weekly menu – 27 september 2010

After a couple of week’s hiatus (last minute traveling doesn’t allow for much time to post), I’m back with at least my weekly menus. The theme with this week’s menu was keeping the ingredients and combinations as simple as possible. Sunday was the exception, but it usually is to our menu planning.

Monday – Steak Fajitas
I take skirt steak from Circle Key at the Ahwatukee farmers market and sear it until cooked to my liking (medium-rare for me). I then slice it really thin and serve it on fresh cooked tortillas (My Nona’s ready-cook tortillas are found in the refrigerator area near the canned biscuit dough). I like to serve shredded lettuce and sour cream with my fajitas, but that’s always up to the consumer.

Tuesday – Chicken Stir Fry
I love stir fries. They’re the perfect “time to clean the veggie drawer in my fridge out” meal. This past week I used snap peas, onion, zucchini, bell pepper and bok choy. Combine that with chicken that’s been seasoned with Savory Spice Shop’s Asian Delight BBQ Rub and you’ve got a great meal. One thing to keep in mind about stir fries is that the vegetables are meant to be cooked quickly and at high heat. Don’t hesitate to let the oil in the pan start to smoke a little bit before putting the vegetables into the pan.

Wednesday – Chicken Dinner Salad
I’m not sure why I put two “empty my vegetable bin” meals in a row, but it’s how it turned out, so I rolled with it. More chicken breast grilled up with Savory Spice Shop’s All Purpose Seasoning. I cut that up and added it to a salad of mixed greens, bell pepper, snap peas and cucumber. Doesn’t sound fancy, but it really hits the spot when you’re trying to keep things simple and still eat healthy.

Thursday – Omelettes
Normally, I get home really late on Thursday nights because I take a yoga class until 7:45pm. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well on Thursday so no class. The advantage, though, was that I had an easy dinner to fix. We had ham for dinner on the Sunday night before. I kept it simple and just made up a ham and cheese omelette. Don’t underestimate the tastiness of an omelette.

Friday – Grilled Salmon
Keep It Simple Stupid! I’ve been dying to use that saying for a long time. We took two salmon steaks and grilled them with just salt and pepper. We then served that up with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. So simple and yet so incredibly wonderful.

Saturday – Caffe Boa
Since Sean and I had to juggle our schedule a bit so that we could fly home last weekend to be with a friend, we had to change our plans to celebrate our anniversary (we still wound up having lunch together on our anniversary, but what better excuse to go eat at a nice restaurant?). We had just picked up a Groupon from Caffe Boa, so we made reservations for dinner there since we’d been wanting to try it ever since Chef Payton moved over there. On the menu for us? You’ll have to wait for me to type up the review to find that out. It was definitely delicious, though.

Sunday – Spaghetti and Meatballs
A while back, I had posted about a Cook’s Illustrated recipe called Hearty Italian Meat Sauce. You take baby back ribs, Italian sausage and homemade meatballs and simmer everything together in a homemade tomato sauce. The combination is to die for, but for whatever reason I’ve always felt like the ribs weren’t necessary. I decided to try the recipe this time with just the sausage and the meatballs (which are the best part of the recipe). It turned out phenomenally. Sorry baby back ribs, but you’ve been voted off of the island.

weekly menu – august 15, 2010

Oops! Guess I forgot to post our menu last week. The week kind of got away from me and next thing I knew it was the weekend! Let’s give that a try again. I will admit that this past week was a bit chaotic. With Sean working 2nd shift, if I get called into the office at night, making dinner at home goes out the door very quickly. If anyone has suggestions beyond what I resorted to, let me know! I’m always open for healthy last minute places to get food from.

Monday – Wildflower Bread Company
So, we’re in the middle of testing at work and one of the other Systems engineers and I are splitting up evening shifts to analyze testing. We just didn’t plan out the week until Monday afternoon. So, after an early yoga class, I grabbed the Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Wildflower Bread Company and brought it back to the office to eat while analyzing data. This sandwich is heavenly. It’s a grilled sandwich with cheddar, swiss and fontina cheeses along with arugula and tomatoes. They serve it up with their chips which are the combination of potato and sweet potato chips. I really only like the sweet potato chips in their mix, so it’s not too bad. I know, I know, not the healthiest meal, but it holds up to not being eaten until I can get back into the office and it’s filling.

Tuesday – Shrimp and Spicy Black Eyed Peas
This is a super simple and wonderfully flavorful meal that Sean found once. I found it again while flipping through our recipe book and had to have it again. The recipe comes from Epicurious.com. The black-eyed peas are from a can, so it’s quick to cook up. The recipe makes enough for 4.

Wednesday – Skirt Steak Dinner Salad
I’m sure you guys really do wonder how we don’t get tired of salads. I don’t understand it either, but it’s such a wonderful healthy staple in our diet. This week I took a skirt steak that we had gotten from our farmers market along with some romaine lettuce, snap peas, red bell pepper and cucumber. The skirt steak was seasoned with Savory’s Mt. Massive Steak Seasoning and seared on my indoor grill pan (I was too lazy to start up the charcoal grill outside). I cut all of my veggies into large chunks and voila! Delicious dinner salad!

Thursday – Whole Foods To Go
So, for anyone in the engineering world, schedules don’t go as planned. This was yet another night of me having to go back into the office. I didn’t want to go back to Wildflower Bread Company. There’s a Whole Foods Market on my way back to the office, so I stopped there since they’ve got a lot of quick options for food that are ready made. I wound up choosing a potstickers and udon noodle salad combo. All I had to do was reheat it in the microwave and it was ready. Not too bad. Obviously not as good as fresh made potstickers, but after an intense yoga class all I cared about was getting some protein into me that didn’t consist of a burger.

Friday – Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
This was an off Friday for me, so Sean and I used it to run errands, which resulted in a big lunch out. I had originally planned on doing the personal pizzas this night, but we had pizza at a great restaurant in downtown Tempe called La Bocca, so we swapped meals around. There wasn’t anything fancy about these sandwiches, just Italian bread from Breadsmith and cheddar cheese from Tillamook.

Saturday – Personal Pizzas
I’ve made homemade pizza dough in the past and it’s usually worth it, but we had a potluck for lunch earlier in the day and after that plus more errands (weekends and off Fridays are the only time for Sean and me to run errands together, so weekends are always busy for us) there wasn’t time for homemade pizza dough. Whole Foods to the rescue again! They make up pizza dough so that all I have to do is let it come up to room temperature and it’s ready to be shaped and baked. We parbake our crust before putting toppings onto it. The crust comes out less soggy as a result, which we’re always for. Saturday’s pizzas consisted of salami, olives, bell peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. Perfecto!

Sunday – Barbecued Chicken with Veggie Stir Fry
We took chicken leg quarters grilled them with some of Sean’s barbecue rub on them. Nothing fancy. The family barbecue sauce was applied at the table to taste. For the veggie stir fry, I raided the fridge for all of the week old veggies (zucchini, bok choy and scallions) and stir fried them until just done. Sometimes the simplest meals are the best.

weekly menu – 8/2/10

Can you believe it’s already August?! I can’t. Eight months of the year are gone. Phoenix is currently in the midst of what some call summer. I call it hell on earth. Anyway… this post isn’t about horrible summer temperatures. This is about food! My favorite topic. Specifically, this is about Sean’s and my weekly menu from this past week. So without further ado…

Monday – Chicken Quesadillas
So, remember how I was talking last week about how Sean’s on second shift now and how I’ve got to put meals together even on my nights when I get home from yoga at 8pm? Welcome to another one of my super quick meals that I love to fix, quesadillas! There is absolutely nothing fancy about these guys.
I cut up whatever meat I’m putting into them into relatively small chunks and season it with Penzey’s Fajita Seasoning. I then slice up and saute an onion and bell pepper with a little salt and black pepper. Once the veggies are sauteed, I put them aside in a bowl and saute the chicken until well cooked. Setting that aside, I clean out my pan and drop the temperature on the stove down to medium low.
To actually assemble the quesadilla, I put a little olive oil into the bottom of my skillet. After that’s heated up a little bit, I put a burrito-sized tortilla into the skillet and rub it around so that the olive oil gets distributed across the bottom of the tortilla. Cheese goes on to half of the tortilla (it will get folded over later) first as a binder. I like a combination of Tillamook cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, although whatever standard cheese you have on hand will work. Then, a layer of peppers and onions followed by a layer of the chicken go on. Finally, sprinkle a little more cheese on the top to hold the quesadilla together and fold the tortilla in half. Let the quesadilla brown a little bit, flipping once so that both sides get a chance to brown. Remove to a cutting board and cut into thirds. Serve up with a little sour cream and salsa and you’re good to go. This takes me about 20 minutes to prep up and have ready at the table.

Tuesday – Skillet Lasagna
This is a recipe that Sean and I discovered on America’s Test Kitchen several years ago when we still had cable. This is a great TV show on PBS done by the same people who write Cooks Illustrated, which is also a phenomenal cooking magazine. Unfortunately, this recipe is now only available on their website if you have a super-duper premium subscription. I have a subscription and don’t mind paying for it with how often I use their site to find a recipe, but I do mind all of a sudden making some recipes “premium” and even paying customers have to pay more. So, here’s another location that you can find this recipe from. The dish is super simple, takes about 30 minutes to make and easily serves 4 (which for Sean and me means at least 2 leftover meals).

Wednesday – Shrimp and Rosemary Bacon Grits
Mmmm…. Comfort food. Even better, this is quick comfort food. I love grits. I know that everyone from the South doesn’t necessarily like them, but I love them. I always have. I love how my great-aunt would make grits with milk so that they would taste creamier. I take it one step further now and make them with milk and then add cheese to make cheese grits. This meal, though, is an enhancement on one that Sean found a little while back. The recipe is for the Rosemary Bacon Grits. I take it one step further and season up some shrimp with Savory’s Creole Seasoning and then saute them up and put them on top of the grits. Life just doesn’t get better (well, maybe a glass of strong sweet tea could make it better).

Thursday – Omelette
I don’t think I can say this enough, omelettes are not a breakfast item. At least they aren’t in my house. Omelettes are a great way to use up leftover foods in your fridge. I pull out whatever veggies are about to go bad, dice them up and then saute them. Reheat a meat leftover from a previous meal and then toss all of that in an omelette with whatever cheese I have on hand. This week’s was leftover chicken and peppers and onions from Monday’s quesadillas. There was also some spinach that was about to go bad, so that got cooked up. I finished it off with cheddar and cotija (a crumbly Mexican cheese that’s kind of like feta) cheeses.

Friday – Chicken Pot Pie
I love chicken pot pie. I do not, though, love the pot pies of today where the “crust” is a piece of puff pastry placed on the top of the pie. I’m old fashioned. I want a true pie with a nice flaky crust wrapped around the creamy filling. I start off with Joy of Cooking’s flour paste pie crust. Half of this gets rolled out to be my bottom crust and the other half is saved for the top. The bottom crust is blind baked and then allowed to cool while I prep the filling. I use this recipe from Bon Appetit for the filling. Once the filling’s in the crust, I roll out the top of the dough, crimp and seal and the pie’s in the oven until the top is nice and golden.

One thing that I like to do with this recipe is split this recipe across 4 medium sized ramekins that I have. It essentially creates little mini pies that are easier to serve up. These take a bit more time to do, but they also are a nice presentation for chicken pot pie.

Saturday – Metro Brasserie
Sean found a Groupon for a winery up in Scottsdale. It was two wine flights (5 tastings) and an appetizer for some ridiculously good price. We decided to forgot whatever my original plan for this day was (I think it was Polenta Gratin) and instead have a nice evening out. We had some nice wines at Su Vino Winery in the Old Town Scottsdale area and afterward decided to finally try a restaurant that I’d read good reviews on called Metro Brasserie. The restaurant is meant to make you feel like you’re in France at a local little brasserie. Not having been to France, I can’t vouch for that part, but it was a very nice atmosphere. Our waitress was very friendly. We chose a special that they offer. Dinner for Two for $42. What does that entail? 500mL of your choice of their house red or white wine, a choice of beef burgundy or cassoulet as your entree and then 6 beignets for dessert. We chose the house red and the beef burgundy. The wine was pleasant. Not too strong, but nothing weak and worthless to drink either. The beef burgundy was served in a cast iron pot with large chunks of meat that had been braised to perfection and then served with braised onions, carrots, potatoes and turnips. This is twice now that I’ve found a recipe where I will gladly eat a turnip. They were delicious. The whole dish was delicious. I only stopped because I knew I had to save at least a small amount of room in my stomach for dessert. I was glad I did. These beignets were tender rounds of dough fried to perfection, filled with a vanilla cream and rolled in confectioner’s sugar. They were served along with three sauces, Nutella sauce, a creme anglaise and raspberry coulis. Sean and I were both in heaven. Our waitress was kind enough to offer that if we couldn’t finish them ourselves that she would be glad to finish them for us. I think Sean almost growled at her. Definitely a restaurant we will return to.

Sunday – Salsa Verde Braised Pork
Sunday “dinners” for us have become just a late lunch. This way, Sean gets a nice freshly prepared meal before heading off to work for the evening. It also means I’m not preparing anything fancy just to be consumed fresh by me. This recipe is super simple and while it takes about 3 hours to cook, you spend about 5 minutes in the kitchen. The rest of the time, it just sits and braises away on the stove top. We serve this with tortillas, cotijo cheese, freshly chopped cilantro and sour cream. Sean even admits that this competes with his smoked pork shoulder that he prepares.

A note for anyone who wants to try this. The recipe calls for a 3.5 pound pork butt. The smallest I ever see in the grocery is between 7 – 8 pounds. If you ask your grocer, though, they’re usually very nice about cutting a pork butt in half. Take both halves home and freeze the part you don’t need for another use (like trying this recipe again).

I hope you guys are once more inspired to try some new recipes at home!

weekly menu – 7/26/2010

I’m going to try something new with the weekly menu. Instead of posting what we’re planning on having, I’m going to post what we had the past week. Since we try to experiment with new recipes, this gives me a chance to pass along any ideas on the new recipes.

Monday – Turkey, Brie & Arugula Paninis

Paninis are a great way to jazz up the standard sandwich. Turkey, brie and arugula is a combination that we tried recently with another recipe and fell in love with. Super simple and yet delicious. We served this with some chips and that’s it. Not totally balanced, but it’s a quick, simple and delicious meal.

Tuesday – Chicken Broccoli Ziti Skillet
This is an old standby recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. Everything is cooked in a single skillet which keeps this an easy meal to clean up after. The dish also gives us leftovers for lunches.

Wednesday – Salmon BLTs
Well, we would have had salmon BLTs if our power hadn’t gone out right as Sean was starting to cook the salmon filets. We settled for BLTs with pesto mayo. Still very tasty sandwiches and after the power came back on we still cooked up the salmon for leftovers.

Thursday – Date Night
Every once in a while one of our favorite local microbreweries does a special half-barrel tap. This was one of those nights, so we planned happy hour at Sleepy Dog Brewery. After sampling a tasty beer, we also tried an Indian restaurant called Royal Taj. Sean had to convince me to go in because it was dead when we got there, but the food was quite tasty and the service was quick, so we’ll definitely be trying that place again.

Friday – Arrive Derci
We had made plans to introduce friends to our favorite local Italian restaurant. Arrive Derci is this small Italian restaurant where all of the waiters are awesome and the food is always delicious. If you’re ever in Phoenix it’s definitely on our top 5 list of places to try.

Saturday – Prosciutto Arugula Risotto
One of our wedding gifts was a set of Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. One of those cookbooks is for risotto and has a collection of rather good recipes. This was one we hadn’t tried yet. The risotto is really just a basic recipe cooked with chicken stock. The serving bowl is lined with prosciutto and then arugula and parmesan shavings are added to the top of the risotto once it’s served. The heat from the risotto cooks the prosciutto just a bit and also wilts the arugula. Nice flavor combination although the prosciutto was a little hard to cut through. Another option would be to fry up bits of prosciutto and sprinkle on top of the risotto with the arugula.

Sunday – Ribeye Steak Dinner Salad
You didn’t really think that we would get through a whole week without a dinner salad did you? Sean grilled a couple of ribeye steaks that were just seasoned with Butcher’s Rub from Savory Spice Shop. These topped a salad of arugula, spinach and Bibb lettuce with tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumbers and croutons. It was a nicely well rounded salad with a bit of a splurge topping it with thinly sliced ribeye steak.

Hope this inspires you to cook one more meal at home this week!

Weekly Menu 1/25/2010

Another Sean week of meals, and we are going to try putting the recipes in more detail for the folks out there that want to try things out.

Monday- Potato Leek Soup

We ended up going out on Friday last week so this recipe got moved up to tonight. The recipe actually comes out of a William-Sonoma cookbook for Potato-Leek Soup with Fennel and Watercress. We just leave out the fennel and watercress and add in more leek.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks, coarsely chopped
2 baking potatoes, about 1 lb, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a soup pot over medium heat, all olive oil and saute the leeks for about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes and continue to saute’ for another 10 minutes.
Add stock and bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook the vegetables for about 20 minutes.a
Puree the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Tuesday- Shrimp Dinner Salad

Same as before, but with sauteed shrimp on top. Yes, we always do a lot of sauteing, however I might gill them up depending on the weather.

Wednesday- Spaghetti Carbonara

Surprisingly, another recipe out of a set of Williams-Sonoma cookbooks

2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb shaghetti
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 lb panchetta cut into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Flat leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of water to boil
Break the eggs into a warmed, large bowl, add the cheeses, and whisk to blend well.
Salt the water, add the spaghetti until al dente, 7-9 minutes
While pasta is cooking, warm the olive oil, add the panchetta and saute until just becoming crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute’ for 1 minute. add the white wine and cook until reduced by half.

Drain the pasta, add it to the bowl. Toss quickly (this will heat the eggs). Add the panchetta with all the pan juices. Season with salt and pepper, add parsley and serve immediately.

Thursday- Salmon with Raw Spinach Bacon and Egg Salad with Whole Wheat Rolls

Salmon prepared any way you like it. For the spinach salad we generally boil some eggs, peel and cut them up. Then saute bacon, keeping the fat and adding it to a small bowl and adding in some balsamic vinegar to make up a quick dressing. Crumble the bacon up and add the bacon and eggs to the top of the salad, add the vinaigrette and toss to serve.

We just get some rolls from out local Whole Foods to round everything up.

Friday- Chicken Tacos

Just what it sounds like, but instead of beef we saute’ up some chicken and use that. I made up some salsa to go along with it this week, 1 day ahead so it has time to meld together.

Saturday- Syrah Braised Short Ribs, Creamy Parm. Polenta, Artichokes.

I need to goo look up the recipe for the short ribs, I believe it is in a recent Food and Wine Magazine.
We use a recipe for the polenta that we got from Misty, it has never led us wrong. The artichokes we will do boiled or steamed and then served with melted butter for dipping. Fairly classic approach.

Sunday- Buffalo Bacon Burgers with Waffle Fries and Green Beans

Burgers with ground buffalo, peppered bacon on top, I like mine with Blue Cheese but we can no longer get a blue cheese that Kat likes around here. We used to get one from the Rogue Creamery called smokey blue, it was a smoked blue cheese and just awesome. The waffle fries recipe I am taking out of Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook. We have tried the regular french fries, and we have a mandolin so I will try his recipe for waffle fries since we can actually make the cuts properly. Green beans I usually do up in a fry pan with some garlic, throw in water or white wine and cover to steam them up nicely.

That is it for this week, let us know if you need any more information on the recipes. We have taken a few pictures of the dishes we prepared last week, we will try to get those op shortly, it should entice you to give them a try.