I think we all can agree that weeknights are crazy. Whether you're trying to make dinner one-handed with a weeping toddler clinging to your leg and a baby on your hip, or if you walked in the door at 6:30 pm and need to get kids fed, homework done, bathed, and in bed at a reasonable time, or if you're just trying to get your kids off to their various activities with some semblance of nutritious food in their system, we can all unite in the fact that weeknights are hectic at the best of times, and pure chaos at the worst. Wouldn't it be nice to have an easy solution to the suppertime scramble?
The lovely people at Simon and Schuster Canada sent me a copy of Rachael Ray's brand-new cookbook, "Week in a Day" which focuses on batch cooking and advance preparation to quell that old "What's for dinner?" grimness and to bring serenity to your weeknight meals. The premise is that an entire week's meals can be prepared in one day; a welcome prospect to those of us who like to have a plan, Stan. All the work of the meal is done before hand, so dinners can be simply warmed up while you kick back and relax with a glass of wine. Delicious home cooking in a flash. Doesn't that sound lovely?
Not only are there forty-one weeks' worth of recipes, but there are also access codes throughout that can be scanned to access enhanced digital content: bonus recipes and how-to videos. Additionally, there is a very handy bonus section called "1 Grocery Bag, 3 Meals" that includes a shopping list for three quick-and-easy recipes.
There are over two hundred recipes in this book—many of them vegetarian and easily adapted to be vegan—and they are all drool-worthy. I want to try the Portobello-Porcini Cacciatore, Spicy Roasted-Tomato Marinara with Spaghetti Squash, and the Green Pastitsio. These are meals that I have never once even thought of making, so I'm pretty excited to try them. Don't they sound scrumptious?
Even more scrumptious is the way this cookbook is organized. Every week has its own theme, such as "Multinational Make-Aheads," "Cold Weather Comforts," "Amazing Grains," and "Get Saucy." There are seasonal weeks that focus on holiday cooking, Thanksgiving favourites, and even the Super Bowl! The recipe I chose to share with you belongs to "From a Taco to Morocco": Ratatouille with Poached Eggs and Garlic Croutons (although I omitted the egg and made a few other changes, noted below as a "Nicole Note"). This ratatouille was amazing—so delicious and flavourful. The recipe claims to "serve 4" but it is quite large; I found myself eating the leftovers for lunches last week. It was something wonderful to look forward to: a warming bowl of happiness on a cold November day.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the chopped garlic and let it bubble for 2 minutes.
In a medium bowl, combine the bread, 1 teaspoon of the herbes de Provence, and the Parm. Drizzle the garlic butter over the bread and toss to coat. Arrange the croutons on the baking sheet and bake until golden and evenly browned, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. (Make ahead: Store the croutons in an airtight container in a cool place.)
Salt the eggplant and drain it in a colander for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, char the bell peppers all over on the stovetop over a gas flame or under the broiler with the oven door ajar to let steam escape. Place the blackened peppers in a bowl and cover tightly. When cool enough to handle, rub off the skins with a paper towel, then halve, seed, and dice the peppers.
In a Dutch oven, heat the EVOO over medium high heat. Add the eggplant, zucchini, onions, sliced garlic, rosemary, the remaining 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence, and salt and pepper. (Nicole Note: I added a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas at this time.) Cover the pot and cook to soften the vegetables, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes, break them up) and half a tomato can of water. Stir in the roasted peppers and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes to concentrate the flavours. (Make ahead: Let cool and refrigerate.) (Night of: Return the ratatouille to room temp before reheating gently over medium heat, covered.)
Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Make 4 wells in the ratatouille and crack and egg into each. Cover and cook the eggs to the desired doneness, 2 to 5 minutes. Scoop the ratatouille and eggs into shallow bowls and top with croutons and torn basil.
And we're giving away FIVE copies of Rachael Ray's "Week in a Day" thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada so you too can experience calm, blissful weeknight dinners! To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below, and tell me what makes your weeknights so chaotic. You have until November 28, 2013, to enter. You must be a YMC member and please be sure you've registered your email address in our commenting system so we can contact you if you win.
Yummy Rules and Regs: You must be a YummyMummyClub.ca member to win. Click to sign up! It's free and filled with perks. One comment per member. Entries accepted until November 28, 2013. Contest open to Canadian residents (excluding Quebec). Winners will be picked using www.random.org. See full contest rules.