Leftovers and Menu Planning: A week of what passes for dinner in my house

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Salmon fillet with asparagus and yellow sauceAfter my Bullshit Revisited post, I received mail and comments suggesting that what I was advocating was spending hours in the kitchen everyday. No, I just want people to cook. If it’s for 10 minutes or 110 minutes, I don’t care. Just leave the boxes on the shelf and prepare a meal with real food.

Real food doesn’t have to be complicated. As an illustration, here’s what I ate last week. A week ago Sunday, we had a friend over for a big fillet of salmon on a plank on the grill, with asparagus and a light dill yogurt sauce.

Honestly, most of our meals are quite zippy. I leverage a couple of bigger meals cooked on the weekend for use throughout the week. I eat a lot of leftovers. We endeavor to use everything in our crisper drawers. Every other week, Mike makes a batch of no-knead bread dough that we dip into a couple of times during the week, most often on the weekend.No knead artisan bread

One thing that truly speeds up dinner? Good knife skills. It’s the most essential lesson that I learned in culinary school. If you’re lacking knife skills, find a local cooking school and sign up. It’s the best $35 to $50 you can spend in terms of feeding yourself better.

Would this look different if we had kids? You bet. I could never take a bath at midnight while making an artichoke. Would I cook as much if I lived alone? Probably. Mike and I eat different breakfasts. While I eat most lunches in my writing office, he goes out for lunch often, in part as an excuse to get out of the house. I made my own dinner three nights last week after getting home past 10 p.m.

Monday:
Breakfast: Small egg sandwich made from a slice of whole-grain toast, mustard, a slice of cheddar cheese and a fried egg. (Less than 10 minutes)
Lunch – Leftover barley risotto
Snack – An apple, some rye crisps
Dinner – at almost midnight after late night writing, so dinner on my own. A whole steamed artichoke, slice of leftover salmon and an arugula salad with spritz of lemon and bit of olive oil. It took couple minutes to prep pan of water, put in artichoke and then let it steam for 40 minutes while I took a bath, then spent less than four minutes prepping leftovers, salad, and lemon-butter for the artichoke petals.

Tuesday
Breakfast: Two-egg omelet with the last of the leftover asparagus, shredded swiss chard (six minutes)
Lunch: Last of the barley risotto, small side salad with half an avocado
Snacks: Cottage cheese, couple rye crisps, slice of gouda cheese, an apple
Dinner: Salmon cakes made with the last of salmon served with avocado dressing, steamed peas, green salad with shredded basil (25 minutes)

Wednesday
Breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries leftover from Sunday night dessert, handful of almonds
Lunch: Half packet ramen noodles in miso soup with green onions
Snacks: An apple, couple handfuls of Kashi high-fiber cereal, some almonds
Late-night dinner after long writing day: Stir-fry with results of vegetable drawer raid, zucchini, onion, carrot, asparagus and cilantro, plus peanuts and frozen peas. Served with brown rice that Mike brought home from Thai place.  (About 15 minutes)

Thursday:
Breakfast: High-fiber Kashi cereal with soy milk
Mid-morning snack: Half a mango, cottage cheese
Lunch: Steamed broccoli with grated cheese, almonds, leftover brown rice
Snack: Couple walnuts, a handful of Triscuits, rest of the mango
Dinner: Whole grain linguine with clam sauce (using canned clams), with garlic, baby tomatoes, parsley and fresh basil. Mixed green side salad. (Less than 20 minutes)

OmeletFriday
Breakfast: Omelet with tomatoes, arugula and garlic
Lunch:  Went out for chicken fajitas that did not sit well with either of us
Dinner: Whole wheat penne with tomato sauce spiked with garlic, olives, last of the arugula and fresh basil (about 20 minutes)

Saturday
Breakfast: Applesauce, later a protein smoothie with greek yogurt
Lunch:  Rosemary carrot soup (recipe test) with greek yogurt garnish, fresh no-knead bread. (Took about an hour total, but 20 minutes active time to prep carrots and bread)
Snack: Two plums, later a piece of bread with peanut butter
Dinner: Went out to eat with my regular date guy.

Sunday:
Breakfast: Homemade French toast (from leftover bread) with cinnamon and honey (about 15 minutes)
Lunch: Baked ham, baked sweet potatoes, fresh no-knead baguette. This took about 1 hour 30 minutes, but only about 15 minutes active time. Meanwhile, we prepped our rental apartment for viewing.
Dinner: Ham, fresh mozzarella and basil sandwiches (about eight minutes)
Late-night “30 Rock”-watching guilty pleasure snack: Little bit of homemade mac and cheese (12 minutes)

Now cooking: Big batch of white bean soup, carrot and swiss chard soup made with the leftover ham bone. Let beans soak overnight. Chopped up vegetables and put into refrigerator while watching TV. This morning, drained beans and sauteed vegetables while coffee brewed. Added in ham bone and water, some herbs and it’s simmering away.

Now freezing: four six-ounce batches of chopped up ham for future soups, omelets, quiche, pasta, braised dishes, whatever.

About katflinn

Kathleen Flinn is the author of "The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry," "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" and "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good." All are published by Viking/Penguin.

Comments

  1. Indeed. You’d think that by advocating making your own food, you were coming in with a supply of shackles, ready to chain people permanently to their stoves.

    In my own blog I document my dinners three times a week, on the principle that perhaps it will help to demonstrate to other people what some of the options are, and some of the different ways a meal might be put together, if you don’t want to be dependent on prepared foods. Whether it works or not I don’t know, but I figure it can’t hurt.

  2. Since I was out of work for a couple of months, the Sweetheart and I did a good job of eating down the pantry, so this morning I was at the chain grocery, doing a little restocking. Which means I went into the center of the store, where I almost never go. As always, I was perplexed? shocked? puzzled? by the weirdness of the prepared food options. Really? Box after box after box of pasta or rice “meals.” Canned soup (don’t people have leftovers? I make so much soup I can’t eat it all). Weird frozen meals. Those terrifying pre-cooked “dinners” where the meat counter used to be (you want pot roast from a factory? who are you people?). I bought pasta, a 20lb bag of good Asian rice, a couple of jars of the plainest organic tomato sauce I could find (the bisphenol issue has me off my favorite canned one), and some tea. For 20 bucks I got 20 pounds of rice, which will last most of the year. For 6 bucks I got 5 pounds of pasta, which even at the rate the SW eats it, will last. And no weird chemicals or powders. The one that really gets me is those bags of frozen pasta meals — eight or nine dollars for 50 cents worth of pre-cooked pasta and some frozen veggies? We eat a lot of basic meals: burgers, pasta, a roasted chicken stretched into 2 or 3 meals, stir fry with eggs. Very few of our dinners take more than about 30 minutes to pull together (although working at home means I can do slow cooking I might not do otherwise). I’ve been blogging about it for ages, but my astonishment never ceases. It’s just such an enormous con. And it’s killing everyone.

  3. It is simply amazing to me that our generation and the next has lost its motivation and potentially ability to cook. Why do they seem to feel that eating packaged food is a good alternative? We can clearly see the results of these habits in the statistics on disease. I cook virtually every night and I truly care what we are eating. How do we encourage people to take an interest in cooking? I’m not sure what the answer is but I hope you and others will continue to enspire others to cook! I know I am inspired!

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