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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Culinary progress report

Last week I posted about a menu planning service that I signed up for. I selected and shopped for five different meals. Because we were out of town for a funeral for a few days and everyone but me had a stomach virus, I've only made two of the five meals.

The first was crispy baked fish. I was surprised at how easy it was to make. I've never cooked fish at home before. I used frozen tilapia, so it wasn't anything exotic. I don't remember what was in the "crispy" part except Italian bread crumbs. I served it with steamed broccoli and canned peaches.

We gave the fish about a B-. Mike and I thought the breading needed a little more kick to it. Like maybe some pepper or something with a little spice. But it was so easy to make that I'll definitely try it again.

Tonight we had baked penne with ricotta and spinach. Robbie came up as I was making it and asked "what smells so good." I don't think he's ever asked that before -- unless I was baking brownies.

I thought this dish was very good, but everyone else only gave it a B to a B+. It called for crushed red pepper flakes that I left out because I didn't think the boys would like that. Turns out they weren't so keen to eat pasta without red sauce, so next time I'll put the red pepper in. When I make it again, it will definitely be a weekend because this took a while to make. The recipe says 25 minutes for prep. I think it took me longer because I'm not a seasoned cook (pun intended).

Tomorrow's dinner -- drumsticks with lemon pepper marinade -- is already in the fridge. The meat for Tuesday's slow cooker beef tacos is defrosting. Wednesday will probably be leftovers. I might hurt myself if I make dinner four nights in row (five if you count last night's hot ham and cheese sandwiches).

All in all, I'm proud of myself. But there are some things I've figured out:
  1. My kitchen cabinets are in desperate need of cleaning out. I found 4 dinosaur cookie cutters, but no teaspoon measures. I need a colander bigger than a grapefruit.
  2. I need to read through the recipes and do some prep before I jump in on the first step. Tonight, the onions and garlic were done cooking and I hadn't even cleaned and chopped the fresh spinach yet.
  3. I have no idea what the difference between white wine vinegar and balsalmic vinegar is. I'm not sure what a dutch oven is -- but dinner turned out ok without one tonight.
  4. Some of the side dishes are a little high maintenance. I'll try making them once -- but I'm thinking frozen sweet potato fries will work just as well as hand-cut sweet potato fries. 
  5. I plugged in 6 servings for this week's menus. I think next time I'll plan for 4 servings each. The boys don't eat that much and while I'm ok with leftovers, there can be too much of a good thing.
Sorry I don't have any pictures to share of my culinary adventures. Right now I'm working on actually making a meal. Maybe in a few weeks, I'll be ready to make and photograph the food.


Nancy said...

Congrats Amy! I miss cooking right now, my mil doesn't really like to share the kitchen very often!

Sharon said...

I'm proud of you!!
Balsamic vinegar costs more & is DARK. A little goes a long way w/ that.
I'm always on edge trying a new recipe, 1-to see if I didn't ruin it, and 2-to see if we actually like it.
Stick w/ it! :)

Joanie said...

Good for you for working on healthy eating for your family!

My plan to get back on Nutrisystem has been delayed for a bit, due to low balances in my checking account. I go back to work tomorrow. I hope, by the end of the week, I can shop for the proper foods to go with the NS entrees. I fell off the wagon when I got too lazy to prep my food for each day.

Molly said...

You go girl. Everything sounds delicious.

Anonymous said...

I love cooking! Baking? Notsomuch...

Big taste difference between balsamic and white wine vinegar IMO

Sounds like you are on the right track learning to become a culinary genius!

(Red pepper flakes are pretty potent - so be careful when using!)