Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Menu #51

I hope everyone had a fun Memorial Weekend!  We had a fabulous holiday weekend.  We joined the annual Memorial Day Shinn-Dig, which was a blast.  The next day we headed to one of our favorite parks, where X-man learned to ride his bike without training wheels!  He was absolutely thrilled!  The rest of the time was spent just chilling out in our backyard enjoying the wonderful weather.  J

Above is a picture of a chicken-green bean stir fry.  It substituted for teriyaki chicken on our menu a couple weeks ago.  Stir-fry is one of my top 3 go-to meals when I need dinner done quick.  It always starts with a fragrant base of 1 T minced ginger, 1 T minced garlic, 1 T minced green onions, sesame oil, rice vinegar, & amino acids (soy sauce can be substituted).  If I want a spicy stir-fry, then I add a couple tablespoons of Asian chili paste, red pepper flakes, or Sriracha.  I marinate my proteins in this mixture for at least as long as it takes for me to prep the vegs.  I then stir-fry the proteins over high heat with oil (I usually set the heat at the notch right below high on my stove) until browned on all sides but not cooked all the way through.  I then transfer the proteins to a dish and set aside.    Then I add whatever vegs I want and stir-fry them about 5 minutes or until desired tenderness and then add the proteins back until cooked through.  Voila.  .  .within 30 minutes you have a healthy & delicious dinner for the fam.  J

This week’s menu . . .

Tuesday:  Eggplant Cannelloni/salad/garlic wheat bread
I’m making a triple batch with a cheese-less one for the Paleo menu.

Wednesday:  Thai Chicken Wraps/sesame rice noodle salad
These will consist of poached chicken, napa cabbage, green onions, bean spouts, carrots, & bell peppers wrapped in roamine leaves drizzled with peanut sauce.  They're a great dinner for the summer and work perfect for the Paleo menu with the substitution of almond butter sauce instead of peanut sauce.  I'll do a post on this next week.

Thursday:  Zucchini Noodle Chicken Soup
I’m making this noodle-less chicken soup for the Paleo menu, and I thought we’d have it for dinner too.  I’m going to cut long strips of zucchini to substitute for pasta noodles.  I’ll post about it next week also.

Friday:  Dinner Out
Restaurant TBD. . .

Saturday:  Grilled Asian Salmon/steamed brown nice/veg kabobs

Sunday:  Grilled Hot Dogs/grilled veg pasta salad
I’m using leftover veg kabobs for pasta salad.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Black Bean-Corn Salad

This is a super easy side dish to take along to any summer potluck.  Don’t let the simplicity of this salad deceive you though; it’s packed with flavor.  The key is the grilling of the corn; using frozen corn kernels won’t give you the same smoky flavor.

Black Bean-Corn Salad

2 ears of corn
1 14-oz can black beans (low-sodium), drained & rinsed
1 red bell pepper, small diced
1/2 red onion, small diced
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 limes (depends on how much juice you can get from your limes)
Drizzle grape seed oil (or extra-virgin olive oil)
Couple splashes of hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1/2 t cumin
S&P, tt

Remove the husks from the corn and grill until charred.  Set aside & allow to cool.  When cool enough to handle, remove the kernels from the cob into a large bowl.  Add beans, bell pepper, & onion to corn and toss to combine.  Add cilantro & squeeze lime juice into bowl and drizzle with oil.  Season with hot sauce, cumin, and S&P and mix to combine.  Taste for seasonings and serve.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Menu #50

I had a lot of cooking to do today, so I’m a bit late posting today’s menu.  I picked up another private chef gig, and this time it’s for a couple on the Paleo diet.  I made two different chicken salads for both the private chef menus; one being the Waldorf Chicken Salad pictured above, and I also made a Fruit & Nut Chicken Salad for the Paleo dieters.  The Waldorf included poached chicken, apples, raisins, red onion, celery, walnuts, and an orange yogurt dressing.  The Paleo chicken salad included grapes, walnuts, celery, red onion, & Paleo mayo.  I really like the fruit-nut combination in chicken salads; it adds just the right amount of sweetness & crunch.

This week’s menu. . .

Tuesday:  Taco Salad w/ romaine, avocado, tomato, green onions, cucumbers, radishes, seasoned ground beef, shredded colby cheese, & salsa yogurt dressing.
Since X-man is still a non-beef eater, he had chicken with romaine, tomatoes, green onions, & radishes.   He has been very much into super heroes lately, so I have found that “challenging” his super powers has been a great way to get him to try new vegs, radishes being a new one for him tonight.  I told him they were too spicy and he shouldn’t try them because he couldn’t handle it.  His response was that his super hero persona for the evening was, in fact, Hot Man, and not only could he handle high temperatures in the weather but also had the ability to eat very spicy foods.  He ate 2 whole radishes in seconds and was begging for more!  He loves a challenge!  

Wednesday:  Chicken “Bolognese”/garlicky spaghetti squash/parmesan wheat toast
I’m making a triple batch to serve for the private chef menus also.  It’s going to be a basic Bolognese (meat sauce) subbing ground chicken for the ground beef & pork.

Thursday:  Lemon Chicken/quinoa pilaf/cheesy summer squash
I'm trying a new lemon chicken recipe I came across on Food Network; it came from the owner of Rao's in New York.  It's super simple with very little ingredients. . .I'll post about it next week.

Friday:  Dinner & Movie Night Out!
We’re taking lil’ man out for a dinner & a movie to watch Epic!  We’re all actually very excited to see it!  J

Saturday:  Memorial Day Shinn-Dig!
We’re heading out to our friend’s, The Shinns, for a fun bbq pool party for Memorial Day.  I’m contributing a black bean-corn salad. 

Sunday:  Grilling Pizza w/ salad
Toppings & salad TBD. . .

Monday:  B4D—granola waffles/omlettes (fillings TBD)/bacon/fruit salad

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Basic Tomato Sauce & Simple Enchilada Sauce

What do you do with a bunch of tomatoes?  Make tomato sauce!  It’s super simple and you can freeze it to use in a million different ways.  I made a batch of enchilada sauce with some of the tomato  sauce I made and froze the rest. 

The enchilada sauce is also very basic and can be used for enchiladas, Mexican casseroles, rice dishes, soups, and one of my all-time favorite brunch items, Huevos Rancheros, which I’m making tomorrow night for dinner.  I’ll do a post on it next week.

Basic Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:  Tomatoes & Water

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Meanwhile, make a small X incision onto the bottom of each tomato; this will allow for easy peeling.  

When the water comes to a boil, drop the tomatoes in and blanch for about 4 minutes.  Remove from the water and set aside to cool.  

When cooled down, peel the tomatoes.  The skin should very easily peel away from the tomato.

Core the tomatoes and set in a large bowl or pot to blend with an immersion blender (this step can easily be done in a blender or food processor).  Now you have your own tomato sauce.  I don’t season it since I’ll be using it for other recipes that I’ll be adding salt to anyway.

Simple Enchilada Sauce

Yields enough for 2 batches of enchiladas & a 20-oz mason jar for freezing

1/4 C Canola Oil
1 large white onion, chopped
1 T minced garlic
1/4 C flour
1/2 C chili powder (hot, medium, or mild; whatever you prefer)
2 t ground cumin
About 8 C tomato sauce
2 t granulated onion
2 t granulated garlic
S&P, tt
About 1 C chicken stock (if needed)

Heat up oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onions & cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium & add flour to make a roux and allow to cook until blonde in color, about 10 minutes.  Add chili powder & cumin and cook another 2 minutes.  Add tomato sauce, season with S&P, granulated onion & garlic, and allow to come to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for about 1 hour.  If you feel the sauce is a bit thick, add chicken stock to get the consistency you’re looking for.    

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Decorated Popcorn

Thank you to all the wonderful teachers out there!  X-man’s school assigns themes for each day of Teacher Appreciation Week.  Monday was Love Note Day, Tuesday was Beauty Pampering Day, and today was Relax & Enjoy a Movie Day.  We decided to make a fun sweet & salty popcorn munchie for Movie Day, and this is what we came up with.  Xavier named it Decorated Popcorn because it looks so beautiful with the chocolate & pink drizzles all over it.  It’s a super simple gift that the teachers are sure to enjoy!  J

Decorated Popcorn
Yields:  2 gift bags

1 microwave bag of Kettle Corn, popped
1/2 C salted, roasted peanuts
1 C dark chocolate melts
1 C white chocolate melts (we went with pink because X thought it was the prettiest for his teachers)  J

Melt the chocolates in the microwave at 50% power for 1 minute and mix.  Continue to microwave at 50% power at 30-second intervals, mixing in between, until smooth. 

Lay out the popcorn on a sheet pan, drizzle with the chocolates, add the peanuts making sure you get them onto the chocolate so they stick.  Set it in the fridge and allow to harden for about 10 minutes.  Break it up & through into gift bags.   We doubled the recipe to make 2 more for the principal & vice principal.  ;-)  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Menu #49

Hope everyone had a fabulous Mother’s Day!  I had a great time in Visalia with the fam, especially with my brother’s twins!  BDL & my brothers started our day out with a fabulous brunch of muffins, fruit, eggs, bacon, potatoes, & mimosas and then ended our day with an equally great dinner including grilled porterhouses and chicken asada with all the fixings and red velvet cake and cheesecake for dessert. . .yum!  There were so many stories told and so many memories relived; it was an altogether wonderful day!

I kept X-man home from school today so that he could have one day’s rest after the fun but hectic weekend.  He requested French toast for breakfast, which is one of his all time favorite breakfast items.  I usually make a few extra and just toast them in the toaster throughout the week for a quick breakfast.  Here’s the recipe. . .

X-man’s French Toast

2 eggs
2 T half n half (or milk or cream)
2 T OJ
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla extract
1 T maple agave syrup
4 slices muligrain bread
Mix together first 6 ingredients, soak bread in batter for a couples minutes per side, & griddle. Serve w/ real maple syrup.

Now on to this week’s menu. . .

Tuesday:  Black Bean Burgers on whole-wheat buns/baked onion rings/baby pickles & mixed olives/honeydew slices

Wednesday:  Chicken Enchiladas w/ red sauce/beans & rice/salsa
I’m just getting around to making the big ol’ batch of red enchilada sauce with the rest of my tomato surplus & I’ll post the recipe soon. 

Thursday:  Slow-Cooker Chicken Teriyaki/steamed brown rice/stir-fry green beans/edamame
I’ll also try to post this recipe, which is great to have in your arsenal for busy days.

Friday:  Grilled Pizza Party for last baseball game of the season!  J
This is X-man’s last game of the season, so we invited some family to join us for an early dinner before the late game.  We’re grilling a few pizzas including caramelized onion-honey gouda (great recipe I picked up from the This Week For Dinner food blog), extra parmesan-pesto (X-man’s fave), & plain ol’ cheese.  I’m also making a layered salad to accompany.  I’m not sure about dessert yet. . .

Saturday:  Baseball Awards Party!

Sunday:  B4D—Granola Waffles/Omelets (fillings TBD)/bacon/breakfast potatoes/fruit salad

Monday:  Parmesan Fish/cheesy broccoli & pasta/fruit/garlic wheat rolls

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kalamata Olive Goat Cheese Ravioli

I’m so excited to share this recipe!  It’s  super yummy and sounds fancy, but only has 2 ingredients!  This recipe is simplicity at its best.  These ravioli would be great tossed with just olive oil and garlic alone, but I made them for my private chef menu to go with simple Italian Tomato Sauce, which I posted yesterday.  They can easily store in the freezer for a busy day also. 

Kalamata Olive Goat Cheese Ravioli

Yields: 16 ravioli

8 sheets egg roll wrappers
5 oz Kalamata Olive Goat Cheese (Trader Joe’s)
Water for sealing

Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Cut the egg roll wrappers into fours.  Put a small dollop of goat cheese onto one square and moisten the edges with water using your finger.  Top with another egg roll wrapper square, and voila you have yourself a Kalamata Olive Goat Cheese Ravioli!  Boil them for 2 minutes and that’s it!  J  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Baked Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

As I mentioned yesterday, I have an overabundance of tomatoes.  On Monday I made a huge batch of Italian Tomato Sauce; today I'm making a large batch of Roasted Tomato-Pepper Soup, which I've blogged about; and Friday I'm making a big ol' batch of Red Enchilada Sauce, which I’ll blog about later.  That should do it for the tomatoes...I hope!  

For our dinner Monday night, I baked some meatballs to have with the tomato sauce.  I also have an overabundance of this Kalamata olive goat cheese, so I thought why not mix it in and give it a try…super yummy combination!!!  You have to give it a try some time.  I’ve decided to make olive goat cheese ravioli with the rest of my surplus…can’t wait to try those out!     

Italian Tomato Sauce

Yield:  4 20-oz mason jars

3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped (I used a food processor to chop mine…it’s quicker & saves you a lot of tears)
5 t minced garlic
1/2 C tomato paste
3 bay leaves
20 vine ripe tomatoes, cored & diced
S&P, to taste
3 T each of garlic powder, onion powder, Italian Seasoning
1 large handful of basil leaves, chopped
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large pot & cook onions until starting to caramelize.  Add garlic & tomato paste and cook another 3 minutes.  Add bay leaves & diced tomatoes and season w/ S&P, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian Seasoning.  Bring it to a boil and then turn the heat down to a low and allow to simmer for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  At this point you can just add the chopped basil & parmesan, taste for seasonings & be done.  I go a step further to assure that X-man doesn’t suspect he’s eating too many vegetables and I puree it with a hand blender (you can puree in batches using a blender, but you must allow it to cool down a bit before adding it to the blender). 

Baked Meatballs

Yield:  24 meatballs

1 # ground beef
1/2 C panko crumbs
1 egg
1/2 T ea of onion powder, garlic powder, & Italian Seasoning
3 T grated parmesan
S&P, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Spray mini muffin pan & set aside (I use a mini muffin pan but you can easily just use a regular sheet pan.)
Mix together all the ingredients, but don’t over mix because this will give you a tough texture.  Make 24 meatballs & set them into the prepared muffin pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Menu #48

Roasted Tomato-Bell Pepper Soup w/ Brie Panini

I’m up & running again!  I had my computer traded out for a new & improved one last week, but even when it was replaced I just couldn’t get myself to the computer.  I had a million things going on at once and, to be very honest, it was a bit overwhelming.  I’m happy to say that I made it through the storm, and everything is once again calm (for now!). 

One of the best moments to come out of the last two weeks would definitely be the wedding I catered this past Saturday!  It was fabulous!  There were a few hiccups during our time in the kitchen, including the oven dying on us while our beef was still roasting, but it all turned out great in the end.  The menu included 3 tray pass appetizers:  melon gazpacho w/ shrimp salad, roasted garlic-Cognac pate on crostini, & tarragon crab salad on cucumber slices; lunch:  2 carving stations with tri-tip w/ red wine sauce & peach-rosemary glazed turkey breast w/ peach chutney, toasted pearl couscous pilaf w/ dates & pine nuts, caprese 2 ways (dressed & undressed w/ lemon-herb oil), cheese& olive platter, and a chocolate fountain.  We were busy, busy, busy the entire time, and I was extremely grateful for all the help in the kitchen.  I had to hire 4 people to help me out with this, and I could have never gotten through it without them!  Thanks a million Ash, Troy, Levi, & Karli!!! 

I have tons of tomatoes & gourmet cheeses leftover from the wedding, so you’ll notice the trend in this week’s menu. . .

Tuesday:  Baked Potato & Salad Bar/garlic wheat toast

Wednesday:  Roasted Tomato-Red Pepper Soup/brie panini

Thursday:  Honey Gouda-Caramelized Onion Grilled Pizza/salad

Friday:  Blue Cheese Turkey Burgers/baked onion rings/cucumber-tomato salad

Sat-Sun:  Visalia!
We’re heading out of town to see our Mamas for Mother’s Day!

Monday:  BLT wraps/baked fries/carrot sticks

Wednesday, May 1, 2013