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This week we are heading to my home town in the mountains for a long weekend in a cabin with some dear friends. In the forest is where my soul finds rest, where I breathe the most comfortably and where I feel most like myself. We're going to spend a whole day swimming in the lake, jumping between the water and the trees and then as the day fades away, we'll look up in wonder at the blanket of stars. I'm looking forward to Oliver to spending more time in the woods where I learned how to be a kid and where I realized how small I really was in comparison to the glory of God's creation. 

My menu this week is just about as easy as it gets and abnormally short, too. We are leaving on Thursday morning, so I wanted our meals to be simple and easy enough for me to cook with my eyes closed. I have relied a lot on pre-marinated meat and quick cooking grains, making quick work in the evenings. I'll be cleaning, packing and doing some food prep for our trip, so an easy week will help me stay on track. I'll be sharing some of the late summer recipes I'll be bringing along this weekend later in the week, so stay tuned. 

What's on for your weekend? 


menu // august 24-26 // No book this week

Monday: Grilled bulgogi from Trader Joe's with pre-cooked brown rice and quick sautéed broccoli

Tuesday: Grilled Santa Maria Tri Tip from Trader Joe's with pan roasted potatoes and kale salad

Wednesday: Beef tacos (with left over tri tip), with avocado, red onion, cilantro and salsa verde with smashed pinto beans and rice

Thursday-Sunday: CABIN! Woot!


weekly menu plan

plenty more

Menu making wasn't always fun for me. I spent a lot of time searching for recipes online or in magazines I subscribe to and it could take me hours to finally decide on the dishes I wanted to make for the week. It wasn't until my husband challenged me to use my cookbooks more often that the process became nearly efficient. Now, each week, my husband or my son pick a cookbook and I have to cook from it. I do have a little bit of veto power, but for the most part, I try to be a good sport and cook from whatever book they give me. It's a lot of fun to get everyone involved and it helps me narrow down the recipes I can use which keeps me on track. 

plenty more

I'm excited to share this part of our process with you. This is the real stuff that I do to help myself get organized, making it easier to get dinner on the table most nights. I'm a little embarrassed by the menu this week because it's a little ridiculous and it looks like I'm making it up. I'm not. This is real life here. My husband chose an adventurous book and because I'm a first born and like following the rules, I'm going for it. I know not all of you have the time for this kind of menu, and I understand. Most people don't. Just do as I say and not as I do. 

plenty more

Ironically, I'm going to tell you that the secret to successful menu planning is to make a menu that isn't too complicated and can be executed in a manageable amount of time. To save time on the day of, cook grains on Sunday and marinate meat in advance. As soon as you get home from the grocery store, wash and prep your vegetables so that they are easy to throw into a dish. No one wants to spend 20 minutes over the sink washing, stripping and drying kale after a long day at work when your stomach is about to eat itself. Don't make your menu too fancy and don't throw in too many new dishes in one week. The more you've made something, the faster you'll be so those old stand by recipes will be your BFF on the nights you have to get dinner on the table in a hurry. 


menu // august 16-22 // cookbook: plenty more by yotam ottolenghi

sunday: steamed eggplant with sesame + green onion / serve with sizzling oil greens (eggplant on pg 40)

monday: tomato + roasted lemon salad with bulgur/ serve with green salad (my addition) + panfried fish (salad on pg 54)

tuesday: beet, avocado + pea salad with roasted chicken + farro (beet salad on pg 65)

wednesday: free night (I use these nights for eating out, leftovers or pantry meals)

thursday: mango and curried chickpea salad with grilled chicken thighs (mango salad on pg 93)

friday: quinoa porridge with grilled tomatoes + garlic with grilled lemon shrimp (porridge on pg 101)

saturday: left overs!


a summery pantry pasta

summer pantry pasta

We always start out the week with the best intentions. On Sunday night, I make a menu for the coming week and I write up a grocery list for Monday so I'm ready to do all the shopping. The process takes me (what feels like) all day. I'm easily distracted and have been known to fall down a pretty deep rabbit hole of recipe research. I'm also pretty picky. I want to make sure I have a menu I'm excited about, one that will be healthy as well as satisfying and will be tolerated by adult and toddler. It can be a little over the top and I should probably simplify my strategy, but somehow, I find joy in the long and sometimes grueling process.

I generally have a meal planned for every night and I use the leftovers for lunches and carry over for other recipes. A whole roasted chicken can turn into many meals, which is helpful because that really cuts down on the prep time for following meals. Lately, I have been leaving one night free for going out or for left overs. This gives me a chance to use up any ingredients I didn't end up using. These are the nights I rely on my pantry to give the left overs new life. A well stocked pantry and a little knowledge can put dinner on the table with little effort which is especially useful when your toddler is losing every ounce of composure and he needs to have a face full of pasta at that very second. It's basically a zoo around here. 

summer pantry pasta

Feeding yourself, let alone your family can feel like a really big job. It takes time to plan, to cook, to clean and sometimes doesn't feel worth it, especially if cooking doesn't come easy for you. Some of that stress can be eleviated by learning some simple skills. Like being able to pull out a box of pasta and have a hearty meal for your family without thinking about it. In the next couple of weeks, I'll be launching some new categories, to help you get dinner on the table faster by learning how to use your pantry, knowing what foods go together and helping you with some time saving techniques and tips. Until then, throw together a big pot of pasta and start getting a feel for the kinds of meals you can make on the fly. If you're really wanting to dive into this process further, I'll be teaching a class on September 12th where I'll be teaching you how to become a pantry wizard. It's going to be a great time! We'll learn, eat and hopefully laugh a lot. I'd love to see you there!

summer pantry pasta

 This is a pantry recipe, so if you don't have some of the ingredients, try to see if you have a substitute already before running out the store. If you don't have corn, but you've got some peas, use those instead. If you don't have zucchini, use yellow summer squash. Take a look at what's in your fridge and use what you think will work. Experimenting is the first step toward becoming a better cook. If you're stumped, leave a comment and I'll do my best to guide you. Happy cooking!


summery pantry pasta // serves 4

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 pound dried orecchiette
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cobs of corn, kernels cut off
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 small zucchini, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups kale, stems removed and finely chopped
  • freshly grated parmesan

Preparation: 

  1. Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water. Add the kosher salt and bring to a rapid boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander being sure to save 1/4 cup pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot and set aside. 
  2. While the pasta cooks, heat the butter and olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet until the butter is melted. Add the onion, corn and oregano with a pinch of kosher salt. Saute until the corn is almost cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Add the zucchini, kale and garlic and cook until the kale is starting to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss well. Moisten with pasta water if the pasta starts to look a little dry, about a tablespoon at a time. Top with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan and mix to combine. Divide among four bowls topping with extra parmesan, because, DUH, cheese. 

summer barley salad

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We just spent a crazy week in LA and although I've never really been fond of Southern California with all the traffic and horrendous heat in the summer months, I kind of fell in love with it. We stayed in Silver Lake for most of our trip, a hip neighborhood with a lot of great food. We made frequent trips to bakeries and got take out from the incredible Silver Lake Ramen. We never made coffee at home because there were so many great options close by. It was glorious. I'm now a believer. 

Wednesday morning we visited a place in the neighborhood called Sqirl. They serve grain bowls and sandwiches, along with pastries and tasty coffee. I ordered the sorrel pesto rice bowl with an egg and homemade sausage. It was the breakfast of my dreams. It was tart with preserved lemon and salty from a mound of sheep's milk feta, everything is then coated in luxurious egg yolk after you break into the poached egg.  I went back to get it again a couple days later and brought three more home for the rest of our crowd. I wish I lived next door and could eat it every day because I surely would. They are working on a cookbook and I'm praying that's in it, and if it is, ya'll are coming over for brunch. 

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This barley salad is in no way related to the sorrel pesto bowl except that it's a hearty grain salad and it would benefit greatly from a runny egg placed on top. It's bright and its filling and I guess for now, it can stand in as a measly substitute for the real thing. 

summer barley salad

summer barley salad // serves 6 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup barley
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced small
  • 2 cups lactinato kale, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup crumbled sheep's milk feta
  • juice of half of a medium lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Preparation: 

  1. In a medium sauce pan, bring the water and the barley to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until all the water is evaporated and the barley is cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. Remove from heat, keeping it covered and let cool 15 minutes. 
  2. Using a 1 cup measuring cup, mix together the lemon juice, oil, mustard, salt and pepper. 
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked barley, zucchini, red onion, kale, parsley and feta. Pour over the vinaigrette and mix to combine. 
  4. If you've got an egg around, fry it up, keeping the yolk soft and throw it on top.