Sunday, January 8, 2012

Preparing for a Busy Week

I'm not sure if what I'm doing this week is really an official meal plan; but I am planning meals for the next couple of days as I prepare for a business trip that will keep me away for 32 hours (when you're still breast-feeding, every hour away needs to be counted!) over Tuesday and Wednesday.

I have once again been blessed (?) with a large box of food from my parents who are traveling to BC to see my sister and her new baby. This time, besides fresh vegetables (asparagus, a head of lettuce,  and peppers, as well as parsnips, three small cabbages and parsley (still fresh, which is amazing)  from the garden), there is a substantial amount of dairy product (yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, feta) and lemons and cooked wheat berries, from our Ukrainian dishes at Christmas.

I already worked some of the cooked wheat into hamburger patties for last night's supper, inspired (again) by Mark Bittman. I used the wheat, ground beef, and thawed frozen garden chard for my grain, meat and greens. The texture of the greens mixed into the meat seemed to slow my kids down a bit, but I still like how these patties include meat as well as a substantial amount of grains and vegetables.

I have to account for an early meal tonight, since my volleyball schedule has us playing from 6PM to 9PM tonight. I am about to throw a large, farm-grown half-chicken (that is, a chicken cut in half, not some sort of weird hybrid) into the oven with parsnips and a sweet potato to roast along with it. I will be going veggie heavy and serving roasted asparagus and peppers alongside it, and finishing with a salad.

I have to include a side note that I would never personally buy asparagus while it is being shipped from Peru, but now that I have it, I'll have to make use of it.

Among my own list of items to use up from the Christmas season is some mascarpone cheese, which is too pricey and too delicious to waste, so I found a recipe for fruit gratin with mascarpone and Calvados, which is in the oven right now. I don't have Calvados, but I do have my own homemade crabapple brandy, which I am using instead. Looking forward to a yummy fruit dessert.

I'm trying to build up my leftovers, considering I have to leave enough food behind while I'm away to feed my kids and inlaws who are going to be watching the kids. So for lunch I pulled some stuff out of the fridge and made quite a lovely minestrone-style soup:

Alphabet Minestrone

2 T. butter or oil (I used turkey fat)
1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs with leaves, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 c. chicken stock
2 c. cooked white navy beans, plus cooking liquid, to equal 3 c.
28 oz can tomatoes
1 t. salt and 1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
Generous 1/2 c. whole grain alphabet pasta
1 c. fresh or frozen green beans, cut into 3/4" pieces
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 T. fresh parsley
pre-made pesto (preferably homemade) as a condiment

Heat butter in a large Dutch oven. When it is hot, add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Saute until onion is clear, about 5 minutes. Pour in chicken stock, beans and liquid, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Mash tomatoes with a potato masher. Bring to a boil at high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add whole grain pasta and simmer 5 minutes more. Add green beans and red pepper; simmer 5 minutes more. Stir in fresh parsley. Remove from heat, ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of pesto.

Tomorrow night, I will have a full-on roast beef dinner (although not sure about the popovers), and possibly an old-school iceberg and blue cheese salad, since I have that to use up as well. That should see the family into their mom-free time with enough food to reduce stress for all involved.

I figure when I get back home around 4PM on Wednesday, there will be enough leftovers to carry us through dinner that night. Between the packed freezer and the generous amounts of fresh stuff in our fridge, we should be covered. The grocery list this weekend was the smallest it's been in a LONG time:
• vinegar (primarily for the diaper pail)
• table salt (primarily for making homemade playdough)
• Miracle Whip (my favourite for making salmon sandwiches)
• onions

And that, as they say, is that.

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