Thursday, 25 April 2013

Fettuccine alfredo

Given how much my Big Kid loves his "pasta with white sauce", I'm pretty surprised that I have yet to post about it.  I have one reference to a vegan version here where I get all fancy-pants on you and use a garlic confit (which I'd quite completely forgotten about and am now reminded of how much I loved to have it in my fridge and cook with it and will be making more in a few days) and tofu.  It's delicious but different from this one.

Linquine alfredo with shrimp.
This one is creamy and dreamy.

Quick and delightful.

And easy-peasy.

Miam, miam

I based it on a recipe I found in my handed-down edition of Janet and Greta Podleski's Looneyspoons cookbook.  The cover is falling off and the pages have been splattered but I refer to it often.  This version is not quite as low-fat as theirs but that's what I do.

Linguine Alfredo
based on a recipe from Looneyspoons
1 lb linguine, fettuccine, penne rigate or any pasta that will cup the sauce nicely
2 strips bacon, cut into tiny pieces
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (I love my microplane)
1 1/2 c 2% milk
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1/3 c cheddar cheese, medium, grated
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1 lb cooked shrimp, tails removed, thawed
1/4 c sour cream
3/4 c green peas, thawed or canned

- cook pasta, drain and return to pot with sauce
- while pasta is cooking, prepare sauce.
- cook bacon to very crisp but not burnt, add garlic and sauté 1 minute.
- mix milk and flour together to smooth.  Add to garlic.  Increase heat to med-high, cook and stir until thick and bubbly 4-5 minutes.
- reduce heat to low, add cheese, basil, S&P, cook 1 more minute to melt cheese.  Add shrimp, sour cream and peas.  Heat through.
- add pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.
- best served immediately, but leftovers are good too.

Variations: you can add a can or two of tuna, skinless salmon or chopped chicken.

"My Mom's Muffins" for anytime of the day, or loaves

These muffins are so good, so good you see.  You can eat them with a fox, you can eat them in a box.

Or you can eat them for breakfast, you can eat them at playdates, you can eat them with lunch.

They have all kinds of good stuff in them.

I had lent all my muffin tins out to a friend and only realized that after I had the batter made.  No biggie, just poured it into three well-greased loaf pans and continued.  I baked them for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick came out clean.

The Pioneer Woman calls these:
My Mom's Muffins
but, they're not actually my mother's muffins... yet...
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp b soda
2 tsp b powder
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup buttermilk *
1 egg
1 banana, mashed
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup molasses

- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Thoroughly grease a 12-count muffin pan.
- In a large bowl, combine flours, flaxseed meal, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, walnuts, and raisins. Stir together until combined.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, egg, banana, applesauce and molasses.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring until it just barely comes together. Batter should be wet and sticky; if needed, splash in a couple extra tablespoons of buttermilk.
- Scoop 1/4 cup helpings into the muffin cups and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until deep golden brown.

* If you don't have buttermilk on-hand, pour 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar in a measuring cup and pour on milk to top it up to 1 cup.  Let sit about 5 minutes.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Menu planning, the final installment, the "meat" of the matter

I plan our weekly menus and usually stick to them.  This is how I do it, this is what works for me.  There are many ways to go about this task and perhaps you will follow this method or perhaps you will take an idea or two away and create your own method.  I would love your feedback in the comments section.

This helps keep my food budget reasonable by avoiding frequent visits to the grocery store where I always pick up more than I went in for and make impulse buys. 

Menu planning helps tremendously with my stress level as well.  There's no opening of the fridge at 4 or 5 pm and wondering "what's for supper?".  There's also no stopping at the grocery store when everyone else is in the same mild, daily panic mode.

I don't plan breakfasts or lunches ahead of time, I just keep things in the pantry that we like.

For breakfast, we rotate a few choices: waffles, pancakes, crêpes, eggs, bacon, toast, cinnamon roll pancake squares, French toast, hot cereal and (as a treat) cold cereal.  Before I go to bed, I check out what we have and pretty much know when I wake up what we're going to eat for breakfast.  Sometimes, if I'm feeling really ambitious, I even prep it before I go to bed (coffee pot ready to be turned on, dry ingredients and wet ingredients measured out but not mixed together for waffles, for example).  We all get up and eat at the same time, that's just our way of doing things.  This may not work for you.  Perhaps for breakfast you'll be the only one up and will reach for something you have made ahead and frozen as you are walking out the door.  Good options for this may include a muffin and Thermos of milk, a breakfast burrito, breakfast cookie with a small yogurt, overnight oats or hot cereal in a Thermos with a piece of fruit.

Lunches for the take-away people (those who leave the house for work or school) are typically a leftover of last night or the night before as the main course.  As fillers, I fill tiny mason jars (1/2 cup size) at the beginning of the week and just pull them out of the fridge all week long so making the lunches is not too tedious for me.  Some common fillers are yogurt with fruit and grains or seeds, trail mixes or nuts and dates, custard or pudding.  I try to always add a couple pieces of fresh fruit or a carrot and some kind of treat, like a cookie or piece of cake or something like that.  My Man also has PB and jam in his lunches on Monday that he leaves at work and all week long I add two pieces of bread to his lunch every day for a sandwich.  On the weekends or for the stay-at-home people, lunch is usually my fave combo of soup and sandwiches.  Whatever is on-hand.

Supper is the meal I plan ahead of time and shop for.  Here goes everything.

So, it's Thursday night and the wees are in bed, the Big Kid is at the pool and your Man is playing a racing game on his iPad... it's quiet!  What do you do?  You meal plan!  YAY!  (This will be long the first time and each time after that it gets super easy and fast, trust me, please.)

Take out a sheet of paper and jot down all your family's favourite suppers.  All of the meals you love, like and eat anyway.  Include the fall-back meals, we're being realistic here.  If you have a picky eater, start a new list in the top right corner of your page listing the things your picky eater will eat and that you will want to have on-hand.

This is the book I use for all my meal planning...


Open it up and my scribbler is there with pens and pencil along with a small folder for the tried and true recipes.

Here is a glimpse of the tried and true recipes, I don't clip many.

Now, outside the margin on the left of your list, use an initial to identify the protein source.  Being from a meat 'n potatoes family, the meals are usually based on the meat so identify what meat each meal is.  For example, if you wrote "tacos " you would initial that with a "B" for beef or "F" for fish.  If you were making vegetarian tacos, you would use a "V".  Meatless meals thrown in there are usually good budget-stretchers and tend to be a healthier choice, so we'll go ahead and add one meatless meal a week into the plan.
B = beef
C = chicken
P = pork
F = fish
V = meatless
I also use "S" for soup meals and "I" to indicate it's a pasta meal on top of identifying the protein source.

Here is my long list of meals to choose from to create weekly menus. 
Note the protein indicated to the immediate left of the list.

On a new piece of paper, I create a protein pattern / meal pattern for the week. 
Monday is Beef
Tuesday is leftover or meatless (leftover from Sunday's big meal)
Wednesday is Pork
Thursday is Beef
Friday is Chicken
Saturday is a Fun / or Yummy or indulgent meal
Sunday is a big meal, hoping to have leftovers

You may choose themes for your suppers instead (Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Burgers and fries...).  For some families, they know Friday night is taco night or pizza night!

See the list of meals in the body of the page, the day of the week immediately to the left of that
with the day of the week a bit further to the left again.

I try to cook double batches to freeze some, but honestly, with this many mouths for each meal and then wanting to keep one or two lunch size servings for the next day, I rarely actually get that second batch in the freezer.  You may have better luck with this strategy if your family is smaller.  I do have a sauce day as often as I can and get lots into the freezer with that.

So, you have a long list of meals to choose from with the protein source on the left and you have some kind of pattern that will work for you.  Take a third piece of paper and this is your weekly menu for the coming week.  Quickly jot down the pattern you've chosen to follow then peruse your long list of meals you enjoy and fill in the blanks.  Voilà, one week done.  Go ahead and plan a second week.  A third, and before you know it, you have an idea of what the month might look like.  But, woah, let's stick to one week at a time for now.

Take a look at what you have in your house already ("shop your pantry first") then figure out what you need to buy.  You may want to factor in a second grocery run halfway through the week to replenish your fruit, vegetables and, if you're like us, the usual staples of milk, eggs and bread.

Tomorrow morning, with the kids in daycare for two hours, a full belly and list in hand (maybe even organized according to the layout of your favourite store) you breeze through the store picking up all that you need for one week's menus.  Go home and divvy up the meat for the week's meals, freeze most of it for later on in the week.  If you have time, cut up a bunch of veggies in containers in the fridge to pull from to make meal prep easier.

Another angle to take on this is to start with the weekly flyers and create your menu based on what's on sale. 

Another take on this is to strictly buy ingredients when you shop and not prepared or convenience food.  Have a hankering for Thai?  Make it!

Once you get good at this, there's Once A Month Cooking!  That sure looks pretty but, boy, it's a big commitment that first weekend of every month.  I do see how it would be beneficial for the people who arrive home at 5:30 on weeknights and bedtime is at 7, this would eat up valuable weekend time though.  I guess Once A Week cooking mightn't be overly ambitious.  A nice start is double-batch or big-batch cooking to cook once and eat twice, I fully support this concept.