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Adventures in Meal Planning #001

I have never been great at meal planning. I tend to have big ambitions and am swayed by shiny new recipes. I am also easily bored of what is in my fridge. I find that sturdy green vegetable that has been hanging out in the back of my crisper for a week totally uninspiring. Yet I’m salivating over that chicken dish I saw on Instagram and, even though it calls for five ingredients I don’t currently have, I MUST make it. Sometimes, I end up working until 7p and then really do NOT want to cook. Takeout Thai it is.

Each week, I meal-plan using a program called Notion that allows you to have different databases that are connected to one another. So I have my recipe database and my meal planning database. Throughout the week, I find recipes and save them in the recipe database and then, on Thursday or Friday, I plan meals for Saturday through the next Friday. My plan is usually a mix of new recipes and old favorites, online recipes and cookbook recipes. Sometimes I also write my meal plan up with colorful markers and post it on the fridge so Andrew knows what’s coming.

I always plan for at least one takeout or date night because I am only human, but even with those easier nights planned for, I have never successfully made it through all my meal plan meals. Sometimes it’s due to working late. Sometimes I haven’t had time to do all the grocery shopping. Sometimes I or Andrew just crave something that is not on the plan, and life is too short to be militant about it.

Every two weeks I get a CSA box from Hitchcock Restaurant Group. It has all the ingredients for a complete meal for 4 people, including a protein, some prepared items from the restaurant like hot sauces and dressings, some sort of starch, and of course produce. It was started to help support the restaurant staff and suppliers during the pandemic, and it is something that I really look forward to. This obviously takes care of one meal for the week, and the veggies can be worked into other planned meals.

When it comes to “cooking from my pantry” though, I have a less than stellar track record. I’ve definitely had to throw away some boxes of stock and enchilada sauce recently that were the results of early pandemic panic buying. This is mostly because my “pantry” is actually far away from my kitchen so it can be an out of sight, out of mind situation. I started a spreadsheet at one point to try to keep track of what I actually have, but I haven’t really been motivated to build it out. I am better at cooking from my freezer, especially since we recently got a chest freezer and  I can see what the hell I actually have. Recently, I discovered some duck legs in there that I’d kind of forgotten about and turned two of them into a tasty one-pan roast duck dish with potatoes. I did duck confit with the other three (don’t ask me why I had five duck legs…ha). I also used some duck fat from the pantry for the confit, which made me feel pretty accomplished. 

So, despite the unexpected curveballs everyday life throws at me, here’s how the meal plan panned out:

Day 1:

Duck confit happened to be the first meal of my plan, which was definitely ambitious. I served it with potatoes cooked in duck fat and a french butter lettuce salad. Delish!

Day 2:

Day two is CSA meal day (Credit Hitchcock Restaurant Group for the recipe as well as the CSA goodies). The CSA included some manila clams and all the ingredients for a little clambake. “Clambake” is a bit of a misnomer as it is not baked in an oven. It is more of a moules frites situation, but with clams and fingerling potatoes. Sauté some leek and garlic with chili flake, then half a bottle of decent white wine goes in (the rest is chef’s treat, of course) along with the clams and the fingerlings that were previously steamed. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally so the clams open, release their juices and mingle with the wine. When the alcohol flavor has dissipated, taste for seasoning, “mount” with a good dollop of butter and stir so it is incorporated. Squeeze some lemon; toss in a handful of roughly chopped parsley, and have crusty bread for dipping.

Day 3:

I had a bag of Rancho Gordo Cranberry Beans and read that they could be substituted for pinto beans in Frijoles Charros. I sauteed onion and serrano chilis with some chunky bacon that my Mom’s boyfriend Steve had smoked, homemade chicken stock, and fire-roasted canned tomatoes, along with the pre-soaked beans. All that goodness bubbled away in a dutch oven for about an hour. Then I served it with a dollop of sour cream and cheesy, pickled jalapeno nachos on the side.

Day 4:

I was feeling like something a little different midway through my meal plan so I went vegetarian with this saucy tofu number over noodles. I also can’t say no to a dish that includes pickles. The “meat” of the dish was extra firm tofu, wringed out in a clean dish towel to get rid of as much liquid as possible and tossed in salt and pepper and cornstarch before frying in oil. When cooked, it really did have the consistency of ground meat! Add to that finely diced mushrooms and an unctuous sauce made of tahini, soy sauce, black vinegar, and chili crisp and you really do get an umami bomb of a “gravy” that clings to the ramen noodles. The whole dish is topped with a quick pickled cucumber and more chili crisp. This will definitely be on regular rotation. Note: The noodles are green because they are hippie Jasmine rice noodles from PCC.

Day 5:

Day 5 was supposed to be Mission-style Burritos using some of the leftover beans from Day 3, but I forgot I had pre-ordered Moto Pizza a while back, so burritos would have to wait. If you are in West Seattle and have not tried Moto, I highly recommend it. They opened in 2020 and, at first, you had to order months in advance, but now they release order slots (they are takeout only) on a monthly basis. So follow them on socials to find out when the next month opens. The pizza is detroit-style and made with a 100 year-old sourdough starter called Betty. I’d say it is the platonic ideal of pizza.

Day 6:

This day  was meant to be Chicken Piccata and Lemon Feta Orzo, but that had to be moved to next week’s meal plan because I am being extra and reusing the beans from the Frijoles Charros for those Mission-style Burritos. “Mission-style” means no rice, so I loaded them up with leftover beans and top sirloin cooked in bacon fat along with, pico, salsa verde, cheese, and sour cream. Then I rolled everything up and fried it in more bacon fat before wrapping up in foil. So good, and I had enough ingredients to make two extra and freeze them!

Day 7:

Date night was takeout from our local big-plate Mexican joint, Viva Mexico, complete with extra large margaritas. Andrew says that trough and bucket are the proper units for this kind of food, and I agree.

Opa! (Boomer): A Dinner Party Reimagined

They say that the dinner party is dead. Something else that Millennials have killed along with golf and casual dining establishments. As a HungryGinger, I will surely not shed a tear when and if places like TGI Fridays and Outback Steakhouse go under, but I take exception to the idea that the dinner party will share their fate. In fact, I believe that, unlike many relics of our baby boomer parent’s lives, the dinner party is adapting to become a new and possibly better expression of itself. Alison Roman is throwing casual get-togethers in her Brooklyn apartment and Instagramming the shit out of it. Hell, she even wrote an entire cookbook around the idea. I’m sold. 

The dinner party does not have to be a three course affair beginning with bruschetta and ending with Baked Alaska (though it certainly could – there are no rules!). It can be a series of small plates, snacks and dips with some fun veggies – watermelon radish anyone? Or it can be a themed potluck where everyone also brings a bottle of wine (and takes a Lyft home). As I have negotiated my way to my mid thirties, the dinner party has become more and more appealing. I long for the structure of a sitdown gathering with friends, but don’t necessarily need to be burdened with the responsibility for several courses. I’m paying into social security that will be bankrupt when I am old, so I should be able to do damn well what I please when it comes to dinner. It is this feeling (and several drunken non-dinner party nights with friends) that gave rise to the first annual Greek Solstice Cook-a-thon.

At times of merriment, a friend (who is Greek) and I, would wax poetic about Greek food. We would discuss the finer points of Avgolemono soup (when IS the best time to add the egg enrichment?) and baklava (so. many. layers.) and tell ourselves that sometime soon, we would have a Greek themed dinner party and he would teach me and our friends his ya-ya’s secrets. Finally, this year, around about the Summer Solstice, we followed through. There were eight people in total which is enough people for a lively gathering but not so many that the party could potentially separate into groups. 


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About a week out, the Greek friend (Stevie) posted some classic recipes that he was thinking of making and we divided the recipes for the mains between the two of us. Other attendees took on appetizers and dessert (which could be made ahead of time) and we picked a dish that everyone could help make the day of – Spanakopita!


We did a lot of pre-prep so that when we all got together, we weren’t stuck in the kitchen instead of socializing. I also did a signature cocktail that could be mixed ahead of time so that we had something tasty to drink while we cooked.


The Grapevine:
4 cups white grapejuice
1 cup vodka
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tsp Grenadine
*Thanks NYT Cooking Community Facebook Group for the recipe!**


And a party isn’t a party without some appetizers to go with the drinks (we don’t want to be completely smashed for the meal). My friend Louisa, fellow blogger and foodaphile made a delicious garlic dip made with potatoes and homemade pita chips.



Once everyone arrived, we pulled the thawed phyllo dough out from the fridge along with the spanakopita filling I had made the night before (in an 11pm frenzy). Stevie showed us how much filling to use (less than you would think) and how to fold and seal the tiny packages of deliciousness. We took turns filling and folding and filling and folding. Everyone did a round and all improved so that by the end, we were practically pros. Yaya would have been proud! 


Then into the oven they went. Additional dishes including chicken rolls, Keftethes or Greek Meatballs, Green bean casserole and baked fish with raisins. And of course a greek salad with crisp cucumbers, olives, feta and tomato. This was a true feast and by the time we got to the baklava (purchased from a local Greek establishment…we aren’t masochists), we were stuffed and everyone got some leftovers to take home. Next time, I will definitely provide To Go containers for everyone so that we don’t have to play tupperware roulette.


Overall the experience was great because it was more participatory than a traditional dinner party. I felt less like I was putting on a show (with all the attendant stress) and more like we were a group of merry honorary Greeks – a beautiful amalgamation of old world tradition and modern collaborative spirit. What is sweeter than that?









Podcasts for what life throws at you

We live in a world fraught with uncertainty, sadness and, well, dirty dishes. Here are some of the podcasts that have helped me navigate it all.

When you have mindless chores to do…

As a neat/clean freak (and currently unemployed person), I end up cleaning the house pretty frequently. It’s not like I’m down there scrubbing the baseboards with a toothbrush or dustbusting behind the fridge…I AM NOT A MONSTER, but I do like to keep things relatively clean and tidy. I find that I am more relaxed and productive in a clean environment and if I space it out into manageable pieces over the course of the week, it doesn’t seem so daunting. Some people like to listen to music while they clean but I generally listen to podcasts. Comedy podcasts are great because they are generally more entertaining than knowledge-packed, so I don’t feel the need to stop and write stuff down for later every three minutes. I also like serialized fiction podcasts because, like audiobooks, you are just listening to a story and, unlike audiobooks, they are broken down into discrete parts, easily consumable over several short sittings. They may even have a recap before each episode. A few “Cleaning Companions” that I recommend are below:

2 Dope Queens – Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams are the best friends we all yearn for. They are funny. They know a ton of amazing, hilarious people and they don’t take BS of any kind from anyone. Their podcast consists of them just shooting the shit, hanging out with their friends and having incredible comedians on to do stand-up. They tape their shows in front of an audience in Brooklyn and occasionally travel to other cities. I am seriously considering starting a GoFundMe to bring them here. They are that good.


Homecoming – Homecoming is a psychological thriller of the old-timey radio serial ilk. It has phenomenal voice acting from the likes of Catherine Keener,  David Schwimmer, Amy Sedaris, David Cross and more (Michael Cera was on the last episode I listened to!). There are two full seasons out so far and it is so well done, from the acting to sound editing that you almost feel like you are watching a movie…but you’re not. You are scrubbing some unidentified gunk under the toilet seat. It’s magic! It’s productive escapism!

When you are feeling sad or anxious…

As I mentioned previously, the world can be a sad, uncertain place and we can be sad, uncertain, anxiety attack in the soup aisle having individuals. Sometimes we need to know that we are not alone.

Terrible, Thanks For Asking – Sometimes, the glossy world created by social media and societal expectation, can make it seem like everyone else is doing better than you. I mean, YOU didn’t spend the day apple picking, then curled up by a roaring fire drinking mulled wine. YOU didn’t hike that gorgeous trail (“Eight miles each way!” “Feeling the GOOD kind of tired now as a chicken roasts in the oven and Hendrix on the turntable”). YOU stared at the cat in bed for an hour before moving to the couch to binge on Hemlock Grove. I mean we all have those awesome days every now and then and you can bet that most of us want to get that high from talking about it on social media and getting positive feedback. I am certainly guilty of this, just as I am guilty of the other…(Hemlock Grove…seriously a good show, guys). The point is, we have shitty days and great days and most days are just, meh. It’s the human condition. Terrible Thanks for Asking is a great reminder that everyone else is having those shitty days, weeks, months too. And that is pretty comforting, almost like mulled wine.

The Hilarious World of Depression – Hosted by John Moe, an NPR guy who is depressed and not afraid to talk about it, this podcast also provides an element of “You are not alone” comfort plus a lot of entertaining, intelligent celebrities being brutally honest about their lifelong struggles with depression. Margaret Cho works out to beat depression, Wil Wheaton finds medication most helpful (and for the record is not trying to be cute with that single L. His mother spelled it that way on an early hastilly written note to his father and it stuck). Most of the guests are comedians and all have been through the ringer and come out the other side intact – ish. And that -ish is a perfectly fine state. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

When you want to sound smart and/or politically savvy at an upcoming holiday party/family gathering…

Yes, friends, the holidays are almost upon us. While Summer may have been the time for happy hour margs on the patio, reliving epic camping/beaching/Eclipsing adventures, or (if you live in Washington or Oregon) bitching about the smoke and the latest Trumpian Tweet, Fall and Winter are for more weighty matters. Maybe you have an office party that you would like to win by talking intelligently to your boss for five minutes, allowing you to thoroughly enjoy the shots of high-end Mezcal on the company’s dime mere moments later. Or perhaps you finally want to show your mother that, while you still can’t keep a houseplant alive, you have coherent things to say about gene therapy. Try these on for size:

Waking Up With Sam Harris – Sam Harris is a guy who went to Stanford in the 80s, took MDMA, dropped out, spent 10 years studying consciousness around the world, went back to Stanford, graduated and got a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA.

What, that’s not enough to get you to listen? OK, this is a very smart but chill person who talks about DEEP shit and complex political issues in an approachable way. And he talks about these things with equally smart people. He will say some things that will make you uncomfortable that you may not agree with completely, but he says them in a way that will spark intelligent debate rather than make you run for your bed with visions of acrimonious comment threads seared into your brain.

The TED Radio Hour – There are SO MANY TED talks out there and who has the time to mine them for pithy facts to impress egghead uncle Jeff, your boss, or that barista who reads The Economist on her breaks and is not impressed by your sportsball trivia? NPR has the solution for you. Timely, themed podcasts that combine TED talks plus bonus interviews with the speakers into a neat little package of knowledge. For example, I just learned that playing video games is by definition the opposite of depression! Don’t believe me, check it out here. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of useful facts for life, love, and monetary gain.


Well, I have lots more of these for you, but I will save them for another time. I hope you are inspired to listen to a podcast or two next time you have a chore to do, are feeling down or want to be inspired!

Fruits of the Nightshade and the Royal Herb

This summer, we got our garden planted a little late and my attitude towards tending our little dirt patch was more Laissez-faire than dedicated care. Stuff did grow. We enjoyed tender lettuces in many a salad and mint in many a cocktail. The Kale had some sort of blight from the start, which I made minimal effort to investigate and fix. I mean, it’s kale. Not something to get too worked up about in my opinion. It will be mixed into my mulch pile later this month and have a second life. C’est la vie. But, the REAL star of every summer garden is always the Tomato. Whether it be Plum or Grape, Roma or Zebra, garden fresh tomatoes smell better, look better and taste better than your average grocery store variety. Just pluck one directly from the vine on a hot day and you will know what I mean. Smell the peppery tomato aroma emanating from the vine, sink your teeth into the fruit and absorb the very essence of the season. Ahhhhh…

This is lovely when you get your plants in the ground early enough and tend to them lovingly throughout a solid two months of sunny days and warm temps. This is Seattle, however, and we get about a month of really nice weather and then there are days like today, when the rain falls and your half-ripe tomatoes sit dejectedly on the vine. Don’t get me wrong, we got a few rounds of ripe, delicious fruits of the nightshade but not the hoped-for haul that we could turn into a delicious sauce to brighten our plates in the dead of winter. This has been noted in my garden journal and next year I hope to do better.

On a happier note, it’s pretty much impossible to screw up another summer staple, basil, or the Royal Herb. Basil can be grown in the garden or in a pot and as long as you keep it well hydrated, it will yield more herb that you will know what to do with. A brief note on watering. Many herbs, like rosemary and thyme (the woody ones, as I like to call them), like to dry out from time to time. They like to be slapped around, told they’ve been bad, neglected a tiny bit. It makes them stronger and more herby. Basil, on the other hand, is a true princeling. He must be kept in moist soil and pruned regularly or he will go chop off Ned Stark’s head or something. But really, the leaves will be dry and narrow rather than round a succulent and he will go to seed all over the place. Ok, I’m done with the weird sex metaphors now, but seriously, if you put a modicum of effort into growing your basil, you will reap the rewards. And that, to me, means pesto pesto pesto! So far I’ve done two mass harvests (where I cut actual stalks, leaving one set of leaves for future growth), eaten two delicious pesto meals and frozen several portions for later. If I play my cards right, I can keep harvesting until it freezes!

Pesto is one of those “no recipe” recipes. Oil, basil, salt, parm and some sort of nut (usually pine nuts) are all that is required. Some people also add garlic and some add lemon juice. It’s all about what you like and what you have around the house…aka the BEST kind of recipe! Toss all your ingredients into a food processor or blender and voila! For my pesto, I drew on recipes from the New York Times, Kitchn, and Simply Recipes. They are all pretty similar and are good to look over to get an idea on proportions. In one batch, I used raw pine nuts and in another, I toasted them. I plan to add some lemon juice to a third and see what that tastes like.

I learned a lot about gardening and the very different requirements for plant care this summer and hopefully, I can bring these lessons to my garden next year so that it is bigger and better. For now, I will be making pesto and coaxing the last of the tomatoes to ripen and to gild a couple more salads before they give up the ghost.

Hungry Ginger Recommends August 3 Edition

First post of the re-imagined Hungry Ginger Blog. Starting pretty basic here because I know myself. Check out my new About tab where I talk about where I’ve been and some of my goals in life and for the blog and find below, a few of the things that are making me happy this week.


Start your day with a smoothie! Grocery stores and farmers markets are bursting with delicious fruit! Peaches, blueberries, apricots, oh my! Throw a banana, sliced peach, two handfuls of blueberries and several strawberries (why not keep the greens on? It’s all getting blended up anyway.) into a blender. Top with coconut water, kefir (more probiotics than your average yogurt – Web MD has the deets and juice (I love to use Morning Blend by R.W Knudsen). Blend ‘er up and you have a great start to your day!


Step away from the Netflix. It’s too hot to be inside anyway. Sit on your porch, or in a park, or air conditioned bar/coffee shop and read this book: Theft By Finding ( You will laugh at David Sedaris’s witticisms and observations of humanity while simultaneously marveling at the sheer amount of acid the dude dropped in the 70’s. You will think, if David freaking Sedaris spent his early years that messed up and dirt poor, there IS hope for me yet.

Oh yeah, exercise

In Seattle currently, it is too darn smoky and hot to go for that run. The gym is always an option if that’s your thing, but if you like FREE like ME, I have another suggestion. Yoga with Adriene on You Tube ( Close all your doors and windows and you basically have a free hot yoga class!