What’s for Dinner?: Week of November 9, 2015

What’s for Dinner is a series dedicated to what real-life families eat.  Each week, a parent shares his or her menus for the week and talks about the food philosophy behind it.  Want to read more? Check out our WFD archives.

This week we hear from Susan, a mom living in New Jersey with her toddler and husband.

What’s Susan’s Family Food Philosophy?

Our family doesn’t have a strict food philosophy. We love food, I love to cook, and we eat a bit of everything. We love trying new cuisines, and I love trying out new recipes. We lived in Bermuda for four years, and it was a struggle to find good fresh fruits and vegetables. Since we’ve been back in the US, I am relishing the opportunity to eat more fresh vegetables. Our goal for our diet is balance: both from a nutritional standpoint and from allowing ourselves to enjoy treats now and then. I try to have a protein, vegetable and grain at each dinner, but best laid plans don’t always work out, especially when I haven’t had a chance to go grocery shopping or get a late start on cooking in the afternoon. I don’t beat myself up about it, though, as I figure if we’re trying to eat good things most of the time, the times that we miss having a vegetable with dinner are not the end of the world. I feel the same way about eating sweets, drinking alcohol, or having particularly rich meals. I believe food is enjoyable, and you shouldn’t miss out on these things if you like them, but, obviously, everything in moderation.

What inspired this week’s menu?

Since I had my daughter two years ago, my days of whipping up something new and elaborate every evening is a thing of the past. Every week, I set our menu with the goal of grocery shopping once and cooking about 3 or 4 times. This leaves us with 3-4 nights of new meals, one night out/getting takeout or a prepared meal, and eating leftovers the rest of the nights. My two-year old pretty much eats whatever we do, so I can cook one meal for all of us. My husband doesn’t consider dinner a “meal” unless there is a meat present on his plate (his one exception is pasta), so we frequently eat meat. However, he travels for business a lot, so when he does we will often pass on the meat, or at least I will. I tend to keep some frozen grilled chicken as a back-up for my daughter. For this week, my husband was around, so we mostly ate meat dishes. I also had some extra time on my hands, so I tried out two new recipes.

So what’s for dinner?

Monday:   Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for milk-braised pork loin, served with Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice, green beans that I boiled with a can of Campbell’s French onion soup. My husband likes them mushy, so I boil them down until they’re falling apart, and I find the soup adds a bit of flavor after all that cooking time.
(Bonus points: my daughter LOVED this)

Tuesday:  Lamb and turnip stew, with a mixed greens salad with feta, cranberries, and cucumber, and a loaf of crusty bread. I used a recipe from Food & Wine and thought it was excellent. The lamb really stands out. It doesn’t just taste like beef stew where you substituted lamb instead. The only thing I would have changed is I would have added more vegetables. More turnips, more carrots, and maybe even added some peas.(Bonus points: my daughter also LOVED this, so much so she asked for it for lunch the next day)

Wednesday:  Flank steak that I marinated with soy, worcestershire sauce, and Montreal steak seasoning and cooked under the broiler, baked sweet potatoes, and a salad with fennel, cucumbers, toasted pecans and pears. My brother and his girlfriend joined us for dinner, so I wanted to make something that was easy and didn’t require spending a lot of time on prep and in the kitchen so I could spend time with them. Steaks are generally my go-to in these situations, and there were rave reviews all around for this meal. My daughter doesn’t love red meat (I think largely because it’s difficult to chew), but I cut this into small enough pieces that she ate her entire portion. We had some ice cream for dessert.

Thursday: Leftovers from Monday

Friday: Date night out!

Saturday: Chili, served over egg noodles. I base my chili recipe on this “Blue Ribbon Chili” recipe (below), except I use 2.5lbs ground beef instead of cubes, I omit the jalapenos, I use an extra 28 ounce can of tomato sauce, and I use two cans of kidney beans instead of one of pinto, and I add frozen corn instead of hominy when I add the beans. We had some Tate’s chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

Sunday:  Leftovers from Tuesday and Halloween candy!

“Blue-Ribbon Chili”

6 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
5 lbs boneless beef chuck
2 tbs vegetable oil
3 medium onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 jalapenos, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup, plus 1 tbs chili powder
2 tbs smoky paprika
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tbs oregano
1 tbs salt
½ tsp ground pepper
One 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
One 14.5 oz can beef broth
One 12 oz lager beer
One 28 ounce can pinto beans
One 28 ounce can hominy

Cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Increase the heat. Brown the beef. Transfer to a platter. Add oil to the pot and heat. Stir in the onions, peppers and garlic and return to medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pot. Sprinkle with dried spices and mix. Stir in tomatoes, beef broth and beer. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1.5 hours. During the last 20 minutes, stir in the reserved bacon, beans and hominy.

Remove, let stand and skim off fat.

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