Cooking Extravaganza

With less than a week until our wedding, Dan and I expect to be severely busy for the next week or two. When my sister offered to come home and help this weekend, we knew exactly how she could help.

We've spent the past two days making sure we would have easy, healthy, dish minimizing dinners and desserts for the next two weeks.

After several days of menu planning, the weekend started with a massive grocery shopping trip on Saturday afternoon. Normally, we bike to the grocery store (we don't own a car). It was glorious not to worry about how many pounds of carrots we bought, or whether it would fit into our backpacks.

By late afternoon on Saturday, we got started. I started by roasted veggies--potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Although delicious plain, we also had thoughts of these going into a pesto pasta.

Meanwhile, Kat started on frying up frozen potstickers--her awesome idea for good, hot, savory snack foods. While they aren't the healthiest of options, I would rather grab a few potstickers for lunch than a piece of chocolate. If we'd had time, I would have loved to make them from scratch, but sometimes, life demands compromises.

Sunday, our to-do list was much longer, but with three of us in the kitchen, we accomplished a lot. Dan and I started the day by making muffins.

These are my all-time favorite muffins--slightly decadent, but full of fruit and whole grains. They take a bit of effort but the recipe could easily be doubled to make a huge batch of breakfast muffins. They freeze really well.

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Cranberry-Walnut Whole Wheat Muffins
makes 12 large muffins or 18 small muffins

1 stick unsalted butter
1c packed brown sugar (do not substitute white sugar!)
2 large eggs
0.5c milk
1.5c white whole wheat flour
2t baking powder
0.25t baking soda
0.5t salt
1c chopped walnuts
2c whole fresh cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, letting it brown as much as you're comfortable with. (Butter burns quickly, so if it's your first time, turn the heat down as soon as you see brown bits.)
3. Once the butter has browned, turn the heat to medium and add the sugar, stirring vigorously for 2-3 minutes.
4. Remove the butter/sugar mixture from the heat.
5. In a medium mixing bowl, mix the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. (Omit the salt if your nuts are heavily salted. Mine were unsalted.)
6. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, stirring thoroughly and immediately to incorporate. The mixture should become more homogenous with the addition of the eggs.
7. Add the milk to the butter  mixture, again stirring to incorporate.
8. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients, and stir until just combined.
9. Fold the walnuts and cranberries into the muffin batter.
10. Divide among muffin tins, filling to a maximum of 2/3rds full (for large muffins) or to half full for small muffins.
11. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed. For browned edges, turn the oven up to 375°F for the last 5 minutes of baking.
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Meanwhile, Kat got started on a miso-ginger lentil soup. The miso adds umami, instead of adding meat, and the ginger adds some sharpness.

Once the muffins were done, Dan and I split up. He worked on hard-boiling eggs, while I made no-bake granola bars.

We then started on making a big batch of chili con chorizo, while Kat marinated chicken for stirfries. To end Sunday, Kat made two huge batches of cookie dough to stash in the freezer--one chocolate chip and one chocolate cherry. We of course sampled, and both are delicious.

We still have a few fresh veggies in the fridge to use as we see fit, but we definitely have enough food to last us for most of two weeks.

How do you plan ahead for busy weeks? What's your go-to freezer meal?

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com.

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