There are so many good things going on just in the title of this post. One, I’ve bounced back from a really nasty cold/maybe the flu and am nearly cooking at full force again. It’s a marked improvement from last week’s diet of Boston Market mashed potatoes and Ritz crackers. Two, it’s vacation time! Steve and I are taking a little combo babymoon/first anniversary long weekend trip to Vermont, to a gorgeous, pet-friendly resort. Yep, that’s right, we’re allowing the pugs to infiltrate our romantic getaway. And in case you don’t follow my personal Instagram account, you also may be surprised to find out that, after a rough first dog experience and before adding a baby to the house, we acted like crazy people and adopted another pug. Blog world, meet Nugget (whose name may not be permanent):
He and Clarence are getting along pretty well:
Although, Nugget’s an estimated six years old (he was found as a stray, so we can’t say for sure) and definitely has the old man attitude going on sometimes, like when Clarence wants to play, which is…always. My life is now listening to Clarence bark his head off at poor Nugget to get a little chase going.
BUT, this was not meant to be a pug post. It’s meant to explain how, during a pretty busy week of pug care, getting ready for vacation (i.e., doing 17 loads of laundry…per day), pregnancy, and house upkeep and decorating, I managed to make us (and a client-friend) good, comfort food, warm dinners every night. Except the night I must order pizza.
Sometimes I agonize over whether sharing my dinner plans is valuable, given that many of you do all the things I do and work or go to school (or both) on top of it all. I convince myself that you’ll scoff at my plans given my luxury of prep time every night, laughing off my extravagant recipes like I sometimes do to other food bloggers and their recipes that look delicious but entirely unrealistic. I don’t want to be that blogger.
It’s a lie I tell myself that I have nothing to offer, though. I have experience: six years of working more than full time as a tax accountant, years during which I always loved to cook but hardly had the time to do so for pleasure, much less necessity. These days I’m still crazy busy, transitioning into the often undervalued role of full-time mom/wife who’s also highly driven and trying to do her own thing on the side. For example, my schedule this week actually didn’t permit my traditional pre-dinner prep time, as you’ll read a little more below. I’m thinking it could pale in comparison to what mom-life will bring in a few months, but better a gradual workup than a sudden shock, right?
So here it is: how we ate well this week, ready for you to borrow if you’re looking for some busy week dinner inspiration.
Monday: Curry shepherd’s pie
Between Halloween (okay, I didn’t acknowledge it), a mid-day chiropractor appointment, and a dinnertime appointment at our interior designer’s office, I needed something I could put together earlier in the day. I have a sweet potato shepherd’s pie recipe, too, but I couldn’t resist trying this one from Gina that I had previously pinned for a paleo friend. I made mine and Steve’s with surprisingly meaty soy “beef” and the one for my client with grass-fed, organic ground beef. Both were so tasty. I threw in some red wine and tomato paste for deeper flavor, and instead of peas I used frozen baby brussels sprouts and kale. Tip: add the brussels sprouts at the VERY end to avoid them getting mushy.
I split the one I made for Steve and me into two pans, so there’s still an extra sitting in the fridge. If we don’t eat it Thursday night, I anticipate it will freeze like a champ for the day we get back from Vermont!
Tuesday: Crispy cauliflower and shells bake
I wish this was my genius recipe, but alas, I have to give credit to Ina. This recipe from her new book, Cooking for Jeffrey (I can’t), was featured in Food & Wine, and it’s so good it went on my list of potential Christmas side dishes. It is as crispy and delicious as the photo would have you believe, with a cheesy inside that, thanks to creamy ricotta and fontina, doesn’t require assembling a separate sauce! I actually prepared this one on Sunday and, again, split the recipe into two pans so we could bake the second one fresh on Tuesday night. I’d say it was probably better after sitting in the fridge for a couple days before baking.
My only changes to the recipe were to use gluten free shells (brown rice based, which I only boiled for five minutes) and go heavy on the garlic and capers.
P.S. These 6-cup glass baking dishes with lids are perfect for storing meals for two, and I used them to split the recipes for both the shepherd’s pie and the cauliflower and shells. TBH, the lids are a little flimsy and prone to cracking, but these ones, also from Anchor, are the same size with more durable lids, for a slightly higher spend.
Wednesday: Oven-baked squash and leek frittata with garlic roasted potatoes
Okay, this picture is not the actual frittata (it’s this one), but it gives you an idea and it reminds me of the rosé I’ve been missing. The one I made for dinner doesn’t even require an oven-safe skillet (although you could use one, to save a dish) and is baked right in the oven. I love that frittata holds up well made in advance: I prepped mine the previous night amidst laundry and savored it for breakfast the rest of the week and the next night’s dinner.
Here’s how I made four servings, or one pie plate: Sautéed small cubed butternut squash and one or two leeks, sliced, separately, each in olive oil, until the squash was browned and tender and the leeks were tender but not brown. I tossed the veggies with two tablespoons of chopped parsley and one tablespoon of chopped sage, plus salt and pepper, then arranged in a pie plate sprayed with cooking spray. For the egg mixture, I whisked eight large eggs with a teaspoon of dijon mustard and seasoning, then gently poured it over the veggie mixture. I baked mine uncovered, on the middle rack (on a baking sheet) in a 350 (F) oven about 30 minutes, until set and only slightly browned on top. Voila! Dairy free frittata…a first for me.
I use this recipe from Cooks Illustrated for super tender and garlicky roasted potatoes–it’s a go-to recipe for me. Note that CI content is not free, but you can sign up for a free trial. If you remotely love to cook, I’d recommend the membership. It’s showed me that even for simple things like roasted vegetables, I can benefit from someone else’s kitchen experimentation, and that’s their speciality. I’ve literally never tried a recipe from any of their publications that didn’t turn out fantastic, from roasted cauliflower to deep dish pizza to homemade ice cream (without an ice cream maker!).
Thursday: Leftovers or pizza
This is a safe place, right? Then I have to confess I’ve been hankering to try Papa John’s new deep dish pizza, and I don’t think it’ll be a hard sell to convince Steve. After all, I’m going to be way too busy packing up myself and the pups to transfer a dish from the fridge to the oven.
Friday: We’re outta here!
We’ll be settling into our cozy, pug-filled cabin for a weekend of hot chocolate, roaring fires, and a mix of homemade food and dinners out. If you have any restaurant suggestions for dining near Rutland, VT, let me know asap!
Updates to come on what we ate and did in Vermont.
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