menu planning

The Makings of Christmas Eve Dinner

looks like Santa has already visited our Christmas stockings...

I don't usually head out to the market on Christmas Eve. But this year, with it falling on a Monday, and our week's grocery shopping having been done the prior Wednesday, it just hadn't felt right to buy everything that far in advance. And thus, I ended up on the 1 California bus, along with a few dozen senior citizens and 4 parents schlepping their brood of children off to somewhere closer to downtown from our end of the Avenues.

My destination? Bryan's. A small fancy neighborhood market in Laurel Village, about  two miles from my place. When I first moved out here, Bryan's used to have a standalone meat shop in the same block as their grocery store. It was a wonderous place-- with every conceivable cut of meat for which you might ever read a recipe. A few years back, they consolidated the butcher shop into the store, but it's still the first place I think of in my neighborhood when I want to go find a nice cut of meat to build a dinner around.

Although the place was packed with last minute shoppers like myself, it had a happy hum. Neighbors we're exchanging Merry Chistmases and hugs in the dairy aisle. Strangers were smiling at each other and giving unsolicited advice on produce. I even got into a conversation with a stranger while waitng to check out, which pretty much never happens at any other grocery store.

I'd entered with the thought of making lamb, but the whole pork tenderloins just looked so amazing I went with that instead.I'll roast it in a peach marinade I picked up there, and serve with roasted yukon gold potatoes and apples, and fancy greenbeans (with bacon+onions.) And we'll have a teeny bread pudding as a preview of the one we're bringing to christmas dinner tomorrow. Inspired by the pork rillettes and spanish chorizo, I'm doing a charcuterie and cheese plate as our starter. And it will all be accompanied by champagne, naturally.

Recipes and photos of the final dishes to come!


Following a Weekly Meal Plan

A Farmers Market haul

The past month has been terrible from a "you are what you eat" standpoint. Being incredibly busy at work, vacation, then coming back to even longer hours at work has meant we've been doing a ton of eating out. And not a ton of healthy seasonal cooking at home.

This is why yesterday I pulled out all the items in my pantry cupboard to take stock of what we had on hand, and then made a week's meal plan that made good use of what we had on hand. I should note that I had no idea I had 8 cans of enchilada sauce in that cupboard. This is one of the primary drawbacks to using a deep, tall shelf next to the stove as a pantry, but when you're a renter in a high price city, you make do.

Here's what I came up with to help thin out the cupboard, and stop eating out so much:

  • Sat: mus sa mun curry with beef over rice
  • Sun: bean and beef enchiladas
  • Mon: chicken stir fry
  • Tues: Bean and cheese quesadillas
  • Wed: lasagna (make sauce ahead on Sunday)
  • Thur: pork chops
  • Fri: eat out for dinner

I also made sure we had a ton of yogurt and healthy cereal for breakfast, and plenty of tasty yet healthy snacks to keep me away from the cheese. This reminds me I really need to figure out how to make my ideal spicy trail mix. I love that stuff.

Today, I'm doing some prep work (making pasta sauce and a chicken+bean soup), making some sides (bean salad, potato salad, corn muffins) and mixing up chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough for the freezer. That sounds like a fine way to spend a Sunday don't you think?

Easy Pasta Sauce

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 15 baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 15oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a stockpot and heat on medium. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become partially translucent. Add in the carrots and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in tomato sauce, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 1 hour.

I'll be using this for my lasagna this week.

Chicken and Black Bean Soup

  • 1 32 oz container Imagine organic chicken broth
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 a red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 a white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 15 baby carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast fillet (i.e. half a chicken breast)
  • 1 TBSP garlic, minced
  • 1 Tsp poultry seasoning blend of your choice

Pour chicken broth into stockpot and heat on medium high and bring to a boil. Sprinkle chicken breast with your favorite poultry seasoning and salt and pepper then add to the hot broth and poach, removing once meat is white all the way through. Cool chicken until it is at room temperature, then shred into bit size pieces. While your chicken is cooling, reduce heat to low and add in your separately olive oil sauteed onions, garlic and carrots (I did mine at the same time for the pasta sauce then split the total cooked mixture in half). Add back in your shredded chicken and simmer for an hour.

Makes 4 servings. 5 points plus per serving.