Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Food Glorious Food

I am still wrapping my head around menu items that don't require extensive prep. It's not that I want to make complicated food, and really, my food isn't complicated, we just prefer fresh simple things that involve way more chopping and standing over the stove than I realized. Mostly because for the last year I've had a job that got me home early and two big kids who went and played outside or in their play room or otherwise by themselves with minimal input from me, so I could stand in the kitchen and spend 45 minutes making a dinner and think nothing of it. This is no longer my reality and even last week when I was trying to make dishes that could be thrown together quickly and then left alone, I would still find myself standing in the kitchen bouncing Cora's monkey bouncer with my foot with 2 chopping boards and 5 different pans in use at once and realize I'd taken a terribly wrong turn at some point in the dinner planning.

But, this week, thanks to a revival of firm-like weekend prep and cooking, I think I've got it!

Sunday: Brunswick stew, adapted; ciabatta bread.
Monday: Lasagna (made my Aunt's sauce and simmered it all Sunday afternoon; composed the lasagna after dinner that night); garlic bread made Monday morning and wrapped in foil. I was DETERMINED to conquer the craziness of Monday evening/JP's latest night at the pool.
Tuesday: Leftover Brunswick stew over brown rice; frozen Sister Schubert's wheat rolls (my fave, they're like fluffy clouds of carbohydrates).
Wednesday: Chicken and broccoli in the crock pot, served over rice; crescent rolls.
Thursday: Fresh tortellini with the leftover spaghetti sauce I made for the lasagna; the twin of the garlic loaf I made on Monday.
Friday: Homemade pizza, always.

The Brunswick stew was delicious and very different in flavor from the usual soups and stews I make. It was also a great way to use up the random 2 cups of pulled pork we had leftover from our pretzel roll pork sliders we ate last Thursday. According to the internet there are strong opinions about what is supposed to be in a Brunswick Stew (okra, no okra, potatoes, no potatoes, lima beans, other beans, etc.), but I found this one and it looked delicious and then I changed lots of things because that's what I do.

Brunswick Stew:
(Original recipe here, which I'm sure would be delicious exactly as it's supposed to be)

3 cups shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie)
3 cups pulled pork (I used leftover Costco pulled pork from a dinner last week)
2 cups beef stock
1 medium onion, diced
5 medium red potatoes, diced (I used 7; mine were small)
1 (15-ounce) can Butter beans (in lieu of Lima beans because I hate them; you could use white Navy)
4 cups cream style white corn (2 cans worth)
1 (24-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup Stubbs Smokey Mesquite bbq sauce (in lieu of ketchup which didn't sound good and my pulled pork was sauceless; it added a fantastic smokey flavor I wouldn't go without in this stew)
1 cup frozen corn
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Montreal Steak Seasoning
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (omitted because I'm a wimp who can't even handle that much spice in a giant pot of stew)

1. Add shredded chicken and pulled pork to crock pot.
2. Add beef stock, onion, potatoes, beans, corn, diced tomatoes, bbq sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning and cayenne pepper to the meats.
3. Cook on low for 6+ hours, or high if you need it sooner. You can also cook it in a stock pot over medium-low heat for just 30 minutes to serve right away. But the crock pot made the whole house delicious!

The whole family loved it and it made enough for 2 dinners and 2 lunches, with considering the amount of food we usually eat is nothing short of amazing.

Four days of food; one day of prep

The menu is working out so far, so now I just need more prep-free ideas for next week!  It's trickier than it seems- dinners I normally I think of as "easy" like tacos and breakfast night really involve more standing over the stove time than Cora prefers.

Not that I can blame this all on Cora, she's pretty much the smiliest and easiest baby ever, I just like to spend some of the evening actually cuddling her and making her smile giant Cora smiles instead of hitting her bouncer with my foot every few minutes while I try avoid setting her clothes on fire by not holding her over the stove.

So crock pot and make ahead meals are my saving grace for now.  Because who wouldn't rather snuggle this many-chinned baby than do just about anything else from 5:30-6:15 pm?


  1. Since I don't know what JP's parents look like, I don't know if the next sentence is 100% accurate. Cora looks so much like your father. What do you say? Who does she resemble most? Or no one at all? lol

  2. I highly recommend this e-cookbook. I made 6 or 7 meals in about three hours.


    Anon - JLV

  3. Easy (truly!) crockpot recipe: one 4-6 pound roast chicken, one lemon, 1/2 cup each honey and OJ. Put lemon in cavity, pour honey and OJ over chicken and cook on low 6-8 hours depending on size. Remove lemon before serving. So moist it will fall apart.

  4. Balsamic beef in the crock pot. So good. Emilybites.com. jar of salsa, few chicken breasts, taco season is good too. I use my crock pot 2-3 nights a week because of kid sports. I've been making 2 batches of meatballs on weekends and then freezing for a night during the week. I hate chopping. I am terrible at it:(

  5. Roasted vegetables - chop & stick on a baking sheet with olive oil in the morning, then just turn on the oven @ night. Baby carrots, onions, potatoes, cauliflower, are all good. You can also do this with sweet potatoes with no chopping. I would serve with some already-
    seasoned fish or chicken you can find
    in the freezer. Another thing to do is
    make individual foil packets of
    chicken & veggies with oil &
    seasonings in the morning & put them in the oven when you get home. Good luck!

  6. My favorite quick evening meal is this- http://iowagirleats.com/recipes/superfood-salad-with-lemon-vinaigrette/ without the shrimp. You can throw everything together really quick, in the time it takes the quinoa to cook- especially if you get pomegranate seeds from Trader Joe's. It's quick, delicious and healthy and you can leave out any part your family might not like.

  7. A typical weekend afternoon of prep goes as follows for the meals below:

    Chop/slice onions, bell pepper, English cucumber
    Wash fresh bunch of cilantro, store with stems in cup of water in fridge
    Make taco soup using chopped onions and bell pepper, reserving thinly sliced bell pepper for peanut noodles and quesadillas

    Taco Soup takes care of at least one dinner and round of lunches, but can easily be doubled to go farther or be frozen for later in the month. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, jalapeno slices, chopped avocado, taco chips, lime wedges....whatever your family likes!

    Peanut noodle salad - Buy the Thai-style spicy peanut dressing from the fridge section at Trader Joe's. Combine al dente pasta (we like whole wheat spaghetti noodles for this salad) with a couple handfuls of any combination of shredded cabbage, broccoli slaw (both can be bought already prepped at TJ's), steamed snap peas (also buy at TJ's and microwave in water for a few minutes), cilantro, cucumber, thinly sliced bell pepper (all prepped on the weekend!). Toss with TJ's dressing and fresh lime juice (to taste). Great served lukewarm (before the noodles cool totally) for dinner and then cold the next day for lunch.

    Quesadillas: Spread Amy's Organic refried black beans (or sprinkle drained, rinsed black beans) on whole wheat tortillas (TJ's are my favorite), lots of shredded cheese, thinly sliced bell pepper, and cilantro. You can toast these in the oven or on the stove top or microwave in burrito form instead. I serve these with a quick salad of shredded cabbage (left over from noodle salad), thinly slice bell pepper and cucumber (again, see above), cilantro, lots of lime juice, a little olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.

    With the chopping and majority of cooking taking place on the weekend, these meals come together in 10 minutes or so during the week. I hope this helps!