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I’ll be honest: food still isn’t something I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately. I still want to eat good food, but I mostly want to minimize my time in the kitchen and just make simple, easy, quick meals. I’ve been falling back a lot on old standbys, things that are are so familiar to me that I don’t have to put a lot of thought or effort into them. We’ve made a lot of homemade pizzas. A lot of pasta with homemade sauce. Tacos. Fried rice. Roasted chicken. That kind of thing. Homemade but nothing terribly exciting. I’m happy with that.

Mostly. With such a familiar and unchallenging menu, it gets boring after a while. So I’ve tried to make sure that a couple of new recipes sneak in. As with the old standbys, I keep them as uninvolved as possible. Some of them have been really good, some of them have been kind of unimpressive. Here are a few of them that we’ve tried these past few weeks.

 

Marinara Sauce (from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe)

I have mentioned before that I prefer to make my own pasta sauces, not just because they’re healthier than what you get at the store but because I can control what goes in them and what they taste like. The sauce I usually make takes about three hours to get ready, but it makes a ton and lasts for weeks. It’s great for pasta, and I love it, but for a pizza we made a couple weeks ago, I wanted something simpler. This marinara sauce did the trick, and I’ve made it twice since then, just to use on quick pasta lunches (or, as with today, breakfasts). I simplified it a bit by not bothering to add carrots (or celery, ew) and not running it through the food processor, though I’m sure it’s just as awesome that way. That’s just more work than I’m willing to put in right now. Even without processing, this is just a terrific sauce and it makes quite a bit, so I’m glad to have added it to my repertoire.

 
Apple-Cheddar Soup (from Food Network Magazine)

applecheddarsoup

I realize that this would be better in the fall, but I couldn’t resist. I really wanted a soup, and this one was easy to make. The only thing that didn’t really work out were the rye bread croutons – next time, I’ll just bake them in the oven like I would any other crouton. Geordie wasn’t impressed by them, but I liked them and thought they went well with the soup. Especially with that cheddar topping. This really was a great soup, not too sweet and not too cheesy, very mellow and tasty. I would have liked it a little bit thicker, but it was still fine as it was. Definitely something I’ll make again in September/October.

 

Pork with Mushroom Gravy (from Food Network Magazine)

mushroompork

Geordie wanted pork, I wanted mushrooms – it all worked out. Meat with a pan sauce/gravy is the easiest thing ever, and it’s something I’ve been doing a lot more lately. I especially love a good mushroom sauce, but then, I love just about anything with mushrooms in it. I’m trying to limit how often we eat potatoes, but this was definitely a meal that called for some simple mashed potatoes. Nice and comforting in the middle of a busy week.

 

Rustic Tomato Tart

rustictomatotart

This was not a particular favorite of ours, but I include it here because I think it can be improved upon. I linked this to the website I got the recipe from, but it’s originally a Dave Lebovitz recipe, and his version is a little different. I wish I’d done his version. First off, this really needs a pre-baked pie crust. Or else it needs to be baked at a very high temperature so things don’t go all soggy. Second, the combination of whole-grain mustard and Italian herbs did nothing for us. It was weird. Lebovitz doesn’t actually call for specific herbs, which I take to mean to use what you’ve got or what you think will work for you. Basil did not work for us. Also, his version calls for goat cheese, which sounds awesome. It’s not that what we had was bad, it’s just that it could have definitely been better. This is one I intend to play with a little, especially as those summer tomatoes are coming in!

 

Lemon Chicken (from Inspired Taste)

lemonchicken

Quick, easy, delicious – just the way dinner should be. I really enjoyed this. Geordie was maybe a little less excited about it, but he did like it and had no complaints. I served it with couscous mixed with fresh roasted corn, which I thought went really well with the lemon sauce. This is another meat-and-pan-sauce recipes and is really simple to make. But the best thing is the chicken – so tender and juicy! And absolutely delicious. A very fine meal indeed.

 

Caprese Quiche

capresequiche

Once you’ve got the crust made and ready to go, quiches are pretty simple deals. Throw everything into the crust and let it bake. This wasn’t much different. I will say that I made a couple changes. For example, I’ve never made a quiche that didn’t call for milk or cream. I worried that it might be a little dense, so I left out two eggs and added in a splash of cream. Worked quite well. Second, I made this quiche with goose eggs. One of Geordie’s co-workers has a whole gaggle of geese, and she periodically brings in goose eggs for people to take. They’re equivalent to about two chicken eggs, and they are so rich and delicious. Baking with them has been a lot of fun. I’m not going to say that maybe that’s what made this quiche so good, but I imagine it helped a little.

Sunday
Molasses-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potatoes (from Simple Weeknight Favorites)

molassespork

May 18th was our second anniversary. I wanted to make something nice for us without having to spend too much time cooking in the kitchen. This dish seems like it would be a fuss to make, but it wasn’t. The pork tenderloin is marinated in a molasses-lime juice mixture while sweet potatoes and carrots are roasted in more molasses and juice in the oven. The pork and marinade are added to the roasting dish and cooked to the appropriate temperature. The result is a juicy, tender roast with a subtle molasses flavor. We enjoyed this a great deal, especially since it required very little effort on my part. Many of the recipes from this book are the same: delicious and deceptively simple.

 

Monday
Tomato, Basil, and Three-Cheese Ravioli with Bolognese Sauce and Baked Zucchini Fries (from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures)

raviolizukes

Mondays are rough days, usually. So, we ate the remainder of the ravioli we had last week. For the veg, I baked up these zucchini fries, which require little more than cutting up the zukes and breading them. Very simple and quite tasty. Usually, I make a sour cream and Parmesan dip for the zucchini, but I figured that the bolognese sauce would work just as well. And it did.

 

Tuesday
Paris Mushroom Soup (from Around My French Table)

parismushrooms

The French Friday recipe this week was supposed to be an asparagus soup. Until recently, I always liked the sound of that asparagus soup. Now, I can’t stomach the idea of it. But I did like the idea of having soup. I settled on this soup, which the FFwD group made a while ago. It’s not the prettiest soup, but it was easy to make and tasted great. Mushrooms are one of my absolute favorite things to eat, and mushroom soup is one of my favorite ways to eat them. This was really quite nice.

 

Thursday
Baked Beans (from Alton Brown), Sour Cream Cornbread (from Country Cooking), and Steamed Spinach

bakedbeans

I had a craving for baked beans. It happens. I decided to make that the protein of the meal and supplemented it with some cornbread and spinach. I wasn’t thrilled with the spinach, but I knew I needed the greens. I ate them first to make sure I got them into me. The cornbread was okay, but I think it would have been better if I’d left out the rosemary. That was really not necessary, and it didn’t really jive with the rest of the meal. Also, I’m not a big fan of adding things to cornbread, even if it’s something as simple as rosemary. I prefer my cornbread to just be cornbread. That tends to go better with baked beans anyway. I really like these beans: a little sweet, a little savory, definitely full of flavor. The only bad thing about them is that I have to smell them cooking all day long! They stay in the oven 6-7 hours, and oh, do they smell good!

It was a week of simple, quick meals, which will continue into next week. Pretty much everything I made this week is something I’ve made before, so it was a low-effort week, which I very much needed. I’m feeling okay most of the time, but when I get hungry, it comes up on me fast, and I’m not in the mood to take forever preparing dinner. These meals were exactly what I needed this week!

 
Sunday
Tacos! (made with homemade taco seasoning from Brown Eyed Baker)

tacos

One of the best things about making tacos is that you don’t actually have to do much cooking. I’m not sure if there’s any cooking technique easier than browning meat (well, cooking pasta, maybe). All the other prep can be done while the meat is absorbing the taco seasoning and water after browning. Geordie made himself a nice soft taco, while I opted for the taco salad route. Not exactly authentic Mexican cooking (it was Cinco de Mayo, after all), but it was tasty enough, and very easy to make!

 
Monday
Tofu Steaks (from La Fuji Mama), Edamame, and Gyouza

tofu

Sadly, storebought gyouza. I would love, someday, to make homemade gyouza, but that’s not something I’m willing to tackle right now. What I needed on Monday was a quick, easy meal, and this worked. The gyouza just needed to be warmed up, the edamame (frozen in the bag) spent just a few minutes in the microwave, and the tofu was pan-fried in sesame oil for about fifteen minutes. No recipe (though La Fuji Mama does provide one, but it’s more technique than recipe), and it all comes together in about 30 minutes. Perfect. And with enough edamame left over for lunch the next day. We ate our tofu with ponzu sauce, but anything would be acceptable. Another easy to adapt recipe.

 
Wednesday
Oven-Fried Chicken (from Calorie Countdown Cookbook) and Sweet Potato & Carrot Mash

chickenmash

Another very quick, very easy meal. I love cooking chicken this way: marinate in buttermilk, coat in seasoned panko, set over a rack on a baking sheet, and bake. Simple, flavorful, and so juicy.It’s intended as a base for a healthier chicken parmesan meal, but the truth is that it’s a good base for anything that involves pan-fried chicken. We ate ours with BBQ sauce, but any sauce would work really. I used thin chicken breasts to cut down on the cooking time, so this is another dish that can be brought together in about twenty minutes, give or take. The potato-carrot mash took longer, but most of the work in that is all the chopping involved!

 
Thursday
Spaghetti (with homemade sauce) and Salad

spaghetti

When I was deciding on meals this week, I gravitated toward dishes I can make without recipes. I have been making the base for this pasta sauce for almost a decade now, and it’s just something I can throw together from the top of my head. It’s all about personal taste. Not enough sugar? Add a little more. Needs some more salt? Okay. More herbs? Yup. A little red wine? Sure thing. It’s incredibly adaptable. For this one, I added mushrooms and ground beef for more heartiness. In truth, this isn’t a fast meal – good pasta sauce needs a couple hours to develop flavor, and this one usually simmers for 2-3 before it’s ready. But it’s not work-intensive, and the extra sauce freezes terrifically. So, no complaints here. It went very nicely with the whole wheat pasta, and though I wasn’t impressed with the Romaine salad, I was glad I’d made it. The homemade croutons were the best part though!

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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