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My husband and I find ourselves buying this Spanish wine often. A lot of stores carry it and it’s a good value red that retails around $12 – $15. You can probably find it cheaper online. We like it.

Juan Gil. Jumilla, Spain. Grape Varietal: Monastrell

I’d love to hear your recommendations for inexpensive wines that you might consider your “house wine.” Share the love.

Happy Weekend!

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I’m not an advance-planner of meals. I fly by the seat of my pants to call of the hunger in my belly. Only when I’m entertaining or aiming to impress do I marshal my culinary forces and construct a plan of attack. As it happens, my work/life schedule tends to be unpredictable, so it helps if my cooking and shopping are, if not predictable, then at least thought through to the best of my ability. I’ve been working on it.

I’m fascinated by people who strategize their cooking week. I’ve found, when I take the time to plan ahead, bellies get filled with minimal stress. A pot of soup that I doubled and threw half in the freezer is welcome on the night I work late and can’t stand another meal on the run. A bunch of root vegetables roasted and tossed with balsamic vinegar on a Monday night make a fabulous salad to nibble throughout the week.

Do you strategize your week food-wise? How do you execute your plan? I want to know!

When I have failed to meal plan having the following foods on hand ease my week considerably:

1) SEASONAL MIX OF PRODUCE: For this, I rely on my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I pick up a box of fresh organic vegetables and fruits biweekly. This box provides the base for the week and gets me cooking with produce that I might not choose on my own. This week I received:

Parsnips (pictured below)

Carrots

Strawberries

Cilantro

Rosemary

Lettuce

Chinese Cabbage

You can see a picture of my CSA summer loot here.

2) FROZEN WILD SALMON – I order frozen wild salmon filets from Vital Choice. This source of wild seafood is recommended by Oceana – an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. So, my frozen salmon is sustainably caught and all that. I ignore the sticky fact that my shipment is flown in from Alaska and that I live a block from an ocean, which is chock full of seafood; I never promised moral perfection. The good news: I can come home, put the salmon in some water to defrost, and by the time I’ve changed into my comfortable clothes, the fish is ready to cook. About 10 minutes later – delicious wild salmon for dinner. And I mean delicious.

3) FROZEN BROWN RICE –  Thanks to my mother-in-law for this suggestion. I buy the above version at Trader Joe’s but this guy says you can also find frozen brown rice at Whole Foods. Microwave for 3 minutes and you have enough rice for two-plus people. I’ve been making a brown rice and leafy greens combo for a quick, healthful lunch or a great dinner side. See my “recipe” for 3 Minute Brown Rice and Greens (co-created by my husband, Mr. Order Envy) at the end of this post.

Coming soon…..”Planning” Breakfast – Or, My Attempt Not to Eat Dessert for Breakfast.

EASY RECIPE: 3 Minute Brown Rice with Greens

1 package frozen brown rice

1 bunch of dark leafy greens (Kale, Chard, Mustard Greens etc…), rinsed and tough stems removed.

1 clove garlic, sliced thin

1 chile de arbol or a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and Pepper

Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat until hot. Add garlic and chile de arbol or red pepper flakes. Let sizzle 30 seconds. Do not let the garlic turn brown. Add greens to the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute greens until wilted to your taste.

Serve over cooked brown rice.

Any ONE of the following you may enjoy sprinkled on top of the rice and greens, but this hearty, healthy side is delicious by itself:  hot sauce, squeeze of lemon, soy sauce, left-over peanut sauce from last night’s Thai food take-out dinner.

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I must admit that it’s not all it seems. Yes, I entertain fairly often. Yes, I’ve been known to do an intimate dinner for 40. Yes, I bake my own bread.
But then there’s the salad.
Each week from my CSA box I receive a head of lettuce so beautiful that I want to photograph it or turn it in to an elegant centerpiece. Lettuce so amazing that it deserves a vase in a central location. Instead the precious leaves are slated for the most degrading of spaces as to be tucked into the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Most humiliating of all… it then sits there, neglected. Though, in principle, I believe in serving a simple salad with every meal… I envision myself doing so, yet rarely do. Not because of the time it will take to clean the vibrant ruffles but because of the conflict of what to put on it.
Yes, my friends, I’m scared of that little condiment known as salad dressing.
I know the most economical answer is an easy one made here on my counter and I’m determined to find it. So, bottles of the pre-made stuff are out in my book. That, and, the idea that if I can master execution of complex recipes, I should (blindfolded) be able to drum up something to slather on a salad. I’ve been known to throw on a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar at the last-minute. I’ve followed recipes both straightforward and involved… but I’ve never taken joy in the outcome. Persevere though I may, I’m still really lacking. Most salad nights, I wait until the very end to make a dressing, and if I’m lucky Amanda will show up and, while filling me in on the contents of her day, effortlessly put forth something delicate and delicious. Those nights when she doesn’t show I am left to my own devices. Yes, I know that mustard is a great emulsifier and that shalot is lovely and that, and that, and that, and that…
YET, I failed again tonight. My vision was to serve the lasagna with a huge bowl of lightly lemoned greens, I referenced a cookbook for a simple vinaigrette. It emulsified beautifully with the addition of a small bit of warm water (thank you Mark Bittman) and looked stunning: glossy, healthy looking greens in a deep wood bowl. Eagerly served onto my plate, I was deflated after the first bite. The lemon was too sharp in a way and the olive oil tasted somehow green. Theoretical Erin makes a jar of dressing a couple nights a week and confidently drizzles it on the salad. Real Erin fears the salad and opts not to serve one at all. So, I say to you: I am weak, help me. That’s the first step, right? Knowing that you have a problem.
My name is Erin and I have a problem making salad dressing.
I plan to start my recovery by speaking to my mom, who is known in the potluck world for her salads (and their dressings), then to read up on Evan Kleinman‘s recent workshop on the topic of mixing ones own salad potions… after that, I’m lost. Can you help me? Comments welcome.

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