Tag Archives: fast food

Weekly Menus: Fast Food Edition

Gentle Readers, sometimes one must concede to gravity, time, or other immutable forces. This is one such week. I’m at the crossroads at one of the largest events I work every year, with one of the most important ones. That would be my company’s tech conference and The Youngest Practical Cook’s Birthday Party. Yes, there were two parties, it happens sometimes.

Fast Food: Toast, Egg Over Medium, Bacon, Sprinkle of Frank's Hot Sauce. Side of Watermelon.

Fast Food: Toast, Egg Over Medium, Bacon, Sprinkle of Frank’s Hot Sauce. Side of Watermelon.

I can now make a carrot cake in my sleep (and almost did after midnight last night). The larger point being–I still have to pull a Weasley Car act and shove more into one bag than should fit. At least I’m generally packed for this business trip, but I still have miles to go and need some sleep.

Carrot Cake, Stark Naked. Renamed WTFCake due to the state of the week. Smells like magic and sunshine.

Carrot Cake, Stark Naked. Renamed WTFCake due to the state of the week. Smells like magic and sunshine.

So I’m breaking format with some thoughts about how I eat and feed TPCs Jr during crunch time, something I often tag on Instagram as #fastfood. My friend @ConvertibleLife had a great picture the other day of a pita pizza topped with produce-box offerings.

Peanut Butter Toast: Seriously Fast Food. Side of Cherries.

Peanut Butter Toast: Seriously Fast Food. Side of Cherries.

My version of #fastfood is a commitment to keeping the house stocked with things we can eat quickly that provide more nutritional firepower than the commercial Fast Food. We are not making quiches and roasts here, I ate quesadillas for lunch most days last week, under 10 minutes prep including bringing a cast iron skillet up to proper heat.

Another spinach quesadilla, but with Pepadew Havarti and Cowboy Caviar. Fast Food.

Another spinach quesadilla, but with Pepadew Havarti and Cowboy Caviar. Fast Food.

We keep a lot of fruit on hand at this time of year–cherries, apples, bananas, watermelon, strawberries– and one day I fueled up almost exclusively on watermelon and granola bars. This is not ideal, I’ll fully admit, but it’s still better for me than the alternatives. I don’t want to rely on frozen heat-up meals. I don’t want to eat powerbars or drink my lunch. I like to chew.

I can’t afford the physical crash that follows a typical burgers and fries fast food meal. Believe you me, I heart junk food, it’s just not sustainable when I need to stay alert and energized. For me, plain yogurt with fruit, nuts, and a sprinkle of muesli or granola is a much better option. More importantly, it’s faster than driving through.

Spinach salad with walnuts, cherries, and goat cheese. Balsamic and olive oil drizzle. Fast Food.

Spinach salad with walnuts, cherries, and goat cheese. Balsamic and olive oil drizzle. Fast Food.

I made this salad in 5 minutes, the key was having the ingredients on hand. Obviously I have my breaking point when it comes to time, as this not-weekly menus post proves. I’m traveling on business next week, and I need to push pause here and focus. I’ll pick back up next Sunday. In the meantime, I encourage you to find new ways to eat and feed your family when time is the most precious commodity. Try cheese, crackers, fruit, and carrots.

Summer happiness = watermelon

Summer happiness = watermelon

And forgive yourself the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. One day I’ll cook complex and interesting meals again, just not this week. See you soon–would love to hear your comments and see your #fastfood.

Send your SPF, watermelon, and good 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Next Sunday: Back on Track, Weekly Menus Resume!

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Weekly Menus: 5/26/2013

Gentle Readers, sometimes weekly menus are brimming with creativity, and sometimes they are just food. In the end, for me right now, food is the conduit of fuel and conversation with The Practical Cooks Junior, everything else is extra. The end of school is a busy time by itself, throw in a few birthday parties, ballet recitals, and business travel, and dinner does not always get first billing.

The upside of business travel, visiting the local haunts with natives. Chicken and Waffles from Bruxie shown here.

The upside of business travel, visiting the local haunts with natives. Chicken and Waffles from Bruxie shown here.

So this week’s menus are about hitting our marks on stage, if you will, as opposed to breaking through any culinary barriers. We eat pretty well, and homework gets done around our table. Checking the win column.

Ballerinas prepare to take the stage.

Ballerinas prepare to take the stage.

Which means the weekly menus are as follows:

Weekly Menus: 5/26/2013

Weekly Menus: 5/26/2013

The Four-Square Grocery List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 5/26/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 5/26/2013

Which all translates into:

Sunday: Rotisserie Chicken
I’ve been leaning on this menu quite a bit lately. The benefit being it’s fast, easy, and creates useful leftovers. Yes, I can roast my own chicken, and I look forward to the day when that becomes choice A again. Till then, guilt-free.

TPC Tested, Ninja Approved: New Chicken Salad

TPC Tested, Ninja Approved: New Chicken Salad

Monday: Pasta and Salad
At the request of the Jrs. I’ll let them decide the flavor.

Tuesday: Mexican
Burritos were mentioned, but we may Punt! and go for nachos. We’ve got some tortilla chips on their last legs, and I have this Four Seasons idea for nachos, creating flavor quadrants.

Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner
Biscuits will be mine at last! Plus bacon and eggs.

Pork Belly and Kale Biscuit from Rise in Durham: This is not a drill, you need to eat this soon.

Pork Belly and Kale Biscuit from Rise in Durham: This is not a drill, you need to eat this soon.

Thursday: Dine Out!
We’ve got a fun outing with friends planned!

Friday: Beans and Rice
Simple way to end the week. This may evolve into veggie chili, or it may go white chili and use up any remaining rotisserie chicken. We shall see.

Saturday: Dine Out
More field research. I do this so you don’t have to. It’s a sacrifice, I know.

When you have to punt dinner plans, do you get takeout or reach for convenience food in the house? I’m curious. Post a comment below, or send a Tweet my way. I’ll be doing some field research upcoming, and I’m in the test kitchen. Look for more things bacon, but also some salad innovation.

Questions, queries, bacon destination vacations? Email them 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, Double Scoop Ice Cream Review: Video Style.

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First Time Fast Foodies

Gentle Readers, this past week marked a first that caused a bit of a firestorm. As part of a series of holiday meet and greets, The Practical Cooks Junior and I met with some old friends at the most convenient and recognizable of spots off the highway, McDonald’s. What’s remarkable about that? TPC’s Jr have never been to one.

First McDonald's Fries: Response, Whatevs.

First McDonald’s Fries: Response, Whatevs.

I’m waiting for you to wake up from a dead faint. Are you back with us? Great. We had sundaes at an in-museum McD’s this past summer on our trip to Washington, D.C., and we’ve stopped at a Wendy’s here and there. But never at the freestanding Golden Arches. TPC’s Jr have never consumed a Happy Meal, and they just tried the famous fries for the first time.

More Tweeting Than Eating

More Tweeting Than Eating

Survey says: my sweet potato fries are better. Not going to McDonald’s was not some extremist stance I attempted, nor do I have a burning desire for a McRib or a McNugget. I like my Fried full on and pure, no halfway for me, so our junk food has looked more like this.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

Fried okra from the State Farmers Market food cart. It is a family favorite.

When they became vegetarians, there was even less reason to go to fast food places. But it happened, and they were not blown away in any direction. It was just a place. I will openly admit that while I have no judgment about a Big Mac craving or the love of fries, fast food joints are not my first choice for dining. We are spoiled in knowing more than one chef on a first-name basis, and a load of talented home cooks, and we can cook most things to our taste at home. With so much food and food knowledge around us, we barely have time to eat all the things we want to try.

My idea of a McRib (from the kitchen of G2B Gastropub)

My idea of a McRib (from the kitchen of G2B Gastropub)

I’m incredibly proud to be raising kids who are brave enough to try new things (including the homemade pepper jelly and wine jelly we were handed at the McD’s), who are also confident enough to like what they like. The Youngest would live on bread and fruit if permitted, with a side of spinach. The Eldest has a deep love of chocolate-covered cherries, all legumes, and eggs. They both stand their ground when adults they respect challenge them about their vegetarian beliefs.

Afterschool snack requested by the Juniors: goat cheese with pepper jelly and wine jelly.

Afterschool snack requested by the Juniors: goat cheese with pepper jelly and wine jelly.

So the trip to McDonald’s passed like any other new experience, they chewed their fries thoughtfully and went right on with their lives, blissfully unaware of a milestone or any parenting fail on my part. What is your stance on fast food for you or your kids? Are you a fan, foe, or something in between?

Sweet Potato Fries Sprinkled with Garam Masala, Side of Spicy Mayo

Sweet Potato Fries Sprinkled with Garam Masala, Side of Spicy Mayo

Post a comment below, or Tweet at me with #fastfood as the tag. I look forward to hearing from you.

Send your ketchup packets, deep thoughts, and bright 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Next up on Sunday, Weekly Menus: Hello 2013 Edition

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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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