Menu plan: January 31-Feb 6

photo snagged from

I confess: I wrote out this week’s menu plan during the sermon at church yesterday, but only after I updated my Facebook status expressing my joy that the offertory music was a Nick Drake song. #churchfail

We’re supposed to get an ARCTIC BLAST this week, so I’m going for the warm and comforting/get all of this freaking soup OUT OF MY FREEZER NOW.

Monday: leftovers
Tuesday: salmon, spinach, roasted new potatoes and winter veg like purple cauliflower, carrots, and beets procured from the farmers market
Wednesday: barbecue pulled chicken in the crockpot, tortillas, broccoli, perhaps some taco fixings
Thursday: panini, soup, crunchy veggies
Friday orange-dijon chicken sausage, brown rice (cooked in the Zojirushi I gave Matt for Christmas so that I don’t ruin it), salad
Saturday: TBA. We’re going up to Ft. Hood for my nephew and niece’s joint birthday party (at Chuck E. Cheese, blarfgh) at noon; I’m hoping to have dinner out after the fact.
Sunday: Super Bowl party at a friend’s house; they’re grilling sausage and I’m bringing radish butter with multigrain bread and also sweet and salty brownies.

What’s on your menu?

Baked Sunday Mornings: Double Chocolate Loaf with peanut butter cream cheese spread

This week’s Baked Sunday Mornings entry is a tale of self-pity and thinly veiled frustration. This has been a tough weekend for me. My husband came home sick from work and went to bed around 2 o’clock on Friday afternoon and has just now emerged, at 8:30 on Sunday morning. I started out yesterday with a super-fun plan to do lots of cool things with the kids in order to 1) give Matt some peace while he rested and 2) avoid being cooped up in the house with the kids all day, which is, for me, the bullet train to Crazytown. So, we went to the farmers’ market, to my son’s YMCA league basketball game, Valentine’s day shopping at Target, to the summer camp fair, and finally, after eating lunch, going down for a nap. I tried to lie down too, but every time I started to drift off, Matt would sniff or turn or cough or whatever and I’d be awake again.

Come 4 o’clock yesterday, when my toddler woke from her nap — something I always dread (this girl does not wake up gracefully; I have to brace myself for at least half an hour of whining and screaming every morning and afternoon) — I was in a Mood Most Foul. I just let the screaming and whining get under my skin until I was no longer the sweet, fun, easygoing Mama of the morning. I was She Who Will Give You Something to Cry About. In short, it was wine-thirty. I could — maybe should — have just hunkered down with a book and let the kids watch a DVD while I went to my happy place, but I decided to throw this together because in general, baking makes me happy.

Not a morning person, but adorable anyway.

I guess my mood affected my experience of this rich, dark loaf when I finally sliced off a piece for myself after everyone had gone to bed and I’d had dinner (and I’d finally gotten a shower at 8:30pm). I thought it wasn’t sweet enough and that it was too dry (perhaps because I’d cut from the end of the loaf). I was ready to declare it a failure. I also didn’t mix up the peanut butter spread because dammit, I just didn’t want to have to do any more freaking dishes.

Fast forward to this morning, when I’m slicing up the loaf to photograph for this blog entry. I decide to go ahead and mix up the spread because all the dishes were finally clean (I’d been up since before 7 to attend to Her Highness, Princess of Whinetopia). I’m glad I did, because a.) the slices from the middle of the loaf are divine; so moist and fluffy and deeply chocolatey and b.) the spread, while a bit grainy from the sugar, is the perfect complement to the bread. Deee-licious.


Here’s what I would do differently:

    I would chop up the chocolate per the recipe. Because I was fed up and being sloppy, I just threw the chocolate disks into the batter willy nilly. As a result, there are basically just saucers of chocolate sat in the loaf rather than an even distribution of delightful chocolate pieces. It’s not horrible, but it’s also not very pretty.

    I might use powdered sugar for the spread so that it’s not so grainy. Again, not a deal-breaker, but who wants a crunchy cream cheese spread?

And now to find some lucky folks to share some slices with!

Apricot-Almond Biscotti with cardamom and white chocolate

Don't hate us because we're not beautiful.

I’m bringing two items for trade to next week’s ATXSwappers (read about it here, here, and here). I was going to bring lemon curd, but then I saw that Kristina is bringing so, so I decided to make this instead. The other item I’m bringing is (are?) these biscotti, inspired by the hazelnut cinnamon chip biscotti in Baked. Needless to say, I’m super excited about the swap, because it’s such a great opportunity to meet other food-loving people. Not to mention that my friend Carly is coming, and she makes any party better.

Apricot-Almond Biscotti with cardamom and white chocolate
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
1 ¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cardamom
4 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 cups chopped dried apricots (not the unsulphured kind)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
2 cups white chocolate chips (I used Whole Foods chunks)
1 large egg white

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, baking powder, salt, and cardamom.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and the sugar mixture together until the color is uniform and the mixture is thick. Add the vanilla and beat for 5 seconds. Add the flour in two batches and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and mix for a few seconds more. Add the apricots, almonds, and chocolate chips and beat until just combined.

    Turn the dough out onto the prepared baking sheet and shape it into a log about 16 inches long, 3 ½ inches wide, and ¾ inch thick. Use an offset spatula to smooth the surface of the dough. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until firm, but now browned. Let cool on the pan for 10 minutes.

    Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

    While the log is cooling, whisk the egg white and 2 tablespoons water together and use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash onto the top of the log.

    Cut the log into ¾-inch slices with a serrated knife, set them on the baking sheet cut sides up and down, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Makes approximately 24 biscotti.

These do not look like traditional biscotti, and I had some problems with the dough being too sticky. Then instead of parchment, I used a silpat, which I think I probably shouldn’t have (I didn’t have any parchment and am forever forgetting to buy some more). Also my log was too thick, so the outer parts of the cookies were done before the middle was done. THAT SAID, these are freaking delicious. The apricot, almond, and white chocolate are very subtle, allowing the cardamom to take center stage without being overwhelming. I think these would go nicely with an afternoon tea, perhaps even a chai latte if you’re a cardamom fan.

Menu plan: January 24-30

Yesterday I shopped at the Farmers Market with the idea that I would build the week’s menu around the veg that I found. I love, love, LOVE winter produce, so I gleefully snapped up kohlrabi, beets, cheddar cauliflower, and a stalk of Brussels sprouts, all from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. (The French breakfast radishes are from Springhill Farms, I think. Perfect for an open-faced multigrain bread-butter-radish sandwich!) I am a big fan of JBG, and have often considered joining their CSA, but I fear my family’s pickiness would generate too much waste. Plus, I really like going to the FM and choosing my own vegetables in amounts I have control over. At any rate, JBG’s produce is always gorgeous, even though I sometimes find their prices a bit dear.

So gorgeous

I did but some supplementary veges at the grocery this morning, as I have planned a pretty veg-heavy menu this week, but didn’t account for some nights’ meals while at the FM yesterday. I’m also trying to plan meals that can be nicely repurposed into lunches for Harrison (and maybe myself a little bit).

Monday: leftovers (Sunday night’s roasted chicken leftovers, and various other meals from the weekend)
Tuesday: Mild Italian sausage, pasta, bread, salad
Wednesday: Salmon, spinach, potatoes
Thursday: Pork chops, roasted veges (cauliflower, beets, kohlrabi), couscous
Friday: Bacon & spinach quiche, salad, bread
Saturday: Veggie chili, cornbread, broccoli
Sunday: Curried chicken pan roast (veg: butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, maybe some carrots), naan

Quiche Savoyard a la Tomme … sort of

Back in the late 1990s, I spent some time in Melbourne, Australia. I had been working a series of crappy post-college jobs, hadn’t really found myself, and got a wild hair to go Down Under. I scrimped and saved my money for months, then boarded a plane on December 1, 1998 and commenced my adventure. While I was there, I ate very conservatively because I was dead broke. Australia is expensive!

One of my favorite meals was a sandwich with a skosh of Vegemite, sliced tomatoes, and Coon cheese. The flavors of this quichey-tarty-thing are somewhat reminiscent of that treat, even though I totally failed to get the crust right. See?

So, instead of a delightful eggless tart that reminded me of that Aussie sandwich, I punted and turned it into a crustless quiche.

Crustless Quiche Savoyard a la Tomme
adapted from Quiches, Kugels and Couscous by Joan Nathan

1/4 cup breadcrumbs
12 slices white cheddar cheese
2 large to medium tomatoes
1/3 cup Nicoise olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3 eggs
1.5 cups milk (I blended about 1/4 cup heavy cream and the rest 2% milk)
1 T stone ground mustard
1 t Herbes de Provence
1/8 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Spray a pie plate with cooking spray, then coat the bottom with the breadcrumbs.
Slice the tomatoes thinly, remove seeds, a place on a plate. Add salt and pepper and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Then drain the water off the tomatoes and blot them dry. Lay the slices of cheese on top of the breadcrumbs, then layer the tomatoes. Sprinkle olives on top of cheese and tomatoes.
In a separate dish, mix milk, eggs, and mustard together. Pour the custard mixture into the pie plate. Sprinkle the Herbes de Provence and shredded Parmigiano Reggiano on top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, then let cool for 5 minutes or so. Serve with salad and crusty bread.

Ugly but delicious

This was really, really delicious. It could have been a little firmer, but I used a lower-fat milk and probably didn’t blot the tomatoes as well as I could have. “The olives add a deliciousness factor of 4,” my husband said. I’m not sure what that means, but they really did just put this delicious dish way over the top. So, so yummy.

Aloo gobi in the crockpot

This week has been hectic. Between trying to maintain what fragile traction I have on my fourth dissertation chapter, jumping “once more into the breach” of the Spring semester, and dealing with Week 2 of the toddler’s virus(es), I haven’t had much time for blogging (or exercise or knitting or reading or doing much other than staring slack-jawed at the TV after the kids go to bed). But I did want to share this recipe for Aloo gobi, which was on the menu this week for Meatless Monday.

I really love Indian food, but have had middling luck making it at home. A couple of years ago, I made a full Indian meal for some friends, including biryani, saag paneer, and kheer (plus premade samosas and naan). I roasted and ground the spices and refused to cut any corners in assembling the food. (Which is probably why I haven’t done such a stunt since.) A few months back, I made chicken tikka masala and it was pretty good. And a while back, I made palaak tofu in the crockpot and it was blandy bland blanderson. But yummy.

So, I approached this recipe with measured expectations, hoping it would be good, but fully cognizant of the fact that it may well be awful. Surprise! It wasn’t! The only problem was that I needed to either cook it longer or cut the potatoes smaller because they weren’t done after three hours. But the leftovers are delicious and next time I’ll add tofu for a bit of protein.

Crockpot Aloo Gobi
adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker

1 large cauliflower, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large Russet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 medium tomato, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (I used a garlic press)
1 largeish serrano (the original calls for 3-4 green Thai peppers or serranos, but I’ve got to mind the Scovilles with the small ones around.) (Not that they ate any of it.)
1 T cumin seeds
1 T red chili powder
1 T garam masala
1 T salt (I was so relieved to see this much salt in the recipe! I am so sick of underseasoned recipes!)
1 t turmeric powder
3 T canola oil (make sure you’re using non-GMO canola oil; I use Spectrum. I reckon if you’re anti-canola in general, you could use butter instead or regular old vegetable oil)

(The cookbook also calls for a heaping T of chopped cilantro, but I don’t know why you’d want to ruin your dish with that foul herb.)

Put all the ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on low for three hours (or more, if necessary). Stir occasionally. Don’t worry if the cauliflower seems crunchy; it will eventually soften and release liquid. (Here’s where you add cilantro, if you want to ruin your meal.) Serve with rice or naan, or if you’re me, both. Yay, carbs!

Menu plan: January 17-23

It’s cookbook week! I’ve decided to plan this week’s menu from my cookbook archives, especially since I have some that I’ve barely used! However, tragedy has struck! I just got back from this week’s shop (done a day late because I was out of town) and left my menu plan at the grocery store. D’oh! So, I’m cobbling this together from memory.

Monday: Meatless night! Aloo gobi from my new copy of The Indian Slow Cooker, a Christmas gift from my brother and sister-in-law.

Tuesday: Tilapia fish tacos, beans, salad

Wednesday: leftovers/fend for yourself

Thursday: Quiche Savoyarde a la Tomme from Joan Nathan’s Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous, which was sent to me via the inimitable Jodi Bart. I tragically missed out on the opportunity to see Ms. Nathan at the Jewish Book Festival back in October because of my stupid email filters. I’m still kicking myself over it. Salad and crusty bread.

Friday: Soup and sandwiches. I’ve got a ton of soup in the freezer from a soup swap I attended back in December. Probably veggie minestrone for the kids and a curried groundnut for me and Matt. Also, Matt bought a new panini press at the Macy’s closing sale down the street, so we’ll probably give that a whirl.

Saturday: I just picked up some center-cut pork chops at the grocery, so we’ll have those along with some couscous and maybe some salad or veggies from the farmer’s market.

Sunday: Roasted chicken with potatoes and onions from The Lee Bros. Simple, Fresh, Southern, which Matt gave to me last Christmas. I’ve not cooked much from it apart from the pimiento and cheese gratin, but I’ve got my eye on the radish butter to take to my friend’s Super Bowl party. (Because nothing says SUPER BOWL like radish butter!)

(Pausing to say here: You may be scoffing at the idea of radish butter, but I say that you have not lived until you’ve had a thick piece of multigrain bread with a generous shmear of good butter and sliced radishes. HEAVENLY.)

There you have it! What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Chocolate Pirate’s Booty

So, the other day I was browsing the Whole Story blog, looking for school-lunch ideas, when I came upon this post. Not only did the Naanwiches catch my eye, but so did the “exclusive to Whole Foods” Chocolate Pirate’s Booty. So, when I went to the Flagship store this afternoon to take advantage of the $4.99/pound tilapia sale, I went on the hunt for the Chocolate Booty (uh, that’s the last time I’ll call it that). While they had a pretty good sale on regular Pirate’s Booty (2/$7), there was no chocolate to be found. So, after scouring the store, I went to the customer service desk and asked about it. They had no idea what I was talking about.

So, those nice ladies called “DOWNSTAIRS” and talked to a guy who reported that he had one box of it that he had just opened and hadn’t even had a chance to sample. They also reported that he’d be happy to sample out a bag to me, so after I waited a few minutes, munching on grapefruit samples, I got a free bag of chocolate Pirate’s Booty! SCORE. “It’s weird, but good,” the dude reported.

Being me, I opened the bag in the car before I even got out of the parking garage. He was right, it was weird, but tasty. It has the same texture as other Booties (*snerk*), but the chocolate dusting (which is quite heavy in parts) is maybe more subtle than I expected. It’s a pleasant, very light chocolate fix and the weirdness wears off pretty quickly.

The kids also really liked it, and I think it’ll make for a nice afternoon snack or lunchbox treat every now and again.

White chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies with candied orange peel

(“…and bacon and lobster and broccoli and cheese,” jokes my husband upon hearing the cumbersome, ingredient-heavy title of these cookies. Perhaps there’s a more graceful name for them?)

Back in December, I went to the inaugural ATXswappers event and really, really enjoyed it. In addition to taking home some AMAZING food, I met (and got to reconnect with) some really talented people.

Among the tasty goodies I brought home was a baggie of candied orange peels made by Addie. They’ve kind of been languishing in my kitchen-counter fruit bowl (currently stocked with a belt of lemons destined to be lemon curd for the next swap!) because I didn’t really know what to do with them.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought the ingredients for some white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies and after giving it some thought, figured, why not put some of that orange peel in the cookies? Who doesn’t love the pairing of cranberry and orange? Then I sort of tossed around different ways to deal with the white chocolate — make a ganache and glaze the cookies with it? Make a ganache and swirl it in the batter? Ultimately, I decided to just put the chips in with the batter per the recipe, mostly because I’m lazy and sick to death of washing dishes.

So, to make a short story even longer, I minced up a few pieces of the candied peel and put about two tablespoons of it into the batter; that was the perfect amount, as any more would have overwhelmed the cookie and any less wouldn’t have shown up in the flavor profile. Let me tell you, these cookies are AMAZING. Seriously, send help. I ate three before I could even help myself, and so did Matt (“They taste like they’re good for me, but they’re also really good.” I then informed him that the recipe called for a stick and a half of butter. “That must be the good-for-me part that I’m tasting,” he replied.) I considered sending the remainder (about two dozen) to work with him today, but they already got 2/3 of the Almond Joy Tart (“should be illegal,” was some of the feedback) this week and I am greedy. But I’ve also lost 13 pounds in the past four months and I’d like to keep that going.

So. A box of really delicious (and fattening, despite the presence of oatmeal) cookies needs a home, preferably not in my belleh. *cue sad music*

The cookie version of puppy-dog eyes.

Seriously, though, I’m really looking forward to the next swap on Jan 31. Not only might I find the next ingredient that can make an otherwise-mundane recipe pop, but I am super excited about the potential for this budding community of bright, creative folks who are passionate about good food and even better company.

Menu plan: Jan 10-16

VEGGIES. You know you want 'em.

Another week, another attempt to get this family on the road to eating lots and lots of whole foods with an emphasis on veggies!

Monday: chicken, artichoke, and pepperjack sausage; whole wheat gemelli with sauce; steamed sugar snap peas.
Tuesday: broccoli/tofu stirfry and rice
Wednesday: leftovers (including Sunday’s turkey-spinach lasagna; that post has it scheduled for Saturday, but the poached fish was a disaster, which foiled my leftovers plans and bumped the lasagna back to Sunday. Saturday was a ready-made meal from Whole Foods.)
Thursday: Chicken Divan and salad
Friday: Soup and sandwiches (so much soup in the freezer!)
Saturday: out of town with the kids while Matt stays back and works (stupid Lege)
Sunday: dinner out?