Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What's for dinner this week?

I've recently been thinking that buying cheaper cuts of meat is forcing me to be more creative and try new things to fancy it up. When I was cleaning out my MIL's garage on Sunday, I came across an old copy of Cook's Country (my absolute FAVORITE cooking magazine!) and also a copy of Cook's Illustrated, which I'd never seen before. (They're both written by the same company, America's Test Kitchen). Cook's Illustrated had an excellent two-page tutorial about stuffing pork loin, which I just happened to have in my freezer. It was FANTASTIC and I already can't wait to make it again. I served it with leftover creamy mushroom orzo pasta and fresh green beans.
The cost of this meal (not including the leftover orzo, which runs more because of the POUND of fresh mushrooms it takes) was under $10! ($6.32 for the pork, $3.50 for the grean beans, butter and chicken base, the rest of it I had in my pantry!). And because I stole her magazine, I invited Carol for dinner, so that $10 ended up being dinner for three extremely voracious adults, two kids and one lunch for Dave in leftovers.

The only downside to cooking like this is the TIME. I literally shopped in the morning, dropped my son off at preschool at 1:00, picked up an Rx at Target (which is conveniently located between our house and the preschool) and spent the entire rest of the afternoon in the kitchen. Cooking from scratch has its benefits (like having a happy husband and eating a delicious meal that would've easily cost $20 a plate at a restaurant) but you have to love cooking and actually have that much time available to you.

Instead of sitting down and relaxing/writing/paying the bills, I spent my daughter's two hour nap cooking. (I also baked a pound cake from scratch during that time too). It's definitely one of my favorite ways to pass the time, but I understand it's definitely not for everyone. It helps to LOVE your kitchen and I've definitely been cooking more often and more complicated things since we've been in this house simply because I finally have the space to do it. It wasn't that long ago that we were crammed into a too-small apartment with almost zero counter space and I definitely didn't cook as much then!

The rest of the week is also filled with new recipes:
  • TUESDAY, October 14th
    Bistro whole chicken (from a recipe I found in the Sunday paper) with roasted cauliflower and baked or mashed potatoes.
  • WEDNESDAY, October 15th
    Homemade pizza. I made an extra crust on Friday, so I'll use that.
  • THURSDAY, October 16th
    Chicken and broccoli bake (a recipe I found in Cook's Country) with baked potatoes or rice. (I haven't decided yet).
  • FRIDAY, October 17th
    Crispy pork cutlets (also from Cook's Country but extremely similar to the kind I usually make) with rice and smashed peas.
  • SATURDAY, October 18th
    FEND. We'll probably have leftovers and I'll make mac 'n cheese for the kids.
I did go to Fred Meyer yesterday for produce and some staples. I really prefer their produce, even if it isn't the cheapest. I also had planned to put Alex in the kid's play area, but once he got there, he wanted to shop with me instead. Apparently the kid cart with the steering wheels was more exciting than watching Dora with a bunch of other kids. So I guess I could've saved money by going to Winco after all.

What you cooking this week? How much time do you spend in the kitchen?

19 comments:

Dena said...

OMG I *love* Cook's Illustrated. If you ever need a recipe for a dish the way it SHOULD be done, or a to-the-minute exact recipe to make a perfect dish, they're you're guys.

It's true -- their recipes are more time-consuming than a lot of others. But if you want to do a dish the "right" way, you gotta do it their way. The amount of time they put into testing recipes, testing ingredients, testing kitchen equipment... it is so worth it.

Their recipe for lasagna is so to die for. It's freaking indulgent in terms of calories, but yummmmmmm.

Have you checked out their website? There is a WEALTH of information on there. In fact, so much so that I switched from subscribing to the magazine to subscribing to the website.

Mandajuice said...

I may have to subscribe to BOTH now. I just SO look forward to the magazine arriving every other month. It's totally matches my cooking style!

Elizabeth said...

I love The New Best Recipe (the cookbook of Cooks Illustrated), especially for the baked goods.

This week's dinner entrees:
1. Pizza (from scratch!) with caramelized onions and roasted zucchini
2. Chard and black bean enchiladas
3. Corn pudding with roasted poblanos
4. White bean and butternut squash stew

I plan four meals per week, allowing for leftover nights, eating out, and throwing together something random. I managed to get all the produce I needed at the farmers' market over the weekend, except garlic, because I forgot we were out (and bananas for the kiddo). The rest came from Trader Joe's.

I do like spending time in the kitchen, even though it is a small apartment kitchen. It's bigger than the one in my old condo, at least. The main problem these days is trying to cook with a clingy toddler. She seeems a bit better this week, so I was a little more ambitious than some weeks with the time the recipes require. Some bits I do during naptime (putting together the pizza dough, roasting chiles, making the enchilada sauce). Then I just start cooking early, so that I can stop and draw or read stories or nurse or whatever the kiddo needs. I start cooking dinner aound 4:30 and we usually don't eat until 7 (well, the baby has some cheese and/or veggies around 5, plus whatever she mooches as I cook) when my husband gets home, but it takes me that long to cook because I stop that often.

Jimmie said...

Let's see...

This week's meals:
Monday - we were supposed to have veggie burgers but went out to Pita Pit instead (oops)
Tuesday - Barbecue Beef Cups (so white trash, yet so tasty) and shoepeg corn
Wednesday - Baked chicken breasts with fresh jalapenos and cheddar cheese, broccoli rice
Thursday - Ham-cheese-pepper-onion omelets and wheat toast, possibly with some potatoes sauteed with onions in olive oil
Friday - our night to go out
Saturday - Homemade turkey chili and honey cornbread

I've started planning 6 meals a week, with the "easier" ones taking place on Monday and Tuesday, because I'm busier on those nights (softball league and grad school). Although I love, love, love to cook and would spend all day in the kitchen planning/prepping meals and baking, I work outside the home and thus, usually only spend an hour or less cooking each night. On weekends, I usually spend at least half of Saturday in there, doing a deep clean and preparing a more-elaborate-than-usual dinner.

Bunny said...

I am an avid fan of America's Test Kitchen and its publications. We subscribe to the online Cook's Illustrated. AT least once a week I make a CI recipe. Today I made the "Almost No-Knead Bread" which is VERY easy, it just takes a long time (8-18 hours) to rise. I make a lot of their pork chop recipes, blueberry scones, skillet lasagna, the pizza bianca crust!...there are so many. It is my go-to resource for recipes.
It does take a long time to cook from scratch. Longer than popping something frozen into the microwave or oven. But I was raised on home cooked food and I have a snobby palette...I just don't do prepared foods or things with a lot of preservatives. So I make time in my day for cooking. I do much of it in the morning when my kids are energetically keeping themselves entertained. I also bake several times a week. Baking is not a chore for me...it is fun and quick and delicious!

Janssen said...

I'm so busy right now in school, that I don't have much time to cook, but I love it and I'm WAY too excited to be going home early tonight and being able to make corn chowder, biscuits, and a salad. Yay!

Also, could you share the recipe for that mushroom orzo?

Alias Mother said...

We (I say "we" because the husband and I trade off cooking duties) spend probably an hour a night in the kitchen. Everything gets made from scratch, but because we both work I try to prep ahead of time when I can. On Sunday I plan the whole week's meals and make up a shopping list. We spend an average of $100/week on food.

This week:

Monday: Black bean, corn, and red pepper enchiladas
Tuesday: Fish chowder w/biscuits
Wednesday: Mushroom and tofu stroganoff over whole wheat noodles
Thursday: Crockpot three bean and veggie chili over polenta
Friday: Homemade veggie pizza
Saturday: Upside down vegetable cake (a Mollie Katzen recipe--ridiculously good)
Sunday: Indian spinach and potato w/homemade naan

I purposefully plan the meals to be faster and easier as the work week goes on, because by Thursday we are approaching brain-dead. Weekend meals take longer and are usually more exciting. Also, I tend to make things on the weekend to take us through rest of the week (bake cookies, muffins, or bread; make pizza dough; pre-cook beans, etc).

I take a perverse interest in seeing what other people eat. For example, I think it's interesting that your family seems to prefer the traditional meat-starch-veg trinity, while we are more "one pot meal" people. I'm sure that says something very deep about us. Like the fact that I hate doing dishes. Or something.

M Shriver said...

I love love love all the ATK stuff... I subscribe to both Cook's Country and Cook's Illustrated, and there's really little overlap, so it's great. Cook's Country is more of the down-homey stuff (like Jello Poke-Cake and aweeeesome meatballs) so it's a slight fav. There is a show for each on PBS, on Sat mornings here in N. Wash. I totally agree with the cooking thing... it takes so much time to save money. Yes, a can of crushed tomatoes can be cheaper than a jar of sauce, but it takes longer. And yes, it tastes better, but it takes longer. I have never had a ATK recipe fail, though. :-)

For dinner this week, we're having pot roast tonight in the crock pot, with mashed potatoes and carrots. Wed- leftovers. Thurs- no idea. Friday- no idea. Saturday- no idea. :-) I already blew the grocery budget this week stocking up on $2.97 7% ground beef, so probably I'll do tacos or something with that. We are usually a meat, grain, veggie trinity family, too. Unless we're having Mexican, then it's main, chips and salsa trinity. Salsa's a veggie, right? :-)

Thanks for reinstating TNL... loving it! And, we're another family with $1900 discretionary budget that still has problems making it work each month. :-) I like the iPhone app idea, but, uh, haven't convinced DH that iPhone is a neccesary expense (yet?).

Mandajuice said...

Elizabeth and Alias Mother, I love all those vegetarian recipes! I wish I could cook more like that, but if there is no meat on the table, Dave asks (sincerely), "Where's dinner?" no matter what I've prepared. I may have to try some of your stuff as side dishes though!

Jimmie, I must know what BBQ beef cups are! I've never even heard of that.

bunny, I'm the same kind of food snob!

janssen, I've got the photos all ready and mushroom orzo will be the next recipe I post on mandajuice. And I LOVE corn chowder!

Joceline said...

Even if you don't end up subscribing to CI, definitely buy their holiday baking issue when it comes out (probably the beginning of Nov.). All of the baked goods are AMAZING and whenever I make anything from those issues, people tell me to open a bakery. Seriously, and I can't even take the credit!

LizP said...

Pork loin is on sale at Safeway for $1.99/lb! (I shop on my lunch hour)

When we go to Winco we go with the attitude of being open to whatever they have on sale.

If I said "pretty please" would you post your recipe for creamy mushroom orzo pasta? I love orzo!

Pretty please!

Kendall's Mom said...

Hey MJ, I WISH I loved cooking... I think I used to... but I've finally had to give myself permission to have the LB dinners (lazy butt.) Like, last night was tamales from Costco. Not as good as my authentic Mexican BIL's, but tamales are such a pain to make, these are pretty good. I made homemade green sauce to go with them using tomatillos and jalapenos from the Farmer's Market. Other fave LB dinners - the Costco roasted chicken or the Costco chicken alfredo. The LB dinners are more expensive than cooking from scratch, but cheaper than going out. Some of my fave recipes are actually out of the Cooking Light magazines and some Weight Watchers cookbooks - not that you could tell that from the numbers on the scale!! Tonight we're having a WW recipe, pineapple glazed pork chops, fresh green beans from the farmers market and couscous. Tomorrow is tacos, made with ground turkey and fresh spinach and tomato also from the farmers market...

Jimmie said...

BBQ Beef Cups...haha...

There are several iterations out there, but I got my recipe from something called "The Diabetic Four Ingredient Cookbook". My diabetic grandmother bought everyone in the family one because she liked hers so much.

Online, this is about the closest thing I could find: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Barbecue-Beef-Cups/Detail.aspx

I usually substitute the barbecue sauce for a mix of Heinz 57 steak sauce and ketchup, which I actually prefer.

Enjoy this delightfully trashy recipe, which simply MUST have been created by a Southerner (Oklahoma girl here). :-)

kheatherg said...

Hold on! A kids play area in a grocery store? Fred Meyers?

We dont have this luxury in the South but man-o-man I would pay not to haul the kids around with me in the grocery store

Kerri said...

I cook mostly from scratch, but I'm not above a boxed side dish. I work full-time and now that I have a one-year-old running around, it's harder to get something made so that we can eat and have a little time before he has to go to bed. I try to pre-cook ingredients the night before when I can...brown the meat, cook some rice, whatever. I also have gotten pretty lazy on the fruit/veggis side dishes. It's often just some cut-up fruit, but we're OK with that. Before I had my son, I would make these awesome salads with dinner and make my own dressing. Too much chopping now! You need two hands for that, and one hand/arm is always holding my boy! He loves to watch "Mommy's Cooking Show."

Monday was salmon cakes with (packaged) noodles and apple slices.

Tuesday was chicken fajitas (I made my own "seasoning packet" and guacamole, though!) and apple slices.

Tonight is pork chops (my baby's favorite!) with TJ's white cheddar mac & cheese and applesauce. (It's beginning to look like we live in some sort of orchard with all these apples I have going on here.)

Tomorrow is homemade chicken fried rice and pineapple (I will pre-cook the rice tonight so it is nice and fry-able tomorrow.)

Friday we are going out to eat for our 5-year annivesary! And with a gift card no less. Woo! Free nice dinner where I can eat and not constantly be cutting food up into tiny pieces for another person!

Anonymous said...

I am trying to get back into the routine of cooking now that life has quieted down a bit. DH and toddler DS are both picky in their own ways, so it's tough.

Mon-was supposed to be apple glazed chicken with ww couscous, ended up being stir fry of marinated beef, veggies and Korean rice cakes. Tues-was supposed to be udon but no one felt like eating at dinner, so it was fend-for-yourself. Wed (tonight)-teriyaki salmon (not so happy with how *fishy* my salmon turns out and I use fresh wild caught - anyone have suggestions?). Thurs-quesidillas. Fri-night out with DH.

Ugh-it's hard to get back in the routine!

Alias Mother said...

Amanda, I would totally recommend the upside down veggie cake as a side dish. It's in Katzen's "Enchanted Broccoli Forest". The spinach and potato Indian dish is criminally good and is in Madhur Jaffrey's "World of the East Vegetarian Cooking." I use canned potatoes b/c I don't notice a taste difference and it saves a lot of time. (Don't use frozen spinach though--trust me!) I also use that naan recipe.

Naomi said...

I love the "FEND" day!!

drowninginlaundry said...

I love your FEND night. We used to do the same thing at our place as a kid, but my Mom called it Russle-it. As in Rustle It up yourself if you are hungry. It was always my favorite night!