Archive for the ‘Menu’ Category

So glad I married a chef

It’s been nearly three months since we did a Meals post, and you’d think that would mean we would have a lot more meals to share, but apparently with the move and all, we really haven’t cooked that much. Here’s some of what we’ve been eating:


Taco/fajitas – these were kind of a hybrid.

Beef & bean burritos


Cucumber, red pepper, deli turkey, apple, feta, croutons and catalina.

Turkey, cranberries, soynuts, cheddar and french.

Romaine, carrot, green pepper, red pepper, cranberries, pinenuts and catalina.

Carrots, bleu cheese, soy nuts, cranberries, cucumbers, orange pepper and french.

Can you tell we like French and Catalina dressings? Mike mixes it up more often, but these two are pretty standard for me.



Crockpot Italian chicken pasta (with a garden salad) from this recipe.

Hot Dog Squid!

(Can you believe we actually made these as a legitimate meal? We saw them on Pinterest and thought they were too hilarious to NOT try. Mike made a homemade cheese sauce to go over the squid (squids?), so it was kind of like grownup mac n’ cheese.)


French bread pizzas


Turkey meatloaf, glazed carrots and mashed potatoes.

Turkey burgers and glazed carrots.


Homemade broccoli cheese soup with french baguette.


BLATs: bacon, lettuce, avocado and turkey.


Homemade lemon cheesecake and homemade raspberry sauce for my Mom’s birthday. So Good!!

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I do realize the number one rule of blogging is don’t write about what you had for lunch. Or dinner. Actually the number one rule is probably don’t write about work, but this is number two. Yet here we go again…


Giant Tacos (we only had burrito shells)

Creamy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas from this recipe


Greek: romaine, red pepper, red onion, cucumber, tomato (for Mike), black olives, feta, homemade vinaigrette, croutons

Spinach, cucumber, carrot, red onion, mushroom, tomato, bacon, feta, bleu cheese, catalina


Pioneer Woman’s spaghetti with artichoke hearts, garlic bread

Pioneer Woman’s chicken spaghetti

Lasagna Soup

Homemade mac and cheese with steamed broccoli


Steak, zucchini and mashed potatoes

Salmon, bok choy and veggies, rice

Brats (for Mike), burger patties (for Shan) and fries


For the summer we switched Pizza Fridays to Pizza Thursday (eliminating Casserole Thursdays) and added Grill Fridays. Now we’re back to the original menu.

Pizza muffins


Chicken wraps: chicken, lettuce, red onion, almonds, avocado spread, cheddar. Potato salad.

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Feed me

With traveling and other summer busy-ness, we haven’t been eating as many meals at home as usual. But here’s what we’ve been enjoying:

Mexican Mondays

Tacos. But of course.

Store-bought taco dip and blue corn chips. Lest you think Mike is a food snob, he’s so not.

Chicken quesadillas

Salad Tuesdays

Romaine, red onion, pear, cranberries, feta, soy nuts, bacon, chicken, french dressing (for Shan), sweet vidalia onion dressing (for Mike)

Shrimp Caesar, only mine didn’t have shrimp

Nacho salad: blue corn chips, lettuce, red and green pepper, onion, cucumber, carrot, avocado, cheese, salsa, sour cream

Pasta Wednesdays

Spaghetti with homemade meatballs and a delicious sauce

This is the sauce. My boss bought this for us when we were in northern Michigan for an event. Apparently it’s made there and is supposed to be the best sauce ever. It was quite good.

Pizza Thursdays

No pictures because we’ve been taking advantage of Thursdays to be lazy and order in.

Grill Fridays

Hotdogs and baked beans.

Pork chops, red cabbage, french bread

Meat Saturdays

Yeah we’re never ever home on Saturdays in the summer, so this hasn’t existed for awhile. Frill Fridays have basically taken its place.

Soup/Stew Sundays

Pot roast with potatoes and carrots

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Shan: I’m going out of town for work the week after next.

Mike (out loud): Oh…ok.

Mike (in his head): I better get some movies and stock up on corn dogs.


Here’s the thing. Every so often, Shannon has to go on the road for work. Usually it’s a few days, and it’s never too far away. But it happens, and it changes the days she’s gone. I feel a reduction in purpose when Shan is away. I have no one to cook dinner for and no one to watch tv with. That purpose needs to be filled, and I do it with movies, video games and food. Movies that Shannon generally doesn’t show an interest in, and food that she doesn’t like.

This week, I filled that purpose with the following.

“The Expendables”
“Rescue Dawn”
“Bad Lieutenant; Port of Call: New Orleans”
Brats and coleslaw
Corn dogs
Ham and pineapple pizza
Chunky Monkey

It’s not that I don’t miss my wife when she’s gone. I do. I miss her and I look forward to her return. It’s just that, if she has to be gone, I might as well have pizza with fruit on it. Life’s all about purpose.

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More and more meals

Here we go again. I’m really impressed with how well we’ve stuck to our weekly meal categories. I forgot to take a few pictures here and there, but mostly on Mexican taco and pizza nights. We haven’t been home much on the weekends either, so this is a lot of salads and pastas!


Spaghetti with red sauce and English Muffin garlic bread

Ravioli with red sauce

Spaghetti with tomato and blue cheese sauce. From <a href="thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/04/pasta-with-tomato-blu…“>Pioneer Woman.

Spaghetti. We really like spaghetti, clearly.


Turkey, peppers, homemade avocado ranch dressing

“Fancy greens”, spinach, yellow pepper, cucumber, pepperoni, cheddar, country french

“Fancy greens”, spinach, yellow pepper, cucumber, pepperoni, mozzerella, walnuts, country french. I actually ate this two days in a row.

Romaine and iceburg, red and yellow pepper, cucumber, carrot, avocado, blue cheese, bacon bits, french

Chicken ceasar.


Pizza Dip with toasted bread. I saw a recipe for this and holy crap I was excited.


Chicken bratwurst with pickles and spicy mustard. Sweet corn.

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Before we prattle on any more about our European tour (I finished the recaps and Mike finished his European Culinary Delights series, but I plan to do one or two general posts about the overall experience), I thought I’d catch you up on our meal planning. For the most part, the themed days idea is still working pretty well. Which is amazing for us. Usually our attempts at simplifying meal planning are a bust after a week or two, but this one seems to be going pretty strong.

As requested, we’ll provide a few examples of costs for these meals, but keep in mind that a lot of the stuff we buy is used for more than one meal, so it’s a bit difficult to estimate what each individual dish costs. Mike will also share a couple recipes for some of his make-it-up-as-he-goes dishes.

Salad Tuesday: Buffalo Chicken

Romaine, shaved carrots, buffalo sauce, chicken, bleu cheese dressing

Grill Friday: Grilled Pork Chops and Apples with Sweet Potato Mash

Mexican Monday: Basically Just an Excuse for Tacos…

Soft shells, ground beef, taco seasoning, iceburg lettuce, shredded cheddar, sour cream, salsa

Meat Saturday: Burgers, Potato Salad, Side Salad

Mexican Monday: Mini-Burritos, Refried Beans, Spanish Rice

Soup/Stew Sunday: Chili and Grit Cakes

Mike’s Chili Recipe
Dice 1/2 white onion and 1/2 green pepper, mince 2 cloves garlic
Saute together with about 10 oz of ground beef
Season with about 2 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, and a dash of cinnamon (I don’t measure)

When beef is fully cooked, add the following:
-1 can each dark kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans (all rinsed thoroughly)
-2 cans petite diced tomatoes with green chilies (without if you want mild)
-1 8oz can tomato sauce (or 1/2 cup tomato paste if you like it thick)
-1 8-oz can whole kernel corn (I use the no salt added)

Simmer the whole pot for at least half an hour, preferably 1 to 2 hours
Enjoy with crackers, corn bread, whatever

The beef is bought in a 20 oz package, and I’ll use the other half later in the week. Same with the other half onion. Total cost is about 15 bucks, and is easily 4 meals. Plus, you have another meal’s worth of beef. This is something even Shan will eat left over.

Salad Tuesday: My “Kind of” Cobb

Romaine, shaved carrots, green pepper, deli turkey, shredded cheddar, creamy catalina dressing
(Mike wasn’t eating and I was too lazy to boil eggs or fry bacon as he probably would have.)

Pasta Wednesday: lasagna roll

Mike’s recipe
Remember the other half of that ground beef from the chili? Brown it in a saute pan with a minced garlic clove, the rest of your onion and about 4 fresh mushrooms, both finely diced.
Mix in 2 tsp of dried Italian seasoning (or any combination of basil, oregano, parsley, etc)

In a bowl, beat 1 cup of ricotta cheese to soften it
Add 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Mix the meat and cheese together for your filling

Soak 6 to 8 sheets of the “no boil” lasagna noodles in hot water, until they are soft and pliable (if you really want to be awesome, you can also make fresh pasta dough, but that’s another blog)

Place a little pile of filling in the center of each pasta sheet (maybe a 1/3 cup) and roll the pasta up tight with the ends open

Coat your high-sided baking dish with pan coating spray, and then a light coating of marinara sauce
Arrange the roll-ups in the dish, and cover with healthy amount of marinara sauce (like a couple cups, or the rest of your jar)
Top with more mozzarella and Parmesan and bake until the cheese melts and it’s hot ‘n steamy

Enjoy with garlic bread and a cholesterol pill

The beef was already purchased, and the rest will cost you about 12 to 15 bucks, depending on cheese prices. Cheese isn’t cheap! Also, factor in the cost of congenital heart problems later in life, but damn if it isn’t tasty.

Salad Tuesday: Chicken and eggs

Spring greens, diced chicken, hard boiled eggs, bleu cheese crumbles, cucumber, creamy catalina dressing

Grill Friday: Steak, Baked Potato, Sweet Corn

Salad Tuesday: Steak and Bleu Cheese

Pasta Tuesday: Penne with Sauteed Veggies & Red Sauce

Meat Saturday: Pulled Pork, Potato Salad, Pickle

Salad Tuesday: Chopped Salad and Pita

Apple, cucumber, yellow pepper, feta, almonds, homemade honey mustard dressing 

Pizza Thursday: Red Baron and Side Salads

Grill Friday: Kabobs

Chicken, potato, zucchini, squash

Mexican Monday: Chicken Enchiladas, Refried Black Beans

I think, second to tacos and pizza of course, my favorite thing has been the salads. Some days, a big ol’ salad with lots of yummy goodness just hits the spot.

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When in Rome…eat pizza and gelato.

In Rome, we were, once again, on our own for meals. For dinner the first night, as Shan mentioned, we got roped into a touristy restaurant. The Italian marketing strategy for food is, apparently, stand in the street with a menu in your hand and forcibly hand it to unsuspecting tourists. Then subtly guide them into a chair and begin bringing them food. Seriously…this is how it’s done.

This charming gentleman (who eagerly grabbed Shan’s sunglasses and posed with Richie) talked us into sitting down in an outdoor cafe on a street so narrow that, sitting on the street-side, I could feel the heat from the exhaust of each car that passed by while we were eating. He first asked if we would like some wine, and then talked us up form the half-liter we were going to order to a full bottle of Italian white wine. It was light and refreshing, tasting a bit like Chardonnay.

Then he asked if we wanted bread, which of course we did. After bringing it, our tour friend Ty astutely noticed that it cost 2 Euro, although our server had made it seem like compliments of the house. Very sneaky.

It was really good though, so we didn’t mind too much. After bread, we ordered pizza. I got a margherita pizza, and it was actually a little disappointing. The crust was crispy and chewy, and was the best part. It had almost no basil on it, my favorite part of a margherita pizza. It was still pretty good, just not the transcendent experience I was hoping for. Shan got a pizza with eggplant, artichoke and basil, which was delicious. Ty and Richie got pizzas too. We all ate our fill, and then headed out as the sun set on Rome.

The next day, after walking forever, we had lunch outside the Vatican. In our most dissatisfying Italian meal of the trip, we ordered sandwiches and waters in an Italian combo meal. The sandwiches had plenty of Italian cured meats and cheese, but very little moisture. Richie had to conscript a bottle of olive oil from another part of the cafe so we could dowse our sandwiches and make them palatable. They gave us the energy we needed to keep moving though, and, as Shan detailed in the saga of the huge effing wall, it was a good thing they did.

Our final evening in Rome found us back at the Colosseum for dinner at a cafe with an awesome-looking pasta menu. We started with an appetizer of caprese salad, which turned out to be even better than in Venice. We even talked Shannon into trying a bite of tomato, which blew my mind. My mind was reassembled when she decided she still didn’t like tomatoes and gave the rest to me.

For dinner, we both got pasta. Shan ordered a cheese-stuffed pasta with marinara sauce, and I ordered tagiatelle with bolognese (Italian meat sauce).

The pasta was house-made, and you could tell. It had a structure and bite to it that processed pasta can’t replicate. It was tender, and it clung to the sauce for dear life. It was incredible.

We ended our last meal in Rome with tiramisu. This was another one of those things we knew we had to eat in Europe, and it didn’t disappoint. The lady-fingers soaked up so much rich espresso that they were like little pillows of caffeine-soaked awesomeness. The custard was equally delicious. We even managed to eat it without inhaling any of the cocoa powder on top.

I couldn’t have thought of a better final meal in Europe than pasta and tiramisu in the shadow of the Colosseum with four great friends.

The next morning found us eating our actual last meal in Europe…the breakfast box. Since this box contained no actual breakfast foods, and most of it was terrible, I don’t really count it. I’ll just hold onto the image of that pasta by the Colosseum. Grazie Roma!

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A night in Florence; or, all roads lead to Rome.

After a gigantic seafood lunch on the island of Burano, we departed for Florence, our shortest stop of the tour. We arrived at dinnertime, and ate another big meal at our hotel. After that lunch, I didn’t think I was in the mood for a big meal, but that’s what you do in Italy. We had more delicious crusty bread with olive oil. Our waiter, a prodigious sweater with a long, gray pony-tail (side note, the European service industry seems to be male-dominated — we had almost all male servers in the restaurants we ate at, which is not the case in the US) brought out all the penne with tomato sauce we could eat (literally, he brought seconds) as an appetizer.

Then we had another delicious roasted pork loin with vegetables (pork is huge in Italy).

Dessert was a nice fig tart with a latticed top-crust.

Although there’s no picture, after dessert we had a final cheese course. In the course of the meal, shared with our new tour friends, we noticed some platters of cheese at some of the other tables. We had not been presented with a cheese platter. So, in the spirit of experiencing everything Europe had to offer, we swiped a cheese plate from another table and tore that bad boy up. The best was the wedged Parmesan. With bellies full of stolen cheese, we went to bed.

The next morning we had a pretty typical hotel breakfast. One interesting thing. As we moved through Italy, every hotel breakfast featured nutella. You don’t see this chocolate-hazelnut spread in the US very often, but it’s delicious. It’s perfect spread on a croissant or piece of crusty bread. Then, in the streets of Florence, I had my first taste of gelato. It was lemon, and the most refreshing ice cream I’ve ever eaten. Shan had one that was flavored like tiramisu, which was rich and decadent. Then it was off to Rome.

On the way to Rome, we stopped for lunch at an Autogrill. Imagine a small American truck stop: gross facilities, McDonalds, other gross stuff. In Italy, they have Autogrill…surprisingly not gross. They have pizza, homemade salads and meat plates, grilled panini sandwiches with Italian meats and cheeses, even espresso bars. They are, however, intimidating. There is a very specific method for ordering, and you can only get certain items in certain lines. You can also only eat in certain areas, depending on which line you ordered from. And, naturally, all of this is accomplished in Italian. Very confusing, and made more so because our tour guide tried to explain it to us before our first stop, and confused us (mostly me) even more. At our first Autogrill stop, before Venice, I was so intimidated stepping in that I didn’t eat lunch. On this stop, I was determined to find success. We managed to order sandwiches and, much to our surprise and pleasure, they came out grilled and steaming. Amazing.

Then it was back on the road for our last stretch of driving on the tour.

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Venice, as you’ve seen, was amazing. And oh the food!

I’ve been excited about eating in Italy since I started learning about food. Italians love food, and eating is an event. This was evident shortly after we arrived in Venice.

After our gondola ride and water taxi ride, we checked into our hotel and headed right down for dinner. We sat with a couple new friends, and ordered up a bottle of red wine. It was a bit sweet for me, but we all liked it, and it paired pretty well with the event to come.

Of course there was bread on the table, and a little olive oil, salt and pepper were all that were needed to make it a course in itself. Soon, however, came the “appetizer.” I use quotes because I’m not sure what the actual course was called–there are so many different classical menus that call different courses by different names. I also use quotes because our “appetizer” was a significant portion of traditional lasagna. It was easily 3 inches squared, and a couple inches tall. It was wonderful. Shan doesn’t generally like lasagna and she ate hers right up. The marinara sauce was sweet, bold, just the slightest bit spicy. It was full of seasoned ground beef and enough cheese to top a pizza with. And this was the appetizer.

The next course was a fresh green salad with several toppings and olive oil and vinegar for dressing. Not much compared to the cinder block of lasagna, but it was a good buffer between the “appetizer” and the main course.

After salad, we were presented with slices of delicious roasted pork loin served with potatoes roasted with rosemary and oil.

Finally, we were served cake and strong coffee for a sweet finish.

The next morning, after sightseeing and a boat ride to Burano, we sat down for a lunch that our tour guide had been praising for days. The local seafood was incredible. If you don’t like seafood, you need to eat fresher seafood, because this stuff was outstanding. We started with crusty bread smeared with a local delicacy of flaked fish and fresh lemon juice. It was like the best tuna salad sandwich ever.

This was followed in quick succession by a risotto with fish and shellfish in a white sauce, another green salad as well as a delicious caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, more pasta, more lasagna, broiled fresh fillets of fish, and endless platters of fried calamari and prawns.

The fish was mild, flaky, tender, and delicately sweet. I regret not asking what kind it was, but I doubt it would be the same in the States even if I could find it. I’ve no doubt it was caught and brought directly to the restaurant…maybe even alive. Everything was succulent, salty, and tasted like the ocean.

After all of this, we were presented with a variety of pastries and cookies for dessert, many of which featured almonds, along with more strong coffee (and tea for Shan). This time, our coffee even came with little bottles of amaretto to settle us after lunch.

It was almost laughable to think of walking around Burano after this lunch, but, surprisingly, we were able to walk easily. The breeze and the smell of the ocean finished our lunch perfectly. And don’t forget our cannoli by the water.

After a meal like that, a little dodo (our tour guide’s term for a nap – also French slang) on the way to Florence was just the thing.

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Lucerne (I prefer the American spelling, because I feel like it might annoy Shan), Switzerland was our first 1-night stay featuring an included dinner. I must confess, I don’t know much about Swiss cuisine beyond chocolate and cheese.

After consulting some culinary resources (not Wikipedia…I swear) I’m actually a little disappointed in our Swiss dinner. Switzerland is actually known for a few dishes.

One, rosti, is a potato favorite that Shan and I have prepared at home several times, without knowing the origin. It’s like a big hash brown potato casserole with cheese and goodness in it. We got mashed potatoes. Another, Zurcher Geschnetzeltes–it’s from the German region of Switzerland…can you tell?–is a thin-sliced tender veal dish with mushrooms and cream sauce. We got beef stroganoff.

I’m not complaining. Our meal was delicious. I just loved trying the traditional regional foods in England and France so much. I guess I was happier not knowing about the Swiss favorites that I missed out on. Damn you Wikipedia…I mean trusted culinary reference materials that are not a website.

Anyway, we had a delicious vegetable soup to start our meal, served with the biggest silver spoon I’ve ever seen. It was rich, well seasoned, and got our appetites in gear quite nicely. Then we were presented with the stroganoff. It was not, as many Americans think of it, ground beef in a cream gravy. It was, in fact, a more traditional stroganoff of sliced, stewed beef in a rich, dark brown demi-glace that was earthy and quite tasty. The stroganoff was served with piped mashed potatoes and a nice vegetable blend. It hit the spot, but was not quite enough food.

Luckily, we had dessert coming. It turned out to be a cute little ice cream dish, apparently hand-crafted for artful presentation to the tourists. It was refreshing, but only made us long for the Italian gelato that was to come.

All in all it was a nice meal, presented in a friendly, comfortable hall. I imagine the weary travelers of days gone by would have appreciated the comfort of a hot, hearty meal at the foot of the alps.

The next morning, we had a pretty simple buffet breakfast at the hotel, and then struck out on our own. After walking a bit, and heading back to the bus, we decided a little caffeine was in order. We stopped into Starbucks (I know…lame, but we didn’t have time to figure anything out) and ordered up some drinks. Just so you all know, Starbucks is expensive in Europe. A small Chai Latte and a small brewed coffee ran us about 8 Swiss Francs, which is like 10 bucks. Ridiculous. But man, did we need that jolt. Next stop…Venice!

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