I really love menu planning because it enables me to satisfy all those food cravings I get on a regular basis — and believe me, I get plenty because I love food so passionately. Before being organized about menu planning, I’d lust after a particular dish for weeks and weeks before getting around to making it. This week dealt with a number of cravings, including Indian curry and cheesy Italian lasagna. It was a good week in the kitchen!
1. Italian-style lasagna with green salad
Ever since my Italian host mother in Sardinia taught me how to make a real pasta al forno, literally translated as ‘pasta in the oven’ (‘lasagne’ are only the noodles used to make it, not the name of the dish), I’ve been hooked on using real béchamel sauce layered with shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce, and lasagna noodles. It’s much softer and juicier than American-style lasagna that uses ricotta and no cream sauce. Every time I make lasagna, I wonder why I don’t do it more often.
2. Greek-style Dinner: Chard Utopia and Egg-Lemon Soup
I blogged about Chard Utopia last week. It’s a different take on spinach spanakopita. As for egg-lemon soup, I grew up on that stuff but hadn’t tasted it in 15 years. Talk about a trip down memory lane. My mother lived in Greece for several years as a teenager and cooked a lot of Greek food when I was a kid. Egg-lemon soup contains only stock, rice, egg, and lemon, so it’s a very easy dish to whip up.
3. Autumn Tagine served with Onion-Quinoa Pilaf
There’s something about ethnic flavours that make it easy to make scrumptious vegetarian food. This recipe for a Moroccan-flavoured stew uses sweet potatoes as its base, and the protein-laden quinoa pilaf rounded it out nicely. My meat-loving husband didn’t utter a single complaint.
4. Chicken Curry with Lentil Dal and Spiced Brown Basmati
We eat curry and dal in some form or other every week. It’s so easy, yummy, and healthy that I can’t resist. Both of my kids have been eating curry-flavoured breast milk from day one, so they gobble it up hungrily. If it’s too spicy, I stir in some yogurt and they’re good to go. As for curry spices, I do cheat a little; I’m a big fan of Patak’s curry pastes.
5. Baked Ham with Roasted Potatoes and Spaghetti Squash
My Grandma used to make baked ham every time we came to visit. I never do but when I saw a nice one on sale at the butcher shop, I picked it up. It was delicious, with lots of leftovers which made for a hearty breakfast the next morning.
6. Yellow Split Pea Soup with Ham and Cheddar Cornbread
This satisfying, homey dinner came at the end of the worst day of parenting ever (see post here). I needed soup and bread desperately. Ham leftovers came in very handy to add lots of extra flavour to the soup. The cornbread could have used lots more cheddar, but then I’d love it to ooze cheddar all over the place and that might be a bit extreme.
7. Pasta with Smoked Mussels and other odd ends
A quick dinner as we rushed out the door to drive 4 hours to my parents’ place on Friday night: whole wheat pasta noodles with a quick sauce of garlic, diced tomatoes, 2 boxes of smoked mussels, a can of marinated artichokes, a spoonful of capers, a handful of chickpeas, and lots of parmesan.
Lesson learned this week: NEVER substitute vinegar for fresh lemon juice when making hummus! I’d already started the recipe when I realized I was out of lemons. Without thinking, I added a generous dash of rice vinegar to give it that iconic tang, but that was a bad idea. Now we have a large quantity of inedible hummus in the fridge that makes me cringe every time I see it…