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Meal Planning!

22 Jul

I really like to cook and I love to bake but sometimes dinner is hard. You know, when you’re driving home from work thinking “What am I going to make for dinner?” and the easiest thing is just stop off and pick something up. I never seem to have the groceries I want on hand or the energy to even make a decision about what I want. Last January one of my New Year’s goals was to start planning my meals and it made a huge difference. For about two weeks. I knew what I was going to have for dinner that week, went grocery shopping ahead of time, everything was perfect. Except for the meal planning part. When I sat down on Saturday morning I could never think of what meals I wanted and ended up rotating through the same seven or so.

Well, I’m trying something new this year. Totally inspired by Decor and the Dog’s Meal Planning Tips I made a list of 30 meals – things I’ve served for beer dinners, tried and true family favorites, a few randoms like breakfast for dinner and grilled cheese and tomato soup. Then, I made magnets that listed each of my 30 options. (I also included a “Dinner Out” and “Try a New Recipe” magnets to mix things up.)

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Next, I wrote each recipe out on an individual card, listing the perishable vs. non-perishable ingredients separately. Each recipe got it’s own number, too, on both the magnet and card. That way, I can easily look up the ingredients for each meal and make a grocery list.

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The idea is that the 30 magnets will go into my cute retro flower jar and on Saturday morning I can pull out 4-6 meals (depending on what the upcoming week looks like) and voila! meal planning done!

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I made a frame to contain my magnets on the fridge. I like Decor and the Dog’s suggestion of not assigning a particular meal to a particular night so there’s flexibility. Next up, a trip to Costco to stock up on some of the non-perishables!

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Meals I included:

  1. Vegetarian Chili
  2. Tortilla Soup
  3. Black Bean Sliders
  4. Lentil Soup
  5. Potato Soup
  6. Mini Tamale Pie
  7. Shrimp Creole
  8. Taco Casserole
  9. Spinach Manicotti
  10. Veggie Pasta Bake
  11. Fried Rice
  12. Enchiladas
  13. Lasagna
  14. Baked Macaroni & Cheese
  15. Stuffed Potatoes
  16. Stuffed Bell Peppers
  17. Quiche
  18. Potato Galette
  19. Baked Veggies & Rice
  20. Southwestern Egg Rolls
  21. Quinoa Patties
  22. Pizza
  23. Spaghetti or Ravioli
  24. New!
  25. Dinner out!
  26. Grilled cheese & tomato soup
  27. Breakfast for dinner
  28. Black Bean Empanadas
  29. Spaghetti Squash Casserole
  30. Shrimp Fettuccine & Asparagus
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Spring Potato Galette

16 Jun

Spring potato galette…or at least it was spring when I started cooking! Clearly, I have a lot of catching up to do!

Today was the first official day of summer. After a long but pretty wonderful year of teaching I’m ready for a bit of a break. Even though I start my summer job in just a week, I’m officially taking advantage of the longer, lazier days. Today I went to my first baseball game of the season (Go Sacramento RiverCats!) and lounged by the pool.

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I love summer break but sometimes August rolls around and it seems I’ve accomplished nothing. So I made a list this year and am hoping to slowly check things off. I need to organize my garage (always!) and make a beer bottle wind chime. There are too many books to read and a few lessons to revise, too. Some knitting and sewing project to start, and a few to finally finish. Plus cooking. Cooking and baking of course.

This recipe I think I have down. I found the recipe for the potato galette from Joy the Baker (she’s the best – have you gotten her cookbooks yet? Me either but I want them!) and severed it at my May beer dinner. Like Joy said, it’s the perfect comfort food. And also may have contributed to why last year’s bathing suit was a little tighter this season…

You start with potatoes and chives.

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I got to use my mandolin again to slice the potatoes before roasting.

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Next, toss the potato slices with olive oil and spices. Joy uses Old Bay but I have a giant bottle of Johnny’s Seasoning that gets used about once a year to make Chex mix at Christmas…

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Then, you lay the potato slices out to roast.

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Meanwhile, you can make the pie crust. I went ahead and used the tried and true Perfect Pie Crust Recipe. Divided up nicely, the recipe makes enough for eight smaller galettes.

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If you have any potatoes left after snacking, it’s time to layer them with cheese and chives.

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The chives are so pretty. I currently have some growing in my garden. Hopefully mine will survive my not-so-green thumb!

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Finally you fold the pie crust over the edges a bit and bake!

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The galettes came out a little crisp, totally rich, and wonderfully delicious. I served my with a salad and an IPA.

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Joy the Baker’s Roasted Potato Galette

Everything you’ll need: (I included measurements but didn’t really measure when I put mine together)

  • Your favorite pie crust recipe
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil to coat
  • 1-2 teaspoons seasoning (Johnny’s or Old Bay)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 large, beat egg to coat the crust

Directions:

  1. Peel the potatoes and slice thinly. Coat the potato slices with olive oil and liberally season.
  2. Lay the potato slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.
  3. Roll out a small pie crust (I used 1/8 of the Perfect Pie Crust recipe) and add a layer of potatoes in the center. Add cheese and chives.
  4. Add a second layer of potatoes, cheese, and chives.
  5. Fold the edges of the pie crust over the potatoes and brush with the egg.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden and the cheese is melty!

*As Joy suggested, I assembled my galette directly on the sheet I was going to bake it on since it would be tricky to transfer.

 

Stuffed (with good tidings) Potatoes

19 Mar

I’m feeling full of love and good tidings. Something about putting my body to work, being amongst the green and growing, cooking good food. Because that’s what I did this afternoon. I ran out of work early today and made the afternoon about things I wanted to do. There never seems to be enough time to do that and so often I start conversations with friends and colleagues about how tired we are, how busy, how stressed. So today was all spring and good tidings.

After work I went to the pool to swim laps (and by swim laps I mean flail around a bit and stop to catch my breath every four lengths…) and then headed to the grocery store. I’ve reached my limit of cheese and cracker lunches so I had to get something. Walking by the deli case I was inspired by the twice baked potatoes and decided to make my own for dinner (and lunch tomorrow!)

I’ve made these any number of times before and tend to go long stretches forgetting about them. The recipe is originally from a Weight Watchers cookbook but I don’t really measure much now – just throw things in until they taste good. Mix in whatever you want!

Start, of course, by baking up some potatoes. I pulled weeds while they cooked. You can almost see my backyard again. Seriously, there were (still are) a lot of weeds.

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While the potatoes are finishing up chop and saute onion, broccoli, and carrots.

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Next, scoop out the insides of the potatoes and mash with a little butter, milk, and salt and pepper.

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Be careful not to burn your fingers while scooping. I’ve made that mistake before. More than once.

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Mix some cottage cheese and a little shredded cheese into the mashed potatoes and add the veggies.

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Scoop the potato-veggie mix back into the potato skins, sprinkle with a bit of cheese, then bake.

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And that’s it! The cooking time is long but the recipe is simple.

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I’m playing with the idea of serving these at the next beer dinner. My thought was to make April’s beer dinner iPAlooza (get it!? IPA-palooza! All IPAs!) so I paired tonight’s dinner with the KBC IPA. The beer was good. The pairing just OK. Suggestions?

Happy Spring and good tidings! I hope you take a moment in your day that’s just for you!

Stuffed Potatoes

Everything You’ll Need

  • 2 large russet potatoes
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Head of broccoli
  • Other veggies if you want!
  • About 4 ounces of cottage cheese
  • About 1/2 cup shredded cheese, divided
  • Little bit of milk
  • Little bit of butter

Instructions

  1. Cook potatoes at 375 degrees for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until tender.
  2. Chop the onion, carrot, and broccoli and saute in olive oil until tender. Add spices if you want! Like garlic powder!
  3. When the potatoes are done, carefully cut them in half and scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin in tact.
  4. Mash the potatoes with a little bit of milk and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add the cottage cheese and half the shredded cheese to the potatoes and fold in. Then, add the veggies.
  6. Scoop the potato-veggie mix into the potato skins and sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese on top.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees about 15 minutes until heated through.

Caprese Polenta Stacks

15 Nov

Life has been busy. I don’t think I realized when I started this blog (almost a year ago, gasp!) just how bored I was with my life and work. I mean, I knew I wasn’t 100% satisfied sitting in an office for more than half of my days but I was looking for an outlet. Now that I’ve been back to teaching full time for three months I realize how totally exhausting it is, but also how completely engaging. Thus, my painfully, painfully behind posts.

Now that it’s November a post about an amazingly fresh, summery caprese salad is a bit out of date but it was so yummy that I wanted to share. Plus I’m getting just enough distance from the 100 degree days that I’m missing summer a bit. I was inspired by Melissa at madeinmelskitchen.com.

Start by slicing up a polenta log. Sprinkle each slice with garlic powder, salt, and pepper and then cook in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Next, flip and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side. For some extra deliciousness you next sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on one side, flip, cook for a bit, then flip and melt the cheese on the other side. With this alone I would be satisfied!

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I let the polenta cool then stacked them with alternating slices of farmers market tomatoes and mozzarella.

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Top with basil and a balsamic vinegar reduction (thanks Trader Joe’s!) and serve. Super easy and you look like an amazing and talented cook!

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Black Bean Sliders

30 Jul

It’s been a month. Again. And I don’t really have much of an excuse. Except that I’ve been living in a dorm building. Yes, almost 30 and spending six-weeks of the summer supervising high school kids, sleeping in a twin-sized bed, and eating meals cooked in an industrial kitchen. I’m ready for messy kitchen, dirty dishes, and beer, sweet beer.

In the meantime, I thought I’d finally get around to sharing the recipe for the most deliciously cute black bean sliders I made for my June Beer Dinner. Mini foods hold a great appeal for me; it’s almost like you can trick yourself into believing  it’s OK to eat more because they’re small. And that’s where I get in trouble with those damn mini candy bars…

You start with some garlic. See my new garlic peeler! I love it!

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Cook it up in some oil with a little onion (of course).

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Then, you mash the patootie out of the black beans. I used a potato masher the first time I made these and then just used the KitchenAide the next. Both worked pretty well but the finer mashed ones were easier to shape into patties.

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Next, add some stuff to beef it up – sautéed garlic and onion, corn, spinach, red pepper, spices, delish, plus  Panko bread crumbs.

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I also ended up adding an egg to get things to hold together better.

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Pan fry in a bit of oil.

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Finally, serve ’em up how you like them! For the beer dinner I prepared everything ahead of time and then warmed them back up in the oven and melted a piece of cheese on top; instead of avocado I served a spicy guacamole.

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The sliders paired really nicely with an IPA. The first taste test I went with Coronado Brewing Company’s Idiot IPA. Coronado has a lot of beer being distributed right now in the Sacramento area and I’m excited to try a few more of theirs. For the beer dinner I went with Goose Islands IPA. Both beers I tried for the first time at the Capital Beerfest.

Black Bean Sliders from The Curvy Carrot

Everything you’ll need:

  • 3 gloves of garlic (or more, you know)
  • Small yellow onion, chopped
  • Two, 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • Egg (optional)
  • Fixings: cheese tomato, onion, etc.

Directions:

  1. Begin by sautéing the garlic (3 gloves) and onion in oil until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. In a bowl, mash the black beans until soft.
  3. Add the corn (1/2 c.), bell pepper (1/2 c.), spinach (1/4 c.), soy sauce (1 T), cumin (2 t), and cayenne pepper (and any other spices you’d like) until combined.
  4. Add Panko bread crumbs (2/3 c.) and egg (optional) until the mixture comes together and will form a patty.
  5. Form patties and allow to chill 10-15 minutes.
  6. Cook patties in olive oil over medium heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.

Mini Tamale Pies

11 Mar

I drove home tonight feeling a little stressed and really tired. I had worked two of my three part-time jobs. There are some changes brewing in my life that have me a bit on edge. I didn’t sleep well last night. And when I got home I thought “I really want to cook something.” Now food is usually a go-to comfort for me. I eat my feelings. But this was different – it wasn’t the idea of eating that I associated with stress relief but the act of cooking. I wanted to be in my kitchen with NPR on the radio, chopping some vegetables. This is a new, and welcome, Zen-ness.

After some Pinterest board perusing I settled on this recipe for Mini Tamale Pies – a little bit of chopping, relatively quick, and something I could put sour cream on. I mean, hey, even if I didn’t need to eat my feelings tonight, sour cream is a good accompaniment!

Start with the chopping – a little green onion and garlic.

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While the onion and garlic are sautéing, drain and rinse the beans. Have I mentioned yet that I love pinto beans? I always forget about them but they are soooo good!

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Mix those beans in with the onion and garlic. Someday I’ll really get on my A-game, stop using canned beans, and cook my own. (Tonight just wasn’t that night.)

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Add most of a can of diced tomatoes. When I make this again I’ll probably just use chopped fresh tomatoes. Less sodium and more chopping Zen.

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After you bring the mixture to a boil you’re suppose to mash it a bit and let it simmer until thickened.

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While the topping is thickening you can play with the polenta! The one time I tried to making polenta myself it was a disaster so I went with the prepared this time. The package said “Some water separation is normal.” What the package didn’t say was that the damn thing would squirt water out when you tried to cut it open!

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The squirt gun action aside, I was satisfied with my polenta experience. I cut some slices and laid them down in greased ramekins.

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After the topping thickens you spoon it over the polenta.

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Then layer on the cheese (more feelings!) and add some green onions.

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20 minutes later corn-cheese-bean delish comes out of the oven ready to eat with some chips and sour cream!

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I was a little surprised with how much the mixture shrunk down so next time I may just prepare four ramekins instead of six. But now I have plenty of leftovers and some to try and freeze, too!

IMG_7994I paired my meal with Karl Strauss Blackball Belgian IPA. I first tried this beer during Sacramento Beer Week and was considering it for my April beer dinner but I think I’ll look for another beer to go with my empanadas. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the beer, but the Belgian-ness doesn’t really go with the spices. Too bad, I guess I’ll just have to try a few more beers!

 

Mini Tamale Pies

Everything you’ll need:

  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced, green & white parts separated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, or equivalent amount of chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Half a tube of polenta (roughly 8 ounces of a 16 ounce tube), sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco (I skipped and just added other spices)
  • 3/4 cup cheese
  • Toppings according to your feelings!

Directions:

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in oil over medium heat, with salt and pepper to taste, for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the pinto and black beans, plus about 3/4 can of tomatoes and 1/4 cup water.
  3. Stir the mixture and bring to a boil.
  4. Mash some of the mixture, reduce heat, and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  5. While the mixture reduces, cut slices of polenta and place in the bottom of greased ramekins.
  6. Remove the bean mixture from the heat and season to heat.
  7. Layer the mixture over the polenta, add some cheese and green onion.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Southwestern Egg Rolls

9 Mar

When I was a child and we went out to dinner my mom use to take a napkin and somehow rolled and folded it into two little “babies in a blanket.” It was a good trick – I spent a good amount of the pre-eating waiting time rocking those cloth children back and forth. Making these Southwest Egg Rolls reminded me of that, just with a more satisfying crunch!

I’ve never made egg rolls or worked with egg roll wrappers so I was pleasantly surprised with how easy they were to make. Basically you mix a bunch of stuff together, wrap ’em up, and bake away!

First, start with some cheese and chives.

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Next, add some spinach. The original recipe calls for frozen spinach but I was too impatient to wait for it to thaw so I cut up some fresh spinach I had in the fridge. Plus, fresh is just better than frozen. (Please excuse the photo quality – I’m back to my little point-and-shoot.)

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Throw in some diced chilies and beans. I went with pinto instead of black to mix it up a bit.

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Add some corn, too, and mix it, mix it up.

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So that’s it for the “cooking” part. Now you’ve got to roll ’em. Roll ’em up.

Start with an egg roll wrapper.

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Plop about 1/4 cup of filling near the center.

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Start rolling about half way, then fold the two edges to the middle, finish rolling. Finally, seal the little corner by dipping you finger in some water and brushing it over the corner.

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Wrap up a bunch and you’re ready to bake.

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I baked about half the rolls I made and then laid out the others to freeze. (They reheated pretty awesomely.) Also, I had a good cup of filling left, since there were only 20 wrappers in the package I bought.

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I decided to pair the rolls with the Scuttlebutt Gale Force IPA. It was a good, mild IPA. I liked the flavor but it was super carbonated. I wondered if it was just my bottle, or it was just characteristic of this beer. And let’s be honest. I picked the beer out for the name. Scuttlebutt!

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Southwestern Egg Rolls

I found the original recipe here at Annie’s Eats. I’m putting in the measurements from the original recipe but I didn’t really measure when I put the mixture together – fudging it a little works.

Everything you’ll need:

  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black or pinto beans rinsed and drained
  • Chopped spinach (either 10 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed or rough estimate of chopped fresh spinach)
  • 1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies drained
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I omitted b/c in the comments of the original recipe someone said the diced green chilies added a lot of salt already)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 package egg roll wrappers (about 24 total)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine everything but the egg rolls and mix well.
  2. Lay an egg roll wrapper out with the corner pointing to you and place 1/4 cup of mixture in the center.
  3. Fold the tip close to you over the mixture, roll a little, then fold the corners in. Continue rolling and seal the final corner with a little bit of water.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees until lightly brown.