Yesterday the temperature made it all the way up to minus 12, and honestly, it felt like a huge respite. I took the dog for a long walk and didn’t feel like dying. All of which is to say we are still in the deep freeze, which is really to be expected as it is winter. It is, frankly, terrible this morning, although not as bad as Monday, when there was a windchill factor of “around minus 40,” the meteorologist said vaguely. When we are talking minus 40, there is no need to be too exact. It was cold enough that I actually picked the boys up from school, which I never do, and as I waited for them I noticed their classmates coming out with unzipped jackets, no gloves, and, in the case of one girl, only a pair of capri-length leggings, canvas running shoes, and a hoodie. Oh, the inner fires of youth. Teenage bravado notwithstanding, there’s nothing to do about this weather but dress in layers and wait it out, and perhaps spend some time baking delicious things or cooking warming meals. I have a couple of zucchinis that will become a chocolate zucchini loaf this weekend, and I have plans to make my dairy-free version of my mom’s classic eclair recipe, which I haven’t made for several years.
As you know, or should know if you have read more than one post on this blog, I am an Organized Person, and that extends – to a degree that is probably extreme – to meal planning. I also am a person who likes routine and predictability, and I have passed those qualities along to my family. All of which is to say, when it comes to weekly meal plans, I a) write things down and never ever deviate from the Plan, and b) do not employ a whole lot of variability. I am a person who has had the exact same smoothie every single day for lunch for…I don’t even know how long. Years? Kitchen creativity and experimentation is, in this house, reserved for Weekends Only. Weeknights are for the Tried and True, for things that are relatively quick and easy and do not require a lot of thinking on my part.
That said, here is my typical Weeknight Meal Plan:
Monday: Pasta with roasted vegetables
Tuesday: Some kind of stir-fry; there are three main kinds
Wednesday: Pita pizza with veggie plate
Thursday: Wraps or tacos
Friday: Greek salad with pitas and hummus; My Favourite Meal
There is some room for flexibility here; for example, if I am subbing an evening class or have a meeting at the school, then I can swap things around a little. Generally, this is how our week shakes out. A friend asked me recently if I sometimes don’t feel like making what’s on the plan, and honestly, that never happens. I think it’s a Pavlovian thing; if it’s Friday, I start looking forward excitedly to Greek salad. If it’s Monday, I’m excited about pasta.
In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing all the “recipes,” such as they are, with the huge caveat that since I stopped food blogging, I don’t really measure things much anymore. Today I’ll share my “recipe” for pasta, along with my method of incorporating more vegetables and placating the meat-eaters.
The “Recipe” For My Favourite Pasta Sauce
My favourite pasta sauce is a mash-up of an old pasta salad recipe and Grandma Fern’s trick for cutting acidity in tomato-based soups and sauces; this particular recipe makes enough for three meals for my family, and it freezes perfectly. Take two 600 mL bottles of strained tomatoes (passata) and pour into a large-ish saucepan over low-medium heat. Add one teaspoon of baking soda and stir really well. As it warms, it will foam up like crazy; keep stirring.
Take two cups of oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained somewhat. Leave some of the oil in, but not too much. How much is too much? I have no idea. I drain most of it off but I don’t get obsessive about it. Oil is yummy. Put the tomatoes in a food processor and add some red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar, maybe 3 tablespoons to a third of a cup each? I don’t really know, I just pour. Measure with your heart, people. You can always add more but you can’t take it out. Then shake in some garlic powder; you could use actual garlic cloves but for some reason I always use powder. Shake it in until you think, yes. Yes, that’ll do, Donkey, that’ll do. Then process it until it’s all nice and chunky and even.
Add that mixture into your foamed-up strained tomatoes. It’ll foam again, because that’s science, bitches. Vinegar plus baking soda equals a fun chemical reaction, as we all know from school or from making volcanoes with our children to amuse them for a while when they are small. Then add cracked black pepper to taste; stir and let simmer for a while.
Eating a Rainbow
I love pasta, but what I love best about pasta isn’t the actual pasta, it’s the sauce. I also find that I could eat massive amounts of pasta and not feel satisfied, just bloated. This is why pasta night is accompanied by one of my favourite things, roasted vegetables, which I smother in sauce. Almost always, I make roasted cauliflower, but for that one or two times a year when cauliflower is $10 for a tiny head, I use zucchini or broccoli. Have you ever roasted broccoli? It’s delicious.
I have a rule about portion control: when it comes to vegetables, the rules do not apply. The rule is there is no rule! I, like Sally Allbright, do not like to eat between meals so by the time dinner rolls around, I’m pretty much a rabid wolf. Therefore, I eat a MASSIVE amount of vegetables. On pasta night, I cut up two large or three small heads of cauliflower, toss them in olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. At least one of those heads is for me and me alone. I spread the cauliflower (or zucchini or broccoli) on two pans; since I like my roasted veggies kind of crispy, I put “my” pan in the oven for over an hour at 325 convection. The other one goes in for around 35 minutes. If this sounds like a low temperature/ long time, there is a reason for that.
Catering to the Carnies
Ha! I just referred to my guys as “carnies,” like they are working the midway with their greasy hair and moustaches and copping a feel when they check young girls’ safety belts. Ew. Sorry. Anyway, on pasta night the guys get turkey meatballs, which is why I use a 325 convection temperature. The meatballs go in around the same time as the second pan of cauliflower. If you’re interested, I use a pound of ground turkey and mix with the following: one beaten egg, 1/3 cup bread crumbs, a handful of Parmesan, several shakes each of Worcestershire, soy sauce, dehydrated minced onion, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. That recipe makes enough for three meals and also freezes well.
This is a huge favourite in my house; everyone loves it. It’s nutritious and pretty easy, and it gives me something to look forward to on Mondays.