We ate it this week

It was the last week of summer in our house, more or less: school started on Thursday, so we crammed in three days of fun and intensive idleness before returning to our schedules and routines. It was properly warm, too.  Around here, it’s not as though the seasons change on cue, we’re likely to have another couple of months of shorts-and-sandals weather. Just as well; for whatever reason this year, I was not quite ready to say goodbye to summer. I burn easily, sweat unattractively, and like to sleep under a nice pile of covers, so hot weather usually isn’t my thing, yet I felt a little pang as I got the kids’ backpacks ready for school. Too soon, too soon! They’re getting old enough to have some independence, roaming our block with friends, staying up later with a book, so maybe it just feels more like the unstructured summers I remember from my own childhood. Good times – and more to come, I hope.

Monday: Fajitas from the grill. Valerian didn’t use a recipe for the marinade, but the meat eaters polished off all the steak so I guess it worked out OK! I sliced up onions and peppers and cooked them in a skillet to make something approximating rajas poblanas, also very good.


Tuesday: We got deli sandwiches and went to The Cheese Factory for a picnic lunch; dinner was a salad for grownups and the second half of the sandwiches for the kids, and of course, cheese.


Wednesday: School night! I made a kid favorite, this sheet pan pasta gratin, with broccoli instead of kale. I use less butter and  cheese, so it’s not quite so rich, and it’s still delicious. The key is to sprinkle the majority of the cheese on top, you won’t miss it in the sauce.

Thursday: I had planned to make fried farro with pickled carrots and runny eggs but got home too late to pickle the carrots, so I toasted the farro, sauteed some mushrooms and greens, then topped it with some pan-fried halloumi cheese, which the kids love and refer to as “squeaky cheese”. So in the end, not much like the original recipe at all, but good!

Friday: Another unexpectedly late day at the office for me, so I got in the door just as Valerian was serving yellow rice with peas and tofu. Last-minute but delicious! Valerian is the king of making a random set of ingredients into something good.


Saturday: We had a salad, kids had a toothpick dinner, and then we all ate ppopcorn on the sofa and watched The Naked Gun, which turned out to have a lot more inappropriate stuff in it than I remember, but the nine year-old laughed and laughed.

Sunday: Corn on the cob with all kinds of add-ons – recipe(s!) to come.


We skipped a week last week, sadly not because we were living it up in the last days of summer vacation, but because we all got the stomach flu, one after another. Our poor boy barfed on his birthday, not exactly the best way to celebrate turning NINE! We made up for it this week, he chose to cook his own birthday dinner this year.

With our stomachs still on the mend, we weren’t quite up to photographing things, but here’s a list with ideas for the week.

Monday: Frittata with leftover broccoli

Tuesday: Sliders, zucchini “pasta” with pesto, oven-roasted potatoes and marble cake for a belated birthday dessert. I succumbed to the trend and used my darling mandoline (OK, it’s a “V-slicer, but whatever) to make noodles from several fat squash. Here’s a good description of the process. However, the pesto I improvised from some arugula and Pecorino to serve them with just wasn’t very good, so I can’t really judge whether the zucchini noodles are all that.

Wednesday: Chopped salad and waffles. I cruelly served the waffles with jam (homemade by my in-laws with fruit from our garden back in Slovakia!) instead of syrup, it seemed healthier somehow.

Thursday: We were supposed to have chicken and rice, but the chicken was stinky and spoiled! And I had a dinner meeting, so Valerian made potato pancakes for himself and the kids. I refuse to confirm or deny whether I ate the leftovers when I got home.

Friday: One pan pasta puttanesca. I saw a link to this recipe on Buzzfeed; you never know where you’ll find good recipes these days. I didn’t use broth, just water, and regular old pasta because that’s what I had, and it was great. I also served it with parmesan, so much for it being vegan though.

Saturday: I tested out a summer savory galette recipe, which didn’t quite work. The filling, which involved greens, cherry tomatoes and corn was tasty, but the crust wasn’t as good as when I last made it (when, naturally, I didn’t really measure the ingredients). You might see this posted here, if I can work out the kinks.

Sunday: A big salad, inspired by this one (no tofu, though), with soba noodles and big ol’ prawns from Trader Joe’s for those who eat ’em. We had köttbullar at IKEA for lunch, so no one was particularly hungry. Isn’t köttbullar more fun to say than meatballs? And it’s pretty fun to say meatballs, you must agree.

Most days I get home around 5:30 in the afternoon, which gives me about an hour to get dinner on the table. Of course Valerian does a lot of the cooking, and he works at home so he can get things started earlier. Even so, we have a pretty good rotation of dinners that come together really fast, and part of my planning process for the week is to look at our schedules to balance when we have one of those super-fast dinners when I might need to make a stop on the way home, or getting a round of tag-team cooking underway so that Valerian can get something in the oven earlier and I make the rest of the meal when I get there. It’s like a little puzzle, and most weeks I enjoy it. When you’re low on inspiration, it can be a useful starting point to look at the week’s activities and see which night has time for a more elaborate preparation, or when we’re all out late and need a dinner that comes together fast.

This week, I rode my bike to work on Wednesday; I don’t get home late when I bike, but I am pretty stanky and gross upon arrival, so I need to factor in some time to get cleaned up before I start cooking. A version of pasta Carbonara fit the bill this time around, which everyone like so much there were no leftovers to pack for the kids’ lunches, a real yay/boo moment.

Monday: Stir-fried chicken with rice noodles, and the world’s best cabbage salad  – crunchy Vietnamese salad with peanuts.


Tuesday: Make your-own pizza. I made the dough in the morning (late-starting summer camp gives me a little extra time these days) and let it sit on the counter all day; I used less yeast than usual so it rose more slowly and developed great flavor. Valerian preheated the oven and pizza stone so when I got home, we each got a blob of dough and went to town with the sauce, cheese, and toppings.


Wednesday: The aforementioned vegetarian Carbonara. It’s not even a recipe: boil water for pasta – use the whole package, 12 ounces or a pound is fine. While the pasta cooks, crack two eggs into a big heatproof bowl, grate a big pile of Parmesan or pecorino into the bowl, some grinds of pepper and a shake of salt. Whisk it all together and once the pasta is al dente, drain it and as fast as you can, slide it into the bowl and toss/mix so the eggs cook from the heat of the noodles. You are ready to eat! We had broccoli on the side but it’s also yummy to toss in veggies like peas or green beans right along with the pasta.


Thursday: The big Latin grocery store here is called Mi Pueblo, and Thursday’s dinner was what we refer to as banh mi pueblo: we buy takeout carnitas and the sub-sized bolillo rolls and make sandwiches with pickled veggies and cilantro and whatever else we pick up, avocado, Oaxaca cheese, salsa, etc.


Friday: More fusion, with a bastardized version of bibimbap using the rest of the carnitas, fried eggs and various sides over  rice cooked in a cast iron pan so the bottom layer is all crispy. Refer to this Bon Appetit article for ideas.

Saturday: Hey, it’s Bon Appetit again! This time, pappa al pomodoro. As usual, I forgot to check the recipe carefully so I bought about twice as many tomatoes as called for. I used them though, and upped the garlic amount too but kept the other measures the same. Verdict: delicious. Tomato-averse child was away for the night so that helped.

Sunday: With the start of the next school year looming, I cruelly forced the kids to clean out their desks and get rid of last year’s papers and junk. As a reward, we ate at Pearl’s Phat Burgers, and got giant milkshakes to boot.

Some weekends I take on big cooking projects, to try out recipes that are more time or labor intensive. This… was not one of those weeks. It’s summer after all, and we ate giant lunches both Saturday and Sunday, so dinner was more of a formality. Lots of salady things to suit the hot weather, too.

Monday: Lighter Chinese chicken salad. This has a great ginger-and-sesame dressing, although it does sink to the bottom of the salad bowl (so I always go for a second serving, to get at the bits that are extra-well-dressed). We didn’t put chicken in the salad, but instead the kids got their beloved frozen orange chicken from Trader Joe’s.


Tuesday: Farro with roasted broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpeas and feta. I have made versions of this one-dish dinner several times – it’s based on this “Greek salad”, but I have tweaked it to suit my preferences (and this time, I just realized, I forgot to put in the olives. Darn!). The kids like it too, I just serve the dressing on the side since they’re not vinaigrette fans.

Wednesday: Bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato sandwiches on bagels. I rode my bike to work, and since my route takes me past a bagel shop, why not sandwiches for dinner?


Thursday: Orecchiette with corn, greens and ricotta. I made this almost as written, except I threw in a chopped shallot and some garlic just because. I also used farfalle because orecchiette (the round pasta with a dimple in the center) always stick together in a most annoying way. Is there some secret to getting them to cook separately?

Friday: Whole-wheat pasta with tomatoes, olives, and capers – Valerian’s improvisation when earlier dinner plans fell through.

Saturday: We had lunch at Japantown in San Francisco, and after several types of sushi, donburi and giant bowls of ramen, no one was highly motivated for dinner. We sliced a loaf of bread and ate it with tomatoes, hummus, and other odds and ends from the fridge.

Sunday: We grazed our way through the afternoon at my parents’ house, so dinner amounted to the leftovers from the night before’s dinner of leftovers.

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This week didn’t go as planned. But it ended up working out just fine, although I have to say it was luck more than my own generous flexibility or anything. We ended up staying out late Monday night (we are now the proud owners lessees of a cute plug-in Ford C-Max!) so we stopped for burgers on the way home. I shuffled things around for the rest of the week, and cut the kid-requested breakfast for dinner because it doesn’t depend on fresh veggies or meat the way the other dinners did. Maybe it’s worth planning a night where we clean out the fridge or cupboard each week as a just-in-case option. So we did end up having burgers twice this week, but no one complained. The kids have been keeping busy at their various camps this summer, so they’re coming home hungry.

Monday: In & Out Burgers

Tuesday: Panko-crusted chicken, zucchini with Pecorino, sticky rice.

Wednesday: Pita sandwiches with falafel from Trader Joe’s, tomatoes, and shredded cabbage with a tahini-lemon drizzle.

Thursday: Pasta salad with tomatoes, raw corn from the cob, arugula, and cubes of smoked mozzarella.

Friday: Burgers on English muffins, green salad with home-made buttermilk ranch dressing. I read through a couple of recipes for ranch dressing and then kind of winged it. Results were… mixed. It ended up being closer to chimichurri than ranch. I may try to actually follow a recipe next time. Do you have a favorite to recommend?

Saturday: Homemade sushi with carrots, cucumber, avocado, canned salmon, and in the case of the rolls made by our boy, prosciutto.

Sunday: Tomato, corn & zucchini galette . I didn’t look closely at this recipe before shopping, so I bought too much zucchini and corn; never mind! I cobbled together a quite different pastry crust, using about half whole-wheat flour and subbing olive oil for some of the butter, and it turned out really well, I thought. And we had home-made ice cream for dessert. Recipe here!