Saturday, May 31, 2008

I heart

First off, I have to comment on the large gap between my last post and this one (mitigated only by the short quote I posted a few days ago to try and freshen things up).

For the past two weeks, I have been prepping for toddler birthday parties (the Bean is now THREE!) and fighting inhumane headaches and sore throats. My blogging time has been replaced with baking and frosting umpteen cupcakes and taking copious amounts of naps. Niether of which are terrible activities, now that I look at it in writing...

But always in the back of my head is my need to share an exciting discovery that has been giving us a lot of easy-to-make, tasty recipes for dinner--without me having to spend a lot of time searching for them.

What is it? The Weekly Dinner menu planner from [insert angels singing here]

To be honest, I was skeptical at first about recipes from epicurious, because it's the site for Bon Appetit and Gourmet--both magazines that have, in the past, made me feel quite intimidated about cooking "gourmet". I've been getting their e-newsletters for a few years now, but I've always had the impression that the recipes are intended more for special occasions where I don't have to worry about picky eaters. But then I got the e-mail titled "Quick and Easy weeknight menus" and I had to look. Turns out that not only do most of the recipes featured in this section take less than 30 minutes to prepare, each week comes with a complete shopping list (no quantities here mind you, but at least you get a sense for the ingredients!)

So I copied the list for the Week of May 12 and off I went to the grocery store. To keep it simple, I kept mostly to just the main course and omitted making the desserts (though they do look good....)

We loved the Truffled Taleggio and Mushroom Pizza. Except that neither the Bean nor my husband like mushrooms, so I made it with sundried tomatoes, spinach and pinenuts. And instead of taleggio, I used asiago. But I did find the truffle oil, so that ingredient remained, and gave the pizza a nice smoky flavour. And the crust, though not made of raw dough, was made with a President's Choice Stone Baked Flatbread with Asiago and Parmesan Cheeses. I would totally use it again - the crust was just thick and crispy enough, and the hint of cheese complemented the toppings nicely. Everyone ate their share and soon the pizza was gone.

one for one.

I served the Chicken with Chilaquiles and Salsa Verde and the Mexican Corn to BIL and GIL (BIL's girlfriend) for our weekly family dinner. This time I stayed to the recipe, omitting only the jalapeƱo pepper in the corn recipe. We had to go to a couple of different stores before we could find the salsa verde, but in the end, we found a big jar of Herdez brand.

The Chilaquiles were fantastic. It made a great meal for the kids because the chips were soft and it had lots of protein in the chicken, as well as colourful, easy-to-eat vegetables. I loved it because it gives us a whole new way to enjoy salsa and chips.

two for two.

Italian Sausage with Fennel, Peppers and Onions (the Friday recipe) turned out to be the last meal I made for that week, even though I made it on Thursday. We love sausage in this family and I was hoping that it would make a good pasta topping, so I could submit it as my entry into the weekly Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Once Upon a Feast.

You guessed it - it flopped. The only change I made here was substituting sweet green and red peppers for the Cubanelle peppers listed in the recipe. I was worried they would be too hot and spicy for the kids, but I think I might be wrong about that. I've never eaten a Cubanelle pepper. The other issue was that the vegetables wer eprobably not broiled as long as they should have been for maximum softness and flavour. I followed the timings in the recipe, but I think they were too short for our oven. I could have left the dish in longer, but the night we made it things were running behind and everyone was just too hungry to wait any longer.

So the resulting dish was bland and boring, and tasted overwhelmingly of onions. If I were to do this dish again (and I most likely won't), I would leave it in long enough to really carmelize the onions and make sure the sausage was broiled to a more dark golden colour. And I would add the cubanelles in (after I taste what they are like, of course).

Final score: 2 for 3.

As for the other two recipes--Grilled Cheese with Onion Jam, Taleggio and Escarole and Rotisserie Chicken with Marinated Baby Vegetables--I left them out in the end.

And Friday we made a paella for the Bean's family birthday dinner that came from a FoodTV site (more on that in another post that could be titled "At least we ate it...").

So there you have it. My first attempt to make a week's worth of epicurious recipes and I found it fairly easy and enjoyable. I'll be back with more photos and stories of my adventures in cooking these meals. I may even try a dessert or two someday!

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