6. Finish my year-end photo albums.
7. Take Fred to Lost Lake.
8. Rearrange the backyard.
9. Eat at the Space Needle.
14. Get the craft room sorted and gorgeousified.
20. Perfect a signature recipe (one slightly more nutritional than Bundt cake.)
24. Find the perfect shade of lipstick.
25. Host a big tea party in the back yard.
26. Make a quilt top.
30. Plan an awesome 30th birthday party.
29. Organize our finances and filing system. (Done!)
Y'all, as noted above, I'm 30! I'm ready to be done with this list. So, I'm speeding through the last couple of items so I can get to the fun part of showing how awesome my actual birthday was!
#18 and #20 were both all about cooking. Cooking is something I'm not naturally gifted at. However, becoming a wifey last year somehow triggered some domestic impulse deep inside my brain and all of a sudden I'm trying to figure out the difference between Top Round and Bottom Round and exactly how many seconds do you pulse the pie dough in your Cuisinart?
I have to confess, I actually completed #18 in the late winter/early spring. I wrote those five dinners down on a list somewhere....and promptly lost it. I also don't want to make this post insanely long by reposting all five recipes. So I'm going to link to some of my favorite, tried-and-true recipes and postulate that these would make an excellent week of dinners, were you to make all five in a row.
1.) Loaded Guacamole with Chicken Kebabs
(Image from Mark Bittman but I swear mine looked almost this good.)
I heart Mark Bittman. My husband gets full credit for introducing him to me, but I love how simple and straightforward he is. He doesn't make you do extra steps if they don't add a lot of benefit and ditto for extra ingredients. I'm so sick of recipes with 20 ingredients, it makes the overall price and complexity of the menu skyrocket without increasing your real enjoyment. So for maximum joy and minimum hassle, go see www.markbittman.com. This recipe can be seen here and it is totally delicious, easy and perfect for summer!
2.) Rachel Ray's Smoky Sweet Potato Chicken Stoup
Although I have to say very few of her recipes actually take half an hour, there are some Rachel Ray recipes that I really love. She does some excellent hearty "stoups" (stew/soups) and this is one of them. I love anything smoky flavored AND anything with sweet potatoes so this stoup is a win-win for me. Although I still haven't ever figured out what to do with the other three adobo-soaked chiles you inevitably have leftover from this recipe, having that annoying little can sit around in your fridge is worth it because this always turns out delicious, hearty and healthy. Double bonus, it is pretty dang hard to burn soup, so that's nice.
3.) Moules a la Mariniere a la Julia Child
(From Smitten Kitchen, but yes, it really does look like that.)
This is one of those meals that can be really fun and impressive for a big group, but is actually simple enough to be just fine for a regular old weeknight. Shellfish are in season now too, so get to it! The husband and I have thrown a couple of memorable summer parties involving ten pounds of mussels, several bottles of white wine, a million baguettes and our outdoor propane burner. It is that easy and it always turns out great. Just make sure you get high quality mussels and enough butter to choke a horse. The recipe can be found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or you can see it here.
4.) Southwest Salad
Remarkably fast, delicious and mostly healthy, this is a remake of a salad I get at my favorite deli in the Pike Place Market, so I actually have to type this recipe for you. But it's so great for tired Tuesday nights, you can thank me later.
Cooked chicken (I like to shred roast chicken from the deli, but you could also roast your own or use it from a packet)
Lettuce or spinach
Can of sweet corn
Can of black beans
A bell pepper if you're into that
Cherry tomatoes if you're into that
Toss all these ingredients together. Dress with either southwestern-inspired dressing, or make your own by taking some ranch, adding some mayo, chili powder, cayenne and Tabasco until it tastes like Tucson. See? So easy. Exactly at my cooking level.
5.) Friday night? Call Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon and get yourself some of these:
Sorry, they're hard to photograph because they keep running into your mouth! Get the pork dumplings with extra dipping sauce and don't even think about ordering just 15, you won't have enough leftovers! Get the full order of 32. Yes, I know this isn't a real recipe, but who cooks on Friday night? Judy Fu does, that's who!
Yay for #18, I'm no longer afraid of the stove, even if I do call in Judy Fu to sub for me once in a while. It should also be noted that I almost never actually cook five meals in a row because A.) I have a lovely and talented husband who also cooks, B.) we entertain a lot which in the summer means we have burgers/dogs/anything grillable on the menu a lot and C.) we go out or to happy hour a lot. So #18 was maybe a little optimistic but it's good to practice. I'm down to burning things once every two weeks which is a vast improvement over last year and my list of weeknight suppers is slowly growing. What's your favorite weeknight recipe??