what's for dinner?

I can't remember exactly when we started doing this but it was definitely a few years ago. It's a system that really works for us. Every Saturday, I sit down for about thirty minutes and I write up a menu for the week. I start by looking through cookbooks, culinary magazines or food websites.

When Gourmet was still in print it was my go to source for almost all my menus. Their Gourmet Everyday section was so inspiring. I literally wanted to make every recipe I saw. These days I find a lot of my recipes on Martha Stewart's website, Epicurious, or blogs like The Kitchn. Usually, I try out two to three new recipes each week with the others made up of long time favourites.

After reading a couple of Michael Pollan's book and Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, our dining habits changed. Those books really made us aware of how cruel and destructive the industrial food chain is. While both Myles and I have been vegetarians in the past we now choose to eat meat in limited quantities and only from local sources that are antibiotic and hormone free and conscientiously raised. We also try to eat only locally grown, organic vegetables that are in season. That means no strawberries or asparagus for us in December! Have you read these books? Did you find they changed the way you eat?

Once I've drawn up the menu I create a shopping list that tells us exactly what to buy. This helps us purchase only the food we need and cuts down on waste.

Then it all gets written up on the chalkboard so I don't have to think about what I'm making for dinner when I get home from work. Last night, ratatouille was on the menu. I tend to think of this as a winter stew but actually zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers are in season right now.

I got to work chopping right away and about thirty minutes later our meal was ready.

I like to have a little protein with every meal so I usually add a little cheese to our ratatouille. We had some leftover goat cheese from the homemade pizza we made the previous night so I used that. I have to admit it was pretty delicious.

How do you tackle weekday meals? Any places you go for inspiration?

chocolate root beer bundt cake

A few years ago, I was watching an episode of The Martha Stewart Show on which she made the most unbelievable cake I have ever seen. She had as her guest a guy named Matt Lewis from a newly opened bakery called Baked. He made his now famous Sweet and Salty cake which is two layers of chocolate cake sandwiched with salted caramel and topped with whipped caramel ganache. The final touch is a sprinkling of fleur de sel over the frosting. After watching the episode, my mouth watering with each step, I had to make it just so I could satisfy my curiosity of what it tasted like. I was not disappointed. Absolute salty sweet heaven. The problem with this cake is that it is not the kind of thing you can whip up in an afternoon. It is a serious undertaking requiring not one but two recipes of caramel and that's before you make the cake or the ganache. So, I was delighted when I discovered that the same bakery has an almost as delicious but much easier cake.

Baked's recipe for Chocolate Root Beer Bundt Cake from their cookbook, Baked: New Frontiers in Cooking, is straightforward and equally as satisfying. The cake is moist and rich and the icing is salty sweet. Personally, I have a hard time tasting the root beer in this cake but I think that might be because I haven't made it with a good quality root beer yet. Best of all this cake can be made in the same time it takes to make a batch of brownies. Delicious!

For the recipe, see below.

Root Beer Bundt Cake

- yields 1 (10-inch) Bundt cake - Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers In Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Ingredients

Cake 2 cups root beer (do not use diet root beer) 1 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs

Frosting 2 ounces dark chocolate (60% cacao), melted and cooled slightly 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened 1 teaspoons salt 1/4 cup root beer 2/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Topping Vanilla ice cream

Procedure

For the root beer Bundt cake: 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Generously spray the inside of a 10-inch bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray; alternatively, butter it, dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the root beer, cocoa powder, and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sugars and whisk until dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together.

4. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until just beaten, then whisk them into the cooled cocoa mixture until combined. Gently fold the flour mixture into the cocoa mixture. The batter will be slightly lumpy--do not overbeat, as it could cause the cake to be tough.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a small sharp knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Gently loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and turn it out onto the rack.

For the root beer frosting: 1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until the frosting is shiny and smooth.

2. Use a spatula to spread the fudge frosting over the crown of the Bundt in a thick layer. Let the frosting set before serving, with the ice cream on the side.