Meal Plan Monday: A Lazy Spring Break Week

Meal Plan Monday

Good Monday morning everyone and welcome to the Spring Break edition of MPM on FHM&M.  (Wayyyyy too many acronyms there)  Maybe the “lazy” should simply be for the cooking.  This week is going to be a week of no new recipes (unlike spring breaks in the past with meal plan challenges).

So, what does this week look like?

Here we go!!!

Saturday:  ate at the hotel in Dallas

Sunday:  After the trip and a large lunch at Taco Cabana, I wasn’t hungry.  Muffin ate pizza.  Josh made a sandwich from the boneless ribs left over.  I eventually ate a piece of the yummy peppered maple turkey we bought at Central Market.

Monday:  nuggets, fries, celery sticks and dip

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Tuesday:  Ranch Chicken Enchiladas x 2, rice, beans

Wednesday:  Pepperoni Pizza Lasagna (recipe forthcoming), salad bar salad

Thursday:  leftovers or hot dogs

Friday:  pizza rolls x several to freeze, corn

Saturday:  Imperial Cathay Style Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce, egg roll

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Sunday:  Smothered Chicken, rice, broccoli

What’s on your meal plan for this week?

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Our Seventh Anniversary: The Recap

A week ago, Josh and I celebrated our seventh anniversary.  That’s the copper anniversary, by the way.  Josh and I try to theme our gifts by the traditions for each anniversary.  Copper is a difficult one.  Finally, I asked my techie hubs in desperation, “Isn’t copper in all electronics?”

His response:  “Uh…yeah.”

Score!

(By the way:  the eighth is worse…bronze)

In keeping with tradition, we decided to stay (with Muffin) at the site of our honeymoon (and where we have stayed several of our anniversaries…or just after…):  Dallas.  More specifically, the Westin Galleria Dallas, using points+cash (but that’s a story for Cent Saving Saturday).

The efficacy of our anniversary coinciding with the whirl of the holiday season is great for many reasons.  We can go shopping for Christmas gifts.  Certain locations are already sporting Christmas decorations (which makes Muffin…and his mama…and his dad…very excited and hopeful for the wintry months ahead).  We can go shopping for ingredients used to make Christmas goodies and gifts.  We can get out of town and take a deep breath before plunging back headlong into the holiday season chaos.

We also strive to make this a very Muffin-friendly trip.

We started out getting donuts at the local donut shop as we left the house just after 5 a.m. last Saturday.  Yes.  Five a.m.  By my choice.  Muffin may have been still asleep.

Then, we stopped at a great truck stop between Gladewater and Tyler, Texas.  They have “Canadian candy bars,” or rather exports of some of Josh’s favorite candy bars that he likes to stock up on when we pass through.  They have all sorts of sodas and beverages that are difficult to find anywhere else.  One that I tried there on this trip was on my “soda bucket list”…the holy grail of difficult-to-find sodas:  Moxie.  To put it as politely and succinctly as possible, I can now cross it off of my bucket list.  (as in…thankfully I never have to taste it again…It wasn’t kale jerky bad…just not something I would willingly reach for unless dying of thirst)

After that, just down the road in Lindale, we stopped at Collin Street Bakery.  Previously, they gave out free cookies to children.  Muffin had to pay for his this time.  Note:  these are the people who make the fabled Collin Street Bakery Deluxe Fruitcake (with the deluxe price of $27 dollars…32 if you want it sliced).  I’m going to attempt to make my own fruitcake.

Our first major stop in Dallas (other than the stop-go on I-635 for construction) was actually in Frisco…at IKEA.  This was a special trip to IKEA because it was the first time Muffin could go in the play place there called Smaland (because last time he was still in diapers).  Dropping him off did not bode well because this was the first time I had left him alone with someone who was not family (or not known to family).  There were tears…not Muffin tears…but Mama tears.

No, my independent son soon forgot that anything existed outside of Smaland…such as his mama or dad.

He was a bit disappointed when his hour was up…until I told him that there were more surprises in store.

We then went to lunch at Rainforest Cafe…which is kind of pricey.  The one saving grace, though, was that it had buy one, get one free coupons for Legoland Discovery Center…the next location on the trip.

Muffin really liked Legoland Discovery Center.  Last year, when we came to Dallas on the great anniversary trip (one week late), we went to the “store” part of Legoland…but we didn’t go to the Discovery Center part.  The line was way…too…long…at that point.

Then came the hotel.  Muffin loves staying in hotels.  When I first told him a week before that we were staying in a hotel, we had to count down from that day on the number of sleeps until we would be staying in a hotel.  Seriously.

There are many reasons I love this hotel.  The people who work their are fabulous…as in…call you to let you know that your debit card fell out of your pocket fabulous (and don’t tell your husband that you accidentally left his anniversary card for the next day at the table, as well).  Yes.  I did that.  Both of those actually.

And how can you not love a place that has a decorate your own cupcake bar at check-in on Fridays and Saturdays?

And we all love the beds.  Seriously.  Love.

And the window seat that, until shortly before our honeymoon seven years ago, would have been a locked balcony.

And…keep in mind that this hotel opens out into a mall.  Note:  If you did not realize when you booked your room that the Westin Galleria Dallas was attached to the Galleria Dallas and have issues with it…you might not want to be in front of me in line at the check-in desk.  Because a year later I will still be spreading that story.

But…if you are staying at the hotel (or visiting the mall) during the latter half of November or during December…you will be witness to this sight:

I think, for Muffin, the best part of staying at this particular hotel is that he gets to go to the play area on the third floor before the mall opens (when it isn’t crazy busy with kids):

In that same spot, fourteen hours earlier, you couldn’t walk without running over someone or being run over.

Sunday, after shopping at Central Market for our anniversary dinner (at home) of a cheese board as well as a few other items for making Christmas goodies and gifts, we ate lunch at La Mad before heading home.  This was Muffin’s first La Mad experience…and I was frankly worried.  Here is the shot with the food still on his plate.

And then the food disappeared.  I asked Josh what was in Muffin’s fruit cup because, when I looked up the next time, it was empty.  Josh said…”grapes.”

“Just grapes?”

“Well…there was other fruit.”

“What kind of fruit?
To which Josh replied…”Well…I couldn’t really tell.  It was gone too fast.”

The sandwich also went the way of the dodo bird…in this case in Muffin’s stomach.  Note:  Josh’s and my lunch consisted of tomato basil soup (a bowl for him and a cup for me) and the complimentary bread.

The trip was a great family vacation/bonding/anniversary trip experience.  One that we will doubtless do again.

La Madeleine’s Tomato Basil Soup: A Post to Dallas, With Love

I’ve toyed with several openings to this post.  But…I should probably begin at the beginning.

Once upon a time, I went to Dallas.  This was nothing unusual.  From the time I was 13, Dallas was one of my favorite traveling destinations.  My sister and brother-in-law lived in the area for a few years, so my later adolescence and early adulthood were measured in trips to visit them, and go to some of my favorite places.  I remember one time when my mom and my sister went to a rubber stamp convention (in Grapevine, I think), so my brother-in-law and I went around to various places.  Basically, that day had one goal:  to cram as many mall visits as we could into one day.  I can’t remember if we visited 6…or 7…or was it 8, but I remember the fun I had that day.

Dallas was the city where I first tried Starbucks:  in the Dallas Galleria (called Galleria Dallas) on the second floor overlooking the ice skaters below.  My mom and I tried Caramel Macchiatos that day, and we were hooked.  At that time, there were no Starbucks in northwest Louisiana (and wouldn’t be for six more years), so Starbucks remained a Dallas-visit guilty pleasure.

In the same mall, on the “rink level,” there used to be a restaurant that became synonymous with Dallas visits.  (Yes, used to:  Note to Galleria Dallas management that may or may not ever read this post:  crawl to the owners of La Mad and beg for the return.  Note to owners of La Mad:  please return to the Galleria.  You are much needed missed.)  Designed around the French country kitchen theme, La Madeleine (La Mad to those that are drooling hungrily) has several yummies on the menu.  My original “poison” of choice was the cup of tomato-basil soup and a potato galette (and I have tried in vain to find a recipe for their potato galette, to no avail).  There were the breads with the jams, particularly the orange marmalade.  The bread at the time (I don’t know if the same is true today) was pretty much limitless and of many different sliced rustic varieties.  I can’t remember when we asked the oh-so-necessary question about the possibility of purchasing the marmalade (The jars of tomato basil soup were available for purchase in the restaurant at the time), but I remember the looks of shock on my mom and sister’s face when we were told by an employee that the marmalade was Smucker’s brand.

The soup is very acidic; we thought for sure there was lemon in the soup.  When, a few years later, I discovered a recipe online for the soup from one of the chefs at the restaurant and published in either the Fort Worth Star-Telegram or the Dallas Morning News, I received another La Mad-related shock:  there was absolutely no lemon juice in it whatsoever.  I began making the recipe and tweaking it slightly in my attempt to make it even more “La Mad-y.”

As the recipe attests, the soup is by no means low cal or low fat.  A stick of butter and a cuppa cream go in each batch.  This is one of those calorie splurges and worth every bite.  (Note:  I did taste it after pureeing it, and it was still yummy…just not La Mad yummy.)  I remember once becoming very protective of the soup.  We were in line behind two women who obviously were not fans of cream, butter, carbs, fats, sugar, or anything of the sort.  I remember the high pitched shriek of horrific disdain when an employee of La Mad asked them if they wanted the tomato basil soup: “Ohmigah, that is sooooo fattening!  No wayyy!”

I can understand eating in moderation, but I can’t understand (as I may have mentioned before) hating food.  These individuals clearly hated food.

In another interesting note:  after making the meal plan for this week, I actually had another (local) restaurant’s tomato-basil soup this week.  One of my coworkers seated at the table had never tried it and asked me what I thought of it.  I said it was good (and was about to gush about La Mad’s being better) when another coworker (who was also eating the soup) began gushing about the tomato basil soup that she was eating.  Sorry, not to be a downer about local restaurants, but that soup cannot hold a candle to La Mad’s.

Basically, that soup made me only crave La Mad’s some more.  I keep hoping that one will open locally, but so far, no such luck.

Dallas, by the way, was also the site of my honeymoon.  In fact, Josh and I breakfasted at La Mad at least once on our honeymoon trip (at the old Galleria location).

So, Saturday night was Souper Saturday.  Not intentionally, but we’ve had a bit of cooler weather lately, so it didn’t heat up the kitchen too much.  I can’t remember the last time that we didn’t top at 100 degrees at the start of August.  I’m lovin’ it!

Our basil plant is really hopping, which is the real reason that I wanted to make the soup.  Seriously, Josh snipped off two or three sprigs this morning, and you cannot even notice that he picked any.

I had to call my mom for amounts because, years ago, I made a scrapbook cookbook that I gave to her that had (at the time) my most recent incarnation of the soup.  That was my only copy of the recipe, and I couldn’t find the original source that I had found online years ago (It didn’t matter because I had tweaked it to the point that my recipe didn’t resemble the original…much).

Here’s what I did, today, that made the closest approximation to the soup that I have ever made:

With the tomato basil soup, we ate grilled cheese.

La Madeleine’s Tomato Basil Soup

4 (14-16 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, liquid reserved (I used 2 cans that were 28 ounces each)

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

12-14 basil leaves (I used somewhere close to 20 or so leaves)

2 cans chicken broth (I used a 32-ounce carton)

1 stick of butter (Do not use margarine!)

1 cup whipping cream/heavy cream/heavy whipping cream

fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Drain the tomato juice into the soup pot.  Using one hand, pierce and crush each tomato by hand into the soup pot.  Discard any tomato peel remnants (more than likely there will be some).  Note:  This is a very messy process.  Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before crushing the tomatoes (and I always plan a bath for after to avoid orange nails).  Wash the basil leaves carefully and then pull them off of the stem.  Add them to the pot.  Stir in the tomato paste.  Pour in the broth.  Bring the heat under the pot to medium-medium high.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly (because the tomato and the basil will stick to the bottom of the pot and scorch if you aren’t careful).  When you stir it and the mixture continues to boil, lower the heat to 2-3 (medium-low) and let simmer 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, you have a few options, most of which are messy…but worth it.  I used an immersion blender to mince the basil and puree the tomatoes.  Some people choose to use a blender or a food processor.  If you use the immersion blender while the mixture is still hot, be prepared for burning splatters.  And let me just say, OUCH!  If you don’t use an immersion blender, make sure you return the mixture to the soup pot.

If the mixture has cooled, bring the heat slowly back up under medium-low heat.  The goal is to make the mixture warm enough to serve (and also warm enough for what happens next).  Melt the butter using the heat of the tomato mixture, stirring to allow the mixture to emulsify.  Pour in cream and stir.  Taste.  Add pepper to taste (I used close to a teaspoon, but I’ve seen recipes that call for as little as 1/4 teaspoon).  Serve with whatever floats your dinghy, in Saturday’s case:  grilled cheese.


My mom and I had an interesting conversation about grilled cheese when I called her for the recipe amounts yesterday.  I’ve recently discovered the joy of using mayo as the fat in the grilled cheese (that which makes grilled cheese all brown and crispy).  Mayo also is easier to spread than butter.  My mom is a butter proponent and melts the butter to brush on her grilled cheese.  I like my mom’s grilled cheese; don’t get me wrong.  But I think I would call the mayo-method grilled cheese “croque monsieur grilled cheese.”  The eggy compounds in the mayo lead to an almost French toast browning of the surface.  La Mad serves croque monsieurs (or they did at some point), so I feel that this is a nod to the “French-ness” of the dinner.

What is your favorite soup and sandwich combo?

This recipe was totally Muffin Approved.  He loved drinking the soup from a little condiment bowl as a sample and adored dunking his grilled cheese triangles in his mug o’ soup.

And (for all of you naysayers about the fat content of the soup) remember that cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene than any other food, with the exception of watermelon.  This is very important for masculine health.  So eat up on cooked tomato product, guys!

Muffin Approved

I should note that I did not let Muffin help with the tomato crushing.  I can’t even do this without squirting tomato innards all over the place (the goosh factor), so I didn’t want to see what Muffin would do to the kitchen as a result.