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Old 08-15-2012, 03:25 PM   #1
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Default Daily Meals

I don't know about anyone else, but occasionally I go out of my way, over the top, gourmet. I'll make a really fine multi-course dinner and break out all of the techniques I learned in restaurants for plating and making a meal look and taste absolutely perfect.

That's not what this thread is about. What I'm curious about is what all of you make on a daily basis. Technical perfection, fine ingredients, and perfect presentation are all well and good, but when I get home after work I want to open a beer and make some chow and worry about other things. I'm sure I'm not alone.

The meals I go back to over and over again are really pretty simple. I tend to plan 6 meals per week with a floating 7th where I can either do whatever crazy thing I want or order food. Sometimes "crazy" is lamb chops with a red wine shiitake reduction served with a side of sauteed greens over grilled polenta cakes, but usually it's something more like a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup.

My daily meals are really fairly simple. This week's plan is very much representative of how it usually looks:

1) Stir fry (chicken, broccoli, snap peas, bean sprouts, served with yakisoba)
2) Chicken salad (spring or mesclun mix, grilled chicken, homemade dressing)
3) Tacos (corn tortillas, ground beef, black beans, bell peppers, cheese)
4) Grilled chicken and broccoli slaw
5) Oven fried pork chops with side salad
6) Oven fried chicken nuggets, oven chips, and grilled asparagus

I just go through and knock 'em out as I like, I don't force myself to have a given food on a given day. Once a month I'll go to Costco Business for a whole deli turkey breast or ham and I'll slice it and portion it out for sandwiches for lunch or if I don't feel like cooking for my optional day. Since they open really early and I'm generally in and out, I'll treat myself to breakfast and then head to the normal Costco for regular meats, cheese, and any staples I need like rice, noodles, potatoes, etc.

That's my regular meal plan. What's yours?

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Old 08-15-2012, 03:42 PM   #2
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I'm like you, I can and often do go all out and spend hours in the kitchen....Usually Saturdays in the winter. But I end up trying to be "less" complex during the week.

But a couple years back I set a challenge for myself, which really helped up my game a bit. The challenge was to still do a knock out of the park bangup gourmet or nearly so meal in under an hour, sometimes in 30 minutes.

One trick I found was prep time, either bagging up choppped onions and other vegetables ahead so you can grab them without having to prep them on cooking day, OR spending a little extra to buy small amounts of pre cut veggies from the store. For example I was able to make Jamblaya witout having to chop up the trinity because I bought all of it pre-cut at the grocery store in little tubs. But I also have a lot of that stuff frozen already too. I live alone and if I need celery for example, you can't get one stalk. SO I usually break it down ahead into various sized pieces and stick them in freezer baggies.

Watching a lot of cooking shows, I've notices how fast some chefs can bang out a killer meal in a short time. For example, there's a great series of short video by Gordon Ramsay on the BBC of making really great food quickly.

In fact I'm doing his Steak Dianne Tonight....


During the week I tend now, since I'm trying to lose some weight and working out with a trainer I tend to eat a lot of meat and greens. For example chicken baked for 45 minutes at 350 in Tinfoil with herbs and lemon over salad. Or minute steak on a cast iron grill pan with sauteed spinach, or greens (either I'll make a pot ahead or use canned.)

But a few times a week, I'll still do the quick challenge.....
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Old 08-15-2012, 03:50 PM   #3
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Hell, we make it up as we go. I wish we were more organized and I keep telling myself we should/will be. As it stands we buy meat for that paycheck and freeze most of it. I buy whole pork loins and cut it into chops sometimes, too. Then in the AM we thaw something and one of us figures out what to do with it. Sometimes we eat very basic meals, lightly seasoned meat with one vegetable side item. My kids don't complain much although it does get a tad boring at times.

I've thought about prepping whole meals (or most of the meal) and freezing them as some people will do on the weekend in preparation for the upcoming week. I may start doing it...maybe

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Old 08-15-2012, 03:53 PM   #4
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I'm that way. Sometimes easy is just as good. Tonight is grilled chicken with corn on the cob and mashed taters. I'm going to insist the kids help (do everything) so they can learn to survive on their own when they grow up.

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Old 08-15-2012, 03:55 PM   #5
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At this point I'd settle for some sort of sauce for the meat each night, to make it more appealing. That or marinades that REALLY penetrate and stay with the meat as it cooks. We eat a lot of rice with meat, so a sauce would make a nice meal with rice and veggies. Any sauce or marinades (that are easy and made mostly from crap I already have in the fridge/cupboard) suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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Old 08-15-2012, 04:27 PM   #6
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My wife is the miracle worker with food. She says the trick is a well stocked spice rack. We save by buying meat that is on sale so often times we will eat pork/chicken 3 times in a week. Might be the same base ingredients but the spice combinations make it unique each time.

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Old 08-15-2012, 05:16 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by kaconga View Post
My wife is the miracle worker with food. She says the trick is a well stocked spice rack. We save by buying meat that is on sale so often times we will eat pork/chicken 3 times in a week. Might be the same base ingredients but the spice combinations make it unique each time.
That's what I'm looking for in sauces/marinades. I can make chicken with noodles or rice or veggies and it's different each time if the sauce/marinade is different.
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Old 08-15-2012, 05:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tre9er

That's what I'm looking for in sauces/marinades. I can make chicken with noodles or rice or veggies and it's different each time if the sauce/marinade is different.
Teriyaki sauce is soy sauce and mirin in equal parts. Horseradish, soy sauce and huckleberries are great on pork loin. A simple sweet and sour can be made from equal parts chili sauce and grape jelly. Vinaigrettes are great marinades when they are 2 parts oil to 1 part acid. Just add spices or herbs to flavor it.
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Old 08-15-2012, 05:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tre9er View Post
At this point I'd settle for some sort of sauce for the meat each night, to make it more appealing. That or marinades that REALLY penetrate and stay with the meat as it cooks. We eat a lot of rice with meat, so a sauce would make a nice meal with rice and veggies. Any sauce or marinades (that are easy and made mostly from crap I already have in the fridge/cupboard) suggestions are greatly appreciated.
I do all of the cooking, planning, and shopping. She occasionally does make up a marinade, sauce, or dressing though, and I'm a big fan of those, but I let her keep the recipes to use when she likes.

What do you have in your fridge/cupboard? That's the big question!

I imagine you keep cooking oil and vinegar. 1 cup oil, 1/3 cup vinegar, 1 tsp salt and whatever other seasonings you have on hand. Put them together in a cup, cover, and shake and you have a vinaigrette.

Using that I make hoisin sauce dressing. Oil, but not olive oil, rice vinegar or cider vinegar, 1 tbsp hoisin sauce, 1 tsp soy sauce instead of salt, garlic powder to taste. I use garlic powder because it will rehydrate and release its flavor in the vinegar, otherwise I generally use crushed garlic.

For a reduction sauce try this:
Diced shallots, or if no shallots 1/4 of a sweet onion and a clove of garlic will work.
1 tbsp butter
Sweat the shallots/onions & garlic in a small pan with the butter. Right when they turn translucent, add 1 cup red wine, one ice cube of frozen stock or 1 tbsp Better than Bouillon, 1 tsp salt and 1 tbsp brown sugar.
Whisk until salt and sugar dissolve, then boil until reduced to a syrup. It goes from liquid to syrup to a sticky spot in the bottom of an empty pan pretty quick, so watch it and stir frequently.
I try to keep stock on hand for this sort of thing, so I'll get bones from my butcher friend and make up a huge batch every so often, which I freeze in ice cube trays. If that isn't an option you can use beef broth or Better Than Buillon.

Pan gravy is one of my favorites because you can make it in the 10 minutes after cooking when you're resting the meat.
The ratio here is 2 fat to 3 flour, so have 2 tbsp fat and 3 tbsp flour waiting, scale up as needed.
When you've removed the meat from its pan, add the fat and flour and stir together until mixed, then splash 1/2 cup white wine or broth into the hot pan and quickly use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape off all the good stuff stuck to the bottom. The French call this stuff "fond" which means base or bottom and wasting it is a sin.
Finally add 1/2 cup broth and continue to whisk over heat until it thickens. Taste and add seasonings as desired. It should be done by the time the meat is done resting.

Those are my go-to sauce recipes. Anything more complex isn't something I use on a regular basis, and these basic recipes can be modified as needed by changing out the various ingredients for others of the same type. You can use any oil or vinegar you like in the vinaigrette, any fat you want in the pan gravy, and any number of different wines and seasonings in the reduction.

The only recommendation I have is that when you make a wine reduction, you need to use a wine that you wouldn't mind drinking. In my opinion, cooking wine isn't meant for human consumption. I keep Red Diamond around as my red and a random dry reisling for my white.

And yes, I suck at making recipes. Sorry
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Old 08-15-2012, 06:24 PM   #10
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I sometimes make a pork chop recipe that calls for cans of cream of mushroom soup and some milk to thin it down.

Sear the pork and then deglaze the pan with some milk. Add the soup mixture and the chops back in and simmer for a while (until the rice or potatoes and veggies are cooked) and serve.

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