Cookin Mama

Cookin Mama


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan 2015, Week 12: Taking it Easy

We have had a few great weeks of new recipes, new ideas, etc.  For this week however, I wanted to take it easy, and do simple, good food we know.  We're doing two big pots of beans on Sunday - one for the week's meals, and another for our daughter's lunch soup.  She loved the "creamy goodness" soup from a few weeks back, and enjoys soups in her lunch. As for meals, the pinto beans cooked simply in salted water make a great base for all of our dinners this week.

SUNDAY: Bean Soup + Cooking up the week's lunches.

The pinto bean soup has been explained before, but I'll do it quickly here as well:  pinto beans were soaked over night in enough water to cover them + a teaspoon of baking soda.  They were then drained and rinsed in the morning, placed in the crockpot, again covered in water, and a couple healthy pinches of salt added.  When it is time for dinner, we will scoop ladles of beans and broth into bowls, add your favorite toppings.  I had chopped onion, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, and queso fresco on the table for everyone to pick what they wished.  Simple, easy, and delicious.

For lunches:  as mentioned above, I will make the cannellini bean soup, aka: creamy goodness, featured in week 8's meal plan, for Evie's lunch box.  For Mark and I, I'm going to make up a chicken salad for sandwiches or crackers.

Lunch chicken salad:
4 thin chicken breasts, sauteed in olive oil on both sides until slightly browned, then poached in chicken stock until cooked.  Cool slightly, then cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.

Add 4 stalks celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces,  1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans, and 1/4 cup raisins.  Mix around dry ingredients, then add dressing.

Chicken salad dressing: 1 cup mayo, 3 teaspoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, pinch of kosher salt.  Mix together well, pour over salad.

Then, try to not lick the spoon, mix well, and place in containers for the beginning of the week's lunches.

MONDAY: Corn Tortillas and Beans


Same deal as Sunday: beans, a vehicle for them, and fun toppings.

TUESDAY: Rice and Beans

Same beans, this time with rice.  Maybe a salad too...but let's not get crazy...


We'll be having dinner at our church again, meatball subs are not to be missed!

THURSDAY: Something with Beans

I know.  Shocker.


 FRIDAY: International Dinner

Many of you know we are in the process of an international adoption from Haiti.  This evening, we will be attending a special International Dinner held by our adoption agency.  It is a potluck, and all adoptive parents, no matter where they are in the process, are invited to attend.  We'll meet others adopting and having adopted from Haiti, as well as Ethiopia, China, Guam, etc.  We're very excited!!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan 2015, Week 11: Comfort Food

This week, we're all about comfort food.  Our daughter requested a spaghetti and meatball night, as well as chicken noodle soup for her lunches.  Mama's a big fan of pasta, so this was an easy request to fulfill.  I am typing this as I'm in the second step of my first ever pot of homemade chicken noodle soup!  Hopefully I can report good things in the end.

My love of all things Curtis-Stone-recipes continues this week with his Kimchi fried rice on Monday, his in-law's comfort food from Korea.  I really can't wait to try it, and was kind of more excited than I probably should have been to purchase my first ever jar of Kimchi.  I have a little concern about the heat level, but Mark and I each tried a little bite of the pickled cabbage and it wasn't too bad.  I'm hoping the rice, veggies, and other ingredients help to offset the spiciness.

Tuesday we go to one of my specialties for dinners: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.  This is one of the comfiest comfort foods around this house.  Believe it or not, the Brussels sprouts are favored over many other vegetables here.  Of course, olive oil and kosher salt pretty much makes anything yummy, in my opinion.  Occasionally using bacon in there helps too...

Sunday was a BIG cooking day to get ready for the week.  Homemade chicken noodle soup is no joke.  I spent two hours on the first part, took an hour and a half break to take my Daisy Troop on a cookie walk-about, then came back for the next two hours.  Based on the way my house is smelling right now, I believe the work will be worth it.  I also cooked a big batch of jasmine rice, so we'd have nice, dry, day-old rice for Monday's meal.  Wednesday and Thursday will be leftover nights, and Friday fish meal worked so well last week, I'm going to do it again this week!  Personally, I'd like to do the salmon dish from a few weeks ago again, but I'm not sure that's in the budget.  We'll see what other fun seafood meal I can dig up.

Here's this week's plan:

SATURDAY: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Self explanatory.  And delicious.  Used a beef/pork/lamb mixture, diced onion, dried parsley, dried oregano, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, finely shredded Parmesan cheese.  Made 1-inch balls, cooked in oven for about 20 minutes at 400°, then plopped in the sauce to keep warm.  The sauce, I will admit publicly, was a jarred sauce.  Full disclosure: the Muir Glen Organic Spaghetti sauces are awesome.  I mean, I love the pomodoro sauce we make from scratch and all, but that pre-made sauce is delicious, and at around $3.00 a jar, can't be beat. Add crusty bread and butter at the table, you have a carb-loading feast.

SUNDAY: Chicken Noodle Soup

I scoured my books and the internet, and came up with the following:

1 whole chicken
Homemade chicken broth
8 carrots
4 stalks celery
2 medium onions
1 tbsp minced garlic
10 sprig parsley
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 leeks
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp fresh-ground pepper
3 cups PA Dutch egg noodles

In a large stock pot, place whole chicken, along with organs.  Clean and roughly chop: 4 carrots, 2 stalks celery, 1 onion - add to pot.  Thinly slice half of a lemon, add to pot.  Tie together 2 sprigs fresh parsley with 3 sprigs fresh thyme, add to pot along with the minced garlic and bay leaf.  Cover all with homemade stock.  Add enough water to cover chicken if your homemade stock is not enough (ours wasn't).  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about one and one half hours.  Remove cooked chicken from pot, allow to cool.  Pour stock through sieve, discard all but strained stock.  Once chicken is cool, discard skin and bones, chop chicken into 1/2 inch pieces.

Cut 4 carrots, 1 onion, 2 stalks celery, and 3 leeks into 1/4 - 1/2 inch pieces.     Melt butter in large pot, add vegetables.  Saute for about 5 minutes, then add salt, pepper, chicken, and stock.  Cook for 1 hour, then add the remaining 8 sprigs parsley, chopped, along with the noodles, to the pot, cook until the noodles are ready.  Served in our house with biscuits.

MONDAY: Kimchi Fried Rice

This will be (hopefully) easy, as the rice was already cooked and cooled on Sunday.  Also, while I was prepping the carrots for the soup, I went ahead and cut the carrots for tonight's meal.  

Kimchi Fried Rice
Courtesy of Curtis Stone, What's For Dinner, ©2013

10 scallions
6 tbsp. canola oil
4 lg. eggs, beaten
4 cups cold rice
3 carrots, cut into quarter-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups napa cabbage, kimchi, drained and chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. white sesame seeds, toasted
Sriracha or other hot sauce

Cut the dark green tops of the scallions on the diagonal into 1-Inch pieces. Finely chop the white and pale green parts. Reserve one-fourth of the dark green scallion tops for garnish.
Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the canola oil and tilt to coat the cooking surface. Add the eggs and quickly stir for about 30 seconds, or until just cooked but still wet. Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup canola oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the rice and cook, allowing the rice to become slightly crisp on the bottom of the wok before stirring, for about 4 minutes, or until heated through. Add the carrots and stir for about 1 minute, or until beginning to soften. Stir in the kimchi, followed by the scallions (both tops and bottoms), and stir for about 2 minutes, or until heated through. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and stir for about 1 minute. Stir in the eggs and season to taste with salt.

Transfer the rice to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve hot, with the hot sauce.

TUESDAY: Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts

Here's my go-to meatloaf recipe:

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground pork
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
Generous pinch of kosher salt
3 turns of ground pepper
1 diced onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic

Mix, form into loaf, either in loaf pan or on baking sheet.  Cook at 350° until done.

Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetable of choice.  For us, it will be thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, tossed with olive oil and kosher salt, sauteed stove top until they begin to brown a bit.

WEDNESDAY and THURSDAY: Leftovers of the previously listed meals

FRIDAY: To Be Announced (once I figure it out....)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan 2015, Week 10: Pretending it is Summer

I don't know what the weather has been like for you where you live...but around here, even I have to admit I've had enough of winter.  Usually I'm happy to bundle up, sip a warm beverage, and hibernate until Spring rolls around.  However, the past few weeks have just been so ridiculous, we decided to go with a more summery meal plan this week, in hopes of ushering in warmer weather.  Or, at least, warm thoughts!

Along with this, the next two weeks especially are going to be busy, busy, busy.  More busy in fact than Mama originally knew about, but that's okay, we're adaptable!  The lunch soup last week was not a huge hit with the family.  Mama enjoyed it, but the other two? Not so much.  Therefore, I selected what should be a winner: Bacon, Corn, and Potato Chowder.  It will be made with frozen corn, as opposed to off the cob, but it should still be yummy!  Curtis Stone's What's For Dinner is supplying the recipe for that, we were really happy with the meal we made from the same cookbook last week.

In fact, Curtis Stone is supplying the recipes for many of this week's meals.  This chowder was made on Saturday, as Sunday is (once again) a marathon day.  It will be lunches + Sunday evening's meal.  Here's the rest of the week:

MONDAY:  Parmesan Crusted Chicken Tenders, Green Beans, and Oven-baked Potato Fries


I know this is going to surprise you...but this one also comes from Curtis Stone's What's for Dinner?  I hear he's coming out with a new cookbook soon...can't wait to check it out! Anyway, back to this week.  We don't usually do "kid friendly" or kid specific fare around here, but these just sounded so great, fun, and sort-of summery, I had to try it.  It is a simple, flour and egg dredge recipe, with the addition of a panko/parmesan crust.  The beans will be steamed, then salted.  For the potatoes, we'll cut them into wedges, mix with olive oil, kosher salt, and ground pepper and lay them out on a foil covered baking sheet.  They'll roast at 400° for about 1/2 hour. 


TUESDAY:   Frittata & Salad


I asked my daughter what we should put in the frittata this week.  Her answer was: orange wedges, mushrooms, and lemon zest.  I'll take two out of the three of those.  Orange wedges?!  I asked her why, she said "to keep it moist."  A good a reason as any I guess.  In reality, we're going to use more of those Herbs de Provence purchased in an earlier meal plan week, lemon zest, mushrooms, and shallots (and maybe even the leftover bacon from the chowder).  Take 10 eggs, whisk with milk, and a pinch of salt.  Mix in the previously mentioned add-ins, cook stove top for about two minutes in an oven-proof skillet.  Add to a 375° oven, cook for 15-20 minutes.

Update: I had piano lesson duty, so Papa stepped in.  He made the frittata with sauteed shallots, baby bellas, and garlic.  He also made a lemon brown butter sauce to spoon over the cooked dish.  It was AMAZING.  The side was a simple salad, each family member picked their toppings, and Mama made a quick lemon vinaigrette with the other half of the lemon from Papa's sauce.


WEDNESDAY:  Chicken & Rice

Ask my husband and daughter what they want included in a week's meal plan and one or both will inevitably respond: chicken and rice, please!  It will depend on what's happening that night with work, choir, musical rehearsal, etc. what exactly will be done with the chicken, but a simple salt, pepper, sauteed in olive oil is always a winner.

As you will see from the picture below, we did NOT have chicken and rice.  We DID have leftover chicken tenders from Tuesday, so we made salads instead with oven-heated chicken tenders.  I also whipped up a quick honey-mustard-lemon vinaigrette. 



 THURSDAY:   Frittata leftover & Salad

If there wasn't enough leftover, we'll just make another one!  Honestly, frittatas are so simple and easy, they'll probably show up a lot during these next two busy months.


FRIDAY:  Fish meal

Fridays have become my marketing day...okay, fine, grocery shopping day, but doesn't "going to market" sound good?!  Anyway...this night may become our fresh fish night.  Or, if I'm exhausted from the week, we'll just go out to dinner...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bacon, Corn, and Potato Chowder

Summer food! Yummy!! Granted, I'm making this as winter is (hopefully) ushering itself out, but we needed some summer tastes around here!  Due to not being able to go to our local Strites Orchard and get fresh corn on the cob, I altered the recipe to include frozen corn kernels.  Perhaps not the same, but this particular recipe does not call for milking the cobs, so I think we'll be okay!  The prep and cooking time is also rather short for a chowder, something this busy Mama appreciates!  What else do I appreciate?  Finally opening my What's for Dinner? cookbook by Curtis Stone.  This will be the second recipe we make from this book, and I doubt it will be the last, especially looking at all of my recipe tabs presently adorning the book.


Bacon, Corn, and Potato Chowder

adapted from Curtis Stone's What's for Dinner ©2013

4 slices bacon, coarsely chopped
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 large sprigs of thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
11/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
51/4 cups corn kernels (using the equation: 1 ear of corn = approx 3/4 cups kernels)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Heat a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring occassionally, for about 5 minutes, or until crisp and golden.  Add the onions, garlic, thyme, and cayenne and cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, or until the onions are tender but not browned.

2. Add the celery and cook, stirring often and being careful not to brown the vegetables, for about 4 minutes.  Reduce the heat if the vegetables begin to brown.  Add the potatoes, sprinkle in the flour, and stir for about 2 minutes to cook the flour; do not allow to brown.  Stir in the broth, cover, and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for about 6-10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart.

3. Stir the corn kernels into the chowder and simmer for about 4 minutes, or just until the corn is heated through and the chowder thickens slightly.  Remove and discard the thyme stems.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Stir in half of the parsley.  Ladle the chowder into bowls, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mama's Meal Plan 2015, Week 9: Curry Week!

About half of you just thought "uh oh" or "ew."  I have found curry is a lot like cilantro among my friends.  Either you love it or hate it.  We haven't made a curry dish in this house yet that we didn't like.  With the exception of a chickpea dish a few years back, but I don't think the curry was the problem that time.

This week, I am making a big pot of soup that will be for lunches only, it will not be a dinner.  Last week, the soup was such a big hit, I ended up making another pot of it at 10:30 at night after choir practice.  Mind you, I'm not complaining.  If my seven year old wants homemade cannellini bean soup instead of peanut butter and nutella for her lunch, I'll make soup at midnight if I have to! The soup I chose is another vegan soup that is blended smooth.  I'm hoping for another hit, we'll see.  For the main meals this week, we have chicken and mushrooms in a coconut curry sauce, and the other big meal is grilled salmon with orzo, feta, and red wine vinaigrette.  Two nights this week we'll be dining at a friend's house or at an event, so these meals should hold us.

SUNDAY: Coconut Curry Chicken with Mushrooms + Curried Pea and Lettuce Soup for lunches

We have made chicken with a coconut curry sauce tons of time.  It is, in fact, Evie's favorite meal.  Sunday was supposed to have been a jammed packed day, so I decided to try my hand at a crockpot version.  After scouring books and the net for ideas, here is what I came up with:

Crock-pot Coconut Curry Chicken

Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a pan, saute 1 sliced onion and 1 tbsp minced garlic until onions are translucent.  Add 1 can tomato paste, 4 tbsp curry powder, 2 tsp corriander, and a sprinkle of ginger.  Saute until all are well mixed.  Then add 3 cans coconut milk, 1 tbsp fish sauce, juice from 1/2 lime.  Bring to a low boil, stirring well.

Meanwhile, in the crockpot, place chicken thighs (we used three packages for leftovers) cut into 1 inch pieces in the bottom, squeeze the other half lime over them.  Rinse 12 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms, shake off excess water, and layer over chicken.  Pour curry sauce over all in crockpot, cook on low 3-4 hours.

The verdict:  It was pretty good!  I think we still prefer making it out of the crock pot, the sauce wasn't as thick after cooking with the chicken and mushrooms.  Thinking back, I probably should have added a corn starch slurry to it to thicken things up.  But, all of the flavors were still really yummy, and having it sit in the crock pot freed me up to make this week's lunch soup.

 Curried Pea and Lettuce Soup

Now, on to this week's lunches.  Last week's soup was such a hit I looked for another type, just not beans again...need a little break from the all-bean diet.  I also note a favorable response in my workouts and weight checks when I do a soup-for-lunch week as opposed to a leftovers-from-dinner-for-lunch week.  I chose a seemingly tasty, but healthy, option.  It can be found at this link for Curried Pea and Lettuce Soup.  Not sure how the fam is going to feel about the tempeh, but hey, we can try something new!

Blended up soup with tempeh "croutons"

MONDAY: Grilled Salmon with Orzo, Feta, and Red Wine Vinaigrette

This comes from another cookbook gift from Mama's Mama.  It is Curtis Stone: What's For Dinner?   This is the first time I'm using it (sorry Mommy!) and I'm excited!  We had the leftover orzo from the recipe a few weeks ago, and I was looking for a reason to use sheep's milk feta again.   I have also been craving salmon, something we have a lot of during the summer...and with this eternal winter we're having, I want to bring a summery taste to dinners. 

TUESDAY: Leftovers! Yay!

Probably chicken curry, but if any salmon remained, we'll get that out of the way first!

Okay, I lied.  Rehearsal was cancelled for this night, so I had time to cook (and do laundry!). Therefore, I took spaghetti out of the pantry, used up the grape tomatoes and basil from last night, and had a yummy dinner!  We made a salad with a homemade Italian dressing, and called it a night.  The pasta below was made the following way:

Cook spaghetti according to package directions.  In the meantime, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan.  Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper.  Heat garlic until almost too done.  Add cleaned, sliced in half grape tomatoes and saute until wilting.  Add 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water.  Just before adding cooked pasta, melt 2 tbsp butter into sauce.  Mix pasta into sauce, plate, add fresh sliced basil and Parmesan cheese, plus a few toasted pine nuts from the night before.

WEDNESDAY: Dinner at the church

THURSDAY: More leftovers! BONUS

FRIDAY: Dinner at my in-laws...DOUBLE BONUS!

Believe me, Sunday's chicken meal was enough to feed us all week.  So, even without the meals out, we'd be pretty set.  If needed, a frittata could be thrown in to use up veggies and herbs still hanging out in the refrigerator.