Damn. I'm seven recipes behind, guys. April and May do this to me every school year. Who has a recipe I can try that can be made with low energy and time commitment? 

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My new recipe of the week: Tamale Pie! Yet another excellent find in Cuisine at Home (they're not paying me to say that BTW-I should ask if they will).

This dish has a nice homey, comfort food feel, but isn't a lot of bother to make. It's a one dish cook, too, which is nice for cleanup.

It asked for a cast iron skillet, but I no longer have one (it's on my list to get another), so I used a regular oven-safe aluminum skillet. Basically you cook the cubed steak, seasoned with salt and pepper stovetop, then you add a can of tomatoes and green chiles, then cover the mixture in a cornbread mixture and bake it. That pop it in the oven and walk away aspect is great when you're trying to do a lot in a short amount of time. You only "hover" during the first stage of preparing this meal.

The result was rather like a pot pie, in that you have hunks of meat and veg in a bread, but cornbread in this case. It smelled lovely and tasted good.

It's not a smack you in the face, wow! kind of dish, but it was very nice and a change of pace from our typical eats at la casa Bryant. The adults were pleased, the teen ate it happily, and the youngest Bryant said, "I just don't think I care for cornbread." Obviously, we have failed to bring her up right. :-)
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Tonight's experiment was maple-brined chicken with cranberry-apricot chutney. It's another find from Cuisine At Home. I served it with couscous and some steamed broccoli.

When we made the brine this morning, I really thought this was going to be too sweet. After all, the brine asked for an entire cup of maple syrup. But the final cooked chicken, cooked on our Foreman Grill was not cloyingly sweet at all. In fact the maple flavor felt more savory.

The chutney, on the other hand was quite sweet, but I really enjoyed it. I didn't grow up eating cooked fruits or fruit as anything other than part of breakfast, and I continue to be surprised by how much I enjoy fruit and meat combinations.

So far as difficulty/trouble, this one was a bit more work than my average weeknight suppers, if you count the brining, but since the brining work was eight hours before the cooking part, it didn't feel like much bother at all.

Both adults ate it up, yum! The teenager liked it, but wasn't as wowed. She didn't take to the chutney at all. The youngest LOVED the chicken, but made an ick face over the chutney. That's all right, leaves more for me: score leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!
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I'm still enjoying that Cuisine At Home magazine I found the spoonbread in a few days ago. Another nice feature of the magazine is the way they group recipes in suggested meal plans. That's nice when you want to try something new and you're not sure what might go well with the new thing.

So tonight I made Lite Lemon Chicken and Bulgur Pilaf, with a side of steamed broccoli. It was an excellent meal, if I do say so myself. A little more heavy preparation than I generally like on a school night. It probably took me an hour, but I think I could get it down to about 35-40 minutes next time. It always takes longer the first time I make something.

We're fond of the white-wine-and-lemon combo in a few different recipes, so while tasty, the chicken wasn't anything new for us. But the grains were something different. I'm don't think I've ever prepared bulgur at all before, and this pilaf version with onion, red bell pepper, celery, walnuts, parsley, and garlic mixed in was quite tasty. We thought it tasted especially good with the sauce from the chicken drizzled over it.

I'm happy with it, and might make it again to use as a base for a grain bowl, my current preferred packed lunch for school.

My husband wasn't sure he like the walnuts. Not one of his favorite flavors. But once he added the lemon sauce from the chicken, he was pleased with the combination.

We didn't get to try this one on the littlest Bryant. She's sick, poor thing. But I predict that she would not like the pilaf. Too complex a flavor and she'd claim it was spicy because there's just a smidge of chili flake in it.

But it was a universal hit with the three adult-sized Bryants, and the dog really wished he could have been included, too. I think he agreed with me about how lovely it smelled. 
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The littlest Bryant saw Chinese dumplings in a YouTube video and has been bugging me to make them. I resisted because there's a lot of crimping and hovering, and that hurts my hands and can make me cranky. But, it's not as bad on a weekend, so I made them for her tonight.

We followed this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/228052/chinese-pork-dumplings/ The dumplings are folded into triangles because that's easier for my clumsy fingers that the traditional crimped shape.

The preparation isn't difficult particularly, since you just buy the wraps already made. It's: make filling, fill and crimp, fry on one side, fry on the other side, then steam. But it does take rather a long time and involves a lot of hanging out waiting for 1-5 minutes at a stretch, which is a kind of cooking that can try my patience.

I managed tonight by multi-tasking and making the chicken and rice for our lunch grain bowls at the same time, and unloading and loading the dishwasher. That made me feel the down time less, since I had something to do while I waited for the short periods between stages.

Littlest Bryant was greatly pleased, though she wouldn't try the sauce (soy sauce, chives, sesame seeds, and garlic chili sauce), which is really too bad because it was yummy. The other three Bryants also really enjoyed them. We ate them with just some raw veg on the side: carrots and cucumbers.

A hit all around. 

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Spoonbread! After two weeks of failing to try out a new recipe due to an acute attack of calender-itis, I finally made something new and The Tick would be proud. Yummy yummy spoonbread.

This one came from an old issue of Cuisine at Home, one of my favorite cooking magazines. The dishes generally fit our family sensibility of liking interesting food, but not going too far into the wild blue yonder. It's interesting without being weird, by our bougie Greaser standards. My in-laws got a subscription for me as a gift some year for some holiday, and I've kept it up, even though I don't keep up with using the recipes as quickly as I receive them. A lot of our family favorite recipes came from this magazine over the years.

So, spoonbread is an egg-based casserole. The thing that makes it awesome, in my opinion, is the addition of corn meal, which really changes the texture. I like eggs, but I can only take so much of the scrambled egg sort of texture before I'm done. It's like there's a threshold, and the threshold is less than one full omelet for me.

The eldest Bryant girl wasn't home for dinner last night, so I don't know what she thinks yet (leftovers today though!). But, the husband and I both found it really comfort-food wonderful, especially on a cold night, and the youngest Bryant, normally not a fan of eggs, ate it pretty readily. That's saying something since she's still in that segregation stage of eating (veggies over there, meat over here-don't let them touch!) that so many kids seem to go through.

It wasn't difficult. The most time consuming part was fluffing the egg whites so you get that nice fluffy soufflé sort of texture. From start to finish was about an hour for me cooking alone. Recommended for anyone look for something a little different and brunchy, or egg fans.

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Yum! My new recipe this week is Peppered Pork and Parmesan Flatbread Sandwiches from +Food Network http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/amy-thielen/peppered-pork-and-parmesan-flatbread-sandwiches

So, while my sandwiches were very yummy, they were really different from the pictures in the recipe. I wasn't able to make my flatbread as flat as theirs. It just kept pulling back in as I rolled it out. It might be hand strength thing, or it might be the proportions of my bread dough. It has been a while since I made bread (partly a time issue and partly a hand pain/arthritis issue). So mine was more like naan and less like tortillas. Delicious, but not as easy to sandwich-ify.

I also could not get my pork loin to slice in those lunchmeat looking slices they had in the picture. I'm not upset about that though, as I like thicker cuts of meat anyway. Even on a sandwich.

But the taste was great! Nice bite from the pepper, but not too much bite. We ate our with a side of asparagus (simply boiled, then drizzled with olive oil and parmesan cheese).

The littlest Bryant ate this one, though in its separate elements instead of made together into a sandwich. She's always the hard sell, so that was a nice surprise.

This was a fairly long prep. I made the bread dough yesterday, and the roast took nearly an hour to roast, plus assembly time, so that's too much for a weeknight en la casa Bryant, but a nice Sunday night meal. 
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My new recipe for this week comes from Hello Fresh, which is one of those subscription services where they send you box kits for dishes to make. I like the idea of it, in that I save the shopping time but can still get that home-cooked meal experience, but I have rarely had one of these kits come without a problem of some kind.

This kit contained three recipe boxes: Italian Wedding Soup (the one I'll write about here), Meatloaf, and Turkish Salmon. The problems were: we were sent a box on a week we hadn't intentionally ordered one, the wrong meat was sent for meatloaf-ground pork instead of ground beef-and a moldy onion was sent (also in the meatloaf kit). That's been par for the course with my experience with Hello Fresh, so my general review of the service is "what a lovely idea; wish you executed it better." Of all the boxes we've received from them, I think only one had all the correct ingredients AND had them in condition we could use.

That said, the recipes are tasty and generally encourage me to try different things. The packaging is attractive and easy to use and the recipe cards are fancy.

I have had Italian Wedding soup before, but only out of a can. I have never made it. Unsurprisingly, this is much better than canned soup ;-)

It wasn't a tough recipe to follow. I didn't time it, but it was a 30-40 minute prep by my estimate. Just a bit of chopping, then softening of vegetables; followed by mixing up meatball mix and forming them. Cooking the meatballs was kind of like making matzo balls or dumplings in that you just sort of pop them into the already simmering soup and wait.

The herb and spice mixtures from Hello Fresh are always aromatic and pleasing, and that's true in this soup, too. Kale is still a hard sell for me. I find it harsh in flavor, but softened in this soup, it's quite palatable.

So all in all, a hit for the usual three older Bryants and a scowling face from the youngest Bryant who still doesn't want to eat things all mixed up together. 
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Stir Fry is not a new thing in our house, but I do like trying different sauces and combinations. So, here's this week's experiment: Beef & Spinach Lo Mein. Source: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/beef---spinach-lo-mein

I chose the recipe because of the spinach. I'm working on getting more leafy greens into my diet (and my family's diets) in a way we find palatable. The sauce was tasty, but hoisin-based things always are, in that way that makes me think it can't actually be good for me.

So, while I'm not convinced this dish is overall a healthy choice, it was a delicious one. The chili flakes give just a little spice. I misread the recipe, so I used red bell pepper instead of the hot pepper the recipe actually called for. That was probably good though, in terms of getting the youngest Bryant to eat it. She thought the chili flakes was too much heat as is.

The other three Bryants liked it a lot. There are no leftovers at all. I've been fond of water chestnuts since I first had them at a Chinese restaurant when I was a kid, so they always make me happy. Like I'm getting a treat. Now that I cook, I like using water chestnuts in stirfry with an interesting sauce because they really pick up the flavor of whatever you cook them in.

The spaghetti instead of rice gave a different texture than our usual stirfrys and I liked that, too. We've been eating a lot of chicken, so all of us were happy to have a beef based dish. All in all, I'd say this one is a hit. 

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A good checklist for basic cooking skills. Will need to teach my soon-off-to-college daughter a few more of these. 
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