What a week… also. Menu for 10/29 – 11/4

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Bugs have descended into our apartment like a plague.

Or at least it feels that way. In reality there have been four, but we’re talking 1.5 – 2″ beetle-lookin’ things that I would swear just stare at me while they rub their creepy little legs at me. Three of the four have been found on my pillow or head, so I get to say insulting things about them. Turns out stinkbugs are attracted to things that smell fruity and/or sweet. You know, like my hair products? Two nights in a row of three hours of sleep means I almost don’t have enough mental presence left to blog. Certainly not enough for photographs. The hacks K has used to try to deal with this include

  • Sealing off doors/ windows. Turns out about half of our windows have gaps big enough for a small army of giant bugs to march through.
  • Homemade trap from a google search- she cut the top off a two liter bottle, removed the lid, and put it on so the top became concave. Then she put a couple inches of water and a little soap inside, taped an LED light to the bottom and lined the outside with packaging tape- sticky side out so things could crawl up. Three days later, it hasn’t caught anything.
  • Rubbing fabric softener around doors/ windows. We don’t normally even buy detergent (I make it), so I certainly don’t buy fabric softener ever. Waking up screaming to the smell of a stinkbug at my head made me desperate, what can I say.

But about the menu…

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Aside

Menu for 10/22 – 10/28S

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This one is so hot off the presses, I’m writing it right this minute. The theme is (hopefully) easy to prepare as I’m going to make two dishes tonight and two tomorrow morning. Ready?

Breakfast- Wild Rice Frittata from Betty Crocker Whole Grains. Generally, this is not one of my favorite cookbooks. Roughly a third of it is baked goods, making that portion more or less obsolete around here. Another half of the remaining is meat-y, but this recipe? Has the awesome chewiness of wild rice, the sweetness of cooked onions & peppers, and is topped with a little bit of your favorite swiss. One of my favorite frittata recipes for sure.

Lunch- Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes- I’m thinking the works- broccoli, chives, maybe some cheese, but on half a sweet potato instead of a regular ol’ russet.

Supper- Penne with Spinach Bechamel from Forks Over Knives. This doesn’t look like something either of us will love, but sometimes those recipes surprise me. Plus, it calls for a lot of cauliflower. What’s not to love about cauliflower?

Dinner- East African Peanut Soup from Moosewood Daily Special. This is warm and filling with the possibility of spicing it up, but it still calls for plenty of vegetables.

No pictures since I haven’t even grocery shopped yet. In the event you’re interested in what a typical grocery trip is like, you can check out this week’s list after the cut- it’s just 6 days, but you get the idea.

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Waffle Sandwiches Tutorial

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I started this by precooking gluten-free waffles.

Well. I started this by asking K to precook waffles. Yes, that means my half of this recipe was the easy half.

The picture tutorial moves counter-clockwise.

  1. Lightly oil baking sheet. Add one tablespoon (ish) of marinara + a slice of eggplant.
  2. Layer of baby kale. Spinach would be good as well.
  3. Several thin slices of zucchni.
  4. Half slice of provolone cut into strips.
  5. Couple slices of tomato
  6. The over half slice of provolone.
  7. A tablespoon of marinara on the other waffle, lightly smush, and cook in oven on 350 for 30 minutes.

I have four of these pans so two held sandwiches and the other two were used to gently weight the sandwiches closed. You may notice the fillings all go different ways- the cheese in particular is sort of a glue so I felt that the more the ingredients were stacked in opposing directions, the better they’d hold together.

Finished product:

You can stuff these with anything, but for 14 veggie sandwiches I used:

  • 5 tomatoes
  • 2 smallish eggplants
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 big handfuls baby kale
  • a little less than a jar of marinara
  • 14 slices provolone cheese
  • 28 gluten-free waffles

Menu 10/15 – 10/21

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Last week (the week where meals were supposed to be precooked and frozen) was not a banner week here at HH Headquarters. It turns out that, once frozen solid, the sloppy joe mix takes at least 30 minutes to defrost on the stove without burning. The end of the night usually starts around 5:00 around here, but if it gets to 6:00 and we’re just putting dinner on? We don’t have 30 minutes to reheat dinner before eating and I’m always trying to be in bed by 7:30.

Plus, I never did get around to precooking those waffle sandwiches. I put the waffles in the freezer and we just rolled both those meals over to this week and foraged. It’s not my favorite way to spend a week of lunches, but sometimes it just happens that way.  So…

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Chili Cheese Sweet Potato Fries

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Well, the ‘cook two weeks worth of food in two days’ was (perhaps predictably) a huge chore. Things that often get used only once got used two plus times- like stockpots. We must have washed each of our large soup pots two or three times apiece. The kitchen is still recovering. Who knows what it would have looked like if K hadn’t been sick and had to call in for both her Saturday & Sunday shifts! Don’t worry, she rested too, but she also helped out in the kitchen. I made the classic-for-me mistake of leaving everything to the end that had to be baked. There’s not really a way to hurry along roasting eggplant at 475 for 30 minutes so you can quickly pop in dinner rolls to bake at 375 for twenty minutes. The success so far was the chili cheese sweet potato fries. It started on Saturday evening like this:

 

 

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How do you make a menu?

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This is the question almost everyone asks when they hear about the way I cook. How do you make a menu for a whole week? How do you know what you’re going to want to eat next weekend?

The easy answers are:

  • I don’t know what I want to eat next weekend.
  • I would like to go to my favorite restaurant for breakfast, have salad rolls for lunch, and maybe out for dinner somewhere new. Duh.
  • The weekend shouldn’t be any different than the other days I menu for.

Of course, the weekend is different than other days. By my best guess, 90% of the times we eat out are on the weekend. Dishes that are only so-so (like, say, the super-salty ‘chicken’ salad we had this week) are harder to compliantly choke down because we’re not in as much of a hurry. On the weekend, neither of us is in a hurry- even if K works, she almost never has school obligations. Eating out so much would make both of us feel sick, plus- it’s not so hard for K to order gluten-free since she’ll eat some meat, but not so easy for me to avoid both meat and gluten. Without going to an actual vegan/ vegetarian restaurant, that is, which is spendy.

Mostly, I make a menu with a starting point. I ask K what she wants, I think about what I want, I try to make something different than the previous week (or, if it’s terrific or I immediately want to try a modification on a recipe, exactly what we had the previous week). Hopefully an in-season vegetable, but definitely a variety of vegetables. If I get to the grocery store and realize there aren’t enough in the dishes I menu-ed, I add affordable vegetables that go with what we’re having. Sometimes I start with a couple cookbooks, leaf through and look for new things to try. Recently I’ve been sampling recipes from various gluten-free cookbooks to decide which ones to purchase. I used a couple cookbooks as starting points this week. Occasionally I get a brilliant <hopefully> idea strikes and I decide to go with it- breakfast taquitos were one such idea. Dinner this week will be another example.

This week was a bigger challenge. Next weekend we’re going out of town Thursday night and coming back Sunday. We won’t get home any earlier than noon, which is frankly more optimistic than I’m inclined to be. Usually when we make this trip I take off the following Monday to get our kitchen back in order for the week, but I have a Monday-specific obligation at work that I spent half the summer shirking. I need to be there on Monday with the holidays creeping up so quickly.

In short, I’m trying something new. Instead of cooking only on Sunday, I’m cooking this evening and tomorrow to make two weeks of menus. The first week’s menu I’m making on Sunday, it will go straight in the fridge. I have a relatively inflexible policy of only keeping cooked food in the fridge for a week, so the second week’s menu will be dealt with both days but put straight into the freezer.

Don’t make that face, folks. People spend buckets of money on pre-cooked and frozen food. You might even know them as microwave dinners? You can even spend buckets of money to pre-cook and freeze your own meals of someone else’s recipes at those dinner-on-the-go kitchens. There’s nothing wrong with frozen food.

Week 1

Breakfast- Taquitos, half an apple, half an orange

Lunch- Egggplant Lasagna out of a GF cookbook

Supper- Stir Fry out of another cookbook

Dinner- Chili Cheese Sweet Potato Fries. I’m going to wing the chili recipe and I’m operating under the assumption that making fries will be time-consuming but relatively simple.

Week 2

Breakfast- Taquitos and fruit. I couldn’t think of anything else that we like and is easy to freeze.

Lunch- Eggplant Sandwiches with a small cup of tomato soup. The first time we had this, it was a hack of a sandwich we sell at work. I’m taking this one pretty far off the path though.

Supper- Hummus and carrot sticks. We still have hummus in the freezer from the wedding, so that should save me some time cooking. I even have a plan to speed up the carrot sticks.

Dinner- Repeating Sloppy Joes on Dinner Rolls

Wish me luck, folks!

Menu for 9/24 – 9/30

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A little late, but here we go!

Breakfast: Half an apple, half an orange, Breakfast Taquitos. I’m not kidding folks, these are awesome.

Lunch: Pre-blended smoothies. K likes to let hers warm up to virtually room temperature before eating them, I like mine half-frozen. I was originally supposed to be out & about with K on Sunday morning, which cuts into cooking time. One of the advantages of smoothies is that it doesn’t much matter when you blend and freeze them. To churn out 14 smoothies takes me 45-60 minutes of prep and blending. Each pair of smoothies has a kiwi, a peach or nectarine, 1 sweeter apple (Gala in this case), half of a more tart apple (Granny Smith), an orange, a banana, and a heavy splash of not-milk. There was a container of soy open in the fridge already, but usually I will make milk from a nut neither of us cares for plain (hazelnut, walnut, pecan).


From 1000 Vegan Recipes, the chicken salad and ka-pow tofu (to substitute in for the ambiguous ‘marinated tofu’ called for in the salad recipe). First impression was great- fresh, crunchy, good mix of flavors.

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Halfway through…

Hopefully I’ll get up some semblance of a recipe for breakfast taquitos this weekend. You know you want it. They’re so good. In the meantime, here’s an update on how our menu is weathering the week:

Breakfast- The taquitos so good that K requested a repeat of them next week. She doesn’t do that very often. I agree, but even more importantly for me, they’re filling. The chopped melon seems to be lasting the week okay. The watermelon isn’t quite as hardy as the cantaloupe and honeydew are, but everything’s still perfectly edible.

Lunch- The fruit salad is okay. I was hoping to combat any discoloration with the addition of pineapple juice & oranges. No such luck, but everything tastes fine. As for the curried eggless salad…

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Menu 9/17 – 9/23

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This little gadget is intended to hold cooling racks, but it’s proved far more multi-purpose- it holds baking sheets out of the way, and I stumbled on another use this weekend. It will hold my cookbooks open to their pages as I’m working on various recipes. As Sunday usually finds me working on several recipes from two or more sources at a time, this really helped keep the kitchen table clear for food prep!

The menu this week at HH Headquarters is:

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Menu 9/10 – 9/16

Food this week at HH Headquarters is:

Breakfast:

– an adaptation of the Quick Banana Berry Breakfast To Go from Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. We eat this often, sometimes for several weeks in a row. So much for my claim that I change the menu often. K usually takes care of day-of preparations so she generally makes this, but I think our modifications are- cranberry juice instead of pomegranate (pomegranate juice is spendy!), add water, cook longer but don’t cook the bananas…

– sliced tofu pan fried with a tablespoon or so of barbecue sauce.

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