Weekend Cooking, This Week’s Meal Plan, and the No-Trouble Date Night

Date Night Log

After shopping, I spent today prepping for meals for this week (the first half, anyway).  I diced and sliced onion, sliced red and green bell pepper into strips, and sliced four carrots into coins.  I also cut the chicken for the nuggets on Sunday into chunks.  I made kale chips, put together chicken enchiladas, and fixed Muffin and me lunch (kale chips, clementine orange, pepperoni slices, and string cheese made into a broom for him and leftover fried fish and jambalaya for me).

The kale chips.  Readers who are into organic healthy cooking and have probably blanched in terror every time I’ve discussed what I have made are probably cheering now.  I saw that kale was cheap at Wal-Mart and bought it with the express purpose of making kale chips.  For those of you who are in the dark as much as I was until recently, you make kale chips in the oven after washing and THOROUGHLY DRYING the kale.

Side note:  has anyone ever tried to dry kale?  The salad spinner doesn’t do it.  Wringing it out in a rolled up tea towel doesn’t do it.  Drying each leaf individually is a pain but seems to work best.  I tried to follow Melissa D’Arabian’s recipe on Food Network…tried being the operative word.  You are supposed to remove the leafy parts off of the ribs and thoroughly dry the leaves.  You are then to toss them with a bit of olive oil and salt (that was the fun part) and spread them in a baking pan.  You are to bake them at 275 degrees for ten minutes, turn them over, and then bake them ten minutes more.  They are supposed to be done after this twenty minutes of baking.  A few things that the recipe really didn’t stress:  1)  The leaves need to be spread out and flattened as much as possible.  2)  The leaves need to be in a single layer.  3) They need to be baked until they are crumbly crisp.  4)  It takes much longer than twenty minutes to bake them, and you have to bake them at a temperature closer to 300 degrees.  Otherwise, if you idealistically reach for a bite on the tray, you get to eat kale jerky.  Now, I like kale.  I love it in Olive Garden’s zuppa Toscana (It makes me feel like I’m eating so healthily when I eat the soup just because of the kale.  Yes, I know there is also a lot of cream, sausage, and bacon in the soup, but I can pretend.) and I like it sautéed.  I love seeing it as plate garnish.  But kale jerky (just in case a food entrepreneur who might want to market such a thing is wondering) IS HORRENDOUS!  Luckily, the first piece of it that I fed Muffin was what the recipe intended.  (It has a very light crumbly crunch when prepared correctly.)  He keeps demanding “chips” now and had some with his lunch.

Another Muffin-approved item is clementines.  Yesterday, I bought a 3 lb. bag of clementine oranges at Kroger (the new halo ones).  In one sitting, Muffin ate 5.  Not five pieces…five clementines.  Daisy also likes clementines, by the way; this is sometimes a problem when Muffin is eating them.

I try to super meal plan (planning out a month, if possible) with proteins I already have or know will be available before they are scheduled.  Sometimes it’s altered as the month goes on, but I feel that if I plan it out, I at least have an idea of what to serve each night.  I have sort of become anti-restaurant.  We still like our local Chik-Fil-A and are loyal to a few other places, but more and more places are becoming disappointing.  And I don’t want to pay for things that are disappointing.  Or worthy of a call to the health department.  Especially if I can make what we pay for better and cheaper.  And, if Muffin is going to throw a fit, I’d rather it be at home rather than a restaurant full of patrons and waitresses who stare daggers at me for being the worst parent of all time (since it’s obviously my fault my son is acting up in public).

I’m waiting on Josh’s schedule for February to plan out beyond this next weekend, but here goes for the remainder of the month:

yesterday, Saturday, January 25:  Texas toast pizza (using the Ragu leftover sauce from the cheese sticks and Texas toast slices from Kroger–the regular bread kind, not the frozen garlic bread kind)

Sunday, January 26 (today):  stir fry (I haven’t figured out what sauce yet, but I changed the stir fry from pork which is buried somewhere in one of the freezers to chicken) with chicken, red and green bell pepper (green bell peppers were forty-four cents at Wal-Mart), onion, and carrot; cream cheese and orange marmalade fried wontons (sort of following a recipe I remember from Melissa D’Arabian’s Ten Dollar Dinners), and maybe slices of tomato

Monday, January 27:  chicken enchiladas (already prepped and — very — loosely following my sister’s recipe), refried beans, chips, and salsa

Tuesday, January 28:  originally meatball subs but I didn’t want to make meatballs this weekend and couldn’t find any for a good (enough) price on sale, so now it is more like Subway’s BMT or as Josh says Pizza Subs (thin sliced salami, ham, pepperoni, baked with mozzarella and the rest of the Ragu with Subway toppings–black olives–and probably green as well, bell pepper strips, onion rings, jalapenos, mayo, brown mustard, oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, lettuce, and tomato on either French bread or sub rolls) with chips

Wednesday, January 29:  Looney Leftovers (including some in the freezer) or a hot dog or scavenge (In other words, get mess out of the freezer and fridge)

Thursday, January 30:  frito pie which actually resemble taco haystacks except using Frito-like chips and chili instead of tortilla chips and taco meat (but with a variety of toppings–anything left over from Tuesday’s sandwiches)

Friday, January 31:  pizza in some form (will hopefully save some French bread or sub rolls for this purpose)

Saturday, February 1:  spaghetti or an Italian dish (like my mom’s cannelloni)–something that makes enough leftovers for the week

Sunday, February 1:  Super Bowl! (I’ve always decided that it works best if you don’t have an emotional investment in the Super Bowl because then you can enjoy the game, the commercials, the party, and the pre-game festivities without being super-nervous about your team–especially if you are six months pregnant at the time–Muffin spent the February 2010 Super Bowl doing flips throughout the entire game.)  homemade Chik-Fil-A nuggets with a variety of dipping sauces (including the new Kraft BBQ ranch), little sausages in BBQ sauce and Rotel (My mom’s bringing those), pico de gallo (My mom’s making that using the Pioneer Woman’s recipe), salsa, chips, and the ice cream sundae bar  (I may make another dip to go with the chips, but it depends how next weekend goes.)

I don’t plan every meal because we consume a lot of leftovers, sandwiches, snacky meals, and scavenging; and breakfast because we decide usually that morning what we are having for breakfast.

There are certain quick things we try to keep in stock:  bacon, ham (to fry like bacon in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray–if you haven’t tried it, trust me, you need to), eggs, cereal, milk, oatmeal, hot dogs, sandwich fixins, cheese, breakfast bars or pastries, cans of chili, and cans of soup.  That allows for some flexibility on the breakfast and lunch plans.  Also, I’ve found that meal planning gives me something to look forward to.  The meals that I’m looking forward to this week?  The enchiladas, the stir fry tonight, the Chick-Fil-A nuggets (I’ll probably post that recipe next week), and the sub sandwiches.  I’m also looking forward to the hunting-for-gold aspect of leftovers on Wednesday.

Ah, date night last night.  I had one over-arching goal for date night last night:  no one calling 911 or going to the hospital (which I thought would be next in the logical progression).  Plus, there was something that I felt Josh and I needed to do without Muffin to distract us.  Originally, I had planned to make the kale chips yesterday and serve them during last night’s date which almost shouldn’t count as a date except neither of us used our cell phones or laptop or tablet for any other purpose other than the date itself.

Date Night Log 04:

Planning the Garden

Let me preface this by saying that Josh is on call through today, so he was late getting home from work and could have been called back in at any time (not great for date night).  So, I had to be a bit creative and flexible, so that if Josh was called away, it wouldn’t be catastrophic if we suffered from datus nightus interruptus.

And, we needed to plan the garden.  Last weekend (Sunday and Monday post-fire) Josh, Muffin, and I cleared out part of the garden beds in preparation for what was to come.

Josh used a drawing app on his tablet to sketch out the garden and color-coded it with the different items we were going to try to grow.  Just as with a meal plan, it is best if we (I especially) have a plan for the garden before we go into Lowes, Home Depot, or Ellis Pottery (a local home décor and garden center).  That’s not to say things go smoothly with a plan, but, if you let me enter one of those garden centers without one?  We will be growing about 20 varieties of each vegetable.  Plus things we would never eat.  Note to my readers:  if you see me at a garden center in early spring-late summer, just step back quietly and get out of my way.  I am woman on a mission!

A few of my rabbit hole deviations on the Burpee site last night (seriously, that site is my own special form of crack–and the Burpee catalog–drool!):  “We can grow an apple tree!”  Josh:  “Yes, but where would we put it?  The pear trees are going to grow larger.”  Me:  “Ooooooh, pretty!  I want a passionflower vine that produces passionfruit!”  Josh:  “How long does it take to bear fruit?”  A long internet search later–really, that should be a fairly common question for gardening sites to answer–it takes 2-3 years to grow to maturity to bear fruit.  And the vines don’t live that long–ten years max.  Me:  “Ooooh!  Purple carrots!  Muffin would like those!”  Josh:  A raised eyebrow.  Me:  “So besides the Roma tomato and a slicer or two, should we do cherry tomatoes or tear drop tomatoes.”  Josh:  “I know you like the smaller tomatoes” raised eyebrow “but I like the bigger slicing ones best.”

So, what was the final gardening list?  A bit different from years past.  I am not going to deal with the heartache of woody okra.  We are also not going to have the heartache of cilantro.  Both of us have decided not to go there again.  We will buy our cilantro, thank you very much.

The complete list (and I really had to argue for some of them):

Tomatoes

Roma

slicer

cherry/teardrop

Carrots

Cucumbers

pickling

english

Peppers

jalapeno

bell peppers

Herbs

Basil

Parsley

Mint

onion

turnip

The onion, the turnip, and the carrot are going to be new experiments.  Everything else we have had varying degrees of success with in the past.  I argued for the turnip because you can eat both the top and the bottom.  Although, now that I think of it, I think we need to grow some tarragon and sage…. 🙂

Here’s a brief approximation of the chicken enchilada recipe I made today.  I couldn’t quite make my sister’s recipe because I didn’t have green enchilada sauce, and most of the rest of the ingredients are estimates.

Chicken Enchiladas

2 Albertson’s-sized chicken breasts, boiled and shredded

1 cup shredded cheese, divided (I used sharp cheddar)

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can cream of mushroom soup

16 oz. sour cream

1/3 cup milk

1 4-oz. can diced green chilies

1/4 cup onion, diced finely

6-8 flour tortillas

1/4 cup salsa

pickled sliced jalapenos, for garnish (optional)

Mix soups, salsa, green chilies, sour cream, and milk in a medium sized bowl.  Take 1/4 cup of mixture and mix with chicken, 1/4 cup cheese, and onion.  Spray a 9×13 glass pan with cooking spray.  Ladle and spread 1/4 cup of soup mixture in the bottom of the pan.  Fill tortillas with chicken mixture (fairly full) and roll them up like…an enchilada.  Place tortillas seam-side down on the soup-mixture lined pan.  I made six, but I stuffed them pretty full.  I also had larger tortillas, and only six would fit in the pan.  Ladle and spread the remaining sauce mixture over the top.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

If you did what I did, at this point, cover with foil and refrigerate.

When you get ready to cook (or now), preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slide the pan uncovered into the oven and bake until hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Optional:  Before baking:  decorate top with jalapeno slices.

Serve hot with beans (and/or rice), chips, and salsa.

If my sister is reading this:  I’m sorry.  She uses only one can of cream of chicken, no salsa, no milk and adds taco seasoning to the chicken mix.  I would have added the taco seasoning if Albertson’s had had any in the sale yesterday.  I had planned on adding some chili powder and cumin to the mix anyway, but I was also making kale chips at the time, so I forgot.  I did do pretty much her process, though.  Really.  Love ya, sis!

That reminds me of another recipe of my sister’s that I haven’t had in YEARS.  This would be probably a “me only” recipe, since Muffin hates bell pepper and Josh hates blue cheese.  But I might just get another red and green bell pepper and make it.  I think she got the recipe from someone that she used to work with in the DFW area.  You take a baguette and slice it thinly on the bias.  You brush it with blue cheese dressing (ya hear me?).  You dice up the bell peppers.  You sprinkle those on the baguette slices.  Then you sprinkle on the blue cheese crumbles.  And bake them at I want to say close to 400 degrees until the baguette is browned to your liking and the veg are soft.  Enjoy.  Repeatedly.

P.S.  Date night may not have been a night to set the world on fire (after last week, thank goodness it wasn’t), but there were no technical difficulties (thank you, YouTube, NOT!), Josh didn’t elbow me in my foot accidentally almost breaking my foot (It’s finally stopped hurting), and no one had to call 911 or go to the emergency room and no accidental fire burned the top layer of grass in the backyard.  Good, productive date.  ‘Nuff said.

For a printable recipe, please check out my recipe page.

Muffin Approved

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One thought on “Weekend Cooking, This Week’s Meal Plan, and the No-Trouble Date Night

  1. Pingback: Tip Tuesday: A Source for Date Night Ideas (and a List of Possible Date Night Ideas) | Full Happy Muffin and Mama: The Blog

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