BellyGrowling #2, a week worth of dinners

from Jan

Sunday-Baked ham and green beans 

Sounds like an elegant, home-cooked family dinner, right? Think again. We had been at Target most of the afternoon. Joshua has owned a bike for a couple of years now and really enjoys riding. Jeremy and I decided it was time for us to have bikes too so that we could all ride together. We were all getting hungry, still had to assemble and mount the bike rack on the car, and get the bikes on the car.  And, we were low on food in the house because I had not had a chance to get my weekly shopping done (a story in itself).  So, when I saw a ham “nugget” as it was called that I could throw in the oven and then plop on the table, I grabbed it. Turned out to be a good thing I did not expend a lot of effort. 

Joshua who, to be fair, turned out to be suffering from a sinus infection (more on that later) decided not to eat ANY dinner and sat on the couch. Jeremy was feeling frustrated and hangry from an accumulation of all the “help” he was getting from Joshua with the bikes and a minor injury sustained while working with the bikes.  And, I was just tired and hungry. When the dinner was ready, Jeremy and I silently dug in.  As our bellies filled, our conversation picked back up. Joshua reluctantly had a few bites of ham.  No one ate any green beans.   An interesting start to the week.

Monday-Cabbage rolls (If you see Joshua, please call them meatballs!) 

I had planned on having cabbage rolls this week, but wasn’t sure when. They are almost always a hit. After the previous night, I needed a win (and some comfort food).  Cabbage rolls seem like a lot of work, but my mom came up with a trick that makes them a breeze. Instead of rolling the meat in a leaf of cabbage, just add shredded cabbage to your baking pan!  You can even buy cabbage that is already shredded!  If that is not “comfy,” I don’t know what it! 

This actually turned out to be a fun dinner because Joshua helped make them. He loved preparing and measuring the ingredients, mixing them together, plopping the ingredients for the sauce into the (biggest) bowl, and getting messy shaping the meatballs!  I was very impressed. Joshua was so careful when we used the can opener and had a great time using his scissors to cut the onions. When it was time to cook them, he very carefully and deliberately opened the oven door for me.    And, asusual, they were a hit.  Phew!  Joshua was very proud of cooking dinner. So proud, he even ate some of the cabbage! 

I use a cabbage rolls recipe from “The Mensch Chef” cookbook by Mitchell Davis (2002).  Here is the recipe (which I cut in half): 

For the meatballs, mix together the following—20 small gingersnaps, ground; 2 pounds ground beef (not too lean); 3 large eggs; 1 medium yellow onion, grated; 1/3 cup raisins; and ½ teaspoon black pepper.  The recipe also calls for ¼ cup uncooked white rice and 1 tablespoon kosher salt.  I omit both. Shape the meat mixture into balls. 

For the cooking liquid, mix together the following—28 ounce can crushed tomatoes; 28 ounce can whole tomatoes with their juice, cut into chunks; 6 ounce can of tomato paste; ½ cup sugar; ¼ cup raisins; ½ teaspoon black pepper, and shredded cabbage, to taste.  The recipe also calls for 2 teaspoons kosher salt and ¼ c uncooked rice.  I omit both.  Cover the bottom of oven safe baking dish with cooking liquid.  Put meatballs in baking dish.  Pour the rest of the cooking liquid on top and spread evenly around dish.  Baked covered at 325 degrees for 1.5 hours, then uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  (When I do a half recipe, I bake covered at 350 degrees for about an hour.) 

Tuesday-Deli café (it is just too convenient!) 

This afternoon really, really got away from us. Joshua had school, as usual and we dropped a friend of his at his home. Usually we either go to a park for a bit or head home.  Today, unbeknownst to Joshua, he had a doctor appointment. After waking up at 6am for 3 weeks coughing, I decided to take him in, even in the absence of other symptoms.  Well, the last time Joshua was at the doctor was for a flu shot and the time previous to that he got three vaccinations! So, when I told him about his appointment that afternoon he got very teary eyed assuming another shot was coming. After dealing with that fear, I was able to comfort him a bit with some construction truck books I had just gotten at the library. As if the doctor's visit (sinus infection) was not enough, as a family, we decided to go for our first family bike ride with all of our new bikes. We headed down to the trail and started off around 4:15pm completely forgetting that we had just changed our clocks for daylight savings time, and it would start getting dark in about 20 minutes. Here we are with a sick kid without a jacket (don't tell Grandma) and 20 minutes of light left in the day. Not the best parenting decision ever. 

We make it back to the car just after dusk to head home, but remember we need to pick up Joshua's prescription. It is getting late and we realize by the time we get home and I actually cook something it is going to be too late. We decide to stop at Jason's Deli on the way home. A great decision and we are all looking forward to our free ice cream at the end of the meal after a long day. Lots of macaroni and cheese, soup, and sandwiches are consumed and we are ready for ice cream.  Agh!  The machine is broken.  I'm ready for the breakdown and, honestly, Joshua deserves to have one. He is sick, tired, got rushed on his first bike ride, had to go to the doctor.  But, the kid looks at me and says, "let's get some ginger muffins instead...I get the biggest one."  And he did! 

Wednesday-Pesto pasta 

We had another fun time riding bikes and playing chase at our local park.  So much fun that we got back really late for dinner.  Fortunately, the park is right next door to our place, so we didn’t get caught in the impending dark quite like the day before.  But, we were all really hungry and it was getting late. Pasta to the rescue!  Joshua, our new head chef, filled the pot with water. While we were waiting for the water to boil, we safely used our knife together and cut up zucchini and mushrooms. With our (clean) grabber hands, we put the zucchini, mushrooms, and pre-cubed butternut squash on a baking pan and roasted them while the pasta was cooking. Drain the pasta, mix in the pesto sauce, and throw the veggies in a bowl. Our bellies were full! 

My pesto recipe, which freezes very well, is from Vegetarian Times (so I don’t have to worry, I omit the nuts from the recipe):  www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/classic-basil-pesto/ 

Thursday-Pizza, by Joshua 

Joshua decided he wanted to play at his school’s natural playground, Bunny’s Place, after school. While we were there, we made leaf-stick pizza with mud sauce. Quite a delicacy in some parts!  I really had not thought too much about dinner, so when Joshua asked if we could make “real” pizza for dinner at home, I was happy to have the decision made. The evening was made even easier when Jeremy offered to walk to Trader Joe’s to get the dough, sauce, and cheese. For toppings, we would use this as an opportunity to clean the fridge out.   

Joshua, who has been in a cooking mood lately, made our pizzas for us using Trader Joe’s pizza crust and marinara sauce..  His part was just cheese. Jeremy had mushrooms, onions, and pineapple. I decided on mushrooms and onions. Yummy and easy. 

Friday-Tikka Masala-ish chicken and rice 

I really should stop trying to make Indian food. It just never turns out right and tonight was no exception to that rule.  (Good thing we had some left-over pizza.) 

Saturday-Mexican black beans and rice 

An old stand-by lets me down. Or perhaps it was just a so-so black beans and rice recipe I tried for the first time. Either way, we all use lots of guacamole and salsa to liven up this recipe. This is a great meal, as I will mention many times, because we can all make it our own way. Jeremy as a salad, me as a rice bowl, and Joshua as a wrap (and, after all the filling fell out, as a rice bowl).   

I made the black beans and rice recipes (which I will not bother to include here) and also had bowls of corn, cheese, guacamole, and peach salsa. One success for the meal was that Joshua was much better about serving himself only about 2 times the amount of food he might eat rather than 12 times the amount. Small steps!