Menu Plan Monday: July 25

Sometimes the best menu plans aren't enough to keep you organized. Take, for example, yesterday.

My plan had been for a Southwest Chicken salad for dinner. I had the chicken, some veggies, the sauces, and was only missing the greens. Not a problem, I had to go into town anyways to pick up a prescription and some birthday cards. Kids and I could be there and back, have dinner, get packed up and then head off to Taekwon-Do class.

Except I miss-timed everything and we got back 10 minutes before we would need to leave, having not packed up, but even more importantly, having not had any dinner yet.

Since my oldest wouldn't be home until about 8:45pm, it was important that he eat before he go to class!

I tried to salvage this situation, when I realized I'd mistimed things, by ordering pizza while still in town, for pick up at home. Since our pizza place is a 1 1/2 minute drive from our house, this should save me some time, though not money.

Didn't work, we still got home 10 minutes before we'd need to leave.

So some of us didn't make it to class last night, and Southwest Chicken salad was moved to another day.

For now, here is my previously unpublished, but now revised, menu plan for Menu Plan Monday:

Sunday: Left overs.

Monday: Pizza (my oldest child is having a growth spurt again - he ate 4 pieces of a large pizza last night. That's HALF A LARGE PIZZA!!! Teenage-hood is approaching for him in the next few years and I am scared.)

Tuesday: Southwest Chicken Salad.

Wednesday: Hubby cooks - pasta with tomatoes, garlic and chili's.

Thursday: Pork ribs with lots of sauce.

Friday: Let's see what's in the fridge night.

Daring Baker Challenge: I'm Baaaaaaaaack!

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.-

It has been awhile since I've done one of these - Daring Baker Challenges, not a Swiss Roll Cake.
Before this, I'd never made a Swiss Roll Cake. I'd made each part of the cake: the cake, filling, two ice creams and a fudge sauce, but I'd never put them together this way.

I made half of each of the required parts. Sunita had given us lots of room to play around with flavors and such, but had required that we make from scratch each of the components. Rather than play around with it, I stuck with her recipes, only cut in half.

(Btw, making the full amount of each of the components would have required 6 1/2 cups of whipping cream! That's alot of cream!!!)

Most of it went fine - the cake came together, smelled good, and rolled well. The vanilla ice cream worked fine. Assembly went alright. But my fudge sauce never thickened properly, and my chocolate ice cream, having spent 14+ hours in the freezer, after some time in my ice cream machine, never solidified either. So the first cut of my cake resulted in a puddle of chocolate.

I shared this with some neighbours, as well as my own family, an 3 of the 6 people who ate it had seconds. While I wasn't personally impressed with it (I'm sorry, but chocolate ice cream and fudge sauce should have actual chocolate in them, not just cocoa powder), I received many compliments on it. Even with the big puddle of sauce/ice cream.

It was nice having the time to be able to participate in the Challenge again. Big thanks for Sunita for her great directional pictures and for providing a recipe I would never have made on my own.

I Heart Cooking Clubs - Mark Bittman Edition: Potluck for supper

My favorite theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is Potluck. Where we get to do what we want, from anything.

Not that the themes are very restrictive, far from it! But just saying Potluck brings images of variety and surprise. You never know exactly what you are going to get at a Potluck (except maybe for potato salad - doesn't someone always bring potato salad?)

I went very simple for my selection this week. I started by doing a search for Mark Bittman recipes online that involved chicken thighs. Found a couple of interesting ones that I haven't tried yet, and also found one on his own site for chicken parts.

Roast chicken parts with Olive oil or butter, with a bunch of variations. I went with olive oil and butter, used the thighs I had on hand, and added a full head of garlic, from one of the suggested "ideas."

Pretty good, actually. I had 3 boys eating dinner with me that night, all under 11, and all 3 of them enjoyed it and complimented me on it. My oldest is currently obsessed with chicken caesar salad, so he was thrilled to rip his chicken apart and mix it into his salad, the more garlic the better, while my youngest ate his chicken without running to the fridge for the Ranch dressing (something that rarely happens - that child will eat almost anything if you give him Ranch dressing, but isn't picky, since he asks for sushi for breakfast.)

I have to admit - I've really enjoyed being able to be back in the kitchen, even if just to make something as simple as roast chicken thighs with oodles of garlic.

So? Did anyone bring any potato salad?

Roast chicken thighs with olive oil or butter

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces, or any combination of parts (I used 9 chicken thighs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Several cloves of garlic (20 wouldn't be too many) (I used an entire head)

Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the oil or butter in a roasting pan and put it in the oven for a couple of minutes, until the oil is hot or the butter melts. Add the chicken and turn it a couple of times in the fat, leaving it skin side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper , add the garlic, and return the pan to the oven.

After the chicken has cooked for 15 minutes, and turn the pieces. Roast for another 10 minutes.

Turn the chicken over (now skin side up again), and cook until the chicken is done (you’ll see clear juices if you make a small cut in the meat near the bone), a total of 30 to 40 minutes at most. Skim excess fat from the pan juices if necessary; serve, with some of the juices spooned over it.

BBQ Beef Ribs, without the BBQ

One of my plans for last week's dinner involved making beef ribs in my slow cooker.

If you think about it, a slow cooker is a great way to make ribs. The best ribs are those that are cooked at a low temperature over a long period of time. Sounds like a slow cooker to me.

I used the last of my part cow I bought in the fall, three packages of beef braising ribs. Braising ribs aren't my favourite cut of meat, but I had them and needed to use them.

Hands on time for this was minimal. I browned the ribs in the oven while getting my lunch together for work that day, then chopped up some garlic and onions, added everything to the pot with a jar of bbq sauce (I used a President's Choice Chicken and Rib sauce, which was okay, but I like Honey Garlic so much better.) When I came home from work, all I had to do was cook up some corn on the cobb and dinner was ready.

Everyone enjoyed this, and clean up was a breeze.

You can find the recipe for this over at A Year of Slow Cooking.

Almost forgot - my crock pot had a good amount of sauce/liquid in it at the bottom. If you have time, rice would be a great accompaniment, with the sauce poured liberally over the top.

Menu Plan Monday: July 18

Happy Monday Morning.

I mean that literally - it is 1:15am right now, as I type. Monday morning. I'm just not sleeping.

Last week's menu plan went pretty well. I got to try a few new recipes, and no one went hungry. The baked potato bar I'd planned for Thursday was changed to chicken caesar salad wraps, after a busy, but fun, afternoon that was badly planned meal wise. As
in the kids and I did not eat lunch and had TKD class to go to, so we were starving and needing energy. The good side to this is that a roaster chicken can make alot of chicken wraps, and my boys love them.

Kids and I have a few things planned for this week, but we will try to be more careful about missing meals.

Sunday: Asian smorgasborg. Went with a friend to T&T Supermarket and picked up a bunch of things to just lay out on the table and eat. We had duck, s&s pork, ribs, noodles, dim sum. And a bunch of sushi in my fridge to have for lunch tomorrow.

Monday: Left overs. A lot of left overs in my fridge.

Tuesday: Chili with biscuits (or left over rosemary pull-apart bread
from Saturday, if there is any left.)

Wednesday: Bagels with egg and cheese.

Thursday: Chicken drumsticks, bbq'd.

Friday: No plan, see what happens.

And that is my "plan" for this week, for Menu Plan Monday.

Happy Birthday to meeeeeee!

It's my birthday today!

Yes, I made my own cake. I like to make my own cake - then I get exactly what I want, and this year, this is what I decided to make: White Chocolate Strawberry Meringue Cake, from Tish Boyle's Cake Book.

This cake is fun to make, and can be made in stages (I made the meringue last night and let it sit in the oven all night long.)

It was grown-up elegant, but still childishly yummy, with the soft, sweet meringue, and the subtle white chocolate cream. Fresh, local strawberries give it a bit of healthfulness, but there is no denying that this is a sweet "cake."

I found a few recipes for other types of cakes I'd have liked today, so maybe I will have to turn this into a birthday week? Cake and presents every day for a week - what fun that would be!

If you were to make your own birthday cake, what type would it be?

I Hearts Cooking Clubs - Mark Bittman Edition: Bacon and Girlfriends

I've been a bit remiss lately, not in cooking, but in remembering to take the pictures off my camera and put them onto my computer! I admit, I'm still learning iPhoto, and not figuring out how when I edit a picture there, how I can get it to save to my library of photos, the ones I would upload to here. Or figure out how to upload a photo from iPhoto to here. (And if you know how and can explain it to me, no small task, I'd welcome your advice!)

I'm making up for my I Heart Cooking Club delinquency by combining two weeks themes into one recipe, but it is a really good recipe, one good for both the bacon week and the girls night in week. I found this recipe, Spinach, Bacon and Sweet Potato Salad, doing a search for Mark Bittman recipes involving bacon. It had everything I wanted in it, and is probably the best Mark Bittman recipe I've ever had.

My children, as can be expected, gave it thumbs down. The Hubby and I both gave it thumbs up and will likely have this again sometime.

From the October 2009 issue of Runner's World

2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 thick slices of bacon (
I used 3 slices of double smoked bacon, thick, diced)
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Juice from 1 orange
1 pound fresh spinach

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put potatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with two tablespoons of the oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast, turning occasionally, until crisp and brown outside and tender inside, about 30 minutes. Remove and keep on the pan until ready to use. While potatoes cook, put bacon in a stainless steel or other nonreactive skillet and turn heat to medium. Cook, turning once or twice, until crisp. Drain on paper towels and pour off fat, leaving darkened bits in the pan. Put back on medium heat; add remaining oil to the pan. When hot, add bell pepper, onion, and ginger to the pan. Cook, stirring once or twice until just softened, about five minutes; stir in cumin and bacon (broken into pieces). Stir in orange juice and turn off heat. (The recipe can be made up to an hour or so ahead to this point. Gently warm dressing again before proceeding.) Put spinach in a bowl large enough to comfortably toss the salad. Add the potatoes and warm dressing. Toss to combine. Serves four.

Menu Plan Monday: July 11

Been hot enough for you?

Food rather went off the radar for us last week, with temperatures soaring and the humidity making things even worse. No one was interested in eating, all we wanted to do was try and stay cool. So last week's 'something shrimp' turned into 'scrounge for yourself' (I think I had a sandwich) and Friday night turned into nachos while watching a movie, picnic style.

The weather forecast looks slightly improved for this week: still hot, but not frying pan, inside a steamer, hot.

One quick note before I get on to my plan for the week - my blog feeder seems to be getting lots of little errors from people's blogs lately, so I have missed a bunch of posts from people. I'm catching up, slowly, but not necessarily getting a comment in.

On to the plan, this weeks submission to Menu Plan Monday (one of the blogs that I'm getting errors for, bummer.)

Sunday: Jambalaya, special treat for the hubby and I finally get some shrimp.

Monday: Slow cooker bbq beef ribs with corn on the cobb.

Tuesday: Sugar crusted pork loin, with grilled veggies.

Wednesday: Hubby's night to cook, spaghetti with meat sauce.

Thursday: Baked potato bar (probably with sandwiches for the children, who aren't that fond of baked potatoes). And when I say baked, I really mean cooked on the bbq, the best way to have a baked potatoe.

Friday: Left over night. If there is any. If not, we'll figure something out.

Notice a few recipes in this week's plan? That's because I have severely reduced my hours at work for the summer and have time to cook again!

I hope.

I'm back with something yummy!

It has been a bit turbulent around here the last few months, between work, school and the computer problems I've had, but things seem to finally be settled down and I have time to get back into the kitchen!

Or in this case, the bbq.

And when I finally have time to cook again, to whom would I turn for inspiration but the Pioneer Woman herself, Ree. This is my variation on Ree's CPK's BBQ Chicken Pizza.
So good and so simple to make, I only made a few tweeks to it.

The recipe starts with Ree's pizza crust, though you can make any crust you like, or use store bought. I used hers, as I have been for a few months now. It is a good, basic crust, with nothing fancy in it.

Then it moves on to cooking chicken breasts in bbq sauce.

I don't think so - this is BBQ chicken pizza, so I grilled my chicken on my BBQ, and then slathered it with sauce while still on the grill. The chicken was moist and flavorful, but also had a good sticky "skin" from the last minute saucing.

I admit, I also cooked my pizza on the bbq itself. If you have never done this before, it is very simple: stretch and shape your dough out then place it on your oiled grill, over medium heat. It will only take a few minutes to cook the bottom of the dough, which is all you want to start. When you pull the dough off the grill, you will only have cooked one side of it, which is exactly what you want - flip the pizza over so the cooked side is on top. Add your toppings then put the pizza back on the grill, uncooked side down, close the lid and wait just a few minutes for your pizza to finish cooking, your cheese to melt and pizza goodness to come together. Yummy!

(This method makes having a Make-Your-Own-Pizza-Party a breeze, since you can prepare everything in advance, precook the crusts in individual sized pizzas for people to customize, then pop several on the grill at once. Since the pizzas take minutes to cook in the closed, hot, bbq, no one wait for too long for their pizzas. Easy as can be and you don't need to heat up your house by turning on the oven!)

I added more bbq sauce to this pizza to the cooked top of my pizza before adding the chicken, red onion and cheese. A few quick minutes on the bbq for everything to come together and this was amazing!

I didn't have any cilantro to top my pizza with, but it would have been a nice touch. Instead, I served it with a salad consisting of mixed greens, oranges, strawberries, green onions and some shredded Cheddar cheese. Left overs did not make it to the next day.

I'm not sure if Food Fans of the Pioneer Woman is active right now, I hope it is. I'm going to submit this for Debby and Muneba, and whomever is co-hosting for the month.

Local Foodie Night in Ottawa

Outstanding in our Fields
A Farm Feast Night

Saunders Farm along with Savvy Company and Epicuria Fine Food Store are excited to host this new culinary experience. Everyone is invited to explore the wonderful activities at Saunders Farm in the summer sunshine - roam the luscious gardens, get lost in a maze and cool off in the splash pad. After a hayride and tour of the Farm, you can watch the team of chefs from Epicuria create a feast using farm fresh ingredients produce. Guests will gather around a 100+ foot long chef table to enjoy the three-course gourmet dinner paired with premium wines handpicked by Accredited Sommeliers of Savvy Company. It promises to be a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon and evening with friends and family.

Buy your tickets online here.

DATE: Saturday, July 11, 2010.
TIME: Come anytime after 3pm to explore Saunders Farm. Hayride at 5pm, dinner at 6pm.
LOCATION: Saunders Farm, 7893 Bleeks Road Munster (15 mins south of Stittsville, 30 mins from downtown), Ottawa
$80 per person
$70 Designated Drivers
$10 kids under 10 years old
Tickets include complimentary afternoon admission to Saunders Farm, hayride, meal, wine tasting and taxes.
A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to help train more farmers to grow and sell local produce.

Menu Plan Monday: Where have I been?

We are on vacation here, mostly, and have friends visiting us. Our household has more than doubled in size for a few days, but meals have not been chaotic. Want to know if menu planning works? Try it with 9 people to feed and it will prove itself to you!

I did have a menu plan for last week, written down on the fridge, but it was only 2-3 days in advance, so I didn't post it.

This week is something similar. With us being on vacation (and I say mostly because I do have to work 1 shift this week), we are trying to be a bit more relaxed about our schedules. We've looked at the clock and thought, "Hmmm should think about dinner," only to turn around and load the bikes into the car so we could go for a trail ride as a family. And some nights it has been so humid and icky that we've just thrown together sandwiches and fruit and veg'd out.

So here is a very loose menu plan for the week, my submission to Menu Plan Monday for the week (assuming Laura at I'm an Org Junkie isn't having the same type of laid back week.)

Saturday: Make your own pizza, the bbq'd version.

Sunday: Grilled steaks, bbq roasted potatoes, grilled asparagus and corn on the cobb.

Monday: Leaving this open, our last dinner with our friends, and we may just do take out or eat out. Or have Kraft dinner. Who knows?

Tuesday: Left overs.

Wednesday: Pasta with tomatoes, garlic and chili. I'm working that day so Hubby is in charge of dinner.

Thursday: Shrimp on the bbq. Not sure how, or with what, but shrimp sounds good.

Friday: No idea at all. Figure it out closer to the date.

Belated Happy Canada Day to everyone, or 4th of July if you are from that area. We've done mini celebrations of both here (our friends being from the US).