So we did make the menu Sunday and did our grocery shopping–if for no other reason than to get the heck out of our 85 degree house. (T was such a trooper because he took the heat well–I did not, I was hot and grumpy and miserable and so were our pets. So I went home to stay with my mom Sunday night while T tended the house and the pets and made sure everything stayed standing and alive. I am a huge sissy!)
Anyway, we made the menu Sunday and, though I was miserable, I stayed home to cook dinner with T and we ate on the patio…because it was so much cooler out there, but said, as we always do anytime we (too rarely) sit on our patio that we should eat out there more often. So we’re planning on that too.
Last night (Sunday), we had Chinese Five-Spice Grilled Chicken with Blackberry Jam Sauce (the recipe calls for thighs, but I used breasts because I don’t like to eat meat off the bone) and steamed/grilled zucchini, squash and mushrooms. For the veggies, I chopped the zucchini, squash and mushrooms and put them in a rigged up aluminum foil basket (we want a grill basket so badly, but are waiting to register for one…hint…hint), topped them with two pads of butter (about three table spoons), some salt and pepper and about a clove’s worth of the garlic bits you buy in the spice isle and keep in the fridge so you don’t have to chop garlic every time you want to use it. We were also going to have rice (like the recipe picture suggested) but decided it was too hot to prepare it.
The Chinese Five-Spice was really interesting…T was nervous because it smelled like licorice, but ended up complimenting the Blackberry Jam Sauce really well. Not something we’d want to cook with every day, but a nice change of pace for a day that was kicking our butts! Essentially, Chinese Five-Spice contains five spices…duh!…bajiao (also called star anise whatever that is), cloves, cinnamon and Sichuan pepper and ground fennel seeds. These spices combined encompass all five flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, pungent and salty.
For tonight (Monday night), we’re doing the Parmesan Panko Pork Chop recipe I found on the “Adventures of a Southern Newlywed Blog” but instead of using Panko bread crumbs, I’m using regular ones. I’ve seen a variation of this on allrecipes.com, so tonight’s meal will be a variation of the two based on what we have. Instead of asparagus (which sounded awesome to me) we’re having mushrooms and peas sauteed in a garlic and butter sauce (or we’ll eat up the leftover zucchini, squash and rice from last night) and left over smashed potatoes from last week to go with it.
Also on the menu this week are:
Tuesday: Spaghetti Sandwiches
To make these, I usually butter the outsides of two pieces of bread. I lay one piece butter side down in the skillet, spoon a layer of spaghetti meat sauce on top of it, place a piece of Swiss, provolone or mozzarella cheese on it, and the top it off with the other piece of buttered bread (butter side up). I grill this just like a grilled cheese. We’re having them with a yummy leafy green romaine salad with carrots, mushrooms and shredded cheese. These work best if the meat sauce has been in the fridge for a couple days (so it has time to thicken up. You can think of these as a more sophisticated sloppy Joe (which we both love, too).
Wednesday: Another night of Grilled Chicken
We’ll cook this up with one of the marinades we have in the house already (probably a lemon pepper 30-minute marinade or a Parmesan Asiago salad dressing we’re trying to get rid of). We’ll pair this with broccoli (which T doesn’t love, but will “suffer through” because I love lots of green veggies–asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, green beans, peas, Lima beans, etc.–and want to try to work other things in besides the green beans I know he loves).
Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
This is one of my favorite meals, but you can’t do it very often, because then it looses its luster. What we’ll do is biscuits, bacon or sausage and scrambled eggs. I used to do between four and six eggs so we would have 2-3 eggs worth a piece, but awhile ago we settled on five eggs because we felt like 2.5 eggs was plenty for breakfast. Even more recently, I started doing part egg whites. So now I do about four egg whites and two whole eggs to scramble up for us so we’re eating a little lighter (because we’re avoiding the egg yolks) and healthier. I crack the eggs into a bowl (separating four of the egg whites from the yolks and discarding the yolks while keeping two eggs in tact), add just a splash of milk (I actually haven’t added milk to the scrambled egg whites yet, that’s a trick I used to use when I made regular scrambled eggs) to make them a little fluffier and a little more moist, a little salt and pepper and some cheese (I usually use a handful of shredded cheddar or sharp cheddar, but if we don’t have that I just break up two slices of 2% milk American cheese). Then scramble them as usual. When I put them on the plate, I top them with just a little more shredded sharp cheddar cheese (if we have it) and serve them up like that.
I have been wanting to make T’s mom’s buttermilk biscuit recipe, but haven’t had the time or confidence to yet, so we just use the Pillsbury frozen biscuits that you can cook four at a time. T told me early on that he had a rule that he wouldn’t propose to a girl unless she could make biscuits from scratch. Taking that as a personal challenge, I made sweet potato biscuits for a “Thanksgiving” Tailgate we did last year. Though I didn’t successfully make his mom’s biscuits (and still haven’t yet), he was satisfied with the sweet potato ones, believing that if I could do those, I could probably make his mom’s. I’m not sure if he’s right, but we’ll see eventually…obviously the sweet potato biscuits were good enough for him because he put a ring on it!
Anyway, we typically don’t plan for a Friday or Saturday night meal, because we can do leftovers or eat out with friends. We like to keep them open and try not to buy too much food for these two days because we don’t want to feel rushed to use it the next week.
As you may or may not be able to see, we are working to eliminate starches from our meals once or twice a week. I didn’t do a fantastic job with this week’s menu in making sure that happened, but so long as we are cognizant of it, it’s a better way for us to do things. We also try to ensure that we don’t have any red meat more than once a week (unless we do a steak and a hamburger meat meal–like spaghetti or hamburger helper or sloppy Joe’s).
What I love about our method of menu making (wholly T’s idea because he used to do it when he was single) is that we both participate in deciding what we’re going to eat during the week and base it around what our schedules are. It makes us both more excited about eating at home and less likely to say, “Eh, I don’t know what I want for dinner, let’s just go out.” And going out to eat somewhere we really weren’t that excited about anyway, so it helps us only go out to eat for special things or when we really WANT what we’re going out to eat. Plus, it gives us both an opportunity to take control of the majority of the meal on some nights. Like when we do something on the grill as our main dish, T takes control and I handle prepping and sides. Or when I’m in charge of prepping and cooking, T will prepare a yummy salad for us. So it’s something that we are starting to enjoy and something we do together, instead of something one of us has to be in charge of every night and pressured to come up with after a long day of work. Plus it means we have everything we need for the week so if we decided that we wanted breakfast for dinner tonight, we could (as Cher from Clueless said) “just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things” and have it!
Next week, T is taking charge one night and making Black Beans and Rice…he is wholly in control of this meal, because it’s a recipe he learned from his Abuela (grandmother)…and though it wasn’t my favorite at first, I’m beginning to like it…starchy as it is…because after sampling black beans and rice other places, I am well aware that T’s is the best I’ve ever had! Below is a picture of me prepping to cook one of the first meals I ever made for T: Chicken Puff Pastries. This was to thank him for helping me hang my TV and a bribe to get him to watch the Bachelor with me. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this was the first of many meals I would make for T and the beginning of what has been the best journey of my life…I may have taken a little bit of convincing, but it is CERTAINLY true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Check back for what else is on our menu for next week around Sunday. Also, feel free to comment with your suggestions!