Our suburban farm

I am going to brag a bit this week and start with something that I have never made before – French macarons.  John’s girlfriend requested that I make “French colorful cookies,” so I gave it a shot.  I read at least a dozen recipes, watched youtube videos and read reviews about what worked and what didn’t work.   Did you know these are made with almond flour? I didn’t even know that.  And, I had never eaten one before.  I am happy to say mine came out looking pretty good!  I filled with chocolate ganache, dulce de leche and raspberry jam (the last was my favorite).  I’ll definitely make them again for a special occasion, like, when someone asks me to.   Would you pay $2 a piece for these?

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The beginning of summer is my favorite time of year here.  The days are long, the chickens are happy and the garden is exploding.  I am one lucky lady that my husband loves to garden and all-things-green.  He wakes up BEFORE FOUR IN THE MORNING on a workday to water the gardens, and he even planted rose bushes outside our bedroom window.  We have been enjoying lettuce from the garden every day this week.  Fabulous!

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What are we eating this week?  I’m still working my way through the pantry and fridge.  Here’s what I came up for this week’s menus:

  • grilled chicken (buy whole chicken cut up plus a package of chicken legs, throw in ziplock with marinade when you get home from grocery store), grilled baby peppers, grilled naan bread.
  • hamburgers (yes, hamburgers again, it is summer after all), watermelon, green salad
  • broccoli with garlic sauce, pork loin with same garlic sauce, brown rice
  • shakshuka (because we have fresh eggs and plenty of canned tomatoes) with pita or rice
  • pizza in the cast iron skillet, with mozzarella and Italian sausage for some, and with spinach and smoked mozzarella for others
  • meatball subs – nothing fancy – bake the meatballs from the freezer, add marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese and serve on a hoagie roll with a big green salad

Enjoy!  xo M.

Our suburban farm

Taking inventory

A couple times a year I take a full inventory of what’s in the fridge, freezer and pantry.  Usually, I get motivated to do this when the pantry seems full and the wallet seems empty.  Here’s a peek into my kitchen this weekend:

Pantry – chicken broth x2, taco shells, green chile enchilada sauce, whole tomatoes x5, diced tomatoes x2, tomato paste, pickles, water chestnuts, chickpeas, chipotles in adobo, black olives, smoked salmon in tin, vermicelli noodles x2, box rice pilaf, box corn muffin mix, popcorn, 1/2 box Asian rice noodles, bread crumbs, polenta (about 1 cup), white grits, Israeli couscous, rice, dry milk (for bread in bread machine), chocolate chips

Fridge – kale, 1/2 jar BBQ sauce, jar red curry, jar black bean garlic sauce, masa harina, tahini, salsa, plain yogurt, buttermilk, heavy cream, egg whites, grated parmesan cheese, bacon, swiss cheese sliced, Romaine lettuce, carrots, scallions, lemons

Freezer – corn tortillas, meatballs (bought in bulk from Alex’s last job), pizza dough, pine nuts, 1 whole chicken, tater tots, frozen peas, green beans, corn and sliced carrots

I stopped at Costco on my way home from a soccer game yesterday and bought ground beef (6 pounds!), Italian sausage, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, asparagus, peppers to grill, Italian bread…  enough to get us through the next few days.  Here’s what I came up with using what I already have on hand in italics:

  • hamburgers with swiss cheese, Romaine lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, etc, and kale salad with olive oil & lemon juice & parmesan & toasted pine nuts
  • panzanella with Italian bread, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, black olives, and grilled Italian sausages
  • Israeli couscous salad with asparagus, scallions, dijon vinaigrette, and grilled chicken with BBQ sauce, and grilled baby peppers
  • pizza, in the cast iron skillet, remember this pizza recipe?
  • stir fry with black bean garlic saucewater chestnuts, noodles & rice (make extra rice for fried rice later in the week)
  • fried rice with ham/eggs/tofu, and frozen vegetables (peas, corn, carrots, green beans)
  • chickpeas with tahini yogurt sauce, and chicken shawarma
  • pasta with Italian sausage and tomato sauce
  • chicken enchiladas with green chile sauce and corn tortillas, refried black beans with garlic and cumin
  • Asian meatballs with Romaine lettuce
  • grits and … shrimp (?) or eggs and cheddar cheese
  • tater tot casserole with cheddar cheese and green onions (what the heck?!  how did that end up here?!)
  • what to do with smoked salmon – pasta with asparagus?  salads?  with scrambled eggs or pasta (see #10!)?
  • what to do with egg whites – any one of these ideas will work!
  • what to do with red curry pastecurried fried rice balls?  yum!!!

Breakfast and snack ideas, for when the kids open the fridge and say those words that we know all too well, “there’s nothing to eat in here”:

Next time, I’ll figure out how to work these into the menu:

Have a great weekend, everyone!  xo M.

Taking inventory

How to make the weekly menu work for you

Things happen between the time I make the menus on Saturday and the time I actually make the meal on a weeknight.  Here’s how I used my menu planning and ingredients for dinners this week:

Pork loin – I cut the pork loin into 1″ cubes, and marinated in this Pernil sauce while I went to Isabel’s school performance.  I didn’t have shallots so I used a small onion instead.  I also didn’t buy limes, so I used a bit of Rose’s lime juice (keep on hand for the occasional vodka gimlet) and omitted the sugar.   Got home, started the BBQ, shish-kabobed the pork, then cut up and shish-kabobed green and yellow squash, brushed with olive oil, s&p, and threw it all on the grill.  Served with rice cooked in the rice cooker. Fantastic!

Pasta with tuna sauce – I had 3 frozen tuna steaks that I bought a few weeks ago on sale (two pounds for $14.99 at Whole Foods!).   I threw them in the oven with s&p for about 10 minutes, while I started the tomato sauce and boiled water for linguine.  Needed a little more salt since I didn’t use canned tuna, but the flavor was great.  Served with broccoli fresh from the garden.

Sandwiches and salad – Midweek I realized we had a lot of deli turkey and ham that was not being used for lunches this week because the kids had weird school hours.  So, we made panini for dinner with smoked turkey, ham, swiss cheese, tomatoes and arugula.  And a big green salad.  Perfect!

Roast chicken – This one I’m making tonight and plan to follow the recipe.  Turns out it’s a rainy cold day and all outside sports are canceled, so the timing worked out in my favor.  Yay!

BBQ chicken – I did try the Cook’s Country BBQ chicken recipe.   (Sorry, I know the link doesn’t give you the full recipe.)  I let the chicken sit in the spice rub, then braise on the grill for 30 minutes, then finish on the grill with BBQ sauce (which I didn’t doctor up like the recipe recommends).  OK, I will admit, sooooo good.  I’ll use that method again.

This weekend I’ll take a full inventory of my pantry, fridge and freezer before planning menus.  The pool opens Saturday so we’re looking forward to hamburgers and potato salad and of course dessert.   And when we’re sick of burgers, doesn’t this sound good?!

xoxo  M.


How to make the weekly menu work for you

BBQ chicken

Yesterday Alex read the Cook’s Country June/July magazine and thought the BBQ chicken recipe sounded good.  Great, I thought, I’ll make it for dinner.  I wrote the menus for the week, made a list (see below for what that looks like), did the grocery shopping and got home by 6pm – plenty of time, right?  Have you read a recipe in Cook’s Country lately?  I guess I should have read the article first, because it is quite involved.  Like, letting the chicken sit for at least an hour in the spice rub, soaking wood chips, barbecuing the chicken in 4 steps, with a long list of ingredients that include doctoring up a store-bought jar of BBQ sauce.  Really?  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good cookbook and a dinner idea, but this magazine is just not my style.  And, they don’t post recipes on their website so you’ll just have to trust me that when you want BBQ chicken, throw some chicken on the grill with Bone Suckin’ Sauce and call it a day.

About my grocery shopping trip, I went a little over budget this week, at $271.  Could have been that I had a little helper with me who added a few things to the cart, but I can’t blame it all on her, as I was guilty of sampling these curry chips which were so good and I just couldn’t resist….    (Don’t shop when you’re hungry?  Remember that basic rule?)


More meals for this week and last week:

  • NY strip steaks were on sale at Whole Foods this weekend, and I couldn’t resist buying two for dinner.  Will serve with corn on the cob, butter lettuce salad with guacamole (my mother-in-law’s secret recipe, see photo!) and watermelon.  Hello summer!
  • Pork loin, either spice crusted in the oven or BBQ kebabs with zucchini and Vidalia onions, with rice and broccoli from the garden
  • Pasta with tuna and tomatoes (it doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, anything from Marcella’s Classic Italian Cookbook is worth a try!)
  • Roast chicken with potatoes and arugula with garlic yogurt sauce, with lettuce and cucumber salad
  • Penne with Italian sausage and swiss chard from the garden
  • Roast chicken (yes, we do a lot of roast chicken, whole chicken is inexpensive, rub with olive oil, s&p and any other spices and throw in the oven at 400 for about 30-40 minutes) on one sheet pan, diced sweet potato with frozen corn on another sheet pan (also toss with olive oil, s&p, spices), serve with green salad and homemade BBQ sauce.  I used this recipe because it was the first one to pop up on my google search when I realized I didn’t have any Bone Suckin’ sauce in the cupboard.


Have a great week, everyone!  xo M.

BBQ chicken

Ode to the Weeknight Dinner

5:30 Get home, review dinner plans and inventory, realize there’s no beer or wine.

5:35 Walk to liquor store and call it exercise, especially the walk home which requires carrying heavy bag.

6:00 Ask child nearest to kitchen to empty dishwasher while you fold laundry and sort laundry piles to start next load.

6:15 Chop peppers, zucchini and onions, toss with olive oil, salt and herbs on sheet pan, in oven at 400 degrees.

6:30 Cook farro on stovetop – 4 cups broth and 1 1/2 cups farro – set to simmer for 35-40 minutes.

6:40 Oops, forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer this morning; discover frozen meatballs in freezer, put on sheet pan and throw in oven next to veggies.

6:45 Back to laundry room to fold, hang out the delicate stuff and start the next load

7:00 Go to bedroom to change out of work clothes; get distracted by looking for toilet paper and clean towels and hand soap.

7:15 Is the farro done yet?  Turn off the stovetop and oven and let everything rest while you load the dishwasher.

7:30 Toss farro with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Add roasted veggies.  Find parsley in the fridge that’s still good, chop that and add it to the mix with some herbed goat cheese that you also found in the back of the deli drawer.

7:45 Locate children who are home or near home for the evening and offer them dinner.  Was that the dryer buzzing?

8:05 Finally serve yourself dinner, and try not to remind yourself that your alarm will go off in about 8 hours.  Sigh.  Pour another glass of wine and try to stay awake long enough to finish eating.


Ode to the Weeknight Dinner

How to host a garden party

Saturday I had the pleasure of lunching with some of my besties in the neighborhood.   The hostess set a beautiful table in her front yard.  It was like something from a magazine.  We were truly spoiled, by the atmosphere and the food.   Cheese plate with quince paste, lemon cream sconesSauvignon Blanc, salad with garam masala syrup, pea and mint soup,  salmon with spring vegetables, Persian rice, chardonnay, pinot noir and salted chocolate chunk cookies for dessert.  Absolutely divine, every second of it!IMG_0933 IMG_0936 IMG_0958

Yesterday morning my son made popovers and bacon for breakfast – a family tradition.  Lucky me!  Then we all headed to Leesburg to visit with some cousins.  They were flower girls in our wedding many many years ago, our kids were in their weddings, and now they have 6 kids between them!  Yay!  It was a totally fun way to spend Mothers’ Day!  I was happy to bring dessert:  lemon buttermilk chiffon cake with raspberry sauce, and Alex’s new favorite chocolate cupcakes.

As for the rest of the week, I found some chicken breasts in the freezer this morning.  I’ll roast them tonight with some zataar and serve with brown rice and frozen broccoli and a salad.  As for the rest of the week, I need to plan a menu tonight as Alex offered to do the grocery shopping tomorrow.  Happy Mothers’ Day week everyone!

xoxo  M.

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How to host a garden party

I’m not cooking this week…. but I am eating

My in-laws are visiting this week, and they know their way around a kitchen.  I get a “pass” from cooking dinner when they are in town.  They spoil us with excellent dinners (and they fill our wine cabinet too).  No complaining here!

So, here’s what we’ve been eating:

My dad and his wife came over for dinner on Saturday too.  We BBQ’ed one of our all-time favorites Tuscan brick chicken, and threw some fish on the grill while the chicken rested.  Served it with a farro salad of roasted vegetables and feta with lemon/olive oil dressing, and of course a big green salad with tomatoes and avocados, green onions and radishes.   For dessert, I somehow ended up with the lemon and chocolate theme again.  I made these awesome berry tarts with lemon curd, and Julia Child’s chocolate mousse.

On Sunday, Alex used the leftover barbacoa beef and grilled chicken for enchiladas (red sauce for the beef and tomatillo sauce for the chicken).  Seriously, when was the last time you had enchiladas?  He set up an assembly line with the kids and was done in no time.  SO GOOD!!!  Cheater’s note – use the Hatch brand enchilada sauce.  It’s the best.  Served with rice, black beans and green salad.

Last night we had arroz con pollo, Colombian style.  I thought I knew how to make arroz con pollo (I’ll post that soon), but this was new to me.  SO GOOD!!!  Love the website, too.  I’ll be sure to get some more ideas from there in the next few weeks.

Tonight we are having chicken cacciatore, which I haven’t cooked in AGES, so I’m excited to eat these flavors again.  Served with linguine and steamed green beans.

Oh, there was also a night when we had steak and salt-crusted potatoes, and salad.  Love a good steak and potato dinner.  I don’t think that’s the exact recipe that was used, but you certainly can’t go wrong with Alice Waters!

I don’t know what’s in store for the rest of the week.  I have some sweet potatoes in the drawer so I was thinking more farro with sweet potatoes.  I’ll keep you posted.

Have a great week everyone.  xo M.

P.S.  For some reason I can’t get photos to upload tonight.  I’ll catch up after I watch the tutorial on how to blog with photos….

I’m not cooking this week…. but I am eating