Feed Me!!

Jim Gottuso Ceramics with all too fleeting champagne grapes
It's back to work time, friends.  That means I am kissing those late night CSI Miami and candy crush marathons and leisurely mornings on the porch with steaming mugs of coffee a sad sayonara.  It's back to business.  It's dragging out of bed before dawn to enter the pool for some yardage before work, it's endless schedules, book keeping, and the click clack of keyboards answering the too many emails that come pouring in with really important things that do not pertain to me or my job at all..and then the 20 "reply all's" that follow (those are my favorite).  It's also time to put on our new school shoes (which, incidentally, make us run faster and jump higher), pack a good lunch, and remember we are all in this together.  

Homemade Granola
We are preparing to put new windows and insulation in the house (almost as fun as buying a roof) and are on that dreaded "Budget".  I began looking at our spending in some other areas and our food bill is kind of ridiculous.  Actually it's a lot ridiculous and completely obnoxious what we spend on food in our house.  Much of that is dining out, but some of it is just poor planning with impulse buys and rotting fruit in the fridge.  I have a friend that is like a Jedi Master at menu planning and execution weeks at a time.  Her lunches look like something out of a food porn magazine and have these fabulous little containers of good things that just speak to me.  They are the kind of lunch that you can't wait to eat and are thinking about all morning.  So last week I sat down and actually menu planned for two weeks and shopped and prepped and cooked with a pledge to do three (mostly)organic, local, slow food meals a day plus snacks for two adults for two weeks for under $200.  I'm not sure if you have ever tried this, but it ain't easy. 

Kim Chee packed in small glass jars for travel
 I needed to do dishes that I could recycle the next day.  There are a TON of blogs out there on make ahead and freezer friendly meals.  I am not crazy about any of them.  Here is the thing; I don't want to eat bad food.  I want to be sated after I eat.  That involves way more than just being full.  Luckily we are in the height of growing season and veggie options are bountiful.  I don't need a lot of stuff in my dish.  Simple is best for weeknights for us.  I also don't want to eat ugly food.  I eat with my eyes first.  Packaging is certainly part of that.  Plastic makes me slightly twitchy anyway (I blame the potter I married for that one) and I will not reheat in it.  If I am going to dirty two dishes anyway, why not just package it in the glass first?  

I shopped at Trader Joe's, Costco (cheapest Cliff bars and best place we have found for Kim Chee), Lotsa Pasta (our local specialty food store that makes homemade pastas and sauces among other lovely things), and local farmer's markets.  I already had peanuts, chocolate, rice, dried black beans, the dry ingredients for biscuits, popcorn, and jam in the pantry.  The rest was purchased. This is the menu I came up with for week one.  

Yogurt Parfait
Week One

Breakfasts- Pick One each day
Greek Yogurt with honey,vanilla, and orange zest, fresh blueberries, homemade granola with pecans.
Cliff Bar, Yogurt Drink, and Banana

Mid Morning Snack- Pick One each day
Sliced watermelon and pistachios
Apple and Peanut Butter
Salt and Pepper Popcorn
Peanuts and Dark Chocolate Chips

Rice, Kim Chee, and Folded Egg, Champagne Grapes
Leftover Cuban Black Beans and Rice, Arugula Salad with tomato and feta 
Tuna, Egg, Cannelini Beans, Arugula, Crackers, Fresh Kiwi and Orange Salad
Leftover Chicken and mushroom lettuce wraps, Sliced Tomatoes
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel, Fresh Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onion
Saturday (Brunch)
Omelets with peppers, cheddar, and Fresh herbs, sliced tomatoes. homemade biscuits and jam. 
Sunday (Brunch)
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel, Fresh Tomato, Lettuce, Red Onion

Cuban Black Beans and Rice with Poached Egg, Arugula Salad with tomatoes and feta
Pesto on Artisan Toast with Poached Eggs
Crock Pot Meal: Chicken, Wild Mushrooms, White Beans in White Wine over green lentils.  Sauteed squash and zucchini with fresh herbs.
BLT's, Salt and Pepper Chips, Fresh Kiwi and Orange salad
Chili and Cornbread
Leftover Chili or Loaded nachos
Dinner at Mom's

Rice, Kim Chee, and Folded Egg wrapped in parchment for travel.

I shopped Saturday evening and Sunday morning was spent prepping, cooking, and assembling everything (about 2.5 hours).  I woke up this morning and grabbed gorgeous things out of my fridge and my food has just made me happy today.  Oh and dinner is done.  WINNING!  See the recipes for Cuban black beans and the Crock pot chicken below.

The next couple of weeks bring more food planning, some birthday celebrations, and as much porch and pool time as I can squeeze out of the rest of this glorious summer we have had.  Let me know your own menu magic that you employ to make it through the long work week.

Cuban Black Beans

2 cups dried black beans, prepped*
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 pepper of choice, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bottle beer
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 quart water
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground adobe chili powder
2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Fresh Cilantro 

Heat olive oil in dutch oven and and add onion, pepper, and garlic.  Saute 2-3 minutes.  Add beer, beans, stock, and water.  Bring to a boil.  Add spices and salt and pepper.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until beans are soft and can be smashed with the back of a spoon.  Add more water if necessary.  Serve over cooked rice with fresh cilantro, hot sauce, and a poached egg. 

*Prepped beans can either be canned black beans or dried beans that have been brought to a boil, removed from the heat, covered, soaked for two hours, and drained.

Crock pot Chicken, Wild Mushrooms, and Cannelini Beans

2 large organic, free range, bone in chicken breasts or thighs with skin
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 whole cloves garlic
1 shallot, sliced
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
4 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper

Salt and pepper chicken breasts liberally.  Saute shallot and mushrooms in 2 Tbs olive oil.  Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until chicken is 165 degrees.  Remove mushrooms, onions, garlic, and thyme with slotted spoon.  If you like a creamy sauce, add 2 Tbs cream cheese or Greek yogurt to sauce and whisk until incorporated.

Serve chicken and mushrooms over cooked French Green Lentils.  Top with sauce.  Leftover chicken can be shredded and added to leftover mushrooms and sauce for lettuce wraps for lunch.

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