With all of February’s sickness and subsequent lack of home cooking, I extended Mad Hungry as my cookbook of choice into March. That was a good decision, because the extra month allowed me to get to most of the recipes I wanted to try.
I really loved Mad Hungry. Everything I made was delicious, and almost all the recipes were on the easy side of things. Lucinda really streamlines her approach, removing a lot of unnecessary steps which cut down on ingredients and time. A few dishes were bland, but it wasn’t hard to up the seasoning to move them into the delicious category. I suspected this was true when I first read the book, but now I know it is – this book is best suited for a meat eating family. There are plenty of vegetarian recipes and vegetable side dishes, but there aren’t many vegetarian main dishes. When compiling my list of tried recipes, I realized I didn’t cook much from the breakfast and dessert chapters, probably because I already have plenty of successful and easy go-to breakfast and dessert items. Almost all the recipes below are from the lunch and dinner sections.
Here’s the laundry list with my notes:
- Aunt Patty’s Coffee Cake (not too sweet, be sure to put it in the freezer like Lucinda recommends)
- Savory Chicken Pocket Pies (one of our favorites from the book and so easy to make with leftover chicken, double or triple the recipe and freeze the extras for easy meals)
- Beef Empanadas (very yummy, due to lack of time I made this as a big pie with a top and bottom crust and it worked out well)
- Cream Cheese Pastry (simple, tasty, and easy to roll out – pastry can’t get much better than this!)
- Chicken Salad (a little bland though Lucinda calls it a straightforward rendition, I added fresh herbs and some dijon mustard for oomph)
- Chicken Soup and Rice (I really enjoyed this when I had the flu and was able to put it together in minutes from my freezer stash stock, shredded chicken, and rice)
- Rose’s Vinaigrette (I always have some in my fridge now for easy salads)
- Chicken and Dumplings (good though a little on the bland side, best to make dumplings in the amount you will eat that night as the leftover ones fall apart in the following days)
- Chicken Parmesan (one of my favorite recipes, I love how Lucinda doesn’t have you dredge the chicken in flour and egg before the breadcrumbs and it doesn’t matter at all – from now on I will never dredge chicken in flour and egg)
- Grilled Hanger Streak (good though probably better grilled than broiled which I did)
- Basic Beef Stew (very good but takes about 5 hours start to finish for prep and cooking time)
- Pork Chops with Onions and Apples (very good, the apples cook faster than the onions so I start the onions first to get them more caramelized)
- Lasagna (very good, in my version I upped the seasoning, cut down on the ricotta, and added leftover creamed spinach, I also made my own ricotta which is probably the easiest thing ever)
- Basic Italian Tomato Sauce (tasty and easy, the basis for chicken parmesan and lasagna)
- Spaghetti Carbonara (good though veers towards the bland side so add garlic and herbs)
- Basic White Rice (I found this to be a little dry, I always get perfect results with the 2:1 ratio of water to rice so I’m not going to replace it with this 3:2 ratio)
- Italian Fries (so delicious – some of the fries got too dark and crisp but that was okay because I nibbled on those in the kitchen before dinner and couldn’t stop until every last overcooked one was gone, does takes a while to prepare)
- Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges (good and spicy, I leave off the spices from some wedges for the children)
- Creamed Spinach (good and very fast to make with thawed frozen spinach, leftovers are great in lasagna)
- Tessy’s Banana Bread (good and easy, a fluffier type of banana bread, double the recipe because one loaf disappears too quickly)
What I didn’t get a chance to cook that I desperately want to:
- Spinach Feta Pocket Pies
- Lentil Vegetable Soup
- Chicken Enchiladas Salsa Verde
- Oven Braised Short Ribs
- Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
I’m going to cook from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters over the next two months, but hopefully I can sneak these recipes in somewhere.
While I’m happy the first few months of the cooking challenge were a success in bringing tasty food to my table, the bigger success was finding a new rhythm for grocery shopping and cooking. I don’t work on Mondays, so Mondays are now devoted to food shopping, baking, and preparing ingredients and/or meals for the coming week. It’s been nice to have this routine, and the whole week has been easier for me, especially in the afternoons. I like my afternoons to be full of outdoors time, homework, violin practice, books, and not cooking. In fact the times when my Monday routine was disrupted due to snow or sickness or an appointment, the whole week felt off and I was stressed out. It made me see new importance in the old rhyme “Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Bake on Wednesday, Brew on Thursday, Churn on Friday, Mend on Saturday, Go to meeting on Sunday.” Starting in the Fall, Agnes will be at school 5 days a week, but I’m going to keep Mondays for myself as feeding-the-family day.