Tag Archives: easy meals

Three Salad Ideas for the New Year

Gentle Readers, may those among us who did not strap on the cookie jar like a feedbag cast the first baked good. It’s New Year’s Resolution time again, and I’ve got a few. I’ve extended the deadline on my one pull-up resolution of 2012. Don’t be a hater, they are very very hard. 2013 will be my year.

2013 will be the year of the pullup. I swear.

2013 will be the year of the pullup. I swear.

Also, if you know someone precise, someone who likes exact measures, let’s say an engineer, and she places a scale in front of your cookie cabinet, that is so not holiday feng sui. Just saying. I will not name names here, but will simply call her 5FeetofFury.

Chicken Jolt Salad with Espresso Cheese, Apples, and Dijon-Sherry Vinaigrette

Chicken Jolt Salad with Espresso Cheese, Apples, and Dijon-Sherry Vinaigrette

Back on point, it’s salad time here at Team Practical Cook. We’re all tired of rich food at this point. Here are 3 salad ideas to get you started:

1. Caesar Salad with Fried Onions: While you think this is not a health food, read on. The trick here is to use a lot of lettuce, not so much dressing, and something different for the crunch. That’s the point. The fried onions from Trader Joe’s are extremely satisfying, and not a complete calorie bomb. I like their dressing too. The Practical Cooks Jr are both big fans of onions instead of croutons because the salad is easier to eat. And that is really the point, isn’t it?

Trader Joe's Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

Trader Joe’s Romano Caesar Dressing, I Heart You

2. Just Add Fruit: Dried or fresh, nothing brightens up greenery like something sweet. I find the combination satisfies my hunger and keeps me from craving other forms of sweetness. I’ve been on a blackberry and toasted almonds kick lately, but always keep dried cranberries and Honeycrisp apples on hand. Also, orange sections or mango chunks: both pair well with leftover salmon or tuna.

Blackberries and Toasted Almonds on Herby Greens FTW!

Blackberries and Toasted Almonds on Herby Greens FTW!

3. Salad Bar: This is not a new concept, I think the 80s got the patent on this one (remember when Wendy’s and Pizza Hut relied on this to lure you in for lunch?). However, it works at home and is worth a reminder. Buy 2 types of lettuce (or spinach plus lettuce) and let the people choose A vs B. It works. It’s not “eat a salad or leave the table,” now it’s “which one do you prefer?” Stay with the basic formula, greens, something sweet, something crunchy, something salty/cheesy, and ranch for emergencies.

Take it from the pros like Whole Foods, Salad Bars work.

Take it from the pros like Whole Foods, Salad Bars work.

So my journey into 2013 begins. What’s your resolution? Or your favorite salad? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way!

Send your digital scales to someone else. For questions, comments, or strokes of brilliance, email me at 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!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Friday, First Time Fast Foodies.

1 Comment

Filed under One Ingredient Three Ways, Recipes

Weekly Menus: Week of 11/18/2012

Gentle Readers, this post comes to you while The Practical Cook is deep into field research in New York. So planning menus is somewhat difficult. Plus, this marks the week when so many Americans will be cooking at home, in some cases for the first time this year.

Some thoughts: don’t panic, enlist help, don’t try to make everything.

With those directives in mind, here are the weekly menus:

Weekly Menus: 11/18/2012

Weekly Menus: 11/18/2012

And the Four-Square Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 11/18/2012

The Four-Square Grocery List: 11/18/2012

Which all means:

Sunday: Dine Out in NYC

Monday: Salad
After traveling, I’m crave simplicity.

Tuesday: Tomato Soup and Sandwiches
I’m working on a piece about doctored soups. This will be the second round of trials. There’s a point where it’s too hard to convert the soup and easier to make it, that’s what I’m testing for!

Wednesday: Pizza and Salad
The simplest solution to the pre-Thanksgiving warm-up.

Thursday: Turkeyless Thanksgiving
Yeah, I said it out loud.

Friday: Leftovers
With a list of carbs that long, why cook more food? I am a big advocate of repackaging. It’s a great opportunity to make soup or transform leftovers into a roll-up. Cranberry sauce is a powerful connector.

Saturday: Dine Out!

What’s on the menu for you this week? (I will fully admit that I’ll be craving Indian or Chinese after Friday, anything but leftovers!) Post a comment below, I’m listening!

Send your queries, questions, and quips 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!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Coming up Wednesday, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Cranberry Edition.

2 Comments

Filed under Weekly Menus

Weekly Menus: Week of 9/4/2011

Clearly, The Practical Cook is still not fully present in a single time zone. In yesterday’s post, I forgot what day of the week it was. And this morning, the best intentions of getting up to work out, shop, blog, etc. went awry. In a word, I slept in. But better late than never, as I’m sure the one Gentle Reader who expects to read this missive over coffee will forgive me. (Sorry Mom.)

Now, to the business of the week. Let me further say that I’m working away in the test kitchen on a top secret project that will reveal itself shortly. Also, I am now done with summer. I’m done with mosquitoes, I’ve eaten my fill of tomatoes (sacrilege, but true), and I’m ready for delicata squash, heartier stews, and possibly even some simple loaf breads.

So on this week’s menu:

Weekly Menus: 9/4/2011

Weekly Menus: 9/4/2011

And the Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery List: 9/4/2011

Four-Square Grocery List: 9/4/2011

The CSA from Brinkley Farms (Doubled from Last Week’s Skip):

1 pk regular bratwurst
1 bag spicy greens mix
1 lb squash
2 lbs zucchini
1 lb mixed colored bell peppers
2 lbs acorn squash
2 lbs delicata squash

(I almost passed out with glee when I saw the selections from Brinkley Farms this week. Heaven!)

Which translates into:

Sunday: Indian
Dal, rice, okra in buttermilk, possibly some saag, roti

Monday: Leftovers/fish
This depends on the amount leftover and the looks of the fish at the store.

Tuesday: Braised Chicken
I have some chicken that needs to be consumed, and I’m deciding how it will be served. To be determined.

Wednesday: Polenta with Black Beans
Working on a product review here, and want to pair the polenta with something I need to make anyway, a large pot of black beans.

Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
I predict French Toast, possibly with fried chicken of some stripe.

Friday: Pizza and Salad
Punt! I plan on being exhausted from the week’s lineup, and punting with frozen pizza and salad.

Saturday: Dine Out
Watch out food trucks, we’re coming to find you.

Okay, now it’s time to walk the hound dog, finish the grocery shopping, make the fig preserves, and drink some coffee, not necessarily in that order. Onward and upward!

Are you ready to change seasons culinarily speaking? What are you craving on the fall menus? Post a comment (I can hear you lurking) or Tweet!

Suggest a future taste test or blog post by writing 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!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Up tomorrow (which I know is Monday) An Ode to Road Oatmeal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Weekly Menus

Cooking in Someone Else’s Kitchen, A Guide (with video)

What is it about eating something at someone else’s house that makes it taste better? Picky eaters will try things, fried things are crispier, everything looks easier. The Practical Cook loves to eat, the location is less relevant than the company of good friends. As such, she often invites people over and conversely accepts all invites. (Seriously, check your door before you open it, might be me.)

(Video shot on location in someone’s kitchen: Do not try this at home. Just give up or buy a corkscrew.)

And because The Practical Cook is, well, The Practical Cook, she often finds herself in the kitchen, helping. Generally speaking, I’m invited to help, but I also just can’t stand still in a cooking environment. If I see pancakes burning, I’ll flip them, and even ask in advance depending on how well I know you. But there are rules to be followed, and I should certainly try to improve in this regard myself.

So here are 5 Tips When Cooking in Someone Else’s Kitchen:

1. Unhand the Seasonings. This is the biggie. Do not even think of reseasoning the food unless you are specifically asked to do it. The adage about “too many cooks spoil the soup” is age-old for a reason. Clearly people have been manhandling the herbs for centuries. Don’t be tempted. (I follow that with taste before adding salt and pepper at the table, but I’m a stickler.)

Pork Noodle Soup with Mushrooms and Siracha

Pork Noodle Soup with Mushrooms and Siracha

2. Offer to Help, Accept the Answer. If help is wanted, the host/ess will let you know. If the person is not fond of an audience or is particular (fingers pointing right back at me here), it may not be a good time to show off your knife skills. Yes, I am a kitchen dictator. I bark orders, speak in shorthand, and focus with unbroken precision on the task at hand. I have to cook for small, growing, hungry kids at warp speed, forgive me.

Garlic, Knife, and Spinach

Wustof Classic Chef's Knife

3. Corollary: Don’t Let Things Burn. Rule #2 is out the window if you see anything truly burning or on fire. This doesn’t mean the potatoes are a we bit crisp, this means the wooden spoon slipped onto the eye of the stove and  no one else has noticed.

Lemon Curd on Pancakes

Lemon Curd on Pancakes

4. Be the Sous Chef. There are a few people I cook with often. They know my style and feel free to ignore me. They offer to help do the million little things that speed food to the table, and what a gift that is. Peel some fruit, stir a pot, chop some parsley, pour the wine. Thank you.

Flat Italian Parsley!

Flat Italian Parsley!

5. If They Lack a Tool, Buy a Gift. Mind you, this doesn’t necessarily include a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (though I would love one if you’ve got a spare one in red or chrome). Tongue in cheek here (watch the video to see the backstory), but if you notice something missing that you really enjoy, like a functioning corkscrew, buy your friend a gift. They may save it in a special drawer for you to use, or they may fall in love with it. Might I recommend the Kitchen Tool Talk category here for ideas?

Do you cook well with others? Share your story here in the comments section.* (*Unless it’s about me, and then perhaps it’s best to keep to yourself. Looking at you Mom.)

Send your questions and queries 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!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Tomorrow, Punting with Grilled Cheese Bar.

Leave a comment

Filed under Kitchen Philosophy

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!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

Up next, Personal Banana Puddings.

2 Comments

Filed under Weekly Menus

Creating the Perfect Summer Picnic Platter

Gentle readers, this just in, summer is here in humidity, even if the calendar hasn’t caught up. The Practical Cook adores a picnic, and her picnic ideas are very much an homage to Bill Smith of Crook’s Corner. Perhaps it’s because he really loves, and has perfected cold fried chicken. Yes, open the confessional booth, the Practical Cook prefers cold chicken over hot.

For the vegetarian readers, fear not, a swap will be suggested. The key elements here are “fried” and “cold.”

And because I am practical above all things, I bought the fried chicken at the store. Yes, it’s not that this is a no-fried zone, it’s just I’ve never found the effort to be worth the mess and clean-up. Not when respectable cold fried chicken is available elsewhere.

So here is the composition of the Perfect Summer Picnic Platter (in Spring):

Summer Picnic Platter Featuring Cold Fried Chicken

Summer Picnic Platter Featuring Cold Fried Chicken

1. Cold Fried Chicken. Make your own, buy it, up to you. For the veggies, consider a nice fried corn fritter (or try one of the Dr. Praeger’s items made crisp and then at room temp). But seriously, if you’ve only had your fried chicken hot, now is the time to cross over.

2. Potato Salad. Again, make it, buy it, I won’t tell. This is deli potato salad, because Sunday had Punt! written all over it.

3. Green Veg. I was raised to eat a green veg at all meals, and the veg will change with the season. We had fresh green peas from the Brinkley Farms CSA, and they were served simply and worked nicely here. Later in the season, cukes and onions would be my recommendation. Also consider celery sticks, or a side salad.

4. Watermelon. Shy of an allergy, I don’t consider this optional. I recommend a pinch of salt on it early in the season, before it’s truly ripe in the heat of the summer.

Of course, this is meant to be eaten outside. There will be bits of fried and drips of watermelon juice everywhere, no matter the age of the diners.

What’s on your picnic platter? Comment or Tweet!

Send pictures of your hot-weather meals and ideas to  practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Like, like, like! Press “like” on Facebook today!)

Follow practicalcook on Twitter

We’re keeping things cool tomorrow with Summer Rolls Recipe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table