27.10.11

How to survive the work week tip #1: the dinner co-op.

If the Peanuts character Pig Pen were a time of the day, he would be my dinner time. That's what it most looks like when when we all crash land at home at 6pm. Amid dropped bags, clothes, and dirty tupperware, we try not break down while half of us need attention and the other half need dinner, and there is neither to go around. One day, a neighbor approached me with the idea of creating a dinner co-op: a few families would agree to share meal preparation for a few days a week. One day each week, each family would prepare the meal for the other two and deliver it.

Let's see, with one night's preparation, we got three nights of food (and leftovers).I was sold.

It's been four years we've been doing this now. And it wouldn't be an overstatement to say that this changed our days dramatically. We come home on dinner co-op nights and can play together, sit and read books, whatever else besides scramble to burn rice while two children sob at my feet. It's sane, it's lovely and I can't recommend this enough to other families scrambling to juggle kids, jobs and some semblance of healthy eating.

And did I mention delicious? Because that's the bonus: this food is good. Really. Damn. Tasty.

A few friends have asked what I cook for dinner co-op so I will start posting my weekly menu and link to recipes when I can.

This week's co-op meal: Navy Bean, Goat Cheese and Artichoke Casserole and Oven-roasted fingerling potatoes and brussels sprouts. This casserole is savory and rich and has a limited lifespan because the ingredients can be pretty pricey when not in season. But the herb garden is still producing and leeks are abundant at the market now and I cooked the beans from scratch which is a good way to make this a little more affordable given that I was cooking for 12 portions. As for brussels sprouts, what can I say? I have a love bordering on unhealthy for crucifers and these ones are cute. There's no resisting a cute crucifer.

Navy Bean, Goat Cheese and Artichoke Casserole
(adapted from this recipe and modified to serve 12).

4 ounces bread crumbs
2 cups dried navy beans, soaked overnight, cooked and left in their liquid (or alternately, 4 cans of beans)
4 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 garlic cloves, minced and divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 cups chopped leek (about 6 large)
4 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke bottoms, drained and each cut into 8 wedges
10 ounces crumbled goat cheese

Preparation

* Preheat oven to 400°.
* Drain beans in a colander over a bowl, reserving liquid. Add enough water to liquid to measure 2 cups. Combine beans, thyme, sage, pepper, and 2 garlic cloves.
* Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 6 garlic cloves, leek, rosemary, salt, and artichokes; sauté 4 minutes. Stir in bean liquid mixture. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Spread half of bean mixture in two oiled 11 x 7-inch baking dishes, and top with half of goat cheese. Spread artichoke mixture over goat cheese; top with remaining bean mixture and remaining goat cheese. Combine the breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoon oil; sprinkle over goat cheese. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

beans, beans, the magical fruit...


Oven-roasted fingerling potatoes and brussels sprouts.

This is more guidance than recipe but I trimmed and halved two pounds brussels sprouts and put them in a pyrex dish with a healthy glug of olive oil and sprinkling of salt and pepper. In a second pyrex I did the same with tiny fingerling potatoes and roasted both at 400°, Brussels sprouts for 25 minutes and potatoes for 35 min. I sprinkled the sprouts with lemon juice and mixed the two together.