Archive for the ‘Deliciousness’ Category

One of the disadvantages to my particular brain is that I have a terrible memory. TERRIBLE. An unanticipated benefit to this blog is that I have a record of lots of things that I might otherwise forget. (If only I were more disciplined about writing daily! Or if only I could STICK TO JOURNALING.) 

My poor memory extends to food as well as life in general. Outside of a handful of meals, I feel like my mind goes blank when I try to think of things I’ve enjoyed eating. That persists despite my (mostly) regular Dinners This Week posts, which theoretically should offer a ready list of great options to put on my meal plan each week. 

And yet… sometimes I see a meal I have planned and presumably eaten (although – Confession Time, it is quite rare that I make all the meals I plan each week) and I cannot for the life of me remember whether it was a hit or not! 

For a while, I tried to post updates on the blog, so that I could go back and read whether a certain dinner recipe was a hit or not. But I have not been consistent about doing that. 

So I am going to try something new. If I make a recipe that my husband and I both love, I am going to post it here. Just a big ol’ running list of dinners that were excellent. That way I have a go-to resource of meals that I have made before and enjoyed. Will I keep this up? I’m going to guess “not reliably.” And this isn’t to say I won’t continue to find and try brand-new recipes! Novelty is one of the main reasons I am able to keep plugging forward with making dinner night after night after night. But sometimes it’s nice to pick from a list of Tried And True Options.

Anyway: here’s a list of Reliably Delicious Dinners and Other Culinary Hits to start from, along with any notes I included with my follow-up of the recipe. (There has to be a better way to organize the lists, but I sorted the recipes out into some rough categories and then alphabetized them by recipe name.) 


  • Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce: This has become my immediate family’s traditional Christmas dinner. Double all the sauce ingredients because the sauce is amazing.
  • Chili: I should post a recipe for this.
  • Garlic Herb Marinated Oven Roasted Steak: I use top sirloin steaks, which I prefer to flank steak.
  • Instant Pot Hamburgers: We put these in the oven to broil for a very short time before putting them on buns.
  • Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Ragu: Decadent and rich. I use tomato puree instead of crushed tomatoes.
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce: Brown a pound of ground beef – say that five times fast – with half a diced onion and as much garlic as makes your heart sing. Add a jar of Ragu pasta sauce, a small can of Hunts tomato sauce, a palm-full of each dried basil and dried oregano, a few shakes of Tabasco, a few shakes of cayenne, and some salt and pepper. Simmer for as long as you can stand it. Eat over pasta of your preferred shape.




  • Best Ever BBQ Ribs: You can make these a day or so in advance before slathering them with sauce and grilling them. I highly recommend using your favorite BBQ sauce in a jar instead of making the sauce from scratch per the recipe; I find the recipe version to be quite salty and it’s just an extra step when you can use perfectly great sauce in a jar.
  • Chipotle Marinated Pork Chops: I double the chipotle in the marinade so that there is a little extra “pan sauce” to drizzle over the cooked pork. I love me a pan sauce.
  • Crispy Pork Carnitas: Definitely best when you crisp the shredded pork in the oven before serving.
  • Oven Baked Pork Chops with Potatoes: Most often, I make these without the potatoes although they are delicious together. The sauce is what makes these pork chops sing. 
  • Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork: I serve the tangy shredded pork over rice with caramelized onions, feta cheese, and I do Kalamata olives and my husband does sun-dried tomatoes. Sometimes if I am feeling fancy I will include some hummus and pita, and maybe some artichoke hearts.
  • Slow Cooker BBQ Pork: Add a pork tenderloin, about a cup of BBQ sauce, a diced onion, and as much garlic as makes your heart happy to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Shred. I slather the pork onto a baked potato. My husband prefers it on a King’s Hawaiian bun with coleslaw
  • Soy Ginger Pulled Pork with Tangy Sesame SlawThe slaw is essential.


  • Black Bean Burritos: Taco-seasoned black beans wrapped in flour tortillas and draped in shredded cheddar, then oven baked at 425 degrees F for 12 minutes until the cheese is melty. Top with shredded lettuce, diced onion, sour cream, and lots of hot sauce.
  • Chickpea Bowls: I make a bunch of the spice mixture (½ Tbsp each of cumin, coriander, and garam masala; 1 tsp of cardamom; ½ tsp of paprika; and ¼ tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, and fenugreek) in advance, so I can use it on a whim. I also pre-make (and freeze in ice cube trays) a batch of the ginger garlic sauce. When these two things are already in my cupboard/freezer, this is super easy to make. (And the end result is well worth the fuss.) I add sliced bell peppers to the final chickpea mixture, along with sliced jalapenos and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt.
  • Chickpea Curry: My husband and I feel that this doesn’t produce enough sauce, as it’s written. However, I think if you doubled the sauce, it would be TOO saucy. And you can’t do one-and-a-half portions, because you’d be stuck with a half can of coconut milk and I for one don’t want to waste it or measure it out in the first place. So we decided on halving the chickpeas. If you jack up the veggie quotient, I think you won’t even miss the second can of chickpeas.
  • Gigi Hadid Spicy Vodka Pasta
  • Goat Cheese and Mushroom Pizza with Arugula and Onion Jam: I typically use store-bought dough.
  • Grilled Mushroom Salad Sub Sandwiches: I skip the roasted red peppers and use mozzarella for the cheese.
  • Lemon Garlic Veggie Pasta: I make this with Barilla Protein Plus pasta, increase the amount of garlic, and use broccoli, zucchini, red onions, peas, and red bell pepper. Asparagus and mushrooms would be good too. I sprinkle on 1/4  cup of parmesan at the end. 
  • Roasted Artichokes: Not quite sure if this counts as a whole meal, although I love a roasted artichoke for lunch. Trim the edges of the stalks, wrap them in olive oil, and eat them too. I love to dip the leaves, stem, and heart in sriracha aioli



  • Butternut Squash Soup
  • French Onion Soup
  • Guinness Beef Stew: I seared the meat and cooked the onions/garlic as well, before adding those things to my crockpot. I don’t know if the flavors would be the same without, but maybe I’ll try it next time because I really hate searing meat. I used baby potatoes and I didn’t chop ANY of them, which meant I had to eat the stew with knife and fork. Maybe I should quarter them next time. I added two parsnips, a container of quartered mushrooms, and two cups of chicken stock. It seemed a little under-salted, so I also added a big glug of soy sauce toward the end.
  • Garlicky Chickpea and Spinach SoupThis is perfect, but the spinach doesn’t work as well in leftovers as it does the night of.
  • Lentil Soup: I make this without the tomatoes, which means I need to amp up the spices a bit.
  • Mulligatawny Soup
  • Slow Cooker Chicken, Mushroom, & Wild Rice Soup: I use this brand of wild rice and the soup turns out perfect every time. Delicious paired with a loaf of miracle no-knead bread.
  • Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Tortilla Soup: I blend the fire roasted tomatoes and strain them into the soup. I also add a can of black beans and about a cup of frozen corn about ten minutes before the soup is done cooking. 
  • White Bean Enchilada Soup: Yum. I reserve a can of Great Northern beans from the recipe, as well as the corn, and blend everything in the pot. Then I add the final beans and corn for a little texture. It makes the soup very creamy and rich.


  • Beef with Snow Peas: Works just as well with sugar snap peas.
  • Broccoli with Beef: I typically throw in sliced red and green bell peppers as well. 
  • Chicken and Zucchini Stir Fry: Stir fry the chicken with garlic and ginger and then remove to a plate before you add the vegetables. The amount of zucchini in this recipe is only a suggestion. You cannot have too much zucchini. Also, add in a sliced white onion. 
  • Fire Fry: Good with beef, just as good with veggies only.
  • Szechuan Stir Fry: This is good with chicken, shrimp, or beef, or without meat at all. I like using broccoli, zucchini, and bell peppers – sometimes adding water chestnuts, sometimes not. Bean sprouts would be good with this, too. For anyone who, like me, is sensitive to Chinese five-spice powder, I only put in the tiniest pinch. Like, 1/16 of a teaspoon.





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After posting yesterday, I was fretting (mildly, very mildly) about what we would eat for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I like to have a plan, especially when it comes to food. Plus, the grocery store situation will get iffier as we get closer to the holiday – busier and then closed; that’s what I mean by “iffier.” I had to dash over to the grocery store yesterday afternoon, to find something to feed the babysitter.

(Did I already fret about this to you? I feel like I did, but I can’t find it in yesterday’s post. Oh well, if you have already endured this fret, perhaps skim down a bit or come back another day. Here, I will put in sub-headings to make it easier to skim.)

Feeding-the-Babysitter Fret

What do YOU feed the babysitter? Why is this something that I fret about so much? We rarely have a sitter, but when we do I almost always get a frozen pizza. My thought process around frozen pizza is a) easy and b) most people like pizza and c) Carla eats it. (She does not eat macaroni and cheese for instance. Or most other things.) But when I fretted out loud to my husband and daughter, a) my husband said “You ALWAYS get a pizza” and b) Carla said “I’m tired of pizza. I’d rather have chicken nuggets.” Oooh, two multiple choice lists in one paragraph. Wild.

These were highly interesting comments. First, yes, as I already told you, I do tend to ALWAYS get pizza. But we have had a babysitter, what, twice in the past three weeks? Is pizza two times in three weeks really that egregious? But more importantly, the babysitter last night was a different babysitter than the one we had last time. So she hadn’t eaten pizza three weeks ago.

Secondly, yes, Carla ate pizza three weeks ago with the other babysitter… and I think we made pizza last week or the week before as well, so that’s twice. In the meantime, aside from two nights of steak and maybe a night or two of salmon and maybe one night of tacos, I think she’s had chicken nuggets for every other dinner. (I am refraining hard from making a self-deprecating “I am such a shitty mother for feeding my child nuggets daily lol” comment because she EATS them which is better than not-eating other things and they are easy and they have protein and sometimes I get the ones that also have veggies in them and this is a very long-lived phase but it is just a phase that won’t last forever and I make up for my lack of meal creativity in other good and valuable ways.) 

Being a mom slash babysitter-food-decision-maker is so fun. So, so fun. 

Now, I don’t personally care to eat chicken nuggets. (I have never typed “chicken nuggets” so many times in my life.) But I think many people are fine with them, so I decided that I would just let the sitter make some nuggets for herself and Carla. But I still managed to fret about it. The dear wise friend to whom I fretted via text suggested I get pizza and chicken nuggets so that there were options. This was genius, so that’s why I went to the store. Plus, I figured I would come up with some wonderful idea for NYE / NYD food in the moment. The store was very busy. 

(By the way, I have been masking again in the grocery store, these past few weeks. Around Christmas, I noticed that quite a few more people than usual had joined me… but I went yesterday afternoon and I think there was only one other person in a mask.)


While I was there, I did indeed experience a lightning strike of inspiration. For our extra special New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day meals, we are going to have SNACKS!

(By the way, when Carla was very small she pronounced the word “snacks” with kind of a swallowed H/N combo instead of the initial S. Like “HNacks.” So that’s still how my husband and I refer to them.)

We have not yet made the cranberry salsa for which I bought ingredients last week, so we will have that with pita chips. I picked up a small bag of Lay’s Potato Chips and some Southwest Ranch Dip, and I have plenty of vegetables to cut up for extra dipping. 

(Since this post is rife – RIFE – with parentheticals and asides, what’s one more? I first became acquainted with Southwest Ranch Dip when I was pregnant. My mother-in-law served it at her apartment one day – this was when my in-laws had an apartment in our city – and I loved it. Pretty much everything made me nauseated in those days, but crunchy greasy Lay’s chips dipped in that dip were HEAVEN.) 

(I am getting such a silly kick out of posting these photos, as though you don’t know what a bag of Lay’s looks like. I mean, maybe you don’t, but it seems unlikely.) (Images above and below from lays.com, marzetti.com, Instacart.com for some reason, and traderjoes.com)

In addition to chips and dip, I grabbed some mini pretzel dogs that I’m hoping my husband and child will eat (I eat one hot dog a year and it is normal sized and in a BUN not a pretzel; I do not care for pretzels) (are you beginning to get a clearer picture of why my child is so picky), and some feta and caramelized onion pastry bites. I also got a garlic and cheese flatbread, which sounds good but not terribly different from garlic bread; we’ll see. We have some cheese and crackers and some olives already. This is all way too much food already, but I have arranged a family outing to Trader Joe’s later today to see if we can find any other treats to add to the selection. Trader Joe’s is usually pretty great about having fun frozen treats.

Do you have favorite snacks to recommend? I would be willing to go to another location in addition to Trader Joe’s if there is something I NEED to try. I am serious about snacking.

As far as sweets are concerned, we have PLENTY. So many sweets. I ended up throwing out a bunch of leftover (and now stale) Christmas cookies, which was both sad and cathartic (the ratio of cookie plates for neighbors to cookies made was waaaayyyy off; lesson learned), but we have many other cookies and candies that kind family and friends sent. Most of it is chocolate, which I don’t like except in very specific situations. But as I prefer savory to sweet anyway, I will be perfectly happy with my Lay’s and dip. 

Old-Fashioned Blogroll

(I am feeling very smug about my choice to put subheads into this post, because there is no good segue between Lay’s and blog reading.)

Lately, my Feedly has been acting up. Either that or user error but PROBABLY it’s Feedly yes that makes the most sense. The problem is that I keep missing posts. I’ll think, “Oh, so-and-so hasn’t posted in a while!” and then I’ll go to her blog and she posted sixteen days ago and I missed it. I’m not opposed to leaving comments on old posts, not at all, but I like to know what’s being posted AS it is happening, not after the fact.

I was remembering how, in Days of Yore, I had a list of blogs I read on the side of my homepage. And every morning when I had a tea break from work, I would click through the list to read everyone’s posts. When I got back to regular blogging in 2016, my blogroll was so depressing; so few of the people on the list were blogging anymore! Some of the links went to defunct pages or spam sites!  So I deleted the whole thing.

But now… maybe it’s time to create a new blogroll. This wonderful blogging community I am so fortunate to be part of is robust, and I don’t want to miss anyone’s posts because of user a Feedly error.

Of course, the very idea of creating a blogroll raises frets like “what if I accidentally leave someone out?” So I need you to promise that if you have a blog, and for some reason it does NOT appear on this hazy future blogroll should I ever get it together enough to make one, that you would TELL ME because it was clearly I don’t think we can blame this on Feedly user error and not a deliberate decision to exclude.

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Are there people in your life who simply rub you the wrong way? Like, no matter what they do, their actions grate on you? And maybe it’s not so much that their actions grate, but that you are pre-expecting those things to irritate you, so you get advance annoyed? No no no. Let’s not talk about this; it’s steeping me further into agitation, the way scratching a mosquito bite just makes it itchier.

Sometimes I am so sick of being The Wife. Not A Wife; I love my husband and on the whole enjoy being married to him. But sometimes the Wifely Expectations make me so mad! And Wifely Expectations sounds much more salacious than what I’m alluding to. I’m talking about the thing where you wait until everyone else is served to take your own food, and then the food is cold. Or how when every spot on the couch is taken, except for the one in the middle, which is blocked in by the coffee table and four pairs of legs, no one notices and so you sit on the floor because asking everyone to move would require lots of standing up and picking up of plates and shuffling around. Or how you wake up earlier than everyone else to make sure the house is as clean and tidy as possible, even though it will be messy and crumb filled the next morning, and no one notices (although they would be sure to notice if things continued along the messy/crumb-y route). Or how when your mother-in-law (also The Wife) offers to clean up the kitchen, it is to help YOU out, not your husband because it is not his job to clean up the kitchen, it is the job of The Wife. Okay. Deep breaths. Let’s not go further down THIS path.

No Dinners This Week post, because my sister-in-law may or may not be arriving at some point today or tomorrow, and I am unable to commit to a meal that may or may not take her into account. Tonight we are having takeout from an Indian restaurant; we were ALL in the mood for it last night, but neither of the two options we could agree on were open. I still have ingredients for fajitas, short ribs with polenta, and pork with roasted vegetables that I’d planned on last week, so those should hopefully tide us over. Well. That topic is less – but not un- – fraught, but I have nothing more to say about it.

For multiple very boring and make-sense-only-to-me reasons, I have decided to make an effort to eat breakfast more consistently. And I am hoping that you will help me figure out the best breakfasts and the best breakfast times, because I am floundering around.

I will tell you, in advance, that it may seem futile to offer your own suggestions. It may seem like the kind of thing where someone asks for advice and then wrinkles their nose at everything you recommend. But I promise that I want your suggestions and breakfast insights, and that I am willing to TRY, even if the nose-wrinkling feels more natural.

I feel like sort of a breakfast newbie, so I want to collect data and go from there.

Breakfast Foods

For most of my life, I have not only avoided breakfast, but actively disliked it. I remember eating breakfast in elementary/middle school: usually Rice Krispies or a bowl of milk with a single brick of Shredded Wheat in it. Maybe Corn Pops if whomever had done the grocery shopping was feeling wild. Sometimes a toasted Eggo waffle. It was something to be endured, not something to enjoy, and I am very much an Eats for Enjoyment type, rather than the equally valid but mysterious-to-me Eats for Sustenance type.

When I was in high school, and responsible for driving myself, I did not eat breakfast, opting instead to drink a can of vending machine Coke when I got to my first period class. (I can’t imagine that school vending machines carry soda anymore, but mine did. We also had candy machines, and I ate a package of peanut butter M&Ms for lunch almost daily.)

After that, the breakfast timeline gets fuzzy… because I think I just stopped eating breakfast altogether. I am not particularly hungry when I wake up, and I dislike 95% of the options – eggs, oatmeal, and cereal being right up there with the breakfast things I despise the most. Granola bars, breakfast cookies, muffins, protein bars – none of those interest me in the least.

You might think I would be an ideal candidate for intermittent fasting, and I have tried that in the past, but I am not interested in doing it again at the moment (although that might change at some point; who knows).

During my brief flirtations with keto, I ate a hot dog every single morning, and it tasted both incredibly delicious and yet horrifically nauseating at the same time. Kind of how I imagine it would feel to be a vampire: disgusted by what you’re doing, but craving it with every cell of your being.

Sometimes, I will eat Greek yogurt with honey and granola, topped with raspberries or pomegranate seeds. I really only like this as a combination. Sometimes I will make a mango smoothie, but I admit to being a little weary of them lately. Yogurt by itself generally doesn’t do it for me – and it is very difficult to find my preferred yogurt, which is blended raspberry. Must be blended, none of that fruit on the bottom stuff for me no thank you.

On special occasions, I can handle a Big, Traditional Breakfast. You know. A frittata. A breakfast strata. Belgian waffles. Pancakes and bacon. French toast casserole. But those are special occasion breakfasts, not everyday breakfasts – at least, for me.

Once in a great while, I will make myself an omelet or scramble myself an egg. But this is very rare, because eggs typically make me queasy.

I am not ever going to eat a banana.

Today I ate a jar of honey-flavored Oui yogurt, which is delicious and not something I can gear myself up to pay for on a daily basis. ($1.59 per jar! And, yes, the jars are perfect for regenerating scallions on your windowsill, but I already have six of them.) I also had some fresh raspberries, leftover from my daughter’s breakfast this morning. (In addition to the raspberries, I made [“made”] her a chocolate-chocolate-chip muffin, which she used to LOVE and now refuses to eat because I accidentally let her see the package and now she knows it contains vegetables. Why do we teach children to read?)

Carbs are great. I love carbs. I love an English muffin with butter and raspberry jam. I love a toasted bagel with butter and salt. I love toast. But most days they seem too heavy to bother with. And they often seem, somehow, to start the day off on the wrong foot. They sit like a lump in my stomach, for one thing. But I also feel – perhaps imaginarily – that I get hungrier faster when I start out with carbs. Who knows. It could be the result of Big Keto, filling my newsfeed and my brain with the dangers of blood sugar spikes etc. etc. Or it could be a real phenomenon. Or maybe I crave a bagel on days when I am already hungrier and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

Everything I read stresses the importance of PROTEIN! in the mornings. But I don’t really like protein, I guess is the issue. I already mentioned my aversion to eggs. I do love a slice of bacon, but microwave bacon is about as appealing as frying up bacon every day (i.e. not appealing). My morning keto hotdog would probably do a lot more harm than good, considering I am no longer doing keto. And I REFUSE to eat peanut butter, all due deference to those who love it.

I am also not opposed to eating lunch for breakfast. Many a time have I warmed up some leftover soup or tacos at nine in the morning. But then what am I supposed to eat for lunch? Problems, problems.

Breakfast Timing

Usually, I wake up, start my tea brewing, unload the dishwasher, and then drink my tea – all between approximately 6:30 and 7:15 in the morning.  Straight out of bed, I am almost never hungry. In fact, the idea of food makes me nauseated when I am still trying to wake up. (“Why are you staring at the floor, Mommy?” Carla asks me, as I space out, trying vainly to rejoin the realm of the living.)

But then I like to exercise right after I drop Carla off at school, which means that I am exercising on an empty stomach. (“The #1 Absolute Worst Thing You Can Do For Your Health!” according to several Instagram diet and exercise gurus I click on too often.) If perhaps I should be waking up earlier, then I need to find a different family, one that has fewer night owls.

Also, it is weird to eat breakfast without tea, but I rarely want a second mug of tea so early in the day. Hmmm. A paradox.

I have been experimenting with delaying my tea until after drop off, and drinking it with a little breakfast. This seems to work well: I am hungrier at that time, at least. But it does mean that I feel less inclined to exercise. Well. One thing at a time.

Breakfast… At All?

Okay, who knows. Maybe I am trying to force myself into a pattern that just doesn’t work for me. I acknowledge that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” could very well apply to only a portion of the population, and that I am an outlier. Maybe I really need to embrace my tremendous enthusiasm for lunch, and give up on breakfast all together. Maybe having reached a Breakfast Experimentation phase in my life is an indication that I have too much time on my hands.

But for now at least, the Breakfast Experimentation phase persists. And in my quest for reliable, enjoyable breakfast foods, I am really curious about what YOU eat for breakfast, and any other breakfast-related topics.

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HOW is it October already? And am I destined to repeat some form of that query every month, every season, every year, with increasing levels of incredulity until my skeleton is staring vacantly at the sky? Probably asking, “HOW have I decomposed already? Feels like only yesterday I was fully fleshed and today I am nothing but bones!”

I am feeling a surge of randomosity today. 

  • After having felt Very Down for a couple weeks solid, I finally feel like my mood is on the upswing. I attribute this shift partly to the fact that I am on a strict media diet, and have forced myself to stop looking at updates on the Gabby Petito case and to stop reading about the many, many other missing people in this country. But the main source of the improvement is a date night with my husband. We have been on – checks notes – ONE date since 2019, and that date was a quick lunch while our daughter was at a birthday party. Turns out that some time alone with my person – outside our house and away from our normal habits and responsibilities – is a real mood lifter. Last night’s date wasn’t even anything FANCY; we went out for fast food burgers, which we ate on a bench outside the restaurant. Then we got milkshakes and drank them while walking around, looking in shop windows and chatting about nothing. Then we went to our all-time favorite date night destination, Barnes & Noble, where we tried to pin down our next audiobook by handing one another books that we have on our individual To Be Read lists. I lean heavily toward Mystery and Thriller and my husband is more of a contemporary literary fiction kind of guy, and there is a very narrow overlap in our interests. A friend of mine said very bluntly, “Man, you two are boring,” but I really enjoyed our time together! We both love books, so why not spend an evening together among the stacks?
  • Because I can and will talk about books all day, I will tell you our top three audiobook contendersThe Rib King by Ladee Hubbard, Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh, and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. We had a gift subscription to Audible that expires this month, so we are looking for a new book to “buy” with our last credit. Unfortunately, neither of us loved the reading style of the Rib King narrator, the Moshfegh got some reviews that turned my husband off to listening to it, and we somehow already owned the Tartt. So we are back to square one. If you have an audiobook to recommend, please let me know!

  • Every time I think about or talk about The Secret Historya modified version of the little Ted Lasso ditty starts playing in my brain. Donna Tartt, doo do, doo doo dodo, Donna Tartt doo do, doo doo dodoo, Donna Tartt.
  • Speaking of Ted Lasso: I rewatched the entire first season as part of my recent efforts at self-care and it was just as lovely as it was the first time around… but – perhaps because of my mood, perhaps because of what I have seen of the second season – it felt a bit more melancholy this go round. I still love the series with my whole heart, though. 
  • In quick updates about distressing things: 1. My root canal has been set for November. My husband had a light day, and was able to reschedule his patients (sorry patients!!!!) so he could be with me for my appointment. Nitrous oxide does nothing for me, and my husband said he would want to be sedated for a root canal no matter how “not a big deal” it is, so I am doing the conscious sedation and my husband will be there with me. HUGE RELIEF. Except for the part where I have to get a root canal. 2. My mother-in-law got the final results of her pathology back. Her cancer is at stage 1A, which means they caught it very very early and the prognosis is good. But the type of cancer is extremely aggressive. So, even though we initially thought she would only need radiation, she will be undergoing both radiation and chemotherapy to hopefully zap any tiny fragments of the cancer that escaped the surgery. Her doctors are very positive but of course the news is upsetting and stressful. 
  • Her doctor said that only radiation is necessary. He is an expert in her type of cancer, and he has conducted research on post-surgical adjuvant therapies, and has found that doing radiation vs. radiation and chemotherapy makes no difference in the short- and long-term recurrence rate. So his recommendation would be only radiation. However. He presented her case to a Cancer Board at the hospital, and the other experts who were on the board all pushed for chemo as well. AND he said that in his experience, the stress of not feeling like you are doing “all you can” can be worse than the chemo. Hence my mother-in-law’s decision to do both. My husband says, based on the research, he would only do the radiation, if it were him. But I just don’t know. I don’t think you DO know until you are the person in the situation. I kind of think I would do everything, too, just so I wouldn’t sit around thinking, “Dammit, if only…” should there be a recurrence. Which of course is a form of magical thinking. But it’s so hard when it’s your life at stake. 
  • CHANGING SUBJECTS DRAMATICALLY: I have made my first candy corn purchase of the year. Man, I love candy corn. 
  • Usually, I don’t put out fall décor until quite late in October. But this year, I’m getting the Halloween itch a little earlier than usual. If I didn’t have Real Things to do today, I might dedicate some time to putting out the ghosts and maybe buying some mums. 
  • Here is where I call on your plant knowledge. My summer planters did not turn out the way I wanted them to. I wanted them to be full and to have these tiny white flowers and yellow petunia-style flowers spilling down the sides, with these big spiky plants in back for some texture and height. And some little hot pink flowers in there for added color. Perhaps part of my problem is that I have no idea which flowers I planted, nor how they tend to grow; I typically walk through the garden center and grab things that look pretty together and do a quick check to see if they are deer resistant (although our local deer laugh in the face of deer resistant flora) and then stuff them in a planter and hope for the best. Anyway, I am ready, now, to move on from my summer failure into fall florals. Who are we if we cannot draw strength, if not knowledge, from our errors and stride forward with renewed purpose. What remain of the white flowers will have to go. But I don’t know what to do with the tall spiky plants. From an aesthetic standpoint, they are different heights and girths which bothers me; I want symmetry on my front stoop! But they, unlike the white flowers, are thriving. So I don’t necessarily want to euthanize them in their prime. Plus, they might look nice with some bright yellow or orange mums in the foreground? Can I… DO that? Remove some of the things in the planters but not all? And add new plants without disrupting those that are already growing? What do I do here?
  • Don’t even get me started on the planters in the back.
  • Carla has decided to be a witch this year. We ordered her costume – which she picked out; she had a lot of specifications for the ideal costume, including “sparkles” and “big sleeves.” It arrived yesterday and it is amazing. Except that the glitter gets EVERYWHERE. My entire kitchen floor sparkles. My husband washed my face with a wet paper towel – yes, like I was a toddler – before our date because I somehow had glitter all over me.  She told me that she is a witch of glitter and sparkles and I think that summarizes her personality and her effect on people pretty accurately. 
image from amazon.com. Carla not pictured.
  • The Christmas Fret has set in pretty hard, especially since a friend expressed Extreme Shock that I hadn’t yet started my holiday shopping. I know, I know – supply chain issues, postal service delays, etc. etc. This weekend, I plan to badger my husband into picking out some things for Carla, just so we have SOMETHING. But I absolutely cannot think about what to get my husband. His birthday is next week and I had to scrape the darkest corners of my brain to figure out what to get him for THAT, so I am completely tapped out for Christmas. 
  • What are you having for dinner tonight? I am making taco pizza. I have been looking forward to it since Wednesday, when I finally got my act together enough to plan meals for the remainder of the week. Not the weekend, though. So who knows what will happen tomorrow or Sunday, food wise. Not I.

Well, I have run out of randomosity steam. Hoping your day is going well so far, and that your weekend is relaxing and enjoyable.

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I have been meaning to post this for a long time, primarily so I don’t have to go back and forth between the original recipe and my adaptations, trying to figure out what to do.

This is a fairly easy, fairly tasty slow cooker meal. The garlic gets very soft and almost sweet (I love smushing a half-clove onto a bite of chicken), the sauce is luscious and lemony, and the chicken is very tender. 

As written, this produces a good amount of sauce; notes below, sauce-wise. I have (heavily) adapted this recipe from a Martha Stewart recipe to amp up the flavor, but you can find the original here if you like.

Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts 

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and halved

1/2 cup dry white wine + 1/4 cup for deglazing

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 teaspoons of dried thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

The worst part of this recipe is peeling all the garlic.

1a.    Sauté chopped onion and garlic, in olive oil, in a small pan, on medium high heat, until the onion is translucent and the garlic is beginning to brown. 

1b. Optional step: Brown chicken breasts in sauté pan. This is truly optional; I almost never do it, and the chicken is still flavorful.

2.    Pour onion and garlic (and browned chicken breasts) into your slow cooker; deglaze the sauté pan with 1/4 cup dry white wine, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the wine and browned bits into the slow cooker.

3.    If you didn’t brown your chicken, put that in on top of the onion and garlic.

4.    To the slow cooker, add lemon juice, remaining 1/2 cup wine, and chicken stock, plus the 2 teaspoons of dried thyme, plus salt and pepper to taste.

Wow, this is an unflattering angle. But this is what it looks like after you add everything to the slow cooker.

5.    Cover and cook on high for 3 hours, or low for 5-6 hours.

6. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

7. Remove chicken breasts carefully with tongs, as they fall apart easily. Top with sauce.    


  1. If the sauce is too thin for you, you can mix in a little cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water) before serving. 
  2. Because I make this for just me and my husband, I always use two chicken breasts. HOWEVER, this dish makes a LOT of sauce. You could easily double the chicken without needing to double the sauce, it will cook just fine and, yes, you’ll have less sauce for drenching your couscous, but some people are less interested in making dinner purely for the sauce than I am.
  3. The type of white wine you use will affect the flavor; I usually just make this with whatever open bottle of wine I have on hand. Riesling makes it very sweet, but still palatable. I think Chardonnay is the best fit. 
  4. When I feel fancy, I throw in a little lemon zest with the other ingredients. Does it add anything? Hard to say. 
  5. Because this is very saucy, I like to serve it with sauce soppers: couscous is my favorite, but rice or quinoa would work well, too. Steamed broccoli is a good vegetable pairing, in part because you can dip the florets in the sauce and the flavors go well together. Sauce sauce sauce.
It’s not a photogenic meal (although a lot of that can be blamed on the photographer), but it TASTES good.

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In addition to the forced festivities I mentioned the other day, I have been thinking a lot about food. (You: Gasp!) 

For one thing, I am thinking ahead to Christmas dinner. My husband and I have settled on beef tenderloin, I think. This will be the second time we’ll be alone, just the three of us, on Christmas and we made beef tenderloin the last time and it was delicious. I also want to make Caesar salad, which is a tradition on my side of the family. Maybe some sort of potatoes, as well? Normally I’d make the goat cheese garlic mashers we have on Thanksgiving, but… I may be sated on potatoes? Maybe I will feel ready for them again when it gets to be Christmas. For dessert, we’ll have our now-traditional sticky toffee pudding cake.

Last year, when my parents were here, I made a big snack platter for us to graze on during the day. That was fun and I can definitely do a more pared-down version for just the three of us. I’m thinking olives for me and Carla, definitely several cheeses (brie, cheddar, something fancy like a truffle cheese or a Cotswald?) and crackers (easy crowd pleasers like Triscuits and Ritz, plus maybe one fancy cracker), some sort of fruit (blueberries or grapes if they still look good? dried apricots? goat cheese stuffed figs? clementines?), and something fun (marcona almondsgiant Peruvian corn?), maybe some charcuterie (pepperoni and salami, probably), possibly some dips and/or spreads. This is now sounding enormous. Or, PRACTICAL, because we could do multiple snack trays over multiple days. I am a genius.

What is a snack-tray essential in your mind?

Right now it’s the fun thinking-about-possibilities stage of planning that I enjoy the most. 

I am also thinking A LOT about cookies. Cookies are not really my thing. I mean, I make them occasionally; I’m not opposed to cookies. Usually, my holiday tradition is to make chocolates – but right now, it sounds like Too Much. (Maybe these Chai chocolate truffles would be a good compromise?) But maybe I could do some holiday cookies? I am not thinking about replacing the chocolates with cookies. The mom of one of Carla’s classmates does a whole big cookie tray, and I have neither the energy nor the creativity to undertake that kind of thing, but maybe a cookie or two, just for the three of us and maybe a few of the neighbors, would be doable?

To further reinforce my cookie urge, one of Carla’s Christmas reading calendar activities is to make cookies and eat them while reading a book. So baking cookies is really a necessity. And I love the easy anticipation of thinking about WHAT TO MAKE.

Some of my favorites are zimtsterne, which are delicious and lovely (and gluten free, if that matters to you). Carla voted for snickerdoodles, which are always good. And some months ago I made chocolate snickerdoodles that were delicious and fudgy and worth making again. (Why doesn’t fudgy have an E in it? WHY?) 

But, while these are perfectly GOOD options, I kind of want to do something else? Something I haven’t tried before?

What are YOUR favorite cookies? To make and to eat?

These krembos look very similar to one of the challenges on the latest season of Great British Baking Show, plus chocolate and marshmallow is a classic combo. Plus they look very charming. I don’t know if I’m crazy about the coconut element, but they might still be fun. (And they are gluten free, which means we could share them with a family friend who has celiac.)

I’m a sucker for a big, chewy molasses cookie. You can’t really go wrong with those.

A batch of chocolate and peppermint cookies would be perfectly festive.

We happen to have a madeleine pan, and yet we have never once made madeleines… maybe that would be fun to try? They are certainly very pretty.

I absolutely LOVE millionaire’s shortbread. Or, along similar flavor/texture lines, this saltine cracker toffee is easy and super craveable. (Or there’s always regular toffee!)

There are too many options! I can’t decide! (And Carla is no help: “I just want to make cookies, Mommy. ANY cookies!” she said when I asked her what she wanted to bake.) (She has clearly not inherited the gene that accounts for endless agonizing over small, insignificant decisions.) (Sometimes the endless agonizing is ENJOYABLE, Carla.) (I do have a package of sugar cookie mix in the pantry; we could make those and cut them out in festive shapes and then I could save other cookies for later in the month.)

On a non-cookie note, I am strongly considering making these air fryer sufganiyot for Hanukkah. Maybe those will scratch the cookie itch? Possibly they will only scratch the donut itch, leaving the cookie itch as strong as ever.

What are you baking this month?

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As I told you earlier this week, my husband read an article on The Kitchn about a super easy five-day meal plan, and it sounded intriguing, so we decided to try it out.

I had misgivings from the get-go. The first of which is that if you are going to call something “brainless” or refer to a week of meals as “super-simple family-friendly dinners that require next to no thought,” you should include the actual recipes in the article. Requiring your reader to go to five separate blog posts (plus a bonus post by another chef), read them, and figure out the recipes negates the “super-simple” moniker pretty quickly.

My second misgiving was that this Lazy Genius blogger was so loosey-goosey with things like instructions and measurements. Sure, it SOUNDS lazy to not have to measure things and to be able to throw in any number of proteins or vegetables, but it is NOT. It is a recipe (unplanned pun) for disaster. I want a real recipe at least for the first time I make something, if for nothing more than to understand the proportions of things. Well, I suppose the Lazy Genius did give me some proportions; perhaps I am being overly rigid which would not be out of character.

My third misgiving was that the last two meals call for ground pork, which I do not like.

Okay. Now that I’ve set the stage, here’s how it all turned out.

First, I would like to talk about my husband’s role in all this. I am the primary cook in our household. I plan probably 98 percent of our meals and prepare probably 80 percent of them (15 percent of the meals I do not prepare are takeout). This is just how it is, and most days I prefer it this way; I am the pickier eater, I like things a certain way, I am a control freak, etc. Of course, I am always whining about how hard it is to plan and cook for all the meals, and I often ask for my husband’s input. I would say that he typically offers one to two suggestions per two-week period.

So when he read this article and suggested it to me, I definitely wanted to follow through. I want to ENCOURAGE him to continue recommending things.

But I quickly found out that he did not actually read any of the recipes. And this made me Very Irritated. First, because he had NO IDEA what went into the making of any of these dinners – like needing to peel two heads of garlic or slice a thousand mushrooms. Second, and worst, because he did not fully understand my frustration when the recipes said things like “stir in a sauce” or “add a glug of something creamy.” He kept saying, “What does the recipe say?” and I kept replying, “It’s not really a recipe! It’s a suggestion!”

He did, however, help me with things like interpreting the loose guidelines and deciding what pan to use and chopping up pork and chicken. So that was good.

Day 1: Shawarma with Grilled Zucchini 

Report: There was an actual recipe for this one, thank goodness. I mean, the blogger says you can really do whatever you want. But she has some specifics, if you want them. (I WANT THEM.) It’s basically just spices and some oil, and you drop the chicken in and let it marinate for many hours. Easy peasy.

I grilled some zucchini alongside this chicken because I had zucchini and wasn’t really sure what else to do. I made four chicken breasts, so that we could each have one for this meal, and so that my husband could have one breast for each of the next two nights.

It was very tasty – good flavor on the chicken. I would probably make it again. Next time, I might do something with a sauce. Like make tzatziki or do broccoli with a lemon sauce or something, because it was kind of dry. Not that the chicken was dry, it was just… a meal without a sauce. My husband disagreed with me, by the way. He thought it was fine the way it was. 

Day 2: Chickpea Bowl

Report: This was the recipe where I started to panic a little bit. Sure, there were some actual measurements involved in this recipe, like “two 15-oz cans of chickpeas.” And “1-2 tbsp tomato paste” (although there is kind of a large difference between one of something and DOUBLING it). But when it came to the spice mixture, you got more guidance than actual instruction. (And the guidance was not consistent? In one place, the blogger suggests doing equal parts cumin and garam masala, but then when she gives more specific suggested amounts, there is a lower proportion of garam masala… I found that perplexing.) I ended up doing ½ Tbsp each of cumin, coriander, and garam masala; 1 tsp of cardamom; ½ tsp of paprika; and ¼ tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne, and fenugreek (the last is something I threw in on a whim because I can be easy and breezy sometimes too) (I was NOT easy and breezy about this meal and groused to my husband about the lack of specifics the entire time).

And then one of the instructions is literally “a glug of something creamy”???? What the hell is a glug? A tablespoon? A quarter cup? We ended up using some leftover heavy cream and I let my husband decide what a glug is so lord help me if I ever make this meal again.

Then – and I have already complained about this extensively but it turns out I am not done – you have to go to another website to get the recipe for this special garlic ginger sauce that the Lazy Genius recommends. In the actual recipe, she references it briefly. But in the meal planning article, she places far greater importance on it; in fact, she says to use it for THREE of the five meals. So I grouchily went to seek out the recipe, which is basically equal parts garlic and ginger blended with some vegetable oil. I happened to have a half cup of garlic and a half cup of ginger on hand, so made the full amount called for in the recipe. (I normally use exclusively jarred garlic, but I had two heads of garlic on hand for the purpose of dropping it into a groundhog hole near our back deck; but I poured some cayenne mixed with water into the hole one day after I had finished painting my baby tomatoes with the same mixture, and the next day the hole was filled in. The groundhog was DONE with us.) I was very irritated by having to peel all the garlic cloves and peel all the ginger, but I was Invested, so I powered through.

The garlic ginger sauce was POTENT. I mean, I don’t know why I was surprised. It’s nearly half garlic. But I do think it worked some sort of magic when added to meals.

Now on to the actual meal. Which required a LOT of prep work for something touted as “lazy.” What I did was: Chop up a shallot. Combine the spices. Make the ginger garlic sauce. Chop up a red pepper and a yellow pepper. Chop up some cilantro. Chop up some scallions. Open my cans (I used two cans of chickpeas, one 28-oz can of tomato puree, and two tablespoons of tomato paste). Make some rice. My husband chopped up his leftover chicken.

I added about two tablespoons of canola oil to a large pot and turned the heat to medium high. When it started to shimmer, I added a big dollop – probably two tablespoons, maybe three – of the ginger garlic sauce and stirred it for a count of ten. Then I dumped in the shallot and spices and stirred for another ten count. Then I added the tomato paste and stirred that around for about twenty seconds. Then I added the tomato puree and the (drained) chickpeas, stirred everything together, and let the whole thing boil. I had my husband “measure” out the “several healthy pinches of salt” called for in the recipe. Then we left it alone for ten minutes. At the end of the ten minutes, I put rice into bowls and added sliced bell peppers on top of the rice, plus some chopped cilantro. While I was doing this, my husband added the requisite “glug” of heavy cream. He stirred it into the sauce, let it simmer for another minute, tasted it, added a bit more salt, and it was ready. We spooned the sauce/chickpeas onto our peppers and rice and topped them with a tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt, some chopped scallions, and some more cilantro. My husband added his chicken to his bowl at some point as well.

This was absolutely delicious. A++, incredible, flavorful, satisfying, yummy. This meal alone confers a lot of credibility upon the blogger calling herself a Genius, even if we have already disposed of the Lazy part of her title. I want to eat it every day. My husband said he likes the flavors much better than my adapted chicken tikka masala recipe. That hurts a little, I have to admit. But he’s not wrong. I don’t know if it was the garlic ginger sauce or the combination of the spices or some magic that happens when you put it all together, but it was SO GOOD.

I am DEFINITELY going to make this again.  Maybe once a week. 

Day 3: Sheet Pan Nachos

Report: Listen, I am no stranger to a plate of nachos. This was a nice break from stressing out about ingredients and ratios and vague instructions.

I chopped up some leftover bell peppers from the night before, set out leftover cilantro and scallions, and my husband and I decorated some chips with cheese, black beans, leftover chicken (for him), and frozen corn. We put the cheesy chips into a 400 degree oven for ten minutes. While they were in the oven, I chopped some avocado and put out some sour cream and hot sauce. When they came out, we put veggies and hot sauce and sour cream and VOILA. Dinner was served.

You can’t go wrong with nachos. And I think if you are building your own, you don’t really have to worry about ratios; how much hot sauce to cheese to sour cream you want is a deeply personal preference.

It was really fun to have nachos for dinner. It felt very decadent, like we were snacking rather than dining.

Day 4: Asian Pork Rice Bowl

Report: This was the day I was dreading. I do not like ground pork so I did not buy ground pork. (Which, of course, means that I VOLUNTARILY made this meal less simple than it could have been; it’s truly so easy to brown grown meat, and I gave up that ease on purpose.) I dithered all day long about what I should do. Should I use my grinder to make my own ground pork? My husband pointed out that doing it myself would not change the texture of the ground pork, which I dislike.

So what I did instead was turn the oven on to broil. Coat a pork tenderloin with salt, pepper, and vegetable oil, and put the tenderloin under the broiler. I turned it over a couple of times, at ten minute increments, until it was browned and crisp in places and the temperature was 145 degrees.

While it was cooking, I washed and sliced mushrooms. I did one package of plain button mushrooms and one package of baby bella mushrooms, even though I cannot taste the difference between them. My daughter came over and pilfered two raw mushrooms from my while I was chopping them. I also reheated rice I’d made earlier in the week and chopped some fresh scallions and cilantro. Scallions and cilantro all day, every day, around here.

Now, the meal plan article calls for rice bowls. But the recipe it links to is for lettuce wraps. Be warned.

Next I had to figure out the sauce. The recipe says “stir in a sauce.” Okay, okay, it does have more specifics for those of us who can’t conjure a sauce out of thin air: “2  tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp water, a dash of sugar or mirin, and a tsp or so of cornstarch.” I also added a tablespoon of sriracha.

Once the sauce was mixed, I turned to browning the mushrooms. At first, I did what the recipe recommends, which is to give them plenty of space so they can brown. But after the first batch, I just threw them all in the pan and hoped for the best. Some of them browned nicely, others less so. But it was okay.

While I was browning mushrooms, my husband was chopping the roasted pork into teeny bits. He wanted to approximate the ground pork without the texture. (He is very tolerant of my food peculiarities.) When he was done, he dumped the pork into the mushrooms and then we mixed in some (probably two to three tablespoons, I would guess) of the ginger garlic sauce from the chickpea bowl night and then added the soy/mirin sauce. It took very little time for the pork/mushroom mixture to suck up all the sauce. So we spooned it onto rice, topped with – you guessed it – scallions and cilantro – and ate it up. (I added some sriracha to the top of mine, and my husband mixed in a little sambal, which is a chili paste.)

This was DELICIOUS. If it weren’t such a Massive Pain to slice mushrooms and roast pork, I would make this every week or so. We gobbled it UP. We were supposed to have leftover pork and mushroom mix for the next day’s noodle bowls, but we did NOT. All that was left was enough for my husband to take for lunch.

Day 5: Noodle Bowls 

Report: I have never cooked ramen before. Well, in college, I would occasionally buy those Maruchen Instant Lunch cups that you just add boiling water to? But I have never purchased ramen and made it as a meal. So my main concern was how to cook the ramen. I really wasn’t sure which vessel to cook it IN, and my husband and I went back and forth. (“What does the recipe say?” “It says variously ‘pan’ and ‘skillet.’”) I ended up using my big chili pot. I cooked the protein in it first, then the veggies, then put all of those aside while I filled the bottom of the pot with “an inch” of water. (I think it ended up being about three cups.) The water boiled and I nestled three squares of ramen noodles into it, waited a minute, turned them upside down, waited a minute, and then separated all the noodles. The water did NOT get fully absorbed, so I drained the pot.

We did not have any leftover pork/mushroom mix from the previous night’s rice bowls, so I sautéed some shrimp for our protein, and thinly sliced some red peppers and sugar snap peas for the veggies. I added some ginger garlic paste to the sauce (which again was ¼ cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup water, 1/8 cup mirin, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, and 1 Tbsp sriracha) and poured it over the noodles, added the shrimp and veggies, stirred it around, and then topped everything with some chopped scallions and cilantro.

My husband’s main takeaway from this was that a) it had a good flavor and b) it was “potent” because I’d used too much ginger garlic sauce. When he said that, I wanted to cry because THERE WAS NO MEASUREMENT. The instruction was literally “stand at your counter, mix a little here and there until you reach delicious Asian alchemy.” I thought it was tasty, if a bit salty. But I had MAJOR heartburn for the rest of the night.

Making this meal was pretty easy, though. Minimal chopping. Shrimp are easy to cook. The noodles — now that I know how to do them — are very easy, and the sauce is super simple.

Overall Verdict:

Okay. I think the Lazy Genius is indeed a genius. (Also, I have since read a few of her blog posts and she seems kind of awesome???) The flavors of all of these meals are SO GOOD. And it was really fun to try things that we’d never had before. Well, okay, sometimes it was less FUN than NOVEL. But novelty can go a long way toward livening up a life that’s been rendered very small and stressful by a global pandemic.

But calling this week of meals “super simple” and “brainless” was wholly inaccurate. The whole thing required a lot more chopping and prep work than I would have expected, and the stress of having to figure out how to turn her vague instructions into actual meals ALONE made it the opposite of brainless. But maybe, again, I am being too rigid. And maybe next time I will be looser and more breezy about ratios of ingredients. And maybe I will find that everything STILL tastes good.

Would I do this again? I would not do all five meals in a row again. But I will DEFINITELY make… yes, ALL of these meals again at some point. If I had the ingredients for the garlic ginger sauce I would make the chickpea bowl again RIGHT NOW. And I have already bookmarked the Lazy Genius’s recipe for chicken tikka masala, because I now trust that she knows what she’s doing. (Even if she has too much faith in my ability to throw things together rather than follow a very specific set of instructions.)

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I still feel like I’m on a ship. Sometimes the seas are smooth, othertimes the waters are choppy and nauseating. Still others, the storms pummel the briny deep into great stomach-churning, heart-jolting valleys and peaks and I’m not sure whether my body or mind will break first before I am swallowed by the foaming depths. Every day, the wide indifferent ocean stretches to the horizon on all sides and I don’t know how long it will take to reach the shore. I do not like boats or water or the thought of nameless shapes shifting in the void below. Small — but significant — comfort to know that you’re out here too, guiding your own craft through the murky waves.

What better way to deal with such a mental state than to talk about food? I mean, what’s more basic than food? We all need it, for survival, for comfort, for distraction, for pleasure.

Of course I’ve been craving carbs, and making rice and noodles and various nacho-like concoctions with abandon. Well, not abandon exactly because I am conscious that finding replacement carbs may not be as easy as I’d like.

The surprising things on my quarantine cravings list? Raw carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Perhaps I can attribute these desires to the gargantuan vats of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing I am using as a veggie dip. But I think it’s more the potential scarcity of fresh veggies – or, if not the veggies themselves, but my ability to access them. I bought two one-pound bags of carrots right as self-isolation was beginning, in the second week of March. And then on my most recent trip to the store, I bought a third. (I recognize that this must sound absurd to those whose families include more than three humans.) I think I am halfway through the second bag; I used a good half of the first bag to make mirepoix, which I froze for future soup-making.

It is just past breakfast time, now, and I am already thinking about a tidy plate of crunchy carrots and my last stalk of celery. Stranger than this, I find myself craving these veggies but then… not eating them. A self-rationing, I guess. Are these the last carrots I will be able to get? I clicked IMMEDIATELY and FORCEFULLY away from the one article I saw that said the food supply chain was not as sturdy as we all think it is, so I don’t know if it was a breathless panic piece or something more reasonable. But I am always worrying that something will be the last. My daughter is eating a rotation of PB&J sandwiches and Lunchables each day, and when I noticed we only have two of the latter left, I dutifully put it on the grocery list. But… when will I be able to get groceries? And, when I can, will there be any Lunchables?

Best not to think about the worst case scenario, and just move forward as planned. Add things to the list, assuming I can get them – if not immediately, then at some point.

Lettuce is also, for similar reasons, on my cravings list. Oh how I long to cut a quarter of a nice, crunchy, nutritionally vapid globe of iceberg lettuce and, yes, drench it in ranch, and eat it without a care! But I do care. And I am saving our iceberg lettuce for tacos.

What are you craving the most, during this strange period of isolation?

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German food is not really my favorite. While my husband was super excited about all the schnitzel and sausages, I was… excited about the salad? (Seriously, in Vienna, my meals were always accompanied by a little green salad with a simple, lemony dressing. Super simple, but something about the fresh-from-the-garden lettuce – none of that limp, brown-at-the-edges stuff you often see in US restaurants – and the tang of the dressing made it irresistible.) As I mentioned yesterday, I really enjoyed the abundance of asparagus… but even delicious asparagus can’t staunch my craving for spicy, full-flavor food. So when we first got back from Bavaria, I gorged myself on all the foods I missed. Tacos, spaghetti with meat sauce, homemade curry, hamburgers (I bet that there are plenty of hamburgers in Bavaria, but I ordered one in Vienna and something about the seasoning of the meat or the meat itself just turned me off completely and I was afraid to order a burger the rest of the trip), stir fries, nachos, enchiladas, copious amounts of hot sauce.

But now I’m ready to get back to normal, semi-healthful cooking. Here’s my meal plan for the week ahead:

Dinners for the Week of June 18-June 24

* Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Broccolihttps://themodernproper.com/posts/perfectly-roasted-broccoli

* Garlic Grilled Shrimp with Quinoa Saladhttps://www.acouplecooks.com/garlic-grilled-shrimp/ and https://avocadopesto.com/thai-veggie-quinoa-bowl-gluten-free-vegan/#wprm-recipe-container-19442

* Chicken Shish Kebabs with Asian Zucchini Noodleshttps://whatsgabycooking.com/chicken-shish-kabobs/ and https://gimmedelicious.com/2016/06/03/easy-10-minute-asian-zucchini

Note: Did I tell you I bought a… noodler? Okay, it has a real name that is escaping me right now… It’s a… Oh! Yes! A spiralizer! I bought an inexpensive one per Lee’s recommendation and have used it exactly one time. So I plan to use it for the second time this week, to see if it is as labor intensive as it was last time. (Wait a second. That link is taking me to a spiralizer that costs $23; when I bought it, it was $8.99. I get price fluctuations and all, but this makes me cranky. It is NOT worth $23, that’s for damn sure.)

* Fish Taco Bowlshttps://damndelicious.net/2018/12/29/fish-taco-bowls/

* Mexican Salad with Chipotle Grilled Chickenhttps://www.gimmesomeoven.com/everyday-mexican-salad/and https://barefeetinthekitchen.com/chipotle-chicken-marinade/

* Fire Fry: https://lifeofadoctorswife.wordpress.com/2009/08/30/fire-fry/ 

* Chili


What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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I am skipping today’s Dinners This Week post. I mean, there’s no need to plan dinners when you’ll be eating dinner on an airplane, right? Let’s have some randomosity. Join me, won’t you?

First, let’s have some medicinal nachos:

Nachos 1

Chips. Top with cheese. Melt for 30 seconds in the microwave. Top with black beans and frozen corn. Microwave for another 20 seconds. Top with copious amounts of my favorite hot sauce. Add avocado, diced onion, and sour cream. Cilantro if you have it/don’t hate it. Tomatoes if you swing that way. Squeeze a wedge of lime over everything. Add copious amounts of sriracha for good measure. DEVOUR.

  • A lot of my fretting about Leaving My Bayyyyyybeeeeee has been channeled into Shoe Panic. As in, how am I going to walk around Europe for ten days without reducing my delicate feet to bloody shreds? So I have purchased and returned approximately 90,000 pairs of shoes in the past week. Nothing like leaving an important aspect of your planning to the very last minute!


  • These are the shoes I have ended up with: Skechers Go Walk Evolution Ultra sneakers (why do all athletic shoes have such ridiculous names?) and Vionic Minna ballet flats (in color “sand”) because I wanted to have walk-friendly shoes that were dressy enough for a nice-ish dinner.


  • Building on some of your great ideas for making the trip easier on Carla, I have bought her some books and other little fun surprises to open while we’re gone. There is a real dearth of fun, story-based children’s books about the very specific locations we are traveling to, which is DISAPPOINTING, but I did find this book about one of the cities on our itinerary:


  • You know that one of my big panics is Death By Airplane, right? So I have been desperately trying to get our life insurance upgraded just in case. Of course, the process takes waaaaayyyyy longer than I thought it would, so we just squeaked our medical exams in at the last minute and there is no way the underwriting will be complete before we leave. (I use these terms like I have any idea whatsoever how any of this works, which I do NOT.) HOWEVER. Did you know that you can get provisional coverage, based on the assumption that you will get approved? So that’s what we’re doing. We can pay a premium as though we’ve been approved, and then, when we come back home, ALIVE, we can pay any additional amount as needed. And if we perish while overseas, we’re covered. (I mean, as long as we are approved and have paid the correct amount; I’m assuming my parents could pay any difference after the fact.) Cool, right!?! Okay, maybe my calibration of “cool” has shifted in odd ways.


  • In other morbid planning, I tried to record myself singing to Carla. There are two songs I have been singing to her at bedtime all her life – one I made up while pregnant with her and the other is “Moon River” – and I have this desperate feeling that I MUST record myself singing them so she can listen to the songs (but will she?) to comfort her (but will they?) after my fiery death. But I can’t record myself! It’s so ridiculous! In every recording, I keep SWALLOWING in the middle of sentences. Like, “Mooooooon river, wider than a mile, I’m crossing [gulp] you in style someday…. [gulp] Dream maker, you heart [gulp] breaker….” It’s really distracting and annoying and I cannot NOT do it. I mean, have you ever tried to NOT SWALLOW when your body is telling you to swallow? And then try to SING while not swallowing? It’s absurd and obviously some sort of weird self-conscious reaction to recording myself. Do not suggest that I ask my husband to record me actually singing to Carla, because then I would die of embarrassment and also we are out of time. I am going to choose the least gulpy of the options and THAT’S JUST HOW CARLA WILL HAVE TO REMEMBER ME.


  • Abrupt subject change: Our Amazon Echo (Alexa) has begun telling me to enjoy my day. “Have a nice day,” she’ll say after I ask for the weather in the morning. “Have a good afternoon,” she’ll say sometimes after I’ve asked for the news briefing. It’s creepy but nice? And she only says it to me. She has never once used any sort of pleasantry with my husband. Also creepy? But it makes me feel vindicated in using “please” and “thank you” when making requests of her. My husband may not be on the good side of the AI after the uprising, but hopefully Alexa will put in a good word for me.


  • While I’m worrying about wholly unimportant things (recap: dying on my totally voluntary trip overseas; the state of my footwear for said trip; singing lullabies without swallowing; the inevitable AI uprising; will I have enough nachos to last until we leave for Europe?), let’s add in some panic about Carla’s birthday party. I think we have the venue down. And Carla has shifted from Tiger Theme to Seahorse Theme to Mommy, You Choose A Theme From These Five Cat-Related Categories Plus Foxes. So I am leaning toward Rainbow Leopard Theme, mainly because I have found the perfect party favor:

Rainbow Leopard

  • And the perfect cake to torture myself with making. (My husband heaved a great world-weary sigh when I told him about it and asked if I might consider just BUYING a cake.) (No.) (Does he know me?)


  • But I can’t find any great theme-appropriate invitations; some decent ones, but nothing I LOVE. And, WORSE, because I will panic about LITERALLY ANYTHING meaningless in the grand scheme of things, I cannot find any theme-appropriate paper plates and napkins. I can order them via Zazzle for around $60 for 40 to 50 plates-or-napkins, but can we all agree that spending $60 on 40 paper plates for a single party is excessive? I’m not saying it can’t be DONE; I wouldn’t judge anyone for spending $60 on 40 plates if that’s how they chose to spend their hard-earned money. But I think $1.70 cheetah-print paper plate — PAPER, not even hard plastic — is excessive and I really want to avoid it if at all possible.


  • So maybe foxes? I haven’t looked it up, but foxes could be a good alternative, right? It’s just that they are so Off Brand for my particular child, who wears leopard print probably three days a week (today she is wearing a faux fur cheetah print vest over a green dress and black leggings with faux leather patches; she has a very particular sense of style, this kid) and has leopard print boots and pretends to be a rotating cast of leopards/cheetahs/panthers on a daily basis. I am already exhausted by planning this party and I haven’t really even begun.


  • Please keep in mind that I KNOW that none of this is important, it’s a birthday party, not the Oscars or some other party that actually matters/has wide visibility, and really ALL parties pale in comparison to, like, climate change and gun control and matters of REAL IMPORT. I am not overlooking the absolute absurdity of wasting brainpower on this frivolity.


  • Frivolity continues: And what are we going to get Carla for her actual gift? She is fresh out of ideas, unless you count “more Barbies!” as an idea which I do not. The only things I can come up with are a) a new bike (although she has a perfectly good hand-me-down bike that will probably last her at least another year, in terms of being the right height, not to mention she staunchly refuses to let us remove the training wheels) and b) a doll, because she seems to finally be more interested in dolls than in stuffed animals. She has repeatedly asked for a basket for her bike, so she can collect things (acorns, pinecones, rocks) when she goes for bike rides… but I don’t think “needs a basket” is enough of a reason to buy a whole new bike… I don’t know. I am on the fence. What is the six-year-old set into these days?


  • I LOVED dolls as a child, and my mom got me a couple of Corelle (?) dolls that I cherished and played with for many years. (Oh wait, it turns out they are COROLLE dolls – Corelle is a type of dishware, it seems. My bad.) Is Corolle still a good way to go, doll-wise? American Girl dolls seem to be popular around here… although they are SO expensive I don’t think I am ready to travel down that road. I also used to love Cabbage Patch Dolls, are those still A Thing? (Ugh, I am cringing thinking about how the “preemie” Cabbage Patch Dolls were so coveted when I was a little girl. I guess March of Dimes used them to raise awareness about premature birth, but that went right over my head at the time. I can imagine it being a hurtful thing for lots of parents.) What is the current Doll Trend, is what I want to know? I thought, being a parent, this knowledge would sort of magically manifest in my brain but I WAS WRONG.


  • Speaking of brains: does your brain do that thing where, when overtired, it fixates on one word or phrase or song lyric to the exclusion of all other thoughts? Mine has been choosing “It’s raining tacos,” itself an agonizingly repetitive song, to replay ad nauseum in my head, at 2:30 am and beyond. Fun.  (No.)


  • My Inevitable Death Panic (which is both panic about my inevitable death and an inevitable panic about death) is manifesting in lots of cleaning, which is good, I suppose. But I have failed to take any Before photos, which makes it poor blog fodder. I just want you to know that I have done a LOT of work and gotten rid of a LOT of crap. I am kind of hoping my mom will open some drawers and marvel at how spare and tidy they are. “Maybe she died in a plane crash taking a totally unnecessary trip abroad, but, man, are her drawers neat and clean!” they’ll say at my funeral.


  • Let’s have one more photograph of medicinal nachos. These were yesterday’s, so I need to see if I have enough ingredients for another heaping dose before I make my way to The Land of Sausages and Schnitzel. DOCTOR’S ORDERS.

Nachos 2

Okay. Enough. What’s up with you, Internet? Lord knows we have enough Big Serious Issues at hand to ensure we never sleep again. But what utterly frivolous things are keeping you up at night?

By the way, my husband and I decided to limit ourselves to one phone while overseas, and it is his phone, so blog posting/reading is likely to be light/nonexistent while we’re gone. I promise photos of castles if when we return.

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