Tag Archives: pasta

Weekly Menus: Week of 4/29/2012

Gentle Readers, lean in close, it is confessional time for The Practical Cook. Sometimes, I am not my chirpy upbeat self. Sometimes, just like you, life kicks me in the teeth. This was one of those weeks. I caught both hooves square in the mouth. (Life is in fact a horse in this analogy, work with me.) So sitting down to plan a menu can be tough. I even, wait for it, lost my appetite last week.

Trust me, this is a rare occasion.

The kitchen brings me solace, but this week I don’t have a lot of time to chop and mince, relaxing activities for me, and even less time to truly create and execute. This will be one of those off weeks, where I slug it out because I must. Because tossing a simple salad is still easier than hauling the Jrs out to dinner multiple times. So do forgive my lack of chirp and chop, I think it will return soon.

Good news, I still found room for this awesome cake.

Good news, I still found room for this awesome cake.

And these faboo cupcakes.

And these faboo cupcakes.

I soldier on after two kids’ birthday parties and a smidge of dessert, and this week’s menus will be:

Weekly Menus: 4/29/2012

Weekly Menus: 4/29/2012

The Four-Square Grocery List is:

The Four-Square Grocery List: 4/29/2012

The Four-Square Grocery List: 4/29/2012

And the CSA from Brinkley Farms:

1 bundle cress

1 bundle spring onions

1 dz eggs

2 bundles small white hakurei turnips

Which translates into:

Sunday: Lasagna or Rotisserie Chicken
I have work to do, so how much time is leftover will drive the meal decision. Either way, I have plans for these meals . . .

Monday: Leftovers with salad and starch
If you’re unsure which way you’re going, plan the leftover meal to be flexible. Salad goes with everything, and the starch could be mac and cheese or garlic bread. I shall flex to the moment.

Tuesday: Dine Out!
I will be rolling with some bloggy moms. Love the restaurant we’re going to, let’s hear it for inspiration.

Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner!
Bet the farm this will be pancakes, or grits, or both. And there will be bacon, lots and lots of bacon.  Comfort food I can crank out in my sleep.

Thursday: Chorizo Burrito
Because my chorizo is not long for the freezer, I’m thawing and eating it this week. Straight from last week’s Brinkley Farms CSA, it is so good with pinto beans in a burrito I could weep openly, and may. Okay, I do still love food, even in my teeth-kicked-in state.

Friday: Leftovers
I look forward to finding out what this becomes. Will it be nachos? Will it be tea and toast because everything was actually eaten?

Saturday: Dine Out!
Let the field research begin anew.

What do you turn to when you’re not feeling inspired in the kitchen (or anywhere else)? Where do you draw food inspiration? Post a comment below, or Tweet my way.

Ideas, suggestions, challenges? 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, How to Cook Grits, And Why You Should.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 4/8/2012 (with Bonus Video)

Gentle Readers, for those who celebrate, Happy Easter. For those who don’t, I hope you’re sleeping in. The Practical Cooks Junior have determined that we will be up at the crack of dawn, though I suspect they are in it for the hot cross buns. But I digress.

Festive cupcakes! Bunnies in outfits for the win!

Festive cupcakes! Bunnies in outfits for the win!

The Juniors have also greatly influenced this week’s menu. I’m encouraging them to own their culinary destiny. Here we go.

Two Egg Artists, Two Vastly Different Visions

Two Egg Artists, Two Vastly Different Visions

Menus for this week:

Weekly Menus: 4/8/2012

Weekly Menus: 4/8/2012

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/8/2012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/8/2012

Which translates into:

Sunday: Leftovers
Ham ham ham. It multiplies in the fridge.

Monday: Nachos
Still working through the pile of black beans. Add some sweet potatoes and cheese, and you’ve got nachos for the dinner guests we’re inviting over. (Including a small one with a love of spice.)

Tuesday: Salad Bar
Planning on using whatever is in the fridge atop greens. Necessary after Meatapalooza.

Wednesday: Salad and Pasta Bar (or Beans)
This will either be a salad and pasta tossed with ham and green peas in a creamy sauce or beans with ham. Catching a theme here?

Thursday: Lasagna or Ham Loaf
I’m hoping for lasagna, not going to lie.

Friday: Dine Out!
We’re changing up this week, dining out a different day.

Saturday: Breakfast for Dinner
Could be grits, could be biscuits and gravy. We shall see.

How do you use up ham? Post a comment below.

Peeps: Not Safe at Any Speed

Peeps: Not Safe at Any Speed

And now, my thoughts on Peeps, the Easter candy that looks back at you. Roll the tape:

Send your challenges, ideas, and actual 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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Up next, Three New Chocolate Things Reviewed. Again, because someone has to.

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Weekly Menus: Week of 1/15/2012

Gentle Readers, when the weather turns cold, The Practical Cook’s thoughts turn to hot  cheesy foods. The cheesy part may just be my personal predilection, to  be fair. And there is a lot of guest eating to be done next week. Stay tuned. When one has gentle readers who can eat two dinners, one must plan accordingly. These meals are planned to be flexible, puntable, and potentially made in advance or by someone else.

As always, if you have a blog idea or a restaurant you’d like to see reviewed, contact me! The Practical Cook rapid response unit will be right on it.

Without further buildup,  here are the Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 1/15/2012

Weekly Menus: 1/15/2012

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 1/15/2012

Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 1/15/2012

**Have you tried the F0ur-Square Grocery Shopping List method? Send me a picture, let me know how it went!

Which all means:

Sunday: Soup and Sammie
Such a great way to use up bread from the previous week, and any veggies in the fridge that are suspect.

Monday: Fridge Surprise
I’m not sure what is going to happen this day, so I’m planning in advance to Punt! Could be spinach quesadillas, could be breakfast for dinner, hard to predict.

Tuesday: Salad for Dinner
This will be necessary considering the amount of Fried that will be consumed at lunch and in general this week. Balance in the force.

Wednesday: Salmon Cakes or Tuna Noodle Casserole
The challenge here: the troops prefer salmon cakes, but casserole is easier to prep in advance. I have to balance that with a concern of carb overload this week. Still musing on this one.

Thursday: Pasta and Sauce
A classic Punt! meal. Perfect for the parent on the go, who needs to be approximately five places at once.

Friday: Homemade Pizza
By special request, we’re having a pizza night! The Eldest favors Greek, the Youngest likes cheese, let’s see what happens.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Weekend, on!

What’s your favorite cold weather food? I love soup and coffee, hot and liquidy for some reason. Post a comment below, or tweet!

Send your menu requests, blog suggestions, or double dog dares 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, Chocolate and Fruit: Where Do You Stand?

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Weekly Menus: Week of 10/16/2011

Gentle Readers, you will be shocked to note that this week’s menu involves a whole lot of vegetables. Yes, to bring balance to the force, greens will lead the charge. One quick note from yesterday’s N.C. State Fair (full report on consumption and some rocking fried chicken coming later this week): Honey Cotton Candy. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds and can bee (ha) found at Bobbee’s Honey stand in the Kerr Scott Building.

Light and fluffy honey cotton candy!

Light and fluffy honey cotton candy!

So here’s the Weekly Menu, heavy on veggies and leftovers:

Weekly Menus: 10/16/2011

Weekly Menus: 10/16/2011

And the Four-Square Grocery List:

Four-Square Grocery List 10/16/2011

Four-Square Grocery List 10/16/2011

Which translates to:

Sunday: Pasta and Salad
Thank you Trader Joe’s for helping me survive Sunday Dinner!

Monday: Chicken Pie
Leftovers, to be served with green peas (frozen), squash, and sliced apples.

Tuesday: You Choose! Vote for my dinner!
What should I eat for dinner? Corn dog? Turkey leg? Other?

Wednesday: Salmon and Salad
Either glazed filets or salmon cakes, to be decided.

Thursday: Veggie Chili or Beans and Rice (Mexican)
Vegetarians unite!

Friday: Rustic Squash Tart
Oldie but goodie, using up stuff in the fridge!

Saturday: Dine Out!

What are you eating this week? How do you balance Fried in your life? Post a comment below, or Tweet my direction!

Send your cooking questions and food photos 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 tomorrow, Going to the Fair with Kids: A Deep-Fried Survival Guide.

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One Ingredient, Three Ways: Pasta

Whoa, apparently The Practical Cook is not the only one who is a fan of dumplings. Which is a nice transition to today’s topic, the dumpling of a different stripe, tortellini. Though the Trader Joe’s cheese tortellini of which I am so fond is not the only featured pasta. For this Sunday dinner, I needed back-up. With only two packages of cheese tortellini, and a pack of wild vegetarians descending fast, what to do?

One Ingredient, Three Ways:

1. Plain Cheese Tortellini. Let’s face it, they are out there. Though The Practical Cooks Junior are adventurous (they ate the majority of the 4 orders of dumplings from yesterday’s Chirba Chirba review), they are a rare breed in their age group. Good Parmesan and a toss of olive oil, and I sigh and avert my eyes.

Plain Cheese Tortellini from Trader Joe's (Sigh)

Plain Cheese Tortellini from Trader Joe's (Sigh)

2. Red Sauce on Cheese Tortellini. In this case, we tried a jarred puttanesca (dirty). It was a big hit with the adults, the two Junior tasters felt it was a bit spicy, though they liked it okay.

Bubble Bubble Pasta Pot, Cheese Tortellini with Puttanesca Sauce

Bubble Bubble Pasta Pot, Cheese Tortellini with Puttanesca Sauce

3. Pesto on Wagon Wheels with Diced Tomatoes. This was a surprise hit, based on the homemade pesto I featured before. When you’re pressed for time, nothing is better than opening the freezer, dropping  a few pesto cubes into hot, drained pasta, grating some fresh Parmesan on it, topping with tomatoes, and serving.

Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes

Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes

We led with a salad, so actual vegetables were consumed in this meal. Everyone was permitted to get up and serve themselves whatever they liked, without comment, until that flavor ran out. People like options, it makes the everyday more interesting. This is an effortless meal, perfect for a crowd, and satisfying for people of all ages and persuasions. Mix it up with roasted garlicky broccoli to toss in, or Italian sausage for the meat lovers. Point being, with some planning, it’s easy to serve meals within a meal.

The Joy of Self-Service: Pasta Bar

The Joy of Self-Service: Pasta Bar

Best compliment of the night was my friend and budding foodie telling me what she liked and didn’t like about each one. This is huge. She was the queen of the plain buttered pasta before. Surprisingly, she liked the pesto pasta the best.

Are you feeding a plain pasta crowd? How do you manage it without being a short-order cook? Post your comments and ideas here, or Tweet.

Queries, blog ideas, or pictures? 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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Stay tuned for Beef: It’s What’s in the Freezer.

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Pasta Toss with Broccoli, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Goat Cheese

From the sheer length of the title, you can tell that the fridge is in danger of overflowing. To add to the CSA and the leafy greens supplied by the exuberant picking staff (the Practical Cooks Junior), came the bounty of veggies from the in-laws coming through town. I salute their strategy—far better to tote and drop off at the midpoint than let the brie and tomatoes “ripen” unattended at home.

You Should See the Crisper Drawers

You Should See the Crisper Drawers

This meal was brought to you by “I can’t see the fridge light,” with special sponsorship from “where in the &*(^ can I put the milk?”

Fridge Surprise Pasta Toss Recipe

This definitely falls into the “guidelines” varietal of recipes. Pasta tosses were built for getting rid of as much as possible. Look for variety, strong flavors to tie the whole thing together, and attempt to use a “first in, first out” strategy, using the oldest produce first. Sauteing can greatly improve the flavor of something you wouldn’t necessarily want in raw form (like some wilty mushrooms or languishing tomatoes).

1/2 to 3/4 pound dry pasta of your choice (we used whole wheat shells)
10 ozs button mushrooms, sliced
1 bundle of broccoli, cut into florets (Brinkley Farms CSA)
1 bulb green garlic (CSA)
1 languishing tomato, diced

For the sauce:
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
a couple of ounces of local herbed goat cheese

1. Prepare the pasta according to the directions. Be sure to add  a healthy dose of salt to the water. (The Sr. Practical Cook Jr. called me on the carpet for not salting the dish enough, true story, and I promised her I would advise the Gentle Readers accordingly.)

Mushrooms, Sliced

Mushrooms, Sliced

2. Saute the mushrooms in olive oil over medium high heat. Set aside. Saute broccoli in olive oil over medium heat, with a splash of water to steam-fry it, adding the garlic at the very last minute. Set aside.

Chopping Broccoli!

Chopping Broccoli!

3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, cook until light brown. Whisk in the milk. Stir and reduce a bit. Take off heat and add goat cheese. Stir until melted.

Tomatoes Feeling the Heat

Tomatoes Feeling the Heat

4. Drain the pasta. Put a dash of olive oil in the pasta pot and saute the tomatoes a bit. Add the other veggies, stir. Add the pasta, stir. Add the sauce and toss with glee. (Thus the name, the glee is optional, but this was pretty fast, so I hope you’re feeling some joy here.)

Fridge Pasta Toss

Fridge Pasta Toss

5. Top with more goat cheese, parsley, salt and pepper, crushed red pepper, whatever, and serve.

How do you deal with a vegetable overload?

Send your cooking thoughts and ideas to practical cook at gmail dot com. Or post a comment here, or connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks to all who have liked; I still need 7 more “likes” to get the official page name. You can make a difference. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up next, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday: Weekly Menus.

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