Monday, February 25, 2013

Circumstantial Cooking: Weekly Menu 2/25/13

Sometimes getting dinner on the table is based on a precarious set of if-then scenarios tied to family and work schedules. If we get home by five, maybe we can eat by six. If I have a box of pasta in the pantry, I might be able to pull something together that doesn't involve cereal for dinner.

Despite my attempts to plan a weekly menu, the circumstances of the day always affect what makes it to the table. Here are some of my personal scenarios  - the clock's ticking, the motivation to cook again is low at best, and the cupboard is relatively bare - and favorite dishes that will get the job done.


I have *maybe* thirty minutes total to get a dinner on the table.

Easy Asian Beef and Noodles

Ramen noodles with ribeye steak and sliced green onions

Sides: This is a one-bowl meal, so you don't really need sides. If I do serve a side, it's usually fresh sliced oranges, Asian pears or other fruit.

Make Ahead Notes
  • Trim and slice rib-eye and set aside in fridge for later
  • Cut green onions and set aside for later
  • 1 (8-ounce) rib-eye steak 
  • 1 teaspoon dark sesame oil, divided
  • 1 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions  
  • 2 cups prepackaged coleslaw (the kind without dressing)
  • 2 (2.8-ounce) packages beef-flavor ramen noodle soup
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • Trim fat from steak; cut diagonally across grain into thin slices. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak and onions; stir-fry 1 minute. Remove steak mixture from pan; keep warm. Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil until hot. Add slaw; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove slaw from pan and add to the cooked beef; keep warm.
  • Remove noodles from packages; reserve 1 seasoning packet for another use. Add the water and remaining seasoning packet to pan; bring to a boil. Break noodles in half; add noodles to water mixture. Cook noodles 2 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. Stir in steak mixture, slaw, and soy sauce; cook briefly until thoroughly heated. Service with fresh green onions as a garnish.
 Recipe from MyRecipes

Italian Sausage Soup

Quick Italian Sausage Soup with fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top

Sides: Garlic bread

Make Ahead Notes
  • Grate Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • Rinse and chop basil - set aside, but do not refrigerate
  • 1 lb mild or sweet Italian sausage
  • 4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
  • 1 cup uncooked small shell pasta
  • 3-4 cups bagged baby spinach leaves
  • 4 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Heat a pot over medium heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage to pan, and cook about 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain any excess fat.
  • Add broth, tomatoes, and pasta to pan, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until pasta is done. Remove from heat; stir in spinach until wilted. Sprinkle each serving with cheese and basil.

 Recipe from

No dinner mojo left this week. Take it easy on me.

Slow Cooker Shredded Salsa Verde Beef

Sides: Corn bread, guacamole and any other toppings you like, such as shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, hot sauce and lettuce

  • 2 lbs boneless beef chuck roast (or any humble beef roast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 cups salsa verde (I used Herdez Salsa Verde)
  • Tortillas
  • Place roast in crock pot. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Pour salsa verde over roast.
  • Cover, and cook on Low for 8 hours. When done, the roast should shred easily with a fork.

Recipe from

Salmon with Hoisin Glaze

Sides: Steamed edamame beans and pan-fried pot stickers (I like Trader Joe's). Serve pot stickers with soy sauce seasoned with a few drops each of sesame oil and rice vinegar.

Make Ahead Tips:
  • Combine the sauce for the salmon; marinate the salmon
  • Combine the dipping sauce for the pot stickers
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless wild salmon fillets
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Combine first 3 ingredients in a shallow dish, such as a pie plate. Add fish to dish, turning to coat. Marinate at room temperature 8 minutes, turning occasionally
  • Remove fish from marinade; discard marinade. Place fish on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle fish evenly with sesame seeds. Bake at 400° for 8 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
  Recipe is originally from MyRecipes


I'm scraping together ingredients from the fridge and pantry.

Vegetarian Burritos

Burritos filled with beans, rice, cheese and tomatoes

Sides: Tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole

  • Buy pre-shredded cheese
  • Get layered Mexican dip at your grocery store to serve with the burritos instead of separate toppings
  • Use pre-cooked, bagged rice, such as Uncle Ben’s or Trader Joe's
Make Ahead Notes:
  • Cook rice earlier in the day, if not buying pre-cooked rice
  • You can make the whole thing early in the day, cover it and throw it in the fridge to bake later. If you do that, wait to put the salsa and cheese on until right before baking. Sometimes I’ll prep this while the kids eat breakfast because the effort level is that low. If you have the pre-cooked rice, you can make these up in about 15-20 minutes, tops.
  • 10 flour tortillas
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 1 can pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can of Mexican style diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 envelope of taco seasoning
  • 8 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top of burritos
  • 2 cups of cooked rice, white or brown (if using pre-cooked, bagged rice, follow package directions to warm)
  • 1 cup of salsa (I prefer the fresh kind found in tubs in refrigerated section at grocery store)
  • Chopped green onions (optional)
  • Toppings to go on burritos: sour cream, chopped green onions, guacamole, salsa, hot sauce
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Lightly coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, stir together all beans, tomatoes with juice and taco seasoning. The refried beans will be chunky, so gently break them up as you mix. When mixture is heated through and well-combined, about 3-5 minutes, remove from heat.
  • Set up an assembly line with the tortillas, the rice in a bowl, the cheese in a bowl, the tomato-bean mixture in the pan and the baking dish on the end.
  • One by one, fill tortillas with about 3 tbsp. each of rice, tomato mixture and cheese. Try to save some cheese to sprinkle on top of burritos when baking. Roll up each tortilla gently and place seam-side down in pan. The amounts of rice, tomatoes/beans and cheese that go into each burrito don’t matter much – you really can’t go wrong. You may find that you fill only 6 burritos because you like them fuller, or 8-10 if you go a little lighter on the filling. Pour salsa over burritos and sprinkle extra cheese on top.
  • Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, or until heated through. Remove foil and cook 5 more minutes or so until the cheese on top is slightly browned and melty.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti dish cooked with bacon, eggs and Parmesan cheese

Sides: Arugula or spinach salad and your favorite vinaigrette

  • Buy pre-grated or shredded Parmesan cheese from the deli section
  • Use jarred, minced garlic
 Make Ahead Notes:
  • Fill water pot and set on stove for later
  • Cut up bacon and refrigerate for later
  • Rinse and chop parsley or if you have a kid who's handy with scissors, have them do the chopping into a bowl

  • 2 eggs 
  • 3 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated or shredded
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 pound thin-cut bacon
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine 
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti or spaghettini 
  • Put a large pot of water on to boil. Crack eggs into a large bowl and beat lightly. Add 1/2 cup of the grated or shredded cheese to eggs, and set the rest of the cheese aside. Finely chop parsley and add to eggs. Add pepper and whisk to combine well. Set aside.
  • Cut bacon into 1/4" pieces, set aside. Heat oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by about half. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • When water boils, add salt and spaghetti. Boil pasta until it is tender to the bite. Drain well and immediately pour pasta into bowl with egg mixture. Toss to thoroughly coat pasta with egg mixture (the heat from the pasta will partly cook the egg and melt the cheese). Pour bacon mixture on top of pasta and toss to combine thoroughly. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Originally from this recipe on MyRecipes

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