Tag Archives: easy weeknight meals

Weekly Menus: Birthday Edition, Week of 6/9/2013

Gentle Reader, what a week. I didn’t think it was possible to overdo on Challah French Toast, but it is. After an amazing trip to NYC, fueled by sampling some of the oddest things I’ve ever tasted, I just wanted to eat cereal for breakfast. Also, I discovered that my Challah French Toast easily bested any I had in New York. Thank you Cook’s Illustrated.

Challah French Toast from Grey Dog.

Challah French Toast from Grey Dog.

For the extreme tasting, may I introduce you to balut. Things to note, I do not always pay enough attention to the fine print. I heard “duck egg” and at a Filipino restaurant, “not containing shellfish.” What I missed, “fertilized.”

Thanks to @lynxbat for this before picture. Duck eggs, looking innocent. Balut @ Jeepney.

Thanks to @lynxbat for this before picture. Duck eggs, looking innocent. Balut @ Jeepney.

I will do a full review of Jeepney soon (really amazing experience, great food), but meanwhile, special thanks to my partner in crime, @Lynxbat, who offered to name our appetizer halfway through. It was the highlight of the trip, though I only managed three bites before I backed down.

The whole patio stopped to watch. I have not yet realized what I've signed on for.

The whole patio stopped to watch. I have not yet realized what I’ve signed on for.

So this week features a return to normal, with cake for The Youngest Practical Cook Jr. The weekly menus are:

Weekly Menus: 6/9/2013

Weekly Menus: 6/9/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List (note that The Youngest TPC Jr added “pairs” as a request, in the right place even!):

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/9/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 6/9/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Ribs and Cornbread
We are planning ahead, and have a big day. So simple and easy is best–we bought ribs prepared, and we’re going to add something green plus cornbread for The Youngest’s celebratory birthday meal. There will be travel, soccer, and swimming in this as well, and one of two cakes (Birthday Carrot Cake!) plus ice cream, so easy wins.

Real Vanilla Beans: The key to an amazing cream cheese frosting

Real Vanilla Beans: The key to an amazing cream cheese frosting

Monday: Pizza
We have leftovers, add a salad, and call it a day. I love summer.

Tuesday: Veggie Quesadillas
Whatever is left in the fridge will be chopped and roasted, slapped into a tortilla, covered with cheese, and served. Sliced avocados make it fancy.

Wednesday: Salmon and Quinoa
What can I say, we’re fans of the high-protein light meal. Add broccoli and everyone’s happy.

Salmon and Arugula over Quinoa: It rocked

Salmon and Arugula over Quinoa: It rocked

Thursday: Beans and Rice
This will probably be just black beans and rice, optional tortilla. A favorite and easy to take outside.

Black Beans and Rice: Simple and Satisfying for Dinner

Black Beans and Rice: Simple and Satisfying for Dinner

Friday: Leftover delight!
I suspect this will involve eggs to stretch the bits and pieces of the week.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Currently seeking the best chicken and waffles, and new and different pork offerings. I may be traveling to discover this. Woot!

The Youngest TPC Wrote and Illustrated a Story about NYC: I love this

The Youngest TPC Wrote and Illustrated a Story about NYC: I love this

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Post a comment, send a tweet, share a condolence or two. I’m listening.

Send your extra birthday wishes, questions, and chicken and waffle suggestions 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: Cereal in Review: Chocolate Almond Granola from Trader Joe’s

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Chorizo Hash Recipe: Leftovers You Will Love

Gentle Readers, we meet again. I’m happy about that, just like I’m happy to have leftovers visit the table again. However, to keep things interesting, it’s fun to dress them up a bit. Hash is the perfect vehicle for the second meeting. Infinitely flexible and fast, this Chorizo Hash came from some leftover baked potatoes and a dream.

Chorizo Hash: I think I love you

Chorizo Hash: I think I love you

To be fair, I baked extra potatoes on purpose without a clear vision of their future, just because turning the oven on for so few potatoes always seems ridiculous to me.

Why not make extra baked potatoes?

Why not make extra baked potatoes?

Also, topping anything with a runny egg makes it more delicious and beautiful in my opinion. Do not skip the eggs, even if you like yours a bit more firm. I won’t judge. Much.

Chorizo Hash Recipe

1 lb (or whatever you have on hand) chorizo sausage (this is bulk, not the Spanish link style)
dash of olive oil
1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 leftover baked potatoes, skinned and diced large (bake them now if you  must, boiled potatoes would also suffice)
1/2 bag baby spinach
3 scallions, whites and greens, chopped
1/2 cup or so shredded cheese
salt and pepper to taste
runny eggs (completely not optional, runny being relative to personal taste)
hot sauce (optional I suppose)

1. In a large skillet, brown the chorizo over medium heat. Drain excess fat, and put cooked chorizo on paper towels on a plate while you complete the next steps.

2. If the skillet is now quite dry, add a splash of olive oil. Heat to medium, then saute the onion until soft and wilted, add the garlic. Saute until you smell it. Quickly add the potatoes and stir to mix. Feel free to season with salt and pepper to taste at this phase.

Toss and wilt the spinach. Feel free to say "Bork Bork Bork" like the Swedish chef. I know I did.

Toss and wilt the spinach. Feel free to say “Bork Bork Bork” like the Swedish chef. I know I did.

3. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture is well mixed and heated through. Add the reserved chorizo back to the skillet. Stir and cook until flavors meld, another few minutes. Add the baby spinach and stir into the mixture. Cook until it wilts.

Cheese, just because it adds dimension and adhesion to the chorizo hash.

Cheese, just because it adds dimension and adhesion to the chorizo hash.

4. Toss the green onions and cheese in, leaving the pan on the burner, but turning off the flame. Let the cheese melt and the flavors meld while you make eggs. I’ll wait.

5. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Serve a portion topped with eggs and hot sauce. Thank me later.

Are you a fan of the runny egg topping? Now is the time to come clean. Confess in the comments box below, or on Twitter for all the world to see. I’ll be waiting.

Send your questions, queries, 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday, Weekly Menus time!

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Corned Beef Hash Recipe, FTW!

Gentle Readers, one of the very best parts of corned beef is having leftovers. In fact, lean in close now, I actually prefer corned beef hash to the original corned beef. I know, I know, sandwiches are lovely and mustard is nice, but fried beef, onions, and potatoes? Winning.

Corned beef hash with eggs over medium and Irish soda bread.

Corned beef hash with eggs over medium and Irish soda bread.

For the record, this is as good as it looks, and was a huge hit with the whole crew.

Corned Beef Hash Recipe

1 Tablespoon of butter
3 Russet potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled (I didn’t have cooked potatoes on hand, and if you don’t either, just boil them in water for 10-12 minutes–don’t salt it though), then drained and cooled
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 cups finely diced or cubed corned beef (not going to lie, I put the beef and the onion in the food processor for a few quick pulses, don’t judge)
milk, gravy, broth, etc.

1. Heat the butter in a cast iron skillet over a strong medium heat. Meanwhile, mix the potatoes, onion, and beef in a medium sized bowl. Add a liquid of some sort, just a bit, until the mixture holds together but isn’t soupy. (Don’t fret if it doesn’t form a patty, it is delicious no matter what.)

The corned beef mixture before the food processor.

The corned beef mixture before the food processor.

2. Put 3 or 4 generous mounds of corned beef mixture into the melted butter. Do not overcrowd the pan like I did. Cook for 10 minutes without messing with it, until it forms a nice crust.

Do not overcrowd the pan, it won't get crispy before you get hungry.

Do not overcrowd the pan, it won’t get crispy before you get hungry.

3. Now you can either flip it and repeat, or stick under the broiler (I chose this option because of the previous overcrowding issue).

Corned beef hash made healthy with spinach and ninjas.

Corned beef hash made healthy with spinach and ninjas.

4. When the corned beef hash reaches your desired amount of crispy, serve, preferably with runny eggs and hot sauce if you’re inviting me over.

That’s it. Very simple. Each time you make it, it will be different. That is part of the joy of cooking with leftovers. Are you a hash fan? What’s your method? Post a comment, send a tweet, or feel free to invite me over to dinner. 🙂

Email your leftovers, questions, and kitchen victories 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 Friday, Life by a Kitchen Timer: A Discovery

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Weekly Menus: Springtime Edition, Week of 3/10/2013

Gentle Readers, there is so much to love about spring: the weather, the additional vegetables in season, the flowers in bloom. However, the time change, not so much. Spring forward is the time equivalent of faceplanting for me–I do it unwillingly and inelegantly. Thus the hour of the post today.

Hello my glazed pretties. This was my reward for a hard-fought week.

Hello my glazed pretties. This was my reward for a hard-fought week.

This week’s menus feature some reprises from last week and a lesson learned. A schedule change meant I missed one dinner with the Jrs, one where we had planned for pork chops and gnocchi. They informed me that was a meal we would eat together as a family, not to be jobbed out to someone else. Way to go Jrs, I appreciate your feedback.

So, without further adieu and heading into a big week of party planning, we have the Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 3/10/2013

Weekly Menus: 3/10/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 3/10/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 3/10/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 3/10/2013

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Breakfast for Dinner
A natural choice for a relaxed weekend.

Monday: Soup and Salad
An attempt at health! Let’s see how that goes.

Tuesday: Pasta and Salad
Cheese tortellini for the win. Also a meal that can be shifted around, as the week may demand some changes.

Wednesday: Pork Chops and Gnocchi
This will require more advanced planning for the thawing of the chops. But there will be fried sage, and all will be right with the universe.

Veggie burger toppings: bacon, avocado, cheese

Veggie burger toppings: bacon, avocado, cheese

Thursday: Veggie Burgers
A huge hit from last week, we added bacon and avocados. They were fantastic.

Friday: Leftover Day
Because this week is going to have some complications, I’m building in a day to consume whatever is leftover.

Saturday: Dine Out!
It’s time for the Eldest to choose, her pre-Birthday Dinner!

Do you have meals you only eat as a core family? What are they? Post your comments below!

Comments, queries, quips, and quotations can 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday, An Ode to Belgian Chocolate.

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Weekly Menus: 3/3/2013

Gentle Readers, another week, another busy time. I am learning to forgive myself for doing less cooking and more plating up these days. There are still inspired moments in the kitchen, we still eat very well, and I know that the time will come when I make souffles once more.

My Kitchen Staff, The Practical Cooks Junior

My Kitchen Staff, The Practical Cooks Junior

But for now, the focus is on time together, teaching the Practical Cooks Junior how to cook, and eating food that is both healthy and visually appealing. The Jrs help me shop, plan, and prep, which takes more time, but yields better results for the team. I can’t complain.

Without further preamble, here are our Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 3/3/2013

Weekly Menus: 3/3/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 3/3/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List: 3/3/2013

Which translates into:

Sunday: Flying Mayans
This will be burrito style and use up the leftover sweet potatoes, black beans, and rice I found in my fridge upon returning from my business trip. Woot!

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Hello beautiful sweet potatoes.

Monday: Soup and Sammie
We got some rocking good bread (there has been a protest held over “just brown bread”), and sammies are once more fun. Many smiles in the grocery store when I made them choose, without interference, saying, you pick it, but don’t complain later. Survey says, the Jrs prefer “prairie” bread, or something with a lot of seeds.

Tuesday: Pork chops and Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Though my offspring are still primarily vegetarians, I’m going to try this hybrid meal. They’ll gladly eat the gnocchi on its own (with extra crispy sage), and I’ll serve a pile of Brussels sprouts on the side. That way they can choose to pork chop or not.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Extra Crispy Sage

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Extra Crispy Sage

Wednesday: Veggie Burger and Fries
This feels like a night to watch a bit of a movie and have some vegetarian junk food. Always popular to get over the midweek hump. We’ll have salad or broccoli with.

Thursday: Polenta with Mushrooms
You can’t complain about raising kids who can tell a) which portobello mushrooms are the best and b) the clerk that they’re not shitakes.

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms: A vegetarian family favorite!

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms: A vegetarian family favorite!

Friday: Leftovers
Who knows what we’ll have left and in what capacity, but it is going to end up on the table. We can stretch this with crostini or cheese and crackers. Mama Tapas in the house!

Saturday: Dine Out!
The plan is to go restaurant reviewing with Waldorf. Hopefully we’ll find a new gem or at least fight about it in the process. We’ve been far too agreeable lately.

Send good ideas, dishwashers, and extra sleep 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 on Wednesday: Spinach Crostini, a Recipe of Sorts

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Portobello Burger Recipe: Vegetarian Meat

Gentle Readers, there is nothing like a lifestyle change to sharply correct eating choices. Such is the road to mushroom love for Team Practical Cook. I have always been a fan. The Juniors, not so much. Then the Eldest became a vegetarian. Now the Youngest is following her sister’s able footsteps.

Portobello Mushroom Burger with Red Onions and Goat Cheese

Portobello Mushroom Burger with Red Onions and Goat Cheese

And they love portobello mushrooms. They like them straight up, they like them sliced, they like them roasted. My favorite thing about them? We can buy them from a local source in the grocery store. I’m teaching TPC’s Junior how to identify fresh ones (unblemished, not wet, gills intact).

Baby Bellas: Cremini mushrooms sliced fine.

Baby Bellas: Cremini mushrooms sliced fine.

I recommend scraping the gills off for most preparations, just because they’ll turn everything black. That’s personal preference though. The consistency is such they’ve both asked me if it’s meat, in disbelief that something they like so much could be on the approved list. We call it vegetarian meat at our house.

Portobello Burger Recipe

3 or 4 large portobello caps, gills scraped
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium-sized red onion, sliced thin
sugar to taste
balsamic vinegar
good quality goat cheese
hamburger buns
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When it’s hot, place prepped portobellos on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Drizzle some more oil on the mushrooms and rub them. I won’t tell. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast, turning the caps over halfway, until tender, about 30 minutes total, depending on the size of the portobellos.

Meanwhile, in a medium size skillet, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, a sprinkling of sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Saute onions, lowering heat to keep them from burning, until they’ve caramelized slightly and are very soft. Finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Taste them and adjust seasoning accordingly.

To assemble, split one hamburger bun, schmear it with good goat cheese (don’t get me started, the Juniors can school you on goat cheese), add a portobello cap, then top with onions.

Enjoy. There wasn’t a single bite left. Onions are sweet in this preparation, so don’t leave them out, and don’t fear serving them to the young. A spoonful of sugar does make most things go down.

Where do you stand on mushrooms? Are you a hater or a fan? Vote today. The comments section beckons you.

Send your sprouts, witty rejoinders, and spare turkeys 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, Turkeyless Thanksgiving for the Junior Pilgrims.

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Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms Recipe

Gentle Readers, on rare occasions, everyone in the family likes the same thing. Team Practical Cook prides itself on individual palates, to the point that certain Practical Cooks regret raising Juniors with discriminating tastes. Overheard at the table: that’s not how it tastes to my mouth. Arrgghh!

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms: A vegetarian family favorite!

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms: A vegetarian family favorite!

Yes, the Practical Cooks Junior are seriously 2.0, with all the requisite improvements, but you try cooking for short people with very clear notions of food. Enter Trader Joe’s shelf-stable polenta. It was the featured sample a few weeks back, and it’s graced our kitchen ever since.

Trader Joe's Shelf-Stable Polenta

Trader Joe’s Shelf-Stable Polenta

This time we made it hearty. The Youngest didn’t like mushrooms much before, so we had everyone select their own type of mushroom from the bin. Naturally, she went for the shitakes, at $9.99/lb. Oh well. They were delicious.

The More Affordable Portobella Mushroom

The More Affordable Portobella Mushroom

Polenta with Eggs, Spinach, and Mushrooms Recipe

1 package Trader Joe’s shelf-stable polenta, or feel free to make it yourself, I won’t wait
olive oil
3 cloves garlic
about a pound of mushrooms, any variety, cleaned and sliced
salt
red pepper flakes
1/2 bag prewashed baby spinach
6 grape tomatoes, quartered
3 – 6 eggs
Romano cheese

1. Slice the polenta in 6 to 8 slices, and prepare according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, heat a dollop of olive oil in a medium-high skillet and add the garlic cloves. When you can smell them, add the mushrooms. Add salt to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute until they lose their water and reduce.

3. When the mushrooms are cooked, add the spinach. Saute until wilted. Add the grape tomatoes and heat briefly.

4. By now the polenta should be done. Turn off the heat but leave in the pan. Meanwhile, fry as many eggs as you want, over easy or medium, at least one per serving.

5. Make a stack: polenta, mushroom mixture, egg. Top with grated Romano cheese. Enjoy.

This was a runaway hit. It was beautiful, it felt special, and with some fruit on the side, made for a very filling meal. After all, polenta is really just Italian for grits.

Polenta Frying in the Pan

Polenta Frying in the Pan

Are you a polenta fan? How do you serve it? Post a comment below, I’m listening!

Send your confessions, questions, and bacon 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, on video: Booberry vs Frakenberry: The Ultimate FauxBerry Taste Challenge

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