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Low Stress Entertaining and Bagna Cauda {Sponsored}

Bagna Cauda

I used to have a lot of anxiety about entertaining.  Having people over meant at least a day, if not two, of intense work and preparation. I don’t know if I read too much Martha, but a dinner party was a BIG DEAL. First there was planning a menu and shopping. Then I had to clean the house, including finding a hidden spot for the many, many piles of books and papers sitting around (Two lawyers in the family!  Never trust a lawyer without piles of books and papers. We attract them like magnets.)  Cooking an elaborate meal (meals to make in advance!), then scrubbing the kitchen, running and emptying the dishwasher (always start a dinner party with an empty dishwasher! Finally, we greeted the guests with a sparkling house, a set table, a tray of hors d’oeuvres, and utter exhaustion.
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Meal Plan Monday – August 23-29

Meals 8.23

 

Thought I’d pop in to share what our dinner plans look like this week.

 

A few notes:

1) I love the Cozi app (which I’ve recommended before).   It puts my dinner plans right into my calendar.   I’ve been using it for grocery shopping, too, though I haven’t used their meal planning services.  This is a screenshot.

2) I don’t work on Fridays so I usually do my grocery shopping (writhing toddler in tow.)  My meal plan goes Friday-Thursday.

3) I was going to make dinner Saturday but ended up just grazing at book club.  I made  a butternut squash dip with tahini and date molasses out ofJerusalem, my latest cookbook obsession.  (The eggplant recipe is also from there.)

4) We were exhausted by the aforementioned writhing toddler and decided to take the whole family (even the dog) to the beach yesterday.  Dinner ended up being El Pollo Loco.  And I’m fine with that.  Though now I have three eggplants that need cooking.  (The lamb is in the freezer anyway).

5) I get home pretty late on weeknights (after 7) so dinner is usually simple simple simple.  The kids don’t always eat with us, either – Nuni usually eats at her after school program (or with my mom, who picks her up two days a week), and I usually feed Bootsy something as soon as I get home so we can get him to bed.  He’s a big fan of leftovers – last week’s favorite was barley risotto with feta (also from Jerusalem).

Five No-Fuss, No-Pasta Dinners For When You Don’t Really Want to Cook

dinners

 

So if you listen to as many food-related podcasts as I do, you may have noticed that lately there has been a lot of talk about cooking (I blame Michael Pollan)- about how it’s healthier, and better for society, and connects you with your humanity, etc.  Which, hello? is great, and I’ve been saying for years! Yay cooking! We love it around these parts. I also, however, like to play the role of fairy godmother of the reality check. You know and I know that we would LOVE to make from-scratch, healthful dinners EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, but we also both know that sometimes that just isn’t happening. Before you call the delivery man, or open (yet another) box of pasta, I present you for five ideas for easy, quick, no-fuss dinners. They don’t require NO cooking, but they do require MINIMAL fuss and no thought whatsoever. I usually plan to have ingredients for at least one of these in the house at any given time, to account for traffic jams, late meetings, and general exhaustion.

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Ten Ways to Use Roast Chicken

The fantasy: Your house is clean. Your children have finished their homework and are playing by themselves quietly and without incident. You have the time to chop, sauté and simmer, and fill your house with good smells as you make a leisurely, healthy dinner, which your delighted family eats with enthusiasm.

The reality: There was an accident on the freeway, so you’re home from work 40 minutes later than usual. Your daughter has emptied the contents of her backpack all over your living room, which is now strewn with glitter and various bits of paper. You’re supposed to send a signed form to daycare with your son, but you can’t find the paperwork anywhere. Your husband is working late. Bedtime is approaching. You need to get dinner on the table, quickly, but if you try to serve carrot sticks and chicken again your family will storm the barricades.

OK, maybe that’s just my reality. But I’m sure you have your own unique challenges.

The point is, we all want to live the fantasy. We want to cook entirely from scratch and feed our families healthy, homemade food every day of the week. But the reality doesn’t always stack up, and that’s where the harried cook turns to shortcuts, in the form of the supermarket rotisserie chicken. It’s healthier than frozen lasagna, quicker than starting from scratch, but not the most exciting meal. Here, then, are ten ideas for turning that rotisserie chicken into something fabulous. (Or, if you are living the fantasy, and have managed to follow the constant food writer suggestion of “Just roast a chicken!” then these are ideas for using up the leftovers.)
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Top 25 Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Dry Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

Halloween is over, and we’ve all recovered from our sugar highs (theoretically). Now is the home stretch for home cooks – less than three weeks until Thanksgiving, and then the sprint through the December holidays into New Year, when we all collapse in a faint of exhaustion. I know you’re already planning your Thanksgiving menu, so to make it easy, I collected the Savour Fare Thanksgiving recipes into one easy place. The best, most foolproof, most delicious, juicy, crisp-skinned roast turkey? We’ve got that. Instructions on making your own pie crust (with a bonus recipe for silky smooth, perfectly spiced pumpkin pie)? You’ll find that here. In the next few weeks I’ve got a few exciting new recipes coming up — another savory sweet potato dish, a refreshing fall salad, and new twists on old favorites like stuffing and cranberry sauce, but in the meantime, here’s the roundup of Thanksgiving recipes for your inspiration:

Turkey:
Easy, Dry-Brined Roast Turkey

You’re serving vegetarians?
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Kale and Cabbage Gratin
Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Gratin
Onion Tarte Tatin

Your favorite thing is, of course, stuffing:
Old School Sage Stuffing

What vegetable side should you make this year? (see also, cooking for vegetarians, above)
Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts with Cream
Creamed Kale
Creamed Spinach with Jalapenos
Slow Cooked Green Beans
Creamy, Spicy Sweet Potato Gratin

It’s not Thanksgiving without pie:
Maple Walnut Pie
Vegetarian Mincemeat Pie
Nesselrode Pie
Perfect Pumpkin Pie, and a tutorial on homemade pie crust
Rice Pudding Pie

You don’t like Pie:
Cranberry Pecan Upside Down Cake

You’re stuck with the cranberry sauce but you still want a chance to shine:
Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Oranges and Pecans

You’re on Salad Duty:
Arugula Salad with Persimmons and Gouda
Homemade Salad Dressing

You’re keeping the relatives happy (aka mixing drinks):
The Perfect Manhattan
Champagne Cocktail

Aunt Helen won’t let you set foot in the kitchen, but you still want to help:
Polishing Silver
Five Easy DIY Holiday Centerpieces

You’re panicking:
Last Minute Tips on Hosting Thanksgiving