Tag Archives: teaching kids to cook

Weekly Menus: Week of 5/5/2013 (Vegas Baby)

Gentle Readers, it’s that time again. In my professional life, May hearkens the beginning of conference season. The big ones. The ones where I’m transported back to my college days where I find myself working as hard as I did before final exams, where days slip one into the other. Then, it’s time to execute, and someone you find the energy.

Not Practical Shoes: Over/Under Odds on Falling?

Not Practical Vegas Shoes: Over/Under Odds on Falling?

All of this takes fuel, and some forgiveness on the lack of originality. This is what menu planning is for, really, to cover you when you need to go on autopilot. Plus, TPC’s Mom will be at the helm in the kitchen, and she has her own views on what’s for dinner. (Did you like how I phrased that? I’m very diplomatic.)

Oatmeal Toppings at Grand Luxe Cafe: Golden Raisins, Brown Sugar, Milk, Bananas

Oatmeal Toppings at Grand Luxe Cafe: Golden Raisins, Brown Sugar, Milk, Bananas (My Glamorous Vegas Breakfast of Choice)

So here are some guidelines, the only request that holds firm is nachos, requested by TPC’s Jr. The proposed weekly menus are as follows:

Weekly Menus: 5/5/2013

Weekly Menus: 5/5/2013

Which means The Four Square Grocery List was very light (no wasting of food!):

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

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

All translating into:

Sunday: Rotisserie Chicken and Rice
They are on sale on Sundays in many places, and kicking of the week simply has many advantages.

Monday: Chicken Salad with Grapes
Advantages include leftovers early in the week! I had a salad the other night with duck confit and grapes, and this is a low-lift rendition, unless of course you have duck confit just waiting to be used. If so, proceed and please invite me over.

Tuesday: _______
This is an extra busy night, and I’m going to let TPC’s Mom fill in the blank. I can only imagine it will be a casserole or one-pan dish, and I’ll probably wish I was there eating it. Favorite include tortilla casserole, tomato pie, lasagna.

Wednesday: Nachos!
TPC’s Jr can make this, with a bit of help turning on the oven and opening a can of beans. I look forward to what happens. Please take pictures Mom.

Thursday: Pizza and Salad
I am not without humanity–there are frozen pizzas and salad in the house.

Friday: Vegetable Delight
I’m Southern, deeply so. Oftentimes growing up, one meal would be the clean-up hitter–a mix of every vegetable known to mankind. Great way to use up leftovers, often served with Beans and Franklins (as I used to call them) and/or Deviled Eggs. I will get off the plane hungry, and this already sounds good.

Saturday: Dine Out!
Though I will undoubtedly be up to my eyeballs in cocktail party food, Fried, and bacon-laced items, we will still dine out. It’s a family tradition, and one the Jrs and I very much enjoy. I’ll be ordering a salad.

Watch for the food posts from Vegas this week on Twitter. What kind of menus do you leave when someone else is in your kitchen? Do you prep food in advance? Leave money for pizza? Post your comments below!

Send good luck, lucrative offers, and actual 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! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Wednesday: Oooop!

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Weekly Menus: 4/28/2013

Gentle Readers, it’s about to get real here in TPC-land. We are finishing an amazing weekend of back-t0-back birthday parties, soccer practice and book club (woot!), and we are tired. May is one of the most challenging months for me professionally, because the tech event circuit kicks into extreme high gear.

My Life: Half of Calories Consumed Are in Transit

My Life: Half of Calories Consumed Are in Transit

So for the month of May, starting now, I’m dialing back to posting twice a week: Wednesday and Sunday. I’ll focus mainly on recipes and reviews, the two most popular categories, with video when I can manage it, along with the standard Weekly Menus. If you have an objection, or better yet an idea for a guest blog and the content for it, speak now.

5K Training Continues: The Eldest is still in the lead.

5K Training Continues: The Eldest is still in the lead.

My time has been focused on bringing TPCs Junior ever more into the process of planning, cooking, and cleaning, and it’s fantastic. This is time-consuming, as I can do it faster myself, but incredible rewarding long-term. We are efficient when we work as a team, and all of us learn from it. Highly recommended if you’ve been doing lone wolf in the kitchen.

Enough preamble, now for the Weekly Menus:

Weekly Menus: 4/28/2013

Weekly Menus: 4/28/2013

And the Four-Square Grocery Shopping List:

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/28/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 4/28/2013

Which all means:

Sunday: Potato Hash
I haven’t quite decided what this means, but I have leftover baked potatoes, sausage in the freezer that needs to be cooked, and a dream. I sold it based on the name–there is such power in naming things, as my friend and fellow podcaster is teaching me–the idea will surely follow.

Time Flies: Retro Picture Alert,The Annual Planting of the Potatoesotatoes

Time Flies: Retro Picture Alert,The Annual Planting of the Potatoes

Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs + Salad
This week we are eating around the world a bit. When I make menus with TPCs Jr, it provides a great frame for creativity.

Meatballs in the Oven

Meatballs in the Oven

Tuesday: Sammies
Busy day, simple menu. Toasting sandwiches, putting them on a platter, adding fruit: all of these tricks turn the mundane into the profound. (See Simple Sandwich Ideas for more.)

Summer Sandwich Platter

Summer Sandwich Platter

Wednesday: France, Visiting
Fine, we’re not really breaking out our passports, but we are going out to eat French food. We have a tradition of “visiting” countries via their food. We started this game with the cantankerous Waldorf, who challenges everyone with trivia about the country we’re in. Great fun is had by all. More on this in Wednesday’s Blog.

Thursday: Mexican
Nacho night! This is a huge crowd favorite, a fast and delicious meal that everyone can help prepare.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Veggie Nachos Perfected! With pickled jalepeno on top, for good measure.

Friday: Leftover Surprise!
Time to clean out the pantry. And I do adore a challenge. I’ll let you know what happens.

Saturday: Dine Out!
I’m heading to dinner with a friend who likes to try new places like I do. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide a review of a new find!

What’s your favorite kind of food (ethnicity/culture/etc) to eat? We’re always looking for new ideas! Post a comment below. I’m listening.

Send your extra hours of sleep, kitchen challenges, and general mayhem 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: It’s a Small (Food) World: Traveling by Way of Cuisine

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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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Weekly Menus: 2/3/2013 The Juniors Edition

Gentle Readers, there is great power in being able to put food on the table. For the past few years, The Practical Cooks Junior have been training in the culinary arts, and now it’s their time to shine. As I’m traveling for business this week, the Juniors have stepped up. They created the meal plans, with some oversight, and they are going to cook with adult supervision.

Thoughtful eaters make good cooks. The Practical Cooks Junior at work.

Thoughtful eaters make good cooks. The Practical Cooks Junior at work.

For school lunches, I’ve brought more things in that they could just toss in a lunchbox without much prep: yogurt, squishable applesauce, fruit cups, bagels, phoney baloney for sammies, etc.

A few tips for anyone who needs to prep before: watch and chop salad and leave it in the salad spinner, buy at least one frozen entree, shredded cheese is a good alternative for people without knife skills.

What I learned: It is more expensive to shop for convenience and redundancy. Worth it for peace of mind and still cheaper than eating out constantly, but notably pricier.

Easy to use lunchbox food.

Easy to use lunchbox food.

Go team, I couldn’t be more proud. Take pictures for me.

Weekly Menus, Junior Edition:

Weekly Menus: 2/3/2013

Weekly Menus: 2/3/2013

The Four Square Grocery Shopping List: 

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 2/3/2013

The Four-Square Grocery Shopping List: 2/3/2013

Which translates to:

Sunday: Pizza and Salad
I have carefully selected various vegetarian-friendly pizza option for the freezer. Choice matters, even here. There are also two types of salad, complete with the requisite crunchy toppings.

Frozen pizza options.

Frozen pizza options.

Monday: Leftovers
Even when traveling, there are things to be cleaned up. I depend on leftovers for those quick weeknight meals. I would almost rather toss away something freezer burned than not save it and have it when needed!

Tuesday: Pasta and Carrots
The Juniors have a decision here as well. If they feel ambitious, cheese tortellini with sauce. If they feel like field research, I bought Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Veggie Lasagna. It’s a smaller portion and sounded pretty good. We shall review it one way or the other.

Vegetable Lasagna from Trader Joe's--field testing to begin soon!

Vegetable Lasagna from Trader Joe’s–field testing to begin soon!

Wednesday: Soup and Grilled Cheese
This meal was a big success the last time we cooked for TPC’s Dad in a practice run, so here it is again. Featuring either tomato or red roasted pepper soup, this is a great starter meal, and perfect for the chilly weather we’ve been having.

Thursday: Spinach Quesadilla and Beans
Don’t fear the cast iron skillet! With shredded cheese and prewashed spinach, this meal is a snap. We shall see if the Juniors convince TPC’s Dad to try cutting an avocado.

Friday: Dine Out!
I’ll be home, and we shall do a victory lap together! Juniors choice! Though by this point they may be confident enough I can ask them to cook for me. At that point, we’ll start higher math and I’ll get them to do the taxes as well.

Next stop, what's a 1099?

Next stop, what’s a 1099?

Saturday: Dine Out!
Guests in town, and plotting the best spot to take them!

Do you remember cooking your first meal? What was it? Share your memory in the comments box below, or send me a Tweet.

Send your questions, quips, and confessionals 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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Up on Friday: For the Love of Marshmallows: One Ingredient, Three Ways

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3 Things I Love (in the Kitchen)

Gentle Readers, Valentine’s Day has never been a favorite occasion. There’s a narrow selection of foods that are highlighted, and I am over the roses thing. However, The Practical Cooks Junior are huge fans, from the ritual dipping of strawberries in chocolate to the crafting of homemade cards. There are hearts and glitter on every surface in my home. And not all of it is mine.

Glitteriffic X and O Valentine's Cupcakes!

Glitteriffic X and O Valentine's Cupcakes!

If you can’t beat them, join them. I am celebrating their joy of the day this year. I may not have a school mailbox in which I’ll receive a card from every classmate, but I can share some love.

Sliced Strawberries on Almond Buckwheat Pancakes

Sliced Strawberries on Almond Buckwheat Pancakes

Here are 3 Things I Love in the Kitchen:

1. Help. The Eldest Practical Cook Junior can set herself up for breakfast now, and does so without complaining. Both of them clear their dishes, and The Youngest presents herself repeatedly with a “Mama, what can I do?” This is truly a gift.

The Youngest Practical Cook Junior Hard at Work: Because Green Beans Don't String Themselves

The Youngest Practical Cook Junior Hard at Work: Because Green Beans Don't String Themselves

2. Fearlessness. What is better than the joy of discovery? I know not everyone likes to cook without some guidelines, but I love the freedom of pairing things and seeing what happens. Yes, there have been some colossal failures. But there are wins, too. This same drive led me to try Beet Root Halwah this past weekend. And the Juniors and I are pondering Pancake Croutons for a salad we’re testing. Why not?

Beet Root Halwah from Udipi Cafe in Cary, NC

Beet Root Halwah from Udipi Cafe in Cary, NC

3. Generosity. Food is better when you share it. Cook for someone you love. Never do I feel more proud than when the Juniors ask before finishing something, even if it’s an irresistible treat. And, of course, thinking of people who don’t have as much. If you’re not much of a Valentine’s fan, perhaps you could redirect the energy to a worth cause, like fighting hunger. I’m an advocate and ambassador for The Food Bank of Eastern and Central North Carolina. Show your food love this season: volunteer or donate to them or to your local food pantry.

Strawberry Taking a Chocolate Dip

Strawberry Taking a Chocolate Dip

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? If you’re at home without a reservation, that gives you extra time to post a comment below!

Challenges, thoughts, good ideas? 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!)

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Tomorrow, Can this chocolate be saved? How not to have a seizure when your chocolate does.

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