For the first time in my life, I planned a week of suppers and did all the shopping beforehand. I’ve heard of people doing this. My mom is the queen of planning; last month she sent out a group email to coordinate our meals at the family reunion. It’s in August. I’ve seen the planning charts on pinterest and even considered pinning them. I’ve looked at those together people with envy and admiration. I’ve thought it could be me and then reminded myself that I am the one who doesn’t even make a grocery list and, when I do scratch out a list on an old receipt, I leave it or change my mind. I make dinner magic from there’s-nothing-in-the house. I wing it, I don’t follow recipes.
Until now. Now I do both! Or, at least I have that one time.
A while back, I had dinner with a dear friend and I blinked in amazement as she rattled off her plans for meals over the week her family would be in town. I also had family coming to town and planned to hit the store and buy piles of food that would turn into dinner. I said I wished I had her organizational bones. When I said that out loud I realized I do. At one time, I headed up giant fundraising campaigns, coordinated hundreds of volunteers. And now I own my own business. I am no stranger to lists, to a spreadsheet. I choose to wing it in the kitchen because it is great fun to invent with my kids. They choose ingredients and we go for it. We dance around the kitchen and make impulsive decisions that (most) always work out. And there is a time to plan. Like when we have a full house of loved ones and I don’t want to have a post-ski-5pm-kitchen-scramble because I’d rather have everything at the ready so we can shake martinis while food peacefully simmers into dinner.
Plus! Yes, there’s a plus. With two grandmas and a grandpa who want to help and because the ‘recipe’ didn’t only exist in the dusty corners of my brain, I had tasks to hand out. Supper-making was collaborative and relaxing in a way I hadn’t experienced with house guests.
Our week of planned dinners was grand. And, here, I am sharing our menu with you.
CHEESE QUICHE + SALAD
I am just in love with Mark Bittman’s Basic Cheese Quiche, crust and all! (Yes: I use his over mine for this recipe). Because this quiche recipe isn’t posted by him online anywhere, it isn’t mine to share here. But it can be easily found in his cookbook. And his cookbook is wonderful.
I followed this recipe exactly and it was so good. Fresh, interesting and a big hit with everyone.
GARLICKY OVEN-ROASTED SWEETS AND DATES, FILET + SALAD OF BRUSSELS, SPINACH AND BEAN SPROUTS
Andy cooked the filets and I know very little about cooking meat so I don’t have much to share on that front. The salad is a current favorite of ours: spinach, chopped brussels sprouts (steams for just a minute), bean sprouts and vinaigrette. And the oven-roasted dish is a winter staple around here. Easy, fast and delish.
Garlicky Oven Roasted Sweets and Dates
adapted from this recipe
3 sweet potatoes, cut into ice cube-sized chunks
8-10 garlic cloves, whole
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups medjool dates, pitted and sliced in half length-wise
Preheat oven to 375. Place sweets, cloves, oil and dates in a baking dish. Cook for 45 minutes. It’s ready when potatoes are soft with golden crispy edges. Salt and serve.
MUSHROOM BOURGUIGNON + PAN SEARED ASPARAGUS
Oh holy. This recipe is just AMAZING. A few changes I made: 1/2 portobellos and 1/2 buttons (only because the portobellos were super spendy); no pearl onions. Also, in addition to the link above, this recipe is in Smitten’s book (seen above), which I just got for my birthday and think is excellent! Everything we’ve made has been lovely. Also we used and love this boullion.
CAULIFLOWER SOUP + SALAD (WITH LEFTOVER STEAK) + CRUSTY BREAD
warming leftovers / Earlywood short server spoon
My kids love this soup. It’s a little different every time we make it.
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
1 large head cauliflower, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
stock or water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
Heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until a bit soft and fragrant. Add cauliflower and carrots. Cook for a few minutes. Pour in stock (I didn’t include an amount here but you want it to cover your veggies by a few inches. You can always add more later). Add mustard and sage. Cook until veggies are soft (about 15 minutes) and then purée with an immersion blender or blender. Too thick? Add stock or water. Too thin? Simmer a bit to cook water off. Stir in cheese, add salt to taste and serve.
YAM AND BLACK BEAN ENCHILADAS
small soft corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups black beans (fresh cooked preferred, a can works too)
3 yams, chunked
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
plain whole milk yogurt
fresh cilantro, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Place yams into a pot of boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes, until soft. Remove from burner, strain and set aside to cool.
- Cook onion in a tablespoon of oil until soft. Add spices and cook for a minute.
- Add water and scrape goodies from bottom of pan.
- Peel the yams by loosening the skin at one end and pulling back. Add yams and beans to mixture.
- Soften tortillas by coating lightly with canola oil (spraying works well) and baking at 350 for 5 minutes.
- Using two 9×13 pans (or a combination of smaller pans), spread 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the pan.
- Scoop some yam-bean mixture into a warmed tortilla. Roll it up, then place seam side down in the pan. Repeat. The enchiladas should be snug up against each other.
- Pour enchilada sauce over top and sprinkle with cheddar.
- Bake for about 15 minutes.
- Serve on a bed of spinach, top with yogurt and cilantro.
*use a can or make this easy enchilada sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
one small can tomato paste
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Whisk together and heat over medium-low for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit to thicken.
TAKE OUT THAI FOOD
Oh we love Sa Wad Dee. Take out is always a good option for the last night.
On day four, Andy wrapped his arms around my waist and said, “Babe, I really like this planned-dinner-wife thing.” We laughed but I know what he means. I think I’ll try it on every once in a while. We needn’t have allegiance to our habits. In fact, a fresh approach is often the key to new inspiration.
What are you making? Enjoying? Excited for? Do you plan? Wing it? How are you finding inspiration in the kitchen these early spring days?