Family Meal Planning: More Complicated Than Family Planning 02.27.2012

It's true.  Trying not to get pregnant and then deciding when you do want to get pregnant is a lot less involved than planning family meals week after week.  Case in point?  Today.  It is early Sunday evening as I write this, and as night nears -- along with hours of Oscar-watching ahead of me -- I have yet to make my Sunday dream come true:  plan meals for the week.  It's not a huge, nor complicated, dream, but for me, certainly difficult to achieve. 

One of my pre-or-post dinner dreams. Sigh.
For one thing, it's laborious.  It involves thinking which I just don't want to do on a Sunday, especially on a gorgeous Sunday like today. Furthermore, once you have offspring, you're not just thinking about the fabulous food you and your partner will eat, you're also thinking about your daughter who currently only is eating plain pasta with salt or corn on the cob; or your son, who is on a hunger strike, protesting what, we have no idea.  And sure, I could do some planning on Saturday or even Friday, but I'm too busy living the dream on those days.  

But with two full-time jobs, two small kids, and no staff (the horror!), planning -- and sometimes over planning -- is key.  And if the meals are planned, groceries purchased, and some prep work out of the way, life can be beautiful.  Really, truly beautiful.  We've had weeks like this so I know of what I speak:  you come home, dinner is ready, and you eat.  Then you have the rest of the evening for a walk in the neighborhood, long kiddie baths, reading, breaking up fights over dinosaur ownership, etc.  The important things.

We've had numerous evenings when we got home, dinner was not made, and instead of sitting for a bit before dinner with a glass of wine and talking or playing with the kids, we end up rushing around the kitchen, the kids rushing around us.  It's not good.  

So I'm writing publicly about my inability to make this dream come true every week as motivation. When I do plan (as I am about to do), I like to keep the meals simple.  I've been using the slow cooker to save time, and working with the kids' favorites instead of struggling to feed them what I think is interesting food when I know they -- at ages 4.5 and 2.5 -- will not eat under any circumstance.  

Here is our menu for this week:

Monday       Yellow Dal and Rice 
Tuesday       Hamburgers, Grilled Zucchini (side)
Wednesday Chicken Curry, Rice, and Curried Cauliflower (side)
Thursday     Penne with Tomatoes, Olives, Lemon, and Basil and Salad
Friday          Moroccan Chicken with Cous Cous

In the past when I've planned the week out like this, I often switch around meals depending on how much time is available to cook.  Tonight, I'll do as much prep work as I can (the Oscars often require that I sit and focus completely only on the Oscars, sooo...there's that).  This week is crazy-busy with meetings so Tuesday and Thursday are incredibly easy meals, and Monday and Wednesday are slow-cooker meals.  

I work from home most of the time so (if planned well) I'll whip up dinner while I'm having lunch; and if it's a slow cooked meal, I'll throw everything in the day before or the morning of the meal (very early in the morning).  

The other way to live this dream is to cook everything on the weekend and freeze.  I've never been able to do this.  I will freeze food and never, ever return to it.  But for people who don't have the luxury of cooking during their lunch hour, freezing is a time saver.

Have a good week everyone, and happy eating!  

Carpaccio and Pizza at Giorgione…A Little Bliss is a Good Thing 02.06.2012

I don’t know about you, but eating a good meal in a good New York City restaurant ranks pretty high on my happiness scale.  Throw in a good friend and all is right with the world.

A few weeks ago, I headed up to Manhattan for a meeting and afterward met up with my friend Robin for lunch at Giorgione, an Italian restaurant in SoHo-ish.  We had a 1:1 5 p.m. reservation; I arrived around 12:45 p.m. and the restaurant was devoid of diners.  I was slightly concerned but 30 minutes later the place was packed.

While I waited for Robin, I sat sipping a glass of 2009 Argiano Non Confunditur Super Tuscan, basking in the light, airy space, and classical music playing at a perfect low volume.  The Argiano was number 46 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 last year, and goes for a little less than $17 a bottle, which is about what I paid for one glass.  It’s been a while since I’ve appreciated a Super Tuscan, and I’ve decided that I’m not going to let that happen again.  What a fantastic, full-bodied red. 

There are wines that are okay, or fine, or even good, but when you taste something such as the Argiano NC…well, I’m not going to speak for you, but I do find myself pondering all the elements that must be in harmony to make a wine spectacular:  the weather, the ground, the health of the grapes as they grow, how the wine rests in the barrel…there’s a lot going on.  We’re all thinking it so I’m going to say it:  it’s magic.

Robin arrived and we were seated in a small corner of a large banquet against a wall stacked with shelves of wine bottles.  Robin is an amazing portrait photographer I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and if you have not read her blog, you must.  I would like her to photograph Alec Baldwin so I can randomly stop by to borrow a cup of sugar.  Or milk.  We’re always out of milk.

I started my meal with beef carpaccio, followed by the Capricciosa pizza (ham, mushrooms, fresh artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and mozzarella).  Delicious.  The carpaccio was sliced extremely thin (as it should be), with a small pile of celery and shaved parmigiano.  The pizza also was thin, light on the cheese, heavy on the toppings.  I am always on the hunt for a tremendous pizza, and I would come back to Giorgione.  (Incidently, the best pizza I’ve eaten on my hunt is at Motorino.)

The acoustics at Giorgione are an issue, as the majority of the surfaces are hard (aluminum tables) and angular.  It’s aesthetically pleasing, but not so great for conversation.  My next time dining at Giorgione will either be early, or when the lunch crowd is petering out.  I hear the acoustics at dinner are worse.

The service at Giorgione is excellent; everyone was especially helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable.  I would make my way back there, and I think you should, too.

By the way, Four Courses is now on Twitter, tweeting away about food, wine, and sometimes Alec Bladwin, which is pretty logical…right? Check it out HERE.

Happy eating!