My most popular blog post has been about meal planning. I kind of get it, meal planning kind of sucks. I mean, the payoff is good, but sometimes it’s just too big of an ordeal to even consider putting yourself through. Plus, I know how whiny sourpuss this is going to sound, but I hate cooking during the summer. I LOVE the food selection available during the summer. You have your choice of beautiful juicy peaches, amazing homegrown tomatoes, and zucchini coming out my ears, but it’s just too damned hot. Even turning on the stove warms up the house, and the last thing I want to do is stand over the stove for any amount of time after driving home in my car without air conditioning. The oven is not an option, which pretty much just leaves the grill. When we had a gas grill, this wasn’t much of an issue, but when the burner supports rusted out after years of hard use and wet PNW winters, we never bothered to replace it. Decent gas grills are not cheap, and our charcoal Weber turns out much tastier results. The problem is that it’s quite an ordeal to start the chimney, let the coals burn down a little, and then throw on a measly couple chicken breasts. For a few weeks it is kind of a fun challenge, but with the summer that we have had (hot hot hot weather without a break for nearly 3 full months), you begin to get totally sick of grilled meat atop salad, or grilled meat with grilled veggies, or rotisserie chicken mixed with greens.
A few weeks ago, I decided to enter a burger contest, so I had to do R&D for each recipe that I came up with, and we ended up eating piles of burgers for about a week, which was nice, but so much bread! And after a grueling week of recipe development (which btw – is SO HARD when you’re used to making things without measuring), and 2 tries with the same type of burger, both ending in failure, I was burnt out. After a brief meltdown over my inability to correctly salt a burger when using measured amounts of seasoning, and the resulting demise of a meal that I intended to serve to friends, I couldn’t bring myself to drum up any level of enthusiasm for cooking of any kind. That, coupled with some cold, rainy weather (that I had been so looking forward to for well over a month at this point, but also ended up making me even more grumpy) resulted in me giving up last week. Craig has been working late as well, so I made a huge bowl of pasta mixed with some pesto leftover from burger development, we had pizza, teriyaki, and burritos. I felt TERRIBLE for 2 full weeks. Between the burger buns and pizza crust, rice, beans, etc, I have had some mighty unpleasant digestive tract experiences. It really reminds me why we’ve made the effort to reduce our intake of refined grains and processed foods. We just don’t feel… “good.” I got sick of not having anything healthy to nom on around the house, and finally bit the bullet and decided to make a meal plan. This coming week is likely to be our last Hurrah of high summer temps, so all of a sudden, using the grill seems a lot less like drudgery and more like a fun throwback to our final week of summer. As such, I tried to ensure we were using some of the beautiful produce my garden has miraculously continued producing despite my best attempts to kill it through lack of water, plus what happens to be on sale this week, and stuff I know I can get for cheap (and in bulk) at Costco, namely organic chicken thighs.
I went to Costco on my lunch break at work, which saves me some time, leaving just a trip to QFC for the remaining sale items on my way home from work.
This week’s menu includes:
Rotisserie chicken with caprese salad and green beans
Grilled Chicken Wings and Cauliflower w/ hot sauce and homemade bleu cheese dressing
The shopping list includes:
1 package romaine hearts – $3.49
2 packages organic chicken thighs(somewhere around 7-8 lbs) – $35.40 – this will give me leftover chipotle marinated chicken for a later date
1 rotisserie chicken – $4.99
1 package bacon(4lbs) – $19.59
1 bag limes – $4.99
1 bag garlic – $5.79
(I also got some spinach, leg of lamb, and some camisoles, I love me some costco)
Total cost for this week’s meals from costco: $74.25
Chicken wings – $8.00
2 small heads cauliflower – $4.54
1 bunch cilantro – 1.99
1.5lbs green beans – $2.48
1 jalapeno – $.13
1 head napa cabbage – $2.79
Total cost from QFC – $19.84
Total for everything: $94.09
Things that I already had at home needing use:
Tomatoes (for caprese salad and for pico)
Fresh Mozzarella(for caprese)
Sour cream (for taco salad bowls)
Gorgonzola crumbles (a huge container is like $8 at costco)
So here’s how my “cooking” night went down. I got home, unloaded all of my groceries and laid them out nicely to photograph them. I proceeded to take several pictures, which on my camera’s little LCD looked OK, but as it turned out, were not in focus at all, as I had turned off the auto focus last time I used the camera and hadn’t switched it back, and also had apparently failed to notice that nothing appeared to be in focus through my viewfinder.
So let’s just dive in! First things first… I had to get dinner going. Since the rotisserie chicken was essentially “done,” all I really needed to do was chop up some tomatoes, a ball of mozzarella, and basil, mix, top with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season it. Then I cut the ends off my green beans and chopped them into 1-2″ long pieces, and sauteed in a little grassfed butter. Then I just pulled some breast meat off the chicken and put it on a platebowl, topped with green beans and the caprese mixture. Not magnificent, but quick and colorful!
Then I got to cooking my bacon. This isn’t for any dinners, but it cuts breakfast-making time down considerably to cook bacon ahead of time, then toss it in the pan to crisp a little while it heats up for eggs. It took me a couple hours to cook 1x 2lb package of bacon while I did the rest of my prepping.
I prepped my pico de gallo. I chopped up about 1.5 cups of tomatoes, and and equal quantity of cilantro and yellow onions, then topped with a chopped jalapeno and the juice of 2 limes. Then I just put the lid on and shook to mix it up.
Then I had to prep all of my meat. The chicken wings were easy enough. If you’ve never broken down chicken wings, there are 3 components. The tips, the wingettes, and the drumettes. To separate them, you just run a knife through the joint area and locate where the bones intersect, then do your best to slip it between them and separate. The tips are useless for eating. I put them in my crockpot with the rotisserie chicken carcass, an onion and a head and a half of garlic to make stock. The wingettes are the flat parts with 2 bones, and the drumettes look like tiny little drumsticks. I separated them, then put them in a ziploc baggy to either add marinade or baking soda to on Thursday night. For the chicken thighs that will be turning into chipotle marinated magic, I first had to make my marinade. It’s based on the recipe from The Domestic Man
, but I have modified it a little. Perhaps I’ll share the recipe at a later date.. You know, if I remember.
Then I separated about 7.5lbs of chicken thigh meat into 2 bags, draining all of the gooey pink chicken sludge (ugh, this stuff is so gross!) off first, then splitting the marinade between both bags, sealing, and squishing around to distribute. I don’t think that the two of us could very easily eat 7.5lbs of chicken before it went bad, so I packed half of it in a foodsaver type bag, labelled it, and stuck it in the freezer for another time.
Additionally I chopped up my napa cabbage(for the japchae), and romaine hearts(for the taco salad), washed, and spun them separately, then packed them up and stuck them in the fridge.
Then carrots got cut into matchsticks for the japchae
And I cut up my cauliflower into quarters and packed it up in a baggie til I need to cook it on Friday.
And my chicken stock… I put it outside on our covered deck table to cook overnight, no sense in adding more heat to the house. When I got up this morning, I brought it in to cool off, strained it, and packed it up into containers to throw in the fridge. Came to about 2 quarts. I’ll use some of it in the longrice/japchae and the rest I can use next week.
An added bonus? I bought a huge bag of limes at costco for $5, so the leftovers I put into this pretty carnival glass pedestal bowl and they will look pretty on the counter as I use them!
The rundown of what I actually accomplished over the course of 2.5 hours last night:
Marinated chicken thighs
Prepped Napa Cabbage
What I still have to do:
Make mayonnaise for the bleu cheese dressing – I’m out of sunflower oil and have decided that despite the high omega 6 content, I much prefer it to any other type of oil, even avocado, plus it’s not chemically separated. Then assemble the bleu cheese dressing on friday while the chicken’s on the grill.
Everything else is just quick-cooking and assembly at this point. Nothing should take more than 30 minutes to put together (with the exception of starting up the grill), so by preloading the time all to one day