Thursday, May 14, 2009

Menu Planning

One of the highlights of my week (and I do get very excited about this, remember where I live and what I do for a living and then remember I have no time for a "real" life) is planning the menu for next week. I go to great pains to map out what is for dinner each night, when we are having leftovers, and how I'm going to use the leftovers (keep 'em the same, or turn 'em into something completely different). This week is particularly challenging because a) I will be going out of town from Friday-Sunday which means no time to go to the store and b) Will's dad and brother are coming into town. I know, your probably thinking-- Leah, it's only Thursday, why plan now? Simple, summers around here are boring.

Since I won't be able to go to the store this weekend and may not get there until Monday or Tuesday, Sunday will be spaghetti night and Monday will be black bean & bacon smash and brown rice . I keep all of the items for these two recipes in my pantry and fridge (and I always have a supply of spaghetti sauce in the freezer). The black bean smash isn't a very pretty dish, but it is super easy, super delicious, and is actually ready in half an hour.

Black Bean & Bacon Smash (this is a slightly modified Rachel Ray recipe)
Extra-virgin Olive Oil*
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of minced garlic
1 chipotle chili in adobo, minced
1/2-1 tsp. of adobo sauce
2 cans of black beans, drained
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
Chicken stock (just in case)

Heat a saucepan or medium pot over medium high-heat. Chop the bacon and add it to the pan. While the bacon fat is rendering, add the onion to the pan. Once the onion is tender, add in the garlic and chili, and let those cook for a couple of minutes. Then, add in one can of the black beans. Smash the bean mixture in the pan/pot with a potato masher (this will help thicken the dish later on. You don't want to pulverize everything, but most of the beans should be mashed). Next, add in the remaining can of black beans, adobo sauce (per taste), the cumin, and the salt and pepper. Let that simmer for 15 minutes until the beans are cooked through and are thickened. (If the mixture is too thick, you may need to thin it out with some chicken stock or water).

Serve over brown rice. In our house, we top the beans with Monterrey Jack cheese or salsa verde.

Leftovers of this recipe make a great sauce for pizza. Just buy some dough from the store, blind bake it in the oven according to the package directions, and spread on the black beans and top with Monterrey Jack cheese. Put it back in the oven to heat the sauce and melt the cheese-- yum!

Since I'm rice-challenged when cooking rice on the stove, I bake mine in the oven. Thank goodness I saw that episode of Good Eats or we would be eating waterlogged rice every week.

Baked Brown Rice
1 1/2 cups of brown rice
2 1/2 cups of chicken broth/stock
Cooking spray

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a casserole dish with the cooking spray, and pour the uncooked rice into the dish. Next, bring the stock to a boil. Once the stock is boiling, pour it over the rice, give everything a stir, and cover the dish with an oven-safe lid or aluminum foil (just make sure it's tight-fitting). Pop it in the oven for 1 hour. After the hour is up, take the rice out of the hot box, fluff with a fork, and serve.

*I find the use of cooking oil to be very personal-- lots of recipes call for a lot more oil than I feel is necessary. I probably use between 1-2 teaspoons when a recipe calls for oil for sauteing.

Also on tap for next week is a macaroni & beef dish I'm experimenting with, along with the Goode family meal slated for Friday night.

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