A week of dinners

MONDAY

Slow-cooker chicken tortilla soup

The story: This is Pioneer Woman’s recipe and I like it because you do almost NOTHING in advance. No browning of meat, or even cutting of meat, necessary. You put the raw chicken breasts straight in the pot with the spices, beans, tomatoes, etc., flip it on, and go to work. Okay, I did chop the onion and peppers the night before and throw them in a bag.) When you come home from work, school and kids’ soccer games 11 hours later, it’s ready to be ladled up and topped with avocado, sour cream, cilantro, cheese, whatever. We would normally top with tortilla chips but only had lunchbox-sized bags of Fritos, which actually worked better. In fact, I pitched this to the kids as “Frito Soup.” (They didn’t fall for it).

TUESDAY

Grilled hot dogs and brats with Bush’s baked beans

The story: The Cleveland Indians were playing, Magnus had a soccer game AND then baseball practice til 8pm, and it was an unseasonably warm spring evening, so we did hot dogs and brats on the grill. I have to say, it hit the spot.

WEDNESDAY

Slow-cooker Indian butter chicken

The story: I got this one from a blog I like called Dinner: A Love Story. It was really good. Again, no browning in advance. Just raw chicken breasts in the pot with fresh ginger, chopped onion, garlic, tomato paste, coconut milk and spices like curry, cinnamon and cumin. At the end, you stir in greek yogurt and fresh lemon juice. They also have you stir in peas but I kept them separate for anyone who would object to green in their chicken business. I didn’t have as much rice as I thought so the kids had theirs on pasta shells, which they preferred anyway.

THURSDAY

Pizza from Cheshire Market, the local bait store and pizza carryout

The story: No explanation needed.

FRIDAY

12 West, a cool little restaurant in Delaware

The story: Greta had a movie night at the school so we took Magnus out to dinner. 12 West specializes in modern Mexican. There was a 45-minute wait so we had a round of drinks: a Shirley Temple for Magnus, beer for Barrak, and for me, a Tijuana Sour, which is bourbon, lemon juice and simple syrup topped with a little red wine. We shared a platter of really good nachos and then got seated at the bar. We ended up being too stuffed for our entrees (a burger for Mag, tacos for Barrak, a vegetarian tostada thing for me). Not sure Magnus was a fan.

SATURDAY

Herbed faux-tisserie chicken with small Yukon Gold potatoes and roasted broccoli

The story: This is weekend cooking but I’m still sharing it because you should know this recipe. You know how roast chicken sometimes looks a little undercooked and pink in places? This recipe has you cook a seasoned bird low and slow (3 hours at 300 degrees) like a rotisserie, so the meat is falling-off-the-bones tender. You do a seasoning rub of ground fennel seed, thyme, marjoram, salt and olive oil and set the bird on a tray of Yukon Gold potatoes, so the chicken fat drips onto the potatoes. I also threw some onion wedges on the tray because onions roasted in chicken fat is totally my jam. I made two chickens because both kids like chicken legs and there just never seems to be enough for the whole family with just one bird. Broccoli roasted with olive oil and salt is our go-to veg. Greta eats it like candy.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In writing this blog post on a Sunday morning, I’ve paused to 1) go out to the backyard to inspect a rip in Mag’s new baseball trainer net, 2) go to the bathroom with Greta to see her glow-in-the-dark slime, 3) go back to the backyard to inspect Mag’s jaw where he got hit with the baseball, 4) hold a balloon open for Greta so she could scoop baking soda into it, and 5) answer a question that couldn’t wait: “Mommy, would you rather live in Target or Kroger?” This is why I haven’t blogged in almost 12 months.

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A week of dinners

{Homemade blue cheese dressing from Friday night’s dinner. Pardon the streaks down the jar. Is that a gross photo?}

MONDAY

Donato’s Pizza take-out

The story: Greta scored a goal in her soccer game so when it ended at 7:30, she got to choose dinner.

TUESDAY

City BBQ

The story: Magnus’s soccer game ended at 7:30, so we let him choose dinner. Our ribs were kind of gristly and gross so I’m not sure we’ll be going back anytime soon.

WEDNESDAY

Traditional grilled cheeseburgers for Barrak and Magnus, a turkey burger with fontina for me, and leftover pizza and ribs for Greta.

The story: Because god forbid we’d all eat the same thing.

THURSDAY

Angel hair pasta with Carfagna’s classic marinara, Whole Foods meatballs and homemade garlic bread

The story: It’s a family favorite, duh.

FRIDAY

“Daddy Wings” and roasted broccoli drizzled with olive oil and kosher salt

The story: Another family staple. Barrak cooks the wings in the deep fryer outside. The kids eat them plain and Barrak and I sauce ours separately with Buffalo sauce. I made homemade blue cheese dressing from My Father’s Daughter. I omitted the shallots because it was for wings, not salad. It’s a great, easy recipe.

Thanksgiving menu

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This year, we wanted to serve some non-traditional dishes in addition to the classic standards. In fact we considered chucking the turkey entirely in favor of a big roasted salmon. I mulled it over and just couldn’t get comfortable with no bird at Thanksgiving. And Greta has been talking about the wishbone for 11 months.

So here’s the menu my friends:

Shrimp cocktail (courtesy of my father in law) – A great, not too filling appy! Pairs well with any wine I’ll be having.

Roast turkey with truffle butter (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – Just a small 10-pounder to satisfy the traditionalist in me, and Greta gets her wishbone. In case you are wondering, yes, it was somewhat difficult to find truffle butter and it’s not cheap. Barrak found it at Whole Foods; $6 per small container.

Salt and pepper salmon (courtesy of Tyler Florence) – This is one of my tried and true salmon recipes – just salt, pepper, butter and a hot saute pan. Little known fact: Costco has really great salmon. You can buy big 2-pounders, cut it up into portions and freeze what you’re not using.

Celery root puree (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – Celery root is one of the ugliest vegetables on the planet. It looks like a really shaggy coconut pulled from the dirt — or a faceless muppet, round and craggy with a little green wig on top. Chop off the brown outer layer and it’s all white and potato-like in the middle. You just braise the celery root cubes in chicken stock, butter and heavy cream, and add lots of salt and black pepper. It has a clean, celery-like flavor and gives you an elegant, creamy side without the heaviness of potatoes.

Sausage-stuffed mushrooms (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – I’ve never made these but they get rave reviews online. The mushroom caps bathe in marsala wine and olive oil while you put together the sausage stuffing, which is made creamy by mascarpone and a little bit of parmesan. I thought it was a nice way to get stuffing on the table.

Cranberry sauce – I haven’t decided whether to use Tyler Florence’s or Michael Ruhlman’s. Tyler keeps it simple with orange and cinnamon. Ruhlman uses booze. It will be a gametime decision. In case the name sounds familiar, Ruhlman is Anthony Bourdain’s Midwestern buddy and sometimes makes an appearance on the show, especially when Tony is in Ohio. Ruhlman is the guy who took Tony to strip mall sushi joint Kihachi, one of Columbus’s gems.

Brussels sprouts with bacon (courtesy of my mom) – Here’s mom’s recipe:

Take 2 pounds of Brussels sprouts and boil them in a big pot until they’re bright green and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain, let cool a bit, then slice into halves or thirds if they’re small. Meanwhile, chop or scissor 8 to 12 slices of bacon and saute it up. When some of the fat has been rendered, throw in a chopped onion. Sometimes I use shallots. When that’s all soft and so good-smelling that people come to the kitchen from other parts of the house to see what smells so good, throw your sliced sprouts into the pot with the onions and bacon and give everybody a good toss. Salt and pepper to taste then dump the whole mess into a buttered casserole dish. Pour half (or more) of a cup of heavy cream all over the veggies. I know! Then top with a 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs — I like to push some of the breadcrumbs down into the mix with a rubber spatula. Now hold on to your pantaloons: slice 4 to 6 quarter-inch thick squares of cold butter and lay them over top. I know, I know! You could probably skip that step but really, with all that bacon, who cares at this point? Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Pecan squares (courtesy of Barefoot Contessa) – Holy Mary mother of God these are good. It’s a sheet pan layer of buttery shortbread – you bake that first — blanketed with a sticky, gooey pecan mixture made with honey, citrus zest and 2 pounds of pecans. It takes two to pour the sticky pecans over the shortbread layer — you need one person to scrape the pot. Then you bake the whole thing again. The pecans around the edges get nice and toasty. I like it better than pecan pie – no weird figgy filler. A single square feels like it might weigh a full pound. So decadent. And an acceptable breakfast in my book.  These are a Thanksgiving tradition two years’ running. The secret is in the citrus. One year, I forgot the orange zest until they were in the oven. I stood in the hot oven door and zested an orange over top. It’s that important.

What are you making for Thanksgiving?