This semester, I am cooking on the weekdays and Dan on the weekends because he doesn’t get home until 10 PM Monday through Thursday evenings. This is a big change for me, because since we’ve lived together Dan has made a good 85% of our meals cooked at home. I’m having to flex muscles I haven’t used in a long time and remember skills and past successes and past failures and to be a little more creative because you can only have the same meal so many times in a row before you get tired of it. That’s how I am, at any rate.
This week, I made three dinners and punted once (reheating chicken gumbo and cornbread Dan made last weekend). Here’s what I made, and how it went, and what I might do differently.
Monday: Fritatta-like thing with vegetables and chicken
Chopped onion or shallot (I used shallot), about 1/2 cup
Chopped mushrooms, about 5 large white ones
Chopped red bell pepper, about 1/2 cup
Chopped raw spinach, about 1 1/2 or 2 cups
One raw chicken breast, diced
3 eggs scrambled with a bit of milk
Small amount of grated parmesan and fancy gruyere cheese
For this dish, I chopped the chicken breast into smallish pieces and sauteed it in a small pan with a whole bunch of lemon pepper and some fresh garlic. In a large nonstick skillet I sauteed the shallot, mushrooms, and red bell pepper in a a little olive oil with some more lemon pepper, and when the chicken was almost done I put it in with the other stuff. I added the spinach and folded it in with everything else, then dumped in the egg, turned down the heat, and put a lid on the pan so it could cook slowly. When the fritatta was set and looked pretty done, I grated some parmesan and gruyere (we got some from the cheese ends basket at Sunflower Market) over the top, and I served it with a piece of toasted whole wheat bread.
Resuts: very tasty, and made enough for both of us for dinner, plus enough for two lunches’ worth of leftovers. I only needed 3 eggs which acted as a binding agent more than a really eggy dish. The gruyere on top was super yummy.
Tuesday: Stir-fry over udon noodles, zucchini bread (for dessert)
1/2 block tofu (I think maybe 12 oz block), drained, cubed, and marinated in soy-ginger salad dressing for a couple of hours
1/2 chopped red bell pepper (we got a ton of cheap bell peppers this weekend at the grocery store – can you tell?)
1/4 chopped yellow bell pepper
4 chopped large white mushrooms
1 large chopped zucchini (I cut it in 1 inch chunks, then quarter them lengthwise)
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 pound purple green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces and blanched
1 baby bok choy, each “leaf” halved lenthwise
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 little packets udon noodles
I cut up the tofu and marinated it for a couple of hours in some leftover soy ginger salad dressing we had (annie’s, maybe?) and made the zucchini bread (recipe to follow) while I waited. After the bread was done, I did the rest of the prep work (like blanching the purple green beans, watching them turn from purple to green in a matter of seconds before my eyes), then poured a little canola oil in the wok, turned it up high, and tossed in the tofu and all of the veggies except the green beans and baby bok choy and set the water to boiling for the noodles. I added some lime juice, some rice vinegar, and a little sesame oil. When the veggies were mostly done, I added the green beans and cooked the udon noodles. I added the baby bok choy and cilantro right at the end of the cooking time, drained the noodles, and served the stir fry over them in our big stir-fry bowls.
Result: Super tasty, a different mix of veggies than I normally do. The purple green beans had fantastic flavor, especially when mixed with everything else. I would have used sesame seeds had we had them, but I made do with a little sesame oil and I think the flavor was great. Next time I’ll use a tiny bit less oil.
I’d been wanting to make zucchini bread for a long time, and bought some extra ones at the store this weekend in anticipation. Here’s my recipe, modified from the original out of the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook.
MLE’s Zucchini Bread made healthy
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil (we use canola for baking)
1 1/3 cup grated zucchini
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Mix dry ingredients, add wet, scrape into greased 8×4 loaf pan. Bake at 350F for about 40-45 minutes. This batter will be pretty dry, but it will turn into a great zucchini bread. Dan isn’t a huge fan of nuts in baked goods so I didn’t put nuts in this time. It’s great served warm or cold and spread with a little bit of butter.
Wednesday: Cheated and reheated some leftover gumbo.
Thursday: Bell Pepper Soup
It’s turned cold and rainy the last few days, and we had a ton of bell peppers still, so I decided to pull this old recipe out of a cookbook I stole from my mom called “Almost Vegetarian.” The last time I made this soup was 2003 so I thought I’d dust it off and try again.
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 small potato, chopped (I used a yukon gold)
equivalent of 2 large bell roasted bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow), seeded and chopped
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken to give it some more flava flav)
lemon pepper and savory
fresh basil from the garden
First, roast the bell peppers. I used 1/2 a huge yellow one, 1 big red one, and 1/2 a medium-size orange one, taking out the seeds/ribs and roasting them skin-side up in the broiler for a few minutes, then putting them in a bag in the fridge for 15 minutes while I prepped everything else. Theoretically, this was supposed to make the skins easy to remove, but this is something I always have trouble with and this time was no different. I removed what skins I could but found it to be a difficult and slippery business.
Prep everything else, then sautee the onion, carrot, and celery in a soup pot with a little olive oil and the dry seasonings until softened (10 minutes?). Add the bell peppers and potato and the chicken/veggie stock, then let simmer for a while until everything seems pretty soft – maybe 15 minutes or so. When the veggies seem cooked, remove from heat and puree everything in the blender. Return to the pot and add some fresh chiffonaded (is that a word?) basil, then let simmer again while you melt some sharp cheddar cheese on top of leftover southern-style corn bread.
Serve with more basil on top. I added a little salt and pepper to mine, since I didn’t add any during the cooking process.
Results: delicious soup with more body since I used chicken broth. Next time I might serve with grilled cheese sandwiches, or cook some raw (peeled, de-tailed, deveined) shrimp in the soup during the final step to add some protein.