Friday, January 6, 2017

Food for Thought

The weekend is finally here.  For some reason this week seemed excessively long.  Maybe it was the cold.  Or the snow.  Or the fact that the kids have been on break, together, in the house, for over two weeks.  Whatever the case, three of the kids go back to school next week - Girlie goes back the week after that.  I plan to start taking down Christmas stuff this weekend.  I plan to finish setting up my planner and thus clearing off the counter where I've been working.  I plan to get back in the swing of things.

The swing of things means regular menu planning.  It's amazing how crappy we eat when there's no plan.  Pretty much since Thanksgiving, the menu plan has been no plan, or barely a plan, at best.  If I'm going to do my best to make new habits, keeping up with the eternal "what's for dinner" question is a must.

I have a couple Zuppa Toscana-type recipes; I had several that were identical and after pairing down, this was one of the ones that was left.  I kept it because this one used Kale.  I'm late in arriving to the Kale party, which is so 2014, but hey.  I tried it before adding it to the soup, having heard the "bitter," "biting," "takes getting used to" rhetoric that sails around when people say "kale."  I have to say I found it to be none of the aforementioned.  It wasn't any more bitter than some Spring Greens and held up much better in the soup than spinach.  I'd put it on my sandwiches in place of lettuce.  The soup was really good.  Creamy and rich, the sausage giving it most of its flavor.  None of the kids said a word about the kale, they just asked for seconds.

My Mexican fix for the week was this Chicken Enchilada Rice Casserole.  With so few ingredients I wasn't sure what to expect taste-wise, but it was good.  I used my go-to enchilada sauce.  It was warm and comforting, the beans made it creamy without adding a lot of cheese, or cream or a condensed soup.  I liked the crunch of corn on top.  We added avocado and sour cream.  It made a ton - I used a 9x13 pan and couldn't get it all in.  It would easily make two 11x7 pans; I imagine it would freeze well.  We've used the portion I didn't get in the pan for filling to burritos at lunch.  

One nod to my no-meat meal was this Vegetable Pot Pie Skillet with Cheddar Biscuits.  I liked that it used frozen veggies (far better than canned) which meant no chopping.  I decided to add potatoes to mine, just to bulk out the filling.  Sweet potatoes or a White Bean would also be good.  The biscuits were easy to make, and light and fluffy on top.  My only thing, and it's because I added potatoes, was that I should have thinned the gravy, as the potatoes sucked a lot up and made the dish less creamy.  If you don't want meatless - adding a cup or so of rotisserie chicken would be good.

My stupid-still-can't-get-it-nailed-down oven and I had a slight disagreement when it came to this Creamy Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese.  I thought the topping should be nice and golden brown and the oven thought blackened would be more superior.  Not.  So I scrapped off the worst of the offending topping and served it up.  It was rich and creamy and determined to be "Bae AF" by at least one of my kids - the others had their mouths too full to comment.  When it comes to homemade mac and cheese it's the choice of cheeses that makes the dish.  You need a nice shape cheese in the mix and this had that.  Plus, garlic never hurts.

I cooked this Avocado & Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash meal for our re-instituted in-law dinner nights.  My in-laws are still at their daughter's house, while my father-in-law continues to convalesce, so I wanted to make sure that whatever, and however much, he ate, it packed a good punch.  I went meatless, but this was good and hearty and filling and had a good amount of protein.  It didn't have a sauce, which I worried would make the filling dry, but that wasn't the case.  I kept the squash warm in the oven, and the filling warm on the stove and assembled just before serving - leave the nuts out until the end or they get a bit soft.  I added more nuts to the tops for crunch.  I couldn't find Pepitas (the internal seed in a pumpkin seed) at our grocer, so I just roasted the seeds from the squash and used those. This was really good, unless you ask the two boys who aren't much for squash - though they ate the filling and at least tried the squash.  (ROASTING SEEDS:  Separate the seeds from the stringy insides under cold water.  Lay flat to dry.  Toss with olive oil and salt.  Spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350-375 until golden.  Toss once.  Mine weren't quite dried when I tossed them with oil and after after I stirred them once the water remaining in a few of the seeds caused them to pop like pop-corn.  No harm - other than seeds in the bottom of my oven.)

Eating healthy isn't really so hard.  I've already lost a couple pounds, but that might just be water-weight and the fact that all the Christmas cookies are finally gone, but still. . .

Happy Friday,

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