Under the Maple Canopy

Singing Union Songs Since 2009

What’s for Dinner – Simple is Best


For Lou’s birthday feast this weekend we ended up with a very simple menu centering around your basic roast chicken.  I’ve served roast chicken several times to these same guests and each time the way folks gush, you’d think that I had served the fanciest of gourmet dishes.  For my family, roast chicken is rather ho-hum.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty, but we’ve had it so many times we often wonder what the big deal is.  It’s just roast chicken.  Is roast chicken everywhere else that bad?

When guests ask me about the recipe they’re always full of questions.  Fancy pan?  Rack?  Spices?  No, no, and just a little thyme added to the salt and pepper.  Really?  Yeah.  350°, breast side down for one hour, breast side up for another hour.  A little olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, and thyme on it before it goes into the oven.  That’s it and it doesn’t seem all that revolutionary to me, but dear reader, it is for them.

So, that’s the take home lesson this week.  Sometimes simple really is best.  Well, that and time really is your best ingredient.  A little time to caramelize the sugars.  A little extra time on the ferment to develop flavors.  An extended moment to pause around the table with those you love and savor texture and flavor.  Simple.

IMG_1005Last weeks’ menu was a resounding success.  The kids knew exactly what we were having each night and reminded me along the way.  I only had two questions about what was for dinner and I would just point to the board.  Our birthday party guests even knew what we were having for dinner and found it entertaining.  Hey, I aim to please.

I tried to prepare the kids a bit at the beginning of the week.  We talked about how it’s not possible to make everyone’s favorite dishes all of the time.  We talked about how sometimes the meal being served might not be something that you like, but that this is the way being in a family works.  I also stressed the importance of trying new things, several times, because even if you didn’t like it in the past, you might like it today.  There were fewer complaints and sad faces at the table.  The biggest discovery?  The kids *loved* the bleu cheese on Thursday’s salad.  As in, can I have more please?  Do you think it would taste good in the soup?  I need more bleu cheese for my soup!

I put together most of this menu at the beginning of the week, but when finalizing things just before going grocery shopping, I tried to let this week’s lesson be my guide.  Simple.  Fewer ingredients and better planning so I can best take advantage of time’s special seasoning.

The broccoli soup is a carry over from last week since I subbed a frozen pizza in to give myself a bit of a break for some post-party rest.  It’s still Soulemama’s recipe, but we’re going to have King Arthur Flour’s Back-of-the-Bag Oatmeal Bread to go with it instead of the focaccia.

I got my bibimbap recipe out of “The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen” by Laura B. Russell with maybe one addition I picked up from the recipe in the back of “Bee-Bim Bop!” by Linda Sue Park.  If you have kids, I high suggest reading Park’s book with them before serving the dish for the first time.  You’ll be amazed what kids will try when it’s related to a book they’ve read.

Ian’s Pizza is probably pretty self-explanatory.  Groceries needs new shoes and I’ve got a Genius Bar appointment.

The meatloaf and glazed carrots are from Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions.”  This is hands down the best meatloaf recipe I have ever had and we’re all really looking forward to it.  The sesame greens is from “Feeding the Whole Family.”

Tomato soup and grilled cheese, like last week is your standard fare.  The soup is Pacific’s Creamy Tomato Soup (Tetra-Pak) and the bread will be homemade, though I haven’t decided which recipe that will be just yet.

Spaghetti and salad is another old standby.  The sauce was home canned, the salad will be a very simple greens and veggies sort of thing, and we’ll go with angel hair pasta because the kids love it.

The pork chops and creamed spinach both come from “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters and the apples I’m making up all by myself.

My family has made it clear that I need to make more muffins and bread.  Specifically, they have reminded me that I really should stop buying bread at the grocery store.  Some members of the family have requested that I stop serving frozen pizza and have home-made instead.  I’m trying my best to comply with their wishes.

And that, dear reader, is what we’re having for dinner.  What about you?




8 thoughts on “What’s for Dinner – Simple is Best

  1. We, I —since I am the cook, have found that simple is so good. I love a good roasted chicken- nothing better.
    Let me know if you got a package from me.

    • I got it on Saturday, though I didn’t know it until Sunday morning and then I spent most of yesterday trying to get rid of the headache that was following me around all day. Persistent bugger! I posted about it this morning – thanks again for your generosity!

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! :0)

  2. Have not made bread in a long time, but there is nothing like knowing you can do it. I immediately noticed the new header on the blog and let out a big sigh of appreciation at that perfect loaf.

    I just had a dinner party for a very artful group and served chicken lasagna and a big salad and good bread. The table was beautifully set with handmade ceramic plates and it was serve yourself from the kitchen counter. Gingerbread for dessert. I think simpler is best always. We used to do chicken and a wild rice salad for special dinners for years and you are right, everyone loves it. I am thinking my new dinner party menu is going to be meatloaf and mac-and-cheese instead of potatoes. I always put some broccoli florets in my mac and top it with a layer of sliced tomatoes. That why I don’t feel so guilty about chowing down on it!

    • I’ve read a bit on your blog about the dinner parties and potlucks that you attend and I think “artful” is the perfect descriptor! :0) Meatloaf and mac-and-cheese sounds like the perfect dinner party menu and I’m betting that it will get equally rave reviews as the chicken. Given how simple really does seem so spectacular for folks, sometimes I wonder if it’s just because people don’t really cook anymore.

      Good bread…sometimes I think that just might be the definition of living well. Thank you for your kind words about the header. It really was the perfect loaf!

  3. commented before I read below the illustration. We have spaghetti at least once a week. I buy Fraboni’s pizza crusts and keep them in the freezer. Then I freeze leftover sauce when we have spaghetti and keep grated cheese in the freezer as well. Pizza is the reward for eating a big salad first! When I worked in restaurants as a pastry chef back in the 70s, tomato soup and grilled cheese or grilled cheese with tunafish was the favorite meal of the staff. None of the fancy stuff we were cooking for patrons.

    • lol…and I replied before reading the next comment! A pastry chef? My goodness, I’m not sure if there is something you haven’t done yet – you’ve been a busy lady!

      Fraboni’s, huh? I’ll have to check that out next time I’m in Madison. I really shouldn’t complain too much about making pizza from scratch, though. I use a recipe I found in “The Joy of Cooking” and it isn’t any more complicated than making bread and though it’s been awhile (since this summer when I make pizza on the grill) I’ve gotten pretty good at stretching the dough. It’s just a matter of thinking ahead which I’m not always the greatest at doing. Sometimes english muffins work in a pinch, but clearly my family much prefers the crust from scratch. I should ponder the whole crust freezing issue. I suppose I could always make up my own crusts and freeze them for later.

      I’d say, too, that you’ve got Adler’s technique down pat!

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