Monday, May 19, 2008

3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days - Day 19

I think one of the nicest things for me when it comes to menu planning is how much freedom I have gained in the kitchen. I used to dread figuring out what to feed my family every day. I was always too uncreative. Or, I would think of something I really wanted to make only to find out that I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand. Which of course meant that I wouldn't be satisfied with making something else because now I REALLY wanted whatever it was I couldn't make. I get frustrated with myself just thinking about that vicious cycle now.

When I plan my meals for the month, I always allow a little wiggle room because I know there are many dishes I can make from the same ingredients. I don't let my meal plan control my kitchen, but it is a very handy tool for making out my monthly grocery list. I never plan out which meals will be eaten on which days. I just know I wouldn't function well with a system where I felt like I was being told what to do. Then the whole system would fall apart and I'd end up wasting time and money. Instead, I plan my meals out weekly based on the list for the month. And even then I don't always stick to it. Some days, I just really want tacos for dinner instead of a casserole, or vice versa. I have yet to really make a large mistake in veering from the plan; one that would mess up some following meals. (But stay tuned, I'm sure I will some day!)

With that being said, I did stick to my menu plan for today (and know that I won't be tomorrow). We had crepes with bananas foster sauce for breakfast, and pb&j sandwiches with yogurt and crackers for lunch. I made scotch teas that we had as a snack. This recipe is so easy and it requires so few ingredients that it's perfect for a sweet snack when you are running low on eggs or flour.

Scotch Teas
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter or margarine
2 c. quick-cooking oats
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Cook butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan until butter is completely melted, stirring often. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients. Mix well. Press into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. They will firm up as they cool.

For dinner I made one of my favorite meals, curry chicken and broccoli casserole served over rice. This was the dinner I always requested for my birthday when I was growing up. Eating it now still reminds me of my childhood.

Curry Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
1 can cream of celery soup (Or homemade substitute*)
1 c. mayonnaise
1 T. curry powder (more or less to taste)
salt & pepper, to taste
2 c. cubed chicken, cooked
1 bag frozen broccoli
1 -2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Combine soup, mayonnaise, curry powder, and salt & pepper, to taste. Layer chicken and broccoli in a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Pour sauce over top. Top the whole thing with shredded cheese, cover with tin foil and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Serve over rice. (We usually eat brown rice, and I usually serve this over brown rice, but every once in a while I like to serve it over white rice to get the true flavor of my childhood.)

*I always make a homemade substitute for any recipe that calls for a canned, cream of soup. I think learning how to make a white sauce, and all the variations thereof, has been the best kitchen skill I've learned for cooking from scratch. I use this basic recipe to make cheese sauce, cream of substitutes, gravy, and many other things. (I've shared this basic recipe before when I was making a cheese sauce, so this is just another variation.) Miranda asked how I make the gravy that I use in casseroles and other dishes, so I will share some more about that.

1/4 c. butter, margarine, or meat drippings/fat
1/2 c. appropriate veggies (ie. onions, celery, mushrooms, etc.), optional
1/4 c. flour
1 3/4 - 2 c. liquid
salt & pepper to taste, and any other appropriate seasonings

For tonight's cream of celery substitute:
1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 c. finely diced celery; cook until translucent.
2. Whisk in 1/4 c. flour and cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add 1 1/2 c. milk and 1/4 c. chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue to cook until desired consistency. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Use as you would canned cream of celery soup.

For a chicken gravy, I would do the same thing except use 2 c. chicken stock instead on the 1 3/4 cups of liquid from step 3 above. I would also add some more appropriate seasonings.

For a beef gravy, I would use drippings or drained fat in place of butter or margarine. I would also use 2 c. beef stock and appropriate seasonings.

I'm sure Joy and Toni are cooking up some wonderful things in their kitchens, so don't forget to stop by and see what they've been up to during 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days.


The Happy Housewife 6:43 AM  

That casserole looks so delicious! I will be making when I go home!

Miranda 8:15 AM  

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your recipe! I never realized one basic recipe would make so many variations!

Nancy 9:18 AM  

Yet again, more new recipes to try. They both sound yummy. Our family was never fond of curry until we hosted a German exchange student during the 2006-2007 school year. Curry dishes were a staple in her home so she introduced them to us. Now it's something we enjoy. I'll try yours very soon.

Tonni 9:26 AM  

Thank you thank you thank you for the recipe for white sauce! I'm a newlywed (and new to cooking!) and I've been wanting to figure out how to avoid canned 'cream of' soups... I will be using this! Thanks again!

Jennifer 11:55 AM  

I do the same thing. I plan a menu, but the items can typically be made any day, not a given day. It provides the loose structure that we need.

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