Every two weeks, I sit down with a blank piece of paper, grocery store ads, my 3 ring binder of recipes (mostly printed from other lovely blogs), a list of the proteins in my freezer, and a promise not to curse to much during the menu planning process. An hour later, I have a menu filled with fourteen different entrees (most of which are commonplace in the weekly rotation), a shopping list complete with hieroglyphics reminding me of whichever store has the best price, and a headache from cursing too much. Immediately after finishing this tortuous task, we head to the grocery store so I can unleash my menu planning frustration on the world.

Why do I do this? Because in reality, it saves time and creates a harmonious and unstressful environment for dinner assembly. It’s a see the forest through the trees kind of thing.  However, my desire to end the menu planning torture usually results in what I call Swan Dives Meals. These are meals that make it onto the menu because I am running out of time and I have a recipe that matches some random protein in the freezer. So I become a carefree non-anal person that I am not and put it on the menu.

Then, the day to actually make the recipe comes and somehow the recipe miraculously swan dives off the menu and I make something else with the ingredients I have on hand.

If the story stopped there, you would perceive me to be a normal well adjusted semi-neurotic individual but it does not. I feel guilt. Often times, I am so guilty that the recipe did not have its chance in the sun, its opportunity to make my taste buds dance, or its chance to make it on Alex’s vegetables I will eat list,  I will put it on the menu again.

I am not going to tell you how many times recipes swan dive off the menu only to crawl their way back just to face elimination again. Just know that I cannot tell you what Kung Pao chicken tastes like but according to my menu plans I must love it because we have had it 20 times this year.

Asian Ground Beef Lettuce WrapsLettuce Cups

Recipes comes from Dine and Dish who found the recipe on Allrecipes

These lettuce wraps were one of those swan dive meals and even yesterday, I almost swapped it with baked ziti at the eleventh hour. I am so glad I pressed on and saw this recipe into fusion however. The Asian flavors were spot on. The ginger gave it the need kick and the filling was a great inside its lettuce container.

 Alex, who has lettuce on the inedible list, ate his filling with jasmine rice and enjoyed his meal as much as I did.

 Asian Ground Beef Lettuce Wraps, from Allrecipes

  • 16 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons minced pickled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • Asian chile pepper sauce (optional)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, Lettuce Cups 2chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
  1. Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 1 tablespoon of oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary. Drain, and set aside to cool. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chile pepper sauce to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, and sesame oil, and continue cooking until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.
  3. Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center. To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!

 

Notes: I did not use the chile sauce; although Alex thought they could have used a little more kick so I definitely will next time. I also cooked the meat first and added the onions and water chestnuts to the meat mixture. After 3 to 4 minutes, I made a well in the meat mixture and added the liquids and the green onions then stirred everything together. My goal here was to keep as many plates as clean as possible. :)

I have a feeling that my husband must have had a traumatic experience with vegetables in a past life. Perhaps he was a little green frog, who suffered from a chaotic relationship with a pig and spent his days singing about how it is not easy being green while canoeing down the bayou. Or maybe he roamed the hillside as the Jolly Green Giant and the years of ridicule that stemmed from living life as the color of grass has kept Alex from embracing vegetables in this life.

Nevertheless, I am forced to convince the vegetables to masquerade as other things in hopes some might stumble in Alex’s mouth. I find this method works best with meat and cheese. For some reason, if the onions, spinach, green beans, sugar snap peas, or whatever else is in the dish is wrapped in the cheesy or meaty exterior, the chance that it will actually be consumed rises exponentially.

Tonight’s dish is a great one for this. Alex is put on sensory overload by the ground beef, parmesan cheese, and garlic toast that he fulfils the vegetable segment of the food pyramid without noticing and better yet, not caring. Try it on your loved ones today I promise that no matter what vegetable tragedies they have experienced, they will love it.

Pasta Fagioli
Adapted from Brown Eyed Bakerpasta-fagioli-014ab

2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 package sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (I used a 1 ½ lbs of ground beef)
½ large (or 1 medium) onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 carrots, thinly sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
64 oz. beef broth
28 oz. can tomato sauce (I used 42.5 (3 small cans) of tomato sauce)
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
4 oz. small dry pasta (I used ditalini) (I par cooked the pasta before adding it)

Few dashes of Tabasco sauce

1. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large stockpot over medium high heat, and brown the sausage, crumbling it as it cooks. Once brown, remove sausage from pot with a slotted spoon and discard any grease that remains in the pot.

2. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in the same pot, and add the onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and saute over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Add sausage back to the pot, add the can of diced tomatoes (do not drain), stir briefly, and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the beans, and add the beef broth and tomato sauce. Add in all of the seasonings, stir well, turn the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Once it boils, turn down to low heat, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

4. Add the dry pasta and continue to simmer on low for another 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite bread or crackers.

Garlic Toast- Recipe by mepasta-fagioli-025ab

A loaf of your favorite bread; I used French Bread

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Garlic- Cut in half

1.      Cut the bread lengthwise.

2.      Sprinkle the olive oil over the bread. I usually put my finger over the spout and pour on the bread maybe 1-2 tbs on each half.

3.      Place under the broiler.

4.      Cook until toasted not burnt. Usually 3-4 minutes

5.      The minute it comes out of the oven rub the bread with the exposed side of the garlic bread. The warmth of the bread will cause the garlic flavor to adhere to the bread.

6.      Enjoy the garlicky goodness.

Non-Projectile Food…Kind of

November 15, 2008

My sister has a little problem. She is a food sprayer. It is true, when the right forces align i.e. light and airy food, laughter, and an open mouth; my sister sends food flying across the room at any surface or person dumb enough to be in her way. She is not discriminatory either; whether it is corn bread, chocolate milk, birthday cake, salad or almost anything else, it has the potential to become airborne.

Many have fallen victim to Cindy’s perishable missiles. One of my best friends almost lost his eye when she took aim with chocolate chip cookie crumbs. And in high school, I lost a friend to embarrassment when she showed this trick off in public. We have tried to find a support group for this disease with no luck. The best thing we can do to help curb this behavior and support her recovery is make food that does not fly.

That was the plan tonight. The menu consisted of tacos with all the fixings complete with puffy taco shells. Heavy food enclosed in fried tortilla goodness and one of Cindy’s favorite meals, we were good to go. Then, Alex started talking about the Justin Timberlake skit- Blank in a Box (more on that soon) and that is when it happened. He was singing the song and Cindy lost it. Taco meat, tomatoes, cheese; it all went flying to different parts of the living room. Clearly, I underestimated the staying power of tacos. It is just another thing to cross of the list.tacos-092

Tonight’s recipe is more of a technique. Taco making is pretty easy but the shells have the potential to bring it home

Puffy (Fried) Taco Shells

Flour Tortilla Shells- You can also do this with corn but you need to lay it over something to get the U shape; I use burrito size but again you can use whatever you want.

Vegetable Oil (Or other Flavorless oil) enough to go up 2 inches in the frying pan

Block Cheese- Cut into 3″ by 1″ inch slices- to go in the middle. This is optional

1. Pour the oil into the frying pan so it goes about 2 inches up the side. I usually put the burner on Medium/High and let it heat for 5 minutes. A small piece of the tortilla should dance when placed in the oil when it is readytacos-077

2. Put the tortilla into the oil. Let sit for 15 seconds or until brown and flip over.

3. If you are using the cheese, lay the cheese on the browned tortilla side (not submerged in the oil).

4. Fold the tortilla over onto itself to form a half moon shape.

5. Make sure the tortilla is brown on both sides. If not flip over, until browned.

6. Remove from the oil and place on a layer of paper towels.tacos-078

7. Repeat steps 1-5 with the other tortilla. When moving to the landing pad after you are done, cover the other tortilla with a layer of paper towels and lay the new tortilla on top. You are making a tortilla high rise.

8. Fill with taco meat and all the fixings. Enjoytacos-080a

tacos-106

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