering

Veggie Chili Simmering

Also, larger portions at dinner mean warm lunches the next day. We are currently putting the Thermos Food Jars (I love them) through their paces. Here’s how, with this week’s weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 9/22/2013

Weekly Menus: 9/22/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 9/22/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 9/22/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Breakfast for Dinner
A perennial favorite, this is a good excuse to make pumpkin pancakes (a team favorite right now), biscuits, or even baked cheese grits. All great possibilities for batch cooking that’s eaten through the week.

Light golden-brown biscuits!

Light golden-brown biscuits!

Monday: Not Dogs and Fries
Simple and from the freezer, plus using up some of the cabbage I bought for Chicken Noodle Soup last week as slaw. This is the vegetarian junk food meal you don’t have to be guilty about.

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Hot Dog from The Pig with Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish

Tuesday: Veggie Chili or Lentil Chili
More stews and one-pot dishes! This will feature standard legumes or the fast cooking lentil. Great vegetarian choices to be paired with cornbread or my new favorite Cheese Sticks from Trader Joe’s (review coming). Great for the lunchbox the following day as well.

Wednesday: Tuna Melts
Because we’ve been eating so many hot lunches, the bread had to head to the freezer. It’s breaking out now as open-faced tuna melts. We discovered it’s the one way we all like tuna salad. Not overdressed, a little kick from hot sauce, and way pickley.

Can't decide between a tuna melt and a peanut butter? Choose both.

Can’t decide between a tuna melt and a peanut butter? Choose both.

Thursday: Gnocchi with Pink Sauce
A break from the standard pasta, we are all deeply in love with the creamy organic tomato sauce from Trader Joe’s right now. There is a story here, coming soon, of why I am redoubling my love for the store.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Extra Crispy Sage

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Extra Crispy Sage

Friday: Leftover Delight
We can only eat so much, I know that there will be food left, and there’s no better time to watch a movie and munch the best of the previous week than a Friday.

A lot of little leftovers can add up to a whole meal.

A lot of little leftovers can add up to a whole meal.

Saturday: Dine Out
So many options, plus outdoor eating with a fall chill!

Fall says latte to me--but never ever pumpkin ones.

Fall says latte to me–but never ever pumpkin ones.

What’s in your kitchen these days? I’m looking for good one-pot and stew ideas. I feel a slow-cooker edition coming on! Post your comments below, or send a Tweet my way.

Send bright ideas, rashers of bacon, and pumpkin cupcakes to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday: Soft Foods that Don’t Suck–Braces Edition

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Weekly Menus: Week of 12/4/2011

Gentle Readers, today The Practical Cook is running way behind schedule. There is no grand reason, just the accumulation of little ones. In short, I overslept. Having borrowed against the sleep bank for weeks, the bill came due. So as I came to, in that fuzzy place where you’re not sure what day it is, much less what time, I realized there’s way too much going on right now. This week’s menu is built for simplicity and survival.

I’m not looking to win a James Beard award: I’ve got 2 school snack projects to deal with, the extra duties the holidays bring, and a full-time job that I enjoy thoroughly and would like to keep. Beyond that, I feel that drive to bring magic to the season for The Practical Cooks Junior, who are prepping their Santa lists and studying Arctic climes to learn something about the man behind the suit. So if things are a little hectic here in Practical Cook-ville, I do hope you’ll forgive me. I’ll share my survival strategies, and I hope you’ll share yours. Today, the answer was sleep.

Without further delay, here are the Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 12/4/2011

Weekly Menus: 12/4/2011

And the Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery List (with bonus snack menu): 12/4/2011

Four-Square Grocery List (with bonus snack menu): 12/4/2011

Which translates into:

Sunday: Nachos!
This is quickly becoming a Sunday dinner favorite. It really does scale nicely, and can be eaten on the run. When you’re serving a basketball team’s worth of kids, this is a major plus.

Monday: Beef Stroganoff
Life conspired to prevent the making of this last week. I’m planning to try a slow cooker version. Wish me luck.

Tuesday: Breakfast for Dinner
After dreamily reminiscing about the grits at Dame’s Chicken and Waffles, I decided to spend some time working on cheese grits. Necessary research.

Wednesday: Sausage/Greens/Pierogie
A classic. One of my holiday break projects is to make pierogie from scratch. There, I’ve said it. Now I’m committed. Feel free to nag me about this.

Thursday: Pizza and Salad
Punt! We haven’t punted much with frozen pizza lately, and I’m feeling like that might happen Thursday.

Friday: Leftover Surprise
Perhaps I’ll turn Monday + Wednesday into soup. One never knows when inspiration will strike.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Sources tell me this will be Chinese food. Those sources are known as the Juniors, and they want to get their scallion pancake on.

BONUS SCHOOL SNACK MENU:

Monday: apple slices and seasonal cheese cubes

Tuesday: letter “k” trail mix (sponsored by the letter k, perhaps with a side of kiwi?)

Wednesday: TBD

Thursday: orange rolls and oranges

Friday: Rudolph muffins (I’m thinking frosted carrot or pumpkin muffins with pretzel antlers, craisin nose, etc.)

What’s on your to-do list right now? Post a comment below!

Send your weekly menus, questions, and blog ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up tomorrow, Insanity Plums.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 10/2/2011 (with Bonus Chocolate Frosting Recipe)

Gentle Readers, it was unclear how this post would turn out. A list of things The Practical Cook’s Mom intended to serve or a list of things The Practical Cook wanted to eat in San Francisco. In the end, it is a menu plan from TPC’s Mom, complete with some commentary re: TPC, unedited. Ahem.

She threw in her chocolate frosting recipe as a bonus, and told me that she’d appreciate it if I stopped tweaking her recipes. Well, where precisely, do you think that habit was developed and honed, said the apple to the tree?

Here we go, weekly menus for 10/2/2011, The Practical Cook’s Mom edition:

Sunday: sandwiches, green salad, macaroni salad, deviled eggs, carrot gelatin. (Probably BLTs)

Monday: ham steak, kale, potato gnocchi, sides from Sunday night, and gingerbread with applesauce

Tuesday: smorgasbord

Wednesday: beef tacos with lettuce, tomato, avocado, sour cream, and a side of creamed corn.

Thursday: some sort of beans, either beans and franks (souped up pork and beans with hot dogs) or pintos (to use up the remainder of the taco meat), cornbread, green vegetable TBD ( probably slaw or steamed cabbage), remainder of corn

Friday: The Practical Cook takes stock of her refrigerator’s contents and shrieks or presents a meal. (Honestly. TPC)

 On hand: various fruit choices for snack and/or dessert

Chocolate icing recipe—super good with a butter recipe yellow cake mix

1 box powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup plain baking cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup milk

In a non-stick saucepan, bring milk and butter just to a boil. Stir in other ingredients until smooth. Spread on cooled cake.

Thanks Mom, color commentary notwithstanding. You can now all see why my kids are totally spoiled rotten when they eat with TPC’s Mom: it’s like a Southern buffet, endless optional favorites. Do you find yourself cooking like your parents, or do you have different kitchen styles? Post a comment below.

Send your queries and ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, to celebrate my travels, a video review of Rice-A-Roni, The San Francisco Treat.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 8/14/2011

Next week begins the preparation for another business trip, back to school, and sprouting some wings and flying. Yes, it is going to be busy. However, with a bit of planning and prep, hopefully we’ll continue to eat well and survive. Fingers crossed. Here’s the plan.

Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 8/14/2011

Weekly Menus: 8/14/2011

Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery List: 8/14/2011

Four-Square Grocery List: 8/14/2011

CSA from Brinkley Farms:

1 pk sweet Italian sausage
1 bag shelled cream peas (craving Hoppin’ John after my trip to Crook’s Corner)

Which translates into:

Sunday: Food Truck Rodeo
Yeah, that’s a hot link, in all senses of the term. If you’re in NC, anywhere in NC, check it out. I’ll be the one passed out like Homer Simpson.

Monday: Beef and Veg
I will thaw something from my cow reserve, TBD, and serve with veggies.

Tuesday: Soup
This will be a batch cooking gig, using up the leftover beef from yesterday.

Wednesday: Indian
Will try to cook this in advance, also in a large quantity, to freeze in portions. Nothing like dal at hand. And buttermilk okra with curry leaves, for the win.

Thursday: Eggplant TBD and Salad
I will punt with eggplant, either Turkish or Italian. Will keep you posted.

Friday: Leftover surprise
I may surprise myself and call the pizza place after this week. 🙂

Saturday: Dine Out
Let’s just say, there may be something wrong with my toast this day. (That would be a reference to a most excellent local band, whose show I will be attending Saturday. Rock.)

What are you eating this week? If it sounds good, I might invite myself over. Post a comment below, or Tweet.

Send your pictures and questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading the Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, Shepherd’s Pie, TPC Style.

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The Joy of Pesto

Nothing screams fresh and bright like good pesto. Personally, I am a fan when it’s tempered with some sweet and juicy tomatoes diced atop the final dish. Last night, in a superheroic effort to save some on the brink basil, I made pesto with what was at hand. It was good, really good, but there was a blender fail. Can this pesto be saved? Read on.

The Journey Begins: Basil in the Blender

The Journey Begins: Basil in the Blender

I’m pretty sure I’ve always made pesto in the blender, but while my water was boiling furiously, and this picture is lovely, it would not blend. There was some language used that was less than gentle. But never fear, Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook soldiers on.

Pulverized Basil, or Pesto, in the Food Processor

Pulverized Basil, or Pesto, in the Food Processor

I heart my Kitchen Aid Food Processor more than I can say right now. A few seconds later, I had pesto and was able to complete the dish.

Tortellini with Pesto and Tomatoes

Tortellini with Pesto and Tomatoes

If I had a true recipe here, I would share it, but lean in and I’ll tell you a secret: you can make pesto out of almost anything. Yes, it’s true, as long as you have a few key flavor elements, it will work nicely.

The Elements of Pesto

1. Something Green. Basil is the leading contender, and I like to add a bit of parsley for brightness. But I’ve made pesto from spinach and just parsley before when basil went MIA.

2. Something Nutty. Though I’ve made pesto without nuts for family, I prefer the nuts. Toast them before for flavor, pine nuts are traditional, but walnuts are great, and I’ve used pistachios in a Greek version.

3. Garlic. Accept no substitutes.

4. Cheese. Parmesan or Romano are traditional, but feta and cottage are lovely too. Try a combo, and alter based on the flavor profile you’re seeking.

5. Olive Oil. Do not skimp or use crappy stuff. You can taste it in the final dish, pick a flavor you like and go for it.

Tips: Frankly, I toss all the stuff into the food processor (now that I’ve learned my lesson) and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste and adjust seasonings and elements to suit yourself. If it’s dry, add more oil, bland, add more cheese or green, or a little more salt.

And most importantly, make a big batch while you’re doing it, and freeze the leftovers in cubes, to be whipped out like a magician during a future feeding emergency.

Pesto Cubes Heading for the Freezer

Pesto Cubes Heading for the Freezer

Pesto is a natural with pasta, but try it over a stronger tasting fish or chicken. I had some of the best beef shortribs of my life that featured a pesto drizzle. Use your pesto in small portions, but with creativity, and you’ll never look back.

Are you a pesto fan? Purist or experimental? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below, or Tweet!

Send your basil to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading the Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Tomorrow, we conclude the week with German Chocolate Cake and Frosting Recipe.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 8/9/2011

It is hot out there! The week’s menu reflects that. I’m cooking ahead, turning up the spice, and keeping it simple here in the Practical Cook kitchen. Here are the results for this week, featuring many make-ahead items. I’ll be burning the midnight oil, when it’s cooler in the kitchen!

On the table, the weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: Week of 8/7/2011

Weekly Menus: Week of 8/7/2011

Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery List: 8/7/2011

Four-Square Grocery List: 8/7/2011

CSA from Brinkley Farms:

2 lbs cucumbers
1 lb japanese eggplant
1 poblano peppers
1 pk regular bratwurst

Which translates into:

Sunday: Fish and Veg
Probably a mild white fish with cornbread, fried okra, sliced tomatoes, cukes and onions, and butterbeans. You know, a light repast.

Monday: Veg Casserole
This will probably be Italian in theme, involve eggplant and zucchini, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. Stay tuned.

Tuesday: Sammies
Good way to clear out whatever is left from before, on bread.

Wednesday: Pasta
Hooked on that butternut squash ravioli from Trader Joe’s, I purchased some more. Hello, sage.

Thursday: Taco Night!
Do I need to explain this one? I didn’t think so.

Friday: Indian Food
We have a lot of okra, and some leftover buttermilk. Together, with curry leaves, they are magical. Add dal and some papadam, and call it dinner.

Saturday: Dine Out!

What are you cooking this week? Post a comment below!

Questions, ideas? Email practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading the Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Up next, Personal Banana Puddings.

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I’m Tired, What’s for Dinner?

Who has endless amounts of time and energy at the end of the day to cook a healthy balanced meal that will create leftovers, but not too many? Wait, the answer is no one I know. If you’ve read this blog ever, you know that there is no shame in Punting (take out, frozen food, etc.), but what if you’re ready to up your game?

The Practical Cook does not claim that you can make a gourmet dinner with separate sauces and courses every night between 6 and 7 pm in the time zone of your choice. Read on for some thoughts on solving this problem.

Mr. T Needs to Eat

Mr. T Needs to Eat

Today’s reader question comes to us from someone we shall call Mr. T. I pity the fool who asks him to eat meat.

Dear Practical Cook:

I love to cook but I rarely do because I hate the time it requires. I often go to the gym after work, and when I get home I’m usually so hungry that I don’t want to spend time fixing myself something and will instead opt for cereal, a sandwich, or a Whole Foods microwave meal. I’d like to change this behavior—I want to eat healthier and I’d also like to have leftovers for lunch and other dinners. Do you/your readers have any recipe suggestions for quick, delicious, nutritious vegetarian meals? (Note: I don’t like spaghetti or marina/tomato sauce—strange, I know, but it’s the way I’m hardwired.)

Your fan,
Mr. T

The Practical Cook loves a challenge. A bit more investigation gave me more detail on preferences, and here’s what I suggest for Mr. T:

1. Make a list and shop once a week. Don’t waste time going to a crowded store after work multiple times a week. That’s an extra trip to the gym, time in the kitchen, 25 potential Tweets. Anyone who wants the deep-dive on this topic can look at the “Weekly Menus” category for ideas. Suggested staples:

  • Dry Pasta
  • Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • Salad
  • Eggs
  • Canned Beans, Selection of
  • Cereal (including Oatmeal)
  • Carrots/Celery/Crudite

2. Batch cook once a week. Do this either on the day you shop or the next day. Find what works for you. Since Mr. T is a fan of pasta primavera, I would suggest pan-roasting, grilling, or broiling a selection of veggies (squash, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, whatever is in season) with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, basil or oregano. If you have mostly-prepped ingredients, such as any combo of the veggies above, you can make:

  • Pasta Primavera
  • Veggie Burrito (add beans or tempeh, rice if you like it, salsa, cheese)
  • Pita Pizza (a little goat cheese would be great for this, some prepared pesto for the non-marinara factor)
  • Omelet
  • Salad (with tempeh or tofu, beets, nuts, goat cheese)
  • Stuffed Baked Potato
  • Gratin (just add a little cheese) and Toast
Bobby Flay Purees

Bobby Flay Purees

3. Start small. There’s no need to go all Bobby Flay on the first day. Nothing is worse than buying too much, having food waste, being really tired, and feeling guilty. Set a goal for cooking more, but stock cereal, sandwich stuff, and emergency frozen food. Or start a blog about cooking and force yourself to cook more because you need fodder. Just an idea.

4. Mix and match. Nothing is worse than spending too much time with the same leftovers. If you opt to make something like soup or chili (both great options), automatically freeze most of it in appropriate portion sizes. Now you’ve got your own emergency frozen food! Find ways to repurpose your leftovers (like discussed above), or consider tossing it in a blender and changing the texture.

Hello Kitty Food Jar from Thermos

Hello Kitty Food Jar from Thermos

5. Buy cute leftover/lunch containers. This actually matters, and not just for kids. There are any number of Bento box lunch kits and BPA free containment devices. Make your food appealing to you, and you’ll be more likely to pull it out of the freezer or pack your lunch.

Great question Mr. T! What are some of your favorite quick and easy vegetarian meals, gentle readers? Post them here for the world to see.

Send your dinner questions (no problem too large or small) to practical cook at gmail dot com. Or post a comment here, or connect on Facebook (The Practical Cook Blog).

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