So I’m just about there. Tonight I’m hoping to make that shrimp (before I caught my train this morning, I transferred a bag of Trader Joe’s wild blues to the fridge to thaw) and on Saturday we hope to tackle the taco pizza of college memories, but otherwise, I feel pretty good about what has come from the Seven Days, Seven Meals Challenge. As you know, the Orecchiette with Peas and Ham went over great. Well, great when you consider that one minor diner at the table thoroughly dislikes pasta. (So I ended up turning the ham part of the meal into a sandwich with mustard, then a side of peas); Those Freezer Lamb Meatballs were stuffed into pita sandwiches with yogurt, pomegranate seeds, mint, and feta which was a huge hit. Well, for three of us, at least. (Abby who likes to say she’s “not a sandwich girl,” just had the meatballs with some yogurt dipping sauce…and ketchup.) The Thai Chicken Curry, which I made with red curry paste instead of yellow, worked just fine — and I loved the addition of all the extra vegetables — but, in the words of my husband, “it wasn’t a whole lot different from our tried-and-true curry.” As for the Spicy Black Bean Burgers, I prepared them ahead of time (other than dragging out the food processor, they were super simple to assemble), then stashed them in the freezer for a fall-back dinner. But they just sat there. I was too afraid of debuting them at dinner, too afraid of a strike-out. (I made the mistake of asking the girls every day “Do you want to have those black bean burgers tonight?” Never involve them in these decisions! Never!) The burgers finally made there way to the table when I came home from work late and everyone else had already eaten. Mine was waiting for me with a salad. “Oh my God, you guys had the burgers,” I said to Andy. “Did the girls like them?” His response sounded familiar. One kid declared it the best black bean dinner she’d ever had. The other…had shrimp shumai from the freezer.
What can I say? When it comes to family dinner, 3 out of 4 counts as a victory.
I don’t even want to discuss the pomegranate-glazed chicken thighs I’ve been envisioning for a while now. (I so wanted to deliver a post called “Two-Ingredient Dinner!”) I totally bungled them — they were dry, slightly burned, and needed more than just a simple brush of molasses, so I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
But the STROMBOLI! It was such a roaring success that we gave the recipe its own post, just in time for Super Bowl Snack planning.
So all told? I’d say I’m about 2 for 7. One home run, one keeper. What about you guys? Give me the report.
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Tags:seven days seven meals
I guess it’s not breaking news that pasta dinners are faster than most, but because I tend to plan around the pasta-hater in my house, I don’t get to make these kinds of dishes as often as I’d like. And when I do, and they turn out as deliciously as this Orecchiette with Peas and Country Ham (Meal #2 of 7 in my Seven Days, Seven Dinners challenge), I am reminded why I keep trying to fight the good pasta fight. I love Orecchiette here because it scoops up the peas and ham without requiring too much concentrating. (Have you ever tried to have spaghetti with peas? By the time I’m done with dinner and all that twirling and scooping and balancing, my brain hurts.) We used some crazy mail-order country ham (more on that later), but any old ham or pancetta would be fine. Whatever works nicely on sandwich bread for lunch the next day — or in our case, whatever works nicely on sandwich bread for the diner not enjoying the real dinner at the table.
Orecchiette with Peas and Country Ham
1 pound of orecchiette
handful frozen peas to taste
salt and pepper
shake or two of red pepper flakes
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 or 3 slices of Country Ham (or ham or a handful of pancetta pieces)
1/2 cup Parmsean, plus extra for serving
2 pats butter
handful freshly chopped mint or parsley
Cook pasta according to package directions. When it has one more minute of cooking, toss frozen peas into the water with the pasta. Reserve about 1/4 cup of pasta water then drain in a colander, drizzling a little olive oil into pasta to prevent sticking. Return pot to the stove and over medium heat, add a few glugs of olive oil, onions, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook about a minute, stirring. Add ham and cook until slightly crisp. Add pasta and peas to the pot and stir everything to combine. Add cheese and butter and a drizzle of reserved pasta water to make the cheese distribute evenly. Serve in bowls with more cheese and herbs.
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Tags:easy pasta dinners·seven days seven meals
So how’s everyone doing with Seven Days Seven Meals? I had to go out last night after work, so I’m starting with Operation New Dinners tonight. Well, if we’re going to be technical about it, I actually started on Sunday when I made a batch of lamb meatballs for the freezer. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me knowing these are waiting for us to devour on Thursday, when soccer is going to end late, and dinner is going to have to happen fast. Like 15 minutes fast. I’m not sure what meal will be built around them, but below I have a few options.
Keep me posted on your progress, too. Please share your triumphs with us, and remember: Catastrophes are always good for a laugh.
Freezer Lamb-balls with Two Options
Makes 16 meatballs
1 pound ground lamb
1 egg, whisked
not quite 1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
zest from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoon minced onions
1 large garlic clove, minced
What I did Sunday: Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients thoroughly but gently, and form into small balls as shown above. Bake on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, then freeze in Ziploc. Total time sacrificed for the betterment of my weeknight self? About 15 minutes hands-on, 35 minutes total.
What I’ll probably do on Thursday: Make Lamb Pita Sandwiches. Place frozen meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes at 400°F. While they are baking, I’ll wrap whole wheat pitas in foil and heat them in the same oven for the last 10 minutes of meatball baking. I’ll also prepare sandwich toppings: pomegranate seeds, chopped fresh mint, feta, something green (cucumbers or shredded raw kale), plain yogurt mixed with lemon and a little cumin and salt. When meatballs are cooked, I’ll throw three or four into each pita along with assorted toppings as deemed acceptable by children.
What I could also do: Make Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Dip. Place frozen meatballs on a cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes at 400°F. While they are baking, I’ll mix plain yogurt with a squeeze of lemon, salt, a dash of cumin. I’ll serve lamb balls with yogurt dip (or ketchup if necessary) and some kind of salad with kale, feta, and pomegranate seeds — all of which I have in the fridge from my Sunday shop.
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Tags:cooking from freezer·freezer meatballs·lamb·lamb meatballs·seven days seven meals
Isn’t it amazing how freaking hard it is to change a bad habit? I’m sure you know what I mean, as you sit there on Day 3 of your “No Junk!” New Year’s Resolution physically aching to polish off what’s left of your daughters’ French fries. If you read our resolutions post yesterday, you know that not only every year, but every month I come up with some cockamamie scheme to force myself to drink more water (buying fun bottles, spiking my water with lime, cayenne, or ginger, calling it “tonic”) but before long am back to convincing myself that the ice in my vodka tonic totally counts towards that Magic Eight Cups a Day. If this annual behavior is not exactly a testament to willpower, I like to think it’s at least a testament to optimism.
I am not completely hopeless, though. A few years ago, when, stuck in a pizza-pasta-chicken-nugget dinner rut, I vowed to expand our dinner repertoire, reignite my love of cooking in spite of young kids who didn’t always love my cooking, and make something new every night for 30 Days straight — new to the kids, new to me, new to Andy. Book readers have already heard the details and recipes from this challenge, but I can’t endorse the strategy enough — especially to people who are looking to kickstart a Family Dinner ritual in 2013 or to people who are just interested in busting out of a culinary rut. Not only did this little experiment introduce us to new dinners, it got the kids used to approaching the table with a sense of adventure, and forced us to really get back in the habit of mapping out our meals in the beginning of the week. It should also be noted that I give this experiment 100% credit for laying the groundwork for the whole Dinner: A Love Story enterprise.
In this spirit, I’d like to launch a mini sequel to “30 Days, 30 Meals” called “7 Days, 7 Meals.” Beginning the week of Sunday, January 6, every recipe we make in the DALS house is going to be brand new. Because I’m older than I was back then, and because I want you guys to do this with me, I am going to be flexible on doing it seven days in a row. Let’s give ourselves fourteen days to make seven new things. Does that sound manageable to everyone?
I’m going to start with a list of recipes that have been earmarked as doable and DALSian, and that I’ve been meaning to make for a while. Please add recipes ideas to the bottom of this post with suggestions (links, cookbook pages, your quickest go-to weeknight recipe, other blogger’s go-tos, whatever!) and we’ll all keep each other posted on our progress either through comments below or on facebook. The goal here is easy weeknight cooking, so try to keep your suggestions simple and accessible. (Acceptable: 4-ingredient Sweet and Spicy Shrimp; Unacceptable: This.) I’ll summarize what looks good (and show you my own shopping list), then we’ll all hit the store with our collective family dinner plans and stock up on what we need to make it happen.
Some recipe ideas I’ve been kicking around (besides that shrimp):
-A replication of the Salmon Teriyaki platter the girls devour at our local Japanese place (including those sweet chunky carrots cut on the bias)
-Some kind of new meatball recipe that can be baked and frozen and easily reheated on a weeknight
-Mediterranean Salad with a lemony-oregano dressing and pita toasts
-Pretty much anything pictured here (but most likely the tofu tacos)
-Chicken “Carmesan,” which I think is chicken with caramelized onions and maybe cheese, but you’d have to ask Abby because the whole recipe (down to the name) is her vision
-Something with chicken and that bottle of pomegranate molasses I was told would change my life. Maybe two things if I’m going to justify the purchase.
-That crazy “taco pizza” at Antonio’s, that was about as good as things got at 2AM after a college bender
-Orrechiette with Country Ham and Peas (For my pasta hater: Country Ham Sandwich with a side of peas)
Whaddaya say…Are you with me or against me?
Update: Here’s the five-step plan to get you started.
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Tags:how to bust a cooking rut·how to have family dinner·seven days seven meals