Menu Plan Monday: April 25, not yet finished

It was such a lovely weekend that I'm dreading it being over. The sun was out, the weather was lovely, and we spent time together as a family, went exploring, found a new park for the kids to play at and just had some laughs.

We live on the outside of Ottawa, and this area has lots of little villages around it, each with a church or two. At this time of the year, most of those churches are holding a church supper of some kind, a fundraising event for the church, but a tasty dinner option for us. We had several choices for Saturday night, both roast beef dinners, learned of a roast beef dinner we'd missed, and of an upcoming ham and turkey dinner. So many options!

If you've never been to a church supper, they can be a hit or miss type of experience. Everything is homemade, but nothing is made by the same person. The dishes are a collection of items that are volunteered by the congregation, as is the meal, including dessert. A family can go and depending on where you are in line, you can end up with two completely different meals.

Then there is the pie. The ladies of these churches turn out pie after pie after pie for dessert. The church we chose for our dinner had a take out booth set up, and when you went in to place your order, the counter was covered in different pies. There was coconut cream, apple, cherry cranberry, butterscotch, chocolate, lemon meringue, cherry, raisin, and my favorite, the strawberry rhubarb custard pie. Oh was it good!

Memories of a good weekend.... Back to Monday and my menu plan for Menu Plan Monday.

My week is going to be off slightly, so I haven't finished my menu plan, but here is what I have so far...

Sunday: Honey garlic chicken wings with potato skins and veggies and dip.

Monday: Turkey kabobs with corn on the cobb.

Tuesday: Beef noodle soup.

Wednesday: Undecided at this point.

Thursday: Pasta of some kind.

Friday: No idea.

I Hearts Cooking Clubs: Mark Bittman Edition: Potluck

Who doesn't love a jar full of chocolate chip cookies? Not my family, that's for sure. I personally prefer oatmeal raisin, but generally don't turn down a soft, chewy chocolate chip cookie.

Looking back over the last few weeks of cooking Mark Bittman, it seems we don't really like much of his recipes at all. So since this week's theme for I Hearts Cooking Club was potluck, I wanted something that we did like. These cookies qualify.

At least I'm assuming the boys liked them since I didn't hear complaints about "those" cookies from their lunch boxes (which I did hear when I put Bittman's oatmeal raisin cookies in for the second day in a row - no one liked those.)

While these cookies don't replace any of my previous recipes, they are a nice change. I would make them again, and probably will.

Menu Plan Monday: April 18

Tried something a little different and fun this weekend. Together with a friend and her son, we went trout fishing again at the local trout farm (each member of our family caught a fish, including one by my oldest that was caught before he put any bait on his line.)

Then, I took the 7 fish we caught, discovered it is very, very, very difficult, almost impossible, to fillet a little fish. Especially without a filleting knife.

Then I beer battered them and deep fried them.

And do you know what those little trout tasted like?

Nothing. They tasted like nothing.

Which might explain why my oldest ate two pieces.

Oh well, it was fun catching and cooking.

On to the menu plan for the week, being submitted to Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday: Grilled whole chicken, rice and corn.

Monday: Pasta (hubby made sauce Sunday).

Tuesday: Taco night - oldest son has 'volunteered' to cook that night. Think his brother can help by shredding the cheese.

Wednesday: Chicken cutlets with salad.

Thursday: Sausage on a bun with veggies and dip.

Friday: No plan at all. See what we are all in the mood for.

I Hearts Cooking Clubs, Mark Bittman Edition: Pantry Raid

It's the second week of Mark Bittman and I'm still here and still cooking from How to Cook Everything.

On the advice of several other bloggers, I did look into borrowing the libraries copy of Kitchen Express. It is now sitting on my living room couch, waiting for me to read it.

This week's them was Pantry Staples, and what pantry does not have banana's waiting to be used?

One of the things I like to do when trying a new "chef" is to try a few basic recipes, things that we like alot and that are made regularly in my house, such as banana bread. I even made banana bread for one of my choices for Tyler Florence Fridays, the predecessor of this little group.

So this week I made Mark Bittman's banana bread, a suitable choice for the pantry staples theme as I did not need to pick up a single item to make it.

However if you look closely at my pictures, you will see this bread looks more like coconut bread than banana bread. That's because the recipe calls for coconut in the batter (and nuts, which I omitted.)

And it tastes more like coconut bread than banana bread.

Not a bad thing, if you like coconut (hubby and I do), but not a good thing if what you wanted was banana bread. And I wanted banana bread. The kids wanted banana bread. The hubby wanted to know where the butter was so he could butter his slices before adding them into his lunch box.

Not a bad recipe, not a bad result, just not what I wanted. Though it did help me use up several over ripe bananas and for that I'm happy.

Foodie Fans of the Pioneer Woman: Make this cake

Ree's Chocolate Sheet Cake, found on pages 218, 19 and 20. A lovely chocolate cake with chocolate icing, plenty for a crowd.

I must have made this cake a good half dozen times before I ever got a picture of it. It isn't a picturesque cake, nothing fancy, but people dive into it and it's hard to take a pretty picture of something that people are inhaling.

The only reason I didn't have to fight off my kids to get this picture is because I hid my slice and then I waited until they were busy with their own pieces. My kids are pretty good about letting me get pictures of food items, either mine or their own, but when there is chocolate cake, with a decadent, gooey icing, why tempt them?

I like it when the theme for Food Fans of the Pioneer Woman is any recipe. Makes it easier for me to justify making yet another dessert as my submission.

Thanks Deb and Muneba for this selection.

And thank you Ree, Pioneer Woman, for a great cake recipe that will be make many, many more times for my family and friends.

Free (or nearly free) stuff you should know about

Let's start with the free...

On Thursday, April 14th, if you bring your own mug in, Starbucks will give you a free brewed coffee.

That's great if you drink coffee, not so good if you drink Green Tea Latte's.
Now for the nearly free:

On Wednesday, April 28 from 5-10 p.m., Baskin Robbins will host its second annual 31¢ Scoop Night in support of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF). You can enjoy a 2.5 oz scoop of your favourite ice cream or a 3 oz Soft Serve cone for only 31¢ (plus taxes where applicable). You will also have the opportunity to donate to the CFFF and participate in the activities that participating restaurants have planned with local firefighters.

For locations, just check out the website here.

Back to free: The Simply Raw Lifestyle Festival, being held this year on June 19, 2010 from 10am to 9pm, is a free outdoor event for foodies. You can learn more about it at their website.

If you know of other free, or almost free, food events and would like me to post about them, just drop me a line!

Menu Plan Monday: April 11th

Short and sweet as I still have 5 or 6 things to do before I leave for work this morning!

Sunday: Pot roast with roasted potatoes and broccoli, plus Yorkshire puddings

Monday: Hamburgers and salad

Tuesday: Penne with tomatoes, garlic and chili peppers (possibly garlic bread)

Wednesday: Happy Shrimp with rice

Thursday: Panini sandwiches and fruit

Friday: Left over night or Breakfast for dinner.

Have you submitted your menu plan to Menu Plan Monday?

I Hearts Cooking Clubs: Mark Bittman Bites

Now that the period of Nigella Lawson is over for the I Hearts Cooking Club, its on to the next chef. Chosen by vote, Mark Bittman won out over Jamie Oliver (my first choice), and Bobby Flay (my second choice).

I've owned How to Cook Everything for years, and occasionally consult it for something. It is where I went when looking for a simple flour tortilla recipe, for example. But I admit, it isn't even close to my favorite cookbook.

Still, this is the new selection, and I am going to try and contribute as often as I can (if only so I have motivation to cook from recipes when I'm rushed to get dinner on the table.)

The first theme for Mark Bittman was Bites, as in bite sized items of some kind, appetizers, whatever, just bite sized.

For the first week and theme, you actually get 3 selections from me. As you can see from above, I deep fried. Corn fritters. You can find the recipe for these on page 565.

I admit, these looked impressive, golden in color, and they cooked up very well. They didn't get an amazing reception at the dinner table though, with one child disliking them entirely, one liking them only because they came with a dip (my second choice, Garlic Aioli, found on page 761), and my husband and I both indifferent to them, thinking they were okay but not great and not what we expected.

As for the aioli - well, I've made aioli's before that I was willing to lick the bowl clean after, and this wasn't it. It did not want to thicken, as you can see by the pool of it, and was just okay. Again, we did eat it, no one outright hated it, but no one asked for the left overs in their lunch the next day.

My last choice has the worst possible picture but had the best outcome: Bruschetta with tomatoes and basil, found on page 265.

I admit, this is almost a cheat as Bruschetta really isn't a recipe so much as a technique, but I hadn't made any in forever and was in the mood. Plus I had a very good loaf of bread from Pan Chancho, a bakery in Kingston.

While the kids weren't overwhelmed by this (not liking raw tomatoes), the hubby and I loved it and both wished I had made more.

So far we aren't off to an amazing start with Mark Bittman, certainly no outright failures, which means I will try to keep up with him for a bit and contribute regularly to I Heart Cooking Club.

Menu Plan Monday: Tuesday edition

Monday was sort of a holiday for many people. While my hubby did not have the day off, the kids did and I took the day off from work to stay home and do work.

And since we didn't get home until Sunday night, I had to do my menu planning and shopping on Monday.

So here goes, my menu for the week, for submission to Menu Plan Monday:

Sunday: Make do with what is in the house, appropriately, eggs and toast.

Monday: Double coconut chicken with fruit salad (left over from last week, didn't get a chance to make it then)

Tuesday: Pork stir fry with bok choy.

Wednesday: Spaghetti and meatballs. Trying a different recipe.

Thursday: Sausages and mashed potatoes.

Friday: No plans yet.

For the next little bit, I am going to try and minimize the dairy in our menu. We are doing a little home experiment to see if one of the boys might be lactose intolerant. Since I was before I had kids (and some in between them), and here is a history of it, it is a possibility. He's distressed over it, thinking of all the things he can't have for the next few weeks with dairy involved, but if it turns out he is lactose intolerant, it is an easy thing to deal with.

Happy Easter!

We aren't home for Easter this year, but just because we aren't, doesn't mean I can't find a stove and get cooking!

While the Easter Bunny had to go traveling to find the kids (leaving chocolate eggs in very odd places), I brought some items from home to make things festive for the grown ups. Including these fun eggs that I turned into Deviled Eggs, as part of the ham dinner I made.

Despite the colors, these eggs are completely edible. And are very easy to make.

Easter Eggs for Grown Ups

hard boiled eggs (as many as you'd like, I made 8), still in the shell
various food coloring gels (the kind you use to color icing for cakes)
zip top bags, one for each color you are going to use.

Prepare the colors: Place 1/2-2/3 of a cup of warm water in each of the zip bags you are going to use*. Using separate spoons, mix in some of the food coloring, swirling around in the water so that all the color mixes in and comes off the spoon. The amount of color you use depends on how vibrant you want the eggs to be.

*Tip* Place the zip bags in a bowl, mug or plastic container to let it stand up, before you add the water.

Crack the shells of the eggs, but do not remove! You want to create good cracks so the color can seep inside, but not leave holes in the shells.

Place the eggs inside the colored water bags, seal the bags, removing the air as you do so, then place the bags in the fridge over night.

The next day, drain the water and peel the eggs to reveal the colors and patterns you created.

Use your fun colored eggs for Deviled Eggs, egg salad sandwiches, sliced on a salad, pretty well anywhere you would normally use a hard boiled egg.