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Dinners This Week

This week may be a little ambitious, food-wise. I am trying… ALL new recipes this week. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I think? Well, and a glutton for flavor. There’s that, too. Plus, my husband and I just started the new season of Great British Baking Show, which always makes me itchy to get into the kitchen. Since my pants won’t let me exercise my creativity with Genoese sponge and various breads, I am turning, instead, to New Ways to Liven Up Chicken & Pork. And there’s some seafood in there, too, for good measure.

You’d think that I would have remembered, whilst planning, crucial-to-my-cooking-ability items like Carla’s Multiple After-School Activities. And my general pattern of Diminishing Desire to Cook as the Week Wears On. And our somewhat-new, not-always-achieved tradition of Movie Night on Fridays, which requires easy things like pizza that we can all eat together. You’d THINK I would take these important things into consideration, but you’d be wrong, because only just now am I thinking of those things and I have already done all the shopping.

WE SHALL PRESS EVER FORWARD.

Dinners for the Week of September 10-16

Note: I mean, this is just a salad, with chicken, and a lemon vinaigrette/marinade. So it’s not WILD in terms of newness or difficulty. Don’t worry. It gets progressively worse.

Note: Why can’t I be happy with plain salmon and mango salsa? I LIKE plain salmon. But nooooooo. I have to dress it up with this BBQ sauce because apparently I can’t be happy without making extra work for myself.

Follow Up: This was… decent. The “BBQ sauce/rub” was tasty, but it didn’t caramelize at all and ended up being sort of gritty. The mango salsa was delicious, as it always is, and the meal was simple enough to prepare. So I might try it again in the future, with some alterations to the cooking time/temperature to ensure that the sauce has a better consistency.

Note: Pork tenderloins were on sale (so were pork chops – bad week for piggies I guess) so I scooped some up. This marinade sounds yummy.

Note: My family is still kind of tired of tacos (WHY????), so I am switching things up with this shrimpy version. I have never met a shrimp taco I enjoyed – shrimp does not stay inside the taco shell very well, in my experience – but the slaw sounds yummy and I will accept any opportunity to slather avocado on a tortilla, so we’ll see how this goes!

Follow Up: This was fine, but a lot of work for what it was. The rub for the shrimp was good — I ended up broiling the shrimp, and that worked great. The dressing for the slaw was tasty, but — after making it as directed and tasting it — I ended up adding a little honey to help balance out the flavor. And then I added half again as much cilantro, because it just tasted less cilantro-y than I would hope for from a cilantro lime slaw. Also, the slaw was very bitter because of the cabbage. I don’t really like cabbage, as it is, and the dressing wasn’t enough to cover up its flavor. My husband suggested that I need to cut it much thinner, and that would help. Well, I cut it as thin as I could, so maybe I have to buy the pre-shredded stuff at the grocery store for an arm and a leg. Also, even though I cut the slaw recipe in half, we ended up with approximately ten tons of slaw. Which we didn’t like enough to keep, so I ended up throwing it away which is SO WASTEFUL and I hate it. I made some guacamole to go inside the tacos with the shrimp and the slaw, and that was good. All in all, it was nice to try something new, but I don’t know if this was worth the effort.

Note: This can’t really taste like tandoori chicken, can it? Well, we’re going to find out! I went to the Asian grocery store and got some Kashmiri chilli powder and I am COMMITTED. Not quite sure what I will do with the rice and peas, though. Maybe I will experiment with infusing the rice with saffron? Or this turmeric recipe sounds interesting, maybe? Or I could keep them separate and sauté the peas with shallots? I have no idea. I guess it will be a game-time decision. 

Follow Up: THIS WAS SO DISAPPOINTING. My husband liked it, or at least he claimed he liked it, so maybe it’s just me. The marinade was fairly easy to make, but it was… more tangy than I was anticipating. Maybe I was expecting something like a tikka masala sauce, and so it’s my own fault, but this was NOTHING like tikka masala. It was tangy and not at all spicy. (The owner of the Asian grocery store told me that the kashmiri chili powder was used in Asian cooking mainly for color, and I read elsewhere that it’s comparable to paprika, so maybe I was secretly hoping for more spice and that’s where the disappointment came from.) Also, this took FOREVER to cook. The recipe says 40 minutes, but it took over an hour to get it up to temperature. And, because of the skin-on chicken I think, the marinade never really penetrated the chicken itself, but just layered on top of the skin (which I didn’t eat). As a sauce lover, this was super disappointing. I think if I were to try it again, I might use boneless skinless chicken breasts and cook them IN the marinade, rather than basting them. And I would try to increase the spice level of the marinade, and maybe think of a way to tone down the tang. I don’t know. It was a big letdown. I ended up sautéing the peas with shallots — sweating the shallots first in a little butter, and then adding a few tablespoons of chicken stock to the peas — and those were good.

Note: And the pièce de résistance is this slow-roasted chicken. I honestly have no idea what Gochujang tastes like, so it could be a Very Bad Plan. But it sounds lovely and flavorful and different. My idea is to cook it on Sunday while we’re watching football and have a Nice Family Dinner together. (Not that Carla will eat anything with flavor. But she’ll eat the components. Well. Maybe not the potatoes.)

  • Out or Leftovers

 

Let’s keep in mind that any or all of this could fall apart at any moment.

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

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Dinners This Week

The weather around here lately has been very fall-adjacent: no humidity, cool breezes, lots of fluffy grey-tinged clouds scudding across the brilliant blue sky. Leaves are beginning to do their autumn dance routine: curl, release, drift groundward. School has started, and the mornings are dark when I try to coax Carla from her warm little cocoon of bedsheets and blankets. We’ve been leaving the windows open at all hours. My husband had a pumpkin flavored coffee drink this weekend. Sure, there’s plenty of time for the heat of late summer to come roaring back. But right now, it feels natural that we’ve slipped into September.

Natural. But I feel a little off-balance with the speed of it all. Wasn’t I, just yesterday, putting away the winter things and getting out Carla’s spring dresses? Wasn’t I just packing her off for her first day of summer camp? Hasn’t it only been five minutes since she was born? I know the wheel of time spins faster and faster the further you get from the center. But this is ridiculous. Everything is going past in such a blur.

First grade. My baby has started first grade. It’s thrown me in a way I wasn’t anticipating, and I’ve been a little mopey and melancholy. A walk in the sunshine helped today. Let’s forget that I got nearly hit by a car (I was in a crosswalk! Crossing when MY direction was green and the driver’s direction was red! And she just rolled right through the crosswalk and right through the red light and turned right and only looked mildly startled when I threw up my hands practically right in her face because I was mere inches from her car!). I walked to do some errands, which was very satisfying. And I got to pass lots of adorable homes with their adorable lawns and exterior décor (one home had seating for TEN PEOPLE in the front yard! Three benches! Two chairs! And a loveseat!) and I walked past a pizza parlor that smelled heavenly in one way and a home in which someone was doing laundry and using Downy fabric softener which smelled heavenly in a whole other way.

And now I am thinking about meals, sticking rather sternly to salads and grilled meats while I can, even though the weather is urging me toward stews and soups.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

Dinners for the Week of September 3-9

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe, and I am skipping the mango/avocado salsa because I cannot stomach those two particular textures sharing real estate in my mouth.

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe, too. It just sounds yummy. And hearty in an almost-stew sort of way.

  • Out

And I have somehow managed to get through an entire summer without making an icebox cake, which is something I highly discourage. So I am going to try to remedy that by making this Lemon Icebox Cake.

 

What’s on your meal plan for the week?

The grocery store and I are on the outs lately. And it’s not just ONE grocery store, but multiple grocery experiences at multiple grocery purveyors that have driven me into the deep end. Let me count them for you:

  1. We have a local grocery store that is notorious for being a) really busy and b) poorly staffed, so that no matter the time of day, you will end up waiting in an endless line to check out. It’s close to my daughter’s school, so I chance it on occasion anyway. Usually — to up the stress factor — I’m rushing in there for a key ingredient I need for that night’s dinner when I have a mere 15 minutes to shop, checkout, and pick up my child. The store has two (TWO) self checkout scanners but – and this is on me, even though I think it is STUPID – you can only use them if you have the store’s reward card. Which I DO HAVE. I have a credit card sized reward card and a little one that hangs on a keychain next to my housekeys and my membership card for the zoo. But I have recently acquired a new car (don’t get too excited) and it has a key fob rather than an actual key (my old car was from 2003; it even had a tape deck), and I carry the fob around by itself, unattached to a keyring or my housekeys, because it’s very easy to stick it in my pocket or shove it into the ankle of my leggings when I go out walking. ALSO – this is relevant, I promise – I have a phone case with a little sliding door that holds my ID and a credit card. So basically, all I need is my key fob and my phone and I’m GOLDEN. It is very pleasant to travel without a purse, let me tell you, especially after nearly SIX YEARS of lugging around a big carpetbag of a thing to hold wipes and snacks and crayons and sticker books. Is this what it feels like to be a man? SO FREEING. So – you see where this very boring aside is meandering – I frequently go to the grocery store without a wallet or my keyring. And then I am forced to stand in an achingly long line while the single checker the store seems to employ painstakingly slides each item across the scanner before gently placing it on the conveyor belt and then bags everything herself because of course they don’t employ any baggers either. You can circumvent the need for your card at the self checkout scanners if you a) call a staff member over and b) they input your phone number for you. But for some reason my phone number is not attached to my rewards account so I can’t even do that. So I have had two experiences in recent memory where I had to 1) leave without buying anything and 2) leave my basket of unscanned items in the care of a staff member while I dashed out to my car and retrieved my card. On a third occasion, a staff member took pity on me and somehow bypassed the need for the card, but I get the feeling that was a one-time perk, not something repeatable.  Since then, I have learned my lesson. But it annoys me to NO END.
  2. I have been having bad luck with fruit lately. I bought some grapes at my local store and they were moldy a few days later. I bought some cherries at the same time; they lasted a couple additional days but then MOLD. And then I bought a giant two-pound clamshell of strawberries at Costco for $3.99. I immediately – the day of purchase – washed half of them and fed them to my family. The very next day – one day post-purchase – I went to wash the remainder to give them to Carla and… MOLDY. What the ever-loving what…? Is my house a petri dish for mold spores or something?
  3. This morning, I walked into the grocery store without my brain. First, I made THE SAME HUMILATING MISTAKE I’VE MADE BEFORE and said, “I’m good! How are you?” to the checker when she was talking to the person in front of me. I had plenty of time to decompose slowly of embarrassment while the checker handled the other person’s transactions, and then said kindly (pityingly) to me, “Hi, how are you?” so that I could respond, “Fine, how are you?” all over again like a sad, socially awkward parrot.
  4. Then, mere minutes later, when the bag loader person was loading bags into my trunk, I called out, “Thank!” instead of “thanks” or “thank you” like a functioning human. As my trunk closed, Carla said, helpfully, “You said ‘thank,’ mommy. It’s ‘thank you.’” Thank, Carla. Thank.
  5. Then I arrived home to find that the bag person had loaded my bags in behind my bag holder. Even though I had put one bag into one of the bag-holder holders myself prior to pulling up to the bag loading area. I didn’t mean it as an example, but it should have been a good one, right?

Bags not in bags.JPG

Anyway. Despite such perplexing events and humiliating encounters, we must continue to prepare and eat meals. Onward, shall we?

Dinners for the Week of August 13 – August 19

  • Tacos

Note: I am trying to institute a weekly Taco Tuesday around here, both for ease of planning and for deliciousness purposes. It has taken a long time, mainly because I keep forgetting, but Carla is 100% on board. (Tacos are one of the few foods she eats with great gusto.) Maybe someday she will open herself up to the delight that is other kinds of tacos, but for now we soldier on with the ground beef variety.

Note: I have grown weary of the standard veggies we eat as sides. So much broccoli, zucchini, and green beans around here. And yet I am not willing to pay $3.49 a pound for brussels sprouts because they also require so much work. $3.49 a pound is convenience food pricing, I think, and brussels sprouts are not a convenience food. Anyway, I was lamenting the lack of options (my husband and I can only deal with asparagus every so often and I really can’t think of anything else to eat) and my husband stepped in before I could suggest it and notified me that he doesn’t find mushrooms and onions a satisfying side. Which is too bad, because I LOVE mushrooms and onions. Well, with this one meal I am going to have TWO sides. (TWO SIDES.) I roast the mushrooms and onions on the same cookie sheet with the pork chops, and the sauce makes them extra yummy.

  • Grilled Chicken with a Veggie

Note: I have not purchased any such veggie… so… we’ll see what happens. I will either marinate the chicken in a Wegman’s marinade or in this self-styled “best chicken marinade” which I have tried and is, in fact, delicious.

Note: This is, as you may note, just another way of doing chicken-with-a-veggie. But it requires a wok.

Note: It has been heavily documented that this is one of my favorite salads, and it is time now to eat it again.

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe. Maybe it will inject some interest into my boring chicken-and-zucchini lifestyle.

Note: I love this Rachael Ray recipe for mushroom sandwiches… and I am going to attempt to transform it into a big old spinach salad. I will marinate some steak in the mushroom marinade for my husband and he can have steak. Also I am using mozzarella instead of Manchego because I can. I am envisioning making a balsamic vinaigrette (I found an AMAZING balsamic dressing recipe online and cannot for the life of me find it, but this one seems close) and then throwing that and some of the marinade on top of the salad to dress it.

Follow Up: This was terrible. And thus TERRIBLY disappointing. The sandwich just didn’t translate well into a salad. There was too much spinach. The marinade was overpowering and with a balsamic dressing, there was nothing to counteract it. SIGH.

What’s on your meal plan for the week, Internet?

You know a book is good when it’s still on your mind EIGHT YEARS after you first read it. So, while I have VERY MIXED feelings about Gavin de Becker’s  The Gift of Fear, I have to grudgingly admit that it must have a been a good book. I think of it regularly.

The Gift of Fear

Unfortunately, the overwhelmingly strong “lesson” of the book, the one that lingers on nearly a decade after learning it, is that Whatever I Do, I Am Doing the Wrong Thing. If I am anxious and nothing bad happens, it is because I am not paying close enough attention to the perfectly clear signals that are right in front of me for easy interpretation. If I am anxious and yet plow forward with the belief that I am anxious for no reason, and something bad does happen, it is because I was not paying close enough attention to the signals. Either way, I fail. (If you want to read a more balanced review of the book, that lays out its many very good points alongside its weaknesses, check out Swistle’s post about it.)

Anyway, it is on my mind AGAIN this week. I am going to tell you the story, but keep in mind before reading that I told my husband and at the end he was very disappointed that It All Turned Out Okay. So it’s not a story of narrowly escaping Certain Murder, or anything. Just to be clear.

Now that you have surely clicked away to something much more interesting: I go walking in a nature preserve after I drop my daughter off at camp.

The nature preserve is beautiful. It’s got a lot of trees and foliage and wildflowers and birds and rabbits and deer. There are people who take care of it – clearing and repairing the walking paths, protecting species trees with deer-proof fencing, mowing the sides of the walking paths so that the nature doesn’t physically overwhelm you – but it’s still very wild-seeming. It’s bordered on all sides by a bustling suburb, but when you’re in the middle of it, you feel very removed from city life. I like it in great part because it feels fairly isolated and remote.

Nature preserve 1.JPG

This is not a good picture — I was trying (and failing) to photograph a specific purple flower so I could look it up — but it should give you a sense of what the preserve is like. 

Lots of other people like it, too, of course. On a normal, good-weather morning, I might pass twenty or so people as I’m walking. People bring their bicycles, their baby strollers, their dogs. There are a couple of small ponds, so people can fish as well. It’s very pleasant, and lots of people take advantage of it, but I’d never say it was CROWDED.

 

 

Nature preserve map.jpg

Poorly labeled map of the nature preserve.

Recently, a new segment of the preserve has been opened to the public. It has a short loop of walking path and it’s very hilly. A friend recently suggested to me that I might want to switch up my exercise routine (my beloved workout DVD is not giving me the same results as it once did), so I have begun incorporating sprints into my walking efforts. This little loop is perfect for doing a nice sprint-on-the-flat-places, walk-on-the-hills pattern that leaves me feeling exhausted. It seems like the general public either hasn’t discovered it yet, or steers clear of it because of the hills, so it’s nice and quiet and I can gasp for breath in peace. I usually see maybe one to three people while I’m staggering up and down those hills.

On Monday, I saw not a single person. There’s construction on the road that leads into the preserve, which may be keeping some people away. Plus, it’s been HOT. I passed one guy in a bright green T-shirt as I was entering this side-loop area, but he was on the sidewalk outside the preserve (I think), and I didn’t see anyone else. I hit the gravel entrance to the loop and started sprinting. I am no longer fast, which is major blow to my ego. Whatever. Age is a jerk.

I did two loops, planning to do four. Leading into the third loop, I heard a rustling in the grass to my right. I wasn’t scared — there are so many squirrels and frogs and groundhogs that call the nature preserve home, “brush rustling” is not an uncommon sound. I did wonder mildly if there were any mountain lions in our area; I know that coyotes come into the preserve at night, but I’ve never seen a coyote and don’t have a particularly healthy fear of them. (They seem scrawny and timid, which is probably a VAST misconception.) (I am going to meet my end at the jaws of a coyote, aren’t I.) Mountain lions are different, though. I tried to remember what you’re supposed to DO if confronted with a mountain lion – make yourself as big as possible, I think? It’s different than with bears; I think, with bears, you’re supposed to speak calmly, wave your arms slowly, and back away with your eyes on the ground – and I kept eyeing trees to see if they were climbable. As if I could climb a tree.

About halfway through the third loop, I was still thinking about the invisible mountain lion. Keep in mind that I do my best thinking when I’m walking, and that I’m usually thinking about the manuscripts I’m writing, in which horrible and violent things happen, usually in nature. My mind was in a Dark Place, is what I’m saying. But I felt like I was on high alert – higher than usual.

I kept scanning the area, noting spots where the vegetation is taller than a man. No one would hide among the cattails, I told myself; the ground must be wet there.

It was so quiet, the heat lying on top of everything like a blanket, dampening sound. No wind. Even the blackbirds, who patrol the preserve with their red badges, calling the all-clear to one another across the bushes, were silent.

I could not get over the strong feeling that someone was watching me, that there were eyes somewhere concealed by the grasses. Even though I kept looking and seeing nothing but nature, it was very unsettling.

When I started thinking that I should have brought my water bottle – which is made of metal, and heavy enough when full that I could use it as a weapon – I realized I was more worried about my own safety than that of my fictional characters.

Okay, I thought, I should leave this isolated section of the preserve and go back to the more heavily populated section.

No, no, I argued with myself. I can’t let a case of the heebie jeebies get the best of me. I still have a whole loop and a half to do! This is just me being lazy and not wanting to do any more sprints!

What would Gavin de Becker tell me to do? I wondered. Would he tell me that I should listen to these signals that are making me feel uncomfortable? Would he tell me that I am not paying attention to all the perfectly clear signals that are saying I am completely safe? (He would wait until something did or did not happen, and then use it as an anecdote to prove whatever point he wanted, is what I think he would do.)

Self-preservation won. It doesn’t matter if I am being silly. It doesn’t matter if I am misinterpreting signals or reading signals that don’t exist. I am uncomfortable and I am going to leave.

And I did.

On the way out of the loop – there’s a little bridge over a little creek that connects the loop to the main section of the preserve – I spotted a man. I am 99% sure it was the same man I saw when I first entered the loop. White guy, tall, slim but not skinny, neon green T-shirt, sunglasses, khaki-colored fishing hat. He may have had a beard – close cropped or stubble, enough to give the impression of darkness on the jaw area. That’s all I remember. The reason he caught my eye was because he was not on the path. He was IN the creek, almost completely hidden from the path by the same grass where I’d started thinking about the mountain lion. Seeing him was startling and very creepy and I was really glad that I was leaving the area.

Now listen. LISTEN. He was probably there fishing! I’d seen him earlier, and I don’t remember that he was holding anything at all, but he could have totally been toting a fishing pole and it didn’t register. Or maybe he was on staff at the nature preserve! (Although later I passed one of the staffers, and he was wearing a dull green vest rather than a bright green T-shirt.) Or maybe he was a scientist studying water sources in urban forest land. Or maybe he was a walker and had climbed into the creek to pee or save a wounded duck or pick up a discarded shoe or something. He was MOST LIKELY there for something completely benign. I mean, at the very least, if you are a murderer/rapist planning to attack a woman in an isolated stretch of nature, would you really wear a NEON GREEN T-shirt to do so? I am SURE he was a perfectly nice guy who was doing something normal and not at all creepy.

Nonetheless, I felt vindicated. I had noticed a disturbance in the atmosphere and had listened to my intuition, and my reaction was based on a real source of potential danger. Probably the situation was not at all dangerous. But I felt much better about cutting my planned workout short when I discovered there actually was someone hiding (perhaps with absolutely no intention to deceive or harm!) behind the tall grass, and that that someone was a man who was bigger than I am.

Gift of fear, FTW!

Okay, now that we are past that long, boring, anticlimactic story, here’s where I ask you some hypothetical questions about how YOU might have reacted.

When I was nearly back to the main portion of the nature preserve, I saw someone coming toward me, heading toward the isolated loop I’d just vacated. I decided that I would tell the person about the man – just say, in an embarrassed, oh-I’m-so-ridiculous tone, that there was a guy there, doing something probably very normal and insignificant, but nonetheless in a kind of creepy and concealed way, and it made me uncomfortable, so I just wanted you to know.

But as the person and I approached one another, I saw that it was a male-presenting person, and that he was well-muscled and had a nice heavy cast on one arm, and, just as I was trying to work up the nerve to tell him ANYWAY, he said good morning and we passed one another and went our separate ways. (This is how most men I encounter in the nature preserve act, by the way! They stick to the paths! They acknowledge you with a wave or a greeting! They do not lurk in creeks under a bridge behind thick vegetation!)

(Distance from the experience is making me feel both silly and defensive. I KNOW that at the time I felt really uncomfortable and creeped out. At the time, telling someone seemed like the right thing to do; NOT telling someone seemed like a deeply cowardly decision. But today, recounting the story, I feel like it seems SO OBVIOUSLY NOT A BIG DEAL that I am rethinking my feelings.)

If it had been a female-presenting person, I would have told her. She may have thought I was ridiculous or unstable or whatever, but she also would have understood.

But a man… I don’t know. I made the judgment based on a) his gender presentation and b) his physicality that he could stand up to the creek wader should he need to.

I feel bad about it still. I wonder if I should have pushed past my feelings of embarrassment.

And I wonder if I really WOULD have been able to share my feelings with a female-presenting person.

(This is the point where my husband said, “Now I expect you to tell me that you looked it up later and a man got attacked and murdered in the same isolated loop you left!” And I shook my head and he sighed and said, “Great story.”) (I did look it up, and there were no reports of any attacks in the area.) (Thank goodness.)

What would you have done?

Would you have listened to your discomfort in the first place, and left the isolated loop?

Would you have told anyone about your discomfort? Would the person’s gender presentation affect whether you told them or not?

Do I tend to WILDLY overthink everything at all times? (YES.)

Nevermind the answer to that last one. It’s been on my mind, and this is my space to excavate those feelings. (Or, more accurately, dumptruck them onto a webpage and never think of them again.) I’m curious to hear your thoughts, if you have them. Or your own Gift of Fear situations.

And I really do think it’s time I read the book again. If only to give Mr. de Becker a second chance.

There’s a lot going on these days, Internet. I feel burnt out.

Then, NGS made a comment on my last dinner post that stuck with me: “You’re so much more ambitious in food planning than I ever could be. We seriously only have about six meals in rotation.” That struck me as SO LOVELY. Six meals? No fussing around with food blogs and magazines and a big pile of recipes I’ve emailed myself? Clean, simple, tada. GENIUS.

And then I thought of Nicole, who serves the same five categories of food each week, Monday through Friday. When she posted about her weekly meal plan, it was a revelation. I could make tacos every Tuesday?! And sometimes they could be fish tacos or carnitas or black bean tacos, but it didn’t matter what spin I put them, Tuesday would always be taco day! What a delightful fantasy!

These two wonderful bloggers (and I’m just assuming they are excellent home cooks, as well) got me thinking… and I think I’m making things too complicated.

It seems that I have made an overcorrection in my meal planning navigation. I find that it is so easy to get into a meal rut, when you feel like you’re eating tacos and spaghetti and grilled chicken ad nauseum and so cooking feels boring and eating feels boring and you just hate life. This is just me, of course. But I course corrected so far in the other direction – trying to find New! and Interesting! and Different! meal options – that now I feel like variation is my GOAL. (This is not to say that I don’t end up eating the same things over and over, I’m looking at you, delicious spinach and arugula salad.) And also, it’s become somewhat of a chore. I’ve been looking through my bookmarked meals, searching for something new or different… and nothing seems new enough or different enough. I start looking at super elaborate options that just aren’t practical for a regular Tuesday, and then I get discouraged and BAM!, I’m right back where I was when I started this whole meal planning journey.

So there’s that. But also… sometimes you just want to throw a couple of chicken breasts on the grill and call it a day!

This week, I am doing Tried and True, Easy Does It meals. And it feels super! I love it! I should do this more often. Or, maybe, I should come up with a list of Favorites that I can choose from again and again, things that can be Go-To meals alongside tacos and spaghetti and grilled chicken.

Anyway, here’s the dinner plan for this week.

Dinners for the Week of July 16-July 22

  • Tacos

Note: Taco Tuesday, baby!

  • BBQ Pork Tenderloin with Baked Potato (for me) and Coleslaw(for my husband)

Note: We are supposed to have storms, and it feels like we haven’t eaten this easy crockpot meal in a long while.

  • Grilled Chicken with Quinoa Salad

Note: I will marinate the chicken in Wegman’s Korean barbecue marinade. I also have this idea that I will make a quinoa salad with bell peppers, bean sprouts, maybe some edamame, and scallions, and then dress it with Nagi’s Sesame Peanut Dressing. (When I went to a writer’s conference a couple of years ago, one of the meals was this AMAZING quinoa salad with pad-Thai-style flavors. I have been chasing that flavor ever since, and this sounds like it might get me pretty close.)

Note: I have tried many (MANY) a recipe for homemade pizza dough. But I haven’t found a single one that holds a candle to the Papa Sal’s dough I can get at the supermarket.

  • Grilled Pork Chops or Steak with Roasted Green Beans

Note: I found a couple of filets in the freezer; I think I intended them for Carla (they were DEEPLY on sale), but perhaps I will commandeer them for myself and my husband.

  • Grilled Chicken with Side Salad

Note: Chicken marinated in Wegman’s marinade, salad dressed with leftover French vinaigrette.

  • Out

And you, Internet? What are you eating this week?

You will be pleased and relieved to learn that The Smell has been eliminated! I did nothing more than the techniques I conveyed to you… I think the airing out via open windows was the clincher, there. Now that it’s gone, and there are (AS YET) no dead animals decaying in our walls, I am feeling rather cheerful. And, of course, it’s always nice to have an excuse to tidy up the house, get rid of the garbage, clean the sink/disposal, and wipe down the counters. Plus, bonus clean laundry (although that’s still in the dryer; what, I’m CONSISTENT at least in my inability to fold the clean laundry).

It was fascinating to read your comments about what I might consider in my search for The Smell – we all have our go-to sources for disgusting odors, which is comforting. I mean, I’m really glad that my garbage disposal isn’t the only stinker. But some were surprising! For instance, I was SO INTERESTED to know that potatoes smell!

But here is where I tell you a deep, dark secret: I keep my potatoes in the fridge.

I KNOW. That’s where I keep onions and garlic too, even though you’re NOT supposed to. I do it anyway and no one has died.

This is possible, I think, because I rarely buy more than two potatoes at a time. (Except at Thanksgiving, when I buy 10-20, and use them immediately to make mashed potatoes.) (Mmmmmm…. Mashed potatoes….) Same goes for onions, although maybe I buy those in more the four-to-five-at-a-time range. And I have expressed my love for jarred garlic many times in this space. IT IS A TIME SAVER, what can I say? If I bought potatoes and onions by the sack, it would be a different thing altogether. And I can easily imagine myself getting really potato-happy and then leaving some spuds to languish in a closet until they became all sprouty and gross.

Anyway, now that The Smell is gone and we are already talking about food, let’s have an abbreviated list of meals for the next few days:

Dinners for the Week(ish) of July 10 – July 15

Note: Now that our grill is in working order, I am All Grill All the Time. But grilled salmon still makes me nervous… so I am going to square my shoulders and try this recipe with Nagi’s very simple and clear instructions for not leaving half your salmon fillet on the grill grates.

Follow Up: Note to Future Me: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GRILL THE SALMON! ABORT! ABORT! Even though I followed (tried to, I guess, and clearly SCREWED IT UP) Nagi’s very clear and simple instructions, half the salmon stuck to the grill and then the whole thing was overcooked and I had to finish it in the broiler. It tasted good, though. Also, her French vinaigrette was delish.

Note: I had this salad on the menu a few weeks ago and never got around to making it, but now I’m really going to do it. With goat cheese instead of feta though. We have some pork chops in the freezer, and some brand new marinades from Wegman’s, so that’s what we’ll have to accompany the salad.

Follow Up: Our pork chops were supper thin and ended up tasting like cardboard. But the salad was yummy! My husband really liked the salad, but laughed at me when I told him it was a Brand New (to us) Salad; he feels like we have had variations on it A LOT. Fair, I suppose. It’s very similar to a spinach and arugula salad that I fell in love with earlier this year, probably because of the goat cheese and cranberries and use of spinach in both salads. Also, full disclosure, I could not find pine nuts at the grocery store so instead I roasted some pumpkin seeds that have been living in my pantry for lord knows how long. They were delicious, and Carla ate a bunch of them, which is always a coup, getting her to try something new. The white balsamic vinaigrette was good but not super; I am judging it against a memory, which is super unfair. The memory is of a salad I used to get on work trips, with shrimp and avocado and a white balsamic dressing. This… was not that.

Note: Every time I look at this recipe, I kind of furrow my brow. It seems like a LOT for one recipe, for one thing. But it also sounds really different and fun – flavor profiles I don’t eat often, for absolutely NO reason.

Follow Up: This was okay. The flavors didn’t really leap out at me, and my husband wondered if it might have helped to reserve some marinade and serve it as a sauce. Maybe. But there was the green sauce already, so I didn’t think it needed it. And the green sauce was… fine. A very different-for-us and interesting mix of flavors. It was fun to try, and certainly helped make the chicken more interesting, but I’m not rushing to make this or the Moroccan chicken again.

Note: I will marinate the shrimp in a mixture of lime juice and taco seasoning. Will I grill it? Time and bravery will tell!

Follow up: After the salmon situation, no way was I going to try to grill the shrimp. So I just roasted them. The salad, as per usual, was AMAZING. I also made an impromptu second dressing, because it turns out I really like having two dressings on a salad. I mixed 1/8-1/4 cup of fresh lime juice with 1/3 cup of fat free Greek yogurt and a tablespoon of honey. It was super yummy. I just kept adding lime juice until it had a nice pourable consistency.

  • Chili

Note: It seems like planning a week full of To Grill items is just asking for rain, so let’s have a nice indoorsy recipe as a backup, shall we?

Follow up: I love (this very specific recipe for) chili. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a chili recipe here and someday I will have to remedy that.

All right. Now I need to scurry off to the grocery store for provisions.

What are you eating this week, Internet?