Sunday, February 25, 2007

Menu Plan Monday, February 26

SUNDAY: Arroz con Habichuelas, Nachos with beef and cheese

MONDAY: Chicken Marsala with jasmine rice, green beans

TUESDAY: Pot roast with mushrooms and onions, over noodles and gravy

WEDNESDAY: Baked flounder with butter and lemon

THURSDAY: Spaghetti and meatballs

FRIDAY: Cheese quesadillas with salsa

SATURDAY: Birthday party for Little Brother (he's turning 5). Here's the menu:
Sausage and pepper sandwiches
Meatballs with sauce
Chicken Chili Blanco
Hot dogs
And for dessert: the Aircraft Carrier Birthday Cake

For more menu plans and recipe ideas, visit the home of Menu Plan Monday!

Nancy's Arroz con Habichuelas

source: a friend from Family Corner

1 to 2 tbl oil
1 large spoonful Sofrito
1 envelope Sazon Goya (yellow box)
1/2 small can tomato sauce
1 can small beans
2 cups regular long-grain rice
3 to 4 cups water

In a large skillet, heat oil, sofrito and sazon. Add tomato sauce and beans. Stir. Add rice and water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until water is almost absorbed. Cover and simmer 20 minutes (no peeking!)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lenten Penitential Meals

As the penitential season of Lent approaches, and I make my menu plans, I start thinking about what constitutes a "penitential" meal for my family.

My dad expressed it well when we were kids: "If pizza or fish is a treat, how can it be a penance?"

Maybe it's a penance only for the one who has to budget around the extra expense of eating fish instead of less-expensive meats, or ordering a pizza?

I wouldn't want to serve my family foods they don't like, and call it a penance. All I'd achieve would be rebellion and wastefulness.

No one has really noticed that I've been serving them meatless dinners every Friday for months now. It's pretty much become routine. Growing up, I was taught that only Fridays in Lent were supposed to be meatless (and Ash Wednesday, of course!) but I have learned lately that all Fridays are penitential days. I haven't mentioned it--it's just been happening here. But I bet the issue will be on the table, so to speak, the first Friday after Easter.

It's been more of a stretch for me than for them. They eat what I put on the table. (Sometimes someone moans and groans about it, but my family generally consists of good eaters--even adventurous ones. Middle Sister likes sushi, for example.) I am the one who thinks about what to serve on which day, and I can shuffle the meal plan as events warrant, but Friday's dinner is Friday's dinner because that is Meatless Night.

But anyway, the issue at hand really is: if they really LIKE shrimp marinara over linguine, or Spanish Garlic Shrimp, or sauteed tilapia, or even pizza, where's the sacrifice?

Maybe it's time to lay this on the table with my family and see what ideas everyone comes up with.

Menu Plan Monday, February 19

SATURDAY: "Not" Rachael Ray's Veggie Not-sagna

SUNDAY: Spaghetti and meatballs

MONDAY: Pork Teriyaki, jasmine rice, stir-fry vegetables

TUESDAY: Roast Chicken

WEDNESDAY: Tomato soup and grilled-cheese sandwiches

THURSDAY: Stroganoff using the leftover beef from last Wednesday's "Valentine Filet Mignon Roast"

FRIDAY: Cheese tortellini with marinara sauce

SATURDAY: Chili. Maybe.

Visit the home of Menu Plan Monday to get many, many, many more ideas and recipes for YOUR family's menu plan!

My Variations on Rachael Ray's Vegetable "Not-sagna"

1 pound curly pasta (recommended: campanelle or cavatappi by Barilla)
Coarse salt
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup frozen shredded zucchini, thawed & drained
2 cups sliced frozen carrots, thawed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 tsp chopped garlic
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
2 rounded tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 cups Italian 4-cheese mix (I used a mix of mozzarella, provolone, Asiago and Romano)

Heat a pot of water to a boil for pasta. Cook pasta to al dente.

Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Add onions and garlic to the pan. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. When the onions are tender, about 5 minutes, add defrosted spinach and zucchini, separating into small bits as you handle it, and toss to heat through. Transfer veggies to a dish and return skillet to stove top. Add remaining 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and the butter. When the butter melts into extra-virgin olive oil, add 2 rounded tablespoons of flour and cook a minute or so, then whisk in stock and milk. Bring to a bubble and thicken the sauce, reducing it 2 to 3 minutes. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add all cheese to the sauce and cook, stirring constantly, until the cheese melts completely. Slide vegetables back into sauce. Drain pasta and mix with the cheese sauce.

In case you're interested, here's the original recipe. I had no ricotta (well, I HAD ricotta, but it was well on its way to Science Experiment Status) so I decided to improvise from there. I find that Rachael Ray's recipes are quite forgiving that way, and this tasted delicious to me.

No one else in the house will want to eat this, so I'll be freezing the rest in individual portions for lunches. I was the only one home tonight, so I figured I'd cook what I like.

The leftovers will also be great with some leftover marinara sauce on top.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Public Service Announcement: Check Your Pantries!

H/T to Milehimama, where I read this first:

The FDA is asking consumers to destroy Peter Pan brand and Great Value brand peanut butter, because it is contaminated with Salmonella. Destroy any jars that begin with product code 2111.

Here's the official news release from Con Agra, the manufacturers of Peter Pan peanut butter.

I found one of these jars in my pantry, and am just feeling lucky that we hadn't opened it yet.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Menu Plan Monday, February 12

SUNDAY: FIL cooked a delicious chicken stir-fry when we visited for dinner. Great stuff, Pop!

MONDAY: Chicken piccata with brown rice and broccoli.

TUESDAY: Spaghetti and meatballs.

WEDNESDAY: It's Valentine's Day and I'll be making a very special meal for my family: Filet mignon, as a roast, with potatoes and green beans.

THURSDAY: Pork and Wild Rice from Taste of Home Simple & Delicious (Feb. 2007)

FRIDAY: Baked flounder with lemon and butter. Side dishes to be determined later.

SATURDAY: It's Pop's birthday celebration. He loves to cook for an audience, so he'll probably be searching for a cool new recipe to try!

Visit the Home of Menu Plan Monday to get more great ideas and recipes for your family meals!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Menu Plan Monday, February 5

Better late than never??? I got this ready last night, but this morning with one sick kid, and another one who missed the bus, I just never got back to things!

SUNDAY: We just picked on "party food." The feature was Chili Cheese Dip.

MONDAY: Cashew Chicken with rice

TUESDAY: Ham and cabbage with potatoes. This is boiled ham, like my grandmother always made. Nostalgia on a plate.

WEDNESDAY: Hungarian Pork Paprikas with noodles

THURSDAY: Spaghetti and meatballs

FRIDAY: Homemade focaccia with choice of vegetable toppings

SATURDAY (if we're home): Shredded Chicken Sandwiches

Now that you've read what we're eating this week, why not head over to the Home of Menu Plan Monday to check out lots of other great menu ideas and recipes?

Chili Cheese Dip

source: my mom's cousin Patricia

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
1 package chili seasoning mix
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
3/4 cup water
1 onion, chopped fine
1 green pepper, diced

Mix all ingredients. Place in casserole dish and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Nanny's Ham and Cabbage

This is a family specialty. The ham comes out so moist--way better than baked.

1 bone-in smoked half ham, BUTT END
1 head cabbage
Lots of water

Find a pot big enough to hold your ham. I use my 18-qt Nesco roaster but you can use a deep stockpot as well. (In the roaster, place the ham on the rack.) Cover the ham with water and bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer and let it cook a couple of hours.

Quarter and core the head of cabbage. Put it into the pot with the ham after the ham has been cooking a while (you might have to bail some water out of the pot to make the cabbage fit).

Cook another 30 minutes or a little longer, depending on how soft you like your cabbage.

When everything's done, remove the cabbage and a little water to a smaller pot, and just cover it to keep the cabbage hot. Carve the ham. Save the bone for a future batch of Pea Soup.

Cashew Chicken

source: The Complete Chinese Cookbook by Jillian Stewart.

This is one we've enjoyed before...time to enjoy it again! Don't let the long list of ingredients throw you--and if you're missing one or another of the vegetables, no big deal, just substitute what you have on hand. BUT do get everything ready before you start cooking.

12 oz chicken breast, sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 tbl cornstarch

1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbl light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar

oil for frying
1 cup cashew nuts
2 green onions, chopped
1 small onion, peeled & cubed
1 inch fresh gingerroot, peeled & sliced (I use 1/2 tsp ground instead)
2 cloves minced garlic
3 oz snow peas
2 oz bamboo shoots, thinly sliced

2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbl Hoisin sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock

Roll chicken pieces in cornstarch.

Mix salt, sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar. Pour over chicken. Leave to stand 10 minutes.

Heat oil and fry cashews until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain.

Add a little oil and stirfry the onions, ginger and garlic for 2 to 3 minutes. Add snow peas and bamboo. Stirfry 3 more minutes. Remove all of this to a bowl.

Add a little oil and fry chicken for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove, and clean the pan (wad up some paper towels, hold them in your tongs, and wipe out the pan).

Add a little fresh oil and return chicken, vegetables and nuts to pan.

Mix cornstarch, Hoisin sauce and chicken stock. Pour this sauce over chicken. Mix well and cook until the sauce thickens and becomes transparent.

NOTE: Whoops! Forgot the "roll chicken in cornstarch" step. It still tasted great. No harm, no foul if you skip that step.

Shredded Chicken Sandwiches

source: Family Corner
1 T. butter
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 cup chicken broth, divided
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts**
1 T. cornstarch
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
6 sandwich buns, split

Melt butter in a large saucepan; saute onion, celery and one tablespoon broth for 5 minutes. Add chicken and remaining broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until chicken is tender, about 15 to 20 mintures. Remove chicken from saucepan and allow to cool, reserving broth. Shred chicken; return to broth in saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk cornstarch and milk together in a small bowl; slowly stir into chicken mixture. Simmer and stir mixture is thickened but still moist, about 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste; spoon onto buns. Makes 6 sandwiches.

**They're "dark meat" fans in my house, so I'll probably use two chicken leg quarters.


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