Monday, February 25, 2013

Home Lunch

In my house, there are two types of lunch, school lunch and home lunch.  My son does not eat home lunch unless he's at home.  And that only after several failed attempts on my part to make school lunch at home.  I, on the other hand, almost always eat home lunch, and often the best versions of it when I'm at work. 

Done right, most to all of the extra prep time for home lunch happens over the weekend or the night before, leaving school and workday mornings free for gettingupshoweringbreakfastdressingbrushingandskwakingoutthedoor.  That same prep means, on days when I'm having home lunch at home, that instead of bread and cheese as the fastest and easiest bite to eat there's some just as delicious and much more nutritous option (rhymes help with gettingoutthedoor, and there's some inevitable spillover).

Kale Wheatberry Squash Lunch Salad
Makes two hearty lunch servings

1 cup wheatberries
1 butternut squash
1 T pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar)
1 head kale
2 1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 T olive oil
2 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup mixed raw nuts and dried fruit
1/8 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Soak wheatberries in water for about 8 hours.  Drain and boil in 4 cups water for 45-60 minutes.  Drain and set aside (keeps like this, covered in the fridge, for up to a week).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.  Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1/2" cubes.  Lay on a baking sheet and drizzle with pomegranate molasses, 1 T olive oil, 1 tsp. sea salt, and 1 tsp. ground black pepper.  Toss to cooat.  Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, until tender all the way thorugh and beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and cool  (keeps like this, covered in the fridge, for up to a week).  You'll only use half of the squash in the rest of the recipe.  Snack on the other half, or save it to toss with pasta, or on pizza, or in some other salad.

Meanwhile, remove the ribs from the center of the kale leaves and chop roughly.  Put chopped kale into a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp. salt.  Massage salt into kale, almost as if you were kneading the kale, for 1-2 minutes.  Set aside (keeps like this, covered in the fridge, for 2-3 days).

Toss the cooked wheatberries, roasted squash, and massaged kale together with 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled, mixed nuts and fruit, and vinaigrette.  Keeps, refrigerated for 2-3 days.  (You could draw this whole thing out over a very long time).

Monday, February 11, 2013


Some of you may remember that in the Fall we took on making meals of soup, salad, and tart as a fun way to push ourselves to try new things.  Now we've got a new one: sauce.  Often the main difference between a weeknight home meal and something I'd order at a nice restaurant, or droll over the chefs making on some cooking show,  is sauce.  We can't do the whole one sauce to drizzle on the side of the plate, another for the meat, and yet another for the veggies on any regular basis, but we can certainly make up a sauce or two to add panache to any weeknight meal.  And just the way many families make salad dressing but serve the kids before tossing it onto the salad, we can keep the sauce as a special adult treat.  We both feel strongly about not making separate meals for kids and adults, but simply leaving the sauce off kid plates is a great way to dress down (to kid-sized palates) the very same meal we are happily dousing and dabbing.  So this is our first try, and from the reaction of all at the table, 1-40, it counts as a total success.

Pommery Cocktail
serves 2
5 jigs gin
1/3 jig syrup from cocktail cherries
1/3 jig pomegranate molasses
2 cherries

Place a cherry in the bottoms of martini glasses.  Pour other ingredients into a shaker filled with ice.  Shake well.  Pour through strainer top into martini glasses.

Shrimp Stir Fry
Serves 4-6
2 T toasted sesame oil
1 T minced garlic
1 T chopped ginger
1 dried red Chinese pepper
6 large raw shrimp per person
2 medium heads broccoli, broken into florets
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks

Warm the sesame oil to medium-hot.  Toss in the garlic, ginger, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.  Toss in shrimp and cook until pink all the way through (5-10 min.).  Toss in broccoli and carrots and cook another 5 minutes.  Serve with rice and dipping sauce (below).

Asian Dipping Sauce
Serves 4
1 T black sesame oil (or toasted sesame oil)
1 T pomegranate molasses (or agave syrup or sugar)
1 T mirin
1 T black rice vinegar (or more mirin)
2 1/2 T soy sauce
2 T chopped ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then simmer, low, for about 10 minutes.
Serve in individual dipping bowls and dip the shrimp and any appetizers into it, or simply pour over the shrimp stir fry.

Strawberry (Sprinkle) Cake
2 1/4 c. white flour
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup strawberry puree (I put 1 1/2 cups of frozen strawberries in the cuisinart to get this)
2 tsp. strawberry extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Butter a pan, springform if possible, and "flour" it with powdered sugar (toss about 1 T powdered sugar over the butter and then shake it around, this helps the cake not to stick to the pan). Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
This cake is dense and moist.  The sprinkles are just for fun and can be omitted.  If you want the cake to look strawberry-red, you'll have to add red food coloring.  You might make a strawberry frosting for this cake, or you might offer kids a dollop of ice cream on top and for the adults spoon over it a fantastic sweet-tart strawberry-cherry sauce!

Strawberry-Cherry Sauce
Serves 4
2 cups whole strawberries
1 cup cherry juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar or 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Pour all ingredients into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then turn flame down low and simmer, low, 20-30 minutes, until the strawberries are broken down and the sauce is thickened to almost gooey.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Just Like School Lunch?

My son loves school lunch, in all its highly processed, deep fried glory.  Last month, he came home raving about cheese sauce, and after a few false starts I came up with a cheesy bechamel that passed muster (melt 2 T butter, whisk in 2 T flour, then slowly whisk in 1 cup milk, cook low whisking constantly for a few minutes, until thickened, turn off heat and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/2 cup grated jack cheese, and pour over things like baked potatoes, steamed broccoli...).  But this week, it's chicken nuggets, and my first try failed the kid test to miserably that all current and future requests for home versions of school lunch favorites have been cancelled.  Apparently, school lunch chicken nuggets are completely covered on their yellow crust on the outside and perfectly white on the inside.  So I ended up with a whole lot of leftover lightly breaded, gently sauteed and quite tasty, to an adult palate, chicken pieces, which turned into a truly delicious lunch salad.  Pineapple in New England is almost always underripe, and using it kind of goes against the whole spirit of this blog, but in the winter I sometimes get these yearnings for something more tropical.  If I were to make this in a warmer clime, it would really be perfect (for the adults)!

Not Chicken Nugget Salad
serves 4

1 cup herb and parmesan bread crumbs (recipe follows)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (breast would be whiter but dryer)
3 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 cups lettuce
2 cups chopped pineapple
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Cut chicken into 2-3" pieces.  Toss chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and 2 T olive oil.  Spread the bread crumbs on a plate.  Roll the chicken peieces in the bread crumbs.  Heat 1 T olive oil in a large pan.  Lay the chicken pieces in the oil and cook 10 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and cut into cubes.  Toss the lettuce and avocado with the vinaigrette.  Top with the chicken and the pineapple. 

Parmesan Bread Crumbs
Makes 4 cups

4 cups cubed bread (I cube up the ends of loaves that are starting to get dry and save them in the freezer till I have enough)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. fresh or dried rosemary
2 tsp. chopped fresh or dried basil
1 T chopped fresh or dried parsley

Toss everything together in a bowl.  Put half of it into a food processor, using the grater attachment.  Repeat with with other half.  Then put in the regular sharp blade and pulse until fine.    Keeps frozen for up to 3 months.