Lately I've been in a bit of a cooking slump - at least where recipes not containing pumpkin are concerned. I went through a span of a few months where I was extremely ambitious in the kitchen, to the point where I was churning out completely amazing food, but at the expense of about an hour or two of time almost every weeknight. It was delicious, but exhausting.
After a few trying weeks where all I wanted to do was call for takeout, I decided that the best thing to do was to scale back a bit. We introduced tacos to our weekly staple of meals and they have become one of our new favorite things to throw together on a night when we're tired or busy. I've made some simple pastas, soups, and casseroles, all of which have been delicious and were made in a fraction of the time that I used to spend in the kitchen. (I promise, I'll post about them soon.)
Last night though, we watched Rachael Ray's new show, Week in a Day. The concept of the show is that in one TV hour, Rachael shows you how to make five dishes that you can eat throughout the week. I thought this was totally brilliant, except that Rachael's food takes FOREVER to make and we already had ingredients on hand for a bunch of other things that I was going to prepare this week. So, I decided to spend my afternoon in the kitchen making nearly everything for our meals this week. On the list?
Heart Smart Banana Bread (to take to work tomorrow - my coworkers need a treat!)
We had some Kroger-brand baking mix in the cabinet, and three ripe bananas on the counter, so this seemed like a good way to use them up. I used whole eggs because that's what we had on hand, and added 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg. It SMELLS amazing!
Stuffed Pepper Stoup (Monday's dinner)
I made this up to the point where you add the chicken stock and crushed tomatoes, then turned off the heat and am letting it cool. When I get home from work tomorrow I'll take the pot out of the fridge, bring it back up to a boil, and add the orzo. We love this recipe.
"Healthified" Spinach and Rice Casserole (Tuesday's dinner)
I came across this one last year when I was on Weight Watchers, and made some changes to it today to make it tastier. Namely, I used 2 cups of diced ham and a little more cheese, and added more seasoning based on what I remembered from last time. I stopped the prep on this right after stirring in the spinach and rice, then added the ham and cheeses without bringing it to a boil a second time.
Baked Ziti (Wednesday's dinner)
I saw this on Annie's Eats last weekend and immediately bumped it up in the queue. I followed the directions for this exactly and up to the point where you combine all the ingredients and put them into your baking dish. I can't wait to try this with a crisp green salad and garlic bread. Mmm.
I also made this soup for today's lunch, and I have to say - it's fantastic. We pureed it at the end with an immersion blender to make it sort of creamy and blend the flavors. If you try this, make sure you don't skip the apple-red onion salsa and cranberry sour cream! I know they sound odd, but seriously... they totally MAKE the dish.
Right now I'm taking a break, but I hope to churn out a loaf of pumpkin bread to take to work with the banana bread (it's from a mix, so don't go thinking I'm THAT ambitious today) and an apple cider bundt cake (oh, it looks so good) for our desserts this week. And, unfortunately, I still have to make tonight's dinner: Curried Butternut Squash Soup with thick slices of fresh pumpernickel from the bread machine and our favorite Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion.
Honestly though? I'm so tired right now, you guys. Being in the kitchen and on my feet for the afternoon was exhausting! It took me about two hours to prep everything, but I should also say that Bryan helped me with quite a bit during this time, including continually removing dirty prep bowls and utensils and washing out pots and things that couldn't go in the dishwasher (which was full and running while I was doing this, oops).
Even though I'm wiped I feel really good about having dinner ready to go for the next three days... and I'm sure I'll feel even better about it when I'm relaxing on the couch with Bryan while dinner heats in the oven!