Enough with the freezer meals!
While I enjoy having food in the freezer for a rainy day, it is simple to nuke a box or bag, and it is still not gratifying. Freezer meals serve a purpose when we are busy and on business travels, but now I’m back home and online.
I need to get back to my weekly ritual of planning and prepping meals. The planning and prepping are important mental healing sessions for me as I use the time to focus on something I enjoy while working out solutions to challenges I face at work or with the house (DIY shit).
It is time to return to cooking exciting recipes we will devour during the week. My Sunday home-chef session is back on the menu, and I’m loving it.
On Friday evening, I secured some tickets for a fantastic standup comedian from Ireland called Tommy Tiernan. I got to spend four quality hours with my wife on yet another great date night in NYC.
I can’t share anything from the gig as our phones were locked in a secure bag to prevent other people from getting offended by content that might be leaked – and in Tommy’s case, the opening few minutes would’ve triggered a lot of people. LOL
However, before we get into the cooking session, I want to share that it sucks getting old. Sure, I’m more mature and wiser (the latter is doubtful), but it also means my body is more vulnerable to excessive hard labor. To clarify, I am not built for a life of being a lumberjack!
I’m a Lumberjack, Can’t You See!
In late 2022, my wife and I agreed to reclaim a small part of our forest for an outdoor project. We want to expand our back porch area and create an outdoor space we can enjoy throughout the year. You know, a larger deck, pergolas, lounge area, and perhaps even an outdoor bar.
Step one of the project was to drop nine extremely large trees. In theory, and with the right tools, one could easily drop said trees. But I’m not a skilled arborist, so I hired a company to cut down the trees. The deal was they would drop the trees with surgical precision, and I would be responsible for removing the debris.
It meant I had the excuse to buy a cool chainsaw and use my UTV to move the wood. How hard could it be?
Well, this past Saturday, I invited over the knucklehead gang to help with cutting some logs, removing branches, and slowly clearing the area so I can bring in the stump grinder next weekend to start leveling the ground.
It sounds very easy, but logs are much heavier than they look, and pulling branches aside is tough work. Thankfully we had a few chainsaws, some young kids, and a quadbike to pull stuff. We made good progress and cleared a large area during the afternoon.
I’m grateful and not so grateful that it was a clear blue sky with no wind, although 21C/70F made it very hot at times, so we constantly refueled on Gatorade and water.
After an excellent effort by the knucklehead gang, I prepared a treat for the boys. Tender baby ribs, chicken wings, Danish sausages, queso, and smash burgers while opening a nice cold keg of Sam Adams beer. A well-deserved reward for all the hard work.
Let’s Get Curing, Baby!
A few weeks ago, my wife challenged me unconsciously. She calmly asked me why I didn’t make a salami. Surely it would not be a tough challenge, she explained. Challenge accepted.
I did not immediately attempt to make a salami but instead cured a 2 lbs pork loin, turning it into a Lonzino.
It is not a fast process, and you need a solid amount of patience, especially during the first 24 hours when you cure the meat in a salt bath to extract a lot of the moisture.
Then you wash and dry the meat before you rub it in spices, and then wrap and hang it. It is ready once it has ‘lost’ 30% of its weight. It took approx. four weeks for two 1lb sausages.
The result was, at least for me and my family, exceptional. Excellent texture and flavors. Well worth the wait.
1-2-3 Chicken Dinners
Chicken is a wonderful piece of meat invention and very healthy. There are thousands (slightly exaggerated) of fantastic chicken recipes, using hole chicken, drumsticks, wings, thighs, and breast – not to mention making chicken stock using bones and some vegetables. Chicken stock as a completed other conversation.
I’m starting the week with a quick (30-minute) Tex-Mex-inspired skillet dish. I use chicken breast that I grilled on the Traeger while I prepare the corn, onions, garlic, Rotel tomato, and black beans on the pan. Once the chicken is ready, I place the breasts in the skillet, gently cover them with the bean mixture, sprinkle some cheese on top, and bake it for 78 minutes – or until the cheese has melted.
We all love Shepherds Pie, so why not try to make a Shepherds Pie soup? Sounds interesting.
Shepherd Pie is made with lamb meat, but the soup I’m making is with ground beef. To make a long story short, you are making potato soup, and then you add the fried ground beef and mixed vegetables. Voila! Shepherds Pie soup is ready in the Le Creuset Dutch oven.
Last but not least, I made a French country chicken skillet meal. I decided to use skin- and boneless thighs that I fried on my Le Creuset skillet. You remove the chicken when it is ready, and then you fry the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Then you add the flour stock and some half-half alcohol (normally white wine, but I used Mescal) for the sauce, then you add the baby potatoes, place chicken on top, and bake it for 45 minutes.
The kids will be back to some more exciting lunches. I do not need to explain much about the school lunches, just that it will be nice with some variation.
Shepherds Pie Origins
Sometime around the late 1700s, Irish housewives had to make the most of leftovers. Money was tight for many families, so making food stretch and reducing waste was important.
They incorporated some local and accessible products such as potatoes and lamb meats and added some vegetables to the mixture, and introduced the Shepherds Pie.
Ireland has a good source of both potatoes and lamb, and I’m certain that the lamb meat was different left-over cuts that they turned into ground meat.
The meat could simmer for hours with onions, making it tender, breaking down any tendons, etc. It is not proven, but they might have added Guinness to the process. However, that might also be a later addition, and I can highly recommend using Guinness in a Shepherd’s Pie.
Lunch & Dinner
|Monday||Brown honey bread with egg salad||Chicken Tex-Mex skillet dish|
|Tuesday||Roastbeef and melted cheese sandwich||Shepherds Pie soup|
|Wednesday||Caesar salad with grilled chicken||French country-side chicken skillet|
|Thursday||Pizza with tomato and mozarella||A mixture of left-overs from the week|
|Friday||Chicken Tex-Mex salad bowl||BBQ feast|
One day, I might get so organized that I will link the meals below to my recipes. We can only live in hope!
Have a fantastic week, my friends. I hope you enjoy these meal plans. It is much easier to make food in advance, although you must invest several hours preparing meals during the weekend.
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