Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brussels Sprouts Roasted On The Branch and Ideas for Meals During Busy Times

The fabulous high school musical my daughter was in is over, the sets I painted are down, the costumes I worked on are stored away. I'm so happy I helped but it's great to be back to my routine cooking fresh meals for my family.

Before I get to the brussels sprouts - a few cooking ideas when busy
While the past few weeks were extremely fun, they were also extremely busy and exhausting. Often, I didn't have much energy to cook after standing on my feet all day. Shopping for organic or local food was a real challenge. I know I sound snobby when I talk about shopping at Whole Foods or farmers' markets, but as open minded as I can get about conventional grocery stores, I just felt that shopping  was an unpleasant, unfriendly, and depressing experience in comparison. I do like to shop at Dave's for its smaller, cozier environment with attractive displays (a place I occasionally shop when in a pinch). But the selection of organic produce was very limited, local produce was non-existent, and the quality and flavor were poor. Eating during the past few weeks was not a joy. Thankfully, I had some bagged organic vegetables, homemade pesto, and local meats in the freezer.

Working around the inconvenience, meals were simple and our creativity came from using up pretty much anything we had on hand. We often picked the fridge and pantry clean. Dinner was often salads, sometimes we just snacked on fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, yogurts, or hummus. When I had time to cook, dinner was a comforting meal that provided leftovers for more busy days, like meatloaf and lasagna. American chop suey was my son's favorite (easy to make and not that dreadful boxed meal which "helps hamburger"), and soup, from whatever was on hand, was my daughter's favorite. Batches of cooked pasta or rice were handy, making quick meals when leftover meat, vegetables, or meatballs were added. We did eat out more than I wanted, but I'm happy to say that we favored local independent restaurants or delis over fast-food chains, and picked up a rotisserie chicken once a week.

 Some meals that provided our leftovers

Back To My Routine 
I want to share this terrific way to cook and serve brussels sprouts - a light and easy meal we had the other night. The idea came from a "Thanksgiving Made Easy" flyer I picked up at Whole Foods. I changed the recipe somewhat.

The beautiful brussels sprouts on a branch came from a scenic local organic farm, where I also bought our fresh turkey, along with other in-season greens and root vegetables. The farm, which usually sells its food at the farmers' market only 20 minutes away, was almost one hour away. But, after weeks of so-so food, I was overjoyed . . . thrilled . . . ecstatic . . . yes, ecstatic to make the special trip there right before Thanksgiving.

Brussels Sprouts Roasted On The Branch 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash branch but don't rinse. Place on a baking sheet then sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil (or olive oil) and balsamic vinegar. I used white balsamic vinegar but regular dark balsamic vinegar can be used. Cover loosely with foil and roast for about 30 minutes or until sprouts are tender. When the oven is opened for the first time to check doneness, there'll be smoke so be careful.

And Serve
It was fun placing the branch on a board in the middle of the table for everyone to cut from, like the recipe creator suggested in the flyer. The verdict? My husband has a "new found appreciation for brussels sprouts". My daughter was impressed but still doesn't like them. My son, a picky eater but who likes brussels sprouts, said, "cool!" He wasted no time cutting in.

Cheese and lettuce on the side made it into a nice salad. Adding a bowl of walnuts was an afterthought for the next time!

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The Play
In the end, my daughter's Edwardian-period hats turned out better than the first.

Of the four scenes I worked on, the millinery store was my favorite. Not quite done here but it's the general idea:

All my art supplies are back in their places and I think I'll keep the millinery store mannequin around a while.