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The week in suppers: festive edition

Christmas dinner
**Monday’s menu: Cranberry-bean soup. Fried rice with kale.
**Because: The crandberry beans got very mushy in the pot and looked just like bean soup. I added carrots, roasted red peppers, fresh thyme, and pepper, and called it Little House on the Prairie Soup. (In those books, Ma always makes the best bean soups.)
**The reviews: Fair to middling. Who wouldn’t love Ma’s bean soup? Apparently several of my children wouldn’t. Maybe Ma’s wasn’t so peppery. (Honestly, it’s brothy, rich, and delicious.)

**Tuesday’s menu: Dahl. Paneer with tatsoi. Baked rice.
**Because: “Paneer” was requested as a special holiday meal, but I had some in the fridge all ready to go. Made it an Indian theme overall.
**What is tatsoi? I don’t know, but it looks a bit like baby spinach. It cooks up less delicate and more spicy than spinach, but it’s locally grown and worked as a good green addition to the meal.

**Wednesday’s menu: Black bean chili (crockpot). Leftover rice. Cornbread.
**Because: I love my crockpot. This entire meal comes from my freezer and/or cupboard and/or cold cellar. I am digging into the stores and making sure I use up every bit before springtime. That’s what it’s for! (Yes, I need reminding.)

**Thursday’s menu: Soups (leftovers). Biscuits. Cabbage salad with tahini dressing.
**It-was-a-nice-thought: We ate by candlelight to celebrate the solstice. It looked perfect and beautiful for a moment, and then everything went rapidly downhill. Cranky children, complaints, “it’s too dark to see my food,” and bingo, the romantic plan crumbled.
**Quantities: I doubled the biscuit recipe, and had way too many leftovers. Never good to come out of a “leftovers” meal with more leftovers than you started with.
**On repetition: I made the tahini dressing because once I find something I like, I make it until we’re all bored of it. This is also known as “getting into a rut.” But it was still really good the second time around. I added grated carrots and rutabaga to the cabbage. Yum.

**Friday’s menu: Devised, prepared, and served by someone else (my dad and my step-mother). Hurray! Happy holidays!

**Saturday’s menu: Christmas eve at brother and sister-in-law’s house, potluck-style. Meats, cheeses, crackers, olives, paella, cookies, smoked salmon, etc. etc. etc. until we’ve nibbled ourselves into a pleasant food coma.

**Sunday’s menu: Eighteen pound turkey. Classic bread stuffing. Brussel sprouts. Mashed potatoes. Pan gravy. Pumpkin pie. (pictured above)
**Forgot: To cook up the cranberries.
**Achievement: Totally dairy-free meal.

Christmas shopping: Is there a lesson in here somewhere?

“Is there a lesson in here somewhere?” I asked the general cacophony yesterday evening. “Are we really teaching you anything about being generous or being giving or how to think of other people? What is this all about?”

You guessed it. We were about to go Christmas shopping. For the past few years we’ve let the kids choose small gifts for each other, though CJ has been too small to really participate. Turns out, he’s still too small. We have a favourite store we go to that the kids call “The Castle Store.” It used to be oriented toward gamers–Dungeons and Dragons figurines and whatnot, but it’s expanded successfully into board games, crafts, puzzles, Lego, Star Wars figures, and some other toys. Walls of puzzles. I love this place. So does CJ, but he really couldn’t think of anyone but himself. Nor could he think past the present moment to Christmas morning.

I want what I want and I want it right now! could have been his motto.

But that was at the store. Back at home, as I attempted to prepare for our shopping venture, there was covetous CJ, but there was also Fooey, recovering from pneumonia, well enough to head back to school, but pretty much pooched by 4pm, and in a generally surly and screamy state, perhaps a sign of improving health, or a sign of being spoiled by a week at home watching movies and being catered to by her loving mother, but really, who cares why? It’s virtually intolerable. The bossy-Fooey-screams send AppleApple into fits of indignant rage, while Albus’s response is to poke rational holes into her (il)logic. Helpful.

Toss in the much-anticipated trip to The Castle Store, and our after-school scenario yesterday resembled nothing more than a miniature civil war battlefield. I remained the voice of calm, but you know, no one’s listening to the voice of calm in the middle of a bloody battle.

Which brought me around to my rhetorical question: “What is this teaching you guys?” Okay, not so rhetorical because I really didn’t know the answer. Still don’t. I was about to give up when Kevin called and said he could come along too (this was planned as a me-and-the-kids outing; short-sighted planning right there). With another parent along, we were able to manage. Plus, aside from CJ wanting everything right now, the other kids turned angelic in the Castle Store aisles as they thought about their siblings, consulted their siblings, and secretly made choices.

So what’s the lesson here? I really really really don’t know. At various points in the venture I would have said it was:
*Don’t take your three-year-old Christmas shopping! (And really, if you have the option, just don’t.)
*Don’t go Christmas shopping, period!
*Materialism sucks!
*And: Can’t we shove the toothpaste back into the tube and everyone will just get a nice big orange in their stocking and that will be plenty?!
But I guess I came around to this:
*Give your older children the opportunity to choose thoughtful gifts for each other. They might surprise you.

The week in suppers

**Monday’s menu: Tandoori vegetable soup. Baked fish. Rice.
**Inspiration: This recipe in Saturday’s Globe and Mail. Except I used my own mixture of spices, threw it in the crockpot, and skipped the shrimp. I suspect the recipe would also make an excellent base for a fish stew, but my kids prefer their food options separate, so I baked the fish separately.

**Tuesday’s menu: Beans and rice and tortillas.
**Because: Easy and good.
**Totally lacking: A vegatable. Oops.

**Wednesday’s menu: Saag paneer. Baked potatoes.
**Because: Discovered a bag of russet potatoes in the cupboard. And a package of paneer. And some spinach! And threw them all together into one fantabulous meal.

**Thursday’s menu: Black bean chili in the crockpot. Cornbread (pictured above). Leftover rice. Retro-cabbage salad with broccoli and carrots.
**Because: Leftover beans + new vegetarian crockpot cookbook + slug of balsamic vinegar = really fabulous chili.
**Reviews: “I’ll take the cornbread in my lunch tomorrow, Mom.”
**Note to self: It might be time to double the batch of cornbread from an 8×8 pan to a 9×13 pan.
**Note to reader: In many instances, including this one, “retro” actually means “mayonnaise.”

**Friday’s menu: Leek and potato soup in the crockpot. Steamed broccoli. Biscuits.
**Because: Feeding MIL who loves leek and potato soup. Also, accumulation of excess leeks in fridge. Suspect they may be producing offspring. Generations of leeks! In my fridge!
**Sigh: I may be lactose intolerant. The biscuits were light, fluffy, and loaded with butter, and my stomach was heavy and puffy. This has been happening every time I eat butter! Life without butter? Throw me a lifejacket.

**Weekend kitchen accomplishments: Nary a one. Such is life.

**Vegetarian confession: I am craving meat! I almost ordered ten pounds of hamburger from our local food buying club. Somehow stopped myself. But I can’t wait for the turkey I’ve promised “the children” for Christmas day. The guilt!

The week in suppers, with recipes!

**Monday’s menu: Baked fish. Baked squash. Gallo pinto.
**Inspiration: Fish to feed a guest who has yet to like anything I’ve made for her. Luckily, she liked the fish. Unluckily, her best friend AppleApple can’t stand fish. So for AppleApple, I made beans fried with rice, aka gallo pinto, which is the Nicaraguan term for this fast and easy leftover dish. Gallo pinto means painted rooster. Don’t ask me why.
Mini-recipe, Gallo Pinto: I start by frying onions and garlic in oil, adding a touch of cumin and coriander and salt. When the veggies are soft, I toss in the leftover cooked rice and break it up with a wooden spoon and get it all coated in oil. Last, I add the beans and some liquid, and heat, stirring often. Voila. Serve with tortilla chips, feta cheese, crema or sour cream or yogurt, and hot sauce.

**Tuesday’s menu. Dahl in the crockpot. Baked rice. Carrot bake.
**Inspiration: Carrots rotting in crisper. But this carrot bake was a retro-bust. It called for milk, eggs, margarine (yes, margarine) and bread crumbs. I should have known better. It tasted about as good as it sounds. Next time I’ll make a ginger-carrot soup.

**Wednesday’s menu: Chinese hot pot in the crockpot (say that five times fast.) Pad thai with fried tofu. (Pictured above.)
**Inspiration: Splurged on a new vegetarian crockpot cookbook.
**The verdict: Crockpots prove good for making a vegetarian broth. (But I still like chicken broth better. Wah.) The pad thai recipe adapted from my Joy of Cooking uses no ketchup and lots of fish sauce. It’s pretty legit.
Bonus recipe, No-Ketchup Pad Thai: Cook a package of rice noodles, drain, and set aside. Meanwhile, do your prep work. Chop green onions and 2 cloves of garlic and set aside. Chop a block of tofu into nice little squares (optional); if you want to get fancy, toss tofu with a mixture of 1 tsp cornstarch and 1 tsp sesame oil; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup fish sauce, the juice of one lemon, and 3 tbsp sugar. Beat three eggs in a small bowl. Have ready: 1/3 cup chopped peanuts, a pile of chopped cilantro and basil (if available). Heat oil in wok (amount of oil at your discretion). Begin by frying onion and garlic and toss in some hot pepper flakes if you’d like. Add and fry tofu until crispy. Add and fry eggs until scrambled. Add cooked noodles and pour fish sauce mixture over top. Stir until coated. Remove from heat, place in serving dish, and top with cilantro and peanuts.

**Thursday’s menu: Egg fried rice and warmed-up hot pot.
**Inspiration: Leftover rice. Home late from volleyball game after school. In a hurry.
**The verdict: Quick and dirty. Skipped the tofu after a request from my eldest. Added eggs for protein. I love my wok.

**Friday’s menu: Send children to CJ’s nursery school’s “date night” fundraiser for pizza and snacks. Send selves to fancy restaurant for something much tastier. Start selling contents of attic on ebay in order to afford the extravagance.

**Weekend kitchen accomplishments: 4 litres of yogurt; waffles (to eat, plus some to freeze); 8 loaves of bread; double batch of double chocolate cookie squares. Those cookie squares are really good and deserve a recipe-posting too. Remind me later. I considered this the kick-off to my holiday baking.

The week in suppers: short and seasonal

Monday. Baked macaroni and cheese, by request. With peas, not by request.

Tuesday. Mashed potato soup (with leeks.)

Wednesday. Potluck birthday supper at my bro’s. I brought quinoa salad and old-style coleslaw.

Thursday. Sweet potato curry with brown rice. Bad recipe. What are we, hippies? Won’t repeat.

Friday. Potatoes, yams, and beets cut like french fries, tossed with olive oil, and roasted with rosemary. Chicken noodle soup, minus the chicken, by request.

**Weekend cooking accomplishment: Baked four loaves of bread. I bake bread by rote. I can bake bread with my eyes closed. I can bake bread in a deconstructed house that teeters on the edge of revolution. All I need is yeast, and an oven.

:::

This is a much-foreshortened week in suppers post. I am grappling with how to present these posts, and would appreciate feedback. Do you groan when you see it’s a “week in suppers” post? Too long? Too detailed? Are the menu ideas useful? I plan to continue doing them in one form or another because it’s easy to forget what’s working (or not), and I need constant reminders. But I also need to find the right format.

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