Monday, March 26, 2012

Weekend Update and Monday Meal Planning

When you are the parent of an extremely energetic and picky three-year-old, the words date night rarely cross your lips.  It's true that I love HRH with all my heart, but it's hard to want to go out for a family dinner knowing that our restaurant selection may have nothing on its menu that fits her discriminating palate AND that you might have to somehow MacGyver up a system by which to keep her chained to the table without having CPS being called by the other restaurant guests.
So this Saturday was almost magical, as my mother-in-law texted me earlier in the week asking if she could please have HRH overnight with her, since she hadn't been able to see her for the past few weeks.
Um, yes.  Yes you can.  We'll be right over.
Tuck and roll, kid.  Momma and Daddy have a date.
And then we realized that we didn't know where to go for dinner.  The free time afforded to us was so foreign that we had come into it completely ill-prepared.
Fortunately, the ladies at Phoenix Bites and Local Lily were quick to answer my Twitter plea to help these two wayward parents find something that's fun and inexpensive and delish.  After some brief discussions, we decided to try out Taryn's suggestion of bld here in Chandler.
It was The Right Decision.
Since it's been gorgeous out at night, we opted to sit on the patio, which was perfectly comfortable (I brought a sweater, as per my Pacific Northwest roots, but I never needed it) and cozy.  The beer and wine menu was full of several familiar names, but before I had my Kilt Lifter, I had to try the Mama's Lil Yella Pils from Oskar Blues in Colorado.  One, I love the homage to the Rolling Stones.  Second, and this might be obvious to you by now, it was the best beer pun I've ever seen.
And have I ever mentioned I love fried pickles?  Because I do.

The tempura was out of sight, as was the Sriracha aioli.
I do have to say, though, that while I love pickle spears for your workaday,
fried pickles should always be in chip form.

Dinner was also good, although I was more in love with the polenta and gnocchi than the pork chop that I got, and The Husband thought that his chicken and bacon-laced waffles was great but wished he had gotten something more "dinnery" (his words).
I then made it to exactly 10:17 before I headed upstairs to bed while The Husband watched some awful movie on OnDemand.  I let Ghost Adventures lull me to sleep.
I'm definitely down to put bld onto our rotation of Places to Eat.  And I'm not sure the dinner menu will work for her, but I know HRH will be more than happy to go there for breakfast someday.  Total winner, Taryn!
Oh, and yesterday?  We met my mother-in-law and HRH at Pei Wei, and while we had just eaten a late breakfast, my mother-in-law ordered the Kung Pao shrimp.  It looked pretty tasty.  And then HRH started eating the brown rice.
Like shoveling it into her mouth eating it.
So dinner, then, was Kung Pao Shrimp a'la Allison, thanks to this "copycat" recipe.  I'm not sure it's copying the Pei Wei version, but it was fun to bring down the wok for an evening.
What I really found interesting in this recipe - which was a little warm without the umame flavor that I was looking for, so I'll have to up the soy next time - was that the shrimp were tossed in corn starch and the egg white before hand - it made a kind of breading that the sauce stuck to quite nicely.
The best thing about the homemade version was not just that I knew everything that went into it (including the local green garlic, green onions, carrots, and sugar snap peas) but that those fresh veggies made the plate look soooooooo pretty:

I omitted the peppers (didn't have any) and added
tofu and used shrimp instead of chicken,
but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely.
HRH got her own little plate with brown rice, two pieces of tofu, carrots, and one sugar snap pea.  She inhaled the rice (Zooey dutifully caught every grain that fell on the floor) and carrots but only took a small bite of the pea.  As for the tofu, "I'll eat the tofu later.  When I'm older."  Oh, well.  She got plenty of fiber and other good things from the rice and carrots.  And the handfuls of roasted unsalted peanuts that she ate while helping me make a few dressings and whatnot for the week.

Which leads me to this week.  Sunday dinner's menu is behind us, so looking ahead, I'm using Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express two times this week as well as (hopefully) dishing up the final draft of a recipe I've modified to be healthier than its original.  HRH might actually be at school or my mother-in-law's all this week, and I'm taking Friday off (happy birthday to ME), so I'm hoping that I can see this week's menu through.

  • Monday: salmon (preparation TBD at game time) with purple cabbage salad
  • Tuesday: Swiss chard with white beans and pancetta (Bittman recipe #1) along with remaining brown soda bread
  • Wednesday: penne with arugula pesto (The Husband has a late meeting, so I'm making something easy peasy which can be heated up even at 10PM or whenever he gets home) - the pesto is already made, so this will be a quick one-dish night
  • Thursday: root vegetable and quinoa salad (Bittman recipe #2, although I'll be modifying it quite a bit) along with, yes, a bit more brown bread
  • Friday: as usual, TBD

We're also going out to dinner this Saturday night for my birthday.  I'm not sure where yet, but I have mentioned that I wouldn't mind going back to Shimogamo, where we went last year, and that I'd also like to try Brush Bar up in Scottsdale, where we would drink wine and make a painting, although The Husband expressed his concern that painting would get in the way of his wine drinking.  That's OK - I'm thinking it might better serve as a girls' night out location anyway.  The Husband is trying to find a fun little bistro-type place, but those are a bit harder to find here in the Phoenix area than when we were in DC.

What are your big dinner plans for the week?  What is your favorite place to dine for special occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.)?  How does drinking wine and painting your own version of a masterpiece sound to you?

1 comment:

  1. You need to get a job as a Food Critic at your local newspaper and forget teaching on line! You are so very good at describing and writing about different foods and creating menus.

    Ours in Winston Salem only writes reviews every other Thursday. If you miss it because you busy, then you have to wait two weeks.

    Anyway, I enjoy your posts very much.