Tag Archives: easy dinner ideas

Weekly Menus: Week of 10/6/2013, Travel Prep Edition

Gentle Readers, this week I must start with a mea culpa. I was traveling last week, and forgot what day it was until I was back, and thus missed the Wednesday publishing cycle. From the amount of mail I received on the topic (none), I can tell there was a public outcry. So I will publish said Smoothie article this week. Meanwhile, look what I got to eat last week:

Biscotti and Cookie Platter at Babbo in NYC. OMG good.

Biscotti and Cookie Platter at Babbo in NYC. OMG good.

Yes, it was that delicious. A tip for anyone who is in NYC and hasn’t been to Babbo. If you go when it opens, right at 5 pm, you can snag a seat at the bar and eat. Highly recommend the pasta tasting menu or just eating around the menu at your leisure. Don’t skip the Brussels sprouts and the biscotti.

The Beer Festival Tasting Glass. Durham, NC

The Beer Festival Tasting Glass. Durham, NC

But I digress. My real life is quite a bit less glamorous but equally delicious. This week I went to my first beer tasting. I learned that there are many horrific beers in the world that taste like fruits and lawn clippings. I also found quite a few local brews that were delightful, and an interesting Pecan number that I’ll need to investigate. Shockingly, my favorite part was the food, especially the pairings, such as provided by my friend Carrie from G2B Gastropub. The andouille sausage with a little mustard was ideal beer food.

The inimitable Chef Carrie from G2B Gastropub in Durham, NC!

The inimitable Chef Carrie from G2B Gastropub in Durham, NC!

Okay, enough, I actually do cook sometimes too. The tasting of all the pumpkin things continues. A full report is coming soon.

Pumpkin Cake Doughnut with Latte Glaze from Rise. Hellooooo nurse.

Pumpkin Cake Doughnut with Latte Glaze from Rise. Hellooooo nurse.

Fried Green Tomato with Pimento Cheese Biscuit from Rise in Durham, NC. Just because.

Fried Green Tomato with Pimento Cheese Biscuit from Rise in Durham, NC. Just because.

 

Here’s what’s happening on this week’s menus:

Weekly Menus: 10/6/2013

Weekly Menus: 10/6/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery list (a little lean as I use up what’s here and plan to shop more heavily next week before  I travel):

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/6/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 10/6/2013

Which all translates to:

Sunday: Steak and potatoes
I’m feeling red meat today, and the weather is a little autumnal. Perhaps the potatoes will be sweet or an acorn squash instead. If you’re not tossing winter squash in your cart regularly, you’re missing out!

Monday: Veggie Chili
This keeps getting delayed in lieu of other fast meals that don’t generate leftovers, but I’m making it this time, even if I have to freeze it for later!

Tuesday: Omelets
These were such a huge hit the other night, complete with quick sauteed spinach and portobello mushrooms that we’re doing it again. TPCs Jr are huge mushroom fan, and we’re committed to trying all of the types. That’s our schtick.

Wednesday: Pizza!
We’ve got a social to attend, and well, we all love pizza. Honestly, I could eat it 3 times a day. In fact, I’ve had to add it to my things not to leave unattended in the house list, as I will eat cold pizza until I founder. It’s a different food group that hot pizza, and I actually prefer it.

Thursday: Salmon and Couscous
We have to get more healthy fat in our diets. Plus I need to try to stay smarter than my offspring. I plan to tell them this and serve myself the largest portion. I’ll keep you posted on the results.

Friday: Mexican!
Probably burritos or quesadillas to accommodate the braced on, but we may be able to pull off nachos. Yum!

Saturday: Dine out!
So many possibilities, we often lament we only have 3 stomachs between us.

What do you do to prepare for a trip? Buy easy prep food, eat down the supplies? Share your tips in the comments area  below!

Send your make-ahead food ideas, chocolate covered peanuts, and pumpkin-themed whatnot 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, Smoothie Recipes and Tips (I Promise This Time)

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The Art of Leftover Surprise

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook celebrates leftovers. Yes, even the tiny bits. There’s always soup or some complex reintroduction, but there’s also a bowl, a tortilla, and some imagination. After a travel week, there’s inevitably more food in my house than when I left (looking at you TPC’s Mom).

Summer Thanksgiving Feast

Summer Thanksgiving Feast

You see, I am Southern. Culturally, this means my mother has to feed the Juniors as if they were on the brink of starvation at all times. Fortunately for my newly minted vegetarian, I am from a farming family, so this means approximately 20 vegetables are served at any given meal. This may sound a bit exaggerated, but it really is not.

Cucumbers and Onions

Cucumbers and Onions

So I return from trips to find various bits and pieces. I’ve learned to accept this, even as my OCD self yearns to see the back of my fridge. With an extreme case of jet-lag and “event kennel cough” (my new favorite term, not one I coined myself), complex repackaging of food was not in the cards.

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

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

I opened the fridge, laid out the dishes, offered some tips, and let the Juniors put together meals. There were beans of different stripes, rice, tomatoes, cheese, tortillas, cooked apples, bagged salad. The Eldest went Mexican, using her tortilla like a chapati to pick up her food. We made a quick Mexican salad dressing to toss on the salad (salsa verde, juice of 1/2 lime, couple teaspoons of sour cream, stir), and she was set.

Mexican Salad Dressing: Simple and Tangy

Mexican Salad Dressing: Simple and Tangy

The Youngest made Hoppin’ John from black-eyed peas, rice, corn, tomatoes, and cheese. She dipped her cucumbers into the Mexican salad dressing.

The lesson: kids don’t have some preconceived notion of what should and should not be paired, or what constitutes a “real” meal. What a gift, to be without boundaries on your culinary creativity. If the combo tastes bad, don’t eat it again. Simple really.

Leftover corn mixed with a diced roasted yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, and a fresh sweet pepper.

Leftover corn mixed with a diced roasted yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, and a fresh sweet pepper.

And there was enough corn leftover to turn into a simple topping for the salmon the next night. Genius. Lunch, solved. The kids, happy and full of vegetables. My fridge, clean. How do you manage small bits and pieces of leftovers? Post a comment below today! I’m waiting.

Questions, quips, and winning lottery tickets may be sent 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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On Friday, The Tower of Bacon.

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5 Simple Summer Sandwiches and a Note About Hunger Relief

Gentle Readers, The Practical Cook is infinitely fond of variety and options on the table. For whatever reason, I become even more so in the summer. I just don’t want too much of anything (that’s not ice cold watermelon). Enter the open-faced sandwich plate.

Summer Sandwich Platter

Summer Sandwich Platter

I can’t even call this crostini, because I didn’t toast the bread. This is slices of bread with interesting toppings. Here’s what’s on the plate, starting with the tomato sandwiches at 9 o’clock and going clockwise.

1. Tomato. Just thick slices, a dab of mayo, a sprinkle of salt, and a healthy grind of pepper.

2. Cucumber, goat cheese, and dill. This was my favorite. I’ve eaten it three more times since.

3. Tangy Tuna Melt. Initially we melted some colby jack on the bread for tuna adherence, but dropped it in the second round. The tuna is just chunk light mixed with a touch of mayo and a very healthy dollop of sweet hot mustard from Trader Joe’s. Top it with sliced green olives, and The Practical Cooks Junior ate it up. This is shocking for the Eldest, who is not a fan. Give it a try.

4. Hummus with roasted red peppers. The Juniors love this combo.

5. Pickled beets with goat cheese and dill. Thinly slice some pickled beets and you’re on to something. This is a beautiful sandwich, and another favorite of the Juniors.

The Practical Cook's Table in the Summertime: Simple and fruit-filled.

The Practical Cook’s Table in the Summertime: Simple and fruit-filled.

What are your favorite sandwich combinations? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way with your ideas!

Special Note About Hunger Relief:I Support Kids Summer Stock Badge

I obviously think about food a lot. The converse, I also think about people who don’t have food a lot. Kids who are hungry can’t really enjoy the simple pleasures of summertime. When school is out, a key source of  nutrition is often missing for those in need. You can help.

Find ways to give back in your area if you’re outside North Carolina. Thanks for listening.

Send your kitchen confessions, challenges, and food 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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Believe it or not, and I do not, it’s almost time for Sunday Weekly Menus!

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Crostini with Broccolini, a Recipe of Sorts

Gentle Readers, what is cuter than a dancing cat on the interwebs? A dancing kitten, of course. Yes, baby things are supercute, and that applies to food as well. Meet broccolini, the cuter broccoli.

Crostini with Broccolini

Crostini with Broccolini

Today’s recipe is both simple and stolen. I’m the Practical Cook, not the proud on. It was a huge hit with TPC’s Junior, and served as the appetizer course of a 3-course Italian meal. Thanks Waldorf, we can now resume arguing about food.

The Crostini was such a hit, I had to pack it for lunches the next day (foil plus clear container)!

The Crostini was such a hit, I had to pack it for lunches the next day (foil plus clear container)!

Crostini with Broccolini, A Recipe

1 bunch of broccolini, washed and roughly chopped
splash of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
salt to taste
crusty bread of your choice, sliced thin and toasted
goat cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large-ish frying pan over a strong medium heat, toss garlic cloves in to flavor oil. Heat to hot but not smoking. If you overheat it, throw the windows open, turn on your fan, and accept that your house will smell like garlic for 3 days. (Not saying this happened or anything.) Saute the broccolini, seasoning well with salt, until it’s crisp tender, just a few minutes.

Meanwhile, schmear the goat cheese on the toasted bread. Now top with broccolini. Enjoy. (In a pinch, sauteed spinach is a nice substitute.)

Are you a fan of broccolini? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way!

Send your green veggies and goat cheese 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 on Sunday, it’s time for Weekly Menus.

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Salad Edition

Gentle Readers, as Star Wars informs us, there must be balance in the force. In a life full of bacon, there must be some salad. The Practical Cook is actually a fan of salad, salad of all stripes. This challenges comes from @convertiblelife as she is working on a month of salads. My parameters are broad, doesn’t have to be iceberg with ranch. In fact, I can promise you it won’t be. And why stop with one salad when you can have a trifecta?

Grilled Veggie Salad, Potato Salad, Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola and Strawberries

Grilled Veggie Salad, Potato Salad, Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola and Strawberries

Honestly, I could eat salad every day. I do most days. I did today. See above. See below.

The Corporate Lunch Salad: Dismantle the veggie sandwich and add it to the mix!

The Corporate Lunch Salad: Dismantle the veggie sandwich and add it to the mix!

And now, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Salad Edition (fine, salad is not technically an ingredient, let us call it artistic license):

Simple Seasonal Salad with a Moroccan Twist: Romaine lettuce, toasted almonds, mango, goat cheese, and chopped dates (not bacon!)

Simple Seasonal Salad with a Moroccan Twist: Romaine lettuce, toasted almonds, mango, goat cheese, and chopped dates (not bacon!)

1. Fruit Salad. From my awesome SIL, the key is not to mix the fruit till the last possible second. And grapes take up space. You’re welcome, you can now attend potlucks with ease and confidence.

Look to the left of the carbs for the beautiful fruit salad.

Look to the left of the carbs for the beautiful fruit salad.

2. Rainbow Orzo Salad. This is a reminder that a pasta or grain salad does not have to drown in dressing or salt. You can make something healthy and colorful with a fantastic chew.

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

Orange Salmon, Broiled Asparagus, Accidental Butternut Bulgar

3. Green Salad Guidelines. Something green, something sweet, something crunchy, something salty. Toss with either Balsamic and Olive Oil, or a Sherry Vinaigrette. Example: mixed baby greens, dried cranberries, walnuts, goat cheese. We’ve served this in TPC kitchen for years, it is the house salad. Simple, easy to eat, delicious.

Blueberry Herb Salad: This picture just makes me want to eat it again.

Blueberry Herb Salad: This picture just makes me want to eat it again.

Look for more salad guides upcoming. I love the idea of 30 days of salad. I will confess that our salads have a lot of real bacon bits on them right now. You have your leftovers, I have mine. What’s your house salad? Post a comment, and yes, I’m talking to you.

Simple yet delicious, The Practical Cook's House Salad.

Simple yet delicious, The Practical Cook's House Salad, in Variation.

Email your pictures, queries, and challenges 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 Friday, Round 3 of Bacon Brackets: Local Edition!

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Weekly Menus: Week of 3/11/2012 (with bonus recipe: Savory Bread Pudding)

Gentle Readers, it is  confession time here once more. The Practical Cook is guilty of the sin of wishful thinking. I often wish for more time/energy/counterspace. If only (fill in the blank), I say, then I would (fill in the blank). In the month of March, I’m resolving to do more and wish less. To that end, the inventory clean-up continues. Yes, I really had that much food stockpiled.

Savory Bread Pudding with Rosemary and Onions

Savory Bread Pudding with Rosemary and Onions

The bonus recipe below reflects that, something I sold to The Practical Cooks Junior as savory bread pudding. The Eldest loved it, the Youngest liked it, TPC’s Mom enjoyed it.

So more simplicity, and meals I can make in advance. This week I’ll be prepping for a very special event, as the Eldest celebrates a birthday soon. There will be cake, she will be very specific, I must be prepared.

So for this week’s Weekly Menus, we have:

Weekly Menus: 3/11/2012

Weekly Menus: 3/11/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/11/2011

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 3/11/2011

Which translates into:

Sunday: Pita Pizzas and Salad
Nothing better than a pita pizza bar for picky eaters. Have it your way. And I can divest myself of some cooked mushrooms and spinach at the same time. Score.

Monday: Breakfast for Dinner
Yes, there’s more leftover bacon to be eaten. And I really crave biscuits right now.

Tuesday: Soup and Sammies
It’s hard for us to eat a whole loaf of bread, but we need it for school lunch. Thus this staple supper.

Wednesday: Pasta Bake
Read: like lasagna, made in advance. If I don’t get rid of all of the spinach and mushrooms, they’ll appear here. If I need to offload some butternut squash and greens, I’ll do more of a white lasagna thing. I’ll be sure to report back in.

Thursday: Leftovers
See above, that pasta bake will be large and in charge. Add a different salad, call it done.

Friday: Sausage and Greens
Served with either pierogie or gnocchi, as the Youngest has declared she does not like mashed potatoes. I know, she is slightly unamerican for saying it, but doesn’t fear swimming upstream.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Current plan is to stalk some food trucks!

What are you serving these days? Post a comment and share the inspiration!

Bonus Recipe: Savory Bread Pudding

Let’s be honest, this is really what I call chicken dressing, just altered to make it beefy. Goes great with leftover beef stew, tomato gravy, mushrooms, or as a light lunch with garlicky greens.

A little carby goodness to go with a big pile of chard.

A little carby goodness to go with a big pile of chard.

several slices stale, leftover bread, broken into pieces (to make about 4 to 6 cups of chunks)
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
~8 cups of beef broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons butter

1. Break up the leftover bread into chunks, which should almost fill your large mixing bowl. Add the rosemary and onion to the bowl. NOTE: I keep my stale bread in the freezer, and I don’t even bother to defrost for this recipe, because of the next step.

Rosemary for the win!

Rosemary for the win!

2. Meanwhile, bring the beef broth to a boil.

3. When the broth is boiling, add it slowly to the bread mixture, stirring and checking for consistency as you go. The brothier you make the pudding, the wetter it will be. I like some extra broth in the bowl, but not bread soup.

Mix the bread, the onions, and the rosemary.

Mix the bread, the onions, and the rosemary.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When it’s to your liking, add the egg, mix well.

5. While the bread mixtures sits a minute, butter a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Toss the extra butter into the bread mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees on the bottom rack for 10 minutes, and then another 30 to 45 on the middle rack at 325.

Enjoy!

Email questions, pictures, and strokes of brilliance 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 on Wednesday, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Salad Edition.

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